Free Capitalist Network - Community Archive
Mises Community Archive
An online community for fans of Austrian economics and libertarianism, featuring forums, user blogs, and more.

Which is more authoritative, the Declaration of Independence or the U.S. Constitution?

rated by 0 users
Answered (Not Verified) This post has 0 verified answers | 41 Replies | 4 Followers

Top 500 Contributor
Male
173 Posts
Points 3,810
Brutus posted on Sat, Apr 9 2011 6:17 AM

If one reads the Declaration of Independence or the Articles of Confederation and compares it with the U.S. Constitution, he can't help but notice an immense difference in terminology and proposed governmental structure. Although the Declaration of Independence doesn't give a particular governmental structure, it does give a lot of "it ain't gonna be this way or that way," and that spirit manifested itself in the Articles, though most importantly it proclaims America's freedom from the rule of King George III.

Though with the adoption of the Constitution, a schism emerges that exists between the spirit of the Declaration of Independence and the intention of the Constitution. For example:

Declaration of Independence "Whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness"

U.S.Constitution (Article I, Section 8, Clause 15) "[The Congress shall have Power] to provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions."

In the Civil War, I suppose that the North justified their tirade on the South by enforcing Article 4, Section 3 due to a divergence and re-defining of the Union. But was the South actually breaking any constitutional laws by seceding? The Constitution says nothing about the states not having the ability to form their own union by indirectly restricting the current one. In considering Article I, Section 8, Clause 15 in particular, would the South's secession qualify as insurrection? I don't think it would since the creation of their own union would not qualify.

Now the philosophical question: even if the South's secession were unconstitutional, would it have been illegal when considering the authority of the Declaration of Independence in stating that "Whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness"?

If you're American, which do you hold to have more authority: the very document that officially granted American citizens independence and freedom or the current constitution that seeks to preserve the bond of the current union through legal means?  

"Is life so dear or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?" -Patrick Henry

  • | Post Points: 50

All Replies

Top 10 Contributor
Male
11,343 Posts
Points 194,945
ForumsAdministrator
Moderator
SystemAdministrator

It's all just mythical paper.

"When you're young you worry about people stealing your ideas, when you're old you worry that they won't." - David Friedman
  • | Post Points: 50
Top 75 Contributor
1,365 Posts
Points 30,945

In the end, all that is written...is nothing.

  • | Post Points: 20
Top 100 Contributor
814 Posts
Points 16,290

The Declaration of Independence was better and more important, since it was the Founding Document.

The Constitution is illigit, because it didn't follow the ratification procedures laid out by the Articles of Confederation.  

My favorite of the 3 documents was the Articles of Confederation although both that and the Declaration of Independence are the 2 best documents of all time, IMO.

  • | Post Points: 5
Top 500 Contributor
Male
173 Posts
Points 3,810
Brutus replied on Sat, Apr 9 2011 10:22 AM

@liberty student

All just mythical paper? As opposed to factual paper?

I get the sense that you're a bit of a corporeal relativist, similar (though not completely) to G.E. Moore. In his Principia Ethica, he strays from traditional British Empiricism in saying that even things we experience can exist without actual definition and have an incorporeal substance yet can still be quantifiable, like color.

I say I'm similar to the empiricists in that if I sense through touch that I am holding something, and if I'm looking at symbols and able to determine words that have universal meanings, such as freedom and independence (which everyone on here understands), then those things exist.

Ach, mein Gott! Don't bring up Descartes, bitte! I would say by saying "It's all just mythical paper," you step into a nasty ontological paradox.

"Is life so dear or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?" -Patrick Henry

  • | Post Points: 35
Top 150 Contributor
Male
516 Posts
Points 7,190
bbnet replied on Sat, Apr 9 2011 10:33 AM

I agree with liberty student in the sense that while these forementioned papers hold a lot of weight in the mindes of many people, when push comes to shove, they are irrelevent to the slave masters and thus just 'mythical/legendary' pieces of paper to keep the slaves satiated.

We are the soldiers for righteousness
And we are not sent here by the politicians you drink with - L. Dube, rip

  • | Post Points: 35
Top 10 Contributor
Male
11,343 Posts
Points 194,945
ForumsAdministrator
Moderator
SystemAdministrator

Brutus:

@liberty student

All just mythical paper? As opposed to factual paper?

Yeah, it's just some damn paper which some folks believe actually have some power over reality.  It's just paper made mythic through belief.

Brutus:
I say I'm similar to the empiricists in that if I sense through touch that I am holding something, and if I'm looking at symbols and able to determine words that have universal meanings, such as freedom and independence (which everyone on here understands), then those things exist.

You can believe anything you want.  It doesn't make it real.  You can believe it is a holy scroll from an ancient race of mariners originally from the planet poptart and it would still be a piece of paper with some scribblings on it.

"When you're young you worry about people stealing your ideas, when you're old you worry that they won't." - David Friedman
  • | Post Points: 5
Top 10 Contributor
Male
11,343 Posts
Points 194,945
ForumsAdministrator
Moderator
SystemAdministrator

bbnet:
I agree with liberty student in the sense that while these forementioned papers hold a lot of weight in the mindes of many people, when push comes to shove, they are irrelevent to the slave masters and thus just 'mythical/legendary' pieces of paper to keep the slaves satiated.

This ^^.  One can't be free until he recognizes all of the chains, and the worst are the ones we place on ourselves.

"When you're young you worry about people stealing your ideas, when you're old you worry that they won't." - David Friedman
  • | Post Points: 20
Top 75 Contributor
1,365 Posts
Points 30,945

And let's consider what authority these folks are appealing to, these Constitutional Idolators.

