The Declaration of Independence by the United States was signed into the annals of history on July 4, 1776 - forever promising to be a hotly debated topic of conversation among all historians and literary experts. It was a paper of major historical significance inspiring other nations, such as France, to march full steam ahead into their Revolution to achieve independence from their rule of monarchy. The declaration of Independence stood as a beacon of hope for many countries around the world who wanted to push ahead for their right to democracy and self-governance.
These famous words from the declaration, " .. 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," (1999, Independence Hall Association) conveniently left out any reference to slaves and only included white people 'born into freedom'. Only in 1837 did John Quincy Adams remark, "The inconsistency of the institution of slavery with the principles of the Declaration of Independence was seen and lamented." And for the next 74 years the Americans carried on as rich, white slave owners while the institution and the growth of this heinous practice continued unabated until it was finally outlawed in 1808.
The Declaration of Independence has been analyzed, edited and closely studied for the last 224 years. It was cleverly written in the form of an argument, listing all the grievances the Americans had against the British who were governing them. Using personal pronouns, the reader becomes drawn into the problems of the Americans in their quest to become free of British tyrants. It encompasses many wonderful literary turns of phrase designed to give it an overall lasting plea for freedom. It then ends with a very heroic closing statement where the Americans pledge their life, their fortune and their honor in defense of their independent country.
Slavery was eventually abolished in 1808, but not one word of this declaration was ever changed.
So much for all men being created equal
1) Independence Hall Association. (1942). A nonprofit organization in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Publishing electronically as ushistory.org. On the Internet since July 4, 1995.
2) Stephen E. Lucas, "The Stylistic Artistry of the Declaration of Independence," derived from "Justifying America: The Declaration of Independence as a Rhetorical Document," in Thomas W. Benson, ed., American Rhetoric:Context and Criticism (1989), National Archives and Records Administration.
3) Truth v Myth - The Declaration of Independence. Retrieved 12 November 2012 from http://thehistoricpresent.wordpress.com/truth-v-myth-the-declaration-of-independence/
Davis, D. B. Foreword.