Declaration Paper-final

Declaration Paper-final - Dr Welch POL 211/HIS 240 The...

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Dr. Welch POL 211/HIS 240 12/4/2006 The Declaration of Independence: A Truly American Document? Upon first read of the Declaration of Independence, the viewer can come away with a sense of awe. A pivotal moment in American history, the Declaration is a key document in American history. Jefferson, being the primary author and mastermind behind the document, lays down his political philosophy in paragraph two regarding government and how a country should operate. After absorbing it’s contents, and realizing the portent of the words penned down, one has to wonder where these revolutionary ideas came from. Were they really Thomas Jefferson’s? Or did they already exist? Upon closer look at the Declaration of Independence, one can see parallels with a variety of other works. Being a well read, aristocratic individual, Jefferson had the means and the opportunity to verse himself with every great philosophical and political thinker that was published. Ideas laid down thousands of years ago by societies and men long gone, surfaced once more. Learning from history is one of the most vital learning experiences, as to not repeat the errors of the past, and to build upon its successes. Jefferson must have realized this, and subsequently been a student of history. When he opens with “in the course of human events” (Spaeth 175), he lets it be known that this American Revolution coming is nothing new, and rebellions have happened before. By looking at these past events, and seeing what caused them, Jefferson then set out to make a new political entity that would
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hopefully not repeat the same mistakes the previous royal government had, and possibly make it so there wouldn’t need to ever be a rebellion again in these American lands. The first notable corresponding idea is the idea of a moral or secular system of government. The basic problem with having a moral based government has is to rule over subjects who don’t adhere to the official religion. Jefferson realized this, and many leaders before him had as well. Dating back as early as 2250 B.C., the Code of Hammurabi came into being. Being “codified secular laws” (Weber I 20), they separated themselves from religion. Seeing the melting pot that was America, Jefferson realized that by establishing the precedent for an official religion would never work, and that religion and government needed to be separated. Subscribing to deism, Jefferson makes reference to a “Creator” (Spaeth 175), but is deliberately vague. Knowing full well what happens if an official religion is in place, Jefferson uses the precedents of secular forms of government to lay down the foundation for America. Being under the thumb of Britain since the colonies were established, Jefferson is extremely anti-government. His entire rant regarding the injustices the King has wrecked upon the colonists show his contempt for rule. But knowing that at least some form of government is needed to govern a nation, Jefferson infuses the Declaration with ideas of
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This note was uploaded on 06/27/2008 for the course HIS 240 taught by Professor Welch during the Fall '06 term at Mt. Wachusett.

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Declaration Paper-final - Dr Welch POL 211/HIS 240 The...

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