Choice One

“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 Nature’s God entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the Separation.

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and happiness.”

– The Declaration of Independence, Action of the Second Continental Congress, July 4, 1776. (United States of America)

Assess the above excerpt from the American Declaration of Independence (1776) with attention to the underlined statements in the context of Atlantic World History. In your response you may address any of the following questions, or alternately develop a response that analyses any other components of the declaration from an historical perspective in an Atlantic context:


  1. How did historical connections between Europe and North America shape the context for the content and predictive intent of this document?
  2. What were some of the key political aims or intentions of this declaration? (For this, you may address the domestic/national, as well as international aims of the document)
  3. What is the enduring significance of the concept of ‘Separation’ in this document?
  4. What is the historical significance of this document?

Feel free to read further on into the declaration to also help formulate your response if needed. The declaration’s full text is available on pages 1 through 7 of the following document:

You may also use any pertinent secondary sources for research to help develop your answer, ideas from course lectures, or any other pertinent texts provided in the syllabus.

 Choice Two

 Liberte, egalite, fraternite – Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.  This slogan was regarded as a key cry of the French Revolution. Article 1 of the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (‘Declaration de Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen’) proclaimed that “Men and women are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions may be founded only upon the common good.” During the first phase of the revolution, France was as a result transformed into a constitutional monarchy.

Fifteen years after the promulgation of the French Declaration of the Rights of Man, in 1804, the Haitian Declaration of Independence asserted:

It is not enough to have expelled the barbarians who have bloodied our land for two centuries; it is not enough to have restrained those ever-evolving factions that one after another mocked the specter of liberty that France dangled before you. We must, with one last act of national authority, forever assure the empire of liberty in the country of our birth; we must take any hope of re-enslaving us away from the inhuman government that for so long kept us in the most humiliating torpor. In the end we must live independent or die.”

In your essay response please address one or more of the following questions, with attention to the underlined components found in the above statements and slogans:

How did the first phase of the French Revolution help to transform the relationship between rulers and ruled, and which key Enlightenment ideals helped to shape these transformations? Who were some of the key figures involved?

  1. What broader reverberations did the French Revolution have in the context of Atlantic World history?
  2. With reference to the above declarations, how did the spread of Enlightenment ideas help generate the appropriate conditions for revolution in colonial Saint Domingue/Haiti, and what pre-revolutionary conditions provided fuel for this change?
  3. For colonial Saint Domingue, what specific political connections were formed with revolutionary France in years prior to the Haitian Revolution, and to what extent were French revolutionary phrases and ideas implemented in Haiti’s revolutionary convictions and why?