“Where the people fear the government you have tyranny. Where the government fears the people you have liberty.” Although that quote is often attributed to Thomas Jefferson, those responsible for maintaining the papers of Thomas Jefferson state that it is not among the things he wrote, that it was first heard in 1914 when John Basil Barnhill used it in a series of essays on socialism. Regardless of who said it, the statement rings true.
Let me ask you something. How many of you get a sudden twinge of apprehension when you look in your rearview mirror and see a cop? Be honest now, how many of you ease your foot off the gas pedal when that happens and keep looking in your mirror to see whether they have exited the highway or turned at the last intersection? One should not fear the police, unless, of course, they are guilty of a crime and are evading capture; yet each and every one of us suffers just a twinge of paranoia when a police cruiser is behind us. Why is that?
What is ironic about this is that a good percentage of the people say that they support law enforcement and the job they do. So, if you support law enforcement, why do you become anxious when one of them pulls behind you on the highway or city streets? Isn’t the motto of most police departments, “To serve and protect”? So why do you feel that paranoia if they are there to serve and protect you?
Did you know that for over half a century after the American Revolution there were no formal police departments in America? That’s right, the first formal police department was established in Boston, in 1838; followed by New York in 1845, and Chicago in 1851. By the 1880’s all major cities had some form of municipal police department. However, going back to the 1600’s we find records of sheriffs acting in some capacity as law enforcement officers throughout the Colonies. I will discuss the office of sheriff a bit more in detail in a bit, but for the moment let us discuss why we have the need for law enforcement of any kind.
Prior to the existence of government man lived in, what was known as, a state of nature. What that means is that each man, or woman, was free to do as they pleased and the only thing restraining them from violating the rights of others, or depriving others of their property, was their ability to defend these things against attack. In a state of nature the weak often fell victim to the strong, simply because they were unable to defend what was rightfully theirs.
That is why man entered into both civil and political societies, to better preserve and protect both their rights and their property. Locke affirms this in his Second Treatise in Chapter 9, where he writes, “The great and chief end, therefore, of men’s uniting into commonwealths, and putting themselves under government, is the preservation of their property. To which in the state of nature there are many things wanting.”
Unfortunately, when I mention property I get the impression that people assume I’m only talking about material things like their home, their car, or the possessions inside their home. Property is more, much more than mere possessions. Property, properly defined, is all things to which a person may lay claim to as belonging to them. So while property may include my home, my car, my money and all my other possessions, it also includes my rights and liberty.
In 1792 James Madison published an essay in the National Gazette in which he discussed property. I will provide but a portion of Madison’s essay so that you may glean an understanding of what property entails:
In the former sense, a man’s land, or merchandize, or money is called his property.
In the latter sense, a man has property in his opinions and the free communication of them.
He has a property of peculiar value in his religious opinions, and in the profession and practice dictated by them.
He has a property very dear to him in the safety and liberty of his person.
He has an equal property in the free use of his faculties and free choice of the objects on which to employ them.
In a word, as a man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in his rights.
Therefore, if government is established to secure to each of us the full preservation of all our property, then it must be concluded that all laws passed by government must serve that purpose for them to serve justice; which is simply the constant and perpetual disposition to render every man his due. Therefore, if that is the end of government, as our both the Declaration of Independence and the Preamble to our Constitution say it is then the purpose of law enforcement should be to arrest and punish those who seek to deprive us of our rights or our property.
Returning now to Madison’s essay on property, we read, “Where an excess of power prevails, property of no sort is duly respected. No man is safe in his opinions, his person, his faculties, or his possessions.” And here is where we get to the crux of this commentary; do we have an excess of power in our government where our rights and our property ARE NOT protected? If that is true, then isn’t it logical to conclude that the laws being written, and enforced, do not serve the purpose for which all laws are supposed to serve – protect our rights and our property?
If I were to ask you what your most precious right was, how would you answer? Would you say it was the right to speak freely? Would you say it was the right to keep and bear arms? While those are both very important rights, they are not the most precious of our rights. In 1792 Samuel Adams wrote the following about our most precious right, “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.”
The right to defend ourselves, our property, and our liberty is THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT RIGHT WE HAVE.
In his 1850 book The Law, the Frenchman Frederic Bastiat writes, “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.”
Therefore the purpose of law enforcement is to act as a substitute for our original right of self-defense and self-preservation. Yet does this mean we relinquish that right once we have entered into a political society with a system of government to watch over our rights and our property? I would say no. If you were far removed from any protection offered by law enforcement, (meaning you lived way out in the sticks), are you not able to defend yourself and your property simply because there is law enforcement available; even though it might take them an hour to get to your home to serve that function?
No, we may delegate that power to law enforcement, but we never relinquish it. I know that there are a great many people who would prefer to just dial 911, or run and hide, should they, or their property, be threatened by those who would seek to bring them harm. But it is our natural right to defend these things, (as Sam Adams said), and if the law was just then no one should be punished for exercising that right. For as Locke also said, “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.”
Yet in some cases one must prove they were in imminent danger of losing their life before the use of deadly force is considered as an equal response to someone seeking to deprive them of their property. But didn’t Adams say that it was our right to defend these things in the best manner we can? People say that shooting a burglar is too harsh, that we should seek to find other ways to protect our property. If you ask me, people are too concerned with the rights of criminals and not the rights of those they victimize.
If someone steps on to my property uninvited, or they break into my home unannounced, I have no way of knowing their intent, so I believe I am justified in using whatever means are at my disposal to defend what is mine. If you think that is too harsh, then maybe parents ought to start raising their children to better respect the lives and property of others, but do not condemn those who use deadly force to protect what is rightfully theirs.
