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The Declaration of Independence

The Declaration of Independence was adopted in 1776 as a statement of the Second Continental Congress of the independence of the American colonies from British rule. Thomas Jefferson wrote the first draft, and ideas were then incorporated from John Adams and Benjamin Franklin. The document was adopted on July 4, and along with success in the American Revolution, the Declaration ushered in a new political age (Carruth 138). The document produced at the behest of the Second Continental Congress expressed a number of political ideas then current in the colonies, ideas which had been expressed by others in a different form and which were now brought together by Jefferson in a final statement of independence from England.

Jefferson based much of the document on ideas derived from Locke and Rousseau concerning the value of natural law, to the effect that natural law should stand as the principle which protects the rights of individuals against the abuses of government. These are the truths that Jefferson sets forth in the opening paragraph as "self-evident," that all men are created equal, that they have certain rights given to them by God and which cannot be taken away, and that these rights include the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These are familiar words to us today but were not such common ideas in 1776. The Declaration of Independence was directed at abuses charged to King George III, and many of these abuses are indicated in the document--he had refused to agree to laws that were for the public good, he had made judges dependent on him rather than the law, he had created new offices and sent officers to harass the people, he had instituted military control, and he had altered the forms of government created by the colonists. The people were now declaring their independence because of these excesses, and inherent in what Jefferson writes is the belief that the people have an absolute right to do thi...

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The Declaration of Independence. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 12:44, April 26, 2019, from