Thomas Jefferson’s Best Argument Essay

Throughout our short time in this class we have been able look at many articles written by very influential people. The arguments they have presented have affected numerous people across the globe. By studying the works of Jefferson, Stanton, Wollstonecraft, and Woolf I have been able to see what makes an argument good vs what make an argument great. What makes an argument great or the best, is the authors ability to select the correct audience, use form to address that audience and ultimately have a lasting effect on the world.

Although each of these authors present their arguments in an excellent manner, I believe that it is Jefferson who presents the best argument. There are three criteria which make Jefferson’s argument transcend above the others. These three criteria include the effect Jefferson’s argument has, the way that he is able to appeal to his audience, the way he able to use the form of his piece to influence the crowd and the effect he has had on society. In order to see how Jefferson excels in these areas, I will compare each of the three aspects to those presented in the other pieces.

To begin with, a great argument is able to strategically select its audience. It is clear that within his argument, Jefferson is able to address multiple audiences. He is able to address the colonists of America and the King of England. Directing the argument towards the correct audience allows Jefferson to coerce action out of the desired people, the ones that will take action. Jefferson repeatedly and plainly addresses these three audiences throughout his argument.

We can Jefferson address the king within the quote “The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. ” (Jefferson 1) Jefferson flagrant attack on the King of England puts no doubt in readers minds about who he is addressing. By addressing this part of the audience so overtly he is making sure that his argument will be heard and reacted to. Another audience that he addresses is the colonist in America.

We can see this in the very beginning of the declaration when Jefferson is talking about the rights of men. “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. ” (Jefferson 1) We can see in this quote his direct address to the people of the colonies in the phrase “it is the Right of the People”.

In this section he is addressing and calling upon the people, not by saying they can or should abolish the unjust government, but by saying it is their “Right” to do so. By addressing the colonist in this way, Jefferson is essentially attacking their honor by saying that it is the duty of the colonist to separate from/fight England and if they do not take action they are not honorable men. In reading the document it is easy for the reader to immediately see who Jefferson’s audience is. By addressing his audience directly, the author is able to force his audience to react to his argument and further bolster the strength of his argument.

In looking at the content of Woolf’s argument, we can see that Jefferson’s argument is able to trump over Woolf in the aspect of addressing the audience. While Woolf’s is able to provide us with a vivid image, she does not address her audience as flagrantly as Jefferson or even address the multiple audiences that are required to win this battle. In her argument one can see that Woolf is addressing women from statements such as the one where she is beginning to tell her story, “But to tell you my story— it is a simple one. You have only got to figure yourselves a girl in a bedroom with a pen in her hand. (Woolf 1)

It is easy to see from this quote that Woolf’s audience that she is addressing is women, for it would be difficult for a man at this time, or any time period for that matter, to imagine themselves as a young girl. Woolf completely leaves out addressing her argument to men by failing to present material that men can empathize with. In doing this she keeps out a large group of people that may be able to help her in her strive for equality of men and women. Jefferson on the other hand, does not neglect any audience that he can potentially get help from.

Jefferson is even able to subtly address a third audience, other nations. He does this by stating the duty of a just government, “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted…”. In saying this, Jefferson is able to say that it is the duty of the government to secure the rights of all men, in other words, if you are a just government (and hate England) it is your duty as a government to support our cause. It is clear to see from the evidence presented above that Woolf’s argument fails to address all useful audiences in her fight for equality.

Conversely, Jefferson’s argument is able to address an audience that will be able to take action for him. Next, Thomas Jefferson is able to form in a manner that is paramount to the other arguments seen within this class. Form is the technique and literary devices that Jefferson uses to push his argument further across to his audience. His use of repetition and creation of a tangible common enemy for the people creates reason to his argument and direct enemy to pass the blame on. Towards the beginning of Jefferson’s argument, he creates the definition of who the enemy is.

Jefferson states “—when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, …” there by defining who an enemy of the people is: a government that produces a “long train of abuses and usurpations”. Immediately after the definition Jefferson claims that “The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations …” there by calling the king an enemy. By calling the king an enemy, he is able to put a face on who the enemy is.

Instead of having a large, intangible enemy like Great Britain, Jefferson is able to place the blame on one person which is really useful for the next part of the declaration where he lists the actual grievances. In the form of his argument, Thomas Jefferson is able define what an enemy is, who he is then he ultimately describes how he is the enemy through the use of repetition. Jefferson’s repeated use of the words “He” and “For” within the bulk of the declaration allow him to explain how the king has violated the rights of the colonists in a simple way.

