Is the Declaration “Organic Law”?

It’s been a couple of weeks since you’ve heard from me. That’s bad.

You will be hearing from me more often in the coming weeks, particularly if you are a subscriber to McClanahan Academy. That’s good.

I haven’t stopped producing The Brion McClanahan Show. You can get it on all major podcast platforms. Just search for it wherever you get podcasts and subscribe, and once you do, leave a review. The more the better.

I kicked off this week with a discussion of the Declaration of Independence. The West Coast Straussians will tell you that the Declaration is “organic law” of the United States.

That would be news to the men who wrote it–and to the United States government for over 100 years. In my running debate with Michael Anton at American Greatness, he argued that he didn’t know what I was talking about because I said the Declaration was not organic law. In fact, he called it “laughable.” I have been scribbling a response to Anton and will eventually get around to publishing something about it at some point, but I want to make my point about this issue so clear even Michael Anton can understand it.

Anton cites the current United States Code as evidence of my ignorance. True, the Declaration is listed there as “organic law,” but I covered this argument in my piece at Chronicles by contending that, “It did not form a government or create any legislation. If it was “organic law,” as Anton submits, there would have been no reason for the states to draft separate constitutions or for the Continental Congress to produce the Articles of Confederation. The Declaration should have been sufficient.”

An “organic law” is “a body of laws that form the original foundation of a government.” By definition, the Declaration is not an organic law, as I illustrated in my original piece.

But let me dive deeper. The United States Code of Laws was not drafted until 1874, and until 1940, the Declaration was not listed as an “organic law.” Thus, for one hundred and sixty-six years, no one considered the document to be an “organic law” of the United States. It still isn’t, no matter what is printed in the Code of Laws. It was a document of secession, nothing more. As John Adams remarked, the members of the Continental Congress were little more than “ambassadors” from their respective States, and the Congress had no legislative authority. Even under the Articles of Confederation, the Congress passed “resolutions,” not laws, and could thus be ignored by the State governments. This was one of the supposed defects of the central authority before the ratification of the Constitution. As I also stated in my original piece, “good luck using the Declaration as a defense in a court of law.” Twenty-seven of the fifty-four code titles of federal law have been enacted into positive law by the general government. That doesn’t include the Declaration of Independence.

You see, even when they have a “gotcha moment,” they only get themselves. It’s like playing against the JV team on a regular basis.

It doesn’t mean the people at American Greatness don’t get some things right. They do, and even Anton gets it right sometimes. The problem is that they don’t understand that their 19th century liberalism is the root of the current rot in America.

You can’t “conserve” the founding by championing Abraham Lincoln. They two are irreconcilable.

I discuss the Declaration as “organic law” and other West Coast Straussian ideology on episode 538 of The Brion McClanahan Show.

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