Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum
Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum
|Context||Jefferson had been asked by the Continental Congress to head a committee charged with writing a declaration of independence.|
|Audience||The nation and the world|
|Purpose||To state clearly and persuasively the American case for revolution and independence|
One of the issues facing the writers of the Declaration of Independence was the question of slavery—the economic and social complexities were vast. Thomas Jefferson—himself a slaveholder—penned language asserting that the king had forced slavery on the colonists; Congress later removed that section. Slavery was a volatile issue for the patriots, so many leaders felt it best to ignore rather than criticize it.
But there was plenty in Jefferson's declaration that all patriots could agree on, including a meticulous accounting of King George's abuses of the colonies and a proclamation that they were now "free and independent states."
It is the first section of Jefferson's seminal work that we best remember. Here, in the preamble, Jefferson laid out the philosophical justification for revolution ("We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal . . . ") in words that would inspire slaves, women, and victims of colonization around the world for many years to come.