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US Declaration of Independence

"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."

The Declaration of Independence is the document that established the United States of America's independence from the colonial rule of Great Britain in 1776. This anniversary is celebrated as Independence Day every 4th July in the United States.

This phrase is one of the best known quotations in the Usand is a hallmark statement in democratic constitutions worldwide. The idea that "All men are created equal" is considered the foundation of American democracy.
The term 'unalienable rights' refers to a set of human rights that are absolute and universal to all of humanity, not awarded or changeable by human power. One such unalienable right is "Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness". This three part phrase recalls "liberté, égalité, fraternité" (liberty, equality, fraternity) in France or "peace, order and good government" in Canada. The motto can also be found in the 1947 Constitution of Japan.

This quotation forms the opening of the Declaration of Independence, and was written by Thomas Jefferson in 1776. Many of the ideas in the Declaration were borrowed from John Locke, the great English liberal political philosopher.
Before The Declaration of Independence, the US was made up of thirteen colonies under British rule, and relations were wearing thin. Using this political document, delegates and politicians from each 'colony' declared themselves independent of the Kingdom of Great Britain and explained their reasons for doing so. The handwritten copy with the signatures of all the delegates has been preserved and is on show in Washington DC.

Our Expert Says...
Professor David Crystal

This is really two quotations in one. The more famous element ends after 'equal'. Most non-Americans would be hard-pressed to continue the quotation and get as far as 'happiness'. But the plural form 'truths' shows that there is more to be said than just the point about equality, and this motivates the longer version. There are few quotations which exceed this one for general applicability; and few where it has proved so necessary to keep asserting the insight it expresses.

Statue of Liberty
Links

US Declaration of Independence Archives

US Declaration of Independence online

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