The Influence of Our Declaration


As a follow up to my July 4 essay, I commend to you an item in the Review Section of the Saturday (July 5) issue of The Wall Street Journal. David Armitage describes the impact of that influential document on the rest of the world – an influence that inspired numerous similar national “birth certificates” even as recently as Kosovo’s separation from Serbia in 2008. A brief excerpt from Armitage’s essay:

“In telling this story of global influence, however, it is important to separate two distinct elements of the Declaration—elements that sometimes get conflated. The first of these is the assertion of popular sovereignty to create a new state: in the Declaration’s words, the right of “one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them.” The second and more famous element of the Declaration is its ringing endorsement of the sanctity of the individual: “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.”

“It is crucial to make this distinction because, over the past three centuries, the Declaration’s global impact has had much more to do with the spread of sovereignty and the creation of states than with the diffusion and acceptance of ideas of individual rights. There is no necessary relationship between a state’s independence in conducting its own affairs and its respect for the freedoms of individuals.”

How true. We see few states that have the respect for individual liberty the American founders’ envisioned for then United States. In fact, many of former colonies became independent for the purpose of exercising despotic rule of an elite over the rest of their populace.

Anyway, here is the link to the essay WSJ Armitage article

 

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