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Analytical Essay on Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights

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Introduction

The revolutionary process that was developed in North America (on the Atlantic Ocean coast) towards the second half of the 18th century was led by the inhabitants of the 13 English colonies, in response to the political and economic measures imposed by Jorge III , king of England. After various rejection actions by the English government, the settlers, led by characters such as Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and others, decided to declare their independence on July 4, 1776 and constitute the first free country of the American continent: USA. This study explores the primary elements of the document, its purpose, and some of the elements included in the US Constitution.

Primary Elements of Declaration of Independence (DoI) Document

Natural Rights to All

One of the most significant elements of the DoI document is the articulation of human rights as natural law. The document is primarily written to express the fundamental aspect associated with human rights and the freedom deserved by the populations in relation to exiting in their natural environments freely (Jefferson, 1952). The document states explicitly that all men were created equally and are naturally granted the right to live free and equally.

Social Contract between Government and People

Another critical emphasis of the DoI is on the control of the government as an entity representing a social contract between rulers and society members. Thus, the role of putting a government to power is to ensure that various social aspects such as organization of resources and balanced approach to justice are provided (Becker, 2017). As a result of this contract, the citizens have the right to elect rulers who must represent the social aspects impacting their immediate environment and their social structures.

Exercise of Democracy

One of the most fundamental changes of the 21st century is the gradual deepening of interconnection with human groups. According to the DoI, democratic governance is one of the fundamentally supported elements in the document. The dynamic nature of democracy operates within three political axes, namely democracy, citizenship and political participation. Despite the fact that globalization has intensified and extended socio-economic relations between people beyond the territorial contours, the preference for democratic order, the exercise of citizenship and political participation continue to be imperatives of any political order (Becker, 2017). The main premise of this acceptance is based on the understanding of these as a common good, that is, as a value that belongs to humanity and a resource that enables it to perform the free exercise of its functions (Strang, 2019). Democracy refers to the ability of a group or nation to govern itself through procedures that guarantee the participation of citizens to freely choose both their form of government and the leaders who represent them.

Purpose for Writing & Distribution/Evidence in the Document

Justifying Break with the British

This war in America was an extension of the one that occurred in Europe, as a result of the economic rivalry between both nations and conflicts over the definition of the limits of their colonial possessions north of the American continent. With the support of the settlers, the British troops defeated the French, and for that reason, France had to cede to England the region of Canada and Spain to the Louisiana region. England not only obtained a portion of territory whose control it wished to exercise even against the ambitions and interests of the settlers, it also inherited a financial deficit that it wanted to clean up by imposing political and economic measures that affected them (Jayne, 2015).

The Proclamation of 1763 prevented access to the territories gained from the war, in order to limit the ambitions of the settlers, reduce the confrontation with the Indians and implement a more rigid administration. Likewise, trade with the tribes established at the borders was prohibited. Land speculators, immigrants and merchants in general were enraged at such measures; his natural growth was hampered. Later, in 1774, that proclamation would be reaffirmed with the Law of Quebec, by which the Crown redefined the established territorial limits (Lee, 2017).

Creation of numerous tax laws consisted in the establishment of mercantile restrictions and fiscal charges. Among others, the law of sugar (1764) by which they were prohibited from buying sugar from the French of the Caribbean, at the same time that established taxes on the importation of textiles, coffee, indigo, wines and other products (Becker, 2017). The monetary law (1764) prohibited the colonies from issuing local bills, while the stamp or stamped paper law (1765) established a tax on publications, legal documents, manifestos, licenses and other documents. The law of the lodging (1765) established that the colonists would have to take charge of the maintenance of the British troops, and the laws Townshend (1767) reinforced some of the previous measures and established new taxes to articles of import (Lee, 2017).

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The settlers tried to prevent the new measures from being applied, claiming that the English Parliament lacked the authority to legislate on them, since they had no political representation in it and had their own representative institutions. Subsequently, they asked Parliament to repeal these measures, organized boycotts and commercial embargoes, formed secret societies, local associations and inter-colonial committees, among other actions that were a concrete expression of the feelings of grievance, opposition and dissatisfaction with the new situation. Writers, politicians, publicists and lawyers did their job by appealing to the ideas of the Enlightenment to defend their demands: Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, George Washington, are some of them.

