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

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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

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LeeO:
The people who wrote the Declaration and Constitution had authority.

Mr LeeO, from where did this authority come?

LeeO:
Therefore, it is helpful to study these particular pieces of paper, just as it is helpful to study religious texts.

They are just paper bro.  You can use them to start a fire, and that might be their most productive use.

De Jasay correctly frames the debate by placing the burden of proof on those who would disturb liberty.  Instead of declaring how free we are (and in the process enslaving us to some conception of government and rebellion) simply ask those who would rule you, those with the authority, from where their authority and right to rule comes from.

"When you're young you worry about people stealing your ideas, when you're old you worry that they won't." - David Friedman
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The Constitution is worth studying if you're interested in modern age legal history. It means nothing today, other than rhetorically, and your rhetoric need bear no resemblence to the facts. People don't care, and even if they did they don't understand it and will never put one iota of effort into doing so. Screw the Republic. It sucked. It was a disaster. It was worse than Britain. And Jefferson can go to Hell, too.

I do study religious texts because they are interesting. But I'm usually of enough good sense not to argue with religious people about them. The same goes with political idols like the Constitution; what it says is irrelevant to the tradition people have been ingrained with.

I will break in the doors of hell and smash the bolts; there will be confusion of people, those above with those from the lower depths. I shall bring up the dead to eat food like the living; and the hosts of dead will outnumber the living.
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bbnet replied on Sun, Apr 10 2011 1:43 AM

liberty student wrote:

... simply ask those who would rule you, those with the authority, from where their authority and right to rule comes from.

 

Lemmee guess,  their authority comes from our CONS..., but the next letters aren't ...TIT..., perhaps an ...ENT?

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

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Brutus replied on Sun, Apr 10 2011 6:24 AM

@LeeO

Exactly what I'm saying.

To pretend something is not valuable because it has no inherent value is to dismiss the impetus of value altogether: human perception. Clearly Thomas Jefferson valued the writ declaring independence from England as did the majority (if not all) of the united States of America's founders. To pretend it doesn't have value is to ignore the source of and the substance of value altogether.

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

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Brutus:
To pretend something is not valuable because it has no inherent value is to dismiss the impetus of value altogether: human perception. Clearly Thomas Jefferson valued the writ declaring independence from England as did the majority (if not all) of the united States of America's founders. To pretend it doesn't have value is to ignore the source of and the substance of value altogether.

I'm not pretending mass delusions don't have value to the people who are deluded.  I am saying that if the Founders thought a bowl with an apple, a banana and an orange were the Constitution, a few million would worship fruit bowls.  Does that make the fruit bowl a pro-liberty form?  Does it have power to push back against tyranny?  Or is it just a simple fruit bowl?

The piece of paper is just a piece of paper.  It's not a contract.  To a hardcore voluntarist, it's not even a radical document.

"When you're young you worry about people stealing your ideas, when you're old you worry that they won't." - David Friedman
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It's all about the cons.  The cons, the currency, passing port and learning at a young age how to write spells (spelling).  ;)

"When you're young you worry about people stealing your ideas, when you're old you worry that they won't." - David Friedman
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Brutus replied on Sun, Apr 10 2011 9:51 AM

@liberty student

Take cash money. Are you claiming cash money has no value? Not in the sense of not being backed by gold this day in age, but I mean to ask: do you believe cash money has no value? Do you have a job where you earn this (possibly) worthless paper or electronic symbols showing up on your bank account symbolizing a certain amount of money that you earn? How about this: do you have any cash in your wallet? If so, how do you justify saving it? Sentimental purposes as we merely have some form of sentiment with the Declaration of Independence, as you claim? Do you use this paper with ink, symbols and pictures of former presidents on it to barter? If so, can you justify your claim that it has no value whatsoever? If so, how exactly are you defining value, unless you can't since you claim it doesn't exist. Am I understanding your claim correctly?

Would you agree that you, too, are delusional by believing you can barter for some desired object by exchanging a certain amount of your cash money for it? Do you keep the silver colored, metallic objects that a cashier hands back to you, or do you argue with her over the delusional methods by which she holds value in what you initially gave her since paper with ink symbols is without value? I think not. However, as always, I'm always open to being proved wrong in light of proper evidence.

 

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

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Brutus:
Take cash money.

Brutus, since value theory is not a common ground for us, let's stay on topic.

I don't value the Declaration of Independence or the US Constitution.  You may.  You may even believe they are authoritative in some way.  I have already asked LeeO, how did they gain any authority?

You wrote;

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?

The Declaration didn't "grant" anyone, anything.  It can't, Jefferson didn't have the authority to speak for mankind, or all Americans, or to claim the highest knowledge of the relationship between men and their God.  It's all nonsense.

