Although the political philosophy presented in the Declaration had already been
expressed by earlier philosophers such as Locke, Montesquieu, and Rousseau, the document was still revolutionary in many ways. The Declaration of Independence is a revolutionary document because of its ideas about the role of government. It is a uniquely American document that gave us a model for the principles that our government would be built upon for the next 200+ years. The United States of America was the ﬁrst country to be founded on the 3 principles of self-government, universal equality, and natural rights. The Declaration differs from the works of European natural rights philosophers in its approach. It was the ﬁrst plan for a system of government based on these principles. It proposed the very ﬁrst real-world application of these ideological Enlightenment philosophies.
Direct democracy is when the people vote on every important government
decision. The founders were extremely skeptical of this concept. This distrust is strongly rooted in their belief that the uneducated masses should not have a say in the government and the belief that direct democracy endangers the constitutional system.
In Federalist #63, James Madison wrote that the major distinction between American democracy and Greek democracy, “lies in the total exclusion of the people, in their collective capacity”. The founders saw that direct democracy worked for the small Greek city-states, but they believed that America was too vast for this system. They advocated a representative form of government, so as to avert the ‘tyranny of the majority’ that they saw in the chaos of the Late Roman Empire.
In 1215, an English king was forced by 40 of his barons to sign an agreement
known as the Magna Carta. The Magna Carta was later recognized as one of the most important documents in human history. The Magna Carta’s most enduring legacy in regards to its inﬂuence on American law is the “due process of law”. Due process of law is the guarantee that everyone has a right to be judged fairly. The Magna Carta says,
"No freeman shall be taken, imprisoned, disseised, outlawed, banished, or in any way destroyed, nor will We proceed against or prosecute him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land." The Magna Carta’s promise that no one could be punished without a fair trial according to the law is directly related to the modern concept of due process of law. This guarantee as well as the acknowledgement of some degree of ‘natural rights’ contributed to the American ideas of the rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness.
"Declaration of Independence." West's Encyclopedia of American Law. Ed. Shirelle
Phelps and Jeffrey Lehman. 2nd ed. Vol. 3. Detroit: Gale, 2005. 368-370. Gale