The Constitution of the United States is a law for rulers and people, equally in war and in peace, and covers with the shield of its protection all classes of men, at all times, and under all circumstances. No doctrine, involving more pernicious consequences, was ever invented by the wit of men than that any of its provisions can be suspended during any of the great exigencies of government. Such a doctrine leads directly to anarchy or despotism.
Ex parte Milligan (1866)
At the foundation of our civil liberties lies the principle the 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.
Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis (1921)
It is not enough to know that the men applying the standard are honorable and devoted men. This is a government of laws, not of men…It is not without significance that most of the provisions in the Bill of Rights are procedural. It is procedure that spells much of the difference between rule by law and rule by whim or caprice.
Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas (1951)
What exactly is justice? According to one dictionary justice is defined as the legal system, or the act of applying or upholding the law. Can we, as a people, expect, or obtain justice from those who represent us in government? That is the subject I would like to address in this commentary.
Say someone steals something from another person, how does the victim obtain justice? Well, under our system law enforcement officers will investigate, and hopefully find enough evidence to lead them to the guilty party. They will then apprehend the person, or persons, responsible for stealing said item. Charges will be brought against them and they will be brought to trial. Evidence will be submitted and a jury will decide guilt or innocence.
George Mason, delegate to the Constitutional Convention, and leading proponent of the Bill of Rights, once said, “In all our associations; in all our agreements let us never lose sight of this fundamental maxim-that all power was originally lodged in, and consequently is derived from, the people.”
Furthermore, in an address at the Virginia Convention, James Madison declared, “It is sufficiently obvious, that persons and property are the two great subjects on which Governments are to act; and that the rights of persons, and the rights of property, are the objects, for the protection of which Government was instituted.”
And finally, James Wilson, one of the first six justices appointed to the Supreme Court by George Washington, stated the following, “Government…should be formed to secure and enlarge the exercise of the natural rights of its members; and every government which has not this in view as its principal object is not a government of the legitimate kind.”
So, how does this tie in to my discussion of justice? It’s quite simple, if the government betrays the sacred trust of the people and, instead of protecting and enlarging our ability to exercise our rights, has diminished, or infringed upon said rights, how do we obtain justice?
In 1850 Frederic Bastiat wrote a brilliant treatise simply entitled The Law. From his work he states, “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.
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.”
This is the nature of government, a common force designed to protect the natural rights of man. But, Bastiat continues by saying, “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.”
Therefore, the government, the common force, cannot lawfully destroy the person, liberty, or property of the individual or groups. So, again, how does one obtain justice when the common force, the government, is guilty of violating our rights?
It matters not that the actions of government are done at the request of the majority. As Thomas Jefferson so clearly stated, “The majority, oppressing an individual, is guilty of a crime, abuses its strength, and by acting on the law of the strongest breaks up the foundations of society.”
In his Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments, James Madison wrote, “The preservation of a free government requires not merely that the metes and bounds which separate each department of power be universally maintained but more especially that neither of them be suffered to overleap the great barrier which defends the rights of the people. The rulers who are guilty of such an encroachment exceed the commission from which they derive their authority and are tyrants. The people who submit to it are governed by laws made neither by themselves nor by an authority derived from them and are slaves.” (my emphasis)
In the 1943 case of West Virginia Board of Education vs. Barnette, Justice Robert Jackson ruled, “The very purpose of a Bill of Rights was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts. One’s right to life, liberty, and property, to free speech, a free press, freedom of worship and assembly, and other fundamental rights may not be submitted to a vote’ they depend on the outcome of no elections.”
Therefore, if the Bill of Rights states that certain rights are unalienable, and outside the scope of powers granted government by we the people, and the government disregards these limits placed upon their powers and enacts laws which infringe upon these rights, how do we obtain justice?
The First Amendment to the Constitution, part of the Bill of Rights, states that we have the right to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” I have petitioned my elected representatives at all levels of government until I am blue in the face and they disregard my petitions. I am not alone, many of the people I speak to daily have also written their elected representatives and demanded that they protect, not infringe upon, our rights. All to no avail, as the government seems intent upon completely doing away with the entire Bill of Rights.
And what makes matters worse is that the majority of the people in this country are so uninformed that they would be at a loss to name five of the ten amendments that comprise the Bill of Rights. What is one to do when the majority of the people of a nation are so uninformed―or brainwashed, into believing that it is perfectly acceptable for the government to infringe upon the rights of the people when it is done with overwhelming public support? As Carl Sagan once said, “One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle.”
But, to quote once more from Bastiat, “But, unfortunately, law by no means confines itself to its proper functions. And when it has exceeded its proper functions, it has not done so merely in some inconsequential and debatable matters. The law has gone further than this; it has acted in direct opposition to its own purpose. The law has been used to destroy its own objective: It has been applied to annihilating the justice that it was supposed to maintain; to limiting and destroying rights which its real purpose was to respect.”
There are many quotes as to what a people may do when the law is found to be in opposition to the purpose for which it was instituted, but I will provide only two of them as I feel they are sufficient to get my point across.
Former Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas once said, “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.”
John Locke, whose writings heavily influenced many of our Founding Fathers, said the following in his Treatise on Civil Governments, “…whenever the legislators endeavor 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 and are left to the common refuge, which God hath provided for all men, against force and violence.”
So, according to these men when we feel that our rights have been violated it is our right to simply disregard the law. That is easier said than done. How does one accomplish this when the entire justice system in this country has been turned on its head and enforces whatever government decrees as being law? How does once convince any law enforcement officer that such and such law is in violation of the Bill of Rights and is therefore invalid? Do you think that argument would work well with agents of the government, such as the FBI, ATF, or Dept. of Homeland Security? Do you think you could avoid having your rights violated at the airport simply because you quoted the Fourth Amendment to your friendly TSA agent?
Again, we are always told that these laws, these infringements upon our rights are done with our best interests, and the public safety, in mind. Yet in a 1911 edition of the North America Review, former Supreme Court Justice Horace H. Lurton clearly stated that, “The contention that…the Constitution is to be disregarded if it stands in the way of that which is deemed of the public advantage…is destructive of the whole theory upon which our American Commonwealths have been founded.”
Not only that, but in the Supreme Court case of U.S. v Robel, the court ruled, “It would indeed be ironic if, in the name of national defense, we would sanction the subversion of one of the liberties…which makes the defense of the Nation worthwhile.”
Justice William O. Douglass once asked, “Since when have we Americans been expected to bow submissively to authority and speak with awe and reverance to those who represent us?” That is a very good question.
I am not proposing any solutions to what I am discussing, I am only asking you to THINK about what I have said. However, ask yourself this, why is it that people such as myself are called radicals, or worse, just because we speak out against these clear abuses of power by our government?
And finally, especially if you are in the current injustice system which enforces these unconstitutional violations of the rights of the people, you have taken an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution, against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Ignorance on your part as to the nature and scope of the rights protected by the Bill of Rights will not justify your infringing upon our rights.
We the people may not be able to find justice from the slow, steady spread of tyranny, not in this lifetime anyway. But ponder long and hard about something Thomas Jefferson said his Summary View of the Rights of British America, “God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure if we have removed their only firm basis: a conviction in the minds of men that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever.”