The Declaration of Independence, which was written in 1776 by Thomas Jefferson, one of America's founding fathers, was intended to assert America's independence from Britain. Jefferson's declaration of independence states that "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." Nonetheless, throughout the American history, various political leaders and the Supreme Court have invoked this declaration to the point that it is considered to have evolved into a version of a revised social contract (Rasmussen).
The social contract, unlike Jefferson's declaration of independence, is the idea that people get together to form a society and willingly give up their own power and some of their freedoms to maintain social order. Although the declaration of independence was considered to have many influences, the most distinct impact was that of the social contract. Despite the fact that this idea is strongly reflected in the Declaration of Independence which states "that governments derive their legitimacy from the consent of the governed," the social contract is based on the assumption that individuals are born into an anarchic state of nature after which they form a society by means of contract among themselves, through exercising natural reason. From a broader perspective, this means that people are born into the world without any form of knowledge or opinions. However, based on the society that they form and grow in, people begin to develop their own views. Thus, concerning the social contract, the ideology of the legitimacy of the government as stated in the declaration of independence corresponds with the idea that people, indeed, agree to be governed.
Throughout the history of the United States, the relevance of Jefferson's Declaration of independence is said to slightly change concerning its influence. Take for instance, despite the fact that the Declaration of Independence does not create individual rights like the United States Constitution, various American presidents, and civil rights leaders have invoked it throughout the American history despite the fact that it has no legal effect. As a result, the original Declaration that first proclaimed the freedom of the United States has gradually changed over the course of the Nation's existence to mirror a revised social contract.
Today, various scholars and political analysts contend that a precursor for the revised version of the social contract is definitely the Declaration of independence which clearly spells out the relevance and the importance of the social contract. Besides, according to Mylchrees, although Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence as a justification for the colonial separation from Britain, the document, in more than one way, supports the social contract. For instance, the declaration of independence also served as a philosophical tract on the human nature, the government's role in the society, and also the meaning of individual liberty.
In a similar regard, the Declaration of independence is said to have changed and been in line with the revised version of the social contract owing to the fact that the ideas in the document can be traced to John Locke's social contract theory. According to Locke, the people are said to be under contract with the government, and they also have the right to overthrow the same government if it fails to uphold its end of the contract. The declaration, on the other hand, borrows these ideologies by stating that, if at any given time the government, which is in contract with the people, becomes destructive of its ends, the people have the due right to abolish it and also institute a new government.
Another reason why the Declaration of independence has changed towards becoming the revised version of Locke's social contract is owing to the fact that the Supreme Court has continually invoked the declaration (Rasmussen). More precisely, throughout the history of the United States, the Supreme Court has, in a majority of times, used the declaration to define the racial equality. Besides, in the modern day today, the social contract theory has evolved into what is referred to as a new version. In this regard, the social contract is considered an Enlightenment ideal that has been incorporated into the United States government. Its incorporation is exemplified in the free elections of the free elections of the citizenry which ensure equality and enhance various unalienable rights such as liberty as stated in the Declaration of independence. In a similar regard, the free elections that are upheld by the United States government also ensure that social contract that exists between the people and the government is consistently upheld.
In a nutshell, Jefferson's declaration of independence proclaimed the freedom of the United States and also stipulated the government's role in the society. Today, owing to the numerous changes that have occurred throughout the history of the United States, people quite often give up their sovereignty and as a result, form a government which is obliged to offer protection to both the people and the society. Therefore, based on this premise, the declaration very clearly upholds the ideologies of the social contract.
Mylchreest, Ian. "The Influence Of The Declaration Of Independence Through History | FindLaw." Findlaw, 4 July 2002, supreme.findlaw.com/legal-commentary/the-influence-of-the-declaration-of-independence-through-history.html. Accessed 9 Feb. 2018.
Rasmussen, Scott. "The Lasting Relevance of the Declaration of Independence." Washington Examiner, 4 2014, www.washingtonexaminer.com/the-lasting-relevance-of-the-declaration-of-independence/article/2550500. Accessed 9 Feb. 2018.
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