Constitution, a complicated argumentncould be mounted. It could be arguednthat the Constitution of 1787 was notnborn de novo, but existed amidst ancultural consensus that involved a myriadnof traditional customs and everydaynassumptions, and that one they havenhad certain expectations of treatment,nor “rights” in that sense; that is, not thenFrench sense of “universal rights” butnthings that neighbors assumed of eachnother, the “rights of Englishmen” thatnBurke talks about. It is inevitable thatnthe framers assumed such habits as partnof an understood “way of life” and didnnot feel any need to mention them innthe Constitution.nIt could therefore be argued that thenconcept of a “way of life” changes, thatnthe cultural context now surroundingnthe Constitution is very different. Innany case, the mechanism remains an”deliberate sense” one, with the peoplenultimately deciding and the impositionnof supposed “rights” by Courtnedict remaining a distortion of thenConstitution.nA subsidiary problem surrounds thenconcept of “equality” as found in thenDeclaration. Jefferson’s prose here isnvery compact, and now little understood.nIt is compact because he wasnaddressing a body of like-minded educatednmen here and abroad who werenwell-versed in political philosophy. Henmeant that some truths were “selfevident”nto them, and not to anynhighwaymen or jackanapes. Thenphrase “self-evident” indeed contradictsnthe vulgar reading of the equalitynclause. What did Jefferson mean by an”right” to life and liberty? He certainlynbelieved in hanging murderers, despitentheir “right” to life. He would certainlynhave endorsed conscription in times ofnnational emergency, despite a “right”nto liberty. What Jefferson meant, andnall of his intended readers would havenunderstood, is that the stated “right”nmeant that you could not be deprivednof life or liberty without due process.nOf course, all of this takes placenwithin the context of a Declaration ofnIndependence, which amounts to annational and international lawyer’snbrief against George III. The EnglishnKing is here indicted for violating thosen”self-evident” rights — through im-pressment,nconfiscation, taxation. In anlong bill of particulars, Jefferson is sonun-egalitarian that he refers to thenBritish employment of “savage” Indiannwarriors against the Americans.nBut, if he thinks the Indians aren”savage,” what then does he mean byn”all men are created equal”? Remembernthat Jefferson is a highly educatedn18th-century rhetorician. That meansnthat everything in his “declaration”nwill be linked to its main thrust. Thenmain thrust is “independence,” independencenfrom England. Jefferson isnspeaking as a prosecutor, and KingnCeorge III is in the dock.nIn this specific context, what “allnmen are created equal” means is thatnAmericans, under “nature’s god,” arennot naturally inferior to Englishmen.nAmericans are “equally” entitled tonindependence from England as Englishmennwould be if they wished to kissnAmerica goodbye. The phrase alsonimplies that Americans are “equally”nas capable of governing themselves asnEnglishmen are, and, based upon hisnNotes on Virginia, it is clear thatnJefferson thought more so. Perhapsnabove all, it must be remembered thatnthe Declaration is not self-expressionnon Jefferson’s part. He knew that henhad to craft a document for whichnAmericans would be willing to riskntheir lives to sign, one that would bencredible not only to American educatednopinion but to educated opinionnabroad.nThere is a kind of cool 18th-centurynpoetry in the language of the final andnTenth Amendment to the Bill ofnRights: “The powers not delegated tonthe United States by the Constitution,nnor prohibited by it to the States, arenreserved to the States respectively, or tonthe people.” Very high on the conservativenagenda should be the restorationnof this spirit of limited government. Wenshould, as I would put it, re-acquirenthese founding documents, most importantlynby understanding their language—nwhich derives from an Americannpolitical tradition that can bendiscerned in the colonial constitutionsnof the various nascent states, which cannbe discerned in the Mayflower Compact,ncrafted just off the shore, andnfrom thence goes back to 1688 and thenclassical traditions of republicannthought.nJeffrey Hart is a senior editor atnNational Review and a professor ofnEnglish at Dartmouth College.nnnA Great Noveltynby David R. SlavittnMy Father’s GlorynMy Mother’s CastlenProduced by Alain PoirenDirected by Yves RobertnWritten by Lucette Andreinand Yves RobertnReleased by Orion ClassicsnAt a certain point, maybe two-thirdsnof the way through the pretentiousnnonsense of Barton Fink, I began tondespair of finding anything interestingnenough to write about, even in anbimonthly chronicle.. I was waveringnbetween guilt (I was wasting my time)nand anger at the sad state of affairs innwhich there was nothing in theatersnworth recommending, or even talkingnabout as an interesting failure. I foundnmyself thinking of Paul Goodmannwho, for a short while, reviewed moviesnfor, I think, the Partisan Review. Henwrote about Charlie Chaplin in onenissue, then someone like Jean Renoir,nand then, abruptly, he quit, on thenground that there wasn’t anything elsenin movies worth paying attention to.nWell, it’s extreme, but it began tonseem less and less nutty to me, particulariynafter I caught Angele on the Bravonchannel one night. This is a 1934nMarcel Pagnol film, rather less wellknownnthan the Fanny trilogy or ThenBaker’s Wife, but a splendid piece,nnonetheless. It is about an innocentnpeasant girl in Provence who is seducednby a fast-talking slicker from thenDECEMBER 1991/47n