House Intelligence Committee Votes to Release Nunes’ Memo

DEVIN NUNES

by Diane Rufino, Jan. 30, 2018

“One of the worst things a government can do is to use law enforcement as a political weapon, our Founding Fathers about that exact situation.” – Tucker Carlson

This article reviews the origin of the Nunes’ Memo and the decision of the House Intelligence Committee to allow it to be made public.

The infamous Nunes’ Memo is a 4-page memorandum written by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), chairman of the US House Intelligence Committee, outlining a series of Obama-era abuses of the executive branch’s surveillance authorities, including on ordinary American citizens, under federal law by the Justice Department, specifically the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The memorandum is the culmination of an investigation undertaken by the Committee, as announced on January 25, 2017, to investigate the unmasking of classified government information, as well as Russian meddling and any connections to political campaigns. The US House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI), created in 1977, is a committee of the House of Representatives, essentially tasked with the oversight of the entire Justice Department and more. It is officially charged with oversight of the United States Intelligence Community, which includes the intelligence and intelligence-related activities of the following seventeen elements of the executive branch of the US government and the Military Intelligence Program – including Homeland Security, FBI, CIA, Director of National Intelligence, State Department, NSA, Defense Intelligence Agency, DEA, Treasury Department, Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corp.

Last evening, the House Intelligence Committee voted to release the Nunes’ Memo. Currently, the memo is sitting with President Trump. Although the president now has five working days to review the 4-page memo and voice any objections to its release, it seems most likely that he will give his blessing. Republicans who have read the memo have described its severity as “Watergate on steroids” and “earth-shattering.” Tucker Carlson tweeted: “Several Republicans who have seen the memo say it exposes massive and terrifying abuses of our civil liberties, presumably committed for political gain.”

Unless and until we read the document, or otherwise find out what revelations it contains, what we do know is that there is definitely enough for at least one criminal conviction.

What we have learned so far, as Carlson explained on his show last evening, is that Andrew McCabe, who coincidently announced his resignation yesterday as well, is the subject of at least one internal DOJ investigation potentially linking him to politically-motivated abuses of power. DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz has been in investigating politically-motivated conduct at the Bureau during the 2016 presidential election. Is the investigation the reason McCabe resigned? Is there something in the memo that prompted it?

We also know that one subject of the FISA warrants by the Justice Department was Carter Page, affiliated with the Trump campaign as a foreign policy adviser. The Obama DOJ argued before a FISA judge that Page was “an active agent of a hostile foreign government (Russia)” – that is, a Russia spy or operative. As we know now, that claim was ridiculous and fabricated. No evidence has ever surfaced to even suggest it might be true. Besides, if he were a real suspect, why wasn’t he investigated or arrested? Instead, he is a frequent guest on MSNBC. Yet on the basis of that fraudulent, fabricated claim, the Justice Department was able to surveille the Trump campaign and Page. And then when the Obama administration to expand its surveillance, again centering on Page, it relied on information contained in the now-discredited Russian dossier, requested and paid-for by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the DNC (of which she had final control of its finances, per a contract agreement), and maybe even the federal government.

There are extremely good reasons for Nunes and his staff to create a summary of abuses, including: (1) There has been a severe erosion in public confidence in the US Department of Justice, a department that has historically been considered the most impartial, objection, effective law enforcement agency in the world; (2) There has been the overwhelming appearance that the Justice Department had become politically-motivated and intent on protecting Democratic political elites over ordinary Americans, and (3) The American people believe they are entitled to, and deserve, to know when their government is abusing its powers (they want transparency!).

The main questions that We the People need answered are:

•    Were associates of President Trump, members of his campaign, or even Trump himself, subjected to foreign-intelligence surveillance (i.e., do the FISA applications name them as either targets or persons whose communications and activities would likely be monitored)? Loading ad Was information from the Steele dossier used in FISA applications?

•    If Steele-dossier information was so used, was it so central that FISA warrants would not have been granted without it?

•    If Steele-dossier information was so used, was it corroborated by independent FBI investigation?

•    If the dossier’s information was so used, was the source accurately conveyed to the court so that credibility and potential bias could be weighed (i.e., was the court told that the information came from an opposition-research project sponsored by the Clinton presidential campaign)?

•    The FBI has said that significant efforts were made to corroborate Steele’s sensational claims, yet former director James Comey has acknowledged (in June 2017 Senate testimony) that the dossier was “unverified.” If the dossier was used in FISA applications in 2016, has the Justice Department — consistent with its continuing duty of candor in dealings with the tribunal — alerted the court that it did not succeed in verifying Steele’s hearsay reporting based on anonymous sources?

[This list of questions comes from: Andrew C. McCarthy, “The Clamor Over the Nunes’ FISA-Abuse Memo,” Washington Review]

Why was the Memo created?

