What basic ideas about government were in the Declaration of Independence? We the People - Lesson Seven
Writing the Declaration of Independence • Committee organized to write the Declaration of Independence • Thomas Jefferson • Benjamin Franklin • John Adams • Roger Sherman • Robert R. Livingston • Committee deferred writing to Thomas Jefferson • Spent many nights writing and revising. . . • July 4, 1776 - Declaration of Independence signed by members of Congress
Contents of the Declaration • Important in development of our constitutional government • Excellent example of arguments of natural rights philosophy • Written to justify the American Revolution against British • Ideals: one of the best statements of the ideals of our nation • All men are created equal and have certain basic rights • life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness • Arguments: gives reasons why the colonists thought they were justified in breaking away from Great Britain • Complaints: list complaints of the colonists against the king • Conclusion: “. . .That the United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be, Free and Independent States; . . .”
Arguments of the Declaration • Natural law is a higher law than laws made by people • Founders believed rights given by God • Only rightful purpose of government is to protect people’s natural rights • If government violates the natural law, the people have the right to change or abolish the government and form a new one • An agreement existed between the colonists and the king - they consented to be governed by the king as long as he protected their natural rights • No agreement had been made between colonists and Parliament, so Parliament had no right to govern colonies - especially since they didn’t have the right to send representatives to Parliament • King violated agreement with colonists when he worked with Parliament to deprive colonists of their rights, therefore, colonists had the right to withdraw their consent and form their own government • Many complaints against king . . .
Small Group Activity • Examine the Declaration of Independence and select three complaints against the king. • Rewrite the complaint in your own words • Explain the basis of the colonists’ complaint
Seatwork Center Questions • What was the purpose of the Declaration of Independence? • What is the purpose of government as described in the Declaration of Independence? How is this purpose similar to or different from the purpose of government described by the natural rights philosophers? • What does the Declaration say people have a right to do if a government is destructive of their rights? Is this true today? Why or why not? • What do you think was meant by the phrase “all men are created equal”? In 1776, who was included? Who was not?