Declaration of Independence

(1776)

Audience

The Declaration of Independence essentially had three audiences: the American colonists, the British government, and the people of the world. In declaring the states' independence, the Continental Congress first sought to persuade as many colonists as possible to take part in the Revolution. Taking on the most powerful nation in the world was an enormous risk, and the chances for success seemed quite slim. This aspect of the document reveals an obvious narrow self-interest, but the Revolution was also to be fought for timeless and universal principles. No revolution can be successful without a significant portion of the population backing the rebels, and uncertainty remained regarding just how much support could be mustered for the revolt against Great Britain. In that sense, the Declaration of Independence was one grand piece of recruiting propaganda aimed at inspiring the people to take up arms against the British. As such, it indeed proved quite effective.

The...

Image for: Declaration of Independence

The Declaration of Independence (National Archives and Records Administration)

View Full Size