Time magazine listed its Top 100 events and people between the years 1000-1999 A.D. and guess who scored in the Top 10! Twice!
Coming in at #8, the drafting and signing of the Declaration of Independence outdid all but a handful of events (including a couple of nobodies named Luther, Pastuer, Galileo, and someone named Columbus).
A Declaration to the World 1776
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. . . .” Today most governments at least pay lip service to those truths. But before July 4, 1776, when the Continental Congress adopted “The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,” no nation had been founded on such principles.
Penned by 33-year-old Virginia delegate Thomas Jefferson, the Declaration was meant to explain, after a year of war, the American colonies’ break with Britain. The document listed the offenses of King George III, ranging from restriction of trade to the use of foreign mercenaries. (A passage denouncing the king’s promotion of slavery was cut to placate some delegates.) More important, it laid out the concept of natural rights–borrowed largely from British philosopher John Locke–that would form, in the words of Congress president John Hancock (one of 56 signatories), “the Ground & Foundation” of the U.S. government.
The Declaration was more than just one country’s manifesto. It spurred Latin Americans to sever ties with Spain and the French to overthrow a king. Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh paraphrased it when he defied France. And its avowal that all men are born equal moved more than males: When the U.S. women’s suffrage movement was launched in 1848, its founders modeled their declaration on Jefferson’s.
Jefferson also scored Top 10 on the People of the Millenium list.
THOMAS JEFFERSON 1743-1826
Were it not for his mind and his pen, the world might have witnessed one more bloody revolution signifying nothing. A lawyer by trade, a pioneer of American architecture, a president who spurred westward expansion, a slave owner who opposed slavery, Thomas Jefferson embodied many of the aspirations of a newborn nation. It was a self-evident truth, wrote the 33-year-old Virginian, “that all Men are created equal.” Natural law, the right to “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness,” became the New World blueprint. It remains an alluring goal for democracies around the world.
Other Jefferson-era events/people of note: the finding of the Rosetta Stone (#98); Canning Food (#48); Water Purification (#46); Smallpox vaccination (#13); the Industrial Revolution (the only event to rate higher than TJ);and the following contemporaries: James Madison (#24); Mary Wollstonecraft (#26); Beethoven (#33). [Jefferson’s architectural muse, Palladio also made the list].