James Wilson was one of six men who signed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. His contribution to the deliberations of the Constitution was second only to James Madison. Addressing the Pennsylvania Ratifying Convention for the new constitution, Wilson stated: “I beg to read a few words from the Declaration of Independence made by the representatives of the United States and recognized by the whole Union:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

Wilson concluded, “This [Declaration] is the broad basis on which our independence [from authoritarian rule] was placed; on the same certain and solid foundation this [the Constitution of the United States] system is erected” (cited in John Elliot, Elliot’s Debates, The Debates In the Several State Conventions Adoption Of the Federal Constitution, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 11-20-1787, Book I, published 1836, 457).

American Principles rest on the First Principle. Compromise of any of the foundational American principles leads to harmful consequences.

~ D. Norris

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