The Declaration of Independence published in 1776 was a document drafted to strengthen the case of American Independence. The political influence it had in establishing a diplomatic fight towards the British was arguably second to none. Still regarded as one of America’s most important documents, it declared to the world that America should be an independent and free state. Written primarily by Thomas Jefferson, the document is split into three distinct phases. Each of these makes their own decisive points and help establish the reasoning behind the document. The first phase uses the words of god in order to help justify its cause. ‘All men are created equal… endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’[1] This is a sentence that resonates throughout the revolution. As a predominantly Christian country it is of no question that the word of god influenced the way Americans lived their lives. As propaganda, it was extremely effective in showing the American people that the British were not superior to them and that their lord sees them as equals to their oppressive rulers. Jefferson uses this to explain that America should be an independent state that runs its own affairs.

The second phase focuses on why America must alter its current political order. He states that it’s the right of the people to abolish a destructive government such as the British one. Jefferson argues the British monarchy is built on problematic foundations of ‘repeated injuries and usurpations.’[2] That this type of government has no place in America. He explains the British King’s refusal to ‘assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.’[3] Jefferson’s compelling argument shows the reader the backward actions of the King, using them to open America’s eyes to the unjust rule it was facing. There seems to be an increasing brutality to each point Jefferson makes. Approximately twenty points later he states ‘He plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.’[4] This progressive build up gradually shows the reader the severity of the tyranny bestowed upon them by the British. It’s something that Jefferson does well and it arguably had a significant psychological influence on its readers including foreign rulers.

The third phase shows the progressive side of America. It mentions that at every turn the American people have tried to redress the actions of King but that they have only been met by disappointment. The document concludes to the world an appeal from the colonies to explain that America is to be a free state. As a factor in bringing about British defeat it is hard to disregard the document. It is essentially a comprehensive list of all the reasons for fighting independence. This certainly struck a chord with the American people, encouraging them to continue their fight against the British. In addition to this, it arguably helped persuade foreign intervention with an alliance with France coming less than two years after the document was published.

 

Bibliography:

[1] S. E. Morison, (ed.), The American Revolution (Oxford, 1965), (‘The Declaration of Independence’, 4 July 1776), 157.

[2] Ibid., 158.

[3] Ibid., 158.

[4] Ibid., 158.