The Declaration of Independence
Significance: The power of the people can be harnessed and called upon to replace a tyrannical government.
“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.”
Those 111 words set in motion the most profound advancement in history of human relations, and of the world-changing revolution that would produce the first nation born in freedom, to be self-governed by its own citizens. This was a preposterous notion at the time, when government rule was acquired through brute force, scheming and bribery, and average citizens (“subjects”) were always left to fend for the scraps of whatever values their rulers, the “elites”of society, decided to give them – and which could be taken away at any moment, for no reason at all. By signing their names to this document, a direct assault on the established order of things, the fifty-six men who constituted the core of America’s Founding Fathers condemned themselves to be executed, should their Revolution fail.
Read the entire text of the Declaration of Independence here.
Learn about its context and importance, from the U.S. National Archives.
See several well-produced videos about the groundbreaking importance of the Declaration of Independence below.
“America the Story of Us: Declaration of Independence”
(Produced by The History Channel; 4 minutes)
“The Declaration of Independence: Liberty”
(Produced by the Jack Miller Center; 21 minutes)
From JMC: Four leading scholars of American political thought [professors James Ceaser – University of Virginia, Ralph Lerner – University of Chicago, Lorraine Smith Pangle – University of Texas at Austin, and Michael Zuckert – University of Notre Dame] share their insights on the founding generation and the central ideas expressed in the Declaration of Independence. Duke University professor Michael C. Munger anchors the show as a spotlight is shone on the founders’ vision of a free society and the concept of “liberty” as a principle derived from nature – a natural right to liberty. See primary documents referred to in this video here.
“Understanding the Declaration of Independence: 9 Key Concepts”
(Produced by Craig Seibert of U.S. Civics Training; 10 minutes)
A fascinating structural analysis and dissection of the contents of the Declaration of Independence, focusing on specifics words and their meanings, and how, together, these words formed the document that was to change the world.
Reading of the Declaration of Independence by Hollywood celebrities
(Producer unknown; 10 minutes)
A host of celebrities including Mel Gibson, Whoopie Goldberg, Michael Douglas and others perform a live reading of the Declaration of Independence in Independence Hall, Philadelphia, PA.