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A Comparison Of The Declaration Of Independence And King's I Have A Dream

1285 words - 6 pages

    Every individual has their own definition of freedom.  Depending on time, place, religion, or race, this definition varies, but essentially comes back to one point: all men, regardless of anything, are created equally, and therefore have a right to be free.  "The Declaration of Independence," by Thomas Jefferson, and Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" are two works addressing this concern.  Although Jefferson and King led extremely different lives over 150 years apart, both faced issues of human equality that drove them to write two of the most influential works in American history.

            Thomas Jefferson, an educated, well respected career man, served as ...view middle of the document...

  As educated men, they knew what people wanted to hear and how to make it sound appealing to those who disagreed.  Although sending out similar messages, the language of these writings differs.  The times in which each man lived obviously makes an impact on the word choice and style, but more importantly was the audience each wanted to reach through these writings.  Jefferson sent out his declaration to educated white men, business men, and those tired of British rule, the audience he wanted to appeal to.  He says, "Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experiences hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed" (Jefferson 305).  Jefferson points out the fact that if a change was not really needed, America wouldn't take such drastic measures to make things different.  King, however, was speaking to millions of people, some with little or no education, and some many with years of schooling.  Being such a broad and diverse audience, King had to speak more generally so all could understand.  Metaphors are commonly used throughout King's speech, probably used to create more understandable pictures of what he was trying to say.  "Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check; a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."  We refuse to believe there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation" (King 309).  King uses the metaphor of receiving a bad check to identify with his audience.  Although his people have been given this "check," this broken promise, they will fight on because they believe they have the chance to set things right.  


            The specific motives for writing these pieces come from entirely different events, one from colonies fighting against their ruler to become a free nation, and the other springing from a matter of racial freedom in a supposedly free country.  Despite these specific differences, both writings agree on the critical factor that all men are equal.  Jefferson laid the foundation for this belief, stating, "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" (Jefferson 305).  King addresses this specific passage from "The Declaration of Independence" affirming, "When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.  This note was the promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of...

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