May 3, 2006

The Declaration Of Independence & What It Means To Be An American Citizen

To lessen the lack of clarity in the immigration debate about what it means to be an American citizen, let's go back to the first principles of the American Founding. The Claremont Institute has developed a web-based overview of the Declaration of Independence which includes these sub-sections:

A Guide to the Declaration of Independence

Issues at the time of the Founding

Hot topics

The Declaration of Independence

Founder's library

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"America" is a continent comprising Canada, the United States, Mexico, Panama, Chile, Aregentina, and many, many more nations. I assume you mean the United States, which were founded not by the Declaration of Independence but by the ratification of the Constitution in 1787 and its enactment in 1789.

Posted by: Peter Johnston at May 4, 2006 12:43 PM

First of all, "America" is not one continent. The New World is comprised of two separate continents that are separated at the Isthmus of Panama: North America and South America. Call them "the Americas" if you wish, but they are not one continent.

Second, America is indeed the correct name of the nation whose full name is the United States of America and which was the first independent nation in the New World (and thus got first dibs on the name). "The United States" is by no means the correct name for the United States of America, any more than The Most Serene Republic of San Marino may be properly called "The Most Serene Republic" or los Estados Unidos Mexicanos (usually translated as "The United Mexican States") may be properly referred to as "los Estados Unidos." There are indeed other countries with a type of government in which several states are united, but there is only one nation on Earth called America, or indeed with America in its full name.

Third, while the U.S. Constitution established the current political union among the several states, the states declared their independence from Great Britain with the Declaration of Independence, which pursuant to its terms was signed by the representatives of the "United States of America." It is silly to say that the United States of America didn't become independent until the Constitution was ratified; not even King George would have believed that.

Posted by: AuH2ORepublican at May 4, 2006 1:05 PM

Try that logic on yourself. If the "United States" is insufficient because it omits "of America" isn't "America" insufficient because it omits "The United States." The last I checked their was only one country with the phrase "United States" in its name, while a number of countries exist in America.

Furthermore, the Declaration of Independence was not signed by the "United States of America" but by the "Free and Independent States." They key word their is independent. Each state was closer to what we consider today a nation than the several states together. Independent implies separate.

It was only after the Consitution was ratified that the Union of the States (language from the Constitution itself)as one nation came into being. Take this as your proof: Rhode Island was the last of the thirteen colonies to ratify the Constitution. Originally, twelve States comprised the Union. When RI ratified, they two became part of the Union. But not before. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, preferably in a remedial history class.

Posted by: Peter Johnston at May 4, 2006 3:28 PM

I fail to see the point of Mr. Johnston's arguments as he appears to be inviting a debate over semantics rather than substance.

The strategic question here is whether we believe in the principles articulated in our Declaration of Independence:

Do we believe there are self-evident truths?

Do we believe in equality?

Do we believe that our natural rights as human beings precede the existence of any government because we are endowed by our Creator with such unalienable rights?

Do we believe government exists via the consent of the governed?

Do we believe that that citizens are capable of self-government?

Do we believe in the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?

Do we believe in the rule of law?

All of those questions connect to an even broader question: Do we believe in the uniqueness of the American Founding as discussed in an earlier posting entitled Happy Birthday, America!?

Furthermore, as to the legal significance of the Declaration, the same posting notes:

But does the Declaration have any legal status such that these words can be truly deemed to state the American creed? It does, although virtually no one seems to know it. In 1878 Congress enacted a revised version of the United States Code that included a new first section entitled "The Organic Laws of the United States."

The Code is Congress's official compilation of federal law; the organic laws of the United States are America's founding laws. First and foremost of the four organic laws of the United States is the Declaration of Independence...

The Declaration states the American creed...

The Founders of America clearly believed in the Declaration. We fought a bloody civil war to preserve its principles. Do we believe in the same principles? And are we teaching our children about it and having it guide our thinking on issues such as illegal immigration?

Posted by: Donald B. Hawthorne at May 4, 2006 4:17 PM

Thought you might get a kick out of this:

The PDF file has the text of the Declaration of Independence and the entire US Constuitution which fits on a standard (8.5 X 11) single sheet (two sides) of paper.


Posted by: Joe Tatulli at May 4, 2006 5:11 PM

Here's a hot link:

Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights & US Constitution PDF


Posted by: Joe Tatulli at May 4, 2006 7:24 PM

If the United States of America became a constitutional republic (as many liberals would secretly like, I'm sure, since they don't like that whole "federalism" thing), it would be known as the Republic of America. "United States" is not the name of the country, it is descriptive of the type of government we have.

And I will reiterate that there are no other nations that are called America, and that there is currently one other nation with United States in its name (Mexico, whose official name is Estados Unidos Mexicanos), and a few decades ago there were three other countries that had United States in their names, including Brazil, which was the United States of Brazil from 1889 to 1968, Venezuela, which was the United States of Venezuela from 1864 to 1953, and Indonesia, which was the United States of Indonesia from 1949-1950.

But, as Donald B. Hawthorne wrote, arguing over semantics leads us to lose sight of the substantive point of his original post, which was whether we still believe in the principles of the Declaration of Independence.

Posted by: AuH2ORepublican at May 5, 2006 10:05 AM