The essay shall examine the similarities and differences between works written by three authors on the Declaration of Independence; these are the latter mentioned authors and Frederick Douglas. These comparisons will be done in relation to political issues, religious issues, equality and other issues. (Barthelmas, 2003)
Jefferson highlights his views about equality by asserting that all men are created equal in the first paragraph of the declaration. Additionally, he believes that they have three major rights that come with this equality
Some people have claimed that Jefferson simply paraphrased what another author in the eighteenth century had written; John Locke. Locke in his 'Second Treatise of government' asserts that there are some fundamental rights that all human beings should be granted and these include; Property, liberty and life. As it can be seen from the bulleted list above, these are the exact words used by Jefferson except for the world property. It has been reported that Jefferson had used the word property in his first draft but other members of the Committee he was working with urged him to change it to 'pursuit of happiness'. In light of all these striking similarities between Jefferson's Declaration of Independence and other previous writings, Jefferson's supporters have defended him and his writings by claiming that the declaration was not a creation of new philosophies. He was simply trying to air out what people believed already and was not trying to come up with a new ideology.
Equality is a concept that stands through out Jefferson's Declaration of Independence. He talks about how the British government has demonstrated their lack of respect for the American people. Jefferson achieves this by citing 20 instances when this occurred. For example, he says that the British government prevented them from trading with other countries of the world. Additionally, he has problems with the imposition of taxes and the imposition of military forces amongst them. By speaking against these injustices, Jefferson was trying to show how the British did not consider the rest of their colonial states equal to them. (Armitage, 2004)
Locke echoes similar sentiments. He believed that all human beings had the right to preserve their own lives. He also asserted murderers did not act in unison to the law of reason because they were contravening the right to life. Furthermore, Locke adds that all people are supposed to have the right to make their own decisions in an effort to exercise liberty. However, he believes that liberty should be exercised in such a manner that it does not impede other people's liberty.
While Jefferson and Locke believed that no man was superior to another and that all people should be granted their due rights, these sentiments were mostly theoretical. This is fact brought out by Frederick Douglas. Douglas believed that most of the sentiments expressed in Jefferson's declaration of independence simply referred to a portion of the population while the slaves were ignored completely. Douglas explains that the black person in America did not share some of the liberties and freedoms proclaimed in the Declaration of inde