Polemics & Exchanges

On the Declaration

I disagree with Stephen B. Presser's statement (The 225th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence: A Chronicles Roundtable, June 2001) that the Declaration of Independence is not part of the U.S. Constitution. True, as the professor says, the Declaration was not adopted by conventions in the 13 states in the manner prescribed in the seventh article of the Constitution, nor adopted as an amendment, as prescribed by the fifth article. But, without the Declaration, the Constitution would be nothing but an interesting document.

The Constitution presupposes the pronouncements of the Declaration, which, therefore, is like a preamble that may be called in aid of construction. The Constitution presupposes the 13 free and independent states mentioned in the Declaration; without those, the Constitution could not have been adopted.

The Constitution presupposes the laws of nature and nature's God mentioned in the Declaration. Thus, authentic interpretation rejects legal positivism and secular humanism and rests on natural law, given objective shape by centuries of legal tradition.

For the same reason, the unenumerated rights protected by the Constitution necessarily include those certain unalienable rights mentioned in the Declaration. Those unalienable rights are defined in terms of the existence of God Who ordained natural...

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