Friday, December 29, 2023

'Court Cairns' and Harvard – Ireland, Scotland and 'Decolonising'

On our recent trip to Boston, we caught the train across the Charles River to Cambridge, to visit the campus of Harvard University. Harvard has been in the news recently for two major, negative, stories. It's a beautiful campus, with a 'flatiron' building nearby which looks a lot like the one in Victoria Street in Belfast. Seamus Heaney taught at Harvard from 1981–97.

In the 1930s, Harvard sent archaeologists to Ireland. They concluded that, in ancient times, before land masses had their modern names that we use today, there had once been a 'land bridge' connecting today's Ireland with today's Scotland - "this facilitated the arrival in Ireland of new types of animals, including man".

The Harvard team investigated the 'court cairns' burial tombs - the first one they excavated was at Creevykeel in Sligo, which they dated to around 3900BC. Near me, there is a court cairn at Millin Bay just south of Cloughey on the outer coast of the Ards Peninsula. I have cycled to it a few times. It's a beautiful setting, right on a very quiet bay. The text of the interpretive panel is online here

Court cairns are unique to Ireland and Scotland. There are said to be 390 court cairns in the northern half of Ireland, in the area above a line from The Burren to the Cooley Peninsula. There are also around 100 in Scotland, predominantly in the south west. These all date from at least 2500BC and so are approximately contemporary with the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. I expect that there are some academic volumes which have accurately located the position of every court cairn - I checked Ireland in Pre-Celtic Times by R.A.S. Macalister (1921), but with no joy. Here's a basic map - 

Nearly 500 court cairns, across around 5000 years of common cultural interactions. So, when terms like 'settler colonialism' and 'decolonisation' are thrown around with regard to historic relations between Scotland and Ireland, perhaps this is the colon which is being referred to and which needs to be cleared out. 

"It will be a dispute between the two kingdoms until the end of time whether Ireland was peopled from Scotland or Scotland from Ireland’. – Description of East Antrim, 1760 

Here's an article from The National newspaper of Scotland, from back in November
• Below is the crest from the John Harvard monument, known as the statue of the 'three lies'.

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Before Boston - from Alamance to Appalachia – The Watauga Association of 1772 – "a dangerous example to the people of America of forming governments distinct from and independent of his majesty's authority."

More than two years before the Boston Tea Party of 16 December 1773, and 800 miles south of Boston, cracks had already been forming in the tense relationship between the provincial royal governments of the 'Colonies', and the settler community. As with the urban Bostonians, the 'backcountry' folk of North Carolina also wanted government taxation policy to be better regulated, and so they took for themselves the name of 'Regulators' *.

The backcountry of North Carolina had been gradually settled with Ulster-Scots emigrants heading south out of Pennsylvania. One of them was Rachel Craighead, the daughter of Donegal-born Alexander Craighead, a Covenanter Presbyterian minister whose sermons had been printed by Benjamin Franklin, including one from 1743 which had ‘denounced the monarch of Great Britain a tyrant'. In fact, their family and the Franklin family were intermarried through their Holmes relatives. In 1766 Rachel married Rev David Caldwell, who in one of his surviving sermons reminded his congregation that “our forefathers, or many of them, sacrificed at Londonderry and Enniskillen their lives, that they might hand down to us the fair inheritance of liberty”.

The Caldwells settled near today's Greensboro in North Carolina and also set up a 'log college'.

The Caldwells played a prominent part in the community of Alamance in Orange County close to today's Burlington in North Carolina. The Battle of Alamance (Wikipedia here) was 2 1/2 years earlier than the Boston Tea Party. The community had raised a citizen's 'militia' of Regulators to defend itself against the Governor's troops who had been despatched from the county seat of Hillsborough to face them down. 2000 Regulators were drawn into conflict with 1000 troops - they were no match for the smaller, but highly experienced, Crown army, equipped with artillery. There were public executions of prisoners at Hillsborough. The 250th anniversary of this battle was during the Covid lockdowns. Alamance Battleground is a State Historic Site with a monument bearing the inscription 'First Battle of the Revolution'.

In the aftermath, some from Alamance, and others, decided to leave North Carolina and the reach of the Governor. They headed almost 200 miles directly westwards, up into the Appalachian Mountains - and right up to the colonial boundary of North Carolina that had been established by the Royal Proclamation of 1763. But they kept going, defying the Crown boundary, and into Cherokee country. One of them, James Robertson, had already explored the area back in 1769-70.

