The Declaration & Constitution: The Framing of a Nation [No. 86]
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The Declaration & Constitution: The Framing of a Nation [No. 86]


The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution
of the United States are the two greatest political documents ever written, and there’s
a partnership between them. One of them explains what the nation is for,
the why of the nation, and the other explains how the nation is to be governed, the processes,
some of the purposes, and the way it bases the use of political authority upon popular
consent. The governed run the country. Together, those two documents describe
what the United States of America is in its governing aspect. Which of the two documents, the Declaration
or the Constitution, is foundational? Well, in their separate ways, they’re both
foundational, but the country itself is founded by the Declaration of Independence, and the
Constitution of the United States actually presumes the existence of the United States
of America. The relationship between the Declaration and
the Constitution, in Lincoln’s words, was, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold
and pictures of silver.” He’s referring to the Declaration as the apple
of gold, and the middle, the purpose, the thing we love, that brings us together and
makes us a nation, and the frame is the structure in which that operates. That’s what the Constitution is, and I think
the founders thought of it that way, and there’s evidence in both documents that they thought
that way. The Declaration of Independence establishes
the country. I don’t think there could be any controversy
about that. That’s what it says, and it would have to
be done that way, but it’s also true that it states about what the purposes of the country
are, and it states that in much more detail and grander language than the Constitution
does. The Constitution is what the government looks
like. The government looks like a legislative, executive,
and judicial branch. It provides the form of the government and
how we go about making laws. There’s a strict range of people who think
the Declaration of Independence has no legal bearing, because it, it’s not a law making
thing. That’s false, because it made the law by which
we became an independent country, and that was a law, and that didn’t just have an effect. It had the most dramatic effect of all. The Declaration of Independence is not the
Constitution. It calls for a Constitution. It declaims against the king for
not providing a Constitution of the type that we actually ended up with. Declaration of Independence is relevant to
constitutional interpretation because it states the purposes of the land, and you need it,
and here’s why you need it. It’s the supreme law of the land because the
people made it, but the reason why you need a law of that type to be supreme is explained
in the Declaration of Independence.

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