Essay Sample with Rhetorical Analysis: The Declaration of Independence

Published: 2022-02-23
12 min read

The declaration of independence serves as one of the most important documents for the United States. It is famous for its historical significance and unifying factor. Thomas Jefferson was the original author of the text but worked along with John Adams and Benjamin Franklin to make changes to the document. The signing of the declaration of independence marked the end of British rule in America and the beginning of the American Revolution. While the historical significance and symbolism of the document are important, the real value lies in the text. A rhetorical analysis of the Declaration of Independence reveals that the authors were appealing to the British crown and Americans' emotions and sense of reason while using their credibility and character to gain their approval.

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The declaration's text shows an appeal to the readers' emotions using pathos. The use of pathos targeted the American populace where he wanted them to sympathize with him. The author uses pathos in phrases such as, "warms of Officers to harrass our people," and," He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts," in the Declaration of Independence (US 1776). These examples show the author trying to appeal to the emotions of the readers to show compassion for the atrocities committed by the British crown against the American people. The appeals were to reflect a sense of discontent from the authors to the British way of running the government, to which they succeeded. The emotional language reaches a climax when the author describes the crown's actions, "Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation," in the Declaration of Independence (US 1776). However, while his emotional appeals may seem genuine, they were a contradiction. Jefferson was speaking for the original 13 colonies or states that came together to declare independence from the British. The writings of Thomas Jefferson were not a real reflection of the situation on the ground. The text hid the injustices that were being committed against the African American population in the British American colonies. More so, the Americans themselves were committing these atrocities. The text was contradicting the situation because the authors were appealing to the emotions of their supporters on how the crown was treating them while in return they were carrying out the same treatment and even worse to other sections of the population.

The text also reveals the use of logos to appeal to the readers' sense of reasoning. The use of logic starts by the author introducing their complaints to the readers. The authors describe the functions and responsibilities of a government to its people. They then proceed to describe how the government has failed in the administration of those duties and responsibilities. Therefore, since the British crown has failed in its mandate to protect and provide for its citizens, it is logical for them to seek independence by overthrowing the government and establishing a different government that can fulfill these duties. There are quite some sentences that display the author's appeals to people's reasoning. For example, the author says that governments are established among the people, but they derive their power from those that they rule over. Therefore, when a government becomes destructive, it is within the right of the people to either change or to remove it. That line of thinking shows an appeal to the readers' ability to reason. It follows a chain of events where the action of removing the government is based upon the government's failure to meet its mandate. Nevertheless, even the declaration's appeal to logic comes short of representing the voice of all the people. If the slaves were to use that line of thinking, that means they had the right to overthrow the government. Slaves had the numbers but had no representation. The government that was supposed to protect them stood by, as they got mistreated. Even after independence, the mistreatments continued and also got worse. While slavery may be dead, the injustices are not gone. The same institutions that are supposed to fight these injustices are taking part in them. The police motto says, "To protect and to serve," but that protection does not extend to the entire population. In recent times, there has been a rise in the number of police shootings of unarmed African Americans (Khazan par. 5). The black people oppression, especially from police officers, does not seem to be getting better. One can note that the police motto and even the declaration of independence do not represent everyone in America. These are prejudices that America has to address.

Finally, one can note how the authors use the text to appeal to their sense of character. The authors make use of ethos to show the reader that they are qualified to issue their opinion on the topic and they are worthy of their approval. The purpose of ethos is to gain the support of the readers. The authors begin by showing that they are reasonable men with good character and a good cause. "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," from the Declaration of Independence (US 1776). In as much as the famous phrase seemed to speak about how America is to be governed, it talked about the authors' characters and credibility. That phrase was meant to show the world and the American people what Jefferson and his fellow authors stood for. The authors wanted to show the American people that they were worthy of their approval and were qualified to speak on their behalf. The phrase portrayed the authors as righteous men who believe in equality, truth, and justice. At least that is what it seemed like to a section of the population. However, to the slaves that were laboring in the cotton fields under the scorching sun, the phrase was only applying to the privileged white population. The forefathers did not speak for all back then, and they still don't speak all right now. Forced slavery may be gone, but inequality is still present. America's justice system reflects inequality more than any other institution. The African Americans make up 37 percent of the prison population even though there are more Whites and Hispanics in America's adult population (Pew Research Center n.p). The number is a juxtaposition to that of FBI which shows that whites are committing more than twice as many crimes s blacks (n.p). That does not mean that backs are committing more crimes, it just says that whites are more likely to get away with crimes compared to blacks. The wrong application of the law is a prejudice that was present during the declaration of independence but was not addressed. It is still present in modern America, and it needs to be addressed.


The authors of the Declaration of Independence had written the document with a vision of a free America. They used the literary elements of pathos, ethos, and logos to appeal to their oppressors and fellow citizens to support their cause. However, their version or definition of America was not an all-inclusive society and certainly not one that stood for the rights of all citizens. The declaration of independence did not speak for everybody, and that created a culture with prejudices that were never addressed. The preconceptions are yet to be corrected, and so are some of their effects. America needs to address these predispositions if it wants to represent what the forefathers stated in the Declaration of Independence; that is, a society of equal rights for everyone.

Works Cited

FBI. Crime in the United States. 2016. Website. 15 February 2019. <>.

Khazan, Olga. In one year, 57,375 years of life were lost to police violence. 8 May 2018. Internet. 15 February 2019. <>.

Pew Research Center. Blacks and Hispanics are overrepresented in U.S. prisons. 12 January 2018. Website. 15 February 2019. <>.

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