A Latin statement commonly used in the Middle Ages to define the purpose of government reads: proper jura, non po testas prater jura. This succinct statement translates to mean, “service to and for the sake of rights, not a power exercised beyond or outside of rights.” This age-old definition of what gains a government should work toward, coupled with a belief in the importance of universal rights, provided in essence the backbone of the American Declaration of Independence. However, Thomas Jefferson and the Continental Congress chose a more contemporary elaboration of what was meant by those succinct Latin words when they endeavored to break the union with England. Yet few Americans choose to take the opportunity to learn and understand those defining principles that the Founding Fathers laid forth in that first and all-important document. If contemporary Americans were to simply read the words and follow the principles that reside within Declaration of Independence, the nation as a whole might be philosophically aimed in an entirely different direction… the one for which it was first intended.
The Declaration of Independence was written as a means of accusing the English King of wrongs before the world as a jury. Thomas Jefferson is quoted as saying it was “an appeal to the tribunal of the world.” (Adler 23) But under which law was the King to be accused? Obviously not English law, the very law they were putting down. The laws of an independent and sovereign nation would likewise have ill effect. Jefferson instead chose to use a law John Locke had first proposed called natural law, which had become the very fuel en flaming the colonies. (Munves 13) These are rights believed to be the common property of all individuals, regardless of nationality, and are older indeed than any government.
... to declare the freedom and independence of the 13 American colonies from England. The Declaration was designed to influence public ... best-known proponent. Jefferson emphasized the contractual justification for independence, arguing that when the tyrannical government of King George III ... right to property, life and liberty. Jefferson's theory of "natural law" differed in that it substituted the ...
Therefore, one of the most fundamental misconceptions most Americans have about the Declaration of Independence pertains to the document’s intended audience. Many believe that it was a declaration to England and her King of the colony’s intent to be independent. In fact, the Declaration of Independence was written for a universal audience. The colonies were already well beyond the point of explaining themselves to England, and England was well aware of the grievances that were felt.
The first paragraph of the Declaration affirms this, “When… it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve… political bands… and to assume, among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and 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.” If said in a more contemporary form: when a citizenry feels that they should throw off one government and establish a new one, they should inform the powers of the world as to the reasons they choose to become a “separate and equal” nation. This in itself shows that England was not the audience for which the Declaration was intended, despite common beliefs to the contrary. Instead, the Founding Fathers had a much higher intention in mind.
The Declaration of Independence, as an entire document, is written in four basic parts. The First, which Americans are most familiar with, sets forth broadly the nature and intent of passing a resolution of independence. This portion of the Declaration of Independence lays out those principles of human rights that were important to the colonies and which they felt were being denied. However, it was also a universal affirmation of the popular opinion of the time, a message to the world that finally a populace was going to take control of an overbearing government and institute a new form that consisted with the will of the governed. According to the Declaration, “all men are created equal.” At first glance this may seem an impossibly optimistic statement, yet it does prove trues upon later examination. The average person can merely walk down the street and have an experience in which they are clearly not equal to someone, regardless of whether they happen to be better or worse off.
... and rights" of the people. The Declaration of Independence, drafted principally by Jefferson in late June 1776 for the second ... of 18th-century thought that emphasized the possibilities of human reason. A Virginia aristocrat, he had the time ... Jefferson argued that the original settlers of the colonies came as individuals rather than as agents of the British government. The colonial governments ...
Obviously Jefferson was also aware of this. The truth to be found in all men being created equally rests in their common humanity. Although one human may be more or less than another in every way, neither can be thought of as less human because of it. (Adler 32) Although it sounds like an oxymoron, humans are created equal because they are all created differently. Even today, all humans struggle to meet their needs in a world full of differences, and in fairness, these needs cannot be denied. Hence, there are certain rights to which all humans are privileged to, based on nothing more than their common humanity.
And certainly these words ring true and have been elaborated upon today. The concept of human rights, or rights that should be had by all regardless of sex or race, has been built upon continuously since Jefferson first brought them to the colonies. The three basic rights highlighted in the Declaration of Independence have proven to be a cornerstone of American ideology. .”.. among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” Jefferson, although a regretted owner of slaves, was fully aware that these rights would expand as time went on. This is why he chose the phrase “among these.” Much as our knowledge of natural phenomena has increased with better instrumentation, so too has our knowledge of what constitutes the basic rights of all individuals.
The phenomena have not grown in number, only our knowledge of them has. The same is true with natural rights. The United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides an impressive list that literally dwarfs the triad proposed by Jefferson, and certainly encompasses rights that never would have been conceived in the eighteenth century. And still the U.
N.’s Declaration would fall short of the standards of contemporary people today. (Adler 35) However, Jefferson felt that this now famous triad was the most universal and basic of the time. Jefferson also felt, as all of the colonies did, that the protection of these basic human rights was the fundamental reason for the existence of any government at all. As with the common Latin phraseology already provided, governments serve to ensure an environment where the basic rights of all individuals are safe and secure. Such rights consequently do not depend on governments for their existence; however, they do depend on governments for their enforcement. Governments receive their power from the people, and if the people feel their government is negligent in their service, it is the people’s right to change it.
