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Political Theory Of The Declaration Of Independence

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The Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson shortly before the American Revolution, expresses far more than a list of complaints leveled at the British monarchy. After discussing the main points of the document in committee, Jefferson delved into the significant political writings of his time. Jefferson's Declaration combines elements of two other works with a new political theory with the intention of justifying the pursuit of independence to the rest of the Western world. He touches on human nature and the teleological end of both individuals and governments. He lays out the grounds for governmental authority as it connects to political representation. He relates all these concepts to one another, creating a system of government that corrects its own mistakes. Thomas Jefferson's political theory as outlined in the Declaration of Independence continues to influence political thought around the world, centuries after it fulfilled its original purpose.

Jefferson begins the document by making several claims that serve as the foundation for his political theory. He states that some Creator granted all humans the right to "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness." People have a right, simply by existing, to live without fear of death and to act without restraint according to their own motives. Any attempt to limit or remove these rights constitutes a crime against nature or the Creator itself. By establishing this context, Jefferson justifies the defense of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Because humans naturally possess these rights, a government cannot grant them. Instead, the role of government is to defy nature and place boundaries on the rights. By limiting those behaviors generally considered "bad," a government prevents a person from using his or her rights to infringe upon someone else's. Government serves to protect natural rights by providing for their common defense. Natural rights in Jefferson's theory justify the existence of government and define its purpose in relation to the people.

According to the Declaration, all governmental authority derives from the "Consent of the Governed." With this statement, Jefferson establishes accountability: a government that lacks the support of the people has no authority to act on their behalf. The public, judging the success or failure of its government, possesses a right "to alter or abolish it," in favor of a government more able to protect the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Jefferson expects the government to undergo constant positive alteration in this way, according to the judgments of the people. The process resembles that of the scientific method, which greatly influenced Jefferson and his contemporaries. After identifying a problem, the people rescind their consent and the government's authority to act on their behalf. They change the government until they approve of it and authority



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