First of all, we must remember the reason for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) – to find out if hostile foreign governments are spying on, trying to influence our institutions, or otherwise seeking to do harm to our country. FISA was expanded after 9/11 to help in the war on terrorism. FISA proceedings are classified, and applications for surveillance warrants from the FISA court typically include information from classified sources – informants who spy at great risk to themselves, intelligence techniques (e.g., covert surveillance), etc. Disclosing such applications and/or the underlying intelligence reporting on which they are based could thus jeopardize lives, national security, and other important American interests. Thus, the problem: How do we convey important information without imperiling the sources and methods through which it was obtained?

Congress addressed that problem by prescribing a process for dealing with such potentially classified information by passing the Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA). There are various remedies: Sometimes the classified information can be declassified and disclosed without causing danger; sometimes the classified information can be redacted without either jeopardizing sources or compromising our ability to grasp the significance of what is disclosed. When neither of those solutions is practical, the preferred disclosure method is to prepare a declassified summary that answers the relevant questions without risking exposure of critical intelligence secrets and sources. (See CIPA section 4 — Title 18, U.S. Code, Appendix.)

The preparation of a summary (ie, Memorandum) is a routine and sensible way of handling the complicated tension between the need for information and accountability, on the one hand, and the imperative of protecting intelligence, on the other. Conforming to House rules, Chairman Nunes has taken pains to make his memo available to all members of Congress before proceeding with the steps necessary to seek its disclosure. Interesting, outside the Committee, 190 Republican members of Congress have read the memo while only a dozen Democrats have bothered to read. Yet every Democrat, to the man, has expressed opposition to its release. Without reading it, they contend that it is misleading and partisan, and a stunt designed to discredit Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, or at least distract attention from its subject matter – Russian interference in the 2016 election. They demanded that a memo drafted by the Democrat members of the House Intelligence Committee be made public. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) led that effort, but the Committee voted it down.

Congressman Nunes is a smart guy, and he clearly knows he will look very foolish if he plays fast and loose with the facts. It is in his interest not to do that, and the careful way he has gone about complying with the rules, rather than leaking classified information, as Trump’s opponents have been, wont to do suggests that his memo will prove to be a fair representation of the underlying information. On that last point, it would be hard to imagine a more one-sided partisan screed than the Steele dossier. Democrats seem to have had no hesitation about using it as a summary of purported Trump collusion with Russia. The Justice Department and the FBI are reportedly angry that, after they complied with the Intelligence Committee’s demand that they make classified and investigative materials available for inspection, Nunes will not permit the FBI to inspect his memo summarizing that information before moving to disclose it. The irony here is rich. These executive-branch agencies did not cooperatively comply with congressional investigators; they stonewalled for five months. To this day they are stonewalling: Just this past weekend, they belatedly fessed up that the FBI had failed to preserve five months’ worth of text messages (including between key characters Peter Strzok and Lisa Page), something they had to have known for months. An American who impeded a federal investigation the way federal investigators are impeding congressional investigations would swiftly find himself in legal jeopardy – obstruction of justice.

Moreover, it is not like the Justice Department and FBI did Nunes a favor and are thus in a position to impose conditions; Congress is entitled to the information it has sought in its oversight capacity. There is no Justice Department or FBI in the Constitution; rather, these agencies are part of the executive branch, created by statute. Congress created them, they are dependent on Congress for funding, and Congress has a constitutional obligation to perform oversight to ensure that the mission they are carrying out – with taxpayer support and under statutory restrictions – is being carried out appropriately. Republicans tend to be favorably disposed toward law enforcement’s preferences. They would surely have preferred to have non-confrontational interactions with vital executive agencies led by Republican appointees of a Republican president. Indeed, most Republicans are puzzled by the lack of cooperation – by the failure of the White House to direct the president’s subordinates to comply with congressional requests for information about potential abuses of power carried out under the prior, Democratic administration. This is a reciprocal business. If the Justice Department and FBI want accommodations, they have to exhibit cooperation – they have do the little things, like maybe remember that congressional subpoenas are lawful demands, not suggestions or pleas. On the record thus far, the committee has every reason to believe that submitting the Nunes memo for review by the Justice Department and FBI will result in more delay and foot-dragging. Clearly, there is a strategy to slow-walk compliance in hopes that events – such as, say, a midterm-election victory that returns the House to Democratic control – will abort congressional investigations of the investigators. Nunes is wise not to play into that strategy. As he knows, if the House ultimately moves to declassify and publicize information, the chamber’s rules require giving the president five days’ notice. (See Congressional Research Service, “The Protection of Classified Information: The Legal Framework” page 3 and note 23.) Thus, the Justice Department and FBI will have an opportunity to both review the memo and try to persuade the president to oppose disclosure. There’s no reason to hold up the works at this point. [This paragraph comes in most part from Andrew C. McCarthy’s article, “The Clamor Over the Nunes’ FISA-Abuse Memo”]

As Tucker Carlson said: “One of the worst things a government can do is to use law enforcement as a political weapon.” But perhaps the worst thing it can do is to collude – that is, to use its greatest resources – in order to influence a political election and assure a certain outcome. That would deny We the People of our most precious guarantee: “a government of the people, by the people, for the people” (or as the Declaration of Independence promises: “government among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed..”). A government that can influence elections destroys our constitutional republic and creates a government established by a political party for political elites who never have to live under the laws it passes.

