By 4 July, America's founding fathers approved a simple document penned by Jefferson that enumerated their grievances and announced themselves a sovereign nation. Called the Declaration of Independence, it was a blow for freedom, a call to war, and the founding of a new empire.So a team of British lawyers came to debate the other night. Some American lawyers joined them in the discussion. Let us do the same. Here are their cases:
It was also totally illegitimate and illegal.
The American case for the Declaration
The Declaration is unquestionably "legal". Under basic principles of "Natural Law", government can only be by the consent of the people and there comes a point when allegiance is no longer required in face of tyranny. The legality of the Declaration and its validity is proven by subsequent independence movements which have been enforced by world opinion as right and just, based on the fundamental principles of equality and self-determination now reflected in the UN Charter.
The British case against it
The Declaration of Independence was not only illegal, but actually treasonable. There is no legal principle then or now to allow a group of citizens to establish their own laws because they want to. What if Texas decided today it wanted to secede from the Union? Lincoln made the case against secession and he was right. The Declaration of Independence itself, in the absence of any recognised legal basis, had to appeal to "natural law", an undefined concept, and to "self-evident truths", that is to say truths for which no evidence could be provided. The grievances listed in the Declaration were too trivial to justify secession. The main one - no taxation without representation - was no more than a wish on the part of the colonists, to avoid paying for the expense of protecting them against the French during seven years of arduous war and conflict.Well, we've just finished discussing the origin of rights and governments. Here is a case to which we might apply those principles. What say you?