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 law, the spiritual essence of human nature assumed by natural law, and other moral absolutes established by natural law.

Because the Constitution presupposes the Declaration, the fundamental law of the United States is an objective truth, however far judges may stray from it, and this truth does not prohibit prayer and religion in public schools, does not guarantee abortion-on-demand as a sacred right, and does not demand legal recognition of gay marriage. Nor does it glorify the French Revolution, or adopt the teachings of Freemasonry, the Illuminati, or the Enlightenment.

Don Livingston is right: The Declaration is an ordinance of secession from the British Empire. And because the Constitution presupposes the Declaration, the states of New England had a right to secede from the Union in 1815, and the states of the South had a right to secede from the Union in 1860-61.

Clyde Wilson speaks the melancholy truth: The Declaration has been bastardized by the confused and weak minded into something which Jefferson never had in mind. “All men are created equal” has been especially perverted. Jefferson owned slaves, but treated them lovingly, as his equals in the eyes of God, exactly as taught by St. Paul in the sixth chapter of Ephesians, and he became the father of the Southern abolition movement.

        —John Remington Graham
St-Agapit, Quebec

Dr. Presser Replies:

I’ll stick to my comments as made. The Declaration qua document is no more a part of the U.S. Constitution than were the Articles of Confederation, the Magna Carta, the English Bill of Rights of 1689, the colonial charters, or the many other documents of fundamental law that have been with us since the Code of Hammurabi. Nevertheless, I think a close reading of my piece indicates my agreement with Mr. Graham’s position that the natural-law theories on which the Declaration was based are very much a part of our continuing constitutional jurisprudence and our tradition, and I’m in agreement with most, if not all, of the conclusions he draws from that tradition.