It’s funny how some people are reluctant to defend what is theirs with force, but they have no problem allowing armed men with badges coming into their home to use force to protect them and their property. What is it with people that a uniform and a badge is sufficient justification for using deadly force to protect them and their belongings, yet when an individual uses that same force they are a vigilante, or used excessive force?
People need to ask themselves, and this is especially true for those who proudly proclaim that they support law enforcement, what purpose should the law, and those who enforce it, serve? The law should serve to protect our property, as defined in Madison’s 1892 essay; which means the law should protect our rights as well as our belongings. Therefore, for there to be a crime, the rights or property of someone must be violated by another. Yet how many laws are there where there are no victims? How many of the laws we must obey are written to protect us from our own stupidity, or as a means of generating revenue for the local community? Who is the victim if a person rides their motorcycle down the road without a helmet? Yet one can be fined for doing so because it violates some stupid law.
Now I’m going to sidetrack for a minute, but it will soon become clear my reasons for doing so. In Federalist 45 James Madison wrote, “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.”
Then, during the ratification debates for the State of Pennsylvania, James Wilson stated, “On this point a general principle readily occurred, that whatever object was confined in its nature and operation to a particular State, ought to be subject to the separate government of the States, but whatever in its nature and operation extended beyond a particular State, ought to be comprehended within the federal jurisdiction.”
Both those comments appear to say that there are two spheres of authority; with one belonging to the State authority, and the other belonging to the federal authority. It appears to me that whatever was internal to the States was under the jurisdiction of the State government, and whatever was external was under the federal jurisdiction.
How is it then that we have so many federal laws that tell us what we can and cannot do when the federal authority was, supposedly, not to intrude upon the lives and liberty of the people, nor the internal order, improvement, or prosperity of the States? How is it that we have so many federal agencies that have internal policing powers within the States?
Back in 1787 there was no FBI, no BATF, no DEA, those with the authority to enforce federal law were simply known as federal sheriffs. In 1788 Patrick Henry, (see, I told you I would return to the subject of sheriffs), warned of the danger of federal sheriffs, “The Federal Sheriff may commit what oppression, make what distresses he pleases, and ruin you with impunity: For how are you to tie his hands? Have you any sufficiently decided means of preventing him from sucking your blood by speculations, commissions and fees? Thus thousands of your people will be most shamefully robbed.”
Not only did Mr. Henry fear the power of the federal sheriff, he also feared the authority of State sheriffs, stating, “Our State Sheriffs, those unfeeling blood-suckers, have, under the watchful eye of our Legislature, committed the most horrid and barbarous ravages on our people: It has required the most constant vigilance of the Legislature to keep them from totally ruining the people: A repeated succession of laws has been made to suppress their iniquitous speculations and cruel extortions; and as often has their nefarious ingenuity devised methods of evading the force of those laws.”
If the true purpose all laws are supposed to serve is to protect and defend our property, then how can we claim to respect and honor those who, in their day to day exercise of their jobs, deprive us of our rights and our money through fees, commissions, and fines for crimes in which there are no victims?
I’m going to say something that might cause you some confusion, but if you pause and think about it a moment it might make perfect sense. If what Madison said in Federalist 45 is true, then the federal government has absolutely no authority to enact any law restricting our rights as citizens of whichever State we reside in. Therefore, if our State and local law enforcers truly understood their jobs, they would arrest and charge every federal agent that attempted to enforce federal law within their State borders.
That’s right, the moment a DEA agent stepped foot inside California for the purpose of enforcing federal law, they should be arrested. The moment a BATF agent stepped foot inside the State of Texas to enforce federal law, they too should be arrested. The moment a Bureau of Land Management Agent stepped foot into Nevada to enforce federal law, they also should be arrested.
The federal government has no authority to operate, or impose its jurisdiction, within the States unless it is in the pursuance of the specific powers expressly delegated it by Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution.
Yet how many times have we seen joint task forces where local LEO’s work side by side with federal agents to go after criminals who have violated federal law? And you say I should support and defend them when they work hand in hand with federal jack booted thugs to deprive me of my liberty?
Don’t get me wrong, I understand that we need law enforcement. As Madison said in Federalist 51, “If men were angels no government would be necessary.” We need some policing power to ensure that no one abuses their rights to the extent that someone else is deprived of theirs; we need some law enforcement mechanism to protect and defend both our rights and our property.
If law enforcement would confine itself to those purposes I would have no problems with it. It is only when it enforces ALL the laws enacted by government, regardless of whether they are constitutional or they violate my rights, that I have a problem with them.
The thing is, we are told to not question their authority, not question the law; let the justice system take its course. That’s bullshit! Did the Son’s of Liberty let justice run its course or did they resist those laws they believed violated their fundamental rights as freemen?
Blind submission to, and support of, both the law, and those who enforce it, are the traits of a people who are slaves. People seem to have forgotten the purpose for which governments are established among men, to secure to us the rights of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. If smoking a little weed makes me happy, then who is Uncle Sam to say I can’t do that?
If any law deprives me of my property, either as it pertains to my rights or my material possessions, for any purpose other than the specific powers for which government was instituted, then that government is tyrannical; as are those who write the laws and those who enforce them upon me.
And in case you have forgotten, in 1776 the British Redcoats were the Kings law enforcement in the Colonies; they were sent there by the King to restore and maintain British Law. Yet the Colonists rose up and opposed them when they felt that the law itself was unjust, or deprived them of their liberty. If only the people of this country had that kind of courage today…
Yet fast forward 243 years and anyone who opposes the law or those who enforce it are criminals in the eyes of the general public. It truly saddens me to see so many people blindly supporting those who, by enforcing the law, deprive them of their liberty. And that’s why the following graphic, provided by my friend Diana Orrock is a fitting way to end this rant.