In 2004 Disney released a movie entitled National Treasure in which Ben Gates, a character played by Nicholas Cage, finds himself being pursued by the FBI after he steals the Declaration of Independence. Although it is probably next to impossible to steal any of our nation’s founding documents, I have heard that the penalty for doing so would be a life sentence in a federal penitentiary.
However the penalty for stealing one of our founding documents is not what I wish to discuss, it is how people would react were it to actually happen. I’m pretty certain that people would be outraged were someone to steal any of our founding documents. I find it absurd that people would care whether someone stole a document most of them had never taken the time to read. It is a sad truth that the average American understands little to nothing about the document that outlines their government, and is functionally illiterate when it comes to understanding the origin and nature of their unalienable rights.
However, it is not my intent to discuss Disney movies, or the theft of our founding documents. My purpose is to, once again, explain the purpose for which government was instituted, and why I believe that all government, be it local, state, or federal, is guilty of infringing upon the inherent and unalienable rights of man, and by their actions make them guilty of a crime against the people they were elected to represent.
In preface to what follows I would like to quote Thomas Paine, from his pamphlet Common Sense, “IN the following pages I offer nothing more than simple facts, plain arguments, and common sense: and have no other preliminaries to settle with the reader, than that he will divest himself of prejudice and prepossession…”
I cannot speak for every American, but from my own personal experience and from conversations I have had with people I associate with, I think that most people believe that their government has an almost unlimited grant of power and is authorized to do just about anything they feel is in the public interest.
One thing is for certain, most people are unaware that one of the primary functions for which our system of government was created was to secure our unalienable rights. The Declaration of Independence says “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”
James Wilson, whose signature can be found on the Declaration of Independence, who was one of the drafters of the Constitution, and who also served as one of the six original justices to the Supreme Court, once said, “Government … should be formed to secure and enlarge the exercise of the natural rights of its members; and every government which has not this in view as its principal object is not a government of the legitimate kind.”
When it comes to the purpose for which government exists, you can choose to believe those in power who tell you that they are passing these laws for your benefit, or you can choose to believe me. But let me ask you something first; if a con man or a swindler decides to take something valuable from you, do you think they are going to tell you they that is their purpose? Of course not, they are going to convince you that you will somehow profit, or benefit, from the venture and then, only after you have been robbed of your possession, will you realize the truth.
Our nation’s capital, and our state capitals, are filled to the gills with the best of the best when it comes to con men, and con women. They are expert at telling you that the things they do are for your benefit, when they are actually designed to deprive you of your rights and put you under THEIR control.
Although people would be outraged where our Constitution to be stolen, do they actually know what purpose it serves? The best definition for a constitution I have read can be found in Thomas Paine’s The Rights of Man, “A constitution is not a thing in name only, but in fact. It has not an ideal, but a real existence; and wherever it cannot be produced in a visible form, there is none. A constitution is a thing antecedent to a government, and a government is only the creature of a constitution. The constitution of a country is not the act of its government, but of the people constituting its government. It is the body of elements, to which you can refer, and quote article by article; and which contains the principles on which the government shall be established, the manner in which it shall be organised, the powers it shall have, the mode of elections, the duration of Parliaments, or by what other name such bodies may be called; the powers which the executive part of the government shall have; and in fine, everything that relates to the complete organisation of a civil government, and the principles on which it shall act, and by which it shall be bound.”
Thomas Jefferson once said, “The two enemies of the people are criminals and government, so let us tie the second down with the chains of the Constitution so the second will not become the legalized version of the first.”
It is clear from these quotes that our nation’s Constitution placed limits upon the power and authority of our government. But there’s more to it than that. As our government was established to secure our rights, many of the founders did not feel it provided adequate protection for those rights, and therefore refused to accept it until further protections were included.
Therefore a Bill of Rights was agreed upon and after being agreed upon by the requisite number of states, ten amendments were added to the Constitution to define certain rights as being off limits to government, at all levels. The preamble to the Bill of Rights states as much by saying, “THE Conventions of a number of the States having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best insure the beneficent ends of its institution…”
So basically, here’s how it all happened. The people created government and gave to that government certain define powers, and placed upon them certain restrictions to those powers. The question then arises; when government oversteps its authority and exercises powers not granted it by the Constitution, and in so doing infringes upon the rights safeguarded by the Bill of Rights, are we obligated to obey such laws?
The answer can be found in John Locke’s Second Treatise on Civil Government, “…whenever the legislators endeavor to take away and destroy the property of the people, or to reduce them to slavery under arbitrary power, they put themselves into a state of war with the people, who are thereupon absolved from any farther obedience and are left to the common refuge, which God hath provided for all men, against force and violence. Whensoever therefore the legislative shall transgress this fundamental rule of society, and either by ambition, fear, folly or corruption, endeavor to grasp themselves, or put into the hands of any other, an absolute power over the lives, liberties, and estates of the people; by this breach of trust they forfeit the power the people had put into their hands for quite contrary ends, and it devolves to the people, who have a right to resume their original liberty…”
When President John Adams signed into law the Alien and Sedition Acts, he violated the rights of the people to speak freely against the actions of their government. His signing of these laws prompted Thomas Jefferson to draft the Kentucky Resolutions, which in part states, “Resolved, That the several States composing, the United States of America, are not united on the principle of unlimited submission to their general government…that whensoever the general government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force…”
It was the infringement of an unalienable right which caused Jefferson to oppose the legislation passed by President Adams. Former Justice to the Supreme Court, Robert H. Jackson, clearly stated, “The very purpose of a Bill of Rights was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts. One’s right to life, liberty, and property, to free speech, a free press, freedom of worship and assembly, and other fundamental rights may not be submitted to vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections.”
