People will try to tell you otherwise, but the Declaration of Independence is part of our legal system. In fact, it is the highest man-made law in this land — higher even than the Constitution. The Constitution is only the ‘how’ of America, but the Declaration is the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ — the spirit — of this nation. Now, lest someone object that I am merely stating opinion, allow me to cite an authority who was there from the first days of our founding until the last:
“Before the formation of this Constitution…[t]his Declaration of Independence was received and ratified by all the States in the Union and has never been disannulled.”
–John Quincey Adams.
That the whole of the founders concurred is evidenced in the first words of the Constitution, itself:
“We the People of the United States…”
If the United States had not formerly existed before the writing of the Constitution, then by what right or reasoning could the founders have written “We the people of the United States?” The establishment of a nation requires some form of legal documentation, yet — at this time — the Constitution had not been ratified, so it was not law. You will find words to this same effect in the Articles of Confederation. So the legal document that formed the United States must predate the Articles of Confederation. The only possibility left is the Declaration of Independence and, if we would look, we would find that the Declaration plainly states that it is the document whereby the United States was established as a nation:
THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE
IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,…”
But, more than this, the Declaration is the legal document that established each of the States as free and independent nations, as stated in the concluding paragraph:
“We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”
The Constitution is a legal document that creates a system of governance between the States. It is not a national government, and the founders said so. It was created by the States to govern the States, and as a creation of the States, it remains subordinate to the States. Here again, the Constitution acknowledges this in that it describes the system created as ‘federal’ and not national, and acknowledges that the States and the States alone retain the power to amend or dissolve the system created by the Constitution.
All of this was done under the legal system acknowledged in the Declaration. The Constitution is a Social Contract between the States. It draws its authority from the States which, in turn, draw their authority to contract from Nature’s Laws (which draw their authority from Nature’s God/Creator). Therefore, every way we look at the Constitution, it is not the highest law of this land, the Declaration is. And even then, the Declaration is the highest man-made law which itself acknowledges by appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World.
Now, if the American people wish to change this system, they are free to do so. All three legal documents (the Constitution, Declaration and Natural Law) make this clear. But, if they wish to change it, they must follow the prescribed process. Anything less would constitute an usurpation of States’ rights and the individual rights of the American people. As such, it would not only constitute lawlessness, it would be an act of war on the States and the American people.
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