The Declaration of Independence Historical Context

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Origins of the Declaration of Independence

The Declaration of Independence contains ideas from a variety of sources. Certainly the English philosopher John Locke influenced Jefferson, although to what degree has become a point of debate among scholars. There is no doubt, however, that the famous phrase, "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness" in the Declaration is a paraphrase of Locke's assertion that men have a natural right "to preserve their lives, liberties, and fortunes." Thus Jefferson differs slightly from Locke in emphasizing the importance of wealth and ownership. Jefferson was also influenced by the great thinkers of the Enlightenment, a time when major innovations in science, art, and philosophy appeared. In addition to the Englishman Locke, Jefferson read deeply among the works of the Scottish Enlightenment writers, such as David Hume and Francis Hutcheson. His religious views were derived in part from Henry St. John Bolingbroke, to...

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This section contains 1,185 words
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