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“Life, Liberty, And The Pursuit Of Happiness”: How Changes In The Declaration Of Independence Influenced The Document As A Whole

1328 words - 6 pages

The Declaration of Independence is one of the most well-known documents in North America, but the version most people know is the final draft. The first, unedited Declaration was changed quite a lot to become the one we know today, and though most of the changes were small-scale, a word here or a phrase there, they were very influential on the tone and meaning of the document as a whole. Small and medium scale changes in the edited Declaration of Independence changed both the large-scale rhetorical and argumentative structure of the document.
“When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another…” The first line of the Declaration of Independence is perhaps one of the most memorable, as it catches attention and makes the reader feel as if the founding fathers are speaking directly to them. But what if it was different? In this first line, there are already two or three changes being made. One of the biggest in terms of meaning, but possibly the smallest in terms of size, is this: originally, instead of “one people,” the line said “a people.” This is a tiny change, but it makes a huge difference in terms of pathos. The simple change creates a sense of identity with the reader, and causes them to feel more connected to the writer(s). Whereas saying “a people” creates the idea of observing from afar, the phrase “one people” is meant to give the audience a sense of inclusion. It changes the pathos from a kind meant to create anger and awe, and possibly respect, to one to create a sense of unity. It also changes the intrinsic ethos, making them sound more authoritative on the subject. Many small edits of the kind were made to the Declaration.
Another such change that made a difference to the tone of the writing and the rhetoric appeal in general is located in the second paragraph. It states that each man is granted certain rights, and “among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” and that “to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men.” In the first draft of the Declaration, the words “ends” was used in place of “rights” in the second quote. This change makes the claim less pompous and more accessible to the public; it humanizes the writers, makes the pathos more sympathetic, and allows for a sense of identity with the audience, which in turn strengthens intrinsic ethos by making it sound like they have the best interests at heart. Changes were also made to the beginning of the second paragraph. Where it is said that “we hold these truths to be self-evident,” originally stated that the said truths were “sacred and undeniable,”, and the change gave an undertone to the document, an edge that said, ‘What we are asking for is obvious, as clear as the nose on your face. You should be able to see this.’ This change of three words gave the document not only a more identifiable pathos for the colonists, but a slightly insulting one that...

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