In all my ramblings I have never asked anyone to just up and accept everything I say; quite the contrary in fact. I have always hoped that people would question the validity of what I write, but that they did not reject outright what I said simply because it ran contrary to what they believed to be the truth. All I hoped for was that people would read what I had written with an open mind, along with the desire to verify whether what I was saying was true, or whether I was lying to them.
In short, all I hope for can be summed up in something Thomas Paine said to the Colonists when he submitted his pamphlet Common Sense to them for their consideration, “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, and suffer his reason and his feelings to determine for themselves that he will put on, or rather that he will not put off, the true character of a man, and generously enlarge his views beyond the present day.”
There has been this idea floating around in my head for quite some time now, and from time to time I’ve come close the periphery of it in other articles, yet I’ve never devoted an entire article to it. That’s been because I simply couldn’t figure out a way to address the subject in a manner that would make any sense. Yet I think my subconscious must have worked some overtime last night while I slept; for when I awoke this morning I believe I have come up with a way to express my thoughts in a manner that might make sense to you.
While the Pilgrims were aboard the Mayflower, awaiting the time when they could disembark and set foot upon their new home, they wrote the first legal document as inhabitants of this land that would eventually become the United States of America. Known as the Mayflower Compact, this document declares the reasons for establishing this colony of British Citizens, and declares their loyalty to their King, “We, whose names are underwritten, the Loyal Subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, &c. Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith…”
It is not so much the intent of these settlers that is of particular interest to me at this time, rather it is their use of the term ‘dread Sovereign’ in reference to the King that I want to discuss. First of all the term dread today implies a certain amount of fear regarding something. But in 1620 the word implied great respect for something, or someone. So when they said ‘dread Sovereign’ they were showing their respect for King James.
However it is the word sovereign that is of importance. I know I have discussed sovereign, or sovereignty numerous times, but I can’t say with any degree of certainty how well you understand the significance of the word. Sovereignty is defined as the supreme or absolute political authority within a body politic, or society.
So when people called their King a dread sovereign it was an acknowledgment that there was no living human being with more authority than the King. As Kings were thought to rule by divine right, the only being with more authority over them was God Himself; and it was believed that the King acted with the authority of God Himself to rule over them. Therefore, to question the authority of the King was akin to questioning the authority of God, and was often punishable by death.
Before I continue I need to be absolutely certain that the concept of sovereignty is 100% clear in your minds. If it is not, I would ask that go back and re-read that passage as many times as is necessary to ensure that it is.
Now it might seem that by opposing the King the Colonists were opposing God Himself, but that’s not necessarily true if one had read the book of 1 Samuel from the Bible. Basically the Israelites asked God for a King, even though God was their King. But they wanted an earthly King to rule over them, and God granted their wish, telling Samuel to appoint Saul, then later David and Solomon; who built the temple. The point is, those of the Christian faith, which most of the Colonists were, already had a King – He just wasn’t an earthly King. God created man, not some earthly king, and it is by God’s grace that man is endowed with certain rights.
Many of those who lived during the period which saw America become an independent country could be said to be children of the Enlightenment. The Age of Enlightenment produced many great political and philosophical thinkers who drastically altered the way man viewed the world around them. As students of these enlightened thinkers it comes as no surprise that they adopted much of what they wrote; especially in regards to their natural rights and the ability of rulers to infringe upon those rights.
As man’s rights were given him by God, it begins to make sense why Thomas Jefferson was so fond of saying, “Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God.” These patriots, as devout Christians, felt it was their sacred duty to resist any and all encroachments upon their God-given rights; even when those encroachments came under the authority of someone claiming to rule by divine right.
This is why the Declaration of Independence is so much more than simply a document telling the people of the world that America was asserting its independence from Great Britain. No, the Declaration of Independence is/was the people telling the world their belief regarding the relationship between the government and the governed; the nature of their rights; and what course the people may take when any system of government becomes destructive of the ends for which it was instituted.
The decision to declare their independence was not sudden, nor was it rash; it was the culmination of a long series of abuses after repeated petitions to their King for a redress of grievances. The decision to declare their independence came when they realized they had but two options; submit to a ruler with absolute authority over them and their rights, (a tyrant), or to fight to free themselves from the authority of that ruler. They chose the latter option, and eventually obtained their independence.
It is at this critical point in time that something amazing happened. As they had just shrugged off the authority of a ‘dread Sovereign’ the sovereignty itself was transferred to each and every citizen of the 13 newly established States. This was affirmed a few years after they had established a new system of government for themselves, (and I’m kind of skipping ahead here), when the Supreme Court held, “…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.” (Source: Chisholm v. Georgia, 1793)
An argument could be made that, at this point in American history, each individual was a king unto himself; however his authority only extended to himself; he could not exercise that sovereign authority over the lives and decisions of others.
