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, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
!. We hold these truths to be self-evident.
I love these words. There is no modern day liberal ambiguity here. The Founding Fathers acknowledge that there are certain truths that are self-evident. If something is self-evident it is without argument. It is self-evident that the sun is shining on a cloudless day and that a cow is a cow.
2.That all men are created equal.
Although America was a patriarchal society at the time I believe that Jefferson meant that all mankind was created equal. Not just men but women. In John Lockes 2nd Treatise of government Locke was not including chattel slavery when he stated that all men were created equal. Jefferson on the other hand was including free blacks and slaves when he said that all men were created equal. He knew that the society and culture of his time was not prepared to grant that freedom in 1776 but his words was a promise that he hoped would be attainable in some future generation. Lincoln referred to it in his speeches and especially in the Gettysburg Address as a New Birth of Freedom. Martin Luther King referred to that promise in his I have a Dream speech.
3. And they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.
I guess we could call the use of the word unalienable a 1776 typo. The correct word should be inalienable. This I think is what really makes America exceptional. An inalienable right is a right given by God. The state has no legal right to deny a person of their inalienable rights. For example the rights that are guaranteed under the Bill of Rights are inalienable rights. The state cannot deny a person their right to free speech and assembly. Freedom of religion and the right to bear arms. Since God grants these rights only God can remove them. An alienable right is a right given by the state and it can be taken away by the state. For example the right to drive a car is an alienable right.
4. That among these are, Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
John Locke described it as Life, Liberty, and Property. The idea of life and liberty needs no explanation in my mind. However the pursuit of happiness is a broader term for property. Property had a broader meaning in 1776. There is much debate over what Jefferson really meant. Some have thought that it could be the right to seek wealth and status. The following is from a web site called Dictionary.com. The term happiness comes from the Old Norse term happ meaning “luck” or “chance.” It’s also related to the Old English word hæpic meaning “equal.” While early senses of happiness dating from the 1500s are still very much in use, such as “good luck,” “success,” and “contentment,”
5. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,
There is a lot of meat here. Philosophers of this period used a theoretical model called a state of nature. In this state mankind had total freedom. Total freedom leads to chaos. So government was established by the people to bring about order so as to secure their rights. They gave up some of their rights in order to secure most of their rights. However this government must be validated by the people. They must give their direct or tacit consent.For example those people that are alive when a government is formed give their direct consent. Those that are born after a government is formed give their tacit consent. Tacit consent is given when a citizen votes, serves in the military, runs for political office or says the Pledge of Allegiance. These are just a few of the many ways that a person gives their tacit consent.
6. 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.
This is one reason that we have a Second Amendment. It is not a right that is given to us by government. We are born with it. The meaning of the Second Amendment is two fold. Mankind has the right to defend themselves and their families. Also they have the right to alter or abolish their government if it becomes despotic. John Locke said that when the thief binds you up he not only has it in his power to rob you of your liberty but he can rob you of your life. Sometimes government becomes the thief. Government becomes the thief by usurping or stealing powers that it doesn't rightfully possess. For example when it limits our freedom of speech, religion , or limits our right to be armed. Takes away the right of Habeas Corpus, reasonable searches, trial by jury, and on and on. When the Supreme Court legislates from the bench rather the allowing the legislature, or the amendment process to work Or the President when he uses a pen and a phone to sign executive orders. Also bypassing the legislature and amendment process.
7. 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, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
Jefferson believed that there should be a revolution every twenty years or so. The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. However this part of the Declaration is advising patience and long suffering before you should engage in revolution. After a long train of abuses and usurpations it is not only your right but your duty to alter or abolish your government. There must be an attempt at a redress of grievances however and a case must be built for revolution. The Declaration goes on to list the crimes committed by King George III. I believe that based on our Declaration of Independence America is long overdue for a revolution. The various branches of government have usurped our inalienable rights for many years now. This usurpation has led to tyranny. The process started long before Obama although nobody has been more hostile to the philosophy of our Founding Fathers and the Declaration of Independence than Barack Hussein Obama.
The Declaration however is the very basis of our Constitution and the American way of life This is what makes us truly exceptional. Abraham Lincoln revered the Founding Fathers and the Declaration of Independence. Lincoln said the following: The truths of the Declaration are eternally relevant, a perpetual call to honor liberty and the dignity of the individual. The Fourth of July weekend, in short, should never be a day just for burning firecrackers