Declaration of Independence a Declaration of Principles

The Declaration of Independence includes what may be the most famous words of the English language: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…”  The Declaration is not merely a declaration of independence but a declaration of principles.  For example the principle that all men are created equal and that if a government is harmful, then the people have the right to overthrow it and make a new one.  In fact the document takes the form of an argument.  Here are the basic steps of the argument it makes:

1.  There are certain human rights that are self evident.
2.  The purpose of government is to preserve these rights.
3.  If  government violates this purpose, the people have a right to cast if off.
4.  Great Britain has violated this purpose.
Therefore: the American people have the right to throw off the British government.

Here is the part of the second paragraph where that argument is set up:

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.

The Declaration’s articulation is so bold that the generations since have been inspired by it.  It quickly became perceived as expressing the fundamental principles that The United States was founded upon.  Lawyer and President Abraham Lincoln argued that the Constitution should be interpreted according to the principles of the Declaration.  And as Egypt struggles today, it remains the principles expressed by our Declaration that are always invoked as the guiding principles for a free people anywhere.  In this historical sense, the United States has remained a philosophical leader in the world.  We still champion these values (though we may also fall short in living up to them in other ways).

And the first signer of the Declaration was Bostonian John Hancock.

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