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The Declaration of Independence in the American Legal System - Essay Example

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In the paper “The Declaration of Independence in the American Legal System” the author analyzes how and why the Declaration of Independence came to be created. Over the years, scholars have argued how this document first came into existence…
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The Declaration of Independence in the American Legal System
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Download file to see previous pages The Declaration of Independence in the American Legal System How the Declaration of Independence came about started a long time ago, in the annals of history. The laws in the United States which currently govern Americans’ private and working lives, in several spheres, have radically changed over the last two hundred-and-thirty-five years that this country has been in existence. When lawyers speak of the English legal system they are referring to the unified legal system of England and Wales. However, since the U.S., before its inception was colonized by the British—much of American law is derived from the English legal system. Since Great Britain ruled over the colonies, they had adopted the British legal system. There are several sources of the American legal system—including the nature of law, common law, and statute law—and why the Declaration of Independence is most closely associated with statute law, even though it has elements of the other law in it. a. The Nature of Law In any community or group, rules made by the people will develop to control the relationships between these members. These rules are essential if the community is to work. Human beings tend to congregate in societies with a basic human instinct to survive and as far as is possible to flourish. Even in primitive societies, traditions, religions, and customs will affect conduct as a society develops. As these societies grow, a more complex set of rules of a more definite nature emerge and a body of law comes into existence. At the same time machinery for the enforcement of these new laws must also come into existence. At first, the colonies were a body of independent states that operated separately from each other. However, eventually, the colonies realized that their independence was imminent once Britain started to block their supply ships with the help of German mercenaries. This made it evident to politicians, statesmen, and writers that Britain was declaring war on the colonies (in essence). Thomas Jefferson used language from John Locke’s Second Treatise on Government to help, in part, draft the Declaration of Independence: “Republicanism meant more than ousting the king. The Declaration of Independence had stated the principle of popular sovereignty: Governments derive ‘their just powers from the consent of the governed.’ In the heat of revolution, many Patriots gave this clause a democratic twist” (Henretta and Brody 2010, 174). Jefferson would later develop the Federalist powers, having developed the concept of checks and balances in government. b. Common Law Most legal systems in Europe (including Scotland) are strongly influenced by Roman Law, and still, have some carryover today. The body of law that applies in England and Wales is different and has gradually developed over a long period of time. This body of law is called the ‘Common Law’ and has become the basis of law not only in England and Wales but also in the United States of America and many Commonwealth countries. The common law developed from the Norman Conquest in 1066 when a centrally strong government led to a centralization of the administration of law, the unification of varied local customs, traveling judges and centralized courts with a ‘common’ law. ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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