In the coming week, or perhaps even next week, the 4-page Nunes memo should be read into the Congressional Record for all to hear and all to access. We already know the allegations and crimes are far more troubling than the underlying crimes committed in the Watergate scandal. The questions will be: How will the Democrats react to its wrong-doing and complicity in the constitutional crisis of our time? How will Congress respond to the wrongdoing and how will it attempt to repair the reputation of the US Department of Justice? How will the liberal media treat the accusations and crimes? And perhaps most importantly: How will voters react in the mid-term elections this November?

Timeline of Events Leading up to the Nunes’ Memo: [From: Philip Bump, “A Complete Timeline of the Events Behind the Memo That Threatens to rip D.C. in Two,” The Washington Post]

Sep. 11-12, 2012. Terrorists attack two American facilities in Benghazi, Libya, killing four people including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.

Feb. 1, 2013. Hillary Clinton steps down as secretary of state. During her tenure, she used a private email address for department business, hosted on a server located at her home in Chappaqua, N.Y.

June. Carter Page, an energy industry consultant, is interviewed by the FBI after it records a Russian agent, Victor Podobnyy, discussing a plan to hopefully leverage a relationship with Page to get information. “It’s obvious that he wants to earn lots of money,” Podobnyy allegedly said of Page. [No evidence and no information obtained by the FBI investigation was able to show that such a plan really existed or was ever discussed personally with Page]

July 29. James B. Comey becomes director of the FBI, replacing Robert S. Mueller III.

May 8, 2014. The House votes to establish a select committee to investigate the attacks at Benghazi and any failures of Clinton‘s State Department to prevent them.

2015

March 2. The New York Times reports that Clinton used a private email account during her time as secretary of state. The revelation came after the Benghazi committee requested records of communications between Clinton and her staff.

March 11. Jill McCabe, wife of FBI then-associate deputy director Andrew McCabe, announces her candidacy for the Virginia state Senate. McCabe begins the process of resolving any conflicts within the FBI that day. April 12. Clinton announces her candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination.

June 16. Donald Trump announces his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination.

Summer. Hackers believed to be linked to the Russian Federal Security Service access the servers of the Democratic National Committee. This is one of the first overt acts the Russians take as part of what American intelligence officials come to believe is an attempt to influence the results of the 2016 election.

July. The State Department inspector general alerts the FBI’s counterintelligence office that classified information was being stored on Clinton‘s private server. The FBI initiates an investigation. Among those involved in the investigation is an agent named Peter Strzok.

Autumn. The conservative website Free Beacon hires a firm called Fusion GPS to investigate Republican candidates for the presidency, including Trump.

October. A PAC called Common Good VA, tied to Terry McAuliffe, then Virginia’s governor, makes several large donations to Jill McCabe’s campaign, as it does to other Democrats seeking office.

Nov. 3. McCabe loses her bid for the state Senate.

2016

Feb. 1. Andrew McCabe is promoted to the position of deputy director. In that role, he assumes responsibility for the Clinton email server investigation.

March 4. FBI agent Strzok texts with an FBI attorney named Lisa Page (not related to Carter), with whom he’s involved in an extramarital affair. Among the texts are a series, following a Republican primary debate, in which Strzok calls Trump “an idiot” and says that Clinton should win “100,000,000 – 0.” (He later jokes that he may vote for Trump because “he was pretty much calling for death for Snowden.” He adds: “I’m a single-issue voter…. Espionage Machine Party.”)

The texts continue for the duration of the campaign and include disparagement of Trump by Strzok as a “f—ing idiot.”

March 21. During a conversation with The Post, Trump announces his foreign-policy team, including Page and an energy consultant named George Papadopoulos.

April. With Trump‘s nomination all but inevitable, Fusion GPS approaches the Clinton campaign and the DNC about continuing its research into Trump. Marc Elias, a lawyer representing the two organizations, hires the firm.

April 26. Papadopoulos is told by a contact with connections to the Russian government that it has “dirt” on Clinton in the form of emails. The next month, Papadopoulos mentions this during a conversation with an Australian diplomat.

May 26. Trump clinches the Republican nomination.

June 6. Clinton secures the Democratic nomination.

June 15. The first documents stolen from the DNC are released, including a party opposition research file on Trump.

