The Declaration of Independence in the Formation of the New Nation
The North American society originated in the XVII century as a continuation of the English and Western civilizations. Most of the immigrants, consciously parting with their European homeland, protested against its deep feudal heritage and remnants. They planned to establish a free bourgeois society overseas. However, a part of the aristocrats, who intended to create their own orders, began to ship to the New World. At the same time, the territory of the modern United States was owned by Great Britain, which greatly complicated the process of a new society creation and, finally, a new nation formation. In the course of the exhausting and victorious struggle of the English colonies for freedom, the Declaration of Independence became a fundamental historical document that attempted to consolidate the equality of nations as it proclaimed the right of Americans to form a new state.
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SYMBOLIC SIGNIFICANCE OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE
The Declaration of Independence could be recognized as evidence of the American nation’s birth and one of the most prominent democratic documents of the future United States. The very construction of American statehood began with the Declaration of Independence. The uniqueness of the document lies in its legal force even despite its solemnity. In constitutional law, the term ‘declaration’ is a general name of political and legal acts purposed to emphasize their particular importance for the fate of the respective state. As a regulatory legal act, its specific feature is general and non-specific nature of the contained provisions, which require additional legislative regulation. At the international level, declarations are not compulsory, that makes their content mostly symbolic. Nevertheless, the Declaration of Independence not only proclaimed the dogmas which guided the representatives of new North American nation, but it also provided a foothold for the creation of the further documents – the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights.
The Declaration has also deep philosophical meaning. It could be compared to the Bible in its significance for the whole American nation. The Christian civilization is identified with the text of the Holy Scripture as well as North American nation – with the contents of the Declaration and the Constitution. Just as the immutability of biblical truths is not questioned, the texts of the mentioned documents perceived as the cornerstones of the US national policy cannot and should not be changed. There is also an analogy with the Quran as a single code of world pattern for Muslims. The Quran is legal system foundation, and the Prophet Mohamed is revered as a bearer of truth and justice. The Founding Fathers are symbolically endowed with similar qualities. At the same time, the Declaration became one of the foundations for building new state’s legal system. Thus, the symbolism of the Declaration is obvious.
THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE AS A UNIQUE LEGAL DOCUMENT
Signed on July 4, 1776, the US Declaration of Independence is a unique political and legal document that reflects a number of provisions formulated in the political philosophy of the Enlightenment. The essence of political and legal regimes in most European states was an unlimited power of a monarch, and it also deified the power hierarchy principle. The American Declaration of Independence was the very first document to fix a principle of popular sovereignty. It claimed that the source of power is not the identity of an absolute monarch, but it is people themselves as a combination (political community) of free citizens. Thus, the formation of a new state was impossible without the formation of a new nation. It would be erroneous to believe that the Declaration gave Americans the legal right for sovereignty. In fact, the United States gained independence only as a result of their victory in the war against Great Britain. The US Declaration openly proclaimed the people’s sovereignty principle as a state structure. The state system could be determined by the nation only for the protection and observance of inalienable and natural human rights based on the principles of the social contract. For the first time, the value of natural and inalienable human rights was recorded in a politically legal document. Subsequently, that idea was clearly reflected in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen after the French Revolution of 1789 (“Declaration of the Rights”).
The subjects fixed in the American Declaration of Independence and previously discussed in the works of European and American philosophers and enlighteners became the realities of political and legal life. For the first time, the Declaration proclaimed the principles that fundamentally contradicted dominant absolute political and legal ideology and therefore perceived as revolutionary. The colonists were outraged because of discriminatory policies that the English king and parliament carried out in relation to the colonies (Foner 153). In that regard, the Declaration of Independence was perceived not only as a certain act about the separation of the colonies from England, but also as an act that restored legality and justice by achieving equal relations with the Metropolis. Thus, the Declaration provided a certain ideological basis to the formation of the American state. Firstly, it proclaimed the principle of popular sovereignty. Secondly, the right of the people to resist illegal actions of the government was fixed. The Declaration reflected the spirit of the future American state and the core feature of the new nation – the pursuit of justice and equality.
THE ENLIGHTENMENT PHILOSOPHY REFLECTION IN THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE
The US Declaration of Independence includes concise text which main part is devoted to the description of the crimes committed by British King George III. The political philosophy of the document is realized in the following theses: life, freedom, and pursuit of happiness are the inalienable rights; the government is established by people to protect their rights (i.e. social contract); the power of government reflects people’s will (theory of representative government); citizens are empowered (and even the obligation) to change government that violates their rights. The text of Declaration contains the following construction: “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights” (“The Declaration of Independence” 1). In essence, the Declaration states that people are free individuals who can dispose of themselves at their discretion in order to reach happiness, to unite with other citizens, and to create an honest political system. Thus, the Declaration has defined the nature of new North American nation, aiming it at winning independence and making equality the key idea of the liberation struggle.
At the same time, the Declaration of Independence could be blamed for the fact that it did not grant freedom to slaves. Basically, the discussed equality concerned the white colonizers only (Bowman). However, the background of the Declaration partly justified Jefferson and others, who advocated the abolition of slavery. They were forced to exclude the paragraph about the prohibition of slavery due to deep economic dependence of newly created state on slave labor. Moreover, it was a threat concerning the Southern states’ decision to withdraw from the union and to stop their struggle for independence. Thus, the question of freeing the slaves was postponed but not closed. Despite the fact that the Declaration did not become the liberation bible for Black Americans, its significance could not be detracted in further struggle for equality among all the representatives of a new nation, and it finally formed the foundation of its future unity.
The Declaration of Independence is a transition from theory to practice when dogmas become commonplace truths that provide the basis for further development of a new society and give it quite clear guidelines and attitudes. The formation of the North American nation is based on two following principles: an action, the actual struggle for independence; a word, the Declaration of Independence, which proclaimed the very right of the nation to form a new state and its political system. The Declaration was filled with deep legal and philosophical meaning. For Americans, it became similar to the Bible and symbolic of their unity in achieving a common goal – creating free community. Thus, it played a fundamental role in the formation of a new nation as the basis of the future state.