They were now beyond the reach and boundaries of the British colonial governments. They could self-govern. In 1772 they did a deal with the Cherokees - the Royal Proclamation of 1763 forbade anyone from privately buying land from Native Americans, so they shrewdly agreed a ten year lease of a tract of land at a place the Cherokees called Watauga. There they established their own self-government, based on the system of Virginia and not that of North Carolina. These governing principles for the new community were known as the Watauga Association. The last British Governor of Virginia, the Earl of Dunmore, wrote in 1774 that Watauga was "a dangerous example to the people of America of forming governments distinct from and independent of his majesty's authority." . It is commemorated on a plaque in today's Elizabethton in east Tennessee, with the names of those involved:

• Committee of Thirteen
John Carter, Chairman. Charles Robertson. Zach Isbell. Jas. Robertson. James Smith. Jacob Womack. John Sevier. John Jones. Robert Lucas. William Bean. George Russell. William Tatham. Jacob Brown.

• The Five Commissioners.
John Carter, Chairman. Charles Robertson. James Robertson. John Sevier. Zach Isbell.

John Carter's original house still stands. In 1976, Fort Watauga was reconstructed for the Bicentennial celebrations (Wikipedia here).

It's a special area, the Appalachian apex where Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia meet. A few generations later it would be the birthplace of recorded country music. And also where, just 40 miles north in Abingdon, Virginia, it would be the region where Rev Charles Cummings would author the Fincastle Resolutions on 20 January 1775.

"... In the decade preceding the Revolutionary War, frontier settlers migrated into the western parts of North Carolina, settling on lands along the Watauga River that belonged to the Cherokee Indian Nation. Many were Scotch-Irish who had traveled to the area through the Shenandoah Valley down the Great Wagon Road, while others were settlers who wandered westward over the mountains after the collapse of the Regulator movement in North Carolina. In May 1772 these settlers, led by John Sevier and James Robertson, established the Watauga Association, which boasted the country’s first majority-rule system of government, and the first written constitution in America. The Watauga Association negotiated a ten-year lease with the Cherokees, and later purchased the land from the Indians. In 1776 the Watauga settlement was annexed to North Carolina, then was ceded to the federal government in 1784, briefly comprised the State of Franklin, and finally became part of Tennessee when it attained statehood in mid-1796..."
- from


In his landmark The Winning of the West, published in 1889, future President Theodore Roosevelt said of the Watauga pioneers: “They formed a written constitution, the first ever adopted west of the mountains, or by a community composed of American-born freemen ... They were the first men of American birth to establish a free and independent community on the Continent.”

Read the whole chapter on here


• My 2017 post is here.
Here's a concise description on
Here is the account in The Annals of Tennessee by J.G.M. Ramsey (1853). His father Francis was one of those involved in Watauga.
• Here is a paper by A.V. Goodpasture from April 1898
An account from 1899
Here is how a Tennessee school textbook from 1900 told the story.
• Northern Ireland author Billy Kennedy also featured Watauga in his 1995 book The Scots-Irish in the Hills of Tennessee, which was reproduced in his 1997 book The Scots-Irish in the Carolinas.

* These tensions were written up by Hugh Williamson, a 'son of Ulster' who was an eyewitness of the Boston Tea Party, in his History of North Carolina – you can read the details here in chapter 9. He's pretty critical of the Regulators and the whole episode that unfolded at Alamance.

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

David Ramsay's 'The History of the American Revolution' (published 1787) and the connection with the 1688 Glorious Revolution

I have mentioned David Ramsay (1749–1817) here a few times before. He was the Pennsylvania-born son of Presbyterians James Ramsay and Jane Montgomery, who became one of the first historians of the United States of America, and has been called 'The Father of American History'.

Ramsay wasn't merely a history buff, he was at the very 'top table' of American revolutionary thinking and even stood in for John Hancock as the President of the Congress of Confederation for a while.

Ramsay published the following words in 1787, in his landmark 'The History of the American Revolution' 

"... The first emigrants from England for colonising America, left the Mother Country at a time when the dread of arbitrary power was the predominant passion of the nation. Except the very modern charter of Georgia, in the year 1732, all the English Colonies obtained their charters and their greatest number of European settlers, between the years 1603 and 1688. 

In this period a remarkable struggle between prerogative and privilege commenced, and was carried on till it terminated in a revolution highly favourable to the liberties of the people

…the nation, tenacious of its rights, invited the Prince of Orange to the sovereignty of the island, and expelled the reigning family from the throne. While these spirited exertions were made, in support of the liberties of the parent isle, the English Colonies were settled, and chiefly with inhabitants of that class of people, which was most hostile to the claims of prerogative. 