June 20. Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer hired by Fusion GPS, files the first of 17 reports that, together, will come to be known as the “dossier.” The first report focuses on what Steele describes as Russian efforts to “cultivate” Trump and suggests that the Russians have dirt on both presidential candidates.

Early July. Steele, after consulting with Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson, reaches out to the FBI about what he has heard.

July 2. Clinton is interviewed by the FBI.

July 5. Comey announces that the FBI has completed its investigation and that he would not recommend charges against Clinton, despite “evidence of potential violations.”

July 7. Page travels to Moscow with the campaign’s approval to give a speech.

July 19. Steele writes a report alleging that Page met with high-ranking Russians during his trip to Moscow. At some point in this period, Steele writes an undated memo outlining allegations from an “ethnic Russian close associate” of Trump that the campaign is conspiring with Moscow.

July 22. Shortly before the Democratic convention begins, WikiLeaks starts releasing more emails stolen from the DNC.

July. After receiving a tip from the Australian diplomat apparently spurred by WikiLeaks’ release of material stolen from the DNC, the FBI begins a counterintelligence investigation into Russian meddling, including any connections between the Trump campaign and Russian agents.

Summer. At some point, without information or evidence to support the claim (the FBI interview/ investigation yielded nothing), the FBI obtains a warrant to surveil Page. The secret warrant is authorized under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA.

Sep. 21. Former New York congressman Anthony Weiner, husband of top Clinton aide Huma Abedin, is accused of sexually explicit online interactions with a minor.

Late September or early October. Steele again meets with an FBI contact in Rome.

Early October. FBI agents investigating the Weiner allegations find emails on one of Weiner’s computers that were sent using Clinton‘s private server to and from Huma Abedin.

Oct. 7. The government issues an unusual warning about attempts by Russian actors to influence the election.

That same day, WikiLeaks begins releasing emails stolen from the email account of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.

Oct. 23. Trump tweets out a Wall Street Journal article about the contributions that McCabe‘s wife received.

McCabe becomes a fixture in Trump‘s stump speeches about the corruption of Washington.

Oct. 28. Comey informs Congress about the discovery of the new emails and indicates that they are being assessed to determine if they include classified information or are otherwise pertinent to the email server investigation.

Oct. 31. The New York Times reports that the FBI doesn’t see a clear link to Russia. According to later testimony from Fusion GPS‘s Simpson, this alarms Steele and prompts him to cut off contact with the Bureau. There had reportedly been some discussion about the FBI paying Steele for his research, which didn’t come to fruition, though the Bureau did reimburse Steele for some of his expenses.

Nov. 6. Comey announces that the new emails don’t change the FBI’s position on charges against Clinton.

Nov. 8. Trump wins the presidential election.

Dec. 13. Steele writes the last of the dossier’s reports, dealing with an alleged trip to Prague by Trump Organization lawyer Michael Cohen to contact Russian actors. Cohen denies that he took such a trip.

2017

Jan. 6. Comey, along with other intelligence officials, travel to Trump Tower to brief Trump on the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Comey briefs Trump on the dossier.

Jan. 20. Trump is inaugurated as president.

Jan. 24. National security adviser Michael Flynn is interviewed by the FBI about his conversations with the Russian ambassador the previous month.

Jan. 25. The House Intelligence Committee, chaired by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), announces its intent to investigate Russian meddling and any connections to political campaigns.

Jan. 26. The Trump White House learns that Flynn provided information to the FBI that conflicts with what Vice President Pence was saying publicly.

Jan. 27. Trump invites Comey to dinner at the White House. Comey later testifies under oath that Trump asked him for his loyalty during that meeting.

Feb. 8. Jeff Sessions is confirmed as attorney general.

Feb. 14. At another meeting in the White House, Trump indirectly asks Comey to drop the investigation into Flynn, who had resigned the previous day.

March 2. After it is revealed that he had provided inaccurate information about his contacts with Russian officials during his confirmation hearing, Sessions recuses himself from anything involving the Russia investigation.

March 4. Trump, spurred by a Breitbart report, alleges on Twitter that the administration of Barack Obama had wiretapped Trump Tower prior to the election.

March 20. The House Intelligence Committee holds a hearing in which it takes testimony from Comey and the head of the National Security Agency. It is at this hearing that Comey publicly reveals the existence of the investigation into meddling and Trump’s campaign. During the hearing, Comey also denies that Trump was the focus of wiretapping.

March 21. Nunes is invited to the White House complex to view information about surveillance of people associated with Trump‘s campaign. At least some of the intelligence was collected by surveilling foreign agents, which would normally mean that Americans whose communications were “incidentally” collected — meaning they were not the targets of the surveillance — would not be identified. (There are restrictions on surveillance of American citizens that do not apply to foreign individuals.) Nunes is shown “unmasked” intelligence — meaning that this anonymity has been removed. Some of the intelligence appears to involve Flynn’s conversations with the Russian ambassador. *** Nunes‘s visit is not revealed until several days later.

