Jefferson ended his draft by stating, "we do assert and declare these colonies to be free and independent states. Neither Parliament nor King George, however, were interested in negotiations to prevent all-out war. The document still speaks to us today about the rights of Americans, as it did in 1776. People are born with natural rights. List the main ideas in John Locke's theory of natural rights and revolution. A few months later, Parliament passed a significant act that placed the American colonies outside the king's protection. 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. To serve that purpose, he reasoned, individuals have both a right and a duty to preserve their own lives. © 2020 Constitutional Rights Foundation. But, how does this explain that Jefferson kept most of his slaves throughout his lifetime? While the practice of enslavement would persist in the United States until the end of the Civil War 89 years after issuance of the Declaration of Independence, many of the human equality and rights promised in the document continued to be denied to African Americans, other minorities, and women for years. Declaration of Independence Apparently, as several interest groups struggled for their natural rights such as sovereignty, equality and freedom, there was need to limit the activities of various factions against one another. Thomas Jefferson, age 33, arrived in Philadelphia on June 20, 1775, as a Virginia delegate to the Second Continental Congress. In May 1776, the Continental Congress took a fateful step and passed a resolution that attacked King George himself. For Jefferson, a life-long owner of slaves, this was a much more complex issue. Jefferson, Locke, Natural Rights, and Independence. The groups should then post their answers for the rest of the class to see. 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. Abolitionists in the 19th century asked Americans to live up to the ideal of equality and eliminate slavery. It was later referred to in the Bible and further developed during the Middle Ages. Thank you for a great publication. "These unfeeling brethren," he wrote, had reelected members of Parliament who had conspired with the king to destroy the rights of the colonists. But with the practice of enslavement common throughout the American Colonies in 1776, did Jefferson – a life-long enslaver himself – really believe the immortal words he had written? Except where authorized by citizens through the Constitution, the government does not have the authority to limit freedom. It's nice to have a resource that will put some depth to a topic without overwhelming the students.--Mr. 3. In composing the declaration, Jefferson followed the format of the English Declaration of Rights, written after the Glorious Revolution of 1689. But its words have resonated as the ideals of the United States. Of course, Jefferson along with most other Southern plantation owners were also economically dependent on slave labor. Hold a general class discussion and vote, if necessary, to drop or keep the meanings that each group has developed for the three rights. Locke therefore believed liberty should be far-reaching. Like those thinkers, Jefferson believed universal adherence to the “laws of nature” to be the key to advancing humanity. Fighting at Lexington, Concord, and Bunker Hill had already broken out between the colonists and British troops. "All men are created equal." Then read Jefferson's first two paragraphs 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. Republic vs. Democracy: What Is the Difference? 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. 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.”. Jefferson adopted John Locke's theory of natural rights to provide a reason for revolution. Many historians agree that Jefferson drew most of his beliefs in the importance of natural rights he expressed in the Declaration of Independence from the Second Treatise of Government, written by renowned English philosopher John Locke in 1689, as England’s own Glorious Revolution was overthrowing the reign of King James II. The fourth section is the Resolution of Independence, which states that the colonists have officially … Do Undocumented Immigrants Have Constitutional Rights? He also had read the statements of independence drafted by Virginia and other colonies as well as the writings of fellow revolutionaries like Tom Paine and George Mason.