Every transaction in that period of English history, supported the position that the people have a right to resist their sovereign, when he invades their liberties, and to transfer the crown from one to another, when the good of the community requires it ..."

So, there it is. Community first, nationality and monarchy second. The Revolution of 1688 provided the American colonists with the legal and philosophical template for their Revolution of 1776. 1688 was not an expression of loyalty, which is how it is retrospectively regarded today. It was an expression of liberty.

As Robert Burns wrote in 1795 "But while we sing 'God save the King,' We'll ne'er forget The People!".

Friday, December 22, 2023

Aaron Lewis – Massachusetts

I've been listening to Aaron Lewis for many years. He has made the transition from grunge nu-metal with his band Staind to singer-songwriter with an authentic classic 'old country' style. Having just got back from Boston, and from speaking with many people from 'Western Mass' which is the rural mountainous part of the state, I understand the geography of the song more now, and the references to Worthington 'established long before this country came to be' and the Berkshires. Studio and live versions below - from his 2011 release Town Line. Check out his back catalogue, many great songs there.

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Boston Tea Party 250 - the Ulster-Scots / Scots-Irish / Scotch-Irish dimension

I'm just back from a trip to Boston with the Ulster-Scots Agency, to take part in the 250th anniversary commemorations of the Boston Tea Party. It's a truly historic place and is still effectively the capital city of the five New England states. While there I did a series of impromptu, unscripted, unedited, 'selfie' videos at some key locations and monuments, to tell the often overlooked Ulster-Scots / Scotch-Irish / Scots-Irish story of Boston and Massachusetts more widely. These were posted on the Agency's Facebook page during our trip.

These are just a handful of the vast array of Ulster-Scots stories that prepare the way for the forthcoming 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence which is coming up on 4 July 2026. It is the focal date for the official America250 project whose branding went live at the start of December – the Boston Tea Party 250 events were effectively its public launch. Hope you enjoy these videos - hesitations, stumbles, minor mistakes and all.

The trip was a packed schedule with a dizzying amount of meetings, all of which were very exciting. So much positivity there. As well as these seven videos, I had also hoped to do a video about Dr Thomas Young (19.02.1731–28.06.1777, Wikipedia here) at the beautiful Old South Meeting House, but it's in the middle of the main shopping district so the busyness and noise meant that doing a selfie video there wasn't possible. Maybe with a proper TV crew it could have worked! Below are a few stills of it, and if you want to find out more about Young and his role in the Boston Tea Party then just use the search bar on the left of this page. The Colonial Society of Massachusetts have this information about him.


Maybe I should drive south to Corboy Presbyterian Church in County Longford, from where Thomas Young's parents emigrated, and do a video there instead. It's still the same building that they worshipped in.

Thomas Young gave his life for the cause of American liberty and independence, dying of fever in Philadelphia on 28 June 1777 during the revolutionary war and being buried in an unmarked mass grave. Many of his contemporaries and fellow 'Sons of Liberty' revolutionaries who did make it through went on to become 'Founding Fathers' – and subjects for statue sculptors, portrait painters and memoir publishers – whose heroic depictions of them would shape the 'nation building' project of the United States of America.

Thomas Young deserves to be known today. As this article says, published on WBUR (Boston's NPR) just last week, he was one of 'the real leaders of the movement' alongside Samuel Adams and John Hancock

Sunday, December 10, 2023

John Adams, 2nd President of the United States, and his references to the Glorious Revolution of 1688

So, following on from this recent post, I picked up a copy of Inventing America; Jefferson's Declaration of Independence by Pulitzer Prize winning author Garry Wills, written in 1978, which is a comprehensive scholarly analysis of the language and sources which Thomas Jefferson had drawn from in crafting the Declaration of Independence. He was one of a Committee of Five who worked through a few drafts before presenting the final one to the Secretary of the Second Continental Congress, Ulsterman Charles Thomson, on 4th July 1776.

William of Orange's 1688 Declaration is, as expected, mentioned a few times in it, but not the precise observation that I'd made. So, more research required, or maybe I'm the first one to ever notice the remarkable similarity of their respective opening sentences.  

