Introduction to the American Declaration of Independence
The National Archives has a treasure trove of information about the writing of the Declaration of Independence, including information about the drafts of the document (in its original form, the Declaration attacked slavery), and the style of the text. As you read it, consider how philosophers such as Locke and Rousseau influenced the ideas and phraseology of the document. You will also wish to pay close attention to the thesis of the Declaration and to the evidence used to substantiate that thesis. After reading the finalized form of the Declaration, you will read the annotated version that appears in Thomas Jefferson’s autobiography. This version includes a draft of the Declaration and a clear record of the parts that were changed or omitted. While you are reading, consider the implications of these changes—some of which speak to the underlying tensions between the states that would later contribute to the American Civil War.