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From the Declaration of Independence:

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

I understand the sentence says that the then King of England dissolved the Congress and refused to approve newly elected ones. But I am not quite sure about the following sentence:

whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise;

Does it say that Legislative power cannot be annihilated at all? So if the Legislative power is prohibited in the State [Congress], then it will return to the People in another form maybe much less efficient so then the State will be exposed to the dangers from without and within. And at large means "as a whole" or "in general".

Did I understand it correct?

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  • You should ask a historian. Aug 9, 2022 at 16:57
  • The Founders believed that natural rights are inherent in all people by virtue of their being human and that certain of these rights are unalienable, meaning they cannot be surrendered to government under any circumstances. Aug 9, 2022 at 17:06
  • 2
    I’m voting to close this question because this is a question of interpretation of an historical document, not Learning English.
    – James K
    Aug 9, 2022 at 17:37
  • @JamesK Why did you delete your previous contradictory comments?
    – H.Li
    Aug 9, 2022 at 17:44

1 Answer 1

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I think that you're basically understanding it correctly. Because legislative powers are "incapable of annihilation", the king's dissolution of legislatures doesn't actually eliminate such powers. Instead, those powers return to the people at large. (Yes, "at large" means "as a whole".) As a result, the people may "exercise" legislative powers on their own.

In the meantime, the state will remain "exposed to all the dangers". Perhaps that is because leglislative power exercised by the people is "less efficient", as you say, but perhaps it is for some other reason. That isn't entirely clear.

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  • This seems to use a less common meaning of "incapable": M-W 1-b: insusceptible. Aug 9, 2022 at 23:31

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