In my reading and hoking I am finding multiple references to the American colonists' desire, not to be anti British but rather to be fully British, in pursuit of their liberties, and that they looked back William of Orange's 1688 Declaration and the 1689 Bill of Rights that William and Mary signed into effect as their first action as joint monarchs, as the legal precedent for those liberties.

Here is an extract from a lengthy article on the excellent Massachusetts Historical Society website about John Adams (he would become the 2nd President of the United States and was one of those in Boston who took part in the Boston Tea Party) –

"Adams does not go the whole way to independence, to complete and permanent separation from Great Britain, but he advances and supports a revolutionary interpretation of the British system. The idea of a commonwealth of states under the king that Adams espoused was not solely his own, but he was one of its earliest proponents. His argument, moreover, was unique in the massive support he gave it from legal sources. 

Adams would not have considered his interpretation of the British system revolutionary in any modern sense; he saw it as a return to the right view of things in terms of legal precedents. For him it was revolutionary in eighteenth-century terms, when “revolution” meant restoring ancient liberties. The Glorious Revolution of 1688 had been glorious because it successfully re-established liberties threatened by the tyranny of James II. 

Corruption and even conspiracy in Great Britain threatened American liberties in the 1760's; a penetrating analysis of history and of learned commentaries on judicial decisions revealed that Parliament, a sink of corruption, was playing a role in the affairs of the American colonies for which there was no precedent. Denial of power to Parliament overseas would restore liberty."

The British crown and government establishment really screwed up big time throughout the 1700s, in both Ireland and America. If they'd 'wound their necks in' the world would have been a very different place. What if....?

Thomas Jefferson himself even said - at the time of the Second Continental Congress in 1775 - that he "would rather be in dependance on Great Britain, properly limited, than on any nation upon earth". But it's John Adams who gets to put the cherry on top, with these remarks about the Charter of Massachusetts Bay of 1691 - which a later writer said "the inhabitants treasured as a sacred guarantee of their liberties". Following the Boston Tea Party of December 1773, the vengeful British Parliament 'abrogated' or revoked the Charter on 20 May 1774. Adams said this –

"Our charter was granted by king William and queen Mary, three years after the revolution; and the oaths of allegiance are established by a law of the province. So that our allegiance to his majesty is not due by virtue of any act of a British parliament, but by our own charter and province laws. It ought to be remembered, that there was a revolution here, as well as in England, and that we made an original, express contract with king William, as well as the people of England...  It is upon this, or a similar clause in the charter of William and Mary that our patriots have built up the stupendous fabric of American independence."

- Quoted from Novanglus, and Massachusettensis; or Political Essays, published in the years 1774 and 1775 by John Adams.

• Image at the top is of William Daniels playing John Adams in the 1972 film, 1776.

Friday, December 08, 2023

Catching up

This is a bit of a departure from the usual content here. At nearly 52, Hilary and I are almost 'empty nesters' but not quite yet. There are things that I am looking forward to, but there are so many things that I miss, or that I completely missed the significance of until they were over. There are people I miss who are no longer with us. There are moments which will never return. I miss the three wee excited faces that used to bring me their discoveries every day, overflowing with enthusiasm. Now I see the bruises of life's inevitable experience denting their joys. The 'sweet pain' of nostalgia.

I have also, unexpectedly, been catching up and reconnecting with some folk that I knew many decades ago, back in my teenage years, and that has been deeply enriching. Occasional hours of coffee and lunch. Some of their circumstances are tragic, yet sharing a weakness turns out to be far more impressive than boasting of a success. It has been a surprise to find out that now-departed friends told others, when we were all young and (relatively) carefree, that they held me in high regard. The ripples of short-lived friendships from 35 years ago still being felt. I had no idea.

Similarly, a number of people made a lasting impression on me early in life. It has taken years for me to understand this, and neither they nor I realised their influence at the time, but it has - to use a whisky metaphor - matured in the cask. So I have started to make a point of telling those people, when our paths cross. It's a bit awkward, but worth the risk. 

I have always tried to impress on our children the importance of gratitude. I am learning more about gratitude every day. Life is fast, time is short. Next thing you know you're 52 and wondering where it all went, and what might be next – "... a lot of years of 'Remember When?'s - and still some down the road ...".

Wednesday, December 06, 2023

James Thompson (1855-1924) - Brown Thompson & Co, Glenmore Distillery and the Brown-Forman Corporation

On 11 December it will be 99 years since the death of James Thompson (1855-1924). I've mentioned him here a few times, as the Londonderry teenage emigrant who built a distilling empire in Kentucky. So, this time next year it will be exactly a century since James Thompson's death. I have gathered up a body of information about him and his descendants.

