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Freedom: A History of US.
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Webisode 1: Independence
Introduction Segment 1 Segment 2 Segment 3 Segment 4 Segment 5 Segment 6 Segment 7 Segment 8 Segment 9

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The Declaration of Independence
Segment 8
Page 2

It was an idea so daring that nothing like it had been heard of in governments before. Governments are not made to make kings and rulers happy. They are for the benefit of the people who are being governed. Jefferson later explained: "This was the object of the [Declaration of Independence] ... to place before mankind the common sense of the subject, and to justify ourselves in the independent stand we were compelled to take. It was intended to be an expression of the American mind."

The words of the Declaration are worth memorizing, and especially the phrase "all men are created equal See It Now - The Declaration of Independence." But what exactly do these words mean—that we are all the same? Look around you. Of course we aren't. Some of us are smarter, some are better athletes, some are better looking, some are nicer. But none of that matters, said Thomas Jefferson. We are all equal in the eyes of God, and we are all entitled to equal rights. Jefferson knew that the Declaration was even bigger than America. "May it be to the world what I believe it will be ... the signal of arousing men to burst the chains ... [of] superstition ... and to assume the blessings and security of self-government."

When Jefferson wrote "all men are created equal," he didn't mention women. But did he mean to include women See It Now - Woman patriot? No one knows; perhaps not. We do know that in the eighteenth century the words "men" and "mankind" included men and women. Did he mean to include black men when he said "all men" See It Now - "Negroes to be sold"? Historians argue about that. Jefferson was a complicated man—he thought slavery was wrong, yet he owned slaves Check The Source - Thomas Jefferson's thoughts on slavery in America Check The Source - Advice to Thomas Jefferson from Benjamin Banneker. But this is the important part: Thomas Jefferson's great Declaration of Independence has grown even greater with the passing of time. Today, when people all over the world read his words, they understand them to mean all people—men, women, and children—of all colors and beliefs Check The Source - Reconstruction of Thomas Jefferson's "original Rough draught" Check The Source - The Final Draft.


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Did You Know?
Arthur Middleton, signer of the Declaration of Independence representing South Carolina, owned more than 800 slaves to work his 50,000 acres of land.


Did you know that Freedom is adapted from the award-winning Oxford University Press multi-volume book series, A History of US by Joy Hakim?



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