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THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE
AS THE FUNDAMENTAL CONSTITUTION
OF THE UNITED STATES
Delivered before the Section for the Study of the Government of Dependencies, of the American Political Science Association, at the Meeting held at Providence, December 29, 1906.
OU have heard ably discussed certain questions
which arise out of the relationship between the
American Union and the annexed Insular regions, viewed in its sociological and economic aspect. I now ask your attention to a question of immediate interest and importance growing out of this relationship viewed in its political, that is to say, its legal aspect. This question, which the Committee on Arrangements has called “The Question of Terminology,” is: What are the correct terms to use in describing the political and legal relationship between the American Union and its distant annexed regions, assuming that this relationship is to be permanent and is to be on terms which are just to all parties?
More specifically, the question which I shall discuss will be, whether we, as Americans, ought, according to American principles, to use, in our political and legal language, the terms "colony," “dependence," and "empire," or whether we ought, according to those principles, to substitute for the term "colony," the term “free state,” for “dependence," "just connection,” and for “empire," "union." It is needless to say that I shall accept the decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States as final in regard to all the matters adjudicated in them. But the Supreme Court has jurisdiction only for the purpose of determining the rights of individuals. The political relations between the Union and the Insular regions, it determines only so far as may be necessary to ascertain individual rights. Its present doctrine that the American Union has power over the Insular regions subject to “fundamental principles formulated in the Constitution,” or subject to "the applicable provisions of the Constitution,” protects the civil rights of individuals, but under it the power of the Union for political purposes remains absolute. The proposition which I shall offer for your judgment, will, I believe, not only not be in conflict with the propositions laid down by the Supreme Court, but will give a reason why they are right. It will, too, I believe, give a reasonable basis for our holding that the power of the American Union over the Insular regions, while ample for the maintenance of a just and proper permanent relationship with them under our control, is not absolute even as respects their political rights.
I have said that I shall discuss this question upon American principles. I shall not base myself on the Constitution of the United States, though I shall try to show the relation of that document to the question as I understand it. I shall assume it to be settled by the decisions of the Supreme Court, as it seems clearly to be,—that with the exception of the “Territory" clause of that instrument, it is, and of right ought to be, the Constitution of the thirteen original States of the American Union and of the other States which they have admitted into their Union, and of no other States or communities; and that therefore it does not extend of its own force outside the American Union in any constitutional or legal sense, but only in a metaphorical sense this being as I understand it, the meaning of the Court when they hold, as they do, that, though the “Territory clause" is of present and universal significance as respects all the regions annexed to the Union, yet, with this exception, only “the fundamental principles formulated in the Constitution" are in force in the annexed regions. “Extensions, ” socalled, of the Constitution by Act of Congress, are of course mere Acts of Congress, and whether such metaphorical "extensions” are permanent will depend upon the terms and conditions of the "extension."
But though I shall not base myself on the Constitution of the United States, I shall nevertheless base myself on a great American Document, which preceded the Constitution as a statement of American principles, and which is so far from being inconsistent with it that the Democratic party, in its platform of 1900, called it “the Spirit of the Constitution”—I refer to the Declaration of Independence. It is the American principles set forth in that document which I shall try to discover. If I shall be adjudged to have rightly interpreted that instrument, it will follow that we ought to substitute, in our political and legal language, for the term “colony,” the term “free state,” for “dependence,” “just connection," and for “empire," "union.” In making such substitution, however, it will be necessary to give to the terms "free state" and "union," a scientific meaning which will differ from that which they now have in the popular mind, but which will, I believe, be the same as was given to these terms by the Revolutionary statesmen.
I shall not allow myself to be embarrassed by the fact that in my first published writing I used the terms "colony," “dependence" and "empire”; for at the same