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The Declaration of Independence | Study Guide

Thomas Jefferson

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The Declaration of Independence | Glossary


abdicate: (v) to renounce a high office, such as a kingship

boycott: (v) to purposefully refuse to have dealings with

Continental Congress: (n) a convention of delegates from the 13 original American colonies. It was originally formed in 1774 to discuss how to establish an effective and peaceful relationship with Great Britain. The Continental Congress became the colonies' legislative body during the Revolutionary War. It served as the predecessor to today's United States Congress.

Enlightenment: (n) an 18th–century philosophical movement that rejected traditional social, religious, and political ideas in favor of rational thought

legislative: (adj) having the power of creating laws

inalienable: (adj) not able to be transferred or given up. Thomas Jefferson uses "unalienable" in the Declaration of Independence.

mercenary: (n) one that serves for wages, not loyalty. This term is most often used to describe soldiers hired to help foreign parties.

Parliament: (n) the governing body of Great Britain. The upper house, the House of Lords, comprises titled aristocrats. The lower house, the House of Commons, is run by elected public representatives.

pamphlet: (n) a publication between 5 and 48 pages in length and stitched or stapled together. Pamphlets are generally treatises or essays, often on a controversial or political subject.

propaganda: (n) the spreading of ideas or information to help or injure a cause, institution, or a person

ratify: (v) to formally approve

secede: (v) to withdraw from an organization or country

social contract: (n) an explicit or implicit agreement between a society and its government that defines and limits the rights and duties of each. Various versions of the social contract were popular among Enlightenment thinkers.

sovereignty: (n) complete and supreme power over a body, such as a government or a country

treason: (n) the criminal offense of trying to overthrow a government or its leader

treatise: (n) a written argument or exposition that uses facts and principles to reach a conclusion

tyranny: (n, pl) the unrestrained exercise or abuse of power

usurp: (v) to take by force or without right

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