Examination of the Declaration of Independence as both a historical document and as revolutionary propaganda

Essay by dentedvolvoHigh School, 11th grade April 2002

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The Declaration of Independence is one of the most renowned and beloved documents in United States history. Even today, people cherish their "unalienable rights" as symbols of America at her best. The Declaration of Independence was a major step towards secession from Britain in the American Revolution, and has had profound influence on the country's development ever since. The grand rhetoric in the first part spurred the formation and maturation of an equitable America, and the specific indictments in the second part attacked Britain's inhibition of that development.

The most immediate function of the Declaration of Independence was as revolutionary propaganda. It instilled the sense of unity and common purpose that the Albany Congress and various other assemblies had failed to solidify. The Patriots needed a purpose; the Declaration of Independence gave them one. Their moral sense of crusading against Britain was a strong weapon in winning the war. It attracted countries like France and Spain to ally with the colonial rebels.

America was a much more formidable foe with the common purpose and foreign aid that the Declaration helped to secure.

In later years, the grand rhetoric changed the United States' democratic structure. The assertions that "all men are created equal" and are entitled to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" set a precedent for rights movements throughout history. The tradition of owning slaves and later that of racial segregation were eventually thwarted in order to ensure liberty and equality. Also, the fight for Women's Suffrage and Black Suffrage led to today's policy under which all registered American citizens may vote.

Likewise, the specific indictments in the second part attacked Britain's efforts to inhibit America's movement towards democracy and equity. In the document, the colonists accused King George III of blocking colonial legislature, a precursor to today's...