Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Declaration of Indepedence

The next few works I am reading concern the development of our government in the United States of America.  These include the Declaration of the Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution of the USA and finally the Federalist papers.

I recently finished a biography on one of our founding fathers, John Adams, by Pulitzer Prize winner David McCullough. I highly recommend this book and it has given me a broader perspective into the events that were occurring when these documents were prepared.  I also think I understand the motivations and personalities of the men who contributed to these great works including: James Madison, John Jay, Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson

The Declaration of Independence has its famous and powerful preamble.  The lesser known portion of this document is the list of grievances that follow. The signers cite these as justification for their succession from the oppressive British Empire.  Ironically, the Declaration was heavily influenced by the British.  It is partially modeled after the declaration of Scottish Independence (1320 AD) and reflects thoughts by the British philosopher John Locke.  As  I mentioned in a previous blog post, John Locke advocated that the role of government is to help preserve "Life", "Liberty" and "Property".  That's not quite the same as "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness", but it's close enough for most people.

Continuing with this theme, this statement is worthy of further thought: "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".  What is it that makes these truths self-evident?

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