March 22. Nunes holds a news conference accusing the Obama administration of unmasking the names of Trump transition team members even though the intelligence is not related to the Russia investigation. He does not indicate how he learned about this unmasking — a term that becomes central to Trump‘s defense of his tweets about having been wiretapped.

April 6. Nunes recuses himself from the Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation after the House Ethics Committee announces that it is investigating whether he made an unauthorized disclosure of classified information.

April 25. Rod J. Rosenstein, the U.S. attorney for Maryland since his appointment under George W. Bush, is confirmed as deputy attorney general following a nomination from Trump. With Sessions’ recusal, this effectively puts Rosenstein in charge of the FBI’s Russia investigation.

May 9. Trump fires Comey, citing as his rationale a report from Rosenstein criticizing Comey‘s handling of the investigation into Clinton‘s email server. (Trump later tells NBC’s Lester Holt that he was thinking about “this Russia thing” as he contemplated axing Comey.) With Comey out, McCabe becomes the acting director of the FBI.

May 10. Trump reportedly calls McCabe to chastise him for allowing Comey to return to D.C. on an FBI-owned plane after being fired.

May 12. Apparently responding to a Times story detailing Trump‘s request for loyalty from Comey, Trump tweets out a threat. This inspires Comey to ask a friend to leak information to the Times about Trump‘s request to let the Flynn investigation go. That story, implying an attempt to obstruct the investigation, runs on May 16. (Trump later accuses Comey of leaking classified information, an allegation that is not supported by the available evidence.)

May 17. Rosenstein, as acting lead on Russia following Sessions’ recusal, appoints Mueller as special counsel to investigate Russian meddling and any links to the Trump campaign. Strzok and Lisa Page are both included on Mueller‘s team.

July. Mueller learns about the Strzok-Page texts. Page has already left his team; Strzok is reassigned.

Aug. 1. Christopher A. Wray is confirmed as director of the FBI.

Aug. 22. Fusion GPS‘s Simpson testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Sep. 1. Nunes, despite his recusal, sends a letter on behalf of the House Intelligence Committee to Sessions claiming that the Department of Justice has been slow to respond to subpoena requests.

Oct. 24. The Post reports that the Steele dossier was funded by the DNC and the Clinton campaign.

Oct. 30. Mueller‘s team charges Trump‘s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, with conspiracy and money laundering. The team also reveals that Papadopoulos has admitted lying to the FBI and has apparently been cooperating with the investigation.

Dec. 1. In documents released by Mueller‘s team, Flynn admits lying to the FBI.

Dec. 2. The Strzok-Page texts are reported by The Post.

Dec. 7. Nunes is cleared of wrongdoing by the Ethics Committee on charges that he revealed classified information. This was the predicate for his recusal from the Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation.

2018

Jan. 4. In a letter to Rosenstein, Nunes suggests that his committee is expanding its investigation to include the Department of Justice’s handling of the Russia investigation itself.

Jan. 9. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) releases the transcript of Simpson’s Senate testimony.

Mid-January. Staffers for Nunes compile a four-page document summarizing classified information to argue that the FBI abused its power in its investigation of Trump‘s campaign. While the document is not public, it appears to argue that the FISA warrant issued for Page relied on information compiled by Steele, implying that the warrant should not have been issued and, apparently, that the process for requesting it was tainted by politics.

Jan. 18. Republicans and their allies — particularly in the media — rally around the memo, arguing that it should be released to the public.

Jan. 23. Axios reports that Sessions, at Trump‘s behest, had been pressuring FBI Director Wray to fire McCabe. In response, Wray reportedly threatened to quit.

Jan. 24. The Justice Department, which was not allowed to view the memo, warns the House Intelligence Committee that releasing it without allowing the FBI and Justice to review its contents would be “extraordinarily reckless,” risking the sources and methods used to collect the information underlying the information it contains.

Jan. 28. Wray is allowed to review the memo. Politico reports that Wray was told he could flag any concerns. Intelligence Committee ranking member Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) tells the outlet that Wray informed him that his concerns about the release of the memo were not entirely addressed.

Jan. 29. McCabe leaves his position as deputy director of the FBI effective immediately. Wray suggests that McCabe‘s early departure (he was scheduled to retire later this year) was in part a function of an upcoming inspector general’s report about the Clinton email investigation. The Times reports that Trump’s interest in the memo may stem in part from his belief that it casts Rosenstein in a negative light, since Rosenstein approved a request to renew the Page warrant after taking office last year. Rosenstein, as lead on the Russia investigation, is the only person directly authorized to fire Mueller.

Jan. 29, evening. The House Intelligence Committee votes, along party lines, to release the memo.