At this point in time there were approximately 2.5 million inhabitants in America; although that number would explode as more immigrants would flood into the Colonies. As sovereigns they had acted to establish systems of government for each individual State; writing constitutions outlining what powers they were delegating to these legislative bodies, and which powers were reserved to the people.
At the same time, over the course of the Revolution, a confederation had been established which acted as a central unifying body whose authority was severely limited and directed only to the States; not to the people themselves. The legislative authority of the Congress established by the Articles of Confederation was so weak that it could not actually enact any laws of its own accord. For anything to become binding upon all it took a unanimous vote of those who represented the people; the State Legislatures. (See Article 13 of the Articles of Confederation)
So in terms of absolute authority, or sovereignty, the hierarchy was as follows: First came God, who created man; then came man, who established State and local government; then came the central government, which was established by the States under the authority delegated them by the people.
Then along came the convention of 1787 and its proposal for an entirely new system of government. It must understood that those who attended this convention were sent there by the authority of their individual State Legislatures, and that they were given specific instructions regarding what they were to do while in convention; which was to come up with suggested amendments to strengthen the Articles of Confederation. Any action taken beyond those specific instructions would be a violation of their DELEGATED authority, and could be ignored by the States.
Yet James Madison and company had other plans, as were explained to George Washington in a letter written to him by Madison a week or so before the convention. These plans involved abolishing the Confederation and establishing a much stronger, more centralized form of government that would, to quote Madison, “…not exclude the local authorities wherever they can be subordinately useful.”
So essentially, what Madison sought to do was shift that hierarchy around a bit, placing the States under the authority of this new system of government; which was to be given its delegated authority by the direct consent of the people. This is crucial, so keep it in mind.
Now if you recall, the Supreme Court would later hold that at the revolution the sovereignty devolved on the people. So in a way it makes sense that any centralized government that would affect them be established by their consent. The question is, was this new form of government established to act directly upon the people, or was it merely a much stronger replacement to the Confederation Congress; whose authority only extended to the States as individual political entities?
Now I could say that I believe that the intent of those who wrote the Constitution was the eventual abolishment of State sovereignty and the creation of a supreme centralized sovereign government, but let’s put that aside for a moment and see what Madison promised when arguing in defense of the Constitution he had a hand in creating. In Federalist 45 Madison declared, “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.”
Maybe I’m just obtuse, or dense, but that sure sounds to me like the government outlined by the Constitution would have no direct authority over the lives, liberty and property of the people.
You see there is one point I’ve withheld mentioning until it became relevant; which it has now become. The Preamble to the Constitution says that “We the People of the United States … do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
Now if you recall I have repeatedly emphasized the fact that the people were independently sovereign; meaning that they held the supreme political authority. Therefore, if a group of men decides to outline a system of government for all of the people, but some of the people do not agree to accept this new form of government, what happens to their sovereignty if this new system of government is accepted by a majority of the people?
Allow me to provide some facts that may cause you to think about that question. As I said, the population at the time the Constitution was written and adopted stood at roughly 2.5 million; which means there were 2.5 million sovereign individuals inhabiting the United States.
Fifty-five men attended the convention which produced the Constitution; and only 39 of them actually signed the finished document. Now I want you to read something Thomas Paine wrote in 1791, taken from his book The Rights of Man, “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; and therefore all such clauses, acts or declarations by which the makers of them attempt to do what they have neither the right nor the power to do, nor the power to execute, are in themselves null and void. Every age and generation must be as free to act for itself in all cases as the age and generations which preceded it. The vanity and presumption of governing beyond the grave is the most ridiculous and insolent of all tyrannies. Man has no property in man; neither has any generation a property in the generations which are to follow.” (My emphasis)
If the people living in 1787 truly were sovereign and independent, as the Supreme Court would later hold, does it not make sense that any system of government that would have authority over them would have to be consented to by each and every one of them?
Did that happen; did each and every person living in America at the time give their consent to this new form of government? No, what happened is that conventions, or State ratifying assemblies, were held in which a few citizens from each State argued over whether or not to adopt this proposed system of government.
So, instead of a unanimous vote of approval for this new system of government, a few select individuals made that decision for the entire country. What about those who did not attend these ratifying assemblies, yet opposed the adoption of this newly written Constitution; what status did they hold AFTER it was adopted? Or, what happened to their sovereignty when they were forced to accept a system they did not agree to?
