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Was the Declaration of Independence a Revolutionary Document?
|Work I did in my Junior Year for US History Final Semestral Essay| |First Essay|
There have been many ways to view the Declaration of Independence throughout time. Some may say that this document did not reform society and probably just made it worse by taking rights from different races and treating women as less than men. Others may say that this document was a revolutionary document and it reformed society by giving power to the Americans and making religion a power full thing in society. I believe that the Declaration of Independence was not a revolutionary document because of the racism and injustice that it included I think it harmed society more than helping it, and even though the Declaration of Independence was thought to reform society it mostly created injustice and took rights from Americans.
One of the main reasons why I disagree with the Declaration of Independence being a revolutionary document is the racism that it includes towards the Indians and black slaves. In the Declaration of Independence it charges the king of England for Slavery and Indian attacks. Later on Americans put a bounty on violent acts on Indians, as Zinn document says: “For every scalp of a male Indian brought in… forty pounds. For every scalp of such a female Indian or a male Indian under the age of twelve years that shall be killed… twenty pounds…” Pg. 72. We can see in this quote not only how cruel and racist it was for this people but we can see how hypocritical it was the Declaration of Independence. Also Jefferson made a paragraph accusing the King of transporting slaves saying “suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce” Pg. 72. Later this paragraph was removed from the Declaration of Independence because slaveholders disagreed about ending slave trade because of the money it produced. Americans were selfish and only thought about the money and made society a worst place for many people.
Not only were the Indians and black slaves were treated violently and discriminated but women were affected too. As Zinn says: “The use of the phrase “all men are equal” was probably not deliberate attempt to make a statement about women. Even if women had authority at home they had no equal rights as men when it came to political rights and civic equality.” Pg 73. For example women had no right to vote, this gave them a lot of less power in the country and they could not express their opinion like men did. In the Declaration of Independence women were not considered when it was written, this happened because how men thought women was a worth less. For example, women didn’t had the right to vote or nearly any political power in society, the only authority they had was at home or on the farm. But they did not have rights that made them have a part in society in that time. This is another reason why society was not reformed by the Declaration of Independence.
For some men it was a rough time living in the United States with the Declaration of Independence since there was a lot of differences in wealth between Americans. As Zinn said: “…how could people truly have equal rights, with stark differences in wealth?” Pg. 73. The Declaration of Independence had the philosophy of being able to provide to Americans life, liberty and happiness. But people are not equal in wealth. Actually there are few rich people and more poor people so how is the Declaration of Independence supposed to provide all of these needs for men when most of them cannot even provide their living. As Henry George says in Progress and Poverty: “We cannot go on educating boys and girls in our public schools and then refusing them the right to earn an honest living.” Henry George is telling us that we cannot teach kids about rights and happiness with the Declaration of Independence and then give them a completely different message by giving them hardly anything to eat and showing them how difficult life is in America.
For these reasons I believe that the Declaration of Independence was not a Revolutionary Document and it might have reformed society in some way but mostly it did not and in many ways even made it worse for many people. Most of the times the Declaration of Independence might contradict itself. For example, as Henry George said, “Our primary social adjustment is a denial of justice. In allowing one man to own the land on which and from which other men must live, we have made them his bondsmen in a degree which increases as material progress goes on.”, his main point is that things like rights, happiness and liberty can never be done because Americans make so little money they always working and looking only for their next meal. Slavery is a big problem later on in America but the Declaration of Independence approves it only to make wealthy men even richer. This document is cruel and unfair in many dimensions and this is why it did not reform the United States which does not make it a revolutionary document.