18 The Declaration of Independence: Forming a New Nation

decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. Next, Jefferson spelled out what would become the declaration’s most important message to the king: 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. Jefferson had established that all men and women had the same rights, regardless of whether they were born rich or poor, and those rights included the right to live free. He said those rights were granted by God—the Creator—and that they were “self-evident,” meaning men and women should expect to enjoy those rights whether the government said so or not. His next words were aimed directly at King George. He said that when people disagree with their govern- ment, they have the right to “alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government.” In England and many other countries of the world,

rulers held their thrones under what was known as “divine right,” meaning they believed God had picked them and their fami- lies to rule.

Make Connections Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence on a portable desk that he had designed himself.

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