Rousseau and Jefferson
“The Declaration of Independence,” written by Thomas Jefferson, is a statement adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776. “The Origin of Civil Society” is an article written by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Jefferson writes about human rights because all men shall be equal and free; Rousseau writes about social contracts because by understanding the concepts of social contracts, the people will live with better security and significance. By analyzing these two articles, readers can see how important it is for a writer to understand the concepts from previous generation of writers, how much Rousseau’s ideas have influenced Jefferson’s statement, and how Jefferson has expanded Rousseau’s concepts. In the opening of “The Declaration of Independence”, Jefferson writes several statements that are influenced by Rousseau’s concepts. Jefferson mentions about equality and freedom; he writes, “people hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”(Jefferson 78).On the other hand, Rousseau, in “The Origin of Civil Society”, says that “man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”, and that “many a man believes himself to be the master of others who is, no less than they, a slave”(57). Rousseau also uses the rhetorical method metaphor, by comparing “fathers” to “rulers” and “children” to “people”, to emphasize his ideas; he states, “once that need ceases the natural bond is dissolved, the children, freed from the obedience which they formerly owe, and the father, cleared of his debt of responsibility to them, return to condition of equal independence”(57). Rousseau further mentions about equality by arguing the ideas of Grotius, Hobbes, and Aristotle; these men believe that “human race” belongs only to a small group of special people. Rousseau writes, “according to Grotius, therefore, it...
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