An extract: – ‘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, –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. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government,
What a powerful statement! This document was put together to explain why the people of the American colony should throw off the yoke of British government. They stated their case and in so doing established a number of principles that are enshrined in democracy.
I find it impossible to identify with the religious part of it. The idea of a creator was indoctrinated into all back then. They effectively lived in a theocracy. So I’ll gloss over that bit.
The things that shine out for me are:
- It is self-evident that all mean are created equal
- All men have rights
- The pursuit of life, liberty and happiness
- Governments job is to help them achieve these rights
- If government is oppressive you have the right to get rid of it
These ideas were powerful and still resonate today. They are enshrined in our democracy but I wonder is there are really any political parties today who think their job is to help people in their pursuit of happiness?
What do you think?