Mandeville, LA – The principal claim used to justify the “perpetual” or “indivisible” union flows from the Declaration of Independence, once passed, formed One People of America or as Daniel Webster put it “…the aggregate community, the collected will of the people, is sovereign.” In researching the events surrounding the first public readings of the Declaration I found the following from the 1895 edition of LOSSING’S HISTORY of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA FROM THE ABORIGINAL TIMES TO THE PRESENT DAY – VOLUME III by historian Bennon J. Lossing LL.D.
Note the passages in bold below that demonstrate the fact there was no unilateral power granted to Congress by the Declaration, so how then could “one indivisible People” have been the result?
John Quincy Adams went so far as to remark in his “Jubilee on the Constitution of the United States” speech to Congress commemorating the 50th anniversary of Washington’s Inaugural.
It is not immaterial to remark, that the Signers of the Declaration, though qualifying themselves as the Representatives of the United States of America, in general Congress assembled, yet issue the Declaration, in the name and by the authority of the good people of the Colonies – and that they declare, not each of the separate Colonies, but the United Colonies, free and independent States. The whole people declared the Colonies in their united condition, of RIGHT, free and independent States.
Wrong. As Lossing notes below (and others have said the same including your correspondent) the Declaration did nothing of the sort. The Congress had no more power to order the affairs of a colony as the yet to be created National Woman Suffrage Association, did.
We, therefore, the representatives of the United States, in general Congress assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States ; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown ; and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved, and that, as free and independent States, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and do all other acts and things which independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”
Having, by this act, given birth to a nation, it was necessary to have, for use, a token of national authority, and on the afternoon of the same day, the Congress resolved : “That Dr. Franklin, Mr. J. Adams, and Mr. Jefferson be a committee to prepare a proper device for a Seal for the United States of America.”
The Declaration of Independence was signed on the same day by every member present, who voted for it. As the voting in the Congress was by colonies, a majority of the members of that body could not bind a single colony ; it was therefore necessary for the members to sign it, to show that a majority of the delegates of the several colonies represented were in favor of it. Their signature, only, could be received as a proper authentication of the instrument. These signatures were attached to a copy on paper, and the instrument was ordered to be engrossed on parchment. This was done, and the copy on parchment was signed by fifty-four delegates on the 2d of August. Two others afterward signed, one in September and the other later in the autumn.