The Declaration of Independence is one of the most well known documents that Americans know of today, this document has been the source behind many great achievements, not only in 1776 but those 2018. The primary purpose of the Declaration was not to declare the colonists independence, but to proclaim to the other countries the reasons behind declaring independence. The Framers wanted to invite the world to hear what they had to say about their ties with Britain.
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The Declaration of Independence has impacted everyone’s lives on a daily basis, this document is the reason people can live in harmony, it creates a balance between the people and what they want in government. David Armitage said in his article that the audience of the Declaration is mankind (Armitage). The Framers not only had to include those who might have been cast offs with their former alliances to the British crown (Armitage).
The Declaration tells the world what the Framers believed was the proper way to govern people, while not everything that comes out of the document leads to prosperity immediately, it created the basis of the United State, providing the future with a chance to come along and make changes. This document was intended to lay out the causes which compelled the colonies to declare independence from Great Britain. To show that they were serious about gaining their freedom, and stating they were prepared to backup their claims they made against Great Britain. This document had a huge effect, not only in the seventeen hundreds, but into today.
While making the Declaration, several key concepts were invented to protect the people such as having natural rights, establishing universal truths when they didn’t have them before, the knowledge of who was in control of the county also known as popular sovereignty and lastly social contract theory. These concepts were a peaceful way of making the colonies a country and being able to adapt as a country overtime, with the encouragement of change and growth of the people.
The Framers drafted the Declaration during the American Revolution. During this time there was a revolt of Britain’s thirteen American colonies against rule of the British Crown. According to the Big Ideas Simply Explained: The Politics Book, by Dorling Kindersley Publishing, explains the reasoning that the Framers had for wanting to abolish ties with Britain (Dorling Kindersley Publishing 157). The book explains that by 1763 the British had won a series of wars against France for possession of the colonies (Dorling Kindersley Publishing 157). These wars eventually depleted the British funds, since the huge cost of the wars (Dorling Kindersley Publishing 157). The Parliament needed to come up with money; they achieved this by taxing the Framers. The Framers did not like this, so they protested in Boston, against taxation without representation which led to British military intervention (Dorling Kindersley Publishing 157), and in turn spiraled into war.
It wasn’t until the First Continental Congress of 1774, that the Framers demanded that they have their own parliament; then a year later, at the Second Congress, King George III spurning all of their demands, the Framers, finally, pushed for total independence from Britain (Dorling Kindersley Publishing 157). The main issues the Framers has with Britain were trade and taxes placed on goods so that the colonies had to pay for the cost of Empire (Dorling Kindersley Publishing 157). Britain was deeply in debt and as such, the king wanted to impose on the colonies in the way of taxes to alleviate some of the costs, while contributing more to the common security of Great Britain. Carl Lotus Becker claims that the Framers wanted to justify to the world the reasons for removing ties with Britain (Becker 7). Becker was an American historian that was mostly known for his work on early American intellectual history and on the 18th-century Enlightenment. He believes that the Declaration’s statement of causes is not the record of what the king had done, meaning the list they provided is not everything that the king has done, but rather a list they they need to have assessed by the king of Great Britain so that the form of indictment, could be what the Framers needed to clear the themselves of all responsibility (Becker 7).
The Declaration was a sly way of making the Framers not rebellions. In the eyes of large countries, rebellion is always serious (Becker 7). What the Framers needed was a place for rebellion, they needed a theory of government that provided rebellion and make it respectable (Becker 7). The Framers knew this, so they made that possible with a government that could be modified over time so that the people can always come first. The Declaration was to present their causes in a way as to flaunt moral and legal justifications for its own rebellion (Becker 7). Before announcing the specific grievances against the king, Jefferson formulates a philosophy which the case of the Framers solidly rest (Becker 7). One that affirms the right of a people to establish and overturn its own government for the new philosophy (Becker 7).
When the Framers were deciding what they wanted the United States to be, they needed to find a common ground between themselves, so that they could formulate the new government. They did that by understanding and implementing universal truths, the meaning of the word truth is a statement of which the content corresponds to the world around them. If the word universal means always and never ending; then a Universal Truth is a statement that will always and forever be a statement that reflects the reality. This was the basis the Framers used when creating the the United States. They wanted to make rules and regulations that would better the people, but to do this they needed to have rules that everyone would agree to. This would create a social contract.
The Politics Book points out that, when deciding what the Framers wanted, they would look back to the history of the world. When searching they would find monarchies and corrupt governments that were governing over unequal societies (Dorling Kindersley Publishing 156). Meaning that the Framers knew that the government that was right for them excluded most forms of unequally so the solution that Thomas Jefferson and other intellectuals, looked to thinkers such as the liberal philosopher John Locke. Locke studied the need the government had to hold a social contract with the governed, and studied how that could affect the rights of humanity. The Declaration of Independence marked a break between the a newly way of thinking and the older thoughts that were not incompatible with the new thinking of all men are created equal and to transgress their inalienable rights (Dorling Kindersley Publishing 155). The Declaration formed the basis of the new contract theory. This new theory contained the rights of the people and in theory made everyone equal.
When reading the Declaration, it claims everyone has natural rights. To explain what a right is, it is a claim that a person may make against someone else who would have taken something that does not belong to them. A right is something that can be earned such as a voting right, it is something that comes with age. You can be born with rights, or you acquire it by marriage. So this can be many different things, for example if you have something, like your backpack or your cell phone, then you own them, and have a right to them. They are yours, if someone steals from you, then you have a legitimate argument against that person. They owe you, your possessions back or better yet they had the responsibility to have not have taken it in the first place. With a right explained, a natural right, is a claim to what one rightfully owns by birth. This is best explained with rights that cannot be taken away such as the rights to live peacefully and in turn make a living. One example is when the parents of someone die, usually the children have a natural right to the belongings that the parents have acquired. This right is given to you because the owner of the belongings is gone and so you are the next person that can take it.
