The Declaration and American History

Course video 9 of 33

No document is more closely associated with Jefferson than the Declaration of Independence. Listing it as the first of three achievements on his tombstone, Jefferson clearly believed the Declaration to be of profound importance. Generations of Americans have agreed, constantly quoting its phrases and invoking its ideas. But do we really understand what Jefferson was trying to do when he wrote the Declaration? In this module, we’ll explore the Revolutionary context in which Jefferson lived and worked. We’ll ask why the Declaration takes the form that it does, and also what Jefferson hoped it would accomplish. Surprisingly, the parts of the Declaration that we celebrate most frequently today may not be the ones Jefferson would have understood to be the most important.

University of Virginia
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