July Fourth Reflections on the Declaration of Independence

by Peter Daniel Haworth on July 4, 2013 · 5 comments <span>Print this article</span> Print this article

in Short

Given the dominant influence of Lincolnian interpretations of the Declaration of Independence, I try to do my small part on July 4th not only to cry FOUL, but also to point readers toward alternative and, in my mind, superior understandings of this document and its relation to historically accurate Constitutionalism. In this effort, I encourage FPR readers to peruse the following links: (1) Professors Sean Busick and Lee Cheek’s article on the Declaration; (2) Doctoral Candidate Benjamin David Clark’s reflections on these topics; and (3) Kevin Gutzman’s article on the same. Please enjoy, but also soberly realize how far we have fallen from the true republicanism, steeped in local-liberty that characterized the first half of American history.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Ray Olson July 5, 2013 at 8:29 am

Thanks. “Dominate” is a verb. The corresponding adjective is “dominant”. Same goes for “predominate” and “predominant”. All writers on this site, take note.

avatar Siarlys Jenkins July 5, 2013 at 5:06 pm

OK, I took a look at Cheek. Very imaginative nonsense. The Declaration did not introduce or recognize ANY “design of the republic,” because no such republic had yet been considered. It outlined grievances, and the principles that justified those grievances. No more and no less.

It is true that the Constitution cannot be understood without first understanding the Articles of Confederation. The Articles of Confederation was the document of a compact among states. The Constitution was not. When conventions (not legislatures) ratified the Constitution, the people of the states entered into a federal framework in which both federal and state governments acted directly upon the people, and were acted upon by the people. The states were no longer intermediary. As Andrew Jackson reminded John C. Calhoun, “the United States is a government, not a league.

Incidentally, our independence wasn’t established at Yorktown. Our independence was established when British armies still holding New York and some other points south and west actually withdrew, once the British government decided not to continue pursuing the war, which was under active consideration for a time after Yorktown.

History can be very compliant if one views it through the desired pair of rose colored glasses.

avatar Thomas McCullough July 5, 2013 at 6:26 pm

I find the Declaration to be a document of beautifully articulated principles, a series of legitimate complaints and a series of excessive bitchings. I am no student of law and I have long wondered what status in These United States of America the Declaration of Independence legally has. Can someone with a deeper experience of study explain that to me?

avatar John Haas July 6, 2013 at 9:17 am

The Declaration, Thomas, has no legal status whatsoever.

avatar John Taylor July 9, 2013 at 4:00 pm

The Virginia Constitution of 1776 declared the “the government of this country (i.e. Virginia), as formerly exercised under the crown of Great Britain, is TOTALLY DISSOLVED.” Adopted 29 June 1776, prior to, and independently of, the other colonies. This document had, I believe, some legal status.

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