Furthermore, in the case of Bell v Hood, the Court ruled, “History is clear that the first ten amendments to the Constitution were adopted to secure certain common law rights of the people, against invasion by the Federal Government.”
In the case of State v Board of Examiners, the court ruled, “Disobedience or evasion of a constitutional mandate may not be tolerated, even though such disobedience may, at least temporarily, promote in some respects the best interests of the public.”
Finally, although the majority of the people may support a law which violates the rights of others, their legislators are still prohibited from acting solely upon the wishes of the majority, as proved by the following quote from Albert Gallatin, “The whole of the Bill (of Rights) is a declaration of the right of the people at large or considered as individuals …. It establishes some rights of the individual as unalienable and which consequently, no majority has a right to deprive them of.”
Our rights predate government, that is to say they existed before government did, and therefore, as the Bill of Rights was instituted to protect those rights, the government, no matter how many people ask it to do so, may not enact legislation which infringes upon any of those rights.
In the case of People v. Berberrich we read, “By the “absolute rights” of individuals is meant those which are so in their primary and strictest sense, such as would belong to their persons merely in a state of nature, and which every man is entitled to enjoy, whether out of society or in it. The rights of personal security, of personal liberty, and private property do not depend upon the Constitution for their existence. They existed before the Constitution was made, or the government was organized. These are what are termed the “absolute rights” of individuals, which belong to them independently of all government, and which all governments which derive their power from the consent of the governed were instituted to protect.”
Alexander Hamilton once said, “The fundamental source of all your errors, sophisms, and false reasonings, is a total ignorance of the natural rights of mankind. Were you once to become acquainted with these, you could never entertain a thought, that all men are not, by nature, entitled to a parity of privileges. You would be convinced, that natural liberty is a gift of the beneficent Creator, to the whole human race; and that civil liberty is founded in that; and cannot be wrested from any people, without the most manifest violation of justice.”
Though these elected representatives, at all levels of government, may act in our behalf, we the people still retain the ultimate authority. In their decision on Chisholm v. Georgia, the Supreme Court ruled, “In the United States, Sovereignty resides in the people, who act through the organs established by the Constitution.”
Furthermore, in the case of Gaines v Buford, the courts ruled “I do not admit that there is any sovereign power, in the literal meaning of the terms, to be found anywhere In our system of government… sovereign power, or, which I take to be the same thing, power without limitation, is nowhere to be found in any branch or department of the government, either state or national, nor indeed of all of them put together.”
Thomas Paine, in the Rights of Man, writes, “The end of all political associations is the preservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man; and these rights are liberty, property, security, and resistance of oppression.”
Oppression is defined as something that oppresses especially in being an unjust or excessive exercise of power. Oppression can come in many forms, it may be a federal law which grants government the authority to monitor my phones, my e-mail, and my Facebook posts, or it may come in the local police arresting a person who films a public event, such as has occurred on numerous occasions recently. It also can come in a state government telling me that my Second Amendment right is not as secure as that of someone who lives in a neighboring state because I am restricted from purchasing a firearm which is perfectly legal in a neighboring state.
Every law passed, be it state or federal, which infringes upon your rights puts you into a state of oppression, and it has been proven that you have the right to resist these infringements of your other unalienable rights.
People don’t realize how much of a police state we already live under. When an agency, whose existence has no constitutional basis, can send armed thugs to confiscate your property, impose fines, or jail sentences upon you, and you can be shot for resisting these unconstitutional laws, we live in a police state. To quote James Wilson once again, “The enemies of liberty are artful and insidious … liberty herself is treated as a traitor and an usurper … Against these enemies of liberty, who act in concert … the patriot citizen will keep a watchful guard.”
Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black once said, “In my judgment the people of no nation can lose their liberty so long as a Bill of Rights like ours survives and its basic purposes are conscientiously interpreted, enforced and respected so as to afford continuous protection against old, as well as new, devices and practices which might thwart those purposes.”
The French philosopher Voltaire once said, “It is dangerous to be right in matters on which the established authorities are wrong.” By me, or anyone else, standing up for our rights, and for demanding that our government adhere to the limits imposed upon it by the Constitution, we are labeled as a threat to government, and to the nation.
Remember now, the Constitution is, as Article Six declares, the Supreme Law of the land. So therefore, who are the criminals, who are the threat to society? Is it people like me who speak the truth, or is it government who tries to oppress the truth and bind you into slavery?
You may not agree with everything I’ve just said, but I would ask, by what do you base your opinion? Is it based upon what you have been told by those who represent you; by the media, by your school teachers; or by your own personal feelings? If you are of an open mind, and willing to look the truth in the eye, and accept it, you will not be able to say that you support the actions of your government.
Thomas Jefferson, in his Notes on Virginia, stated, “[The purpose of a written constitution is] to bind up the several branches of government by certain laws, which, when they transgress, their acts shall become nullities; to render unnecessary an appeal to the people, or in other words a rebellion, on every infraction of their rights…”
We do not need a rebellion to take back this country; we only need a group of informed and dedicated persons who are willing to stand up for their rights. But as Mark Twain once said, “In the beginning of a change the patriot is a scarce man, and brave, and hated and scorned. When his cause succeeds, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot.”
I do not see things getting any better, in fact I see them getting much, much worse. I suppose my purpose has ceased being to educate and inform the mass of society who choose to remain ignorant and blind to the truth. I suppose my purpose is to eulogize the death of our nation’s Constitution, and our Bill of Rights.
Just remember this, when the chains of slavery are firmly bound around your wrists and ankles, when your last remaining right has gone by the wayside, remember that I tried to warn you. Hopefully when it all happens, I’ll have long since died and been buried, and you will then be able to enjoy the fruits of your apathy and indifference without my incessant nagging.
March 18, 2012
~ The Author ~
Neal Ross can be reached for comments at email@example.com.
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