Analyze the first two paragraphs of the Declaration of Independence and highlight two ideas from the text that contextualize the thoughts about liberalism, republicanism, the Enlightenment, and revolution during that time.

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Liberalism implies that man has rights. The Declaration of Independence mentions one's right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." This is only a small change from John Locke's concept that one has a right to life, liberty, and property. Jefferson also invokes the laws of Nature and Nature's...

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Liberalism implies that man has rights. The Declaration of Independence mentions one's right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." This is only a small change from John Locke's concept that one has a right to life, liberty, and property. Jefferson also invokes the laws of Nature and Nature's God, thus stating that these laws come from a greater source than any leader on Earth.

Republicanism refers to the people's responsibility in governing themselves. Jefferson states that government exists by the consent of the governed. Jefferson also states that "all men are created equal," though he meant it differently than how modern readers interpret the document.

One of the highlights of the Enlightenment is the focus on rational thought. Jefferson states that Parliament has been quite abusive toward American rights, and this is the reason behind the document. Jefferson even states that he has proof of these abuses.

The entire declaration is quite incendiary when it comes to the call for revolution. Within the first few lines, Jefferson states that it has become necessary to dissolve the ties between Britain and the colonies. He also states that the people have a right to "alter or to abolish" the government that does not preserve their basic rights. Jefferson does advise caution, because the first sentence after this famous line begins with "prudence"; this means that revolution is a serious step that should not be taken lightly.

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Liberalism: Ideologically speaking, you can find liberalism in any references to liberty and freedom. The Declaration features several references to individual liberty, or … “Rights… that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Republicanism: Ideologically speaking, you can find references to republican ideals in references to the idea that the people are the true power in any legitimate government. Jefferson mentions this when he says that “Governments… [derive] their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Enlightenment: The Enlightenment philosophy of the social contract is evident in the balance of power Jefferson spends the first two paragraphs explaining. Because man consents to be governed, he is willing to put up with a certain amount of grievances, and to submit to certain laws with the understanding that they will protect his own safety and future happiness. He therefore enters into a contract with the government, where the government promises to protect his rights in return for his peaceable behavior and service. However, when the government does not uphold their end of this social contract, you get….

Revolution: Jefferson mentions that revolution is not only preferable to the unjustly governed, but it is “their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

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The first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence has to do with the ideas of inalienable rights or natural rights, a core idea of the Enlightenment. Inalienable rights, referred to in the first paragraph of the document as "the laws of nature and Nature's God," are the rights people are born with that cannot be taken away. This is also the core of liberalism, the philosophy that people are entitled to certain liberties. 

In the second paragraph, Jefferson, the author of the document, refers to these rights as "unalienable," and describes them as "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." He then writes that governments derive their right to exist from those they govern. This is a reference to the social contract, another Enlightenment idea, which states that governments must have the consent of those they govern. It also states that people can overthrow their government and start a revolution when they do not give this consent to their government, because the government has not protected their inalienable or natural rights. 

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