Lee Strang: The Declaration of Independence & the Constitution [NSS 2018]
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Lee Strang: The Declaration of Independence & the Constitution [NSS 2018]


Everybody agrees, I think, the Declaration
of Independence is important because it’s a focal point of American constitutional and
legal thought. Everybody says the Declaration is good and
that we should follow it, but Americans disagree pretty deeply about what the Declaration of
Independence means for us today. So, I’ve described the relationship between
the Declaration and the Constitution where the Declaration is a piece of evidence that
an interpreter should take into account to ascertain the Constitution’s original meaning. But it’s just that, a piece of evidence, and
not one that’s privileged in some particular way. After the creation of the United States in
1776, the Declaration was infrequently used by Americans up until around 1820. And then around 1820, the first of many social
reform movements appealed to the Declaration to support their out-of-the-mainstream theories
of constitutional interpretation. And this movement, of course, was the abolitionist
movement. And so the abolitionist movement was the first
of many social movements who appealed to the Declaration to support their claim that their
unconventional view is actually the Constitution’s true view. And so it wasn’t just the abolitionists, it
was the suffragette movement, the modern civil rights movement, and most recently, the pro-life
movement, have all similarly appealed to the Declaration to support their different and
unconventional meanings of the Constitution. But I think what this shows is that the-
you- people who utilize the Declaration aren’t finding something intrinsic in the Constitution
that shows them that the Declaration is relevant in some unique way. Instead, they’re responding to an extrinsic
phenomenon: slavery, denial of the right to vote to women, denial of many rights to African
Americans in the South, or the denial of the right to life to unborn human beings. And
that motivates them to look for an argument extrinsic to the Constitution to support their
visions.

2 Comments

  • David Parsons

    The system does not care about the organic constitution the system is about to go away and the people that are american born and not going to contact with a foreign nation like Washington D.C. its not America as we should see it we the people are not corperations or employees.

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