Essay Outline For The Declaration Of Independence
Boyd (editor of the massive Princeton edition of ) proposed a different theory: “This alteration may possibly have been made by the printer [John Dunlap] rather than at the suggestion of Congress.”Fortunately for my purpose here, this minor mystery is of no consequence.Both “inalienable” and “unalienable” were used throughout the eighteenth century; they were merely variant spellings of the same word.The first part of the second paragraph, as painstakingly reconstructed by Carl Becker in 1922 (We hold these truths to be sacred & undeniable; that all men are created equal & independant, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent & inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, & liberty, & the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these ends, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government shall become destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, & to institute new government, laying it’s foundation on such principles & organizing it’s powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.We have here a brilliantly concise statement of what historians call “Real” (or “Radical”) Whig ideology, a libertarian political philosophy commonly associated with John Locke.Therefore, there can be no excuse for the violation of inalienable rights.This is the crucial bright-line test that enables us to distinguish the incidental or well-intentioned violation of rights, which even just governments may occasionally commit, from the deliberate and inexcusable violations of a tyrannical government.
Lee’s resolution for American Independence passed on July 2 (not July 4).
A man can no more transfer his inalienable rights than he can transfer his moral agency, his ability to reason, and so forth.
This means that inalienable rights could never have been transferred to government in a social contract, so no government can properly claim jurisdiction over them.
This argument from inalienable rights was important because of an ambiguity in traditional social contract theory.
The social contract was more of a theoretical construct than a historical reality, so disagreements inevitably raged over which rights had been delegated to government and which rights had not.
That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.