Summary Of The American Declaration Of Independence By Garry Wills

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In his book, Garry Wills attempt to tell the story, or stories of the American Declaration of Independence. He begins by talking about the Continental Congress and how they would arrive at a document that would be the base for their revolution. While Jefferson is accredited to writing the final draft, politics prevailed, important things were left out, and the political ideologies of the delegates was considered. Wills then begins to discuss in more detail, Thomas Jefferson’s original intent concerning the Declaration. He discusses how the ideas are rooted in scientific inquiry and then routed through the moral ideas in order to apply them politically. He spends a good bit of energy linking Jefferson’s meaning to Scottish thinkers like Francis …show more content…

He argues that rather than a document inspired by Locke, Jefferson’s declaration is inspired by the moral-sense philosophy that is found in the theory of the Scottish Enlightenment. Wills makes his argument by presenting three different aspects of the Declaration, in regards to science, morals, and sentiment. At the time of the American Revolution, the scientific enlightenment was influencing much of colonial thinking, including that of Jefferson (131). Part of this influence included Jefferson’s reliance on number to solve problems and craft responses to major events of his day (143). One of the outcomes of enlightenment thought was an “effort to create a science of man based on numerical gauges of all his activities” (151). Jefferson was concerned with measuring the public happiness, as a way of increasing overall human …show more content…

By separating his book into three parts that tell the narrative of each version of the Declaration, Wills makes it easier to understand each. Wills’ writing is intended for an educated audience. He often uses advanced vocabulary like words such as “anachronistically” (279). He also uses vocabulary that a reader must have historical context in order to understand its significance. For example, he uses the word “Cromwellian” when describing Samuel Adam’s role in America. Someone who does not know of Oliver Cromwell, would not know the significance of that attribute (19). Wills also quotes French-speaking figures in their native language, requiring the reader to at least have the ability to search the translation and meaning of the words

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