George and Isabella Thompson (née Getty) belonged to Faughanvale Presbyterian Church. Three sons (James, Frank and Cuthbert) went to America and three others (John, Samuel and George) stayed in Ulster. George and Samuel became prominent Presbyterian ministers and in fact both were also chaplains to the new Northern Ireland Parliament which was established in 1921 - Samuel was at the foundation stone ceremony for Parliament Buildings. The paradox with that is that they both were probably therefore Unionists, whereas, in August 1913, their Kentucky-based brother James had been offered to stand as a Nationalist candidate for the next Westminster election. He was a vocal 'Home Ruler' and supported the objective, but he declined the offer, saying 'I would rather be a plain citizen of Kentucky than an earl of the Empire'.

James Thompson's cousin and business partner was George Garvin Brown (1846-1917). Together they founded Brown, Thompson & Co. whose brands included Old Forester, which is marketed today as 'The First Bottled Bourbon'. The 2021 edition of the Ulster Historical Foundation's annual journal Familia published superb research by J. McCauley (Mac) Brown and John Garvin Hunter into the Garvin and Brown family and their similar Ulster origins - at Clondermott, just 8 miles away from the Thompson homeplace at Longfield. Here are three original Brown Thompson & Co labels I have managed to acquire.

James decided to leave the partnership. He bought Monarch Distillery in Owensboro which he renamed Glenmore Distillery (Wikipedia here), which was a massive success, with a portfolio of brands including Kentucky Tavern and Old Thompson. His vacant seat at Brown, Thompson & Co was filled by the company accountant, George Forman, and so the Brown-Forman Corporation was born - whose brands today include Jack Daniels and Woodford Reserve in the USA, and GlenDronach and BenRiach in Scotland, and Slane in Ireland.

James's sons took over the distilling businesses and retained decades of connections with, and visits to, their Ulster relatives. In 1910 the firm placed an advert in the Derry Journal for a 'family to run boarding house for distillery employees, most of whom are from Derry and vicinity'. This probably shouldn't be a surprise given what a massive industry distilling was in Ulster at the time – the Derry Journal readership catchment area would have included Andrew A Watt's distilleries in Derry and Robert A Taylor's distillery in Coleraine.

One of James's sons, Colonel Frank Barton Thompson (1895-1990; previous post here) took the reins of the company and also carried out exhaustive research into the family origins - his genealogical archives were bequested to the Filson Historical Society in Louisville. 

His son Frank B Thompson Jr (1933-1975), became Chairman of the company but on his being diagnosed with cancer in 1974 he was succeeded in that role by his brother, James 'Buddy' Thompson (1932-2019). Guinness bought the company in 1991.

Before Buddy died, on 5th April 2019, a commemorative James Thompson & Brother Final Reserve 45 year old bourbon was released - marketed as 'the oldest bourbon in history' (see Bourbon Pursuit podcast episode here) with its profits donated to veterans charities.

So, from James' emigration from Ulster in 1871, until Buddy's death in 2019, was just three generations.

Back in Ulster, the family farm at Coolafinney near Eglinton continued to be farmed by the family, and by Frank Thompson (full name Samuel Francis Thompson) until his death in 1958, when it was all auctioned.

So, maybe there is a project in pulling all of this together. Yet more of our transatlantic kinfolk.

NB: the images on this post are of the 150th anniversary Brown-Forman Corporation commemorative book, a beautiful production which was published in 2020 by Assouline.

Saturday, December 02, 2023

'Evident', 'Happiness', and 'Liberty' /// Did the first sentence of William Prince of Orange's 1688 'Declaration' directly inspire the first sentence of the American 'Declaration of Independence' of 1776?

Human societies worldwide invest a lot of cultural and communal time in celebrating and remembering various historical military battles. In my visits to Plymouth I have walked around the many impressive naval war memorials at Plymouth Hoe, an area which - with sunrise joggers and dog walkers - is almost reminiscent of the areas of war memorials which I have visited in central Washington DC. A spy movie location for clandestine handovers.

Here in Northern Ireland, there is a monument in the grounds of Belfast City Hall for the 1899-1902 Boer War, but who has a clue about that any more? We recall battles on Remembrance Day each November, and of course on the 12th of July each year. But, as per the perceptive JRR Tolkien quote below, maybe the battles themselves - the leaders, the strategy, the casualties, the victories - are not actually what truly mattered. Of the millions of warriors and weapons, "that which they defend" is what mattered most. Values, aspirations, concepts of justice and liberty.

