How can I summarize the Vietnamese Declaration of Independence? What was the context of its delivery, what was to be gained from it, and what was it's purpose?  

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gilbyteaches eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Vietnamese Declaration of Independence was delivered in 1945 by the Vietnamese communist leader named Ho Chi Minh. For historical context, France controlled Vietnam (then called French Indochina) from 1887 until 1954, a whole nine years after this speech was given, when Ho Chi Minh's political and military group, the Viet Minh, defeated France in the Battle of Dien Bien Phu. Vietnam was divided due to external forces of French colonization and Japanese occupation and by internal disagreements between communist and anti-communist Vietnamese groups. Ho Chi Minh was speaking out against both of these realities.

The speech begins by quoting famous lines from two other historical declarations of freedom: The second paragraph of the United States Declaration of Independence of 1776, and the French Declaration of the French Revolution on the Rights of Man and the Citizen of 1791. From here, Ho Chi Minh recounts the ways that the French neglected to uphold these values of freedom by exerting imperial control over Vietnam as a French colony (he hoped to show how hypocritical it was that France supported its own independence but denied Vietnam's independence through colonization).

He then lists multiple ways that the French have oppressed the Vietnamese through violence, political annexation, unfair taxation, destruction of natural resources, economic control, and military misconduct and cowardice. Next, Ho Chi Minh recounts the ways that the French did not protect Vietnam's interests when the country was threatened and controlled by Japan during World War II. Ho Chi Minh explains that France's poor military strategy led to Japanese possession of Vietnam. Finally, he recounts how his group, the Viet Minh (also known as the League for the Independence of Vietnam), fought against another Vietnamese ruler, Emperor Bao Dai, and against Japanese and French possession to try to gain control of the country.

He ends the speech declaring Vietnam free from French colonization and Japanese control and asking Allied countries (especially the United States and Iran) to acknowledge Vietnam's right to these freedoms. Ho Chi Minh declares the right of Vietnam to be recognized as a free and independent country and names his group, the Provisional Government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, in control of the country.

This speech served as a public declaration of independence from French rule. It also served as a warning to the Vietnamese anti-communist leader, Bao Dai, who led an opposition to Ho Chi Minh's Viet Minh communist group. Ho Chi Minh hoped that Bao Dai would cease all attempts to control Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh also wanted the declaration of independence to bring support from other nations (especially the United States, which is why he mentioned the US constitution at the beginning) so that independence from France would come quickly and easily. The speech did help him garner political and military support from China and a few other communist nations, but did not end French control of Vietnam and ultimately did not prevent the anti-communist Bao Dai from maintaining control of the southern half the country for almost a decade.

French rule continued after this speech for another nine years until the Viet Minh pushed out France in 1954 after winning the Battle of Dien Bien Phu and signing the 1954 Geneva Accords. France's withdrawal from Vietnam did not solve the issue of Vietnamese control due to the continued conflict between Ho Chi Minh and Bao Dai (and their outside allies). The 1954 Geneva Accords spelled out Ho Chi Minh's control of the northern half of the country and Bao Dai's control of the southern half of the country, divided at a provisional demarcation line called the Seventeenth Parallel. Bao Dai ruled South Vietnam from 1949 to 1955, when he was ousted in a corrupt election by Ngo Dinh Diem.

For further context, this speech was given ten years before the infamous Vietnam War began. The Vietnam War began in 1955 over continued internal disagreements about the political structure of Vietnam and external attempts to control the country. When giving this speech, Ho Chi Minh did not know that all of this would happen.