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'Our Ancient Faith': A Translation of the Declaration of Independence

91 Pages Posted: 4 Nov 2001  

Ronald R. Garet

University of Southern California Law School

Date Written: October 2001


Anti-slavery, feminist, and civil rights movements in American history have shaped the interpretation, reception, and application of the Declaration of Independence. This tradition heightens our sense of joy and wonder that "all men are created equal." At the same time, the tradition deepens our sorrow and shame as we accept responsibility for systemic failures to understand "created equal" and to embody that truth in our lives and conduct. Through a verse translation of the Declaration of Independence, reflecting the glosses that history has written on that text, I aim to express both the joy and the sorrow. Notes to the poem, and an accompanying essay, explain the Declaration's reception tradition and relate it to the text as written by Jefferson and the drafting committee, and edited and approved by the Continental Congress. The tradition is seen as exposing, unfolding, and (to a degree) resolving ambiguities (such as pagan v. Biblical senses of "created equal" and "nature's god") which were latent within the Declaration as it emerged within the eighteenth-century intellectual horizon.

Suggested Citation

Garet, Ronald R., 'Our Ancient Faith': A Translation of the Declaration of Independence (October 2001). USC Public Policy Research Paper No. 01-18. Available at SSRN: or

Ronald R. Garet (Contact Author)

University of Southern California Law School ( email )

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Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States
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213-740-5502 (Fax)

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