One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.
~Martin Luther King Jr.~
If patriotism were defined, not as blind obedience to government, not as submissive worship to flags and anthems, but rather as love of one’s country, one’s fellow citizens (all over the world), as loyalty to the principles of justice and democracy, then patriotism would require us to disobey our government, when it violated those principles.
I do not know if you have noticed, but I like to collect quotes. I have a folder on my computer with file after file of quotations which I often draw from when writing these articles. Quotes, if used properly, can provide supporting evidence to back up a particular stance on an issue, or they can simply make you think; if you are of a mind to think that is.
One such quote comes from James Madison, and was written almost 230 years ago and published in what we now know as Federalist 51, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.”
Man, despite all his grand achievements, is a brutish creature. Without laws, or rules for society to live by, chaos and anarchy would ensue. There must be some means of governing mans baser instincts; placing restrictions on his actions which violate the rights of others, and imposing penalties for disobedience. After all, this is why men enter into civil and political societies; to see their rights better secured.
I don’t know why this popped into my head, but it did and I figured I’d toss it in here to show what happens when there are no laws to govern men’s actions, or when the laws are created by bad people. One of the books I was required to read while attending the public fool system was Lord of the Flies. It tells of a group of shipwrecked young boys who become stranded on an island, and how they go from being civilized to barbaric and tribal in nature. For some reason that book always struck me as representative of what happens to a society when it loses its moral compass and the will of the majority, or the strongest, prevails.
When discussing law one must first ask themselves why laws are put into place; the fundamental reason why laws are created. If you take away all the clutter there can be but two reasons why laws are written; either they are written to better secure your rights, or they are written to take those rights away from you.
Here is another one of those quotes I would hope would make one think; it comes from Frederic Bastiat’s work The Law and states, “Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.”
In speaking about law it is akin to asking the age old question, which came first the chicken or the egg; but in this instance Bastiat is explaining that life, liberty and property came first, then, and only then came the laws designed to protect these things. Therefore, according to Bastiat, the purpose of the law is to protect your life, liberty and property.
He affirms that by going on to say, “What, then, is law? It is the collective organization of the individual right to lawful defense.
Each of us has a natural right—from God—to defend his person, his liberty, and his property. These are the three basic requirements of life, and the preservation of any one of them is completely dependent upon the preservation of the other two. For what are our faculties but the extension of our individuality? And what is property but an extension of our faculties?
If every person has the right to defend—even by force—his person, his liberty, and his property, then it follows that a group of men have the right to organize and support a common force to protect these rights constantly. Thus the principle of collective right—its reason for existing, its lawfulness—is based on individual right. And the common force that protects this collective right cannot logically have any other purpose or any other mission than that for which it acts as a substitute. Thus, since an individual cannot lawfully use force against the person, liberty, or property of another individual, then the common force—for the same reason—cannot lawfully be used to destroy the person, liberty, or property of individuals or groups.”
Man, in his natural state, is a free and independent sovereign being. Government, particularly our system of government, came into existence by an act of sovereign individuals agreeing to a set of laws which outline the structure our government should take, the powers given to each branch, and the overall powers the government as a whole can exercise on our behalf. That is both the nature and purpose of our Constitution; the law which governs the actions of government.
In Federalist 15 Alexander Hamilton declared, “Government implies the power of making laws. It is essential to the idea of a law, that it be attended with a sanction; or, in other words, a penalty or punishment for disobedience. If there be no penalty annexed to disobedience, the resolutions or commands which pretend to be laws will, in fact, amount to nothing more than advice or recommendation.”
Hamilton was referring to the laws enacted by government; as at the time the Constitution was being argued it was believed by many that government lacked the authority to enforce the laws it passed upon the States; particularly the power to collect taxes to fund the operation of government. Yet, is not the reverse true as well; that the law which establishes government in the first place must also be attended with a sanction, or a penalty for disobedience? Otherwise is not the Constitution simply a mere suggestion as to the limitations upon the powers granted government?
If we, as citizens, break any of the laws passed by government we can be, depending upon the severity of the crime; fined, imprisoned, and executed even. Off the top of your head can you name a single member of Congress, or a sitting president who has been fined, imprisoned, or been executed for violating the Supreme Law of the Land; the Constitution?
Of course you can’t; because it hasn’t happened. You say, but Neal we can vote them out of office. Is that a punishment, or is it simply firing them for doing a bad job? If I steal from the company I work for I can be fired as well; that does not mean I am suffering the penalty prescribed for theft by the law.
You see, there are no penalties assigned for those who represent us in government who violate the law which governs their actions … NONE! This was one of Patrick Henry’s greatest fears, a fear which he spoke of when he argued AGAINST ratification of the Constitution in the Virginia Assembly, “My great objection to this Government is, that it does not leave us the means of defending our rights, or of waging war against tyrants…”
Yet in the 1866 case of Ex parte Milligan the Supreme Court ruled, “The Constitution of the United States is a law for rulers and people, equally in war and in peace…” What this means is that those entrusted with the power to govern cannot exceed the limitations upon the specific powers found within the Constitution, nor can the people ask them to do things which the Constitution does not allow.
Today we have a government, comprised of individuals who see themselves above the law; that the law should not, and does not, apply to them. Yet in 1921 Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis ruled, “At the foundation of our civil liberties lies the principle that denies to government officials an exceptional position before the law and which subjects them to the same rules of conduct that are commands to the citizen.” (Source: Burdeau v. McDowell)
Government, be it State or Federal, has at its disposal a standing army of over 1.4 million active duty military members and another million or so law enforcement officers. Not to mention those employed in the rogue agencies such as the DEA, ATF, Department of Homeland Security, and the TSA.
