The Declaration of Independence Questions and Answers
by Thomas Jefferson

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How does the language or structure of the text support the author's purpose ?

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Curtis Peter eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The Declaration of Independence is considered one of the most important documents in American history. This document was essentially the leadership of the thirteen American colonies formally breaking up with the British government. When such an important statement is issued, it is very important that its intentions are not misinterpreted and that supporting evidence is present. This is true of Jefferson's writing in the Declaration of Independence.

In the opening of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson states that it is sometimes necessary for political bands to be broken. He then goes on to say that the reasons for the breaking of the bands should be stated.

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

Jefferson goes on to state his own views on government and the values of government. He states that all men should have certain rights, which he claims come from God, a power higher than any king. These rights have been adapted from the John Locke's three natural rights: "life, liberty, and property." Jefferson changed this slightly to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Jefferson argues that the government gains its power from those it governs and that when government becomes destructive, it is a right of the people to change the government.

After proclaiming the purpose of government and stating the rights of individuals, Jefferson provides evidence to back up his belief that the British government has not served the American colonists properly. He lists a number of grievances as proof of the British government's failures. He also explains that the British government has been made aware of these grievances through petitions sent by American representatives; however, they have not suitably responded to them.

Jefferson ends the Declaration of Independence by formally expressing that the colonies see themselves as being independent of Great Britain. Jefferson's wording is very clear and does not leave any doubt regarding the situation between the colonies and the British government.

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Phillip Holland eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson cites the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  He states that governments derive their power "from the consent of the governed."  In this viewpoint, government exists for the people's benefit.  He then goes on to describe how the British government has deprived the colonists of these rights.  He describes how colonial legislatures have been dissolved without cause, and how the British officials have seized property without a right to do so.  He cites taxation practices against colonists who have no way to protest in Parliament.  Jefferson goes on to describe the practice of quartering soldiers in time of peace in the colonies, which many colonists viewed as a threat.  Jefferson carefully constructs his argument to demonstrate that the Declaration of Independence is not something lightly entered; rather, it is the last resort of a people who have had their rights trampled for far too long.  

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