In the "Declaration of Independence," Thomas Jefferson uses the phrase "self-evident" as a necessary modifier for the truths of equality he describes -- that all men are created equal and that they are endowed with certain unalienable rights. The inclusion of this phrase has a profound effect on Jefferson's argument for freedom because of what it represents. .
In the original draft of the "Declaration of Independence," it's obvious that the phrase sacred and undeniable is crossed out and substituted with "self-evident" (2). Much has been said about Jefferson's purpose for including the phrase "self-evident": to justify American independence in the plainest terms, to place a stronger emphasis on the scientific logic behind equality [by removing the word sacred] or to signify the merging of religious ideals with human reason. Whatever the reason, Jefferson uses it to "command the attention and assent" of the tyrannical King of England, once arguing that the colonists were "a free people claiming their rights as derived from the laws of nature, and not as the gift of their Chief Magistrate" (1). "Self-evident" brings validity to the basic truth of universal freedom as it is based on the laws of nature. .
For Jefferson and his contemporaries, the phrase "self-evident" characterizes a new way of thinking, and is an expression of "the philosophy of the natural rights of people in an age when absolute monarchs ruled throughout the world" (1). During this time, Jefferson is a philosopher and supporter of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, "which saw humanity emerging from the dark ages of superstition toward a more rational and humane future" (3). Further, it is a phrase with a scientific origin, with Rene Descartes having introduced its importance in relation to science (4). .
The phrase "self-evident" merely reflects the moral, philosophical and newly adapted scientific ideas of the time, and the fact that Jefferson uses it in the "Declaration of Independence" indicates that it is a strong, choice phrase, rich with meaning.