Obviously, the real answer is that the question is moot and that it doesn’t fucking matter now, because I’d like to see Britain try to do anything about it, but it is an interesting historical discussion and legal exercise. That’s exactly what a group of British and American lawyers got together to discuss last Tuesday in Philadelphia.
The American argument:
The Declaration is unquestionably “legal”. Under basic principles of “Natural Law”, government can only be by the consent of the people and there comes a point when allegiance is no longer required in face of tyranny.
The legality of the Declaration and its validity is proven by subsequent independence movements which have been enforced by world opinion as right and just, based on the fundamental principles of equality and self-determination now reflected in the UN Charter.
The British argument:
The Declaration of Independence was not only illegal, but actually treasonable. There is no legal principle then or now to allow a group of citizens to establish their own laws because they want to. What if Texas decided today it wanted to secede from the Union?
Lincoln made the case against secession and he was right. The Declaration of Independence itself, in the absence of any recognised legal basis, had to appeal to “natural law”, an undefined concept, and to “self-evident truths”, that is to say truths for which no evidence could be provided.
The grievances listed in the Declaration were too trivial to justify secession. The main one - no taxation without representation - was no more than a wish on the part of the colonists, to avoid paying for the expense of protecting them against the French during seven years of arduous war and conflict.
I think both sides have valid arguments, but I wonder what the legal difference is between a group of people seceding from a home state versus the revolution of a colony. Texas seceding from the Union is a different kettle of fish, I would imagine that say if Puerto Rico were to decide “Fuck this, we’re going to become our own nation.”
What do you think?
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