The Declaration of Independence Summary

Thomas Jefferson

The Declaration of Independence

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The Declaration of Independence Summary

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“The Declaration of Independence” is one of the foremost documents in United States history. In it, Thomas Jefferson lays out the reasons behind why the British Colonies of North America were seeking independence in July of 1776.

The first section is a preamble explaining why the document is necessary to give the reasons why the colonies were choosing to throw off the rule of the British and establish their own country.

Jefferson establishes first that all men are created equal and that they possess certain inalienable rights that the government should never violate. These rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. If a government does not protect those rights, then the people have no choice, and in fact, it is their duty to overthrow that government. The people can then establish a new government in its place that can and will protect those rights.

It is no trivial thing to overthrow a government, but the colonies have no choice but to do so due to a long history of abuse of those rights by the current government. King George III is guilty of twenty-seven of those abuses. He interfered with the colonies’ right to a fair judicial system. He produced legislation without the consent of the colonies that affect their wellbeing. He levied unjust taxes and required that British soldiers be quartered. He removed the colonies’ right to a trial by jury, and prevented their free trade.

In addition, they are guilty of destroying American life and property by refusing to protect their borders and confiscating their ships from the sea. They even hired foreign mercenaries to further interfere.

Although the colonies tried to resolve these grievances peacefully, their inability to do so has led them to this point. They were ignored by the King and ignored by British citizens despite their common heritage. Because these peaceful attempts have made no headway, they are forced to overthrow the rule of Great Britain.

The new country will be called the United States of America and will have no further connections to the King or to Great Britain. The colonists will take on the rights of waging war, making peace, trading, and any other activity they see fit.

The entire declaration is one of dissatisfaction with the existing government and its role in the colonists’ lives. The colonists have no other resort than to air their grievances in the document and break all ties from the King because of his disregard for their life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.

Jefferson also highlights the opposing forces of tyranny and freedom. King George and Britain represent this tyranny, a government that refuses to recognize the inalienable rights of the citizens under its care. The colonies, on the other hand, represent all the facets of freedom. It is through this comparison, explicit and otherwise, that Jefferson outlines the justifiable reasons the colonists have for overthrowing their government.

For Jefferson, the official status of the colonies doesn’t matter. They are free by virtue of the rights they stand for and protect. The declaration is a legal document for the colonists and should be respected by any authority. Jefferson also outlines the principles he believes should dictate human behavior and how the world should operate. King George is in violation of those principles, and the dissolution of his rule over the colonies allows the colonists to establish a government that operates in accordance with the fundamental principles of righteous governance.

Addressing the idea that all men are equal was almost unheard of in the eighteenth century, and this is one of the first public documents to declare such. Jefferson’s idea of equality, we now know, was incomplete, but this first declaration of men born with certain rights that cannot be denied was revolutionary in a world built for class status.

Jefferson also addresses the idea that the colonists wished to be considered equals to their fellow citizens in Great Britain, but that desire had been ignored over the past few decades. The colonists do not enjoy the full equality of British citizens, and therefore must break away to form a government that will recognize their equal status.

Jefferson used the trope that all men are created equal because it’s difficult to argue against such a sweeping statement. Rather than focusing specifically on the colonists themselves, he focuses on the general theme that under certain principles of existence, men are equal, and as such the colonists are offered no choice but to declare their independence.

Certain parts of the Declaration are firmly entrenched in the minds of people from the United States. Jefferson iterates the idea that the people control the government, not the other way around, and that our rights are not based on our social or aristocratic rank. Ultimately, the people should be free to pursue their basic contentment without the interference of governmental tyranny.