1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 Rating 0.00 (0 Votes)

Document Analysis Paper

“A Summary of the Rights of British America (July 1774)” by Thomas Jefferson


Jefferson’s biography is historically rich because of its similarity with historical context in which he wrote A Summary of the Rights of British America 1774.[1] Thomas Jefferson was born in 1743 in Virginia. His life was full of transformational events that later turned him into a fierce and skilful political writer. As a trained lawyer, he served in various government positions as county lieutenant and as a magistrate.[2]  As a member of the Continental Congress, he was courageous enough to draft the Declaration of Independence in 1776. His ideologies are reflected in the draft. For instance, he states that all men have equal rights irrespective of their race, age, or economic status. Additionally, he claimed that the state should be the servant but not the master of the people.

After 1776, he served as a legislature on returning to Virginia. He later served as the governor of Virginia from 1779 to 1781. In 1784, he served in France’s public service as trade commissioner and later as minister.[3] He later returned to the United States, where he served as secretary of state under the leadership of George Washington. He was criticized for practicing pro-British policies in America. In 1976, he was the presidential candidate but became vice president after he lost to John Adams. He later became president four years later after defeating Adams.

Historical Context

The document addresses events at a time when America was about to declare its independence from the British colonialism. The document’s historical context is the atmosphere that was set to welcome the Declaration of Independence. The Continental Congress was the main organ that came up with the statement “Declaration of Independence.” The draft containing the contents of declaration of independence was done in July 1776 under the stewardship of the Continental Congress. The Continental Congress declared that the 13 American colonies under the governance of Britain should be left to be independent.[4]

The main reason for declaring independence was to curb the controversy that was enhancing animosity between the thirteen American colonies and Great Britain. The colonies wanted a declaration to be made to make them independent, and not a part of the British Empire. Consequently, they formed a union that would be a complete nation i.e. the United States of America. At this time, John Adams was the leader. He was pushing for independence that was later approved on the second day of July. Before then, a committee was in place to draft the formal declaration that the congress would use to vote on independence.

Adams directed the committee to choose Thomas Jefferson as the composer of the original draft of the document. The congress would then use the draft to produce the final version of the document. The Congress declared independence from Great Britain officially on July 2 through voting. At this time, it was almost two years after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary war. The national day of celebrating the historic event is currently on July 4. However, Adams preferred July 2 as the most appropriate date to celebrate the historic event that transformed the American leadership. It is on this day that the United States started enjoying the fruits of liberty. Livery was one of the key reasons of declaring independence.[5]

The document by Thomas Jefferson responds to the historical context of the Declaration of Independence by America. There are two key elements that link up the two cases. First, Thomas Jefferson is repeatedly mentioned in history as a key contributor while serving in the International Congress. He was appointed by the president to draft the document that would be used by the Congress to declare independence. Second, the author’s biography indicates that he played key roles as an advocate of liberty in the American society. He suggested that America should be independent and refrain from issues that would jeopardize its relationship with Great Britain.

Summary Description

The document is an address to the continental congress by Thomas Jefferson on issues relating to the grievances of Americans under the colonialism of Great Britain. The contents of the document were addressed to the King as a part of information that Jefferson wanted him to know. The king was supposed to reevaluate the conduct of his parliament. The document is against the parliament’s vote to govern the thirteen colonies. According to Jefferson, the thirteen colonies were supposed to be set free because they were founded and thus independent from the British rule. The document addresses more of these grievances in such a manner that it is both informative and educative. The author addresses a wide spectrum of audience in this document. Therefore, the document is not private, but public.

The organization of the document has similarities with any other historical document that portrays a certain event in the past. The author uses informative technique of literary writing. He avoids the use of first person’s perspective. He strictly applied the basic concepts of documentation that most authors use in their work. Some of the most important topics that the author addresses include the welfare of Americans at that time, the relationship between Americans and the British immigrants. The author uses the chronological organization to organize his topics. The events are chronological because they adhere to a time series in history that describe each event. Through this organization, the author was able to illustrate all occurrences and their justification.

Chronological organization is advantageous to topical organization especially when writing history documents. The author was motivated to use the former organization to formulate a platform that would allow him record the events as they occurred. Chronological organization is also justified because of its relevance in enhancing readability and understanding the document. Consequently, it is easier for the reader to understand a document that adheres to the format of chronological organization.


In the document, the author’s main argument is that Great Britain should shun all activities that relate to colonization of the thirteen American colonies. In the document, Jefferson states, “America was conquered, and her settlements made and firmly established, at the expense of individuals, and not of the British public. Their own blood was spilt in acquiring lands for their settlement, their own fortunes expended in making that settlement effectual.”[6] Accusations in this document clearly relate it to the Declaration of Independence. The author is championing for the rights of Americans who struggled to obtain the settlements. It would therefore be impossible for British immigrants to colonize them and impose imperialism in their own land.

The author’s response to the atrocities committed in America during this historic era is evident in the document. The author does not recede from defining the circumstances that would lead to an uprising of liberation at that time. The circumstances at this time were related to the issue of denying American citizens their rights and freedom. In the document, the author responds to the cries of Americans who wanted to be liberated from colonialism. They wanted the thirteen colonies to be declared independent and free from British colonialism. Jefferson was their spokesperson in addressing such grievances.

Basing on my assessment of declaration of independence, I think the author wanted full liberation of Americans. He was interested in seeing a fully liberated Americans in their own land. The author wrote the document as part of his sentiments to resist colonialism in the thirteen American colonies. The author was actively involved in drafting the declaration of independence that the Congress later adopted. He had the intentions of portraying his subjectivity regarding independence of Americans from British colonialism. According to the document, the author had several things in mind that he wanted to achieve. He wanted the King of Britain to consider safeguarding the lives of Americans by allowing them to enjoy their rights unconditionally. He was hopeful that his sentiments would be heard and that Americans would rejoice in liberation.


American National Biography Online. Thomas Jefferson. ANB.org, 2014. Accessed February

            6, 2014 at http://www.anb.org/articles/02/02-00196.html?from=../20/20-


Reynolds, David. America, Empire of Liberty: A New History. London: Allen Lane, 2009.

Thomas Jefferson. A Summary of the Rights of British America (July 1774). Williamsburg:

            Clementina Rind, 1774. 

[1] American National Biography Online. “Thomas Jefferson”. ANB.org, 2014. http://www.anb.org/articles/02/02-00196.html?from=../20/20-01643.html&from_nm=Bellini%2C%20Carlo(accessed February 6, 2014)

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid

[4] Ibid

[5] David Reynolds. America, Empire of Liberty: A New History. (London: Allen Lane, 2009), p. 4.

[6] Thomas Jefferson. “A Summary of the Rights of British America (July 1774)” (Williamsburg: Clementina Rind, 1774).