By understanding the framework of time that the Declaration of Independence was written in, we can see its impact upon the peoples of early America and how they dealt with this famous writing. This paper will explain the basic ideas contained in the Declaration of Independence, the impact of the Declaration upon the American War of Independence, and the reasons the Declaration was considered a “radical document”. These themes will be discussed and analyzed to demonstrate the premise of the Declaration of Independence, as well as to explain why and how it worked within the time it was written in.
When Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, he foresaw the coming of great changes within the times that he lived in. The Declaration embodied many of the ideas that separated the colonies from England and thus began the process of creating a new country out of the fray.
One of the ideas that Jefferson wrote about was the freedom of religion. This was a core idea that made the basis of a republican society work, via separation of church and state. This caused many schisms in the many faiths that were already implanted in the colonies. Moreover, it took a long time to separate the church from the state because of the old foundations set by England. Jefferson set the trend for freedom in this writing to give everyone a fair chance to be “whomever they wanted to be regardless of race, creed or religion” (Zinn p.77).
Another idea entrenched in the Declaration of Independence is that men should not be subject to the hierarchy that was the foundation for a monarchical government — such as the one that England had used unsuccessfully with the colonists in the new world. A king could do as he pleased and thus wreaked havoc within the colonies by taxing without representation. This started the whole “windfall of rebellion by the colonists from the North to the South” (Maier p.236). Jefferson wrote that all people were created equal — and this was the great democracy that he and others envisioned in their time. Jefferson believed that the English form of governing was no longer the acceptable way for a human to be treated and this was the basis for him to ink the Declaration against primogeniture and other forms of “special” treatment for Lords who governed the colonies so poorly through the influence of King George the III.
The Declaration of Independence inspired the American Revolution because it rebelled against the harsh treatment that many colonists underwent due to the unpredictable behavior of the English monarchy. “Riots and protest were started and sometimes ended in blood-shed” (Maier p.45) and many people began to assemble militias and guerrilla styled armies. Many wealthy merchants and farmers realized that they could better govern their own people in a rational manner, rather than utilizing the sometimes haughty and foolish measures of the British.
Predominantly, these were the reactions of the common people, but the new congress did debate some of what Jefferson had written and “saw his criticisms of King George somewhat too much” (Stein p.112). There were some who believed the document was the unreasonable result of the hot temper that Jefferson wrote with at certain times. This document, even though some powerful men of the colonies thought it reactionary, was in many ways a radical document because it reintroduced the old Greek form of Republican government and set the tone for the later documents that would make the ideas law. It was a great split from the Old World and cut the chain from England as a ruling body that was attached to early America.
In conclusion, we find that the idea of men being created equal is the main focus of the document, and thus separated England from America during the late 18th century. Even though some considered it to be a radical text, ultimately, the Declaration of Independence is a great document.
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Fehrenbach, T.R., Greatness to Spare: The Heroic Sacrifices of the Men Who signed the Declaration of Independence, Replica Books, June 1999.
Maier, Pauline, American Scripture: he Making of the Declaration of Independence, Random House, Incorporated, June 1998.
Stein, Jopesph, R. Conrad Stein, The Declaration of Independence, Grolier Publishing, October 1995.
Zinn, Howard, The Declarations of Independence: Cross Examining American Ideology, Harper Trade, September 1991.