Political documents from the ancient and medieval world generally seem to be articulations of a certain set of political decisions and, in a broader sense, of the political order that created the document. The Declaration of Independence is the first document to imply a political order that did not yet exist. Though many of the liberties the Declaration sought to establish were existing liberties that had been abridged by the tyranny of the British crown, these liberties were asserted in the name of citizens of a state that had not yet come into being. The essence of this state was created by the Declaration itself: a true city in speech. At its foundation American political existence was rooted in rhetoric. Instead of political symbols arising from a long process of national self-identification, people identified themselves as Americans in virtue of the symbols established by the Declaration.
What makes a society created by rhetoric great is that its essential existence is ideal. The great danger of a society created by rhetoric is that people will lose touch with language, and thereby lose touch with everything that makes them who they are. The mystery of a society created by rhetoric, which can be its salvation and its destruction, is the distance that usually seems to exist between what is ideal and what is "actual."