Declaration Of Independence

The Declaration of Independence is perhaps the most masterfully written document
of Western civilization. This essay seeks to illuminate that artistry by probing
the discourse microscopically at the level of the sentence, phrase, word, and
syllable. By approaching the Declaration in this way, we can shed light both on
its literary qualities and on its rhetorical power as a work designed to
convince the American colonies they were justified in seeking to establish them
as an independent nation. The introduction consists of the first paragraph a
single, lengthy, periodic sentence: When in the Course of human events, it
becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have
connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the
separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God
entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they
should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. Taken out of
context, this sentence is general it could be used as the introduction to a
declaration by anyone. Seen within its original context, however, it is a model
of refinement, and suggestion that worked on several levels of meaning and
allusion. This orients readers toward a favorable view of America and prepares
them for the rest of the Declaration. It dignifies the Revolution as a challenge
of principle. The introduction identifies the purpose of the Declaration as
simply to "declare" to announce publicly in explicit terms the "causes"
impelling America to leave the British Empire. Rather than presenting one side
in a public controversy on which good and decent people could differ, the

Declaration claims to do no more than a natural philosopher would do in
reporting the causes of any physical event. The issue, it implies, is not one of
interpretation, but one of observation. The most important word in the
introduction is "necessary." To say an act was necessary implied that it was
impelled by fate or determined by the operation of foolproof natural laws. The

Revolution was not merely preferable, defensible, or justifiable. It was as
inescapable, as inevitable, and as unavoidable within the course of human events
as the motions of the tides or the changing of the seasons within the course of
natural events. The Revolution, with connotations of necessity, was particularly
important because, according to the law of nations, recourse to war was lawful
only when it became "necessary." The notion of necessity was important that,
in addition to appearing in the introduction of the Declaration, it was invoked
twice more at crucial junctures in the rest of the text. Labeling the Americans"one people" and the British "another" was also laden with implication
and performed several important strategic functions within the Declaration.

First, because two alien peoples cannot be made one, it reinforced the notion
that breaking the "political bands" with England was a necessary step in the
course of human events. America and England were already separated by the basic
fact that they had become two different peoples. The gap between them was much
more than political; it was intellectual, social, moral, cultural, and,
according to the principles of nature, was irreparable. Defining the Americans
as a separate people in the introduction eased the task of invoking the right of
revolution in the preamble. That right, according to eighteenth-century
revolutionary principles, could be invoked only in the most dire of
circumstances. "Resistance was absolutely necessary in order to preserve the
nation from slavery, misery, and ruin." If America and Great Britain were seen
as one people, Congress could not justify revolution against the British
government for the simple reason that the body of the people did not support the

American cause. For America to move against the government in such circumstances
would not be a justifiable act of resistance. By defining the Americans as a
separate people, Congress could more readily satisfy the requirement for
invoking the right of revolution. Like the introduction, the next section of the

Declaration usually referred to as the preamble--is universal in tone and scope.

It contains no explicit reference to the British- American conflict, but
outlines a general philosophy of government that makes revolution justifiable,
even meritorious. Like the rest of the Declaration, the preamble is brief,
clear, and concise. Each word is chosen and placed to achieve maximum impact.

Each clause is indispensable to the progression of thought. Each sentence is
carefully constructed internally and in relation to what precedes and follows.

One word follows another with complete inevitability of sound and meaning. Not
one word can be moved or replaced