Thomas Jefferson turned America into an autarky for 18 months by banning international trade competely. He also attacked Barbary Pirates to protect American business interests.

Just what exactly is the preference of libertarians for a protectionist warmongerer?

  • | Post Points: 35
Top 10 Contributor
Male
11,343 Posts
Points 194,945
ForumsAdministrator
Moderator
SystemAdministrator

We can always count on Prateek to make an argument about someone's character.

"When you're young you worry about people stealing your ideas, when you're old you worry that they won't." - David Friedman
  • | Post Points: 5
Top 25 Contributor
Male
3,260 Posts
Points 61,905
ForumsAdministrator
Moderator
Staff
SystemAdministrator

Prateek,

With any kind of project, original intentions carry a lot of weight in people's minds, regarding future directions.  For the American project, the Hamiltonian intentions for the country have taken over.  It's useful to remind people that Hamilton's vision was not the only one when it all started.  There was a Jeffersonian vision too.  Jefferson himself did not live up to that vision.  But if people are reminded that there was a Jeffersonian vision for the country, they might come to want to return to it.  And that might be easier going than convincing people to adopt a new tack that they think has nothing to do with the history of the country.

"the obligation to justice is founded entirely on the interests of society, which require mutual abstinence from property" -David Hume
  • | Post Points: 5
Top 500 Contributor
Male
173 Posts
Points 3,810

@liberty student

I agree that people are what determines the value...but to make the claim that the value does not exist is ridiculous. I guess we'll need to make a distinction between the inherent and projected value of the Declaration of Independence. Of course nothing is inherently valuable...but that doesn't mean it isn't valuable. That's your mistake.

Let's say someone wants to buy a rock in my back yard. I tell him $500 and he pays me $500 for it. The rock thus holds a value of $500. This you cannot deny. Value does not have to restrict itself to being monetary, either. For instance, perhaps the rock had a sentimental value to the consumer because his step brother who was killed in a train wreck years earlier had given him that very rock, and he would use it to memorialize him. In that sense, the value could very well be priceless, and $500 would be nothing to the consumer. However, if that same rock had existed 200 million years before humans came around, it would be at zero value, and this is where I agree with you: in terms of inherent value vs. projected value.

In this sense, I understand that you mean the Declaration of Independence is composed of paper with inked symbols, and that unto themselves those materials hold no intrinsic value. However, to claim that the Declaration of Independence holds no value is wrong. It holds an immense value...whether monetary or sentimental, a person's perception of how worthy the item is determines its value. He need not even be able to purchase something to consider it valuable. For example, just because I don't desire to have the Hope diamond doesn't mean I don't think it's valuable. Take away projected value, though, and similar to the rock existing 200 million years before humanity, it would be without any value whatsoever, unless some form of life required it at the time.

"Is life so dear or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?" -Patrick Henry

  • | Post Points: 20
Top 10 Contributor
Male
11,343 Posts
Points 194,945
ForumsAdministrator
Moderator
SystemAdministrator

Brutus:
Of course nothing is inherently valuable...but that doesn't mean it isn't valuable. That's your mistake.

If it isn't inherently valuable, where does it get its value?

Brutus:
Let's say someone wants to buy a rock in my back yard. I tell him $500 and he pays me $500 for it. The rock thus holds a value of $500. This you cannot deny.

The past value to the two of you is $500.  That doesn't mean anyone else holds those values or that both of you will with each future exchange.

What I am telling you is that the Declaration has no special attributes except that there are people who worship it.   It's just a piece of paper.  It doesn't save lives, it doesn't command armies, it doesn't defend rights.  It's just scribblings that people have attributed holy and mythical status to.  The Constitution has no authority.  The Declaration just as much.

No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority

 

"When you're young you worry about people stealing your ideas, when you're old you worry that they won't." - David Friedman
  • | Post Points: 20
Top 200 Contributor
Male
488 Posts
Points 8,140
LeeO replied on Sat, Apr 9 2011 11:18 PM

What I am telling you is that the Declaration has no special attributes except that there are people who worship it.   It's just a piece of paper.  It doesn't save lives, it doesn't command armies, it doesn't defend rights.  It's just scribblings that people have attributed holy and mythical status to.  The Constitution has no authority.  The Declaration just as much.

The people who wrote the Declaration and Constitution had authority. Many people who have worshiped the documents have had authority. Therefore, it is helpful to study these particular pieces of paper, just as it is helpful to study religious texts.

  • | Post Points: 50
Top 150 Contributor
Male
516 Posts
Points 7,190
bbnet replied on Sun, Apr 10 2011 12:56 AM

liberty student linked a great essay from which one can further their study of the constitution, here's an excerpt:

 

" ... The ostensible supporters of the Constitution, like the ostensible supporters of most other governments, are made up of three classes, viz.: 1. Knaves, a numerous and active class, who see in the government an instrument which they can use for their own aggrandizement or wealth. 2. Dupes — a large class, no doubt — each of whom, because he is allowed one voice out of millions in deciding what he may do with his own person and his own property, and because he is permitted to have the same voice in robbing, enslaving, and murdering others, that others have in robbing, enslaving, and murdering himself, is stupid enough to imagine that he is a "free man," a "sovereign"; that this is "a free government"; "a government of equal rights," "the best government on earth,"  and such like absurdities. 3. A class who have some appreciation of the evils of government, but either do not see how to get rid of them, or do not choose to so far sacrifice their private interests as to give themselves seriously and earnestly to the work of making a change. ..."

It's reallly just good mood food!

We are the soldiers for righteousness
And we are not sent here by the politicians you drink with - L. Dube, rip

  • | Post Points: 5
Page 1 of 3 (42 items) 1 2 3 Next > | RSS