Primacy: The Declaration of Independence

July 4, 2017

“We claim Nothing but the Liberty & Privileges of Englishmen, in the same Degree, as if we had still continued among our Brethren in Great Britain: these Rights have not been forfeited by any Act of ours, we can not be deprived of them without our Consent, but by Violence & Injustice; We have received them from our Ancestors and, with God’s Leave, we will transmit them, unimpaired to our Posterity.”  George Mason – June 6, 1766

The cardinal expression of the American experiment is found in the political genius of the Declaration of Independence. Within the text is a succinct summary of grievances and principles. It is also an explanation for actions necessary to secure liberty. More than a compact among separate colonies, engaged in a war for independence, basic innate human rights are acknowledged. Affirming the rightful authority for self governance – “deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed” – is the essential essence of Inherent Autonomy.

The designation – The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America – proclaims their affiliated association and distinct sovereignty. Based upon the universal pursuit for human freedom, the forebearers in the struggle for independence, provide a heritage of declaration for Liberty.

The Declaration of Arbroath – 1320, the cornerstone of Scottish self-government, echoes the birthright and aspiration, centuries before. It speaks to the natural drive to expel autarchy and achieve freedom:

Yet if he (Bruce) should give up what he has begun, and agree to make us or our kingdom subject to the King of England or the English, we should exert ourselves at once to drive him out as our enemy and a subverter of his own rights and ours, and make some other man who was well able to defend us our King; for, as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.’

In an age of kings, the clans avowed their inheritance of independence. The annals of English monarchy are replete with abuse and despotic rule. Nevertheless, the “rights of Englishmen” gradually spurted the rootstock of defiance. 

The harbinger and inspiration for the Jeffersonian vision can be found in The Virginia Declaration of Rights. It was used by Thomas Jefferson for the opening paragraphs of the Declaration of Independence.

Section 1. That all men are by nature equally free and independent and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.

Drafted by George Mason and amended by Thomas Ludwell Lee, this manifesto called for American independence to preserve Americans’ fundamental rights. It put forth the philosophy of John Locke’s Two Treatises of Government (1690), heavily influenced by the Magna Carta.

Read more:  Primacy: The Declaration of Independence


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