Why would you have signed the Declaration of Independence? 

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If I were the teacher who assigned this question, I would want to see you address both sides of the issue.  That is, I would not want you to simply say why you would have signed this document.  Instead, I would want you to discuss why you might NOT have wanted to sign it and then discuss what factors would have overcome your reluctance.

There are a number of reasons why a person might not have wanted to sign the Declaration of Independence.  Any given individual might have considered any combination of these factors.  First, people might have been afraid to sign the Declaration.  Signing the Declaration could be seen as an act of treason.  A person doing so might be punished severely by the government.  Second, people might have felt loyalty to the British government.  After all, the American colonists were mostly British in their origins and many would have felt that it would be wrong to turn their back on their “mother country.”   Third, people might have wanted to remain a part of the British Empire for more practical reasons.  Great Britain was the richest and most powerful country in the world at that time.  This meant that there were benefits to being a subject of the British king.  Britain was also generally seen as the most democratic country in the world at that time.  People were proud to share in the “rights of Englishmen.”  Finally, a person might not have agreed with parts of the Declaration.  In particular, the list of things that the King had allegedly done wrong might have seemed exaggerated and unfair to many people.  A person might have been unwilling to sign the Declaration for any one of these reasons or for a combination of them.

However, there would also have been many reasons to sign the Declaration.  People might have felt that the American colonies no longer needed Britain.  They might have felt that they were rich enough to prosper on their own without being part of Britain.  Second, they might have felt little affection for the mother country.  They (or their families) might have been away from Britain for so long that they no longer really felt like they had much in common with the British people.  Third, and perhaps most importantly, a person might have signed the Declaration of Independence because they strongly believed in the ideas set forth in the first part of that document.  I would hope that I would have signed it for this reason.  Jefferson starts the Declaration by saying that all men (I would want to say all people) are created equal and have certain natural rights.  He goes on to say that a government is only valid if it is created by the consent of the people and if it defends their natural rights.  Finally, he says that people have the right to overthrow a government if it does not meet these criteria.  I agree with every aspect of these statements. 

So why would I have signed this document?  I hope I would have signed it because I believe that governments only deserve to be in power if they exist by the consent of the people and if they protect the people’s rights.

moocowwwwwwww | Student

I would sign, because

-new job opportunities

-new education

-less taxes

-new laws

-better government(More FAIR)

-more freedom of speech and press overall

-new life, fresh start

parama9000 | Student

I would sign it because the British colonial masters were put into power not by the people's consent, and also implemented policies wothout the people's consent.

laurto | Student

Personally, I would have wanted to sign the Declaration of Independence, because of the possibility that the new government would bring new opportunities to the common people, especially education. It was an opportunity for success and to be "independent". I also personally believe in the power of the people and that the people should not be afraid of the government, but the government should be afraid of the people. But at the same time, I may not have signed it because of the fear. I would have been afraid of being caught by the British and seen as a traitor, because the colonists were technically British. The possibility that the Declaration would work and that the new government would work is small. But in the end, I would have signed it. 

chrisyhsun | Student

The structure of the question asks you to explain reasoning in favor of the Declaration of Independence. To be fair, this reasoning does not have to be entirely objective from "your" (a DoI signer's) perspective. When the Declaration of Independence was being signed, the American colonists were being heavily taxed by their mother country England. The noble reason, then, for signing the Declaration of Independence would be because you believe in the equal rights of man (based on the definition of "man" back then, of course) and you wished to see a world in which individuals were treated more fairly. In order for you to have signed this document, I would think you would need quite a dash of bravery and boldness. Essentially, all the signers were committing treason because at the time, they were still citizens of England. You would also need to be an optimist to believe that a new form of government (and the overthrow of what was back then arguably the strongest colonizer) was possible.

rachellopez | Student

I would have signed the Declaration of Independence because it was a chance for new opportunities and success. Colonies felt that they were not being treated correctly and wanted to become independent by forming their own country. That was their chance to truly start off fresh and do things the way they wanted. There were people who were still loyal to Britain, but a lot of people who came to America came to get a fresh start. 

CaitlynnReeves | Student

I have always been told that when faced with an opinion question pick a side and defend it well. Do not try to juggle both arguments. 

I am American so clearly I am biased. I will do my best to play devils advocate. 

I would not have signed the Declaration of Independnce. While England was treating its colonies unfairly, eventually there would have been a new king, a better one perhaps. I would not want to stick my neck out for treason if I could just wait out the hard times. Besides, war is very expensive and the colony didn't have a lot of it's own funds seperate from those of Britian. A lot of people died and America started its life as new country with a lot of debt.

robyn-bird96 | Student

 If you ask anyone today if they would sign the Declaration of Independence, they would say yes, because we are taught that it stood for our rights as Americans.  

I actually would not have signed it.  To sign the treaty means that you are committing treason against the British Empire. If the Americans had lost the Revolutionary War (which may have happened if certain events did not occur), then I would be tried for treason and have been executed.  Despite the fact that the British government did overstep the line by enforcing different taxes without the colonists' permission, they did it because they were trying to raise money to pay off the huge war debt that was acquired through the French and Indian War.