Who Is The Intended Audience of The Declaration of Independence?

In history classes, in my personal experience, students have always been taught that the Declaration of Independence was written by the Founding Fathers in order to inform the British Monarchy, specifically King George, that the colonies intended to break away from British rule and form their own independent and free-standing country. For years students have accepted this synopsis as undisputable fact; however, the language of the document suggests various motives behind its creation.

The word choices in the first full paragraph seem to uphold the above theory of the Declaration’s creation, as the first sentence of the paragraph in reference reads, “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…” (DOI); this language, specifically in an opening sentence, does seem to imply that the purpose of this document is the establish the Colonists as citizens of a country that is no longer controlled by the Monarchy. In using the word “we”, the Founding Fathers established the Colonists as a group of people completely separated from the citizens of Britain, and as a governmental force under the control of no people but its own; the repeated use of words such as “they” and “their” throughout this paragraph also uphold this argument. Furthermore, the statement “…Right of the People…” (DOI) not only distinguishes the rights of the people in reference from those belonging to the people of Great Britain, but the capitalization of the word “People” turns this word into a proper noun referring only to a specific group.

The section of the document that causes me to begin questioning whether or not King George was this intended audience comes directly after the aforementioned paragraph. One would be under the impression that if the Declaration was written with King George as the intended audience, it would have been written in second person using the pronoun “you”; however, the word “you” does not appear in the Declaration at all. Furthermore, when the document begins to list King George’s “…history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States” (DOI), the pronoun of choice is a repeated “he”, thus suggesting that the audience in mind for this document was not actually King George, but the other established nations of the world to create awareness and understanding behind the colonists reasons for revolutionizing.

One thought on “Who Is The Intended Audience of The Declaration of Independence?”

  1. Nice parsing of the implications of the document’s pronouns in here. I wonder whether reading this document from a literary perspective also frees us to consider the ways it’s working that extend beyond the question of authorial intent. That is, what if this declaration does more work than the people who conceived, drafted, revised, and signed it intended?

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