Taking that premise even further, do you realize that in some cases the vote for ratification or rejection of the proposed Constitution was pretty much equally divided? Sure, in States such as Delaware, New Jersey and Georgia there was not a single vote in opposition to the Constitution, but in States like Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Virginia, and Rhode Island the votes were very close. Here are the total votes for each State’s Ratifying Assembly; look at the final tallies to see how close they actually were in the abovementioned States:
State For Against
Delaware 30 – 0
Pennsylvania 46 – 23
New Jersey 38 – 0
Georgia 26 – 0
Connecticut 128 – 40
Massachusetts 187 – 168
Maryland 63 – 11
South Carolina 149 – 73
New Hampshire 57 – 47
Virginia 89 – 79
New York 30 – 27
North Carolina 194 – 77
Rhode Island 34 – 32
So not only were the people as a whole not given any say in whether to adopt or reject this proposed system of government, there were some within the Ratifying Assemblies whose voice meant nothing when it came to whether or not they would have to submit to the authority of a system of government they opposed.
What does that say about their sovereignty?
Now to paraphrase that quote from Paine’s The Rights of Man, he said that no generation of men had the authority to decide for all time how posterity shall be governed. This belief was also implied at in 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…”
So, once those who had written and physically participated in adopting the Constitution had died, for it to remain binding upon the people each generation should either choose to accept or reject the authority it delegates to our system of government.
In fact, the States of New York, Virginia and Rhode Island made it clear in their ratification statements that the powers of government may be reassumed by the people should it attend to their happiness. As the people created government by ordaining the Constitution, it is fully within their rights to revoke their consent to this system of government and resume their status as being free of its authority.
Now I want you to read something that supports this belief, “Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up and shake off the existing government and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable, most sacred right- a right which we hope and believe is to liberate the world. Nor is this right confined to cases in which the whole people of an existing government may choose to excercise it. Any portion of such people that can, may revolutionize and make their own, of so much territory as the inhabit.”
Do you know who said that? Abraham Lincoln did, 12 years before he reversed his position as President and chose to inaugurate a bloody war to prevent the Confederate States of America from exercising that right.
What Lincoln did was more than just inaugurate a war, deny State’s rights…he drove a stake through the heart of the concept that the government was subject to the will and consent of the governed. Lincoln, by his denying the Confederacy the right to peacefully secede, (for whatever reasons they might have), was essentially saying to the people that you are our servants and we are your master.
And that is the government we have lived under since 1865; not one of consent, but one in which we are subjugated and which we often obey under duress. For you see, I do not consent to this system of government; not as tyrannical and oppressive as I believe it to be. Yet I have no power to resume my status as a sovereign; free of its power. If I try I’d most likely end up in prison, or dead.
Another thing, and I promise, I’m almost finished, if you recall, Madison said in Federalist 45 that the powers delegated to this federal government were to be few and defined. Like I said, maybe I’m just obtuse, but when someone says that something is defined it means I can go somewhere and read exactly what those powers are.
Yet shortly after the government outlined by the Constitution went into operation, Alexander Hamilton would say, “Implied powers are to be considered as delegated equally [to the Central Government] with expressed ones.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t recall Madison saying anything about implied powers, yet here we have Alexander Hamilton talking about them as part and parcel with the expressly delegated powers found within the Constitution.
So who was telling the truth and who was lying; or was Hamilton simply unveiling the great deception that was perpetrated upon the people who voted to adopt the Constitution?
It was these implied powers that ultimately led to the Civil War. It is these implied powers that allowed for everything from Obamacare to government deciding whether or not to make abortion legal. Implied powers are only limited by the imagination of those who exercise legislative authority and the willingness and resolve of the people to resist the exercise of them.
In any case, it is my firm belief that the Constitution was adopted by deceit; that it was adopted without the consent of each and every person to whom the authority of the government it established would extend; and that its continued existence is not by consent, but by the threat of force and violence; making the government itself tyrannical and despotic; not one based upon the consent of the people or the defense of their liberty.
And therefore, as Lysander Spooner so perfectly stated, “But whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain – that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case it is unfit to exist.”
I do not consent to this government, yet I am forced to submit to its authority. If I am a sovereign, if I have certain rights granted me by my Creator, then why must I petition them to exercise those rights; and why am I threatened with force and violence when I resist laws that violate them?
If you cannot see that this government is tyrannical and despotic, regardless of which political party sits in control of it, maybe I’m not the one who is obtuse and dense; maybe you are.