Is it true what Samuel Eliot Morison stated" if the American Revolution had produced nothing but the Declaration of Independence, it would have been worthwhile".Is it true what Samuel Eliot Morison...

Is it true what Samuel Eliot Morison stated" if the American Revolution had produced nothing but the Declaration of Independence, it would have been worthwhile".

Is it true what Samuel Eliot Morison stated" if the American Revolution had produced nothing but the Declaration of Independence, it would have been worthwhile".

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accessteacher's profile pic

accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This is such a difficult question to answer, as it is, by its very nature, hypothetical and therefore going to be based on nothing more than guesswork. Also, I find it problematic trying to balance the relative wins and losses based on a war in which so many died and which caused so much pain and suffering to so many. However, at the same time, I do see the benefit of the freedom that was gained and therefore perhaps I tentatively agree with this statement.

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belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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As long as the Declaration had remained extant and not been censored or suppressed, someone later in time would have discovered it and found it to be a rallying cry against tyranny and monarchy. There is nothing more important to freedom than the free and open exchange of ideas; the fact that it was written at all shows how thought was changing at the time. However, if the original Revolution had failed, it might have taken another hundred years or more for a new one to ferment.

brettd's profile pic

brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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The Declaration is a fabulous piece of writing as well as a collection of democratic sentiments that have served as a wonderful ideal and model, but I can't agree that the Revolution would have been worth it if it had failed in every other respect.  The Revolutionary effort very nearly disintegrated in the first year and a half, and if it had, I would bet the Declaration would hold a much less prominent place in history.

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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One can never fully realize the impact of something as important as the Declaration until looking back on what it has done. While many things happened during the American Revolution, the Declaration was certainly an important outcome. Would the Declaration have been created at a later time as readerofbooks suggests? Pohnpei also makes a relevant statement in saying that the Revolution helped to create a place where the ideals of the Declaration could be lived out.

vangoghfan's profile pic

vangoghfan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Pohnpei397 makes an important point, although I'm still very inclined to agree with Morison's praise of the Declaration!  Since the question is hypothetical, I can imagine various ways in which the Declaration might still be highly valued even if the Revolution had failed.  The Declaration might have inspired a later, more successful, revolution in America.  Or it might have helped inspire a more successful revolution elsewhere.  These speculations are just that, however.  Mainly Morison seems to be trying to emphasize, through hyperbole, his immense admiration for the Declaration.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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No, this is not true.  The Declaration was not a sufficiently novel set of ideas.  The ideas that Jefferson put down on paper were ones that he had taken pretty much directly from John Locke.  What was important about the Revolution is that it actually created a country in which those principles were lived.  If the Revolution had failed, Jefferson's words would have been just another pamphlet rehashing John Locke's ideas which were by then almost 100 years old.

The Declaration did not express new ideas.  Therefore, it would have been relatively meaningless had the Revolution failed or had the independent US become anything other than the democracy it became.

litteacher8's profile pic

litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I agree with this statement. Somewhat. However, it was not the declaration alone but the fact that we acted on it that made it so powerful. Ideas alone are not enough. You have to show that they're viable and realistic. That's why the Declaration of Independence means so much.
readerofbooks's profile pic

readerofbooks | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Statements such as these are hypotheticals. So, there will be many opinions. Perhaps something like the Declaration of Independence would have come up later in time? Who knows?  If we look at Morrison's statement, he is basically arguing for the importance of the Declaration of Independence. I think from this standpoint, he is correct. The Declaration of Independence (1776) is the most cherished document of our nation and it is the cornerstone of American liberty.

The opening words are almost committed to memory by all citizens and in my opinion, it has made America great.  What can be more important than believing that men are created equal, have certain unalienable rights for life, liberty and happiness? Moreover, when the Declaration of Independence says that these points are self-evident, it roots it beyond discussion. It is a fundamental fact of life. These points are essential for a healthy society and many people died to defend these rights.

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