Themes in The Declaration of Independence

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Themes in The Declaration of Independence

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Activity Overview


Themes come alive when you use a storyboard. In this activity, students will identify key themes of The Declaration of Independence, and support their choices with details from the text.

The Declaration of Independence Themes and Ideas to Discuss

Injustice

An important theme of The Declaration of Independence is injustice. The document lists not only the grievances held against King George III, but the grievances against a tyrant. In George’s tyranny, he has dissolved representative governments, restricted currency, levied unfair taxes, and taken away territory. In every step, King George has treated the people of the colonies not as citizens of England, but as petulant children. By doing this, King George has robbed the colonists of their rights as English citizens, which is unjust.


The Strength of the Ruled over the Rulers

Another important theme raised in The Declaration of Independence is the strength of the ruled over the rulers. With the rise of the Enlightenment and the merchant class, the belief in the Divine Right of Kings had been slowly fading anyway; however, few people realized the power that they held over their government. With this document, the colonists were forging a new path in history by creating their own government, because the one King George III was running was corrupt and tyrannical. For the first time in history, the people were deciding their futures, and throwing away the ideas of traditional rulers.


Justifications for a War

An additional important theme in The Declaration of Independence is the justifications for a war. War, ideally, should always be a last resort. The grievances outlined by Jefferson in the document prove that all necessary steps were taken in order to prevent war from becoming a reality. In doing so, Jefferson also shows all of the inappropriate, tyrannical ways that King George has responded to those steps, leaving no other option but to declare and then fight for freedom from an unreasonable tyrant.


Inalienable Rights of All People

A final important theme found in The Declaration of Independence is the inalienable rights of all people. Jefferson outlines them: all men are created equal, and they have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The document doesn’t just outline a list of complaints; for the first time in history, it declares that everyone is born with rights that cannot be given or taken away by anyone except, well, God. A king or queen has no right to interfere with the people’s liberty, and if they do, the people have the right to cast them away. For the first time in history, the people are made equal to the monarchs by their inalienable right to equality.




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Template and Class Instructions

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Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that identifies recurring themes in The Declaration of Independence. Illustrate instances of each theme and write a short description below each cell.


  1. Click "Start Assignment".
  2. Identify the theme(s) from The Declaration of Independence you wish to include and replace the "Theme 1" text.
  3. Create an image for examples that represent this theme.
  4. Write a description of each of the examples.
  5. Save and submit your storyboard.

Template: Theme

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