References:
Andrew C. McCarthy, “The Clamor Over the Nunes’ FISA-Abuse Memo,” Washington Review, January 25, 2018. Referenced at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/455757/release-the-memo-lets-see-in-it

Zack Beauchamp, “The Real Reason the Nunes Memo Matters,” VOX, January 30. 2018. Referenced at: https://www.vox.com/world/2018/1/30/16950782/numes-memo-release

Tucker Carlson, FOX News, January 29, 2018. Referenced at YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QBpZ2wLcOfw

Philip Bump, “A Complete Timeline of the Events Behind the Memo That Threatens to rip D.C. in Two,” The Washington Post, January 30, 2018. Referenced at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/politics/wp/2018/01/30/a-complete-timeline-of-the-events-behind-the-memo-that-threatens-to-rip-d-c-in-two/?utm_term=.05c6da3df6e6

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Nancy Pelosi: “Trump’s Immigration Plan is a Campaign to Make America White Again!”

PELOSI - Trump's Plan is Campaign to Make America White Again

by Diane Rufino, January 28, 2018

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) slammed President Trump’s framework for immigration reform that was submitted to lawmakers on Capitol Hill last Thursday, as he promised to do. The deranged, self-admitted “progressive left Democrat” vomited her opinion of the framework in a public statement: “Last night, the President put forth a plan….  That plan is a campaign to make America white again.”

She continued to spew the rantings of a demented diseased mind: “The Administration’s anti-immigrant framework is an act of staggering cowardice which attempts to hold the DREAMers hostage to a hateful anti-immigrant scheme. The 50 percent cut to legal immigration in the framework and the recent announcements to end Temporary Protected Status for Central Americans and Haitians are both part of the same cruel agenda. The DREAMers will not be ransomed for a hateful agenda that betrays our sacred American values.”As with the rest of “progressive left Democrats,” Pelosi has no clue whatsoever what “our country’s sacred American values are.”

 

Most of us in the Tea Party movement and in other conservative movements – as well as on shows like Tucker Carlson and Mark Levin – have spoken about how offensive the Democrat Party has become and how anti-America it has become over the years. In order to advance the Democrat Party, its leaders and members must trash America. There are enough single-issue voters, far too many ignorant and dependent-on-government individuals, and a growing number of social and psychological/biological misfits out there… conservative values stand in their way of living a life without producing anything or contributing anything, of getting other people’s money, or living their perverse lifestyles. They hate religion, they hate the notion of studying honest history (god forbid they learn something and it makes sense!), they hate the notion of education in general and being prepared to take a meaningful place in the workforce, they hate the notion of personal responsibility, they hate the notion of a stable traditional nuclear family, and they hate the fact that people cling to time-honored truths and values such as biology and the greatest obligation of a human being – to have and properly raise their next generation. Progressive Democrats must trash religion, the Constitution, our founding fathers, our founding principles, historic figures, and our history itself (except, of course, slavery. That topic must be emphasized again and again and again and again. Every time period in history must be de-emphasized EXCEPT for slavery and Jim Crow). They need poverty; they need people who live below the poverty line, and they need people who are content to live in poverty. People like that will never question anything as long as entitlement checks and programs support them.

Pelosi and Schumer, and in fact, almost the entire Democrat Party, take the side of illegals over the interests and concerns of American citizens. These party leaders live as royalty in this country and have no idea how illegal immigration is affecting our day-to-day lives, our communities, and even our ability to live an existence that isn’t consumed by politics and political correctness. Sanctuary cities… really???  Who really thinks this is a good idea? A jury that couldn’t provide justice for Kate Seinle….  Is it any wonder why it hardly feels like America anymore??  Day after day we learn about the deaths of innocent children – legal Americans – at the hand of illegals, including DREAMers, and the families that will forever grieve, and as well as other violent crime, including an increase in the drug traffic. They don’t talk about this aspect of illegal immigration. The liberal media doesn’t focus on any of this. They want Americans to believe that DREAMers and illegal immigrants are good and decent and loving and productive individuals, and a benefit to our country. They criticize those who point out the deaths and the violence and the increase in drugs and claim that a few bad examples must not condemn the entire population of DREAMers or illegals. Yet they had no problem condemning all those who voted for Donald Trump as “deplorables” and “racists.” They have no problem labeling all conservatives as “racist,” “islamophobic,” “homophobic,” “xenophobic,” and now, as “white supremacists.”

