Rhetoric and Collective Necessity: The Declaration of Independence

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This essay examines how the U.S. Declaration of Independence justified revolution in the midst of a volatile set of political exigencies. To engage and conciliate those colonists who held fragile or ambivalent attitudes toward the idea of independence, this short document strove to construct a narrative that vindicated mass political upheaval and laid an explanatory groundwork for the efforts to come. The Declaration is more than a starting point; it was negotiated within history at a specific juncture, and informed by the intellectual climate of the 18th century. I argue that its pivotal strategy marshals a Deist conception of Reason equated with transcendent Natural Law. The result is a rhetorically constructed narrative of resigned inevitability.

Original languageAmerican English
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016


  • American Revolution
  • Deism
  • nationhood
  • propaganda
  • rhetoric

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