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Ideals in the Declaration of Independence

The Declaration of Independence had several ideals and two of them were equality and the consent of the government. The consent of the governed is an ideal where the government gets is powers from the people who allow the government to rule them (Jefferson, 1). Before independence, the government used colonial rule, getting its power from the crown. The government had no concern whether the people consented to being governed by the crown or not. For this reason, anyone who tried to challenge the government at that time was termed a traitor. Those who started revolutions against the British government were called traitors and executed. Therefore, the people did not consent to being governed by the crown. In the same light, the government did not care whether the governed consented to being governed or not.

After independence, the government was created by the people by voting in elected officials. The act of voting in a person to govern the people shows that those people consent to being governed by the person they elect. Voting is an execution of consent. Therefore the ideal presented in the Declaration of Independence that a government is only legitimate if the people being governed consent is attained through elections (Jefferson, 1). Democracy is the word for the consent of the governed. The people being governed are the source of the authority the government uses in a democratic government (Barnett, 13). If the people feel that the government is not governing them appropriately, they can withdraw their consent and give it to another person through free and fair elections.

Consent of the governed is also expressed through dissent. Even after electing officials into parliament or Congress, a citizen has the right to oppose the passing of a proposed law or propose the amendment or abolishing of a law that already exists. This expression of the consent of the governed is where the people disagree with some governing entities on different grounds. And since authority comes from the governed, the people can challenge that entity to alter it. This fact further shows how the consent of the governed in the Declaration of Independence is attained.

Another ideal of the Declaration of Independence is equality. The Declaration of Independence states that every person is created equal to the other (Jefferson, 1). Equality means no human is above the other. This ideal was not achieved back then even after independence the constitution still recognized slavery as legal. The constitution complexly protected slavery up to the 1860s (De Witte, 2). Slavery meant a person owned another human being like property, which shows inequality in its highest order. Even after slavery was abolished, gender and racial inequality continued to thrive. Women and some races were deemed inferior and were not allowed to vote. The free slaves still had to make a living; in their lords’ houses they were provided with basic needs. After they became free people, they had to work to meet their basic needs. The land owners took advantage of their desperation and paid them poorly, which further established inequality. Till this day, the consequences of this early inequality continue to perpetuate racial, economic and gender inequality in society. Therefore the ideal of ‘all men are equal’ in the Declaration of Independence was not achieved and is still yet to be achieved ideally.

The best way to have set the country on the right path of equality for all people of all races and gender would have been to level the ground immediately after independence. Slavery would have been abolished immediately after attaining independence and suffrage allowed for people of all races and gender. A redistribution of wealth and resources existing in the country would have given every person an equal opportunity. People from all races would have owned property, lived in the same neighborhoods, and their children attended the same schools. The new government would have made an effort to build infrastructure equally in all neighborhoods and states. The new government would have taken with seriousness the clause in the Declaration of Independence insisting on equality for all. In such an instance, the racial and gender inequality experienced in the 18th and 19th century, as well as the consequences of this inequality experienced from the 20th century onwards would have been avoided.

Works Cited

Barnett, Randy. “Opinion | What the Declaration of Independence Said and Meant.” Washington Post, 4 July 2017, Accessed 13 Feb. 2022.

De Witte, Mellissa. “When Thomas Jefferson Penned ‘All Men Are Created Equal,’ He Did Not Mean Individual Equality, Says Stanford Scholar.”, Stanford News Service, 1 July 2020, Accessed 8 Oct. 2020.

Jefferson, Thomas. “Jefferson’s ‘Original Rough Draught’ of the Declaration of Independence.” The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, pp. 423–428. Princeton University Press, 1950, Accessed 13 Feb. 2022.


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