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The Confederate Lawyer
February 10, 2011

What the Declaration of Independence Really Means
by Charles G. Mills
fitzgerald griffin foundation

GLEN COVE, NY — In the pre-game show at the 2011 Super Bowl, some prominent people read what was claimed to be the Declaration of Independence. In fact, they read only the beginning and end, and they left out the heart of it. Apart from the sheer audacity of this fraud, their selective omissions seriously misrepresented the central message of the Declaration.

What they left out was the statement of the reasons the American colonies declared their independence. The Declaration of Independence was never intended to be an assertion that all colonies around the world are entitled at all times to claim independence. Furthermore, the authors of the Declaration did not intend to state that the colonies acquired a right to declare their independence from the moment they received their charters from the various kings of England.

Simply stated, the central message of the Declaration of Independence was that the British King George III had forfeited the allegiance of the people of the American colonies because he had acted as the colonists’ enemy; further, the British Parliament had violated the constitutions of the American colonies by claiming for itself the rights of these legislative bodies.

The Declaration accused George III of refusing to approve and enforce necessary laws for the good of the colonies and of scheduling meetings of the colonial legislatures in unusual and inconvenient places for malicious reasons. It accused him of refusing to call elections of colonial legislative bodies for such a long time that public safety was endangered. It accused him of refusing to allow immigration into colonies, of refusing to create colonial judges, of creating an unnecessary bureaucracy, of exempting the British army from colonial laws, and of keeping a standing army in the colonies in peacetime. It accused him of declaring the colonies outside his protection and making war against them — plundering, ravaging, burning, sending mercenary armies to act like barbarians — and of causing insurrections and Indian attacks to kill colonists of all sexes, ages, and conditions.

The British Parliament was created about 75 years before American Independence as a Parliament for the United Kingdom, replacing the English and Scots Parliaments. It did not replace the Virginia House of Burgesses, the Massachusetts General Court, and the assemblies and legislative bodies of the other colonies. The Declaration of Independence accused the British Parliament of trying to usurp the powers of the colonial legislative bodies and specified many ways in which it has done so. The first was by cutting off trade between the colonies and the rest of the world. The second, and probably most important, was by trying to take the power of taxation away from the colonial legislative bodies and place it in the British Parliament. It accused the British Parliament of curtailing the right to trial by jury in the colonies, trying pretended crimes in the colonies before courts in England, of arranging for soldiers to be acquitted of crimes by mock trials, and of quartering British soldiers in private property.

The Declaration of Independence correctly stated that all men have rights given to them by God, and this part of it was read before the Super Bowl. So far so good, but it was a great disservice to hide from the American people the fact that the Declaration listed many instances when the king and Parliament violated the rights of the colonists. In addition to the rights given by God, other rights had been given to the people by English law, by the Royal charters given the colonies, and by the unwritten constitutions of England and the American colonies.

Most important is that the Declaration documented the fact that the king forfeited the colonists’ allegiance because he treated the colonies more like an enemy country than as part of his realm. Deceiving the American people into seeing American Independence as only a matter of natural rights and not a more complex matter of violations of natural, prescriptive, and positive rights was a disservice to the 100,000,000 people watching the game.

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The Confederate Lawyer column is copyright © 2011 by Charles G. Mills and the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation, www.fgfBooks.com. All rights reserved.

Charles G. Mills is the Judge Advocate or general counsel for the New York State American Legion. He has forty years of experience in many trial and appellate courts and has published several articles about the law.

See his biographical sketch and additional columns here.

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