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The American Identity
Transcript of The American Identity
What is the Declaration of Independence?
A letter to the world stating the reasons the colonies are declaring Independence from England.
A major idea in the letter was that ordinary citizens have the right to overthrow an oppressive government that failed to protect the unalienable rights of the people.
-founding father who was one of the authors of the Federalist Papers and strongly advocated for ratification of the Constitution
John Peter Muhlenberg
• General in the Continental Army
• Member of Virginia House of Burgesses
• Member of the Pennsylvania Assembly
• Lieutenant-Governor of Pennsylvania
• Member of both the U.S. House and Senate
Jonathan Trumbull Sr.
• Governor of Connecticut as a colony and state
• Only colonial governor that supported the Revolutionary War
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
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.--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.
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
• Intent and Meaning – To organize and form the constitutional republic of the United States government. The Bill of Rights was added to prevent abuse by the government of individual rights of citizens.
• Importance - The Constitution stands as a model of cooperative statesmanship and the art of compromise.
• Popular Sovereignty – Constitution gives individuals the right to vote for elected officials. People have the power through their vote. Preamble also states that the government is of the people.
• Republicanism – Citizens vote for those individuals who represent them in Congress, both at state and national level. Article 4, Section 4 calls for every state to have a “republican form of government.”
• Federalism – Powers are shared between state and national government. In the Constitution, certain powers are delegated to only states, others only the federal government and others are shared powers.
• Separation of Powers – The Constitution separates power among three branches of government: Executive, Legislative and Judicial.
• Checks & Balances – The Constitution provides for ways that each branch of government watches over and can check the power of the other branches.
• Limited Government – The Constitution specifically limits the powers of the federal and state governments.
• Individual Rights – The Bill of Rights was added to the Constitution to list specific unalienable rights guaranteed to individuals.
Alexis de Tocqueville
Five Values de Tocqueville found crucial to America's success as a constitutional republic:
1) Egalitarianism (equality): even though there were differences in wealth and power, Americans were seen by Tocqueville as socially equal
2) Populism (popular sovereignty): everyday people have the opportunity to participate in political life
3) Liberty: protection against tyrannical governments with safeguards such as federalism and separation of powers
4) Individualism: opportunity to rise in the social ranks...not hereditary as it was in Europe
5) laissez faire: government taking a "hands off" approach to the economy...
"E Pluribus Unum"- "out of many [comes] one." several states have united to form one nation
In God We Trust: Originated from the Star Spangled Banner, adopted as official motto in 1956 to distinguish the US from our Communist rival (USSR) who restricted religious freedom.