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Thoughts On The Declaration Essay, Research Paper
Thoughts on the Declaration of Independence
Drafted by Thomas Jefferson between June 11 and June 28, 1776, the Declaration of Independence is at once the nation\’s most cherished symbol of liberty and Jefferson\’s most enduring monument. Here, in exalted and unforgettable phrases, Jefferson expressed the convictions in the minds and hearts of the American people. The political philosophy of the Declaration was not new; its ideals of individual liberty had already been expressed by John Locke and the Continental philosophers. What Jefferson did was to summarize this philosophy in \”self-evident truths\” and set forth a list of grievances against the King in order to justify before the world the breaking of ties between the colonies and the mother country.
On July 2,1776, the Declaration of Independence was voted on and signed by the Second Continental Congress of the United States of America. It was a great step forward in American history and although some rebellious activities had taken place prior, no centralized strong demands had been made for change. The idea that makes this so revolutionary is not that we broke the political bonds with a nation but that we broke bonds with such a powerful nation. The public, however, is inclined to think that the idea of independence was accepted and signed with unbounded enthusiasm and that scarcely any opposition to it appeared, but the contrary was the fact. It will be remembered that the hope of the colonies or new States, even after the war had continued for a considerable time, was not so much independence as to extort justice from Great Britain. The key to the document s approach lies in the paragraph that preceded and introduced the charges against the King and which were, in fact, themselves part of the document. (Maier, 123) It was important for the cause that the colonists establish a view of King George III as a tyrant. The document ultimately helped them to feel more secure about starting over and beginning their more autonomous lives.
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 (Fun Facts, 59).
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 divided, a force the King uses to oppress them, and a force given to them by God allowing them to rebel. 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\” (Fun Facts, 60). 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\” (Fun Facts, 61). It was very important to the colonists to have just reason for rebellion and the Declaration helped to see that reason.
While Jefferson was the author of the instrument, the Declaration of Independence was the work not of one man, but of many. (Maier, 95) Some today, like Pauline Maier in her book American Scripture, feel Jefferson and his document are accorded too much importance. It is thought that he is merely a draftsman, piecing together other works. The Declaration was at first forgotten almost entirely and later elevated into something akin to holy writ. [It] became a powerful statement of national identity. (Maier, 154) The problems that arose from the omissions of an anti-slavery statement among others to some seem to outweigh the other cultural, social, and political aspects present still today. The founding fathers didn t want to face such an issue where the nation was so split. They realized the importance of keeping the nation as united as possible.
Every year there are tremendous lines at the National Archives to view the document. Many find it ironic that a document with no legal standing gets so much attention. I see the declaration as the greatest display of American bravery in the history of our country; it was written to secure the freedom of the people of this nation forever. Our government is shaped today by the genius and personality of Thomas Jefferson. Standing on the threshold of the nineteenth century, no one who attempted saw more clearly than he the possibilities, the perils, the pitfalls and the achievements that were within the grasp of the Nation. None was inspired by purer patriotism. None was more perceptive, wise and prudent, and none understood his countrymen better. Doctors and lawyers alike often ask for other opinions and try to get as much information as possible before drafting their own ideas and making their own conclusions. Jefferson inevitably made a better document because he had outside guidance. That guidance helped the overall good of the times. His spirit and collaborative efforts have left a mark even today.
The abstractions from the Declaration of Independence: rights, freedom, liberty and happiness have become the foundations of American society and have helped to shape the \”American Identity. Thomas Jefferson with the input of colleagues and other existing documents eloquently began our struggle as a nation to find independence. Without this we might not be where we are today, a prospering, culturally accepting, well-developed and most importantly united nation. Consequently, over time perceptions of the document may have changed but the importance and necessity for it have not.
Booming fireworks and extravagant floats have since added a new twist on the celebration of our independence. Each July 4th we should step back and realize the struggles and hardships spent to get where we are today. The Declaration of Independence is a document not of legal proportions, but instead to symbolize our strength as a nation where everyone is entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
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