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...

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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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.