Jefferson's Justification for the American Revolution

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Jefferson's Justification for the American Revolution





Jefferson's Justification for the American Revolution

Even after fighting in the American Revolutionary War began at Lexington and Concord in April 1775, most colonists still hoped for reconciliation with Great Britain. Thomas Jefferson saw a need to justify this revolution in the eyes of the people. He, and other founding fathers, knew that for this revolt to be successful, all thirteen colonies and their citizens must be united in a common goal. For Jefferson to achieve unity amongst the colonists, he had to show that violations of law and abuse of basic rights existed under the current British rule.

The Declaration of Independence, written largely by Thomas Jefferson, is a statement of what government is and from what source it may derive its powers. It begins with a summary of those inalienable rights that are the basis for a free society and to protect those rights, what powers a just government may exercise.

By Jefferson's own admission, the Declaration of Independence contained no original ideas, but was instead a statement of sentiments widely shared by supporters of the American Revolution. As he explained in 1825:

Neither aiming at originality of principle or sentiment, nor yet copied from any particular and previous writing, it was intended to be an expression of the American mind, and to give to that expression the proper tone and spirit called for by the occasion.

Jefferson's most immediate sources were two documents written in June 1776: his own draft of the preamble of the Constitution of Virginia, and George Mason's draft of the Virginia Declaration of Rights. Ideas and phrases from both of these documents appear in the Declaration of Independence. They were in turn directly influenced by the 1689...