Thomas Jefferson was elected as the president and took the oath of office as the third president of the US in 1801. He served for a two year term and retired in 1809. Before taking up the presidency, Jefferson had an active role in constitution making, and the drafting of the declaration of independence in 1776. The important nature of the Declaration of Independence cannot be overstated; it was through the statement that the 13 colonies in America declared their independence from the British Empire (Jewett 15).
Since its creation by Thomas Jefferson and other committee members appointed to the second continental Congress on July 1776, the declaration has been upheld by Americans as the single most important representation of what the United States should be (The charters of Freedom 46).
Although the statement underwent some editing where clauses regarding slaves were omitted much to be chagrin of Jefferson, approximately sixty percent of what he had written was retained (Henreta & Brody 153). A renowned author, lawyer and orator, Jefferson is credited with penning down the Declaration of independence which acts as a commitment by the government to respect democracy and give equal rights to all people.
This paper is of the opinion that inclusion of clauses on human rights and independence in a statement that was mainly meant to communicate the sovereignty of states. Jefferson perhaps understood more about society and development than most of his colleagues in the continental Congress did. A slave owner himself, his denunciation of slave trade must have come as a surprise to many.
However, considering that the first sentence in the declaration declared that “all men are created equal, they are endowed with certain inalienable rights, which include life, liberty and the right to pursue happiness” (Jewett 16), it is clear that may be Jefferson had realized the way to develop the entire society was to give everyone their inalienable rights regardless of their race, color or gender. Decades later, history proved that Jefferson was indeed right.
Jefferson further stated in categorical terms that governments are instated among people, and delivers powers from the same people (Hancock 3). As such, he stated that the people had the mandate to alter or overthrow a government which did not serve the good of the people and put a new government in the former’s place. To this day, this concept that a government must serve the interest of the electorate forms the basis of American democracy.
Fifty years after the declaration of Independence in 1825, Jefferson sought to minimize the level of political philosophy attached to the wording of the declaration. In a letter written to Henry Lee, he described the declaration as a plain appeal to the world, appealing the world’s assent to the independent stand that America had taken.
Jefferson further stated that the authority of the declaration of Independence lay on harmonized sentiments by people, which could be through the spoken word, written word or in philosophy. More so, he said the declaration was intended to be an honest expression of the way Americans thought at the time (Washington 75).
The Declaration of Independence remains as one of the important founding documents in the US history. Although it’s largely overshadowed by the constitution, it has served as an important resource for movements through out America’s history. Such include the universal suffrage movement, women rights movement, abolition of slavery movements and civil rights movements.
The declaration of independence influence on the 13th and 14th amendments, which banned slavery and consequently gave equal rights to former slaves, is also apparent, as is it influenced on the bill of rights which was later drafted by James Madison (The charters of Freedom 46).
Hancock, John. “The Declaration of Independence – the Want, Will and Hopes of the People.” Jan 1999. Web.
Henreta, James and Brody, David. America: A Concise History. Ed.4. New York: Bedford/ St. Martin’s Publishers. 2009. Print.
Jewett, Thomas. “Jefferson: Legal Scholar.” Winter 2006. Web.
The Charters of Freedom. “Bill of Rights”. Sept 1998. Web.
Washington, Hunns. “The Writings of Thomas Jefferson.” June 2007. Web.