Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Happy 250th Birthday, New London Resolution! The Precursor to the Declaration of Independence - A history lesson

In the years between the New London Resolution (NLR) and 1776, other municipalities and states issued their own statements of independence.  When Jefferson composed the final Declaration, he availed himself of passages from the original New London Resolution, which had been widely circulated in the colonies.  The NLR saves its truly radical conclusion until the last clause of the final of its six points, asserting the "duty" of all Americans "to reassume their natural rights and the authority the laws of nature and of God have vested them with."  This marked a distinct break from all official American reactions to the Stamp Act prior to that date.  By asserting the primacy of natural rights, the Crown's sovereignty was declared void, marking the start of what would erupt into warfare over a decade later.
What the NLR reserved for its conclusion, Jefferson used for the preface of the final declaration:
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them[.]
A comparison between the NLR and the Declaration of Independence (DOI) reveals the paternity of several concepts.  Phrasing from five of six clauses in the NLR survived into the DOI:
NLR: That every form of government, rightfully founded, originates from the consent of the people. 
DOI: Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed ...
NLR: That whenever those bounds are exceeded, the people have a right to reassume the exercise of that authority, which by nature they had, 
DOI: 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,
NLR: That every tax imposed upon English subjects without consent, is against the natural rights and bounds prescribed by the English constitution. ... That the Stamp Act in special, is a tax imposed on the colonies without their consent.
DOI: For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent.
No one knows who drafted the NLR.  One guess is Richard Law, a Yale graduate.  Law became a Continental Congress delegate, Connecticut's chief justice, and a federal judge.  Illness prevented Law from signing the DOI.
In its concise eloquence, the NLR stands alone as a freedom manifesto.  Its closing admonition against "passive obedience" and "tame submission" offers a timeless prescription against tyranny.