The Declaration of Independence as Viewed from the States
John C. Eastman, The Declaration of Independence as Viewed from the States, in The Declaration of Independence: Origins and Impact 96(Scott Gerber ed., 2002).
40 Pages Posted: 14 Jul 2016
Date Written: 2002
The Declaration of Independence. It is the grand embodiment of the principles upon which this nation was founded, the document that defined what President Abraham Lincoln would later describe as his “ancient faith.” It is the very first document printed in the United States Statutes at Large, described there by Congress as one of the organic laws of the United States. All this majesty; all this reverence; yet its principles are believed to be unenforceable in the courts of law. The Declaration “is not a legal prescription conferring powers upon the courts,” U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia recently wrote in a dissenting opinion in Troxel v. Granville (2000). In other words, no matter how self-evidently true the principles articulated in the Declaration of Independence or how much mandated by the laws of nature and of nature’s God, they do not have the status of positive law that can be enforced by the courts of law. Whether or not Justice Scalia’s opinion is correct with respect to the federal government, it is clearly not correct in the state government arena. Beginning with the admission of Nebraska and Nevada during the Civil War, Congress has specifically required as a condition of admission to statehood that state constitutions conform to the principles of the Declaration of Independence.
Keywords: declaration of independence, statehood
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