The Declaration of Independence

by Thomas Jefferson

Start Free Trial

What is the thesis of the Declaration of Independence?

Quick answer:

The Declaration of Independence posits that the colonies are entitled to independence because of their inherent rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, bestowed by a power superior to man. It argues that when a government infringes upon these rights, the people have the right to overthrow it, although this action should not be taken lightly. The document details Britain's violation of these rights, justifying the colonies' decision to establish their own government to better safeguard their freedoms. This thesis aligns with John Locke's philosophy that these rights are divine, not granted by the government.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The thesis of the Declaration of Independence was that the colonies deserved their independence, since the right to three basic things—life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—came from a power higher than man. The document makes a rational argument that people desire these three basic needs, and they believe that government should not encroach on them. The document then goes on to say in generic terms that should government encroach on these needs, then the people have the right to break away from the government, though this right to revolution should not be entered into lightly.

More than half the document explains how Britain encroached on colonial basic rights. A few of the abuses Jefferson mentions include unfair taxation and denying jury trials to colonists. Having proven his argument, Jefferson then summarizes that the colonists thus have a right to create their own government, which would better protect their basic freedoms.

Jefferson's thesis is very similar to a central tenet of John Locke's philosophy that all men have a right to life, liberty, and property, and that this right comes from a higher power and not from government.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

A thesis is "a proposition for consideration, especially one to be discussed and proved or disproved." In other words, a thesis is an idea that is presented for discussion, with facts laid out to support or refute the validity of the idea.

The Declaration of Independence was written to present to the world the position that the British colonies on the North American continent were justified in declaring themselves free from the control of Great Britain.

When...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 (a) separate and equal station..., a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

This was the purpose for the writing of the Declaration. The body of the document goes on to explain the abuses that the colonies have suffered and the efforts they have exerted to bring about a change in attitude toward them. Having failed in these efforts, the document lists "repeated injuries and usurpations" it charges "the present King of Great Britain" has commited against the colonies.

As a result of the facts presented, the colonies declare themselves justified in declaring themselves "free and independent states."

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial