Essay, Research Paper
Response to Persuasive Writing:Declaration of Independence The Declaration of Independence is considered one of the world s greatest persuasive documents ever written. Adopted on July 4, 1776 by the Second Continental Congress in America, the Declaration listed the tyrannical acts committed by King George III of England and proclaimed the natural rights of mankind and the sovereignty of the American states. The immediate origins of the American Revolution were in British-American disputes over taxation. After the Seven Years War with France, Britain was left with double its national debt and in severe need of money to repay loans and to defend its territories. Britain attempted to rebuild its finances by issuing the Stamp Act, which levied taxes on selected items; such as commercial and legal documents, diplomas, pamphlets, newspapers, almanacs, dice, and playing cards; and monopolizing the tea trade between China and America. These brought about severe protests and riots, however, which Britain punished by imposing the Coercive Acts, closing the Boston port and stopping local elections and meetings. After negotiations between the First Continental Congress and the British Parliament proved unsuccessful, the American Revolution began. During the war, many were inspired by the works of philosophers such as John Locke and the baron de Montesquieu. Locke believed the function of a government was to protect the natural rights of life, liberty, and property of the people, and if it fails to do so, it becomes a tyranny, which grants the citizens the right to rebel. Montesquieu argued that despotism and tyranny could be avoided if political power was divided and shared by a variety of classes and groups holding unequal rights and privileges. His ideas were influential in creating a democratic government, one that power is divided and with system of checks and balances, rather than Locke whose ideas were influential to rebellion. The Declaration of Independence was no doubt a very persuasive document. However, what made it so successful was its address of the issues of the people at the time it was written. By identifying King George III s tyrannical government, a government s rights and responsibilities, and the natural rights of the people and their responsibilities, the Declaration of Independence was a great persuasive document. The tyrannical acts committed by King George III was a major issue recognized in the Declaration of Independence. Listed in the Declaration are the colonists grievances because of the king s despotic government. The grievances exhibit what the king has done that has transgressed the natural rights of people. The king s tyranny is considered a social issue because it affected the people and their rights. The majority of these grievances deals with representation, a right extremely important to the colonists, considering it was what they did not have during the debate over taxation, the cause of the war. Had the colonists been represented fairly in Parliament, the war would not have occurred. Representation was important to the colonists because of their distance from England. They needed proper representation in Parliament to express their viewpoints on subjects such as taxation. Furthermore, representation is a key element in a democracy, the goal of the colonies; and in England, where a parliamentary system ruled with considerable liberty and franchise for the people. The colonists were angered in the fact that although they were essentially English, they did not receive English rights. The tyranny of the king in representation is written, He [King George] has refused to pass other Laws unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation and He has dissolved Representative Houses . Not only was representation an issue in taxation, it too was neglected in the maintenance of a standing army in the colonies, that He has kept Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures. Many of the acts written about in the Declaration involve the king acting on his own without receiving an assent from the people. He made his own laws, refused others, held meetings at uncomfortable places, restricted certain immigrants to the colonies, controlled the justice and military, suspended legislatures, destroyed the colonies, held impressment, and ignited violence in the colonies. These actions violated one s life, by encouraging violence; liberty, by refusing the colonists the ability to make their own laws; and property, by destroying property. Thus the king greatly angered the people. The issue of the king s tyranny is important because he made the people suffer during his rule and actions previously mentioned. The grievances declare how the colonists suffered and what they felt. The British viewpoint is contrary to that of the colonists. On taxation, the British believed it was reasonable because the colonists were among the least-taxed people in the world, and had the French won the Seven Years War, America would be under French rule and lose its present freedom to absolutism. They argued the Americans were represented in Parliament, although indirectly, and its absolute supremacy could not be questioned because Parliament was supported by the British people. King George believed his actions too were rational because they maintained his sovereign rule over the colonies. He believed he had the right to sovereign rule on the colonies because Britain was the country who populated and built the colonies, and that the colonies were in debt to him and his country. His belief of his superiority and sovereignty contradicts the colonists view that they should share political power and make their own decisions. The tyranny of King George III was a major issue in the Declaration of Independence. The natural and universal rights of mankind were stated in the Declaration of Independence. People were believed to have certain political and social rights, which were confirmed and specified in the document. These rights were formed on the basis of the ideas of John Locke. Locke believed everyone had the natural rights of life, liberty, and property. His ideas were extremely influential to the Declaration, in fact, his concepts were applied into it except for the idea of private property. It was not believed that all people should be economically equal because not all people work at the same level of difficulty, based on the concept of equality in the eighteenth century during the Reformation. To comply with the idea of political and legal equality, the natural rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were applied into the document. The right to property was changed to the pursuit of happiness because of the idea of only political and social equality, not economic. Not all people possessed property because they did not work, but all people were allowed to pursue happiness as long as no one is harmed in doing so. The colonists believed the king had violated their natural rights. By making his own laws and refusing suggestions, the people were deprived of all their rights, because they were not free to make them and some of the laws would cost them material possessions, or they themselves. The loss of representation would again violate all three rights, as seen as how taxation without representation lost the colonists their liberty to agree to the taxation; their happiness because they had to pay more money, and some of their lives in the war. King George s control of the justice and military lost them their freedom to act on their own and be happy as unfair trials were held and the military took over. The impressment of military recruits lost some people their lives, their freedom, and many their happiness because they had to depart from their family. The British had similar beliefs in the rights of people because of their foundation of a parliamentary system and considerable individual liberty with a restricted franchise. This unusual freedom originated from the Whig nobles who established parliamentary supremacy over the king after their bloodless revolution of 1688 to 1689. The colonies were not allowed this privilege however, because they were essential to Britain s economy and it was feared that if a parliament was allowed in the colonies, laws that would benefit Britain such as taxation would be overruled. This did not mean that all British were similar however. King George III attempted to maintain a sovereign rule and act on his own. The Declaration of Independence described the natural rights of mankind.
