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QUESTION: " What allows this legal status to be enforced? Ratification by a body of people, but what gave them the right?"
ANSWER: Thanks for posing an excellent thought provoking question! At its foundational core, the answer lies in a concept called "natural rights". Although it is true that we are governed not by a Sovereign but rather by a document, even the Constitution has origins, as you mentioned. It works like this. Creator (God) -- gives such rights to all persons -- Founders expressed that notion in the Declaration of Independence -- further defined and enumerated those rights in the Constitution. Natural law means, in this sense, "self-evident" (to quote the Drafters), so there is no all powerful governing document to which one can point. Rather, in all candor, it does go back to God: "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, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." (United States Declaration of Independence)
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QUESTION: "Is the Declaration of Independence considered the mother of all our legal documents?"
ANSWER: Yes. Certainly, we can look back to the Magna Carta Libertatum and so forth, but in terms of our nation, I would absolutely say that, as you have very aptly phrased it, this document is indeed the mother.
I have been glad to answer your previous series of questions on the honor system (I receive no wages or salary) and am glad to continue our dialog.
QUESTION: "One last question, would it hold standing in a civil rights claim?"
ANSWER: No. Meaning, the Declaration of Independence and the Preamble to the Constitution, while full of magnificent language and guiding principles, are not used for such purposes in the same manner as the body of the Constitution and the statutes. However, here is what does provide for such a cause of action: 42 United States Code § 1983.
Many thanks for your generous mention of a bonus -- greatly appreciated, I assure you!
QUESTION: "Why is the Declaration of Independence and the Preamble to the Constitution not used for such purposes in the same manner as the body of the Constitution and the statutes?"
ANSWER: In each case, it has to do with two considerations, mainly, meaning specificity and objective. In other words, while the language of each is magnificent, it makes no claim to be a governing document and is not, in reality, such. The Declaration announced our rebellion against England, or more specifically against the King, based on a litany of grievances against him. It did not codify anything or set up a new system, however, Likewise, while the Preamble is beautiful and can even bring a tear to the eye, it does not establish anything specific unlike the rather exacting Articles of the actual Constitution.
QUESTION: "Are you saying there is no line of succession of law in this country and we can pick and chose from documents?"
ANSWER: No, not quite, although I realize your point and it is well taken. You cannot pick and choose, so to speak, and neither can I do so. But, there are nine folks who can do so, namely the Supreme Court of the United States. The importance of the case establishing that the Court gets the final say cannot be overstated: Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137. This body has indeed made such a distinction when it comes to both of the documents at hand. There is no higher authority in our nation, period. Once the Court speaks, the matter is closed.
QUESTION: "You indicated that the Preamble to the Constitution was not looked at by the Court, I disagree with you."
ANSWER: I am baffled as to why your tone seems to be turning a bit hostile? I never said the Court did not "look at" the Preamble. Likewise, I did not claim that Marbury v. Madison stood for that proposition. If I came across as doing so, I apologize. Rather, your question concerned precedential value. You are absolutely entitled to disagree with me. You are likewise perfectly entitled to disagree with the Court. I often find myself doing the same. I have been abundantly patient in answering a series of questions and have expended significant time to support my answers with citations to legal authority, all without payment, and without asking that you comply with the site policy to post new and separate questions in new threads. I am not sure what more to say, but it has been a stimulating exercise engaging with you.
Many thanks for your payment and incredibly generous bonus -- much appreciated!
You are quite welcome...my pleasure entirely!
I would be glad to try and supply a case. Please just remind me if you do not receive it and I will put forth my best efforts.
I am sorry to say I am not succeeding at access my case law research database tool this evening. For the moment, the best I can do (realizing this is obviously not a primary source), is to share: "The Declaration of Independence doesn't possess the force of law. To note an example, the phrase, "all men are created equal" is a powerful statement, but in the United States it cannot be cited as legal precedence. Judges can't cite this phrase by itself to support a ruling. Politicians can't pass laws by employing a legal argument supported solely by this passage." Go Gonzo Journal
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