They give you the impression that DREAMers are just like other Americans and are on their way to contributing to our country. But they neglect to mention some very telling statistics about DREAMers. DREAMers have a 21% high-school drop-out rate. The national average is 5.1%. In Arizona, DREAMrs commit crime at two times the rate of ordinary legal citizens. And then there are the plain facts that Democrats find completely unimportant: that illegal immigration costs the US taxpayer $116 billion and it leaves our country open to those who mean to harm us and our children

Legal Americans dream too. But the Democrat Party doesn’t care about them, unless, of course, they are minorities, poor, and need something from government. Legal Americans dream that the country will be a decent place for them to live and that when they finish their education, find a job, build a career, start a family, and live a good and decent life that government won’t plunder their paychecks to subsidize those who can’t and won’t provide for themselves. Those who are citizens of the United States are guaranteed the “opportunity” to live the American Dream. That opportunity is increased the more the individual has some resources and is willing to get the education and use the ambition to seek it. That’s all they – we – are guaranteed. Our legal DREAMers want that opportunity – not reduced because others, not even entitled, are being offered it too. Those here illegally, no matter how they got here and no matter how heartbreaking the situation, are not ENTITLED to anything..  not to automatic citizenship and not to the American Dream. They MAY apply to become a legal citizen.

Legal citizenship comes with certain rights and privileges, such as protection under the US Constitution and access to our education and social programs, including healthcare. It also comes with a burden – a citizen must pay federal incomes taxes and live according to all the laws of the land, federal and state. Illegals want the best of both worlds – protection under our laws and access to education and social programs, but without the obligation of obeying our laws.

For those who are unclear as to what the term “DREAMer” stands for, it refers to those individuals, aged 18 or younger, who came to this country by their (illegal) parents. Because they came here through no fault of their own and have come to think of the United States as their home, Democrats (and Republicans like Lindsey Graham) have sought a plan to establish a  path to citizenship for them, known as the DREAM Act. Since 2001, Democrats have tried to pass a Dream Act but have never been successful in doing so. In 2012, President Obama was frustrated that Congress would not give him a bill, as he demanded, and so, as he promised, he used his pen to create an equivalent program. He signed an Executive Order creating the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program that gave the head of Homeland Security the discretion to protect them (as a class) from deportation. DACA, even though it was an unconstitutional exercise of presidential power, must be renewed every two years, and President Trump has announced he would not renew it. Hence, the outcry from Democrats for a DREAM Act – a law protecting them by providing them a path to citizenship (amnesty).

Nancy Pelosi stands for everything ordinary Americans stand against. Every time she opens her mouth, she makes the case that our government is comprised of a bunch of useless bunch of individuals who care more about the longevity of their party than the longevity of our country. She is profoundly offensive.

Equally offensive are the protests of DREAMers and other illegals in response to the proposed Immigration plan that President Trump released on Thursday. Guaranteed citizenship (amnesty), albeit according to a 10-12 year timeline, is not good enough for them. Being protected under this plan from deportation is not good enough for them. I see Democrats are creating yet another class of ENTITLED individuals. God knows we already have too many of them of that kind already.

 

VIDEO:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwP_gB4bghs

 

Our Modern-Day Interposer, Judge Roy Moore

JUDGE ROY MOORE - with his statue

by Diane Rufino, January 25, 2018

I just wrote an article explaining the doctrine of Interposition and how vital a remedy it is against federal tyranny. (“Interposition: The Duty to Say “NO!”). In that article, I wrote: “Our challenge is to stand up as a people, and as individual States, to the government officials, the government bodies, and yes, even federal judges who are violating, ignoring, eroding, or otherwise re-interpreting the Constitution our Bill of Rights. Each unconstitutional act usurps the powers delegated or reserved to the People and the States. Nature’s Law supersedes man’s law. Every failure to resist the tyranny posed by an unconstitutional act tightens the noose around freedom’s neck.”

Explaining Interposition, I wrote

Since the Tenth Amendment cannot enforce itself, interposition is one of the doctrines that allows the States and the People to stand up for the rights that are reserved to them. Right now, the federal government has a monopoly over the meaning and scope of its powers. Congress makes the laws, the president signs the laws and enforces then, and the courts review them for constitutionality. It wasn’t always this way. The federal courts were originally only supposed to render an “opinion” to the other branches. They were to take that opinion under advisement and amend the particular law or alter their conduct. The “check” that the “opinion” offered was that it was public; once the States found out the opinion, as sovereigns and as the co-parties to the compact known as the US Constitution, they always had the option to nullify and refuse to enforce a law or policy that the court deemed as unconstitutional. But the judicial branch made sure that its power was much more substantial than rendering a mere opinion. The federal monopoly was established when Chief Justice John Marshall handed down the Marbury v. Madison opinion in 1803. Essentially the decision asserts that the Supreme Court is the tribunal tasked with interpreting the Constitution and as such, it’s “opinions” are not really “opinions” at all but binding decisions. Whatever the men in robes decide is the meaning and the intent of the Constitution IS the meaning and intent and its decisions are final and binding.

But rights and liberties are never secure when men and women have the power to interpret while also being motivated by political opinions, personal passions, etc. The Tenth Amendment MUST not be left to the federal government monopoly to ignore or re-interpret as it sees fit.

