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  • - [Instructor] On July fourth, 1776,

  • the delegates to the Second Continental Congress

  • approved the Declaration of Independence.

  • We know parts of it very well.

  • For example,

  • "We hold these truths to be self-evident,"

  • "that all men are created equal."

  • The Declaration of Independence was really the

  • point of no return

  • for the young United States of America,

  • making an appeal to the rest of the world,

  • to say that their time as a colony of the United Kingdom

  • had ended.

  • The principle author of the Declaration of Independence

  • was this man here, Thomas Jefferson.

  • I tried to find a picture of him as a young man.

  • In fact, at the time,

  • he was about 10 years younger than you even see him here.

  • He was 33.

  • Where did young Thomas Jefferson get all of the ideas

  • that he expressed in the Declaration of Independence,

  • and what happened to those ideas,

  • once he put them down on paper?

  • In this video,

  • I'd like to explore some of the origins

  • and effects of the Declaration of Independence.

  • We often think that the Revolutionary War started

  • with the Declaration of Independence.

  • We think of 1776 as being this

  • opening moment of the Revolution.

  • In fact, parts of the Revolutionary War had been going on

  • for some time.

  • It was in 1765, more than a decade earlier,

  • that some of the first unrest over taxation,

  • specifically the Stamp Act, had begun.

  • In 1773, the famous Boston Tea Party,

  • when a group of colonists dumped over 300 crates of tea

  • into Boston Harbor had happened.

  • In 1775, over a year before the Declaration of Independence,

  • the first shots

  • of the Revolutionary War had taken place outside Boston,

  • at the towns of Lexington and Concord.

  • By the time the delegates had met in Philadelphia,

  • the Revolutionary War had been a shooting war

  • for more than a year.

  • Why was it that in July of 1776,

  • the delegates finally made the Declaration of Independence?

  • The primary reason that they did it at this time,

  • was because they wanted help,

  • and they were particularly eager to get the assistance

  • of the nation of France,

  • which had been a long time enemy of the United Kingdom,

  • and the delegates really knew that the new

  • United States of America would have no hope of winning

  • a war against a massive imperial power like Great Britain,

  • without the help of another world power, such as France.

  • In a way, what Jefferson was doing in the

  • Declaration of Independence,

  • wasn't so much declaring, but rather explaining

  • why the states were declaring themselves independent,

  • with the hope that they could get the sympathy

  • and the help of the international community.

  • Let's read some of the Declaration of Independence.

  • I know that this is a gigantic block of text here,

  • but bear with me.

  • We'll grow through it fairly quickly.

  • "The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen"

  • "United States of America."

  • You'll notice here that he specifically points out

  • that there are 13 United States.

  • This is important, because it gives you a sense that

  • they aren't really thinking of the individual former

  • colonies, now states, as one larger country,

  • but rather as a collection of states,

  • a confederation of allied states,

  • instead of a single nation.

  • "When in the course of human events it becomes necessary"

  • "for one people to dissolve the political bands"

  • "which have connected them with another"

  • "and to assume among the powers of the Earth,"

  • "the separate and equal"

  • "station to which the laws of nature,"

  • "and of nature's God entitle them."

  • "A decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires"

  • "that they should declare the causes which impel them"

  • "to the separation."

  • Here's this explanation part,

  • saying, we feel it necessary to explain why we want to

  • separate from Great Britain.

  • "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."

  • I think this might be the most important passage

  • of the Declaration of Independence,

  • and let me tell you why.

  • In this paragraph, you can really see the

  • influence of the Enlightenment on Jefferson's thought.

  • The Enlightenment was a period in the 1600s and 1700s,

  • when people began to explore

  • scientific observation

  • and reason.

  • They became more interested in observing the world

  • around them, and trying to make

  • reasoned arguments from what they saw,

  • as compared to accepting the religious explanations

  • for how the world worked.

  • During the Enlightenment, many philosophers began to

  • rethink government as well,

  • and of questioning whether the governmental system

  • in Europe and other places was the right system.

  • There was one philosopher, in particular,

  • who really captured Jefferson's imagination,

  • and his name was John Locke.

  • John Lcoke was an English philosopher,

  • who had lived in the 1600s,

  • and he wrote a book that had really influenced

  • Jefferson and many thinkers in this time period,

  • called Two Treatises on Government.

