In Which Section of the Declaration of Independence Does Jefferson Restate His Thesis?
24 JUL 2018
The Declaration of Independence is one of the most important documents in American history. Not only that, the structure of the Declaration of Independence is highly sophisticated. Since the time of its composition, writers have been able to learn how to effectively structure an argument by reading its text.
The best way to analyze the text for its rhetoric is to interrogate the text with this question: In which section of the Declaration of Independence does Jefferson restate his thesis?
Drafted by Thomas Jefferson and ratified by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, the document laid out, in forceful detail, the basic rights of a governed people and the many reasons for American colonists to sever ties with Great Britain. In the last section of the text, Jefferson restates his crucial thesis – that Americans have a right to a free, independent and sovereign state.
1 What is the Thesis of the Declaration of Independence?
The Declaration of Independence’s thesis statement doesn't come at the end of its first paragraph as many of us would anticipate. Instead, Jefferson leads into his thesis statement by reminding the Declaration’s readers of his reason for writing it: to assert the fundamental rights of the citizens of the 13 Colonies.
The second paragraph begins with these famous words: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men 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.” Jefferson is saying, in other words, that citizens in a free and lawful society should have the right to autonomy, to dictate their own wills.
Jefferson continues in the same paragraph to state the Declaration of Independence’s thesis statement: “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, – That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
Jefferson means that if a government no longer allows citizens to choose their own futures freely, those citizens have a right to overthrow that tyrannical government and form one that allows them to live their lives as they choose.
Put simply, tyranny necessitates revolution.
2 In Which Section of the Declaration of Independence Does Jefferson Restate his Thesis?
The structure of the Declaration of Independence shows a great deal of sophistication, especially in how Jefferson frames his argument by restating his thesis. In the last paragraph, Jefferson restates this central idea in stark, political terms: “That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States,” and thus have power to “levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.”
When ideas are repeated like this, it gives their rhetoric more power. To add to this power, readers and listeners remember the first and last ideas of any given work more clearly than they'll remember the ideas in the middle. Jefferson wants the idea that tyranny requires revolution to stick with his audience, and so, like any great writer, he drives the point home by restating the Declaration of Independence’s thesis statement at the end.