The founding fathers laid down the foundation to what was to become the United States in the words they chose in the Declaration of Independence (DOI). Although the DOI is not statute (law), it is fundamental to help us understand the context in which our federal government was to be built upon. It outlined a belief in a God, Divine Providence and natural law, individual rights not hereditary or class consideration, the importance of free flowing commerce (free markets), limited taxation and limited central government, and the need for a security structure to protect the sovereign states.
The values of our nation are found within the Declaration and provides excellent context for the Articles of Confederation and the final version of our U.S. Constitution. When you read the constitution you find addressed within the document many of the grievances outlined in the Declaration.
These grievances directly quoted from the DOI are specifically addressed within the final version of the constitution:
“For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent”
“For quartering large bodies
of armed troops among us or depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial
“He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior
to the Civil Power”
“He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent
hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance”
“He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their
offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries”
“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”
“For cutting off our Trade with all
parts of the world”
“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 plundered our seas,
ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people”
These grievances are all addressed in the constitution but more importantly they give us the context in which our founders viewed a central government. From the balance of powers, right to a trial by jury, and what became the final amendment in our Bill of Rights, the tenth amendment, we start to understand that what the founders were attempting to do was to limit the central government and balance it so it would never again dominate the several states.
As we continue to look at our founding and constitution, we will revisit the Declaration to give us context to the founding principles that survived the final draft, and we will see how important the DOI is to our long standing principles.
There were many arguments around the final version of the constitution. Every one of the arguments was measured against the impact those words and sentences would have on individual liberty, state’s rights, religious freedom, moral values, free trade and security.
It is often overlooked that for ten years after independence our states were engaged in an agreement called the Articles of Confederation. This confederation of independent states was considered perfectly acceptable for many Americans at the time. There were only a handful of exceptions, including the all important security of the several states that were seen too weak and in need of more definition. Understanding the weaknesses of the AOC will help with additional context for our analysis of the intent of constitutional powers granted to the federal government.
It was a miracle that the constitution was written, agreed upon, and eventually ratified. The specific amendments to insure ratification (Bill of Rights, specifically the tenth amendment) need to be understood to address the way our federal government operates today.
All of the founding documents are timeless. Reading the founding documents in the context of their day gives us the foundation necessary to argue against a growing federal government in context today. The principles are the same, only the names have changed that are feverishly trying to “transform” our nation into a body politic our founders would find repulsive…