Analysis of the Declaration of Independence



It will not at this day be denied by many, even on the English side of the Atlantic, that the Declaration was a work of greater power, that it had a large basis of truth, that it appealed, in noble and strenuous language, to the very highest principles of political right and virtue. Its crowning glory is that it did this in no utopian spirit, in no mood of wild and vindictive change, but with decorum, with dignity, with tenderness, and with sense. Englishmen, who regret the quarrel out of which this supreme act of renunciation arose, may yet reflect, with a just satisfaction and no ungenerous pride, that the root of all these principles is to be found in the traditions of a thousand years of English political life. Jefferson did but apply to novel circumstances the general ideas of popular freedom which had long been illustrated in the old country. George III. had endeavored to introduce into the administration of affairs a species of German absolutism, distasteful alike to Englishmen at home and to their descendants in America. The Declaration of Independence was the final reply of Americans to the ill-judged and ignorant attempt. Its effect on Europe was immense. It helped, in a very considerable degree, to make the French Revolution; it even influenced England. Doubtless it is an exaggeration to say that, but for the success of the Americans, England would have been enslaved. . But the example of America strengthened the liberal party in the mother-country, and guaranteed the certainty of reform. This is why the great production of Jefferson should have as much interest for English as for American minds. .

Undoubtedly, no more important act has ever been performed. From that day forward--from that memorable 4th of July, 1776--the Republic of English America assumed a distinct and tangible existence. The United Colonies became the United States. George III. was formally deposed in thirteen provinces of his empire, and some millions of his subjects became foreigners. A new chapter in the annals of the human race had been opened, and it was as yet too early to forecast with any certainty whether that chapter was to be mainly characterized by weal or woe.





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