The Declaration of Independence

by Thomas Jefferson
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Who was the audience for the Declaration of Independence?  

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One audience for the Declaration of Independence was the American colonists. In the document, Jefferson lays out the argument for forming a new nation. He lists the goals of the new government—this will be a government that will safeguard the people's natural rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of...

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One audience for the Declaration of Independence was the American colonists. In the document, Jefferson lays out the argument for forming a new nation. He lists the goals of the new government—this will be a government that will safeguard the people's natural rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. If the new government does not provide these, Jefferson implies that the people have a right to further revolutions in order to establish a responsive government. Jefferson then goes on to list the abuses of Parliament against the natural rights of the colonists.

Another audience for the Declaration of Independence was the British government, namely Parliament. A major part of the document lists the criticisms and abuses against American rights. Jefferson placed this portion in the Declaration of Independence in order to demonstrate that the colonists had legitimate grievances against the government and that they did not undertake revolution lightly. Jefferson clearly states the goals for the revolution—a government to ensure life, liberty, and property. To him and other Patriots, Parliament did not safeguard these freedoms, so the colonists thus had a right to rebel.

Another audience that Jefferson did not intend was oppressed people all over the world. Many in the developing world, such as Ho Chi Minh, have used the Declaration of Independence as a template to state their goals clearly in order to create a new nation.

When Jefferson wrote his words, he was mainly speaking to white male colonists living in the American colonies. The American Revolution had already been happening for over a year when the Declaration of Independence was written. Jefferson clearly stated the goals of the Revolution in order to focus the Patriot cause. He also placed some of the responsibility for the current bloodshed on Parliament by stating their abuses. Jefferson's words continue to be used by oppressed people all over the world in their attempts to create responsive governments.

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The primary audience for the Declaration of Independence was the American colonists. This document was written to tell the nation that they were rebelling against the British, essentially imploring the people of the colony to come together and join the cause. The Declaration laid out the rights the nation valued and the reasons they would choose to separate from the British government.

It was also, in that sense, aimed at the British government at the same time. This document was designed to alert the British that they were no longer their colony and that Americans would actively oppose them in the new nation. Because of this, the war started, and the Declaration galvanized the Patriots in the nation to rebel as a unit. The immediate impact was that it angered the British and encouraged them to attack, but at the same time, it prepared the Americans for that eventuality. The colonists stopped paying their taxes and began organizing their able-bodied men to prepare for battle.

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There were several audiences for the Declaration of Independence. Some audiences were intended, while some audiences, as it turned out, were unintended.

Clearly, the Declaration of Independence was aimed at the colonists. We needed to make our people aware that we had declared independence from Great Britain. They needed to know we were no longer loyal to Great Britain or being governed by them. They also needed to know that we likely would be fighting Great Britain for our independence. Finally, the Declaration of Independence let the colonists know that there are some rights that all people have.

The Declaration of Independence was also aimed at the British. They needed to know that we had declared our independence from them. They also needed to know why we did this. The Declaration of Independence let the British know that we wouldn’t be following their rules and regulations any longer.

The Declaration of Independence was also aimed at other countries. We needed to let other countries like Spain and France know that they should deal directly with us since we believed we no longer were under British control. These countries needed to know they could make deals with us and conduct other business with us.

There were some unintended audiences that the writers of the Declaration of Independence probably never thought they would have. Our Declaration of Independence served as a model for other countries that were having a revolution against their government. Countries like France and Vietnam used our Declaration of Independence as a model for their fight for freedom. Many Latin American countries also modeled their revolution after our revolution. They used our Declaration of Independence as a model. When Texas became independent from Mexican rule, the Texas Declaration of Independence was very similar to our Declaration of Independence.

There were many groups at which the Declaration of Independence was aimed. While the Declaration of Independence was clearly aimed at certain groups, it also impacted other groups that the writers probably didn’t have in mind at the time they wrote the document.

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There were two main audiences for the Declaration of Independence.  Those were the American colonists and the publics of other countries like France and even England.

The Declaration was written in part to rally public support for the Revolution within the colonies.  With that in mind, it reminded people of all the things that the British government had done to offend them.  This was meant to make them want to fight.

At the same time, the Declaration was meant to convince publics in other countries of the justice of the American cause.  The Declaration is explicitly addressed to such people when it says that it is necessary to explain the American cause because of a "decent respect to the opinions of mankind."  In other words, it is trying to convince all of "mankind" that the Americans are doing the right thing.  This was important because, it was hoped, people in other countries would support what the colonies were doing and make it easier for them to succeed.

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