« Andrew Koppelman: Bostock, LGBT Discrimination, and the Subtractive Moves
Michael Ramsey
| Main | The Faithless Electors Case: Not as Bad as it Might Have Been [Updated with Comment by Andrew Hyman]
Michael Ramsey »

07/06/2020

Randy Barnett on the Declaration of Independence
Michael Ramsey

At Volokh Conspiracy, Randy Barnett: What the Declaration of Independence Said and Meant -- It officially adopted the political theory of the United States: securing the individual rights of We the People.  From the introduction:

The Declaration of Independence used to be read aloud at public gatherings every Fourth of July. Today, while all Americans have heard of it, all too few have read more than its second sentence. Yet the Declaration shows the natural rights foundation of the American Revolution, and provides important information about what the founders believed makes a constitution or government legitimate. It also raises the question of how these fundamental rights are reconciled with the idea of "the consent of the governed," another idea for which the Declaration is famous.

...

When reading the Declaration, it is worth keeping in mind two very important facts. The Declaration constituted high treason against the Crown. Every person who signed it would be executed as traitors should they be caught by the British. Second, the Declaration was considered to be a legal document by which the revolutionaries justified their actions and explained why they were not truly traitors. It represented, as it were, a literal indictment of the Crown and Parliament, in the very same way that criminals are now publicly indicted for their alleged crimes by grand juries representing "the People."

...

In Our Republican Constitution: Securing the Liberty and Sovereignty of We the People, I explain how the Declaration encapsulated the political theory that lead the Constitution some eleven years later. To appreciate all that is packed into the two paragraphs that comprise the preamble to the list of grievances, it is useful to break down the Declaration into some of its key claims. ...