Teaching the Declaration of Independence by Alumnus Patrick Charles

2009 C|M Alumnus Patrick J. Charles’ blog post, Placing the Declaration of Independence in Historical Context: Thoughts on Educating Current and Future Generations about America’s Founding Document, discusses teaching the Declaration of Independence in its proper context.

“Perhaps the best way to do so is to look at the Declaration through the lens of a complaint in a court of law. A complaint is simply a legal pleading that stipulates to the court the parties involved, the court’s jurisdiction to hear the case, the grievances of the complaining party, and the relief sought.  Such is the Declaration of Independence. The parties are the thirteen American colonies and England; the jurisdiction is the world through the “Laws of Nature” or the law of nations; there are twenty-seven  grievances against the crown arguing that the English Constitution and colonial charters were broken; and the relief sought is independence.

It is here that teaching the Declaration becomes intriguing and would prove to be great moot court or mock debate in a variety of classrooms, for England and its supporters posted a number of replies, most notably John Lind and Jeremy Bentham’s An Answer to the Declaration of the American Congress. From the English perspective, not only were the colonies without jurisdiction, but most of the grievances were either without merit or political propaganda, and therefore, the relief sought should not be granted.”

More of Patrick Charles’ scholarship is accessible via his SSRN page: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/cf_dev/AbsByAuth.cfm?per_id=1428375.

The article also points out a valuable resource for historical research on the U.S. Constitution – Consource.  Consource contains the 1787 Constitution, amendments, Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, Federalist Papers, Anti-Federalist and Pro-Federalist papers, Bill of Rights legislative history and more.