The Power Of The Declaration

Power and The Declaration of Independence
There are many abstractions in the Declaration of Independence. These abstractions such as: rights, freedom, liberty and happiness have become the foundations of American society and have helped to shape the ?American Identity.? Power, another abstraction that reoccurs in all the major parts of the Declaration of Independence plays an equally important role in shaping ?American Identity.? One forgets the abstraction of power, because it appears in relation to other institutions: the legislature, the King, the earth, and the military. The abstraction of power sets the tone of the Declaration, and shapes the colonists conception of government and society. Power in the Declaration of Independence flows from distinct bodies within society such as the King, the legislature, the military, and the colonists.
The English Dictionary defines power as, ?the ability to do or effect something or anything, or to act upon a person or thing?. Throughout the ages according to the dictionary the word power has connoted similar meanings. In 1470 the word power meant to have strength and the ability to do something. Nearly three hundred years later in 1785 the word power carried the same meaning of control, strength, and force, ?power to produce an effect, supposes power not to produce it; otherwise it is not power but necessity.? This definition explains how the power of government and social institutions rests in their ability to command people, rocks, colonies to do something they otherwise would not do. To make people pay taxes. To make the rocks form into a fence. To make the colonists honor the king. The colonialists adopt this interpretation of power. They see power as a cruel force that has wedded them to a king who has ?a history of repeated injuries and usurpations.? The framers of the Declaration of Independence also believe that powers given by God to the people must not be usurped. The conflict between these spheres of power the colonists believe, justifies their rebellion.
The uses of the word power set the tone of the Declaration of Independence. In the first sentence of the Declaration colonists condemn the King's violation of powers given by God to all men.
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of natures God Entitle them (Wills 375).
In this passage the writers of the Declaration of Independence are explaining their moral claim to rebel. This right finds its foundation on their interpretation of the abstraction of power. Colonists perceive power as bifurcated, a force the King uses to oppress them, and a force given to them by God allowing them to rebel. In the Declaration of Independence the colonists also write about power as a negative force. In the following quote power takes on a negative meaning because power rests in the hands of the King and not the people, ?to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned? (Wills 376). Power when mentioned in association with the power of the people to make their own laws has a positive connotation, ?He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to Civil power? (Wills 377).
These two different uses of the word power transform the meaning and tone of the Declaration of Independence. The meaning changes from just a Declaration of Independence from Britain because of various violations of tax laws, military expenditures, and colonist's rights; to a fundamental disagreement about power. Whether the King or civil authorities have a right to power. The colonists believe in the decentralization of power. The British support a centralized monarchy. The colonists believe power should flow upward from the people to the rulers. The British believe power should flow downward from the King to the subjects.
The two different uses of the word power also change the tone of the document. The colonist's definition of power as coercive in the hands of the King and good in the hands of civil authorities identifies the King as the enemy. He takes on the role of the enemy because he