The Declaration of Independence and Human Rights

Within the late 1760s and early 1770s, the North American colonists had a strained relationship that seemed to only get worse with the British and the king’s imperial policies of taxing and trading. The colonists attempted to fix the relationship by such things as the Olive Branch Petition. The Olive Branch Petition was approved by the Continental Congress in July of 1775, to try and avert a potential war with Great Britain.

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The Olive Branch Petition secured the colonies allegiance to the British Crown reassuring the king that the colonies did not yet seek independence from Great Britain, while also seeking to reach a negotiation over the unfair trade and tax regulations. The petition discussed options of taxes equal to those living in Great Britain itself, and free trade, or simply no taxes or harsh trade regulations. This petition was delivered to the king in London on July 8, 1775, and When the petition was rejected, a Proclamation for Suppressing Rebellion and Sedition affirmed that the colonies were in the state of rebellion. 1 The bad blood between colonial leaders and the British crown was far too serious to ever return to how life was for them in the past. The king’s rejection of the Olive Branch Petition gave those who wanted a revolution a reason to push for the colonies’ independence, and made many colonists believe that there were two options in the situation: complete independence from Great Britain or complete obedience to the British rule. The colonists felt as if their lives were being deprived as their civil liberties were being taken away, therefore the Continental Congress gained strength every passing day thus, leading to the formation of the Declaration of independence, and heated political arguments focusing on the act of independence itself.2 The United States of America’s founders understood that revolting against the almighty British Crown would raise quite a legal dilemma, however; the colonial leaders understood that the independence was worth the risk. This is one reason why the Continental Congress chose five delegates, including Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams, and gave them the task of designing a formal document confirming the 13 colonies’ break off from Great Britain.

Such a document as this declaration had to be as persuasive as possible to varying parties. Americans would read the document and join the cause, Britons would be sympathetic to the cause and push for royal restraint, and foreign powers would help the colonial militia.

The formal document of rights and grievances is known as the Declaration of Independence, was ratified on July 4, 1776. The men who had signed the Declaration of Independence truly believed that they had legitimized their rebellion, however; the British men and royalty viewed the rebellion as an act of treason against the British.3 One’s belief of the legality of the Declaration of independence lies within his or her view of natural law and physical law. Natural law regards the moral principles and guidelines for all humans, while physical law in this context refers to the legal law under the British Crown. Under the topic of natural law, the Declaration of Independence is unquestionably legal, because government is only set when the people of the land consent to it, and in this case, the colonists did not consent to the actions the government were taking. The Declaration of Independence justified the colonies’ independence from Britain based on the natural law and universal human rights. When human rights are taken out of consideration, the colonies’ independence was technically illegal and subject to treason.

There was no legal confirmation in favor of a group of citizens to establish their own laws due to them wanting to, which is what the colonists did. The Declaration of independence itself appealed to natural law, which to most people had no defined concept of, and to self-truth, which most people often had varying definitions of. Most people may have had differing definitions of human rights, however; it can be agreed that the certain rights were mentioned in the Declaration of Independence should truly never be taken away. The colonists are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.4 These rights were violated by the British crown, therefore making the independence of the colonies justified. When it gets to a point where a group of people are being ignored and are being oppressed by the law, natural law and human rights should come into consideration. As stated in the Declaration of independence itself, the colonists’ repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people. The Declaration of Independence includes a list of grievances that the colonies had repeatedly faced and attempted to reach out to the king in order to find a resolution. The colonies had tried many different peaceful measures that include boycotts, which only ended in more damage and ruling to the colonies.

The people were being oppressed and no actions were taken to improve their situations, the king ignored their resolutions and went on his way. Any king who does not care for the needs of the people he rules over should not have the right to rule. These grievances include such topics as taxation without the colonists’ consent, a lack of colonist representation in the British government, and the right to trial by jury. The stamp act, which taxed newspapers, regular paper, and wills, along with the Townshend acts which taxed tea, glass, paint, and lead did not only regulate trade as British royalty had made it seem.

These taxes were placed on the colonists to benefit England. The colonists were rightfully enraged, considering these taxes were abusing the colonists’ rights as Englishmen due the law of England that made it clear that someone may not have taxes placed upon them if he or she does not have representation in government, straining the relationship between colonists and the mainland. Another excerpt from the Declaration of Independence states that the king, plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people. The colonists were being treated far worse than poorly in their opinion, as the mentioned grievance stated that the king was ruining their towns, their lives, and rights as Englishmen. The rights of the colonists were slowly being stripped away, and they could do nothing to fix that. In a piece from the Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking up Arms the second Continental Congress mentioned that, The parliament can ?of right make laws to bind all cases whatsoever. The British government had the power to make laws so aggressive that the colonies were set under complete control of the British government.

The colonist then had no choice other than to give in to complete rule or to declare their independence. Since the rule under the British king was unjust towards the colonists, they were justified on their action to declare war.5 Any chance they got, the British royalty had centralized the power and every decision to be made was taken into their own hands, while the colonists and little to no ability to oversee or take care of their own legal cases with local and state governments.

Laws were enforced upon the colonists without their consent, leaving them with no say in government at all. Any local laws created to limit harsh and abusive government actions were ignored. 6 Colonists in America did not have easy lives. Most of the colonists’ parents or grandparents came from England around the time of the Declaration of Independence, and had to suffer through horrid winters, unfriendly Native Americans, and harsh foreign encounters. The hardships that the colonists faced on the daily basis supplied them with a stronger bond within each other, and they sought out more freedom while away from the mother country. The colonists yearned for more freedom, however they were constantly being oppressed by the ruling of the king and his laws.

The colonial leaders reached out to the king many times in order to make peaceful negotiations, however their attempts at peace were denied. The colonists had been through many different options to make peace with the king such as boycotts, yet they were ruled over more strictly every time they took the chance. The colonies then had no other option to help themselves before any further unjust actions were taken upon them than to declare their independence. The colonies were just in their actions towards independence, and did not violate any oath they had taken, due to their human rights being stripped away.

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The Declaration Of Independence And Human Rights. (2019, Apr 26). Retrieved December 2, 2022 , from
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