Compare/Contrast Thomas Jefferson and Jonathan Swift

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There exists a fine line between the degree of responsibility a government has for its citizens, and the control it assumes to ensure the proliferation of its power. While freedom may be a traditional American value, how it is defined is a question that has long been a source of debate. Furthermore, when an institution follows a course of action that becomes detrimental to society, what responsibility, if any, do the citizens have to show their dissent, and what form should that dissent take?

All of these are questions looking to be answered, with varying degrees of seriousness, by Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Swift. Thomas Jefferson’s A Declaration of Independence may be thought of as a universal symbol of traditional American values, however in it exists several layers of meaning, each appealing to the reader and their sense of social responsibility. While Swift’s A Modest Proposal attempts a similar entreaty to the public’s sympathy, it diverges drastically in its use of satire. While the style of each work individually differs, their function is essentially the same: to seek out the reader’s sense of empathy in an effort to draw support to their cause.

When writing the Declaration of Independence Jefferson not only created something that was shockingly incendiary, it was full of ideas that were revolutionary for the time period it was written. While contemporary American society may think of the question of freedom to be a foregone conclusion, the political culture of 1776 was drastically different. Globally the power rested with the monarchies, who concerned themselves more with furthering their own interests than protecting and empowering their citizens. Jefferson believed this idea undermined individual liberty, and sought to change it by creating a government that derives its “just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Jonathan Swift, who, like Jefferson, was a politically progressive presence in the face of the English, sought to find similar...
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