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Was the US Declaration of Independence Legal?

When the Second Continental Congress declared American independence in 1776, it committed an act of rebellion against the established government over the area. It can, however, be argued, that the 1783 Treaty of Paris, which recognized this independence, made the act retroactively legal. What is less clear is whether the Declaration of Independence was lawful at the time. On October 31, British and American lawyers will meet at Benjamin Franklin Hall in Philadelphia to debate the issue. At the conclusion of the debate, members of the audience will vote on the question:

The Brits will cite the historical illegality of secession movements generally and the treasonous nature of this one, given that the colonies were established by British citizens who pledged their loyalty to the king. A betting man might even expect a cite or two to writings of that great lawyer-statesman Abraham Lincoln, who dealt firmly with his own breakaway republic. And the barristers — assuming they aren’t shouted down — can be expected to dismiss as “trivial” the economic arguments of the poor colonists, such as that taxation-without-representation rot. The taxes went to defend them against the French, after all.

Who do you think will win? Who do you think should win?

Link | Image: John Trumbull


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