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What are some contradictions in the American Declaration of Independence?

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augustincuny | Student, College Freshman | (Level 1) Honors

Posted March 2, 2013 at 3:23 PM via web

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What are some contradictions in the American Declaration of Independence?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted March 2, 2013 at 3:50 PM (Answer #1)

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Rather than saying that there are contradictions within the Declaration of Independence, it is more accurate to say that there are contradictions between the words of the Declaration of Independence and the actions of the people who signed it.

The main contradiction is in the idea that “all men are created equal” and that they have the inalienable right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  This is not contradictory in itself, but it is contradictory when it is seen in light of American society at that time.  It is contradictory because this was a society in which slavery was accepted and which was, in the South, based on slavery.  It is contradictory to say that all men have the right to liberty while keeping them enslaved.  It is contradictory to say that all men have the right to life while allowing slave owners to kill slaves if they wished. 

The spirit of the Declaration, if not its letter, is also contradicted by the fact that women were denied rights by the same men who signed off on the Declaration.

Thus, the major contradiction is between the idealistic words of the Declaration and the less idealistic society created by the people who signed it.

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