Paired Texts > The Declaration of Independence
We've identified these texts as great options for text pairings based on similar themes, literary devices, topic, or writing style. Supplement your lesson with one or more of these options and challenge students to compare and contrast the texts. To assign a paired text, click on the text to go to its page and click the "Assign Text" button there.
The American Electoral ProcessMike Kubic
This article discusses the convoluted and problematic means by which American citizens help select their president.Pair “The American Electoral Process” with “The Declaration of Independence” and ask students to consider the disconnect between the vision for America set out in the latter text and the portrait of the flawed electoral system illustrated in the former. Drawing on the both texts, consider how the Founding Fathers might react to the current process by which we select our presidents. What might they consider most objectionable? How does their language inform your understanding of their opinions?
"Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death" SpeechPatrick Henry
In this speech, Patrick Henry rouses colonist leaders to take up arms against the British tyranny. It is from this speech that the Declaration of Independence was born. This speech uses an emotional argument, and lays the foundation for fundamental American values of individual power.Pair the "Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death" speech with “The Declaration of Independence” and ask students to reflect on why the thirteen colonies decided to break away from the British Empire. What values did people like Jefferson and Patrick Henry hold dear, according to these texts?
A Letter to Thomas JeffersonJohn Adams
Founding Fathers Adams and Jefferson shared a great friendship and exchanged many letters. This letter captures the famous debate between Jefferson and Adams about core democratic principles.Pair “The Declaration of Independence” with “Excerpt from a Letter to Thomas Jefferson” and ask students to discuss how the theme of equality emerges in the two texts. As a founding father, John Adams signed this declaration — why did he later oppose the French Revolution? Do you think these situations are comparable?
Political SocietyJohn Locke
In this document by British philosopher John Locke, Locke argues for individual sacrifice so that people can live peacefully in a political society. Locke's philosophical works heavily influenced American revolutionaries and the formation of democracy.Pair “Political Society” with “The Declaration of Independence” and ask students to compare the ideas found in these texts. Thomas Locke’s “Political Society” supposedly influenced the Declaration of Independence. What connections, if any, do students see in these texts?
Excerpts from LeviathanThomas Hobbes
Thomas Hobbes (1588-1697) was an English philosopher, best known for his political philosophy. In this famous work, Hobbes discusses the concept of the "social contract," the idea that humans benefit from a common rule of law; otherwise, they fall into disorder and violence. In social contract theory, Hobbes proposes that humans consent to surrender some of their freedoms in order to secure their remaining rights.Pair “Excerpts from Leviathan” with “The Declaration of Independence” and ask students to compare the two texts. What founding principles, if any, do they share?
What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?Frederick Douglass
Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) was an African American social reformer, orator, writer, former slave, and leading abolitionist. In this speech delivered to a crowd of abolitionists in New York, Douglass reminds his audience of the inherent hypocrisy of an "Independence Day" for people enslaved.Pair “The Declaration of Independence” with “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” and ask students to discuss the historical parameters for freedom. What does the Declaration of Independence promise in terms of freedom? For whom? Historically, were these promises kept and, if not, why?
Declaration of Sentiments and ResolutionsElizabeth Cady Stanton
"The Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions" is a document written by suffragette Elizabeth Cady Stanton and signed by 68 women and 32 men at the Seneca Falls Convention — the first women's rights convention. This number represents 100 people who signed the following document, out of a total of 300 people who were in attendance at the convention, showing how "The Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions" was controversial in its time.Pair “The Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions” with “The Declaration of Independence” and ask students to compare the structure of the two texts. What ideas or principles does Stanton borrow and build upon in her declaration? What other similarities do they share?
The Road to American IndependenceJessica McBirney
In "The Road to American Independence," the text recounts the major events that led the American colonies to victory in the Revolutionary War and independence from Great Britain.Pair “The Declaration of Independence” with “The Road to American Independence” and ask students to discuss what they have learned. How did the events of the American Revolution likely inform the drafting and key points of the Declaration of Independence?
Excerpts from Thomas Jefferson's Writings on American IndiansThomas Jefferson
These excerpts from Thomas Jefferson's letters and book Notes on the State of Virginia reveal Jefferson's complicated view of American Indians and their uncertain future in America.Pair “Excerpts from Thomas Jefferson’s Writings on American Indians” with “The Declaration of Independence” and ask students to compare the language of equality in the declaration with the attitudes Jefferson has towards American Indians in the excerpts. Do you think Jefferson counted Native Americans when he wrote that “all men are created equal”?
Articles of ConfederationThe Continental Congress
The Articles of Confederation are a historic governing document detailing the agreement between the original 13 states of the United States; it preceded the U.S. Constitution.Pair “Declaration of Independence” with “Articles of Confederation” and ask students to discuss how the two seminal documents are related. How might the grievances of the Declaration of Independence have led to the Articles of Confederation? How are the issues that American colonies had with the King of England evident in the design of government laid out in the Articles of Confederation?
The Signers of the Declaration: Historical BackgroundNational Park Service, US Department of the Interior
In the informational text, "The Signers of the Declaration: Historical Background," the author discusses the events leading up to the War for Independence.Pair “The Declaration of Independence” with “The Signers of the Declaration: Historical Background” to provide students with additional information about the Declaration of Independence. Ask students to discuss what the American colonists were fighting for as described in “The Signers of The Declaration: Historical Background.” How are these ideals and beliefs reflected in “The Declaration of Independence”?
Juries: a HistoryLaw Library - American Law and Legal Information
In this text, students learn how the jury system developed, particularly in England.Pair “The Declaration of Independence” with “Juries: A History” and ask students to discuss how the Declaration builds on the ideas revealed in “Juries: A History.” How did the Magna Carta pave the way for the Declaration of Independence? What similar ideas about government are expressed in both texts? How does the jury system reflect the idea that “all men are created equal”?