Declaration of Independence --- Intro - 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8
Lesson 8

Answer: Petition and flight. The only time these steps can be neglected is when they would be futile, as in a sneak attack where the threat is immediate. Even when force is justified, you can only employ an amount of force that is reasonably calculated to overcome the force used against you.

This is our last page, we'll sum up what we've learned and see how the ideas in the Declaration are important to us today. Almost Done!

The Final Paragraph of the Declaration

We, therefore, the Representatives of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, in GENERAL CONGRESS, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World for the Rectitude of our Intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly Publish and Declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be, FREE AND INDEPENDENCE 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; and that as FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which INDEPENDENT STATES may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

Final Exam: The dictionary defines "deism" as: "the belief, based solely on reason, in a God who created the universe and then abandoned it, assuming no control over life, exerting no influence on natural phenomena, and giving no supernatural revelation." Based on what you've learned, and the last paragraph in the Declaration, were America's Founders Deists?

What Does Justice Mean to You?

The Declaration's final paragraph says our government may do those things which independent states "may of right do," and earlier we said that free government may only "justly" exercise the powers it gets from the consent of the governed. But these statements beg the question of what is "right" or "just." There are only two possible answers to this question. The first says that "the end justifies the means" - government can do anything it wants as long as the people go along with the goal government is trying to achieve. The second says that no matter how good or popular the end, government may not use a means that violates the rights to life, liberty, property, or any other right, of the citizens. Which of these notions of justice do you think agrees with the ideas of the Declaration?


The logic by which the Declaration explains the purpose and function of free government can be summarized in three sentences:

  • Man's rights come from God
  • God's rules exist to protect man's rights
  • Therefore, to secure our rights, government must, just like citizens, obey and enforce God's rules

This logic leads us to a very simple definition for freedom. Freedom means the ability to have and enjoy your God-given rights. The logic also explains how a government must be limited if its citizen are to be free. Government may not kill or allow killing except when the citizens themselves would be justified in killing, otherwise it commits murder. Government may not take property from a citizen except when other citizens would themselves have a right to take that citizen's property, otherwise it is stealing. And the same analysis holds true for each of the last six of the Ten Commandments, because these are God's laws for how we are to treat others. A government that fails to obey and enforce God's rules infringes the rights of its citizens and may therefore be altered or abolished.

Of course, the United States did not yet have a Constitution when the Declaration was published, but the Declaration's final paragraph embodies the idea that our government would be composed of representatives chosen by the people. The fact that in America the people govern themselves means that what individual citizens believe and value - and therefore what they do - can affect the rights and freedom of other citizens. This notion is the starting point for understanding what it is that really makes America great.

The Culture of Freedom

When we talk about what individuals believe, what they value, and what they do, we have gone beyond government and are talking about "culture." In America, government and culture are directly linked. Our governors - our president, congressmen, and judges - are not kings or aristocrats, they are ordinary citizens. The consequence of this fact is that our government will be no better or no worse than the people are themselves. Our government will directly reflect our culture. If our culture believes and teaches that individuals should obey the rules that protect our rights and create freedom, then our government will obey those rules and our rights and freedom will be secure. If, on the other hand, our culture disdains those rules, or does not even know what they are, and does not pass them along to future generations, then we will quickly find ourselves with a government that disregards the rules that protect our rights, and our freedom will be in jeopardy. Our freedom depends on us.

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