... People have the right to abolish it, and rights to form new Government. This is what Jefferson and the other writers of the Declaration ... of creating a new country begun. The Declaration of Independence started talking about human events, political bands, and power. On ... will also clarify the basic ideas contained in The Declaration of Independence; the influence of the Declaration upon American War of ...
Later, when the colonies adopted a constitution, all men were granted the right to vote and have their say in how the government should act according to these principles. In this way, the government was constantly beholden to their populace for their existence. This is the most highly regarded of all rights brought to America with the Declaration of Independence. It is the one recourse for those who do not wish to become activists, yet nonetheless want their say. To the Founding Fathers, this was the most sacred right of all. Thousands of men died so that they and others could enjoy having their say, and so that those that followed could as well.
Yet sadly, another of the Declaration’s truths has bared its teeth in this day and age. The passage reads, .”.. all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer… than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.” Although Jefferson spoke of a different sort of suffering, his observations about the willingness of people to suffer rather than to change what they are accustomed to has proven all to true. Today the nation’s student population has taken an all-time low interest in their government. And this trend has recently been increasing dramatically.
According to the Vermont Secretary of State Deb Markowitz, in 1996 only 32% of 18-24 year olds voted as opposed to 50% in 1972. The percentage of young people who vote continues to drop, and community participation among this age group is distinctly apolitical. This is not only a problem confined to young adults, though. Nationwide, voter turnout remains less than half of the population. This does not necessarily reflect a decreased interest in politics. If one holds by the standard that the media only discusses news that interests us, one might think we are engrossed in our political system.
... Sept. Term, A. D. 1870. The People of the State of Illinois to the Superintendent of the Reform School ... law; it commands and protects all. Its declaration of rights is an express limitation of legislative power ... to pay taxes for the support of the government, and constitute a part of the militia, ... be reduced to its original elements, and free government acknowledged a failure. In cases of writs of ...
Everyone seems to have an opinion about our nation and how it should be. Yet voter turnout, our one form of expression about our government, continues to dwindle. Educator Robert Maynard Hutchins warned, “The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference and undernourishment.” There are literally thousands of laws on record within the United States. So many, it is nearly inconceivable that the average American could possibly know them all, or live out his or her life without breaking at least one of them. Yet we are obviously, as voter turnout suggests and Jefferson wrote, “disposed to suffer.” However, Jefferson also warned that this disposition would only reach to a certain point before a people will provide .”..
new guards for their future security.” It does not seem that any revolution is likely to happen in America at any time in the near future. However, if Americans took more of an active role in their government, and learned what principles it was founded upon, perhaps they would be more inclined to change the auspices under which they now live. Many see the American government as too intrusive, much as the Founding Fathers viewed England. The basic premise of the Declaration of Independence is that Governments are put in place to serve the needs of the people and ensure that their basic, inalienable, and undeniable natural rights are protected.
Taken another way, Governments are here to ensure that an individual can do whatever he or she wishes, as long as it does not infringe on the natural rights of another. This line of thought could have plenty of connotations and applications in today’s world. Current event issues such as the legalization of drugs and prostitution would be valid under this theory. In all reality these two illegal acts, no matter how distasteful and immoral, are usually done in private with arguably no immediate effect to the average citizen.
... religion in American life. I find this to be a true and an honorable quality of the American people. However, ... in, What Is an American that we are as Americans today such a diverse people. It is na " ... for so many. For people of that time I think that was what life was about, and embracing ... analyzing these readings and noticing through time the American Dream changes for each person. I look at ...
The concept of Life in Jefferson’s triad reiterates the importance of an individual’s right to lead his or her own life as they choose. Why does this not extend to those who wish to poison their bodies with narcotics or immorally pay for sexual favors? Admittedly, these behaviors are not what much of society would view as desirable, and certainly the majority of the voting public would agree. For the very reasons found in this current debate, everyone within a democracy must allow their voice, and their vote, to be heard. The idea that .”.. all men are created equal,” became the heart and foundation of the American democracy. As President Lincoln would point out in 1861, these words stood as “a maxim for free society…
a stumbling block to all those who in after times might seek to turn a free people back into the hateful path of despotism.” (Munves 128) The Declaration of Independence offers lessons to the entire world even now, two-hundred and twenty four years later. It stands as a definitive work on the subject of government and its role to the people it serves. In addition, it outlines the true duty all men have to themselves and their country. It is the obligation to pursue a good life, the maintenance of his own individual freedom, and the greatest fulfillment of his potential, happiness. Bibliography Adler, Mortimer J. , and William Gorman.
The American Testament. New York: Praeger, 1975. The History Channel. 2000. The History Channel. 8 Dec.
2000 < web >Munves, James. Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence: The Writing and Editing of the Document that marked the Birth of the United States of America. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1976. National Archives and Records Administration. 18 Jul. 2000.
National Archives and Records Administration. 6 Dec. 2000 < web >Office of the Secretary of State. “Center for research on Vermont.” State of Vermont, Deb Markowitz. 6 Dec. 2000.
< web >Wills, Gary. Inventing America: Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence. Garden City: Doubleday, 1978.
... in the preamble - life, liberty, and the pursuit ... to the pursuit of life, liberty, and property (McKay, 524), is clearly stated in both declarations. In the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson used the exact words ...