The importance of the Declaration of Independence to American law has been obscured by dubious associations with natural rights jurisprudence. Legal scholars have therefore overlooked the numerous ways in which the Declaration is relevant to a host of legal issues. Ample textual and historical evidence demonstrates that the Declaration, not the Articles of Confederation or the Constitution, legally constituted the United States of America as a distinct nation in the world community. The Declaration was not the act of thirteen states declaring their individual independence, but the act of one American people announcing the birth of an American nation. Nor is the Declaration merely an abstract treatise on individual natural rights. The Declaration displays a deep concern for which forms of government will most effectively allow self-government to flourish. As such, the Declaration speaks in constitutional language that is far more precise than we are often led to believe.
Carlton F. Larson,
The Declaration of Independence: A 225th Anniversary Re-Interpretation,
76 Wash. L. Rev.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.uw.edu/wlr/vol76/iss3/2