  • There are two really important points in Locke's work.

  • One was the idea of natural rights.

  • What Locke meant by natural rights,

  • are rights that were endowed by nature,

  • that all people were born with.

  • If you think about Europe in this time period,

  • there was a sense that some people were born with

  • more rights than others.

  • In fact, there was the idea of the Divine Right of Kings,

  • that the king,

  • or monarch of any sort,

  • had been born the king because God wanted that

  • person to rule.

  • Locke rejects that.

  • He says when people are born,

  • they're all born the same,

  • and they all have rights that can't be given away,

  • that are unalienable,

  • and those are life,

  • liberty,

  • and property.

  • Sounds pretty familiar, doesn't it?

  • The other important idea that Locke had,

  • was the idea of the Social Contract.

  • The idea of the Social Contract was that,

  • government came from the people,

  • that society members got together,

  • and agreed on what the forms of government should be,

  • so that the only just government,

  • was one that took into account the opinions

  • of the people who live within it.

  • You see that here, too.

  • "Governments are instituted among men,"

  • "deriving their just powers from"

  • "the consent of the governed."

  • There's a third thing that Locke suggests that

  • Jefferson also gets at,

  • which is that when governments become tyrannical,

  • when they do not abide by the Social Contract,

  • it is the right of the people to rebel.

  • All right, back to the Declaration.

  • Most of the rest of the Declaration is just a list

  • of grievances of what the King has done

  • to the colonies that has made them very angry.

  • This is an extremely abridged list of them.

  • I highly recommend you read the entire Declaration,

  • 'cause I think it gives you a really good sense

  • of what the colonists were thinking at this time period.

  • Here are some of the highlights.

  • Jefferson says that the

  • "King has kept among us, in times of peace,"

  • "standing armies without the consent of our legislatures."

  • Those are the British regulars who have been stationed in

  • North America for a long time.

  • "For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world."

  • The Navigation Acts, that said the colonies

  • could only trade with Great Britain.

  • "For imposing taxes on us, without our consent."

  • The idea of taxation without representation,

  • which really motivated the colonists to rebel.

  • And so forth and so on.

  • Now, it's worth noting that the Declaration of Independence,

  • as an explanation hoping to get France on the side

  • of the new United States,

  • worked very well.

  • The United States allied with France,

  • which led them to win the Revolutionary War in 1783.

  • As we close, it's worth pondering,

  • what it was that Thomas Jefferson

  • really meant by the phrase,

  • "All men are created equal."

  • The Revolutionary War didn't abolish slavery

  • in the United States.

  • In fact, Jefferson himself owned over 100 enslaved

  • people of African descent.

  • When Jefferson said, "All men are created equal,"

  • was he thinking only of all white men?

  • Was he thinking only of elite white men?

  • After all, after the Revolution,

  • only a handful of propertied elite men could vote.

  • But then, there's this larger idea here.

  • He's saying that your ordinary man wasn't born

  • any different than someone who was born a king,

  • so why should someone who was born black

  • be different than someone who was born white?

  • It's hard to imagine how Jefferson separated those things

  • in his mind.

  • Certainly, others at the time period,

  • realized that there was an inherent contradiction

  • between slavery,

  • and also between the rights of women,

  • and the idea that all men are created equal.

  • Over time, the rhetoric of the Declaration of Independence

  • would go on to spur many different movements for

  • independence and civil rights.

  • The most notable of which being the French Revolution,

  • which took much of its rhetoric from the

  • American Revolution.

  • Later, in 1848, the first women's rights movement

  • would gather at Seneca Falls, New York,

  • and release what they called

  • the Declaration of Sentiments.

  • Which began, "All men and women are created equal."

  • So Jefferson's ideas here,

  • are both deeply radical,

  • insisting that ordinary people are just as good as kings,

  • and even more,

  • entitled to decide their own form of government.

  • But that Revolution only went so far.

  • It didn't change much about the status of

  • every day citizens in the United States.

  • But it put forward an ideal which

  • we've been working toward ever since.

- [Instructor] On July fourth, 1776,

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B1 US declaration independence jefferson locke created equal united

The Declaration of Independence

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    Amy.Lin posted on 2017/10/19
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