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Jeremy Keeshin

Great Issues Document Analysis

1. In the vehement documents detailing opinions at the time before the American
Revolution and independence from Britain, the authors use the words “slaves”
and “slavery” to describe the relation between the two entities. This verbiage is
interesting as it demonstrates the way that the authors and many of the colonists at
that time viewed the British relation. Their usage of the words “slaves” and
“slavery” is as far away from free as they could get. They viewed the British
control of the colonies as that; a relation with complete control on one end and
few perks on the other. In Document 5, John Dickinson’s Letters say, “Great
Britain can order us to come to her for necessaries we want, and can order us to
pay what taxes she pleases before we take them away, or when we land them here,
we are as abject slaves as France and Poland can shew in wooden shoes, and with
uncombed hair.” This is detailing how England has absolute control over the
colonies, comparable to how a master has complete control over his slave.
Likewise in the Second Continental Congress they say they would “die freemen
rather than live slaves.” This means that the general feeling in the colonies is very
passionately against the controlling means England uses on the colonies.

2. The Americans in these documents are developing their own sense of a concept of
liberty that differs from the British. The continually reemphasized point is that
taxation without representation is inherently unjust, and the way that Britain tries
to oversee America from three thousand miles and an ocean away is simply
inefficient. In the First Continental Congress they said that they did not feel bound
whatsoever by Parliament’s laws. Later they go on to say how all Americans
should get their natural rights, and that the King has no right to keep an army in
the colonies at a time of peace. The First Continental Congress Declaration and
Resolves also brings up the point of the separation of the branches of government.
These documents outline many foundations of the new American perception of
liberty.

3. These significant documents develop a sense of America by establishing and


reaffirming basic principles. America is a getaway from all of Britain’s ills. If one
could not find religious freedom in Europe or specifically Britain, one would
charter a “long term vacation” to America. America is a separate unit where THE
LAW IS KING and not vice versa. It is a land separate from Britain and other
nations because, as Thomas Paine puts it, there is no case in nature where a
satellite exists larger than its primary planet. America is about fairness, and in the
case where it does not exist; it is about the quest and persistence to achieve this
fairness. All these documents address the current wrongs and a meaningful way to
correct them. That is what America is about. It is about the fact that authority is
not always right and that there are multiple ideas that could be plausible
improvements. These documents set out a new way to circulate ideas and
influence the rest of the population.