Declaration of Independence
The Declaration of Independence
The Declaration of Independence was a written justification for what had already become fact. The thirteen colonies had seceded from the British empire and formed a confederation that politically and militarily enforced their independence. They had responded to three categories of crimes committed by George III.
1. abuses of power;
2. war crimes;
3. obstruction of justice.
There are actually similarities between Richard Nixon and George III. Nixon, under Congressional investigation and threatened by impeachment, resigned on August 8, 1974. What happened in 1776? It was not just a war for independence but a revolution. Sovereignty and the authorization to use state power were reversed. Power now emanated from the body politic to the negation of the king. He was the people's nominee for the exercise and institutionalizatio of executive will, but they no longer wanted him because he acted unconstitutionally by the standards of English law itself. Hence, the people unilaterally withdrew that power and reconstituted themselves into a functional, radical democracy because class status, based on inherited privileges, was destroyed. Loyalists were purged.
During the revolution, the struggle was ideological and violent. After the revolution, politics became legal and pragmatic. Eventually, there was the triumph of federalism after the Civil War.
So, the Declaration of Independence was
1. a political action;
2. ideological preparation for a treaty;
3. the legal basis for the Articles of Confederation.
In the text of the Declaration, we see arguments developed from natural laws in history. There was implied a social contract between the people and their government and a covenant by the people with God. Arguments were developed from common sense. Popular sovereignty won the day. The people now knew they had a right to revolution with the potential to constitute a new form of government at their discretion.
The revolutionaries believed their natural rights were based on self-interest and the public good, which they felt need not contradict each other. Authority, however, must be responsible and accountable to the people. Dereliction of duties by a sovereign could and would be denounced by the people. Rules of evidence had to be used in court. Law was now a science—the science of jurisprudence. Issues of fairness, like taxation with representation, concerned the public. So, there was an outstanding demand for representative government, the rule of law, and due process. A sovereign, too, must secure the public safety; where it was neglected, the people had a right to bear arms in self-defense.
Abuses of power, obstruction of justice, and all other extralegal suspensions of laws were unconstitutional and cause for the people to revolt. A sovereign would not be allowed to rule by emergency decree. Monarchical decrees could very well be considered unconstitutional. If carried to an extreme state, a political society could be said to have reverted to a state of nature—and the people would opt for a novel form of democracy.
To have legitimate power, the sovereign must act as a beneficent trustee with the people as the beneficiaries. A sovereign who loses the people's trust can no longer have legitimacy or authority. George III had committed a train of egregious and continual violations of both the written and the unwritten constitutional law. Too, English politicians had been conspiring with the king to encroach upon established rights. The American people concluded they were living under a tyranny. Too, they felt they had no contract with the British people. Americans believed that when they came to this virgin continent they were in a state of nature—literally. Any social contract, therefore, was with the colonizers and the king—certainly not with the English people.
Thus, when they separated, the break was a renunciation of past history and all institutional ties and obligations under natural, international, and English constitutional laws. The United States of America had invented itself as a legal entity, sanctified by force of arms and recognized as in alliance with France. The Declaration of Independence was a statement of revolutionary goals which de facto and de jure birthed a new nation. The ultimate sanction is the law of God in nature, which is irrefutable because it is a First Principle. If you cannot accept the principle, then you cannot accept the moral legitimacy of the new nation. It was a moot point in the real world of Realpolitik. Force is the ultimate arbiter of right—supposedly it evidences God's will.