Was the US Declaration of Independence Legal?

When the Second Continental Congress declared American independence in 1776, it committed an act of rebellion against the established government over the area. It can be argued that the 1783 Treaty of Paris, which recognized this independence, made the act retroactively legal. What is less clear is whether the Declaration of Independence was lawful at the time. On October 31, British and American lawyers will meet at Benjamin Franklin Hall in Philadelphia to debate the issue. At the conclusion of the debate, members of the audience will vote on the question:

The Brits will cite the historical illegality of secession movements generally and the treasonous nature of this one, given that the colonies were established by British citizens who pledged their loyalty to the king. A betting man might even expect a cite or two to writings of that great lawyer-statesman Abraham Lincoln, who dealt firmly with his own breakaway republic. And the barristers — assuming they aren’t shouted down — can be expected to dismiss as “trivial” the economic arguments of the poor colonists, such as that taxation-without-representation rot. The taxes went to defend them against the French, after all.


Who do you think will win? Who do you think should win?

Link | Image: John Trumbull

Newest 5
Newest 5 Comments

The British government was abusive to say the least however, that government was bowing down to those in the government and out who had a steak in maintaining the status quo at the time. This was due to investiments by individuals who convinced the king to continue the harsh policies.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
It can be argued that the King's government was abrogating the guaranteed rights of his subjects in America, and therefore they owed him no more loyalty. Then rebellion would not be illegal.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
As said above, of course it wasn't legal from the British viewpoint, but it was from many if not most of the settlers. The only reason they pledged their loyalty to the king is that they couldn't very well pledge it anywhere else, until they formed their own nation.

Law is only relative until society and morality decide that the law is no longer applicable and either seek to change the law or to reject it outright.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Agreed, John. Illegal at the time? Time matters not. Morality matters most and trumps time every time. It's like saying that the family of Rosa Parks owes the bus fare she never paid.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
I prefer to say that there's no moral duty to obey any law because it is a law. The legality of an action becomes less important once one accepts that illegality is of no moral consequence.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Commenting is closed.





Email This Post to a Friend
"Was the US Declaration of Independence Legal?"

Separate multiple emails with a comma. Limit 5.

 

Success! Your email has been sent!

close window