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Declaration Of Independence Essay, Research Paper

Analyzing the style and virtue of The Declaration of Independence

I find that the Declaration of Independence is written in a formal, strict and non-personal style. Everything is stated clearly and points the right way , without leaving any spaces for doubt. This, of course, is a necessity for any official document and the founding fathers have followed all the rules of official writing.

There are many abstractions in the Declaration of Independence. These abstractions such as: rights, freedom, liberty and happiness have become the foundations of American society and have helped shape the “American Identity.” Power, another abstraction that reoccurs in all the major parts of the Declaration of Independence plays an equally important role in shaping “American identity.” One forgets the abstraction of power, because it appears in relation to other institutions: the legislature, the King, the earth, and the military. The abstraction of power shapes the colonists conception of government and society.

The uses of the word power set the tone of the Declaration of Independence. In the first sentence of the Declaration colonists condemn the King’s violation of powers given by god to all men.

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one

people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them

with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the

separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of

natures God Entitle them.

In this passage the writers of the Declaration of Independence are explaining their moral claim to rebel. This right finds its foundation on their interpretation of the abstraction of power. Colonists perceive power as bifurcated, a force the King uses to oppress them, and a force given to them by God allowing them to rebel. In the Declaration of Independence the colonists also write about power as a negative force. In the following quote power takes on a negative meaning because power rests in the hands of the King and not the people, “to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned”. Power, when mentioned in association with the power of the people to make their own laws has a positive connotation, “He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to Civil power”.

One of the virtues of the Declaration is its plainness and easy-readingness. Every average person can find her way through it. The Declaration of Independence is also an example of deductive argument: Thomas Jefferson sets up general principles, details particular instances, and then draws conclusions.

The final sentence of the Declaration of Independence completes a crucial metamorphosis in the text. Although it begins in an impersonal, even philosophical voice, it gradually becomes a kind of drama, with its tensions expressed more and more in personal terms. This transformation begins with the appearance of the villain, “the present King of Great Britain,” who dominates the stage through the first nine grievances, all of which note what “He has” done without identifying the victim of his evil deeds. Beginning with grievance 10 the king is joined on stage by the American colonists, who are identified as the victim by some form of first person plural reference: The king has sent “swarms of officers to harass our people,” has quartered “armed troops among us,” has imposed “taxes on us without our consent,” “has taken away our charters, abolished our most valuable laws,” and altered “the Forms of our Governments.” He has “plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, . . . destroyed the lives of our people,” and “excited domestic insurrections amongst us.” The word “our” is used twenty-six times from its first appearance in grievance 10 through the last sentence of the Declaration, while “us” occurs eleven times from its first appearance in grievance 11 through the rest of the grievances.(30)

The persistent use of “he” and “them,” “us” and “our,” “we” and “they” personalizes the British-American conflict and transfigures it from a complex struggle of multifarious origins and diverse motives to a simple moral drama in which a patiently suffering people courageously defend their liberty against a cruel and vicious tyrant. It also reduces the psychic distance between the reader and the text and coaxes the reader into seeing the dispute with Great Britain through the eyes of the revolutionaries. As the drama of the Declaration unfolds, the reader is increasingly solicited to identify with Congress and “the good People of these Colonies,” to share their sense of victimage, to participate vicariously in their struggle, and ultimately to act with them in their heroic quest for freedom. In this respect, as in others, the Declaration is a work of consummate artistry. From its eloquent introduction to its aphoristic maxims of government, to its relentless accumulation of charges against George III, to its elegiac denunciation of the British people, to its heroic closing sentence, it sustains an almost perfect synthesis of style, form, and content. Its solemn and dignified tone, its graceful and unhurried cadence, its symmetry, energy, and confidence, its combination of logical structure and dramatic appeal, its adroit use of nuance and implication all contribute to its rhetorical power. And all help to explain why the Declaration remains one of the handful of American political documents that, in addition to meeting the immediate needs of the moment, continues to enjoy a lustrous literary reputation.


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