In understanding that the declaration would most likely be read in the town square of a city, Jefferson is able to utilize form in a way that makes his argument more powerful. The repetition of the words “He” and “For” forces the colonist to realize just how many times the King has wronged them. In addition to this, the concise nature of the “He” and “For” statements allow for the colonist to follow Jefferson’s argument with ease while it is being read to them.

It is evident that Jefferson has mastered the use of form within “The Declaration of Independence”. We can just how much clarity Jefferson’s use of form creates in his argument when compared to Mary Wollstonecraft’s “An End to Blind Obedience”. Wollstonecraft’s piece comes off as very sophisticated and as a result she may lose her reader in the form that she uses. The way that she may lose readers within her writing is that the ideas expressed in an amalgam of analogies, metaphors and assumptions.

Wollstonecraft states “For if it be allowed that women were destined by Providence to acquire human virtues, and by the exercise of their understanding, that stability of character which is the firmest ground to rest our future hopes upon, they must be permitted to turn to the fountain of light, and not forced to shape their course by the twinkling of a mere satellite. Milton, I grant, was of a very different opinion; for he only bends to the indefeasible right of beauty, though it would be difficult to render two passages which I now mean to contrast, consistent.

But into similar inconsistencies are great men often led by their senses. ” (Wollstonecraft 1). Within this one quote we can see that she is using an analogy comparing the sun to knowledge, women to the earth, and men to the moon in order to show her sophistication. Although this displays her supreme intelligence, it may detract from her argument by being too complex for people to understand. In addition to this analogy, Wollstonecraft assumes that not only does the reader know who “Milton” is, but she also assumes that the reader has read Milton’s works by quoting him or her and not stating the context.

While this again showcases her great intelligence, utilizing this form may detract from her argument because some may be unable to follow her argument because they have not read Milton. As we can see in comparing the form of “The Declaration of Independence” and “An End to Blind Obedience”, Thomas Jefferson’s argument is strengthened by form that allows the document to be easily understood. Lastly, it is well known that Thomas Jefferson’s writing “The Declaration of Independence” is one of the most influential documents in history.

Jefferson’s argument has had a lasting effect on not only the United States, but also the future of many other countries across the globe. The Declaration of Independence had many short term and long term domestic effects. The argument presented within the document was able to strengthen the alliance between the colonies and reassure them that starting a revolution was something that the colonist must do. By gaining support for this cause the colonies were eventually able to gain independence from the strongest military power at the time.

Furthermore, the document instilled the idea that all men were created equal and had the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. While Jefferson may have not meant to include ALL men at this time, the Declaration was still used to support later arguments that would help achieve the equality for all men. This can be seen in the arguments of Fredrick Douglass, for he frequently points to this document as a way of supporting his argument that slavery should be abolished and that the African American people should be held at the same levels as their fellow white Americans.

In addition to influencing the history of America, The Declaration of Independence has affected the paths of other nations. Many people/nations have taken the philosophies of equality for all men and consent of the governed and implemented it within their own governments. Two great examples include the “French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen” and the “Proclamation of Independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam”. The “French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen” was used by the French to gain independence from their monarchy and become the country we know today.

Ironically, the “Proclamation of Independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam” was used by the people of Vietnam in order to overthrow the French imperialist that had been occupying Vietnam at the time. These examples showcase the sheer power and effect that “The Declaration of Independence” has had on the course of human history. We can see just how powerful Jefferson’s effect was by looking at Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s “Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions, Seneca Falls”.

First off we can see that the whole document is modeled off of Jefferson’s very own Declaration. This shows that Jefferson’s argument was so strong that it is yet again being used in another push for liberty (the equality of men and women). Furthermore, without Jefferson’s effect, Stanton probably would not have been able to be the strong activist that she became. This is not only because she modeled her argument after Jefferson, but also because “The Declaration of Independence” set a precedence for the basic rights such as those in the “Bill of Rights” like freedom of speech.

Without “The Declaration of Independence” neither man nor woman would be able to advocate for the equality of both sexes. It is without a doubt that Jefferson’s document has had an immeasurable effect on the world. In conclusion, out of all the four arguments that have been presented, Jefferson is the one who provides the one that is most effective. The factors that lead an argument to excellence, is the arguments ability to select the correct audience, use of the form to address its audience and the size of the effect it has on the world and the people in it.

As one reads through Jefferson’s argument, they can easily see that he is able to address each of these points in a superb manner. In comparing Jefferson’s arguments within each of these categories (audience, form, and effect) against those presented in the other author’s arguments, we can that the other arguments pale in comparison. After all of this, it is clear to see as to why Jefferson holds the title for best argument presented.