According to the Declaration of Independence, what should people do when the government abuses its power?

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mkoren's profile pic

mkoren | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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The Declaration of Independence is very clear about what rights all people have and what they should do when those rights aren’t being protected. According to the Declaration of Independence, all people have certain unalienable rights. These rights include the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These rights can’t be taken away or given up. It is the job of the government to protect the people’s rights.

According to the Declaration of Independence, the people have no choice but to replace a government that isn’t protecting their rights. Since the colonists believed the King was abusing his powers and wasn’t responding to their concerns about this, the colonists had to replace the existing government with a new government that would protect their rights. As a result, the colonists declared their independence from Great Britain.

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pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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According to the Declaration of Independence, when the government abuses its power, the people should change it or even overthrow it.  As the Declaration says, “it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it.”

The Declaration of Independence says that the purpose of government is to preserve people’s natural rights.  People have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  The government is given power by the consent of the people.  The people give government power so that it can protect those fundamental rights.  If the government does things that take away our fundamental rights, it is abusing its power.  In that case, it is our right to either change the government (“to alter” it) or overthrow it (“to abolish it”).

The Founders believed strongly in the idea that government should protect the fundamental rights of its citizens.  If it abused its powers instead of using them to protect its people’s rights, the people had the right to abolish or alter the government.

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