Three American Revolutions
The Declaration of Independence: A Political Strategy
Written by Thomas Jefferson in 1776, the Declaration of Independence is considered oneof the most important documents in the history of the United States. Its preamble not only redefines freedom in terms greater than the “freeborn Englishmen,” but it also establishes freedom as a rightof all men as ordained by God (Jefferson in Boorstin 86). In the midst of this inclusive understanding of freedom, however, the institution of slavery existed. This dehumanizing institution,therefore, suggests that Jefferson’s statement about the equality of all men and their entitlement to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” were rather a political strategy than a redefinition offreedom in broader terms (Jefferson in Boorstin 86).
The purpose of the Declaration of Independence suggests a political use of the language “all are created equal” (Jefferson in Boorstin 86). Its goalwas to make known the “abuses and usurpations” committed by the King of Britain against the colonies. But these very abuses that Jefferson presents are privileges that only white people could enjoy.Taxation without representation, for example, builds Jefferson’s argument as government-oriented and economics-oriented—power-oriented, in other words—which automatically excludes blacks as the equals ofthose in power in the colonies and in Britain ( Jefferson in Boorstin 88). And accordingly, those in power in the colonies—mostly white men—believed that they were equally entitled to Britishliberty. The King’s violation of this entitlement only helped the colonies realize that they were no longer “free-men—British subjects—Not Born Slaves” (Foner 7). Clearly, this British liberty that nowexcluded the colonies and allowed their oppression required of them a basis more broad and universal to justify their entitlement to freedom and, as a result, a right to separation. And by asserting the...