The Declaration of Independence is one of the most important documents in American history. Drafted by Thomas Jefferson and ratified by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, the document laid out, in forceful detail, the basic rights of a governed people and the many reasons for American colonists to sever ties with Great Britain. In the last section of the text, Jefferson restates his crucial thesis -- that Americans have a right to a free, independent and sovereign state.
Restating the Rights of a Free People
The Declaration of Independence famously begins by establishing the equality and unalienable rights of all men. In the second paragraph, Jefferson asserts that a government’s role is to protect and facilitate the happiness of its citizens, deriving power solely from the consent of the governed. He argues that tyranny necessitates revolution “whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government.” In the last paragraph, Jefferson restates this central idea in stark, political terms: “That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be, Free and Independent States,” and thus have power to “levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.”
- The Federalist: A Commentary on the Constitution of the United States: Appendices; Robert Scigliano, editor
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