Best Friends: The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution

For some time, I’ve had a squib in mind that connected the Declaration and Constitution. Professor William B. Allen of Michigan State University beat me to it some years ago with a
paper that did just that. I encourage the reader to examine the entire work.

To the small extent that our Declaration is discussed in the public square and taught to our young anymore at all, discourse is typically limited to the clauses surrounding our unalienable rights and equality before God. Addressed far less often are the specific charges directed at King George III and how our Constitution dealt with these shortcomings, problems, and assaults on free government.

The first ten charges against George III dealt with his proscriptions against effective colonial lawmaking. George III ruled the colonials with powers no less absolute than the English Stuart monarchs of the 17th century. He got away with treating his distant subjects as if there had never been a Glorious Revolution in 1688.

For instance, all laws, both colonial and parliamentary, required the positive assent of the King. But whereas George III wouldn’t think of vetoing parliamentary statutes, he did so on a regular basis to colonial bills that reached him. Most proposed colonial legislation never got that far because the King’s Royal Governors ruled under strict guidelines which prohibited certain types of laws. Governors could also prorogue and dissolve colonial assemblies at will, which meant no law-making for extended periods.

As chartered legislative bodies were shut down, American colonials illustrated a Lockean nostrum regarding the legislative power; the legislative cannot be denied to civil society. From our Declaration:

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions from within.

Professor Allen wrote: “And where the constituted government—limited by this purpose—fails, it falls to the people speedily to provide such a government as can respect these limits and accomplish these results.” The American people did just that. They immediately formed ad hoc legislative bodies and never looked back.

Over a dozen years later the lessons learned from George III’s attempted suppression of the legislative power which cannot be denied to civil society, are on display in Article I § 1 of the Constitution: “All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.”

Our Constitution continued with additional correctives:

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

Constitution, Article I § 7:
Legislative bills are sent to the president for his assent or qualified veto. Two thirds vote of both houses may override the veto. If the president does not veto the bill, and does not return it to congress after a ten days, the bill becomes law.

Unlike our colonial forebears, we shall not be denied that which is essential to freedom: lawmaking.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

Constitution, Article I § 2:
The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

America circa 2016 faces a similar dilemma. Just as his Majesty’s colonies were denied their right to make law which best suited their circumstances and civil society, so too is lawmaking regularly denied to the states. For instance, the states are prohibited from defending themselves from foreign invasion. Between various court decisions, litigation from the Department of Social Justice, and diktats from the executive branch, the states are regularly denied self-government.

When oligarchs in Washington DC direct states to repeal laws which keep teenage boys out of girl’s bathrooms and locker rooms, free government is but a fantasy.

We are the many; our oppressors are the few. Be proactive. Be a Re-Founder of the American Republic. Join Convention of States. Sign our COS Petition.

1 thought on “Best Friends: The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution

  1. Roy Lofquist

    Dear Sir,

    I too am concerned with the many misunderstandings about the modern view of our founding documents. It seems that we are exposed to a “Constitution for Dummies” approach. The framing of these documents is cast as the result of philosophical debates and thus amenable to abstract criticism, deconstruction if you will. In reality the Declaration and Constitution were, at base, political solutions to political problems.

    The Declaration is presented as an aspirational plea addressed to the King for the redress of grievances. In reality, it was a polemic designed to promote revolution, which wasn’t nearly as popular among the colonies as moderns would have us believe.

    The Constitution was the result of sausage making of the highest order. The authors of The Federalist Papers describe the horse trading in considerable detail.

    The Articles of Confederation are almost completely ignored but much of The Constitution was written to address specific defects in The Articles. For example, the Commerce Clause was included because under The Articles States has erected tariff barriers which led to some rancorous disputes. The Establishment clause of the First Amendment was added partly because under The Articles the various States had established official religions and this too threatened the sought after unity, the unity that was necessary in a hostile world for the nation to survive.

    Please do not misunderstand me. I stand firmly in two camps, originalism and textualism. I see grave dangers in the modern constructions that the framers couldn’t foresee the future and that we we need a “living” Constitution because times change. The implication is that the founding documents were prescriptive in nature, and thus had to adapt to new situations.

    They were not. They were practical solutions to the defects in human nature that led to centuries of internecine warfare between the principalities of Europe. This is our patrimony and must be guarded well.

    Roy Lofquist
    Ocoee, Florida

Comments are closed.