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How do you define "consent of the governed" as Jefferson used it?

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Quick Answer

Thomas Jefferson’s concept “consent of the governed” states that citizens have a right to design and participate in government, either directly or through elected representatives, and demand that their government grant them civil liberties and equal treatment under the law. Jefferson developed his concept of “consent of the governed” from the works of English philosopher John Locke.

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Full Answer

The philosophical proposition of “consent of the governed” was a hot-button issue of the day. Dissenters against the English crown were demanding more civil rights, arguing that human beings have inherent rights no matter how they’re governed. At the same time in the New World, the Colonies rebelled against huge taxes, demanding that they be consulted about how much revenue was owed the Crown. In fact, “consent of the governed” was one of the fundamental political issues decided by the American Revolution. Jefferson, primary architect of the Declaration of Independence, made “consent of the governed” a pillar of American government, guaranteeing citizens of the new nation rights that were denied them under English rule.

Today, “consent of the governed” is just as important and just as carefully scrutinized as it was at the founding of the United States. The recursive systems of legislative and legal review of bills before Congress, mandatory periods for public review and comment, public access to government meetings, etc., ensure that the United States government is transparent and accessible to all U.S. citizens.

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