The Declaration of Independence as Law
Debates sometimes arise as to whether the Declaration of Independence is law. The Declaration isn’t law as a law saying go on green and stop on red is, although it is set forth under the United States Code. It is much more important than that. It is one of the essential building blocks of what we as a people believe. It has been held to be such in numerous decisions of the United States Supreme Court and I cite one of them below:
The equal protection demanded by the 14th Amendment forbids this. No language is more worthy of frequent and thoughtful consideration than these words of Mr. Justice Matthews, speaking for this court, in Yick Wo v. Hopkins, 118 U.S. 356, 369 , 30 S. L. ed. 220, 226, 6 Sup. Ct. Rep. 1064, 1071: ‘When we consider the nature and the theory of our institutions of government, the principles upon which they are supposed to rest, and review the history of their development, we are constrained to conclude that they do not mean to leave room for the play and action of purely personal and arbitrary power.’ The first official action of this nation declared the foundation of government in these words: ‘We hold these truths to be selfevident, 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.’ While such declaration of principles may not have the force of organic law, or be made the basis of judicial decision as to the limits of right and duty, and while in all cases reference must be had to the organic law of the nation for such limits, yet the latter is but the body and the letter of which the former is the thought and the spirit, and it is always safe to read the letter of the Constitution in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence. No duty rests more imperatively upon the courts than the enforcement of those constitutional provisions intended to secure that equality of rights which is the foundation of free government.’
When any law passed seems to conflict with the Declaration, it would be a very good idea to take a very hard look at that law.