Events that Influenced on Declaration of Independence
Explain how the following influenced the writing of the Declaration of Independence? 1. Enlightenment 2. Tea Taxes 3. Quartering Act.
Although the colonists had been fighting with the British for more than a year, it wasn’t until Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence in 1776 that the new American Revolutionary government was established and officially went to war against Britain. A signal that the colonists no longer wanted British rule, the Declaration was actually a letter to the king stating the revolutionaries’ principles and reasons for going to war. Jefferson, the principal author, was only 33 at the time, and had been influenced by British acts such as the Tea Taxes and the Quartering Act, but even more significant were the ideals of the Enlightenment thinkers, especially John Locke. Locke’s ideas about government, its legitimacy coming from those it governs, and its duty to protect the rights of people, which were “inalienable,” all became incorporated in the Declaration as were thoughts about foreign taxes and obeying British rules without representation.
Jefferson was influenced by two main ideas of the Enlightenment in his writing of the Declaration of Independence. Enlightenment philosophers had been rethinking government and questioning European systems, wondering if there was a better way. Locke, who wrote a book, “The Two Treatises of Government,” did not believe that some people, like the king, were born with more rights, but rather believed that, by nature, all people are born with the same rights, the of “life, liberty and property,” which can’t be taken away. The other was one of social contract, that people made the laws and they should not be taken away except by the will of the people. Therefore, a government should protect the rights of the people. The words of the Declaration are filled with Enlightenment ideas: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, 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. …” Although not word for word, the Declaration was heavily inspired by the ideas of the Enlightenment and made many references to it, but it also included a long list of grievances against the British that would become a justification for independence.
The Tea Act was one of the big grievances that the colonists could not forget. When the tax was imposed in 1773, it was the end of the rope for many colonists, who had had it with the British and what they thought were their unfair rules. Although the Tea Act did not impose any new taxes on the colonists, it did kept a tax the Townshend Act had imposed on tea imported to the colonies. The British wanted to give the East India Tea Company an advantage in trade, cutting out the colonists from doing their own business. The colonists, however, saw this as another rule to control them and went on to disrupt the trade and turn away British tea ships. Words about taxes would be included in the document in a list of reasons the British were tyrants: “The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States…”” The taking of control from the colonists inspired the writing of the Declaration and it also set the states on a path toward independence.
Another point of contention with the colonists was the Quartering of of 1765, which made the colonies furnish British troops quarters or housing. The colonists were also told they must give the soldiers “candles, firing, bedding, cooking utensils, salt, vinegar, and . . . beer or cider.” The colonists were not happy with these extra expenses and protested that they we just like taxes. The injustice wound up in the words of the Declaration of Independence: “He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures….For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us.” The act of forcing a rule without representation became part of the document, and another reason for war.
The Declaration was filled with the injustices and reasons why the colonists sought independence, and became a justification for the rebellion. But more importantly, it was heavily inspired by the Enlightenment and promoted ideas about a new way of thinking about the government’s structure, the people’s natural rights and the need for freedom from oppression of all kinds — the nation’s goals and ideals. Jefferson’s document contained the Enlightenment idea that people were endowed with rights just by being human, so no government could take them away. The writing was a promise to all citizens of personal freedom to be guaranteed by the new government, which was founded on the belief that people had a right to have a say in government. The ideas of the Enlightenment would go on to inspire the Constitution and become a foundation for the new country.