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5 the Declaration of Inde Pendence

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5. THE DECLARATION OF INDE PENDENCE. On 10 June 1776 the Con tinental Congress appointed a committee to draft a Declaration of Independence. (See DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE). Jefferson, the most radical theorist on this committee, wrote out a rough draft of the Declaration. This was carefully revised by the committee and re ported to Congress on 28 June. After further revision by that body it was adopted on 4 July and after being engrossed was on 2 Aug. 1776 by the members of Congress then present. The contents of the document fell under four heads: (1) the preamble, (2) theories of government, (3) an enumeration of a 'gong train of abuses* and (4) the resolution declaring independence. Of these the second and third portions are the most important. The philosophical doctrines underlying the Declara tion as well as the phraseology in which they were given expression were not new. The docu ment was simply the embodiment of ideas which had been prevalent for many centuries and which had , crystallized into the systems of political philosophy of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. Jefferson had borrowed the ideas and even the language of Locke. The latter had found predecessors in Hobbes and Hooker. Hooker, a churchman, was simply giving ex pression to ideas which had been prevalent among Church writers during the religious wars in France, the struggles concerning the powers of Church councils in the 15th century, the strife between Louis of Bavaria and the popes of the 14th century and the investiture controversy of the Hildebrandine epoch in the 11th century. For the introduction of the ideas to churchmen probably no one was more responsible than Saint Augustine (354-430 An.).

The five fundamental theories of the Dec laration are: (1) The doctrine of equality — °all men are created equal"; (2) the doctrine of inalienable rights; (3) that the origin of gov ernment was in a conscious act or compact— "governments are (4) that powers of government rest on the consent of the gov erned; (5) the right to throw off government, that is, the right of revolution or resistance. The compact theory of the origin of govern ment is first found in the theories of Protagoras and the Sophists (481-411 tt.c.). The Stoics at the time of Zeno (308 a.c.) brought forward the doctrine of the common brotherhood and equality of men. Cicero (106-43 tt.c.) gave ex pression to the theory that all men in a state of nature have certain equal rights. The Roman jurists of the empire declared that though the will of the prince had the force of law, it had such only because the prince's power was con ferred on him by the people. This idea was ex pressed more definitely by Saint Augustine when he said that government rested on a gen eral pact of human society to obey kings — in other words, that government rested on the con sent of the governed. The theory of resistance to the mandates of a ruler was given expres sion to by Socrates (469-399 ac.) and the Apostle Peter, but Saint Augustine was the first to give unqualified approval of it in a general statement. He said that it was not always bad not to obey a law, for when the ruler makes one which is contrary to God, hence to divine and natural law, then it is not to be obeyed. Augustine thus contributed the idea of resistance to a law contrary to nattiral rights, while the jurists had merely stated that laws should not be contrary to natural rights. They had not advocated resistance.

The five fundamental philosophical theories of the Declaration were, therefore, in existence by the time of Saint Augustine. They were

used separately or together throughout the Middle Ages. The struggles between the tem poral and spiritual powers of the time—the empire and the papacy— gave excellent op portunities for their use. This is especially true of the fight which broke out between Henry IV of Germany and Pope Gregory VII (1073 85). If the popes could get a general ac ceptance of the above theories, the power and pretensions of the temporal rulers would be thoroughly undermined. It was natural, there fore, that in the works of those Church writers who supported the popes frequent expression should be given to just such doctrines as those which later found place in the Declaration of Independence. The theories of Manegold von Lautenbach (1081), a participant in the above struggle on the side of the Pone, will serve as an example. He declared that the state was the mere work of man. Kingship does not exist by nature or by merit. Even the word king is a mere word of office. The power which he has was given him by the people. They did not exalt him above themselves so as to concede to him the free faculty of exercising tyranny, but they exalted him so that he should defend them from tyranny and interference by others. The people established government for mutual pro tection. They made a compact with the king and chose him king that he might force evil men to obedience and defend the good from the bad. If he falls into tyranny himself, the people are freed from his dominion and from subjection to him. As you would dismiss a swineherd for not taking care of his herd, so must you with better and more just reason re move a king. Similar expressions of some or all of the doctrines are to be found in Gratian's codification of the canon law, in the writings of Peter Lombard, Alexander of Hales, Saint Bonaventura, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Englebert von Volkersdorf, Marsiglio of Padua, William of Occarn, Wiclif and others. Nikolaus Cusa (1401-64) may be said to have been the first writer who combined the various theories into a systematic whole. "Since all men,* he says, °are by nature free, then government rests on the consent of the and so he pro ceeds, deriving one doctrine from another. The connection of Cusa and the men before him with Hooker, Hobbes, Locke and Jefferson is to be found in the writings of such authors as Languet and others who wrote during the Wars of Religion in France: Undoubtedly all of these writers, Including even the makers of the Dec laration, firmly believed in the doctrines to which they gave expression. The fact that they used their theories for political or partisan purposes does not warrant the opinion that they did not believe in them. The doctrines no doubt had their origin in man's ideals of what should be and in that sense are purely phil osophical in their character. The attempt to give them a historical foundation proved suc cessful so long as scientific historical and legal studies were in a backward state, but curing the course of the 19th century the historical foun dation for the doctrines received scant con sideration from the hands of publicists and students of history. Notwithstanding the un historical character of the principles of gov ernment embodied in the second portion of the Declaration, their influence has been enormous. and the world at large clings to them as if they had a historical origin in a primitive state of nature.

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