What year did “we win our independence”?

February 13th, 2013

In Rand Paul’s Tea Party response to Marco Rubio’s Republican response to President Obama’s State of the Union, he offered this rhetorical point:

What America needs is not Robin Hood but Adam Smith. In the year we won our independence, Adam Smith described what creates the Wealth of Nations.

Of course, the Wealth of Nations was published in 1776.

But did we “win” our Independence in 1776? Certainly that was the year independence was declared, but the Colonies waged a Revolutionary War against Britain for Independence that lasted till 1781 when Cornwallis surrendered, and really till 1784 when the Articles of Confederation ratified the treaty of Paris.

At what point did the United States of America “win” Independence? Is independence based on what Americans thought? Or what foreign powers thought? France did not formally recognize the United States as a sovereign nation until December 1777.

In my article Original Citizenship, I answer a somewhat related question–when did citizenship of the United States of America begin. I argue that the United States of America continued as a sovereign stretching back from the ratification of the Constitution, through the Articles of Confederation, beginning with the Declaration of Independence. The signing of this great charter–and to be more precise, when people learned about its signing–was the moment citizenship of the United States began (I also consider the Lockean notion of consent theory where people were able to reject entrance to this compact).

So, perhaps inadvertently, Rand Paul was right. If Independence is a factor of American citizenship–whether other nations recognize it or not–then 1776 was the right answer.

Paul also had this ode to the “entire Bill of Rights.” Lest we forget the lonely Third Amendment:

We are the party that adheres to the Constitution. We will not let the liberals tread on the Second Amendment!

We will fight to defend the entire Bill of Rights from the right to trial by jury to the right to be free from unlawful searches.

We will stand up against excessive government power wherever we see it.

We cannot and will not allow any President to act as if he were a king.

We will not let any President use executive orders to impinge on the Second Amendment.

We will not tolerate secret lists of American citizens who can be killed without trial.

And, citations to Montesquieu. Alas, no Blackstone or Locke.

Montesquieu wrote that there can be no liberty when the executive branch and the legislative branch are combined. Separation of powers is a bedrock principle of our Constitution.

And he mentioned the Canning NLRB case!

We took the President to court over his unconstitutional recess appointments and won.

If necessary, we will take him to court again if he attempts to legislate by executive order.

Congress must reassert its authority as the protector of these rights, and stand up for them, no matter which party is in power.

Congress must stand as a check to the power of the executive, and it must stand as it was intended, as the voice of the people.