This paragraph (the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence) offers the clearest and most concise summary of the ideals upon which our nation was founded:
The word “democracy” does not appear anywhere in the Declaration of Independence (or the Constitution), but governments “deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed” are, by definition democratic. In composing this well-known and influential list of self-evident truths, Thomas Jefferson was essentially summarizing the ideas of John Locke. In his Second Treatise of Government, Locke goes into more detail regarding how and why governments are formed and how “the governed” give their “consent”. He also makes it clear that the essence of a just government involves the principle of abiding by the will of the majority:
"Men all being naturally free, equal, and independent, no-one can be deprived of this freedom, etc. and subjected to the political power of someone else, without his own consent. When any number of men have in the way consented to make a community or government, this immediately incorporates them, turns them into a single body politic in which the majority have a right to act on behalf of the rest and to bind them by its decisions. Thus, every man, by agreeing with others to make one body politic under one government, puts himself under an obligation to everyone in that society to submit to the decisions of the majority, and to be bound by it.”
Locke also makes it clear that the tyranny of the majority must be avoided, and our liberties protected:
“Though men who enter into society give up the equality, liberty, and executive power they had in the state of nature….each of them does this only with the intention of better preserving himself, his liberty and property (for no rational creature can be thought to change his condition intending to make it worse). So, the power of the society or legislature that they create can never be supposed to extend further than the common good. So, however much people may get this wrong, what law is for is not to abolish or restrain freedom but to preserve and enlarge it; for in all the states of created beings who are capable of laws, where there is no law there is no freedom."