In order to understand the British view-point, we must remember that after the French and Indian War of (1754-1763) the British government was heavily in debt because of war expenses and felt that the colonies should pay a share of the defense expenditures of the colonies. It had decided to maintain a 10,000-man army to protect the colonies from Native Americans and from any new French threat. Hence, it considered the imposition of taxes as fully justified. From the British point-of-view the taxes levied on imports, the Sugar Act and the Stamp Act combined would only raise revenue to pay for one-half of this army.
The other British measures regarding curtailment of the powers of the colonies and the centralization of powers that were considered out-rightly tyrannical in the Declaration can be traced back to Britain's decision to reorganize its overseas empire in the 18th century. This was because following the French and Indian wars Britain found it difficult to maintain control over the American colonies without a more centralized administrative system in North America and decided to tighten its administration.
Since the War of American Independence had been under way since the Battle of Lexington, in April 1775, and King George III had already proclaimed the American colonists to be in an active state of rebellion on August 23, 1775, the Declaration of Independence would only have reinforced the British perception of the American colonists as outright traitors. Hence, the American War of Independence continued unabated after the Declaration until its logical conclusion six years later following several setbacks to the British in battles and the turn around in British public opinion.
Declaration as a Persuasive Case for Independence
The Declaration of Independence is without doubt a masterful document that encapsulates the general principles and theory of a civil government as well as justification for the American Revolution and a formal claim of independence in a surprisingly concise piece of writing.
Written in the main by Thomas Jefferson, the Declaration reflects not only his thorough grasp of the theory of civil governments advanced by such philosophers as John Locke and Jean Jacques Rousseau, it also incorporates his substantial rhetorical and drafting skills. The result is a document that has not only become a guiding light for American politicians but has also inspired other revolutionaries in their fight against tyranny, around the world.
Its case for creating a new nation is based on the premise that it is an "unalienable right" of each individual to rebel against a government that fails to work for his or her benefit. After establishing the legitimacy of this premise, Jefferson goes on to gradually build his case by giving his long list of grievances. To make his arguments even more effective Jefferson has cleverly worded the document to make it an "us" vs. "them" issue. He has also chosen to target a single individual (the King) instead of the Parliament or the British people, which makes his task of proving that the sovereign committed 'breach of contract' with his subjects easier.
The main purpose of the Declaration of Independence was to announce to the world that the American states were now no more colonies of the British, to provide justification for the break with the British crown, to galvanize internal support by removing any ambiguity about the direction of the struggle, and to garner international support for the Revolution. History shows us that it succeeded on all counts.
Gilje, Paul A. "Declaration of Independence." Article in Encyclopedia Encarta, 2002.
Locke, John. (1690). "The Second Treatise of Civil Government." [E-text available online]. Retrieved on October 7, 2002 at http://www.orst.edu/instruct/phl302/texts/locke/locke2/2nd-contents.html
John Locke's "Second Treatise of Civil Government." (1690). Chapter II, Of Natural Rights.
Gilje, Paul A. "Declaration of Independence." Article in Encyclopedia Encarta, 2002.…