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By "unalienable rights" Jefferson meant those rights which could not be taken away, or separated from being human. If one is human, one is "endowed by their Creator" with these rights. Jefferson, following English philosopher John Locke, said in the Declaration that these rights included "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Locke, writing near the end of the seventeenth century, had referred to "life, liberty, and property" as the basic rights possessed by all men in the state of nature. In any case, Jefferson went on to write, the purpose of government was to secure, or protect these basic rights, and if a government failed in this role, people were entitled to rid themselves of it, and to replace it with a government that would do so. This, Jefferson and the signers of the Declaration argued, was the situation that confronted them in 1776, and the reason that they were declaring independence. The actions of the British, they argued, had failed to protect these basic rights.
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