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Essay #1: Liberty
P rof. H el ton, H i story 117A , Sp ri ng 20 21

DU E DA TE : Ma rch 15

“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. – That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men,
deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, . . .”

– The Declaration of Independence, 1776

“Here then is the origin and rise of government; namely, a mode rendered necessary by the
inability of moral virtue to govern the world; here too is the design and end of government, viz.
freedom and security.”

– Thomas Paine, Common Sense

In these two documents, written a few months apart in 1776, Thomas Paine and Thomas
Jefferson articulate the principles upon which this nation was founded.

Of course, neither the Declaration of Independence or Common Sense is a legally binding
document. But the Constitution, written eleven years later, is. In the Constitution, the
Founding Fathers sought to embody the vision and purpose of government as articulated by
Paine and Jefferson. To what extent did they succeed?

The Assignment:
In a thoughtful, well-written essay, answer the following question:

What did the Founding Fathers mean by the terms “Liberty” and “Equality?” Specifically what
measures to protect liberty and equality did they put into the Constitution? Which “liberties”
did they seek to protect, and which liberties did they fail to protect?

You are not required to conduct additional research for this assignment. Your answer should
be based on the sources we have examined so far in this class. Your secondary sources are the
class videos and American Yawp.

Your answer should be based mainly on the primary sources you have read for the class. Some
of the sources you may want to refer to may include:

• Primary Sources from the Week of February 8
• Common Sense
• The Declaration of Independence
• The US Constitution

Remember, you must use primary source evidence in this essay.

Format and Requirements:
Your essay should be four to five pages long, with formatting as described in the class syllabus.

Your essay should include a thesis statement that clearly answers the question. Your goal in the
body of the paper is to provide primary and secondary source evidence to support your thesis.
Use specific quotations and examples from the assigned sources to do this.

You must use Chicago style footnotes to document all of your sources. Your essay should
include a properly formatted Bibliography at the end (the Bibliography is not included in the
page count).

The proper format for footnotes and bibliographies can be found in Chapter 16 and 17 of

If you have any questions, please email me at [email protected]

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