Ryan Andrew | United States
The Declaration of Independence (DOI) is quite possibly the most important and influential document in American history. The document, written by Thomas Jefferson in 1776, has allowed The United States to survive and thrive for over 240 years. When writing the Declaration, Jefferson mentioned four ideals that have shaped all of The United States’ history. These ideals were Equality, Consent of the Governed, the unalienable Rights of Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness, and finally, the Right of the People to alter or abolish the Government.
All four of these ideals are extremely important to the foundation and survival of our country. However, the Right of the People to alter or abolish the Government is the most important one.
With the right to Alter or Abolish our government, anything can be achieved.
The Declaration of Independence: Equality
Furthermore, Jefferson mentions equality when he wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” Equality is certainly something that sets The United States apart from other nations in the world. After all, some people in countries such as Iraq and Pakistan would kill for the level of equality the U.S. boasts. This ideal can easily be seen within our democratic election system that ensures that all American citizens, regardless of race, gender, or social status, are allowed to vote and have their voice heard in elections.
However, for a large portion of our nation’s history, this was not true. When Jefferson wrote the DOI, only white, property-owning males could vote. It was nearly two centuries after the signing of the Declaration that all people would be able to take part in The United States’ democratic system. This was achieved by people deciding they didn’t like something within our government and then taking a stand to alter or change it. In 1870, the 15th Amendment passed, guaranteeing African-Americans the right to vote in all elections. Next came the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. Both of these amendments are examples of how equality can be achieved when the public has the ability to alter the government when they deem fit.
Consent of the Governed
Additionally, another ideal the Declaration of Independence outlines is the consent of the governed. Jefferson outlines this ideal when he says, “…deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…” This basically means that a good government should allow the people to have a say in what their government imposes on them and who is representing them. The men and women we elect serve at our command and we ultimately control their fate.
Moreover, one of the main reasons the colonies wanted independence from Britain was because King George III was placing taxes on the colonists without properly representing them in Parliament. In other words, he taxed them without their consent. In response to this, the colonists did many things to boycott and protest the British government in hope of an alteration taking place. Of course, it took the United States declaring independence from King George III to finally stop this. Despite this fact, the colonies trying to fight back against taxation without representation (or consent) is still a great example of how consent of the governed can be achieved by altering or in this case, abolishing (and replacing) the government.
Certain Unalienable Rights
The third ideal that the Declaration of Independence highlights is certain unalienable Rights, such as Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. Jefferson mentions this when he says, “…endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” To have unalienable rights is to have freedoms that cannot be taken away by the government and in this case, those freedoms are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.
For this ideal, it is important to once again look back on the rights of African-Americans throughout history. For the first part of our nation’s history, most African Americans were slaves who did not have these unalienable Rights. In 1865, after years of conflict and violence during the Civil War, the 13th Amendment passed. This amendment was a result of the people fighting to alter the government to end slavery and involuntary servitude in The United States once and for all.
The Right to Alter or Abolish the Government
Finally, the most important ideal outlined in the Declaration of Independence is the right of the people to alter or abolish the government. Jefferson mentions this ideal when he says, “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…”
This means that when the government violates one of the principles laid out in the Declaration of Independence, the people have the right to reform or abrogate the government. With this, equality, consent of the governed, and the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness can be achieved.
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