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Literary Criticism of the Declaration of Independence

Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence to express his revolutionary ideas about natural human rights, the birth of government, and the role of government. While the Declaration of Independence was originally written as a political speech, it was later written down as an essay. In the Declaration, Thomas Jefferson discusses nature and the fact that all men are equal. He stated that freedom is a blessing bestowed on all men.

In essence, he states that all men are created equal and have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This says that all people have the right to protect their lives. They also have the right to enjoy and actively pursue their freedom. The right to pursue happiness suggests that people have the right to do what is within their power to better themselves, their living conditions, and overall status of life. Jefferson firmly believed that these ‘unalienable rights’ we bestowed upon every man. He states that in order to protect their rights, individuals consent to forming an organization or government. The individuals give up some rights for protection from other individuals.

Jefferson states that in order to protect their life, liberty and pursuit of happiness individuals form an agreement amongst themselves and create a government that will actively protect their rights. He continues on to state that if a government becomes autocratic or despotic, it will cease protection of the basic unalienable rights. When a government ceases protection of these rights, it becomes despotic the people have the right to abolish and overthrow the government to create a new government. Jefferson believed that the primary function of the government was to preserve the unalienable rights of individuals. The secondary function of the government was to establish diplomatic relations with other states or nations. The government also has the responsibility to sever poor diplomatic relations. Jefferson held a firm belief in the idea that the people hold supreme power and that they were allowed to create revolutions when the need arose.

After creating this essay on human rights and the function of the British colonial government in America under the kingship of George III, Jefferson begins to criticize the current British government in various ways. For example, the government was not formed by the people or with the consent of the people. Therefore, it did not truly represent the people. Instead of preserving life, the colonial government severely regulated the life of the people, suppressed them and restricted their freedom. The government controlled the ports all across the colonies and levied extreme taxes. In a similar way, Jefferson also calls out the colonial government, who had dismissed the senates (the representatives of the people and judges of the courts). Based on the (then) current state of the government, he declared that the American colonies should claim independence from the British government and form their own colonial government. He suggested that the colonies begin a revolution. Before this time, a revolution of this size was unheard of.

Thomas Jefferson was a revolutionary thinker and individual for his time. He was able to take the ideas of several Enlightenment thinkers and help create one of the most powerful countries in the world today. His Declaration of Independence helped start a revolution and spark a movement toward a much more democratic world. By calling out the wrong doings of the king of England, King George III, he ignited a revolution that had been building to a burning point, smoldering and growing in intensity until a flame of revolution ignited amongst the colonists. His Declaration of Independence was simply the tinder to help it grow.

United States | Literature


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