The Declaration of Independence

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Essay on Declaration of Independence

The 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence, what was to become one of the most important and influencial documents in history, agreed to "mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor." Apparently these men were quite serious to their cause, for they all knew they were committing treason.

Fundamentally the Declaration of Independence is at the same time a statement of intent to renounce British rule over the colonies and an argument justifying that intent. The justification for why the colonies had chosen to break with England lies in the philosophical position that human beings -- commoner and king alike -- are first bound by "the laws of nature" and that these natural laws should preempt the traditional notions of sovereign rule by divine right. This natural law theory is predicated on various far-reaching assumptions or "self-evident truths."

The most important assumptions made by the Declaration of Independence are that all men are created equally; that all men have the absolute right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness"; that government is a social contract between the governing body and the people who are governed; that society consents to the formation of government in exchange for governmental protection of the rights of individuals within that society; and finally that if society withdraws its consent, the government can be replaced.

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Between the American colonies and Britain specifically, if the British government fails to protect the absolute rights of the colonists by denying them life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness, then the British government has breeched its social contract and the consent of the colonies to be governed by Britain may be withdrawn. Once colonial consent to be governed by the British is withdrawn, that government can be replaced.

The Declaration of...
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