In May 1776, the Continental Congress took a fateful step and passed a resolution that attacked King George himself. Today, some philosophers and political scientists contend that human rights are synonymous with natural rights. The civil rights movement of the 20th century pressured America to honor the commitment made in the declaration. PBS Newhour. Slavery in the new United States of America would last another 89 years until the end of the Civil War. Natural rights were cited during the Age of Enlightenment to oppose Absolutism — the divine right of kings. Instead, they concentrated on Jefferson's list of grievances against King George and the British people. Free subscription to Bill of Rights in Action. In return, Locke expected those citizens to follow the legal laws enacted by the government. Thomas Jefferson identified three fundamental natural rights in the Declaration of Independence as "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." There would be no turning back now. Meanwhile, the royal governor of Virginia offered freedom to slaves who joined the British cause. For each one of the three rights, group members should answer this question: What does this right specifically refer to in our lives today? Locke believed that the most basic human law of nature is the preservation of mankind. That is, rights that are God-given and can never be taken or even given away. Start studying Natural Rights in the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson grew depressed as more and more of his words were cut or changed. But, how does this explain that Jefferson kept most of his slaves throughout his lifetime? But its words have resonated as the ideals of the United States. A few months later, Parliament passed a significant act that placed the American colonies outside the king's protection. Form small groups to discuss the meaning of the three natural rights that Jefferson identified in the Declaration of Independence: "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.". 1. Natural rights are rights granted to all people by nature or God that cannot be denied or restricted by any government... Legal rights are rights granted by governments or legal systems. In the Declaration, primarily authored by Thomas Jefferson (pictured above), the Second Continental Congress asserted the “self-evident” truths that “all men are created equal” and entitled to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” In this activity, students discuss some of the ideals in the Declaration of Independence. The complete text of the Declaration of Independence, Two interviews with with Pauline Maier, a Professor of History at MIT and author of American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence. Overview. How do natural rights, as described in the Declaration of Independence, differ from other rights? Educated during the Age of Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries, Jefferson adopted the beliefs of philosophers who used reason and science to explain human behavior. As for Jefferson, history shows that he had long believed the slave trade was morally wrong and attempted to denounce it in the Declaration of Independence. They eliminated most of his harsh language directed against the British people and totally cut out Jefferson's passionate assault on slavery and the slave trade. Robert Longley is a U.S. government and history expert with over 30 years of experience in municipal government and urban planning. Now, almost 100 years later, a formal declaration of independence by the Continental Congress was the only thing standing in the way of a complete break with King George. The fourth section is the Resolution of Independence, which states that the colonists have officially … Upon becoming adults, they would be transported to a colony somewhere and given tools and work animals to start a new life as a "free and independent people.". The best Jefferson could come up with was a plan to take slave children from their parents and put them in schools to be educated and taught a trade at public expense. John Locke was an English philosopher who believed that each and every human were given rights once they were born. By listing the “long train of abuses” committed by King George III against American colonists in the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson used Locke’s theory to justify the American Revolution. However, Jefferson’s anti-enslavement statement was removed from the final draft of the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson, however, substituted the phrase, "pursuit of happiness," which Locke and others had used to describe freedom of opportunity as well as the duty to help those in want. Freedoms which belong to us by nature and can only be justly taken away through due process. It's nice to have a resource that will put some depth to a topic without overwhelming the students.--Mr. Hold a general class discussion and vote, if necessary, to drop or keep the meanings that each group has developed for the three rights. Jefferson did not invent the ideas that he used to justify the American Revolution. Jefferson's Declaration of the Causes and Necessity for Taking Up Arms stopped short of declaring independence, but pointed out the folly of governing the American colonies from England. Of course, Jefferson along with most other Southern plantation owners were also economically dependent on slave labor. What Is a Constitutionally Limited Government? For Jefferson, a life-long owner of slaves, this was a much more complex issue. Declaration of Independence spoke of all people being endowed with “unalienable Rights,” such as “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” they were confirming their belief in the existence of “natural rights.”. Some slave owners argued that slaves would become equal and worthy of natural rights only when they became civilized. This led to the so-called Glorious Revolution, which drove James off the throne.

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