A government s rights and responsibilities were clearly defined in the Declaration of Independence. A government has rights and responsibilities to the extent of what type of government it is. If it is a democracy, the government is limited in its rights because technically the people rule. The colonists desired a representative government, influenced by philosophers such as Locke and Montesquieu, but remained under the rule of a sovereign king. The rights and responsibilities of a government were based on Locke s ideas, that a government is successful only when it is rules under the consent of the people and its responsibility is to protect one s natural rights of life, liberty, and property (although the Declaration uses happiness instead of property ). If the government fails to protect these rights, it becomes a tyranny and the people have the right to rebel. Locke s ideas are presented in the third and fourth sections of the Declaration- That to secure these (natural) rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive to these [rights] ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new Government . The opinion of the colonists on this issue can be interpreted in their grievances. There is no doubt that their opinion of the rights and responsibilities of the government is the opposite of the tyrannical deeds perpetrated by the king because the grievances are what a ruler cannot do legally in their opinion. For example, the king blackmailed the colonists to relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature in order for him to pass other Laws . The colonists believe the king was wrong to do this and should instead allow their representation in Parliament because it would end conflicts such as taxation without representation. They believe the English government was tyrannical because it failed to perform its responsibility of protecting their natural rights in reasons explained in the previous paragraph. The British believed they have not violated any of their rights and responsibilities because they were only acting for their empire. It was reasonable to levy taxes because it would repay their debt and would help defend their lands. Maintaining standing armies was only to protect the land. Also, it was essential for them to draft recruits for the army. Their beliefs were based on concern for the British empire and to maintain their sovereignty, instead of America s sovereignty because America was a part of the empire. The rights and responsibilities of a government were explained in the Declaration of Independence. Many persuasive techniques were used in making the Declaration of Independence a successful document. A useful technique used in intensifying the king s tyranny is repetition. Throughout the grievances of the colonists, repetition is found in the word He. Each grievance begins with He. Repetition was used because it directed all accusations to King George III, leaving no doubt as to who was being blamed. It was effective because after reading the many evil acts that He committed, the reader grows a hatred for the king. Association was also used in the word He. King George III is associated as a third person, someone distant and foreign. It is used because He is an informal address and the word seems to direct all blame towards the king. The technique was successful in generating dislike for the king. The word He utilizes three persuasive techniques in intensifying the king s unjust rule. He makes use of composition, where the word is capitalized and emphasized. It is used to emphasize King George III and strike the reader s attention at the capitalization. It is effective because it creates a harsh, condemning tone when read, emphasizing the king s corrupt character. Composition is used throughout the document, emphasizing essential words, which can be found in the following phrase: He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures. The authors of the Declaration of Independence also applied omission to the document, omitting the fact that the king did not possess much self-confidence, had a poor childhood which lacked affection, and lacked the ability to achieve any long-term policy. Also omitted was information about Frederick North, his prime minister who executed the king s royal policies that provoked the American Revolution. Omission was used because the authors wished to emphasize all wicked deeds as done by the king of England, the most powerful figure in England, and did not wish for the king to receive pity for suffering a poor childhood. In addition, the colonists gained support of the British people by not directing blame on the king, not them. This proved effective because all hatred was directed towards King George III. The listing of the colonists grievances was also an efficient way of persuasion because it displays all of the king s evil actions, along with the assertion of what the colonists have done to attempt to amend relations with Britain. The colonists have tried to negotiate with their rulers to end tyrannical rule, but have failed. The grievances and attempts at compromise provide evidence and a cause for America to become independent from British rule. The format of the document was also persuasive. The document begins by stating its purpose. Next, the beliefs of the people and their rights is asserted, followed by the grievances to show how the king has violated the people s rights. The grievances give cause for the actions of the people to prevent tyrannical rule, the next topic declared. Finally, after giving the unsuccessful results of their preventive measures, the colonists explain why they have no choice but to declare freedom from Britain. The format is extremely persuasive because it gives reasons as to why their independence was necessary. Many persuasive devices were used in the writing of the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration of Independence was extremely successful in persuading others to the viewpoint of the American colonies. Many persuasive techniques were used in creating a more effective document, such as repetition, association, composition, and omission. The tyranny of King George III of England, the rights and responsibilities of the people, and the rights and responsibilities of the government were major issues discussed about in the persuasive piece. The Declaration of Independence affects my life, and practically every American s life, today. In my opinion, the declaration of the natural rights of all people was the most important issue. It defines every person s rights, and affects everyone from then until now. Today, the rights written in the document, along with many others, are the rights of all Americans. All people have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. On another note, had the Declaration been unsuccessful, the United States of America today may still be ruled by the British. America would not have fought for their independence and Britain would continue governing it. The important after-effects of the victory of the colonies over the vast British empire would furthermore not have occurred. The American Revolution, especially the colonists victory, was a major influence on the French Revolution. The Declaration of Independence forged the way for the French lower classes to fight for their equality and rights in the French Revolution. Because of the aid of the influential document, French absolutism was dealt a harsh blow, peasants were no longer enserfed and instead received rights, and the Declaration of the Rights of Man was written, which possessed similar concepts to the American document. The Declaration of Independence was one of the world s most effective and influential documents, affecting the world back in the eighteenth century to today.