Released on July 4th 1776, the Declaration of Independence announced the decision to declare war and proclaim independence against the colonies’ mother country, Great Britain. Although very short, the Declaration is very concise and its purposes clear: pledging unity and declaring independence. The Declaration opens with a preamble supported by religious references explaining why the colonies have overthrown their ruler and chosen to take their place as a separate nation in the world. All men are created equal” and there are certain “unalienable rights” that governments should never violate. These rights include the ”right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. ” When a government fails to protect those rights, it is the duty of the people to overthrow that government and establish one of their own. Although governments are rarely overthrown, a long history of abuses has led the colonists to view it as necessary to overthrow King George III’s tyrannical government.
Thomas Jefferson listed 27 grievances committed by the King, emphasizing the violation of liberties and order. After many failed attempts at peaceful reconciliation, the colonists had no choice but to declare independence from Great Britain. The new nation, United States of America, would be sovereignly governed. Jefferson addressed the document to the world and presented its argument as common sense through concepts that all the colonists and people of the world could understand with its basis founded upon religious beliefs and common political works read at the time.
Through religious imagery, Jefferson incorporated mostly pathos and logos to persuade his audience of America’s right to independence. First of all, pathos was used to persuade the reader, as many of the intended audience were religious. During the 18th century, every household has a bible and the religious climate at the time was very strong. Taking the environment into consideration, Jefferson utilized religion as a main theme throughout the Declaration to connect emotionally with his audience.
It emphasizes the concept by declaring that “the Creator” gives certain “unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” to all. By first giving the definition of the rights, then showing that Britain neglected those by listing the grievances, sympathy and righteousness are drawn from the reader. Towards the end of the document, Jefferson asks for the approval and support of Providence fully demonstrating to the reader that just as in praying, permission is asked with silent agreement given.
Finally, with the support of God, the United States of America declares its independence. By using pathos to explain the religious concepts, Jefferson is able to connect with his audience on an emotional level. Not only has Jefferson’s use of religious imagery to draw upon people’s pathos but logos as well by structuring his placement. He began broadly with the mention of Nature that everyone understood due to widespread literacy, similar both in the colonies and Britain. Jefferson began the Declaration with references to the “Laws of Nature” created by “Nature’s God” which are interpreted to be self-evident truth.
No one can deny that nature’s power is greater than that of humans’; thus, by claiming, “the laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them,” laws made by man cannot stop them. Just as in a persuasive essay, the concept of religion leading to a declaration of independence is reflected throughout the piece with “Nature” first introduced in the introduction, then reemphasized after declaring the King’s faults. This was done to remind them the rights given by God have been violated. Through Jefferson’s clever use of deduction, the rights are the major premise that no one can deny.
Minor premise being the colonies denied those God-given rights, therefore, Britain denied God and America must not obey and declare independence. Finally, he concludes that it is necessary for God to give approval, which they were granted, and finally declares sovereignty. To conclude, the purpose of this declaration was to proclaim America’s independence from Britain and declare war if independence was not possible. Evidently, Jefferson succeeded, as America is now an influential nation that has a strong impact on many aspects of world affairs.
It is significant for all Americans, as it not only created their country, but also gave them a day off, July 4th – Independence Day. Having read the declaration for the first time, I am moved by Jefferson’s eloquent use of language and how powerfully he was able to articulate and convey his ideas using rhetoric. Not only was he able to use a pathos subject, religion to convince his religious readers but also turn religion into a logos argument that even nowadays can be understood.