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Creator Bill Text
Creator Bill Text
SENATE, No. 869
STATE OF NEW JERSEY
INTRODUCED JANUARY 31, 2000
Senator GERALD CARDINALE
District 39 (Bergen)
Senator ANTHONY R. BUCCO
District 25 (Morris)
Senators Kyrillos, Bennett, Matheussen, Ciesla, Cafiero, Robertson, Inverso, Kosco, Littell, Palaia, Kavanaugh, Bark, Baer, Connors, DiFrancesco,
Sinagra, McNamara, Singer and Gormley
Requires principals and teachers of public schools to conduct an oral recitation from the Declaration of Independence before the opening of each school day in
grades 3-12; appropriates $10,000.
CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT
An Act requiring principals and teachers of public schools to conduct an oral recitation from the Declaration of Independence before the opening of each school day
for certain pupils, supplementing chapter 36 of Title 18A of the New Jersey Statutes and making an appropriation.
Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:
1. The Legislature finds and declares that:
a. In writing the Declaration of Independence, in addition to listing the specific grievances of the American Colonies toward the British King and Parliament, Thomas
Jefferson set forth a statement of the fundamental principles of government upon which the new nation was to be founded, and this statement continued to have
resonance long after the contents of the remainder of the document were forgotten.
b. In his writing, Jefferson was influenced by the ideas of John Locke's Two Treatises of Government, and of the French philosophes of the Enlightenment such as
Rousseau, Montesquieu, and Voltaire, in his dislike of absolute monarchy and in his belief that governments were legitimate only when based on the consent of the
c. Jefferson, who favored the abolition of slavery as consistent with the idea of natural rights, and his contemporaries with similar views, while unsuccessful in
overcoming the resistance of the southern colonies to the elimination of slavery, believed that the potentialities for future social reforms were implicit in this language
that set forth a declaration of faith in fundamental individual rights.
d. The Abolitionist movement in the United States prior to the Civil War used Jefferson's words in the Declaration as the basis for arguing for the elimination of
slavery; the Republican party of 1860, which was dedicated to the antislavery cause, incorporated Jefferson's words into their platform; William Lloyd Garrison, the
abolitionist publisher of the Liberator, cited Jefferson's words in arguing for the immediate, rather than gradual, elimination of slavery; and Stephen Douglas, in his
first debate with Abraham Lincoln, noted that Lincoln, in his campaign for the presidency, \reads from the Declaration of Independence that all men were created
equal, and then asks, How can you deprive a Negro of that equality which God and the Declaration of Independence awards to him?\
e. In adopting its \Declaration of Sentiments\ at the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848, the women's suffrage movement invoked the principles set forth in the
Declaration of Independence in arguing for the equality of women, and again in 1910, Senator Robert Owen of Oklahoma, a strong advocate of giving women the
right to vote, invoked the Declaration, noting, \The great doctrine of the American Republic that 'all governments derive their just powers from the consent of the
governed' justifies the plea of one-half of the people, the women, to exercise the suffrage.\
f. This great statement of the fundamental principles on which this nation is based has transcended the economic, social, and cultural changes that have occurred in
the two centuries that have passed since it was written, and remains as relevant today as it was at the time of the founding of the Republic.
2. In grades three through 12, principals and teachers in each public elementary and secondary school of each school district in this State shall conduct, before the
opening exercises of each school day, an oral recitation of the following excerpt from the Declaration of Independence:
\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. . . .\
3. Every board of education shall establish an appropriate curriculum that includes the meaning and importance of this statement in its eighteenth century context,
including the relationship of its ideas to the American Revolution, the formulation of the American Constitution and subsequent American history.
4. Every board of education shall determine the appropriate means of implementing this act. This act shall not apply to any pupil who has conscientious scruples
against the recitation required by this act or who is the child of an accredited representative of a foreign government to whom the United States government extends
5. In order to comply with the provisions of Article VIII, Section II, paragraph 5 of the State Constitution, there is appropriated to the Department of Education
from the General Fund $10,000 for the preparation and distribution to each board of education of a notice to the principals and teachers of each public elementary
and secondary school of each school district in this State informing them of their obligation under this act and containing the complete text of the Declaration of
Independence, with the excerpt for recitation printed in bold typeface. After the initial distribution of the notice, the department shall take the steps necessary to
insure that sufficient copies of the notice are available, upon request, to boards of education.
6. This act shall take effect immediately.
This bill requires public elementary and secondary school principals and teachers to conduct in the third grade and above, an oral recitation of the following excerpt from the Declaration of Independence before the beginning of the school day:
\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. . . .\
Currently, the statutes require the pupils in each school to salute the flag and say the pledge of allegiance on every school day (N.J.S.18A:36-3). In addition,
N.J.S.18A:36-13 requires that appropriate patriotic exercises must be held in all public schools on the last school day preceding certain patriotic holidays.
In order to comply with the State constitutional amendment regarding unfunded mandates, the bill appropriates $10,000 to the Department of Education for the preparation and distribution of a notice to boards of education regarding the requirement, including the complete text of the Declaration of Independence with the excerpt printed in bold typeface. The department is directed to insure that after initial distribution, sufficient copies of the notice are available, upon request, to boards of education.
The sponsors of the bill emphasize that, in accordance with the etymology of the words \mankind\ and \men\ set forth in the Oxford English Dictionary, Jefferson's usage of these terms in this passage from the Declaration was that commonly employed in all writings, including poetry and literature, from the fourteenth century onward and the terms were universally understood to mean \humans\ and \the human species.\ The students reciting Jefferson's language, then, will understand that his words are to be interpreted in their eighteenth century literary context, in the same manner that Shakespeare's usage of the English language is to be understood in its sixteenth century context.
The Declaration of Independence is the foundation of constitutional government as well as the basis of the abolitionist movement that resulted in the Emancipation Proclamation and the women's suffrage movement.