The Declaration of Independence

by Thomas Jefferson

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By the summer of 1776, the American Revolution had been underway for more than a year. The Second Continental Congress recognized the need to officially sever ties with the British Crown and convened at the Pennsylvania State House, today known as Independence Hall. There, the delegates tasked a subcommittee of writers, including Thomas Jefferson, to create a declaration of intent. This declaration, which was officially ratified July 4, 1776, has since become one of the most important founding documents in American history. It voices the Patriots’ desires for independence from “absolute tyranny” and claims the freedoms of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” These words speak not only to the revolutionary atmosphere of this period, but also to the literary abilities of Jefferson, who used powerful rhetoric to revolt against their oppressors. 

Historical context

Although most colonists did not want to completely sever ties with the British crown, tensions between the Patriots and the British were mounting by 1775. King George III had begun to implement laws that infringed on what the Patriots considered their basic human rights, including “taxation without representation,” unreasonable searches and seizures, and quartering of soldiers... (Read more on historical context in the Declaration of Independence) 

Rhetorical Analysis

During the early stages of the American Revolution, Thomas Jefferson and the Continental Congress recognized that many colonists remained unpersuaded that the colonies should wage war against the British. In order to persuade colonists to join the Patriot cause, the authors wrote a cogent, persuasive document that evoked each of the three rhetorical appeals established in Aristotle’s treatise on the art of persuasion… (Read more on rhetorical appeals in The Declaration of Independence) 

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Historical Context