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As has been pointed out, the Declaration of Independence asserts the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is important to note, too, that these rights are undergirded by another right. This is the right to "alter or to abolish" a government that does not derive from the consent of the governed. The Declaration is careful to point out that this does not mean that people have a right to overthrow a government on a whim, but only after repeated abuses.
This document is often said to derive from Locke's Two Treatises of Government, which argued that people are born with natural rights to life, liberty and ownership of property and that they also have a right to revolt against a government that does not act in their interests. Republicanism, by which is meant a government without a monarch, was in the air as well, popularized by such pamphlets as Thomas Paine's Common Sense. Although to most of us in the United States living in a republic seems as natural as breathing, in the eighteenth century republicanism was considered a radical concept.
The Declaration of Independence is a very important document. It stated that we were now independent of British rule. The Declaration of Independence stated that all people have certain inalienable rights that can’t be taken away or given up. These rights are the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
The writers of the Declaration of Independence stated that it is the job of the government to protect our rights. When the government abuses our rights or takes away our rights the people have no choice but to remove the existing government and replace it with a new one. Since the colonists believed that the British government and King of England were violating our rights and ignoring them, they believed we had no choice but to change governments. Of course, that wasn’t going to happen without a fight. Thus, the Revolutionary War began after the Declaration of Independence was issued.
There are really only three rights listed in the Declaration of Independence. These are the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
The Declaration of Independence was written, in part, to lay out the American rebels’ vision of what government was supposed to do. The Declaration said that government was only legitimate if it existed by the consent of the people it governed. It also said that the only point of government was to protect the fundamental “unalienable” rights that people have simply due to the fact that they are human. This was an idea that Thomas Jefferson (the main author of the Declaration) borrowed from John Locke. Locke had said that people have the right to life, liberty, and property. Jefferson changed that to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
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