The Rhetoric of Freedom Freedom plays an important role in the life of almost every individual.
The sense of independence is essential in order for human beings to live fully wherein they can be able to decide and act independently without any restrictions coming from abusive authority. This is the exact frame of mind that the people during the 18th century had as this was the time when colonization was a normal phenomenon that most countries experienced. In relation to this, the ideas during the 18th century Enlightenment period paved the way for the people of colonized territories to revolt against their foreign invaders in order to achieve the freedom that rightfully belongs to them. Because of this, they were able to overthrow those previously established power and were able to create a new legal and political standards in order to foster a more free society. However, this development also poses another concern as to how far this freedom should be extended. In order to address the issue regarding the scope of freedom, it is essential to study three primary pieces of writing namely: The American Declaration of Independence, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Notes on Virginia. These primary sources should be given due consideration and attention to be able to see how the idea of freedom and citizenship are practiced by the people.
The Declaration of Independence is regarded as one of the finest documents of the Enlightenment period. Its main author, Thomas Jefferson was an embodiment of an enlightened intellectual. He was among the members of the committee that was asked by the Continental Congress to create a statement that will outline the reasons for their separation from Britain. Jefferson wrote the greater bulk of the final version of the Declaration of Independence while the other provisions were written by Benjamin Franklin and John Adams. The creation of the final version of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776 together with the establishment of the United States of America was regarded as the realization of the major tenets of the Enlightenment. This proves that a country could be created by intelligent people that give due importance to the principles of reason and human liberty (“Enlightenment and Revolution” 203). The creation of the United States of America paved the way for other countries to also follow the American example in order to become independent from their oppressive rulers.
Because of this, the French movement was established, with the main objective of ending political injustices in their country. The French revolution in 1789 paved way for the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizens that was created with the assistance of Thomas Jefferson (“Enlightenment and Revolution” 207-208). The proponents of these two important documents were able to define citizenship based on the new political communities that they wished to establish during that time. This citizenship includes people who believed in the same causes that they are fighting for. Based on the Declaration of Independence, they pertain to those who are part of the citizenship as all men that are “created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” (“Enlightenment and Revolution” 204).
In the same manner, The French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen pertains to those members of their community as possessing “natural, inalienable, and the sacred rights of man” (“Enlightenment and Revolution” 208). In this sense, the definition of citizenship in this new kind of political communities is grounded on the fact that its members have these abovementioned rights that should be upheld and protected. On the other hand, if the setting of that time will be put into consideration, these rights that became possible through the existence of freedom are not extended to women and Africans, as well as to other non-Europeans.
This is quite observable in the argument of Mary Wollstonecraft wherein she stated that “the male thinkers of the Enlightenment had been content to declare the rights of man as sufficient protection for women, assuming that man stood for mankind” (Enlightenment and Revolution 211). She asserted that when they used the words “all men” they are only referring to males and they have no intention of including females in such rights because of the belief that women do not have the same rational capabilities as men. Wollstonecraft asserted that this only shows that they perceived women as people who are simply concerned with their appearance and their service to the naturally dominant sex (Enlightenment and Revolution 211).
Moreover, the proponents of these declarations did not have the intention of including women, African slaves and non-westerners when they wrote that “all men are created equal” (Enlightenment and Revolution 211). The Declaration of Independence is regarded by some as hypocritical. This is because of the argument that the proponents of this declaration, especially Thomas Jefferson, did not see the irony of the American situation during that time.
In the Declaration of Independence, they were asking for the separation of America from Britain based on the untoward and harmful acts that Britain did. However, they failed to realize that they are also doing the exact thing towards the African slaves. This observation is still quite visible in the Notes on Virginia, Query XVIII. Even though Jefferson advocates the abolition of slavery, he still made it clear in this document that he wanted to slowly get rid of slavery in the country (Jefferson).
In this sense, it can be said that Jefferson still intended to favor the White Americans as compared with the African slaves because he could easily ask for their freedom from Britain but they could not easily give that same amount of independence to the African slaves. The three documents that were discussed above clearly show the efforts of the American forefathers to achieve the freedom for their country, which have also influenced other countries like France to do the same. However, this call for independence should be carefully analyzed as their advocacy for freedom is not really towards the equality of all people.Works Cited“Enlightenment and Revolution”Jefferson, Thomas. “Notes on Virginia, Query XVIII.” 1782.