Declaration of Independence Project
Declaration of Independence

1. Jefferson chose to begin the Declaration with the words, “The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America.” Do you feel that this was necessary? Why or why not? Could the colonies have declared independence if they were not unanimous? Why or why not?

2. How does Jefferson explain the reason for a formal declaration of independence? Why do think it was necessary for Jefferson to state the “causes which impel them to the separation”? Jefferson explains the reason for a formal declaration of independance by saying that all of the colonies are now united,"... it becomes neccesary for one people..." Now focusing on the one people part, one is singular and people is plural. That means that the (plural) people are now (singular) one or conjoined together with one common goaland one government. The common goal is to separate from Britain and become their own country, Jefferson says this with the line "... and to assume the powers of earth..." This line shows that they need to seperate and become their own continent. Another line that Jefferson said " The causes which impel them to seperation." The line before that is " Mankind requires that they should declare..." The line that has to do with the causes that impel them is neccesary because in the previous line it says that it is required be mankind. In other words it is a neccesity that reasons are stated for declaring war and independance.

3. According to Jefferson, what was the purpose of government? What does Jefferson suggest should happen whenever government becomes “destructive of the ends for which it was created?” According to Jefferson, how do governments derive their powers?

4. Jefferson noted that “all men are created equal,” suggesting that this was self-evident. What do you think he meant by this statement? What sorts of conflicts and misconceptions may have stemmed from that statement?

When Jefferson stated that it was self-evident that all men are created equal I thought that he meant that there was no question (or shouldn't be) about whether some men had more rights then others. I also thought that he was trying to make the point that no one should be judged easier (like the british soldiers were) or harder (like the colonists were) in the judicial sense. This may cause many conflicts because women and minorities necessarily included or this statement doesn't ring true for them too, which one could argue makes this statement false, which does not seem to be what Jefferson is reffering to, more the elite colonists.

5. Next, look at the list of grievances that Jefferson lists as reasons that the King violated the rights of the colonists. List 3 grievances that you feel are the worst violations. Why? Why would Jefferson blame the King when parliament passed all of the laws and the King had limited powers?
The three grievances that we feel are the worst violations in general, are “For protecting them by a mock Trial, for Punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States: For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world”, “For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments: For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with Power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever. He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.”, and that “He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people. We feel that these are some of the worst violations that “occurred” because the first one states that the king let his people get away with awful crimes (such as murder) in the colonies. If this happened everywhere then there would be no justice for anyone and more and more crimes would be committed, therefore creating chaos. We believe that the second violation is one of the worst because it basically states that the king changed/controlled the colonies’ government in a way that the colonists did not agree with. It also states that the king ceased his protection for the colonies and basically declared war on the colonies. According to Jefferson, the king took away some of their important laws, their documents stating their responsibilities and rights and basically destroyed their government, therefore their society. The third violation is pretty clear in showing how wrong it was for the king to allow the stealing, killing, and destroying of the colonies.
Jefferson blamed the king when the parliament had just as much or more power than the king because it was easy for Jefferson to rally support from fellow colonists if they could all blame one person. It was much simpler for them to blame just the king. Also, the symbolism of the king (how he was the overseer of all the laws etc.) is a very powerful image. So, when Jefferson directed all of the wrongs towards the king it was propaganda to get support from the colonists and make show them the wrong things that he was doing and how it was damaging the colonies.

6. In July, 1776, Jefferson may not have recognized that the Declaration of Independence would be studied and revered for over 200 years. Write a paragraph that explains your view of why that has happened.
The Declaration of Independence has been revered and studied for over 200 years because of its importance in America and Britain’s history. It causes the single event that brought America to exist. The Declaration was the one of the most important things that made our country what it is today and is studied to better understand how we became America. It has become so famous because of this and has been studied so that people can better understand the break for independence that the colonists took. Also, the basis of America’s government comes from the preamble, which obviously has been built on and has been researched in order to follow the common rules of civil rights. The Declaration of Independence has also been read for the information of the British wrongs. These can be used for research purposes, or for learning purposes (of how not to run a government).

7. Read “The Declaration of Sentiments” from the Seneca Falls Conference (1848). How does this document borrow from Jefferson. Show at least 3 specific instances.

The Declaration of Sentiments is basically the Declaration of Independence with some words changed. While the Declaration of Independence states “ We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”, the Declaration of Sentiments says “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness;”. Also, the writers of the Declaration of Sentiments copy Jefferson’s list of grievances. Lastly, the preambles are almost exactly identical.

Declaration of Sentiments