What is political power? Essentially political power is the authority to enact laws and to attach penalties to the transgression of those laws; up to and including death. Where does this political power come from? Does political power grow on trees; is it something you can go to a store and buy a six-pack of; or is it something that some are born with while others aren’t?
Another question we must ask is; what ends does this political power serve? If you strip away all the flash, political power can be used to either secure liberty to the governed or it can be used to subjugate and oppress them. In the former instance, government is just; it provides justice. In the latter it is tyrannical and those thusly governed have the right to resist its authority.
What then is liberty? Well, if you look in the dictionary you might find something like: freedom from constraint or the ability to do as one pleases. However, I don’t think those definitions accurately describe liberty, for they imply that a person can tyrannize and oppress another, weaker person simply because they want to.
I prefer Thomas Jefferson’s definition of liberty, taken from a letter to John Cartwright, “…rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our own will, within the limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others.” Therefore, so long as I do not harm another in their life, their property, or their liberty, I am free to do as I please with my own life.
Therefore, if a government is instituted to secure liberty to all the inhabitants of a country, anything less than complete and total freedom to order our own existences is tyranny and oppression, with the only difference being a matter of degrees.
So, in answering my own questions, political power is derived from the sovereigns of a country. A sovereign is defined as one who has the supreme or absolute political authority. In America that would be us, the people; as affirmed by the Supreme Court in 1793, “…at the Revolution, the sovereignty devolved on the people; and they are truly the sovereigns of the country, but they are sovereigns without subjects…with none to govern but themselves; the citizens of America are equal as fellow citizens, and as joint tenants in the sovereignty.”
Therefore, at the conclusion of the American Revolution it could be said of the people inhabiting this country that each of them was a sovereign unto themselves, with each of them being in full possession of their liberty.
So how did our government come into existence? To keep the narrative short, a group of men decided to create a system of government for this country, but for that government to have any authority, the true sovereigns of this country would have to agree to accept it by way of State Ratifying Assemblies. In essence, they contracted amongst each other to agree to institute this new system of government, based upon the assurances they were given that the government would not threaten the sovereignty of their individual States or their liberty.
In 1791 Thomas Paine would write, “All power exercised over a nation, must have some beginning. It must either be delegated or assumed. There are no other sources. All delegated power is trust, and all assumed power is usurpation. Time does not alter the nature and quality of either.” In this country all political power held by our government is delegated; that is, it was given to those holding officer to perform certain tasks.
Should they violate the trust given them and assume powers that go beyond those specifically granted many things occur. First and foremost is we are under no obligation to obey any law passed in pursuance of these assumed powers. Now that may sound pretty radical to most of you, but the truth of that statement can be found in the Sixteenth American Jurisprudence, Section 256, “”The general rule is that an unconstitutional statute, though having the form and name of law, is in reality no law, but is wholly void, and ineffective for any purpose; since unconstitutionality dates from the time of its enactment, and not merely from the date of the decision so branding it. No one is bound to obey an unconstitutional law, and no courts are bound to enforce it.” (My emphasis)
Secondly, as the true sovereigns of this country, and the creators of government, should the government ever overstep it’s just authority, it is our right to revoke our consent to it and to abolish the government; either to replace it with a better one, or to live without one altogether.
John Locke describes this thusly, “…whenever the legislators endeavour 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…” (Source: Second Treatise on Civil Government, Chapter 19, Section 222)
Locke continues by saying, “Whensoever therefore the legislative shall transgress this fundamental rule of society; and either by ambition, fear, folly or corruption, endeavour 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, and, by the establishment of a new legislative, (such as they shall think fit) provide for their own safety and security, which is the end for which they are in society.” (Source: Ibid)
Those passages, if you ask me, are the foundation upon which Jefferson wrote the following for the Declaration of Independence, “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
So, as you can see, I’m not making any of this stuff up, my beliefs are actually supported by facts that are easily verifiable. They may sound radical to you, but that’s only because you have not been exposed to them, nor have you been taught to question the authority of your government to do things which exceed the specific grant of authority given to them to act as your representatives.
Government, even the most tyrannical of ones, exists only because the people do not rise up and abolish it; in other words, it exists because we consent to its authority. So let’s take some time to talk about consent. Was the consent for this system of government unanimous among the people living in 1788? Not from what I’ve learned through my studies. In fact, there were some who vehemently opposed the adoption of this system of government, and they wrote extensively regarding their objections to it. Yet when this government went into effect they found themselves under its authority. Did that not make them slaves to a system they did not give their consent to?
Taking that one step further, the Constitution was at least agreed to by a portion of the society living in 1788 through the State Ratifying Assemblies. When all those who formally gave their consent to this system of government had died, was their consent passed on to the succeeding generation? I don’t believe it was, at least not formally.
I believe it was more a tacit consent simply because they chose not to publicly declare that the government created by their parents and grandparents was now void of all authority over their lives. I believe that the only reason our government still exists is because it is tacitly consented to by our voting and our obeying the laws it enacts.
Yet at any time it is our right, as sovereigns, to revoke that consent and abolish the government; and there’s not a damned thing government could do without proving itself to be tyrannical. (Which it already has done when it used force to compel the Confederacy into remaining in the Union)
Now remember, at the conclusion of the Revolution the sovereignty devolved upon the people. That has never changed, even though the people have, for the most part, been too timid to exercise that sovereignty. Also, as we are all equal in liberty, no man can force another to do something they do not want, not without violating that person’s liberty.
