When In The Course Of Human Events

What is the meaning of the introduction of the Declaration of Independence?

Expert Answers
pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There is no part of the Declaration of Independence that is officially called the introduction.  However, when people talk about that document, they often use the term “introduction” to refer to the following part of the text:

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.

I will base my answer on this portion of the text.

Basically, this introduction is meant to say what the text as a whole is about.  It says that, when it becomes necessary for people in one part of a country to split off from that country (that’s what “to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another…” means), the people who are splitting off need to tell the world why they are doing so.

The introduction also implies some things about what will be said later on in the Declaration.  It implies that there are natural laws (or divine laws) that entitle countries to be free and independent.  It implies that there are times when it is right, and indeed necessary, for people to break away from their government.

Thus, the introduction tells us what the overall purpose of the document is and it hints at some of the important points that will be made in the rest of the text.

pholland14 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Declaration of Independence was meant to announce to the colonists and to Britain that the colonists had decided to become independent after years of misrule by Parliament.  While there are some paradoxes in the work, it states that "all men are created equal" at a time when Indians, slaves, and women had no rights, the Declaration of Independence states that inalienable rights come from God. It also states that no government has the right to take them away and that the people have the right to alter or abolish any government which goes against these rights. However, in the very next paragraph, it advises people to be prudent about abolishing governments.  

The Declaration of Independence gave Americans the rationale to leave Britain.  Jefferson wrote that Americans were entitled to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." This was only a minor change from John Locke's basic rights of "life, liberty, and property."  Jefferson also spent the last part of the Declaration of Independence describing how Britain went against these rights by having trials without juries and confiscating property without colonial consent in the form of taxes.