"When you're young you worry about people stealing your ideas, when you're old you worry that they won't." - David Friedman
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Brutus, have you read the excellent piece called Myth of Rule of Law? It's written by a lawyer and professor of law and you'll find it to resolve most questions you have here.

I was tempted to repeat some of the arguments from it the moment you made this thread, but I realized they would all be incomplete if not taken altogether. So I'll have to make a rather imperfect suggestion that if you want to understand the source of human law, you may (or may not) read an article that changed my mind and has changed minds of others here.

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LeeO replied on Sun, Apr 10 2011 12:05 PM

Mr LeeO, from where did this authority come?

I suppose other people granted the framers authority because they were rich, white, intelligent men who had the right political connections.

They are just paper bro.  You can use them to start a fire, and that might be their most productive use.

Does this idea apply to all paper? Are books in general most productive as fuel for fire? Ideas have consequences, and people write ideas down on paper. I'd rather read the paper than throw the pages in the fire.

De Jasay correctly frames the debate by placing the burden of proof on those who would disturb liberty.  Instead of declaring how free we are (and in the process enslaving us to some conception of government and rebellion) simply ask those who would rule you, those with the authority, from where their authority and right to rule comes from.

That's a good way of putting it. I like how De Jasay cuts through to the heart of the issue. The problem is that most people are perfectly happy to grant others the authority to rule them, making it easy for rulers to justify their existence. Why presume liberty when slavery has always been the norm, and will continue to be for some time?

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LeeO replied on Sun, Apr 10 2011 12:09 PM

The piece of paper is just a piece of paper.  It's not a contract.

What makes contracts different from other pieces of paper?

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LeeO:
I suppose other people granted the framers authority because they were rich, white, intelligent men who had the right political connections.

Do you have proof that the framers were granted authority?  Who were they?

LeeO:
The problem is that most people are perfectly happy to grant others the authority to rule them, making it easy for rulers to justify their existence.

If someone has granted authority that is theirs to give, then that does justify rulers.

LeeO:
Why presume liberty when slavery has always been the norm, and will continue to be for some time?

Why presume the earth is round when flat earth has always been the norm and will continue to be for some time?

"When you're young you worry about people stealing your ideas, when you're old you worry that they won't." - David Friedman
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Brutus replied on Mon, Apr 11 2011 9:32 AM

@liberty student

I have a unique question that's not related to our previous discussion. Do you believe the earth is round or flat? I'm not being sarcastic, either; I mean to say that relativism has always intrigued me, and in philosophy classes we discussed such things. Just curious to see your take.

I've found that relativists are frequently eager to avoid committing to such things that people take for granted, though according to many of your comments on the forums, you don't like when people beat around the bush with answers. Perhaps a more appropriate question would be, what do you believe in? Are you a nihilist?

I'm an absolutist on many things, though usually only things concerning science and ethics (though not 100%, of course, so maybe not so much an absolutist, lol). I believe the earth is round, I believe in God, I believe that theft and cheating are wrong, et cetera, so I'm certainly not a nihilist. Just curious.

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

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Newton's works on gravity did not create gravity, they simply described something that was already in place.  Put it in a way for people to understand it.

In this respect, the Declaration of Independence simply states the obvious, built upon the writings of other people.  It was a document written to be delivered to the King of England, essentially telling him that his services are no longer required.

Truth described within a document is not created by that document.  The document holds no authority over truth.  In fact, it's the other way around.

Authority comes only from people who submit to it, usually in the form of one person or group attempting to claim authority over another person or group, and most often with aggression.  The documentation is irrelevant except in giving the aggressors the emotional support to continue in their aggression.

In the case of the United States, authority comes via the gun or threat of imprisonment, not the Constitution.  The Constitution and the laws of the United States are involuntary.

As a ruling document for organization, the United States violates or ignores the U.S. Constitution every second of its existence.  Even in the minds of the willing the Constitution has little or no authority.  This nation is ruled by guns and men and the willful ignorance of its populace rather than a few pieces of parchment.

Do not put faith in paper documents, but in our birthright to be free.

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Contracts are mutual, voluntary agreements recorded for the purpose of resolving disputes after the agreement has been made.  The contract describes the agreement being made by the idividuals involved.  The agreement is real.  The paper is just an image of the agreement at that particular point in time.  Should the parties entertain revision in their agreement, then they may alter the contract or ammend it.  Both the original agreement and any changes could have been made without a formal written contract, and be legitimate.  Whereas a contract without the original agreement is just a piece of paper.  This is why contracts are signed, witnessed and notorized.

The Declaration of Independence is not a contract.  It's simply a declaration.

The U.S. Constitution is not a contract.  It's a document defining the structure and powers of the U.S. Government.  There are some who worship it as a contract.

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