American Values of the Declaration of Independence
In 1776, a semi-unified country signed one of the most important documents in history. Since then the nation has shown signs of how different the country was from 1776 to the present. The Declaration of Independence is based on the social contract theory of government and is focused on equality, freedom, and power.These values have been both supported and contradicted in American history (Jefferson, pg.443).
In the declaration, Jefferson states that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” (Jefferson, pg.443). This speaks directly to the humanist theory of social contract that was prevalent at the time. One of the greatest political philosophers of the time was a man named John Locke. His ideas on governance were that no government could be effective without the consent of the governed and that should a government ever abuse its power “they break their contract with the people and therefore no longer enjoy the consent of the governed” and it is the right of the people to overthrow it (O’Connor &Sabato, pg. 9). When Jefferson explained that “these united colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent states” (Jefferson, pg.446), his intent was to make clear that they would no longer look to another nation for guidance and support; that America would be its own sovereign nation from that moment on.
One of the most contradictory aspects of the Declaration of Independence was its stance on the equality of man. Jefferson speaks candidly about it but what he refrains from discussing is the institution of slavery. The inconsistency of the two ideas almost screams off the page. It is not simply a forgotten issue on Jefferson’s part. He knew well that slavery was a problem in a nation he was purporting to be filled with equal men. Unfortunately the resolution to...
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