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For Liberty and EqualityThe Life and Times of the Declaration of Independence$
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Alexander Tsesis

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780195379693

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195379693.001.0001

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Youthful Republic

Youthful Republic

(p.40) 4 Youthful Republic
For Liberty and Equality

Alexander Tsesis

Oxford University Press

The influence of the Declaration on early nation building went well beyond its original purpose. A document that was first meant to announce and justify U.S. independence wound up influencing state and federal policies. The Declaration's statements on rights and self-governance extended its significance beyond announcing nationhood. States found no difficulty reconciling the document's passages on sovereignty with their own constitutional developments. But participants in proto-antislavery movements condemned states that retained slavery because the institution was so evidently contrary to the Declaration's assertion of universal liberty. Early women's rights advocates also took inspiration from the document to indict existing practices. The statement on rights created a national ethos that deepened the sense of unity in the new country and established an aspirational norm of equality.

Keywords:   Declaration of Independence, nation building, sovereignty, antislavery movements, universal liberty, women's rights

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