Declaration of Independence

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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.
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