This conference will aim at obtaining greater understanding of the claims for individual and political liberty contained in the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration of Independence has come to be seen as a text that is central not only to our political order, but to understanding ourselves as a people. One argument, long advanced, contends that the Constitution can only be understood in light of the animating principles of equality as enunciated in the Declaration of Independence. In this view, the Constitution’s provisions that limit, enumerate, and diffuse powers should be interpreted according to a spirit of the natural rights of man proclaimed by the Declaration of Independence. Alternatively, the Declaration of Independence can also be seen within the common law tradition of England, which was, of necessity, extended to the North American colonies via the rights the colonists held as Englishmen. The readings for this conference include ancient English antecedents, colonial writings, and political documents, as well as early state constitutions, certain debates within the state ratifying conventions of the Constitution, and selections from the unfolding debate over the nature of the American union in the mid-nineteenth century.
Registration opens May 2013
Audience: Acton alumni who are currently enrolled in or have recently completed graduate level work