Jefferson's Declaration of Independence: Meaning and Interpretation

Thomas Jefferson's The Declaration of Independence is a world famous political manifesto in which Jefferson revolutionary vision is expressed, related to natural human rights, the birth of government and the functions of the government. The declaration of independence was not written as essay in the beginning, it was a political speech delivered by Jefferson in the meeting of the continental congress and later it was printed as an essay.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)

In this writing, Jefferson describes about the law of nature and says that nature has created all men equal and freedom is the blessing of all human beings.

In other words, he says that naturally, all men are created equal and all have the natural rights of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. The right of life, the right of protecting life, right of liberty, is the right of enjoying freedom and the right of happiness means the right of searching happiness to everyone. In Jefferson’s opinion all of us have such rights that are given by nature so these rights are also called unalienable rights of the people. For the protection or preservation of such unalienable rights, individuals make consent of forming an organization, which is the formation of the government.

He says that to protect life, liberty and happiness people make an agreement among themselves and they form a government, which would preserve their rights. This concept of government discussed by Jefferson is similar with the product of social contract theory. What Jefferson further says that government can be autocratic or despotic, and it may not become the preserver or protector of human rights. If a government does not become the preserver of these means, if it becomes despotic, people have their right to abolish such government and form another government. They have also becomes despotic. Primarily the government should preserve the inalienable human rights which is the primary or basic function of government. The secondary function of the government is that it should establish diplomatic relationship with other states or cut off the existing relationships. Jefferson believes on the supreme power of people and he believes on revolutions. He thinks that the revolution of the people can abolish the despotic government and they can form the true preserver of human rights. So this concept is also called Jefferson’s revolutionary vision.

After making this theory about unalienable human rights and the functions of the British colonial government in America under the kingship of George III, this government is criticized by Jefferson in different ways. For example, it was the despotic government and it was not formed by the consent of the people, it did not represent the people. It did not protect or preserve the inalienable rights of the people. Instead of giving protection of life, the colonial government destroyed the life of the people, it suppressed the people and it seized the happiness of the people. This government had destroyed the ports in America, people were levied heavy taxation, the economic source of the people were exploited, machinery was hired to operate the people and false closed laws were registered against the American people, who did not support the government of George III. Similarly, Jefferson also criticizes the colonial government, which has also dismissed the senates, the representatives of the people, the judges of the courts, and it caused communal war between black and white Americans. Based on so many despotic activities of this government, he declares that America should get independence of colonial government and requested American people to revolt against the colony. As a result, thirteen American states declared independence in 1776 and one after another all the American states got independence so that the colonial government was abolished and America got independence. Since then Jefferson has became an independent democratic leader who has become the III president of America and the leader of Democratic Party in America.