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Current time:0:00Total duration:7:53
LOR‑1.A.2 (EK)

Video transcript

the goal of this video is to appreciate how ideas of natural rights and social contract and limited government and popular sovereignty are embedded in America's founding documents but before we start looking at the documents themselves let's just make sure we understand the context in which they were written as we enter into the mid 1770s you have the beginning of the American Revolutionary War which begins in 1775 a little more than a year after the beginning of the war you have the Second Continental Congress decide to formally declare independence on July 2nd and the Declaration of Independence which we will study a bit in this video is formally approved on July 4th 1776 which is when we now celebrate Independence Day even though some could argue that it was July 2nd now as soon as the colonies decide that they are independent from the Kingdom of Great Britain they have to think about how do we govern ourselves and so within roughly a week a little more than a week after the Declaration of Independence is approved they start drafting the Articles of Confederation remember the Revolutionary War is still going on eventually what will be known as the Articles of Confederation go into effect in 1781 now this Articles of Confederation really treat the various colonies as you could almost view it as separate states that agree to work together for purposes of getting independence from Great Britain for purposes of fighting the war for purposes of diplomacy now over the course of the next several years it becomes clear especially through things like shays rebellion which we will look at in other videos that the Articles of Confederation don't provide a strong enough central government and so in May 1787 you have what is called as a constitutional convention convening it's presided over by George Washington who led the Americans in the Revolutionary War which they eventually will win as you see and obviously worse independent country now and the original intent of the concept Convention was to revise the Articles of Confederation but folks like Madison and Hamilton were really intent on just completely replacing it and what they replace it with was what is now the US Constitution which goes into effect in March of 1789 and shortly thereafter you have the beginning of Washington's two terms and to be clear the idea of even having a powerful executive the idea of even having a president was not present in the Articles of Confederation that comes with the Constitution so with that context out of the way let's look at especially the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution so here's the beginning of the Declaration of Independence written by Jefferson and edited by Benjamin Franklin and John Adams and I encourage you to pause this video and first try to read it on your own and see if you can identify these ideas of natural rights limited government popular sovereignty republicanism and social contract okay let's read this together now when in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another remember this is a Declaration of Independence they are dissolving the political bonds with the Kingdom of Great Britain 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 so that's starting to refer a little bit to natural rights a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation so they're saying hey we're writing this document because we're trying to show the rest of mankind why the reasons for which we decide to we are deciding to declare our independence from Great Britain we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal let me underline this 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 so this is a direct reference to natural rights in fact the phrase life liberty and the pursuit of happiness most historians believe is in direct reference to John Locke's phrase life liberty and property when he talks about natural rights so this is direct reference to the Enlightenment ideas or even the pre enlightenment ideas of natural rights that to secure these rights governments are instituted among men deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed alright this is worth underlining as well because they're talking about governments being instituted among men to secure these rights this is all about social contract so that's social contract that we form a government in order to secure rights we might give it some rights but in exchange the government has to protect our rights and they derive their powers from the consent of the governed so let me write that let me underline that actually in a different color derive their powers from the consent of the governed that is popular sovereignty popular I'll just write it is pop solve popular sovereignty right over here that the people are the sovereigns that whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it and to institute a 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 so this is more about social contract they're like look if a government breaks its social contract we have a right to replace it and the document also makes reference to organizing its powers in such form so that's really talking about limited government they're talking about hey this government just won't have that the absolute right to do anything so that right over there is limited government prudence indeed will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes they're essentially saying look you shouldn't just overthrow your government on a whim and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed so they're saying look you know if you're prudent you wouldn't just overthrow your government on a whim but they're kind of saying we're not so worried about that because history has shown us experience has shown us that if anything people are more likely to keep suffering even when they should be overthrowing their government 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 so they're saying hey look the Kingdom of Great Britain they are abusing us they are usurping power usurping is taking something from you that is yours and so we need to throw off such a government for our own future security and here it says provide new guards for their future security so this provide new guards once again making reference to limited government