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We find ourselves, 237 years after the Founders declared us a new nation, in a season of discontent, even surliness, about the experiment they launched. We are sharply divided over the very meaning our founding documents, and we are more likely to invoke the word "we" in the context of "us" versus "them" than in the more capacious sense that includes every single American.

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At the end of his life, Thomas Jefferson regretted much about what the country he helped build had become. Today, midway through Black History Month, we turn an eye to his repudiation of slavery in a passage that failed to make it into the final draft of the Declaration of Independence.

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Our nation confronts a challenge this Fourth of July that we face but rarely: We are at odds over the meaning of our history and why, to quote our Declaration of Independence, "governments are instituted."

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