What does the following text mean:   That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of...

What does the following text mean:  

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

 

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kipling2448 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When drafting the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, as well as those who reviewed and commented on his draft, including Benjamin Franklin and John Adams, recognized that any such declaration of rebellion against the British Crown needed to include the reasons for that rebellion. Support for independence was not unanimous across the colonies, and this was obviously a monumental task being undertaken. A revolt against the Crown and the establishment of an independent nation required careful articulation of the rationale for revolt. Additionally, they recognized the need to provide justification for revolt within the context of what they considered universal rights of freedom. That is the context in which Jefferson opens this seminal passage with the statement that “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.”

Immediately following this declaration of rights is the broad conceptualization of the justification for turning against the British Crown. In this paragraph, Jefferson articulates the conditions under which people are justified in rebelling against their government—conditions that clearly run counter to those universal rights and that are of sufficient gravity as to warrant the actions to be taken (“that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes”). Finally, Jefferson emphasizes that the reasons for rebelling against the Crown must not be considered individually, but rather collectively (“a long train of abuses and usurpations”). In other words, no one grievance in and of itself is sufficient to warrant revolt, but when considered as a pattern of abuse over a protracted period of time, the aggregate effect of these grievances is the establishment of the conditions for revolt. This is the meaning of the passage in the Declaration of Independence.

mrkirschner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This passage is from the Declaration of Independence which was written by Thomas Jefferson.  It was signed on July 4, 1776.  I am not sure what your question was, so I will dissect the different parts and give an explanation for each section.  The Declaration of Independence was the means by which the colonists communicated the rationale for dissolving their relationship with England.  

...That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed... 

This excerpt communicates the colonists belief in popular sovereignty and the idea that governments are formed by people to serve the needs and interests of the people.  In other words, since the citizens create the government, the government is created in their interest.  

...That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it...

This concept from the Enlightenment period is the idea that people have the right and responsibility to replace a government that is tyrannical and oppressive.  The Declaration of Independence also lists the various grievances the colonists held against England.  These grievances form the justification for separation.

and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness

This portion is rather obvious in that if you destroy one system of government, it is necessary to replace it with another form.  This also speaks to the idea of a government that is responsive to the needs of the people.  

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