Nothing then is unchangeable but the inherent and unalienable rights of man.
(Letter to John Cartwright, 1824)
Are you aware that there are two types of reading? There is reading for entertainment, and reading for information. In reading for entertainment one often skips words, or breezes past them, focusing more on the overall plot or storyline. In reading for information one slows down and pays close attention to both the grammar, and the meaning of each word. I would hope, therefore, that when you read these little rants of mine that you read for the information; not for entertainment.
Take, for instance, that quote at the top of the page from Jefferson; what do you think it means? There are three words within that quote that I’d like for you to pay particular attention to: unchangeable, inherent, and unalienable. Do you understand the meaning of those words?
Here, let me help you out.
Of the three, unchangeable is probably the easiest to understand, it simply means not able to change or be changed.
Next is inherent, which means; existing in something as a permanent, essential, or characteristic attribute. Something that is inherent is a permanent part of it and if it is removed, or taken away, it permanently alters the state of the thing. Take for instance water, or H2O. Water is formed by the bonding of two molecules of hydrogen and one molecule of oxygen. If you remove any of them it no longer is water. So you could say that the molecules that make up water are inherent or essential characteristics of it. You add another oxygen molecule and it is no longer water; it becomes hydrogen peroxide.
Finally, we get to the most important of the three words; unalienable. Modern English has changed much from the English spoken by the men who established our system of government; i.e. wrote the founding documents. Therefore it is essential that we understand how the words were used when they wrote these documents, not the meaning in today’s usage.
Today unalienable and inalienable are interchangeable which was not the case when the founding documents were written; they had entirely different meanings. In the 1700’s, and even much later, inalienable meant that something was not capable of being surrendered or transferred without the persons consent. However unalienable meant that the thing that was unalienable was incapable of being surrendered; sold or transferred. (Black’s Dictionary of Law, Sixth Edition, page 1523)
Therefore, to take Jefferson’s quote and translate it into modern English, one might read it thusly; The only things which cannot be changed are the essential rights of man which are incapable of being sold, transferred, or taken away.
Our Founders fought a war to restore the rights which they felt their sovereign, the King of England, had deprived them of. They established a system of government which, they hoped, would best safeguard those rights. They furthermore wrote a Bill of Rights which listed certain rights as being beyond the scope of powers of government to violate.
The preamble to the Bill of Rights declares; 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.
Read that again, particularly the last sentence, “And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best insure the beneficent ends of its institution.” What is the beneficent end for which our Constitution was written? Well the Preamble to the Constitution itself declares it to be, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity…”
What is liberty if it is not the full and equal enjoyment of all our rights?
How can you say that you live in a country which is based upon liberty when one of the most vital rights is violated by laws passed by both the State and federal governments?
I’m talking about the right of self-defense.
In 1772 Samuel Adams, cousin to our nation’s second president John Adams, wrote a report to the committee of correspondence for Boston Township. In his report Adams writes, “Among the Natural Rights of the Colonists are these First. a Right to Life; Secondly to Liberty; thirdly to Property; together with the Right to support and defend them in the best manner they can–Those are evident Branches of, rather than deductions from the Duty of Self Preservation, commonly called the first Law of Nature–”
This was four years before Jefferson would write the Declaration of Independence which says among the rights of men were “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Jefferson did not limit our rights to those three; he simply said that they were among the rights bestowed upon man by his Creator.
Now let’s take a closer look at what Adams said. First off Adams listed three rights which man had; the right to Life, Liberty and Property. Secondly, he declared that man also has the right to defend these three rights in the best manner they can. Finally, he declares “Those are evident Branches of, rather than deductions from the Duty of Self Preservation, commonly called the first Law of Nature.”
If these are our rights, and if these rights are unchangeable, and if they cannot be taken away from us, sold, or transferred, then government cannot make laws which tell us how, when, where, and under what circumstances we may exercise them.
Can government deprive you of life under any circumstance other than the commission of a crime which warrants the death penalty? Of course it can’t. Why then should it be allowed to pass laws which violate both property and liberty; and the right of defending them in the best manner they can?