I’m not saying there is not a need for a well trained and regulated Army or Navy; nor am I saying there is not a need for a well trained police force to provide for the enforcement of the just laws of the land; that would be both irresponsible and naive on my part. I am saying though, that when those in the military, or law enforcement profession, enforce unjust laws they are just as evil and tyrannical as those who write the laws in the first place.
If our system of government was established to secure our liberty, (as found within the Preamble of the Constitution), then wouldn’t it be a perversion of the powers granted government when the laws government enacts do just the opposite; restrict liberty?
In 1816 Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter in which he said, “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.”
Going back to Bastiat’s book The Law for a moment, the very first thing Bastiat says is, “The law perverted! And the police powers of the state perverted along with it! The law, I say, not only turned from its proper purpose but made to follow an entirely contrary purpose! … Instead of checking crime, the law itself guilty of the evils it is supposed to punish!”
When government writes the laws, and believes itself to be above the laws it writes, then we have a problem; a serious problem. Government, and law enforcement for that matter, protects its own. Look at Hillary Clinton and the fact that the Department of Justice did not say that she was not guilty of committing a crime; simply that they chose not to pursue the matter. Oh, so the law does not apply to Ms Clinton?
What about Lon Horiuchi, the FBI sniper who shot and killed an unarmed Vicki Weaver while she was holding her infant son; did he ever serve times for his crime? Of course not, the Un-Justice Department chose not to indict or prosecute him either.
Did Janet Reno, or any of those involved in Waco serve time for the massacre at the Branch Davidian compound? Again, the answer is no.
Our government sees itself beyond our ability to enforce the Supreme Law of the land upon them. Local law enforcement, while their hearts may be in the right place, often go about enforcing laws which violate our most basic of rights. Do any of these actions go punished? More often than not the answer is no. Government protects its own, as does the law enforcement community. If you want to see what happens when someone within the law enforcement community tries to speak out against corruption and injustice I suggest you watch the movie Serpico.
During the Nuremburg Trials, 1945-46, many German officers pleaded defense, stating they were merely following orders. While that may have lessened the punishment for their crimes, it did not completely absolve them of guilt. Simply following orders is not enough to justify crimes against humanity; and isn’t that at the root of what all laws which violates the rights of the individual are; crimes against humanity?
In Patrick Henry’s argument against ratification of the Constitution, he also said, “The Honorable Gentleman who presides, told us, that to prevent abuses in our Government, we will assemble in Convention, recall our delegated powers, and punish our servants for abusing the trust reposed in them. Oh, Sir, we should have fine times indeed, if to punish tyrants, it were only sufficient to assemble the people.”
First of all, in today’s modern society the average person is so ignorant they don’t even know what powers are government was granted by the document which created it. How can they be expected to punish those who violate the law when they don’t even know what the law says?
Secondly, are more importantly, who will hear our case against these tyrants? What district attorney would dare indict someone like Hillary Clinton, George Bush, Barack Obama, or Dianne Feinstein for their crimes? What court would hear the case should a lawyer be brave enough to prosecute them? Finally, would we be able to find a group of jurors educated enough to understand the law they would be chosen to render a verdict upon?
So, I ask you, do we have any recourse whatsoever for those who violate the Supreme Law of the Land? The answer, apparently, is no. Yet Stephen Decatur Miller once said, “There are three and only three ways to reform our Congressional legislation, familiarly called, the ballot box, the jury box, and the cartridge box.”
Well the ballot box certainly hasn’t worked out so well, and since the jury box will never hear a case against those in power who violate the law; what option remains? I’m not suggesting taking up arms against your government; I’m merely stating that we are running out of options; especially if you care about preserving what remaining liberty you still enjoy.
You might find my thoughts harsh, radical even, but I am not alone in my thinking and my opinion has roots going all the way back to the founding of our country. In his Defence of the Constitutions of Government, John Adams writes, “The right of a nation to kill a tyrant, in cases of necessity, can no more be doubted, than to hang a robber, or kill a flea. But killing one tyrant only makes way for worse, unless the people have sense, spirit and honesty enough to establish and support a constitution guarded at all points against the tyranny of the one, the few, and the many.”
As Justice William O. Douglas was quoted in An American Almanac, 1954, “The right to revolt has sources deep in our history.” I’m not saying we should revolt, but I am saying that the right exists. I’m also not saying that our government would consider it an act of treason, as would a majority of the people of this country. Our Founders were considered treasonous when they rose up against the King of England and sought their independence.
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.”
Two more quotes and then I’ll wrap this all up. The first comes from the court case of Miller v. U.S., and sates, “The claim and exercise of a constitutional right cannot be converted into a crime.”
The next comes from Justice William O. Douglas, and states, “When a legislature undertakes to proscribe the exercise of a citizen’s constitutional rights it acts lawlessly and the citizen can take matters into his own hands and proceed on the basis that such a law is no law at all.”
Each and every one of us is going to have to, at some point in time, decide how much more we will tolerate of our governments usurpation of power and violations of our rights. It’s either that or go meekly into absolute bondage and servitude to a group of maniacal, power hungry men/women who care nothing about the restrictions placed upon the powers given them by the true sovereigns of this land; the people.
I just hope, for all our sakes, that the people do not wait too long to decide. For as Churchill once said, “If you will not fight for right when you can easily win without blood shed; if you will not fight when your victory is sure and not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival. There may even be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves.”