Therefore, if someone does not support, or consent to, a system of government, yet is forced to accept it, pay taxes to it, and obey the laws it passes, is that not a deprivation of that person’s liberty – does it not make them a slave to a system they do not consent to?
To take that even further, does one generation have the right to forever bind future generations to a system they have no say in consenting to or rejecting? Thomas Jefferson felt it did not, and he said so in many a letter. In one letter particularly, Jefferson wrote, “We may consider each generation as a distinct nation, with a right, by the will of its majority, to bind themselves, but none to bind the succeeding generation, more than the inhabitants of another country.” (Source: Letter to John Wayles Eppes, 1813)
Thomas Paine, author of the pamphlet Common Sense, also felt similarly, “There never did, there never will, and there never can, exist a Parliament, or any description of men, or any generation of men, in any country, possessed of the right or the power of binding and controlling posterity to the “end of time,” or of commanding for ever how the world shall be governed, or who shall govern it … Man has no property in man; neither has any generation a property in the generations which are to follow.” (Source: The Rights of Man, 1791)
Then, shortly after the end of the Civil War, Lysander Spooner would write, “Furthermore, we know, historically, that only a small portion even of the people then existing were consulted on the subject, or asked, or permitted to express either their consent or dissent in any formal manner. Those persons, if any, who did give their consent formally, are all dead now. Most of them have been dead forty, fifty, sixty, or seventy years. And the Constitution, so far as it was their contract, died with them. They had no natural power or right to make it obligatory upon their children.” (Source: No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority, 1780)
There we have 3 separate and independent sources telling us that one generation does not have the right, nor the authority, to bind future generations in any instance; especially to a government they have not formally consented to. But Spooner asks an interesting question regarding those who do consent to this system of government, “If any considerable number of the people believe the Constitution to be good, why do they not sign it themselves, and make laws for, and administer them upon, each other; leaving all other persons (who do not interfere with them) in peace?” (My emphasis)
If our system truly was established to secure liberty, should we not be at liberty to decide for ourselves whether or not the government outlined by the Constitution has any authority and jurisdiction over us?
Spooner was not alone in believing this way. In his Second Treatise Locke writes, “MEN being, as has been said, by nature, all free, equal, and independent, no one can be put out of this estate, and subjected to the political power of another, without his own consent. The only way whereby any one divests himself of his natural liberty, and puts on the bonds of civil society, is by agreeing with other men to join and unite into a community for their comfortable, safe, and peaceable living one amongst another, in a secure enjoyment of their properties, and a greater security against any, that are not of it. This any number of men may do, because it injures not the freedom of the rest; they are left as they were in the liberty of the state of nature.” (My emphasis)
As sovereigns should not each individual have the right to decide for themselves whether or not they will consent to the authority of any system of government and place themselves under the jurisdiction of its laws? If you say no to that, then you truly do not believe in liberty; for by forcing someone to accept a system of government simply because YOU agree to it, you are depriving that person of their right to make their own decisions in life; you are forcing servitude upon them.
As each of our ancestors were individual sovereigns, and as liberty is an individual attribute SUPPOSEDLY enjoyed by all the inhabitants of this country, then it could be said that individuality equates to true freedom. It can also be said that government seeks to destroy individuality by forcing those who do not consent to its authority to obey the laws they enact and pay the taxes they impose…all against the will of those who only want to be left alone to live their lives as they see fit.
Regardless of what you may think of us, we are not a danger to you, we pose no threat to you, your property, or your liberty. We also seek not to overthrow your system of government, we only want it to leave us alone. But government cannot allow that, it cannot allow people to be individually sovereign and independent, it cannot allow for people to be individually free of its authority. So it uses force against those who seek to exercise their birthright – LIBERTY AND INDIVIDUALITY.
You see us as threats to your way of life; as dangers to society or national security. I wish no harm upon any of you; I seek not to conquer you, rob you of your wealth, or deprive you of any of your rights. I only seek to live my life free of the taxes and laws your government imposes upon me. How is that a threat to you or to the country so long as I respect the rights of others?
But if the Civil War taught us anything it taught us that your government can, and will, use force to ensure that each and every inhabitant of this country remains subject to its authority. And if that does not prove to you that your government is not one based upon consent, but one based upon coercion and force, then there is absolutely no hope for you; you will never question the authority of your government; even when it places the shackles upon your legs while it deprives you of the last vestiges of your freedom.
If you cannot see that your government will fine, imprison, and even kill you if you resist it’s authority, then you’re already a mental slave and you might as well get on your knees and bow to it. I may not be any freer in action than you are, but at least I see the truth for what it is, and as long as my mind is free there is still hope that my body will one day be free as well.
And if you are among those who worship government, who believe that all must bow in obedience to it, then I dedicate this quote from Thomas Paine to you, “When I contemplate the natural dignity of man, when I feel (for Nature has not been kind enough to me to blunt my feelings) for the honour and happiness of its character, I become irritated at the attempt to govern mankind by force and fraud, as if they were all knaves and fools, and can scarcely avoid disgust at those who are thus imposed upon.”