A Call for Foreign Help

The new government had to attract the respect, help and recognition of other nations. One of the first to do so was Spain, which had colonies south of the English colonies. One of the greatest successes came from the diplomatic efforts of Benjamin Franklin, who was sent to Paris to negotiate with the traditional enemy of Great Britain, and try to get the support of France (Lee, 2017). After the battle of Saratoga, France considered that the USA could defeat the British, so France began sending ships loaded with firearms, ammunition, clothing, gunpowder and other necessary goods (Strang, 2019). For its part, Spain, although it immediately helped the rebels with money, arms and ammunition, was reluctant to direct intervention, due to the fear of the Secretary of State, the Count of Florida Blanca, to the consequences of an armed conflict (Jayne, 2015). The Spanish objectives in America were to expel the British both from the Gulf of Mexico and from the banks of the Mississippi River and achieve the demise of their settlements in Central America.

With the entry of France into the war, in 1778, the struggle was transferred to the southern colonies. In 1979 Spain declared war on England, signing an agreement with France (Treaty of Aranjuez, April 12, 1779), by which Spain obtained a series of concessions in exchange for joining France in the war (Becker, 2017). France undertook to help Spain in the recovery of Menorca, Mobile, Pensacola, the Bay of Honduras and the coast of Campeche and declared that peace would not be concluded as long as there was no return of Gibraltar to Spain. This caused the British to divert to Gibraltar troops destined initially to the war in the colonies.

The lack of British troops who could attend all fronts led some French ports that were blocked by the British, to be unlocked, allowing the French to bring troops to America under the command of the Marquis de La Fayette and the Count of Rochambeau, this aid of great importance to the settlers (Lee, 2017). Later Holland will also join the coalition formed by Spain and France, with the intention of positioning itself in the domain of the seas.

Features Reflected on the Constitution

The Bill of Rights

In 1787, in the city of Philadelphia, a convention was held whose objective was to solve the problems derived from the Articles of Confederation, which was the document that established the form of central government until then. Several of the participating representatives decided that it was preferable to create a new constitution instead of modifying the articles. After several months of debate, these representatives ended up signing the Constitution of the USA (Strang, 2019). In this document would be the supreme law by which a new nation would be governed, USA.

The new federal government would be stronger than the previous one. To prevent the emergence of a tyranny in the future, the power was divided into three separate branches of government: the executive, the legislative, and the judicial (Becker, 2017). Through a system of control and balance, each branch of government would prevent the others from becoming too powerful. In order to ensure respect for the sovereignty of individuals, the constitution protected certain rights of individuals (Strang, 2019). To deepen this aspect, shortly after its creation, 10 amendments were added that are known as the ‘Bill of Rights.’ These amendments are direct representations of the DoI on the constitution (Michelman, 2016). The Bill of Rights is a representation of the human rights that the DoI sought by separating from the British rule.

Among the rights and liberties that the Bill of Rights guarantees are the freedom of expression, assembly, religion, petition, and the right to bear arms. Additionally, the Bill also aims at achieving the right not to be subjected to unreasonable searches and seizures, or cruel and unusual punishments (Jayne, 2015). Nonetheless, it also includes the right not to testify against oneself, due process, and a swift trial with an impartial and local jury. These aspects, according to the DoI constitute of the human rights to live freely and to be punished in relation to evidence of wrong doing (Brown, 2017). As a result, the Bill of Rights plays a central role in US law and its government, and continues to be a fundamental symbol of the nation’s freedom and culture. Since then, with a total of 27 amendments, the Constitution provides the framework for the organization of the government of the US.

Conclusion

The declaration of independence is associated with the development of the current democratic governance witnessed in the USA. Primary elements addressed in the document include the natural right to life and freedom, human right to an elected government, and ethical governance that represents the needs of the citizens. The constitution is also based on the DoI especially considering the provisions of the Bill of Rights which encompasses the areas in which the government is held responsible in representing the rights of the citizens.

References

  1. Becker, C. L. (2017). The declaration of independence. Jazzybee Verlag.
  2. Brown, M. (2017). Hamilton on Broadway and the Founding in American Culture: An Introduction. The Independent Review, 21(4), 485-487.
  3. Jayne, A. (2015). Jefferson’s Declaration of independence: origins, philosophy, and theology. University Press of Kentucky.
  4. Jefferson, T. (1952). The declaration of independence. Encyclopedia Britannica.
  5. Lee, H. W. (2017). Brothers at Arms: American Independence and the Men of France and Spain Who Saved It by Larrie D. Ferreiro. Journal of Southern History, 83(4), 942-944.
  6. Michelman, F. I. (2016). The Ghost of the Declaration Present: The Legal Force of the Declaration of Independence Regarding Acts of Congress. Southern California Law Review, 89(3), 16-45.
  7. Strang, L. J. (2019). The Declaration of Independence: No Special Role in Constitutional Interpretation. HARV. JL & PUB. POL’Y, 42, 43-46.

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