Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns


Unitarian Taft, Mormon Romney

A note to my post below.  President William Howard Taft was a Unitarian, who disclosed that he "did not believe in the divinity of Christ."  He was a moderate Progressive (versus the committed TR and Woodrow Wilson) and not a bad Chief Justice.  William Jennings Bryan, the Democrat nominee in 1908, did object.  It seems likely that the Christian fervor of TR's 1912 campaign ("Onward, Christian Soldiers" was a campaign song) was directed against Taft's faith.  

Besides other Unitarian presidents (the Adamses), Vice President John C. Calhoun was also of this church.  Again, the real measure of loyalty to basic American principles is understanding of and adherence to the Declaration of Independence.

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Discussions - 15 Comments

Again, the real measure of loyalty to basic American principles is understanding of and adherence to the Declaration of Independence.

Twenty-seven topical complaints, a number of the festooned with hyperbole. I can think of more appealing things to which to be loyal.

Art Deco,

What about the first two paragraphs?

#1. When disolving a government or starting a revolution one should/must provide reasons.

#2. It is a self evident truth that men have inalienable rights, that government should protect these rights and go about doing so on the basis of consent.

Here follows: 27 complaints that concretely demonstrate a disregard for the idea of inalienable rights, and a government by consent.

But to an extent you are left wondering how this applies to the religious backgrounds of political candidates if at all. Mormon-ok! Unitarian-ok! Anglican- GET THOSE GUYS!

Also as a side note (A constitutional, not DI question): Is there solid evidence that Madison was an atheist?

Deco, I'm reminded of Abraham Lincoln's taking a certain Sen. Pettitt to task for saying that the Declaration of Independence's claim that all men are created equal was a "self evident lie." You seem to be of the same opinion. It was a sign of the corruption of 1850s politics, Lincoln said, that such a thing could be said without political consequences. He added that if such a thing had been said in Independence Hall, the doorman would have escorted the one who said it into the street! We are in a similar corruption today, when the Declaration's principles are derided as "mere ideology" or worse, rationalization for ruling passions. Is that your view, Deco?

It is a historical document, which had specific purposes when written. (Precision was not one). It is an apologia of sorts not some encompassing and binding normative statement.

Electoral and deliberative institutions antedate the Declaration of Independence by five centuries and were during the high and late middle ages quite common in Europe. Conceptions of justice which transcend the will of the ruler are older still.

It is not just a historical document but (unlike the Constitution), a living, breathing document that has animated the American soul for more than two centuries and defined what it means to be an American and expresses American ideals. It is the self-evident truth that all men are created equal, the truth that our rights are from nature and nature's God and that they include life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and that self-government is instituted by the sovereign to protect those those rights in a social compact and is thereby limited. It was an "expression of the American mind" as Jefferson called it, and it still is today.

My soul is not animated by legal documents or newspaper broadsides. Your milage may vary.

Pray, tell (pardon the religious term), what IS your soul animated by? Altlhough the Declaration is the first state paper of the United States, it is not merely a legal document (or historical document or apologia or newspaper broadside) , for it is the foundation of all positive law. Do you mean to say that the moment a profound truth is put to paper it loses its authority or power? Your thought makes positivism and historicism look like transcendent doctrines by comparison. At least the believers in those doctrines recognize SOME authority. What you are advocating is anarchy. The absence of government is a calamity for liberty and equality.

I think the soul does the animating, but that is a philosophical point I am not capable of arguing.

The Declaration of Independence is not the 'foundation of all positive law'. Positive law in its most antique manifestation is common law. I think it is conventional to assign the origin of common law to the reign of Henry II. Per Mary Ann Glendon, about half the case load of the federal appellate courts in the latter 19th century was still resolved with the application of the common law. There was in addition a body of statutory law enacted by colonial assemblies and acts of parliament. The legal import of the Declaration was that Parliament, the Privy Council, and the Courts of King's Bench and so forth would no longer be sources of law for British North America. (I believe another implication was that previous acts of these bodies were invalid ex nunc).

You fail to grasp the revolutionary character of the Declaration. No law not based on the consent of the governed is legitimate, no matter how old or how venerable. The common law has authority in the United States only because it has been consented to. The American people, as you concede, withdrew their consent from British law, substituting what in their judgment was consistent with the principles of liberty, equality and government by consent.

Isn't your idea of consent older than the Declaration?

As I recall the widely quoted medieval principle was "what touches all must be approved by all."

If this is right, then the Declaration somehow radicalizes that principle, giving it a new context and adding to it "natural rights."

The medieval reference is appreciated, not to mention the point about the radicalizing effect of the Declaration.

I do not think you are going to get very far in a legal proceeding by citing the Declaration of Independence. You also neglect the continuity of law in the constituent states.

Justice Clarence Thomas is doing it now, as appropriate, as did Chief Justice John Marshall before him. (Fletcher v. Peck)

In Fletcher v. Peck you also get a mention of the Articles of confederation.

"By the declaration of independence the several states were declared to be free, sovereign and independent states; and the sovereignty of each, not of the whole, was the principle of the revolution; there was no connection between them, but that of necessity and self defence, and in what manner each should contribute to the common cause, was a matter left to the discretion of each of the states. By the second article of the confederation the sovereignty of each state is confirmed, and all the rights of sovereignty are declared to be retained which are not by that instrument expressly delegated to the United States in congress assembled."

Marshall is using the history (relatively recent for him) to show that Georgia did indeed have good title.

The ruling is that a state with good title can pass that title to a land speculator(or any purchaser) and may not rescind the grant even if it learns that the legistlature accepted bribes. A grant is an executed contract and can't be rescinded by annuling the conveyance since this would amount to a law imparing the obligations of contracts.

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