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According to the Declaration of Independence, where does the government get the power...

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BrittC92 | eNotes Newbie

Posted September 2, 2013 at 11:24 PM via web

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According to the Declaration of Independence, where does the government get the power to govern?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted September 2, 2013 at 11:38 PM (Answer #1)

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According to the Declaration of Independence, the government gets its power to govern from the people that it governs.  As the Declaration says,

Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

This was an idea that derived from Enlightenment thinkers such as John Locke.  These thinkers believed that people had natural human rights that they were born with.  These were rights to such things as their life, their liberty, and their property.  The problem was that, without government, other people could take these things away from them.  People could rob, enslave, or kill others. 

Because of this, people needed to have governments.  What people did was to voluntarily give up some of their rights to a government in return for having their most important rights protected.  A government was only legitimate, Enlightenment thinkers argued, when the people agreed to be ruled by it. 

The writers of the Declaration of Independence borrowed their ideas from Locke and others like him.  Therefore, they believed that government only justly held power if the people consented to give it that power.

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