November 6, 2014 / by admin / American History / No Comments

Declaration of Independence: A Study in the History of Political Ideas

Declaration of Independence: A Study in the History of Political Ideas

Language: English

Pages: 316

ISBN: 0394700600

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


The Declaration of Independence

Carl L. Becker's important study is an analysis of the concepts expressed in the Declaration. Here is a lucid explanation of what the Declaration really is, what views it sets forth, where those views arose, and how they have been accepted or modified by succeeding generations. A book that every American should read.

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impressed by Locke’s treatise on civil government and by Rousseau’s Social Contract. What we have to seek is the origin of those common underlying preconceptions that made the minds of many men, in different countries, run along the same track in their political thinking. It is well known that Locke’s treatise, written in reply to Filmer’s Patriarcha, was an apology for the Revolution of 1688. “Kings,” said Filmer, “are as absolute as Adam over the creatures”; and in general the Stuart partisans

support of that conclusion has a wider sweep, the jurisdiction of Parliament being made to depend not merely upon what is “consistent with law,” but equally, and indeed fundamentally, upon what is consistent with “the principles of liberty, and with the happiness of the colonies.” Those who maintain that the Parliament has power to bind the colonies in all cases, says Wilson, are likely to rest their contention upon the statement of Blackstone, “That there is and must be in every state a supreme,

Jefferson wrote it. “And for the support of this Declaration we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.” It is true (assuming that men value life more than property, which is doubtful) that the statement violates the rhetorical rule of climax; but it was a sure sense that made Jefferson place ‘lives’ first and ‘fortunes’ second. How much weaker if he had written “our fortunes, our lives, and our sacred honor”! Or suppose him to have used the word ‘property’

existed prior to the social and political state, and in which men lived apart and independent of each other.” In such a state all men would indeed be free and equal. But such a state is purely hypothetical. It never did, nor can exist; as it is inconsistent with the preservation and perpetuation of the race. It is, therefore, a great misnomer to call it the state of nature. Instead of being the natural state of man, it is, of all conceivable states, the most opposed to his nature — most

together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures. He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people. He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the legislative powers incapable of annihilation have returned to the people at large

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