Date of Award

Spring 2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS) in Communications


Communication Studies


This research examines Thomas Jefferson’s original draft of the Declaration of Independence. Ostensibly written for the simple purpose of justifying the American separation from Great Britain, the Declaration nevertheless utilizes persuasive techniques and narrative themes that are not necessary to the rhetorical goal of justification. Of particular interest is Jefferson’s curious choice to base his argument for independence around the theme of enslavement. In order to uncover Jefferson’s possible reasons for doing so, the original draft of the Declaration is examined using a combination of three methods of rhetorical criticism: analysis of the rhetorical situation, close textual analysis, and Dramatistic analysis. The use of these methods reveal that Jefferson’s purpose in writing his draft was to turn George III into a scapegoat for all forms of tyranny within the colonies, including the institution of slavery, so that by expunging the King they would be absolved of their attachment to the slave trade and could reform their new American identity in opposition to British tyranny. The study then explores how the removal of his indictment of the slave trade weakened its ideological integrity and corrupted its popular impact.