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SOCIAL STUDIES: US Government and Economy

TOPIC: The American Declaration of Independence


START DATE: 31st of August 2016

TEACHER: Mr. Rey Damasco

DATE OF SUBMISSION: 8th of September 2016

The American Declaration of Independence
General Instructions:
Base all your answers and responses according to the materials attached to this assignment.
You can lift information from the original source but only to support your ideas, concepts, arguments and/or point
of views.
Make sure to define important terminologies, expressions and/or concepts required in each question. Again, do not
lift the definitions from the sources, but define them according to your own understanding.
Use not less than one hundred (100) words to answer each question. You can go beyond that if you want to.
Type your answers on Google Docs.
Submit your work on or before September 8, 2016
Aim for the highest descriptors in the grading rubrics.

Assignment Questions:
1. Discuss how did the English (colonial government) shape the formation of the American
(US) government.
The English colonial government helped shape the formation of the US government
because during the American Revolution, many of the Englishman's prior approaches to their
freedom and justice, served as inspiration for the colonists. The greatest example of their
contribution is the Magna Carta. A document that was created by English barons, as a practical
solution to a political crisis in 1215. Many decades later, during American colonization, the
founding fathers of the nation believed they were entitled with the same rights as these
Englishmen. Other examples of influences include the ideas of great European men, like the ones
the French philosopher Montesquieu developed. He was one of the first to discuss the doctrines
of Separation of powers and Checks and balances, two of the current day principles in the
Constitution. Prior to Montesquieu, came the ideas of natural rights to life, liberty, property and
happiness, that English philosopher John Locke developed. These helped influence not only the
Constitution but also Montesquieu's theories.

2. Justify the claim that the thoughts and ideas of Locke, Hobbes and Montesquieu
influence the writers of the Declaration of Independence and the US government.
The thoughts and ideas of Locke, Hobbes and Montesquieu influence the writers of the
Declaration of Independence and the US government in various ways. First we have Locke's
ideas that talked about something called natural rights. He believed that life, liberty, and
specially property could never be taken away from individuals. To him, these rights were
impossible to surrender. In a way, Locke also developed on the US principles of Popular
Sovereignty and Limited Government, as he said that natural rights limited the power of the
king, or the president in the case of America. With these rights, Locke believed the king could
not hold absolute power, but acted on behalf of the citizens. If the king violated the social
contract, then the people had the right to remove him from power and re-elect a representative
that grants them their natural rights. Locke's ideas later influenced Hobbes and Montesquieu.
Even though Hobbes was a massive supporter of absolutism, some of his ideas are also
found in the formation of the American Government, like the principle of unalienable rights. It
says that everyone is entitled with certain rights that under no means can be taken away. In the
Declaration of Independence, there is a clear mention of these rights, as it says that all men are
endowed with life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These are considered as rights derived
from nature, and no government can violate them. This same principle builds up on the idea of
Limited Government because it requires the government to have the power to give these rights to
their people, yet still remain limited. Another of Hobbes and Locke's contribution in the
Declaration is the principle of the Social Contract, which says that governments are instituted
among the people, and that they are dependent on the agreement among the citizens.
Lastly, we have the contributions of the French Philosopher Montesquieu. After opposing
the absolute monarchy of France he evaluated the English system and came to the conclusion
that it was the best model of a government that existed at the moment. He believed that the main
purpose of a government is to maintain law and order, political liberty, and the property of the
individual. What he liked the most about the English system was how the majority of its power
was centered on the legislative branch that was the Parliament. In it there were also the
subdivisions of the House of Lords and the House of Commons, who were separated with the
purpose of balancing the power between the legislature itself, and also with the king.
Montesquieu concluded that the best form of government was one where the legislative,
executive, and judicial branches were separated. His ideas influenced the American government
in such a way that there is a principle (Separation of Powers) that was created based on them.
3. The Magna Carta, the English Petition of Rights (1628) and the English Bill of Rights
(1869) had a great influence on the conceptualization of the American Declaration of
Independence and Bill of Rights. Explain the reason for this claim.
The Magna Carta, the English Petition of Rights, and the English Bill of Rights, had a
great influence on the conceptualization of the American Declaration of Independence and Bill
of Rights, because the founding fathers of America believed that the English system was the
most efficient one that existed back then, and because the early Americans believed they were
entitled with the same rights as the Englishmen. Their earlier approaches of freedom and natural
rights, through these important documents, were part of what sparked the desire of Independence
that led to the to the American Revolution. The Magna Carta talks about some natural or
unalienable rights that can be seen in the first section of the Declaration of Independence as life,

liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It also emphasizes the limited powers of the king, and the
principle that nobody is above the law, which is what we know today as judicial review.
Likewise, in the English Bill of Rights we can see how the early principles of popular
sovereignty and limited government sparked. According to this document, the citizens have the
freedom of speech to voice their complains to the king, and have the right to elect their
4. Compare and contrast the American Declaration of Independence and the Social
Contract Theory.
The American Declaration of Independence and the Social Contract Theory share
numeral similarities. This is because they serve the same purpose of maintaining a structured
system that provides order and security. Both of them make clear mention of the unalienable
rights that all humans must have, and also mention how other rights or, the remaining portion of
the citizens power will be managed by the hands of government. Although, both contracts have
the goal of establishing the limitations of the people; both also say how citizens have freedom of
speech to voice their opinions, and the right to elect their representatives. Both documents also
state that if the government breaks the contract, then the citizens have the right to overthrow
them. They share so many similarities because, just like other English documents, Thomas
Jefferson used the Social Contract Theory for support when writing the American Declaration of
Some of the differences between these two documents are obviously the time period and
place where they were written, and also the motive of why they were written. The Social
Contract Theory was mainly created by English philosophers Thomas Hobbes and John Locke,
during the Enlightenment Era of the 17th and 18th century. The purpose of the document was to
establish a contract that would produce a functioning society, and not a natural order in chaos. In
contrast, the American Declaration of Independence was signed some time later on July 4th,
1776. It was written by Thomas Jefferson, with the purpose of proclaiming that the 13th
American colonies where no longer under the power of Britain, but had become independent
states. Furthermore, the Social Contract is mostly a theory based on the ideas of great
philosophers, but the Declaration goes way beyond just ideas. It is what settled the system in
America. It talks about some aspects the Contract never mentions, like having a separation of
powers, and the states being sovereign.
5. Evaluate the Declaration of Independence as a persuasive argument
The Declaration of Independence is a persuasive argument because it was intended to
persuade King George III that the colonies deserved sovereignty. Diverse methods of persuasive
argumentation can be observed in the writing of Thomas Jefferson; including Aristotle's appeals
of persuasion, parallel structure, and repetition.
The appeal of logos is mainly observed at the beginning of the Declaration, where
Thomas Jefferson explains that the natural rights he mentions are facts, things that all men must
know they have, he says 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. Something else that is relevant from this quote, is
how he makes a Biblical allusion to God, when he writes Creator with a capitalized C. This is
important because it serves as an example of Ethos, by saying that God, who has divine

credibility, grants men with these rights. Another example of this appeal is the credibility of the
authors that signed Declaration. Jefferson mentions himself and the other founding fathers of the
sovereign colonies as trustworthy men when he writes we, therefore, the Representatives of the
united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of
the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good
People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of
Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the
British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is
and ought to be totally dissolved. This quote, along with the signature of all the men that
participated shows a clear incorporation of ethos.
Additionally, Jefferson also uses the methods of repetition and parallel structure in order
to emphasize some of the key arguments stated in the Declaration. An example of repetition is
when he repeats "He has refused He has Forbidden He has refused He has and an example
of parallel structure can be observed where he talks about the intolerable actions of King George
III. He writes HE has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the
public Good. HE has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing
Importance, unless suspended in their Operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so
suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them. HE has refused to pass other Laws for the
Accommodation of large Districts of People, unless those People would relinquish the Right of
Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them, and formidable to Tyrants only