Saturday, July 9, 2011

"To Secure These Rights"

After Jefferson asserted the equality of human beings in their possession of natural rights, he turned to other self evident truths why men form governments and why men dissolve them

“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.”

In a state of nature without government, men possess their natural rights precariously. Men are vulnerable to threats from others to their lives and property. So men form governments to protect those rights. When governments become destructive of the purposes for which they are formed, the protection of natural rights, the people can dissolve that government and replace it with another that will protect those rights.

Again, Jefferson drew upon Locke for his “harmonizing sentiments.” Locke argued that men form communities for the protection of their rights. "And 'tis not withouth reason," Locke wrote, "that he seeks out and it willing to join in society with others who are already, or have a mind to unitefor the mutual preservation of their lives, liberties, and estates, which I call by the general name property."

When men unite for such mutual protection, they give consent to the society certain powers to wield on their behalf. Again in his Second Treatise, Locke argued that “Whosoever therefore out of a state of nature united into a community, must be understood to give up all the power, necessary for the ends for which they united into society, to the majority of the community.” In other words, they cede their rights as individuals to defend with deadly force their natural rights from the encroachments of others, to the community.

Finally, in his Second Treatise, Locke explored several ways in which governments are dissolved. When they are dissolved, “the people are at liberty to provide for themselves, by erecting a new legislature, differing from the other, by a change of person, of form, or both, as they shall find it most for their safety and good.”

After laying out the political philosophy behind dissolving unjust governments, Jefferson presented the charge that the administration of George III was exactly that kind of government.

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