The conclusive result of the American War for Independence, which started with the Boston Tea Party incident, was the complete indictment of the British Crown. Similarly, the result of the Civil War was the development of the American Constitution. The people of America declared themselves free and independent from the rule of the British Crown. This was clearly stated in the document popularly known as the 'Declaration of Independence.' This charter laid the foundation of a free and independent country that considered all men are born equal. The Declaration continues to inspire the political thoughts of not only the social thinkers of the USA but across the world. Many political activists and social thinkers still consider the Declaration as the framework for the governance of any democratic nation.
Some of the unique features of the Declaration and the Constitution of America have been discussed below.
The Declaration of Independence is a charter that has influenced the development of the American Constitution. It has also changed the political atmosphere of many countries across the world. It has been one of the most significant precedents for the establishment of equality. Britain had always played an active role in the slave trade. This practice continued in America and was abolished after the American Civil War. However, the charter, which was accepted and signed on July 4th, 1776, much before the Civil War, already spoke of equality. The Declaration of Independence forms the fundamental nature of the American Constitution. It was the Declaration that helped people of other nations throw off the yoke of colonialism. It was also the Declaration that inspired many European countries to remove the feudal and monarchical form of rule and establish a democratic form of government. The Declaration also formed the essence of Lincoln's famous Gettysburg Address. The philosophy of the Founding Fathers influenced him. They believed that all men are created equal in the eyes of God. Thus, the Declaration and the American Constitution both embody the philosophy and politics of the United States of America (USA).
The Founding Fathers developed the Declaration of Independence as an extension of what they considered to be the natural law and order of things. The Declaration itself is greatly influenced by the famous English philosopher and politician John Locke. Locke believed that equality should be the foundation on which a government should be built. The Declaration states that man is created with certain inalienable rights. This means all men are equal, and individual rights cannot be transferred. For example, a man is free to pursue a profession of his choice without fear of persecution. The only prerequisite for this is that it should not be anything illegal. This is a right guaranteed under the fundamental rights of most democratic nations. Such rights were considered to be inalienable rights. The Founding Fathers did not directly condemn slavery but hoped that it would finally disappear. It was this notion that Lincoln referred to when he spoke against slavery. He believed that slavery is against the natural order of things and hence, should be abolished. As the Declaration spoke of establishing the natural order, slavery thus needed to be condemned. Therefore, the Declaration became an extension of the natural law and order of things.
The Declaration of Independence inspires the American Constitution. However, the American Constitution is more about the establishment of positive law and how the country should be governed. The Constitution establishes the rules according to which the nation is to be governed. It speaks of the establishment of a government of the people, for the people and by the people. This is reminiscent of the Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln. The Constitution sets the people and their rights as supreme and completely abolishes any form of monarchy or feudal system of governance. The government shall consist of elected representatives so that the welfare of the community as a whole comes first. The establishment of human rights and fundamental rights also forms an essential part of the Constitution. The second important thing established by the American Constitution is the development of procedures that are designed to produce positive results. In other words, rules and regulations must be put in place so that the progress of society is assured. People will be given equal rights under the American Constitution, and individuals can pursue any profession without fear of persecution. After the Civil War and the Thirteenth Amendment of the American Constitution, slavery was abolished entirely. This, too, led to the establishment of the natural law and order of things. The Declaration spoke of the establishment of a system where all men are considered equal. The American Constitution was able to do so effectively after the Thirteenth Amendment. Thus, the American Constitution ensures the establishment of positive law as perceived by Lincoln and the Founding Fathers.
Equality is quintessential to the American Constitution. The Constitution condemns any form of discrimination based on color, caste, creed, religion, and gender. Although initially, it spoke of the abolition of slavery and equal rights, subsequent amendments to the Constitution brought other forms of discrimination under the purview of the Constitution. Any discrimination soon became punishable by law. Although, initially, women did not have voting rights, after the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, women too received equal rights like men. They also could cast votes and hold office in government organizations. There is no reference to women's rights in the Declaration of Independence. But this amendment is an extension of the Natural Law as perceived by the signatories of the Declaration. It is also the real-life application of the positive law which forms the spirit of the American Constitution.
Apr 20, 2020