It is from this philosophy that the phrase all men created equal came from. Augustine Peter Lawler is a Political Philosophy and American Politics Professor, in his paper he says that even though the government is limited by the personal progress toward wisdom and virtue, or the the struggle between the value of the person versus the nation (Lawler). He says that particular individuals that are open to the truth about who they are as free and relational beings can create a pathway for others do do as well (Lawler 85). The American devotion to justice does not require money, land or resources, but our personal content in the name of liberty (Lawler 85). It’s our understanding of theses notions that affirms the dignified personal significance of beings who have achieved freedom from government, the freedom of families, and freedom of the church (Lawler 85). The truths announced in the Declaration are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Meaning that the people believe they are entitled to unalienable rights that no one can take away, along with the rights to have a peaceful life without the fear of having their lives upturned because of something out of their control. Now they have a solid backing of the Declaration of Independence to affirm what they believe to be important parts of life.
As the Framers were making the laws and regulations, there were times when they needed a new policy. When these times arose, it was questioned whether the people should get to decide for themselves whether their states would enter the Union as free or slave states. This is known today as popular sovereignty. Popular sovereignty would be defined as the supreme power, authority, or national control over a country’s territory. One example of this is when Anne Elizabeth Reese claims that in order to protect the state sovereignty, the contemporary way of reading the declaration known as textualism, has reinforced the Tenth Amendment (Reese). However, the textualists have overlooked the Tenth Amendment final four words, which reserve powers to the people (Reese). By ignoring the people in the Tenth Amendment, Americans have ignored a vital structure of protection against the federal and state pressure in America (Reese). What she is saying is that, in order to fully cover one aspect of the written doctrine, we miss a completely different part of the text. When writing the Declaration, they most likely didn’t think that we would take each word under a microscope, but to be able to read and understand who has the rights and what they believe everyone is born with. This is connected with popular sovereignty because when government gets their powers from the people, it is also ingrained that this concept should also provide that the government should be in alive and flourishing, and while doing so should fulfill the government’s purpose of benefiting the citizens.
If government is not taking every action that is necessary in protecting the people, when the whole belief in the government is to benefit the citizens is nonsense and we should redo our philosophy. When the government ceases to doing everything it can to protect it people should be to disbanded. This is what Jefferson was saying in the opening paragraph of the Declaration, when he provides the reasons for its publication. He wanted the government to be active in the country but not to the point that it was stripping the people from their rights.
When understanding social contract theory, it is the compilation of all our basic or natural duties that Robert Grant defines to be social contract theory. Grant, says that the social contract is that fundamental compact that consists of the rules imposing basic duties, assigning rights, and distributing the benefits of political, social, and economic cooperation, unanimously agreed to by reasonable people in a state of perfect equality and absolute impartiality (Grant). This is not the result of a historical event; it is the result of rational and legal analysis and hypothesis, in other words this is a huge achievement in the culture, but not the turning point (Grant). This is where everyone agrees to the stipulations on this area of land. There are basic duties and natural duties since they arise from our nature as human beings, natural duties are not perfected until we form ourselves into social groups, duties are relationships (Grant). Human rights are universal since the reciprocal basic natural duties established by the social contract are general in their application to all people and at all times (Grant).
The ideal of full human equality has been an ongoing challenge that not only the Framers of the Declaration had to face, but for the people of today. Throughout several generations, the nation has accepted some of its faults and we have achieved a new era of equality. The Framers did not see equality as a positive social goal, since, they never addressed this a notion to change the lives of the minority’s. Nevertheless, through the creation of the Declaration of Independence we, as a notion have created equality among all men and women. This was not done lightly, nothing happened overnight but the minority has overcome many great struggles, with the backing of the Declaration of Independence. Overtime we can see the effects that Jefferson’s words when he wrote the first sentence written in the Preamble: We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal.
Throughout recent history we have accomplished so many different changes, from the freedom of slaves, establishing equal voting rights, and advance as a society, to better the equality among men and women. Today women have been given every opportunity that men are now given and are truly equal among men. The words that were written in the seventeen hundreds still stand today, and might even be even more powerful. The people being oppressed today have a longer and harder road to follow to gain the same rights, so makes the declaration even more powerful because we see the language being used and as a nation take up the issue get addressed. Since this was not the original purpose of the Declaration, when the Framers did not have quite that radical an agenda. There was the possibility for social changes was certainly discussed in 1776, but nothing like the changes the declaration has stated. Since the Framers were on the radical side of philosophy with their belief of “it is the right of the people to alter or abolish” their government, the Framers wanted a new government idea where, in that government the people held the rights to what that country would govern. The new government would let the people reject a monarchy and replace it with a republican government, making this a huge cultural change. While the Declaration did not initially lead to equality for all, it created a pathway that allowed the start of equality for all.
To conclude, the Declaration has been used by the people of the United States, this document is meant to change with the people. The Framers made this important document that will always be valued in America, so that future generations will be able to learn and adapt. This document lets people be who they are be able to have rights for that. In the time since the Declaration has been written, the several key radical concepts that were invented for people such as having natural rights, establishing universal truths, popular sovereignty and social contract theory, have impacted so many people. Not only does this document tell the world what the Framers were thinking when they declared from Britain, it tells the future generations what is not acceptable. These concepts were important in the years after the Framers wrote them because whenever we as a country need change, there is an achievable way to make it happen.
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