While preparing to depart Holland for England, on 10 October 1688 a Declaration was issued by William, Prince of Orange and printed on multiple Dutch presses, including the one above by Arnold Leers at The Hague. Various hands had crafted its 5000 words – very likely the Englishman John Locke who had been exiled to Holland, definitely Scotsman Bishop Gilbert Burnet and possibly Dutchman Constantijn Huygens Jr, who was the hereditary secretary to William's family. (Burnet's uncle was Archibald Johnston of Warriston - co-author of Scotland's National Covenant of 1638).

Their departure from Holland was delayed due to bad weather, which caused Burnet and William to have a famous theological dispute about predestination. Burnet and Huygens were with William's vast armada which reached Brixham on 5 November 1688. Locke returned to England in February 1689 in a ship from Holland, accompanying William's wife Mary. Mary arrived in London on 21 February and she and William were proclaimed joint sovereigns.

The careful vocabulary, and even the very existence, of the Declaration of the Prince of Orange has been almost totally forgotten. Yet, as explained in this recent blog post from King's College London, by Basil Bowdler, the 'Glorious Revolution' included 'the most successful propaganda campaign to that point in European history' - akin to the World War 2 mass propaganda leaflet drops that the Allied Forces poured from cargo planes over Nazi-occupied France, which accompanied illegal, coded, radio broadcasts (the wonderful recent Netflix adaptation of All The Light We Cannot See tells that story superbly). Bowdler says this:

"... In an age where a best-selling pamphlet rarely ran to more than 3,000 copies, well over 100,000 copies of the Declaration were printed. Mobilising printers across the Dutch Republic, the centre of the European book trade, tens of thousands of copies of the Declaration were printed in advance of the Dutch invasion. Translated into Dutch, French, German and Latin, at least twenty-one editions of the Declaration were printed in 1688..." 

Michael Barone wrote that 60,000 copies had been smuggled into England a week or so ahead of William's arrival, primed for immediate widespread distribution - which Barone described as 'one of the most impressive feats of organization any early modern regime ever achieved' (source here, p 148.)

The Declaration was first read aloud when William's vast procession left Brixham and arrived in Newton Abbot, by local clergyman Rev John Reynel – I went to see the market cross monument last week when I was in Devon. The inscription repeats the common error 'of England' and it has the date wrong, saying 5th November but was actually 7th November. In later years, the people of Newton Abbot proposed demolishing the church tower behind and replacing it with "an equestrian statue of the Protestant Deliverer on a massive pedestal of Devonshire granite." (source Devon and Exeter Gazette, 4 October 1851).

But what did the Declaration say? Here is the very first sentence. Look at these highlighted words –


Holland, 10th October 1688:
"It is both certain and evident to all Men, that the publick Peace and Happiness of any State or Kingdom cannot be preserved, where the Laws, Liberties and Customs, established by the lawful Authority in it, are openly transgressed and annulled..."

The Declaration was treason, but William's revolution succeeded. William's Declaration was taken to America and reached Boston in April 1689, causing the Boston Revolt (see previous posts here and here).

And less than 100 years later, when another revolution was being considered in America, those introductory words seem to have been dusted down. In another Revolutionary Declaration, the Declaration of Independence of 1776, the 'peerless prose' was penned by Thomas Jefferson. But when I recently compared the wording of these two Declarations, it seems that William's introduction looks to have been inspirational, the genesis of Jefferson's now near-immortal words which have been memorised by hundreds of millions of American citizens in the centuries that followed –


Philadelphia, 4th July 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, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it... "

Perhaps the word 'evident' followed by a list of attributes was a common grammatical or rhetorical device? Jefferson's words were of course influenced by many sources, including Samuel Rutherford's 1644 Lex Rex, the above-mentioned John Locke, as well as the many 'resolves' issued by local communities across the 13 Colonies from 1774-6, many of which were Ulster-Scots emigrant descendants. It takes many streams to form a river, and the opening statement looks to have directly flowed from the Declaration of the Prince of Orange of 1688. 

“I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers

This article draws a comparison with a 1581 Dutch document called the Plakkaat, which was effectively Holland's Declaration of Independence, freeing them from Spain (English translation here). But the intro is not the same.

I've not seen anyone else ever make a direct connection between the 1688 and 1776 Declarations before. I very much welcome readers' feedback on this.

• Illustration by David Howe.