Abstractions in Power-Writing

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 "America
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 Oxford English Dictionary defines power as, "the ability
to do or effect something or anything, or to act upon a person or
thing" (OED 2536). 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, "With all thair
strang *poweir" (OED 2536) 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" (OED 2536). This definition
explains how the power government or social institutions rests in
their ability to command people, rocks, colonies to do something they
otherwise would not do. To make the 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 usurptions." The framers of the Declaration of

Independence also believe 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 the 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


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
colonists\' 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 up from
the people to the rulers. The British believe power should flow down
from the King to the subjects.

The two different uses of the world 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 clutches the power in pre-colonial society. The tone of the

Declaration of Independence becomes more severe; the Declarations
vilifying of the fundamental power imbalances between the colonies and
the King make the break between the two unbridgeable. The break
between the colonies and the King became not just a tax or policy
difference anymore, but a fundamental philosophical difference.

The colonists