Explain how the Declaration of Independence preserved individual rights and formed a strong and long lasting union.   

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The Declaration of Independence was a document with global significance because it asserted that all men have rights simply as a consequence of their humanity. This is what was meant by "unalienable rights." The rights to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" were common to all people and could...

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The Declaration of Independence was a document with global significance because it asserted that all men have rights simply as a consequence of their humanity. This is what was meant by "unalienable rights." The rights to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" were common to all people and could not be taken away. In an American context, this meant that people had rights not by virtue of their membership in a society (like, for example, the rights of British subjects), but as a result of simply being people. To the extent that the American republic was actually founded on these ideals, American citizens had a different relationship to their government than peoples around the world. Their government existed, at least in theory, for the purpose of maintaining their rights. These ideals were enshrined in state constitutions first and then in the Bill of Rights after the ratification of the Constitution. 

Of course, the United States did not live up to these ideals for most of its history. The rights of African Americans in particular were not preserved by the government made possible by the Declaration of Independence. Additionally, the Constitution that established the federal government gave official support to the systematic injustice that was perpetrated against African Americans. As a result, it is perhaps more accurate to say, as Martin Luther King did in his speech at the March on Washington in 1963, that the Declaration of Independence was a "promissory note." It promised liberties, but did not redeem them except through further struggle. As for a "strong and lasting union," it is important to remember that "four score and seven years" after the Declaration was issued, the United States was torn apart in a civil war that was, to some extent, fought over competing interpretations of the nature of its promises.

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We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed

With these statements in the opening portion of the Declaration of Independence, the colonists describe the importance of individual liberty and the rights of the governed.  Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, would state that when political leaders do not provide for these individual freedoms, the citizens have the duty and right to call for a new government.  The colonists had repeatedly petitioned England to reform their practices toward the colonists, the demands were ignored.  This is the crux of Jefferson's argument for dissolution with England.  The individual and collective liberties that governments were meant to provide were not being met.

As for the unity of the nation, the Declaration of Independence was also an important step.  The thirteen colonies, to that point in time, were very different from one another.  They had different cultures, commercial interests, and histories.  The Declaration of Independence acted as a statement of shared concern.  The grievances listed in the document were shared by all of the colonies.  Consider the following passage:

That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved;

The language of that statement is clear:  the colonies are now to be united in the cause of creating an independent political entity in the New World.  

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