If you recall, I had mentioned that the Bill of Rights were declaratory and restrictive clauses to prevent the abuse of power granted government, and meant to best insure the beneficent ends of its institution. Therefore, if the second of these declaratory clauses, or amendments as we commonly know them, declares that the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, how is it that we have a multitude of laws doing exactly that? How is it that we have a multitude of laws which declare when, how, and under what circumstances we can protect our lives, our property, and our liberty? Aren’t these, as Adams said, evident branches of the first Law of Nature; the Duty of Self-Preservation?
You have to understand the nature of rights to understand what I’m trying to say. Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr once said, “The right to swing my fist ends where the other man’s nose begins.” That is about as clear an explanation of the free exercise of rights as I’ve read. But then there is also this, from a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to Francis Gilmer, “Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law’ because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.”
Applying that to the Second Amendment, I have the right to own guns. I have the right to carry guns on my person…AT ALL TIMES. However, if I use one of those guns, in anything other than self-defense, or defense of my liberty or property, I have violated the equal rights of another, and then, and ONLY THEN, can I be found guilty of a crime.
The rights of the individual may not be restricted in the hopes that by the restriction of a right may prevent a future crime from happening. Had our Founders thought with that mindset they may have well said, “Maybe we shouldn’t adopt this Constitution, after all it MAY end up becoming tyrannical and oppressive.”
No, crime is only a criminal act when something violates the rights of another. Now you may be asking that if someone uses a gun to defend their life, their property, or their liberty, then aren’t they violating the other person’s right to life? Yes, but in cases such as these it is considered justifiable.
To explain, one must go back to Locke’s Second Treatise, Section 18, wherein it says, “This makes it lawful for a man to kill a thief, who has not in the least hurt him, nor declared any design upon his life, any farther than, by the use of force, so to get him in his power, as to take away his money, or what he pleases, from him; because using force, where he has no right, to get me into his power, let his pretence be what it will, I have no reason to suppose, that he, who would take away my liberty, would not, when he had me in his power, take away every thing else. And therefore it is lawful for me to treat him as one who has put himself into a state of war with me, i.e. kill him if I can; for to that hazard does he justly expose himself, whoever introduces a state of war, and is aggressor in it.”
If you think about it, what was our War for Independence if it wasn’t the use of force and violence against an enemy who sought to take away the liberty, or rights, of the Colonists? Were the Colonists, or Colonial Army, not violating the rights of the Redcoats to Life when they faced them on the battlefields?
If someone violates your rights; be they the right to life, property, OR LIBERTY, you are justified in using force to defend these rights. It’s that simple. I don’t care what 9 black robed tyrants say about the matter; after all, they are part of government and therefore as subject to being tyrannical and oppressive as is the Congress or the President.
I hear those who sit in the seats of power, or those running to hold those seats of power, talk about constant fear mongering in order to push forward an agenda. Have you ever stopped to think that maybe, just maybe, you are victims of that same type of fear mongering? Has it ever crossed your mind that the nonstop reporting after some deadly shooting is designed to weaken your resolve, make you fearful of certain types of guns, or people who own them, and make you susceptible to support further restrictions upon our right to keep and bear arms?
You see, our Founders realized that someday, hopefully far off in the future, the system of government they established would become tyrannical and oppressive. There were those who sought to put a safeguard, a fail-safe, in the Bill of Rights which gave the people the ability to fight back against oppression. That fail-safe was the Second Amendment; the ability of the people to own guns and use them against their government should it become too big for its britches.
And yet you would see that right taken away just to make you feel a bit safer and secure? I fully understand that there are crimes committed with guns, but the answer is not to restrict the right of those who break no laws. Our society has become immoral; discipline, a respect for life, and a respect for the property of others is not instilled into our children. That is why they grow up to commit these horrible crimes. Add to the mix a good many of these spree shooters are found to be under the influence of psychotropic drugs which cause violent and suicidal tendencies and you have the perfect recipe for disaster.
Ben Franklin once said something that has been quoted in various incantations. Of them, this is the most apt adaptation I’ve heard, “Those that can give up essential liberty to gain a little temporary safety or security will gain neither and lose both.”
Those of you who push for stricter gun laws are violating the Second Amendment; no if’s ands or buts. You are therefore violating my right…my liberty. And what did Sam Adams say about the right to defend liberty; that we had the right to defend it in the best manner we can. If words don’t work; if reason and logic do not work, then there is but one recourse left to us; and you really don’t want to find out what that is.
Don’t tread on me, or my rights, and I won’t tread on you.