Thanks, metta. I like to read the Declaration to myself on this day, as I did this morning. Along with the Preamble to the Constitution.
Professor Lucas brings out some interesting points. Here are some others I was taught myself.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
The phrase "self-evident" was used because there were no objective proofs, nor a strong basis in English Common Law, that all men were indeed equal. And so this is a kind of cop-out, basically: "We all know this is true, because we know it's true. It'll be up to someone else to prove that it's not true."
One of my professors believed colonial contemporaries would have interpreted "all men" as being "all ENGLISHmen". But perhaps Jefferson and the other authors working with him intended it to mean the universality of Man, yet content for the sake of harmony and approval to let the other delegates interpret it as they wished.
Another term here is "their Creator". Not God, not Our Lord. The Creator could be whatever "they" imagined it to be, without mention of any established theology or organized religion. Something today's Christian fundamentalists try to gloss over in using our founding documents to support their narrow, Christian-centric view of the USA.
I believe all of human history is filled with incredible accomplishments - contrary to popular belief that everything of intelligence was created in our own lifetimes. I have only to listen to the musical brilliance of Mozart or Haydn from this same colonial era, unsurpassed to this day, to know that gifted people have lived throughout history.
And that's how I view the Declaration and US Constitution: works of incredible beauty, and daring & innovative genius that stand the test of time.