For Liberty and Equality: The Life and Times of the Declaration of Independence

By Alexander Tsesis | Go to book overview

17
EPILOGUE

THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE LOOMS LARGE IN AMERICAN history. Although it lacks any explicit enforcement clause, the manifesto’s statement of national purpose has inspired generations of Americans. Social movements have incorporated the Declaration’s second paragraph and consent clauses into their demands for recognition of inalienable rights. The takeaway point from this book is not meant to be nostalgic but to provide clearer understanding of how the manifesto’s core values have informed the U.S. public, its leaders, and even foreign nations as to the nature of justice, civility, and governance.

The signers of the Declaration of Independence contributed a lasting vision of liberty and equality that transcended their own practices and times. Paradoxically, the same men who excluded blacks, Native Americans, propertyless white laborers, indentured servants, and women from the seats of governance created the document that gave these and other disadvantaged groups hope of securing equality.

The country’s past has always informed contemporary customs, institutions, politics, morals, regulations, and norms. The Declaration of Independence has made its way into the social conscience both as an heirloom of a bygone era and a treasure trove of wisdom with cultural salience. The natural rights theory of the framers is no longer popular, but the human

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For Liberty and Equality: The Life and Times of the Declaration of Independence
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents ix
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - Becoming Independent 6
  • 3 - The Nation’s Infancy 24
  • 4 - Youthful Republic 40
  • 5 - Compromising for the Sake of Expansion 57
  • 6 - Jacksonian Era Democracy 75
  • 7 - Subordination 100
  • 8 - The Unraveling Bonds of Union 129
  • 9 - Sectional Cataclysm 148
  • 10 - Reconstruction 179
  • 11 - Racial Tensions 202
  • 12 - Advancing Women’s Causes 215
  • 13 - The Changing Face of Labor 227
  • 14 - International Impact and Domestic Advance 241
  • 15 - The Declaration in a New Deal State 264
  • 16 - Independence Principles in the Civil Rights Era 283
  • 17 - Epilogue 312
  • Acknowledgments 319
  • Appendix - The Declaration of Independence 321
  • Notes 327
  • Index 377
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