Round Table Discussion

"We Hold These Truths"

Is the Declaration of Independence part of the federal Constitution? The short answer, of course, is "no." For the Declaration to be part of the Constitution, it would have to have been included in the original document ratified by at least nine of the conventions held in the original 13 states between 1787 and 1789, or added by amendment, which requires a two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress and the assent of three quarters of the state legislatures. The Declaration was never ratified by either method. It is also possible to add amendments through a new national constitutional convention, with ratification by state legislatures, but this has never happened.

Some political theorists claim that the principles of the Declaration were incorporated into the Constitution during the Civil War, through some quasi-magical amendment process conjured up, through executive fiat, by President Lincoln. This occurred sometime around when he extraconstitutionally emancipated the slaves in the states that had seceded from the Union or, perhaps, when he delivered the Gettysburg Address. Some law professors have sought to find an incorporation of the Declaration through the Reconstruction amendments; while it is true that those amendments did bring us closer to some ideas found in the Declaration, they could not—either explicitly or implicitly—make the Declaration part of the Constitution.

Nevertheless, it would...

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