The remedy always available to those who hold the reserved powers is interposition – to recognize that certain acts are unconstitutional and exceed delegated powers (and hence are null and void and legally unenforceable) and then to take the necessary steps to make sure that they are NOT enforced. To allow them to be enforced is allowing government usurpation.

We saw an act of Interposition in 2010 or so when the state of Arizona took on the federal government. The Arizona state government was fed up with the fact that the Obama administration refused to enforce immigration laws. The State was being overly burdened by illegal immigration and without enforcement of federal laws or even an immigration policy, the problem was increasingly getting worse. So, the Arizona legislature passed a law giving its state law enforcement powers to determine which immigrants were undocumented and to require employers to do the same in the hiring process (e-verify). Without the ability to work in the state or to be free of law enforcement checks, perhaps the immigrants would leave. The Arizona legislature and Governor Jan Brewer interposed for the benefit of their citizens and for the proper functioning of the State. Quickly, however, Obama sued the State. How dare it interpose.

And then we saw the case of Judge Roy Moore in Arkansas. He dared to stand up to judicial tyranny.

It’s been a sad several years in America. Several decades actually. For 8 years, we had a president whose approach to government was that if he didn’t get what he wanted, “I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone.” When he didn’t get amnesty for illegals (The Dream Act), he acted by Executive Order to establish the DACA program (which is temporary amnesty for illegals, ages 18 and younger, brought to the US by their parents). It was UNCONSTITUTIONAL. He created a law which is the sole domain of the legislative branch. In fact, his action went directly against the actions of the legislature since Congress would not pass the Dream Act. He misled – no, LIED – to the American people with the Affordable Care Act, which eventually became law as a new tax. The law is UNCONSTIUTTIONAL as exceeding the bounds of the taxing power (the mandate is a “punishment” for not signing up for Obamacare and that is one of the classifications that the taxing power is not allowed to be used for). He refused to allow the federal government to enforce DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act), claiming that marriage is between any two consenting people, even same-sex. The Supreme Court would rule that the States have no right or power to define marriage narrowly so as to only be between a man and a woman. In other words, the Court handed down an UNCONSTITUTIONAL opinion by usurping a traditional power reserved to the States by the Tenth Amendment. Similarly, Obama threatened and attempted to coerce the states of North Carolina over bathrooms according to biological gender. He said that civil rights law would be “interpreted” (even though there was no court history to back him up and the law includes clear definitions) to include protection for transgenders in the term “it is unlawful to discriminate against an individual because of his or her sex.”

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was enacted “To enforce the constitutional right to vote, to confer jurisdiction upon the district courts of the United States to provide injunctive relief against discrimination in public accommodations, to authorize the attorney General to institute suits to protect constitutional rights in public facilities and public education, to prevent discrimination in federally assisted programs, to establish a Commission on Equal Employment Opportunity (EEOC), and for other purposes.” (intro of the bill). The Act provides that “It is unlawful to exclude or to expel from its membership, or otherwise to discriminate against, any individual because of his race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.”

In the definition section of the Act, it provides: “(k) The terms “because of sex” or “on the basis of sex” include, but are not limited to, because of or on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions; and women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions…”

Obama used the IRS to subdue the voice of Tea Party and other conservative groups by not allowing them to form into organizations and therefore participate in elections, he obstructed justice on too many matters to list here, and colluded with the DNC and Hillary Clinton and her campaign to use the full powers of the federal government to prevent Donald Trump from becoming president. His disdain for the US Constitution, for the Rule of Law, and for the rightful role of government was so palpable that the Tea Party arose. In fact, judging by the turn-out and the energy in 2016 and the election of Trump, it is abundantly clear that the American people are, at heart, Tea Partiers. They want limited government. But yet the media and the liberal left (the no-brainers) are still willing to give Obama a pass on all his acts of absolute tyranny.

We have Senator Chuck Schumer who intentionally shut down the government over a matter that nothing to do with the government funding bill and over a class of individuals who have no legal recognition in this country nor claim to protection under any of our laws. We have Nancy Pelosi who admits not only that she shouldn’t have to actually read a bill before signing it but that the Constitution means nothing to her. As if ignorance wasn’t her only defining characteristic, she also had the absolute gall to refer to a major tax cut for middle class Americans (one that has real meaning and real tangible benefits to most Americans) as “crumbs” (because, after all, we aren’t as wealthy as her – ie, we all didn’t have the opportunity to enrich ourselves while serving in office, AND we don’t have a government slush fund to cover our expenses) and to take all House Democrats out to a swanky Italian feast to celebrate the fact that they had just stopped paying our men and women serving in uniform, including at the dangerous Mexican border. And we have Rep. Maxine Waters who uses her office NOT to serve in the capacity she was elected to but rather to cry “racism” at every chance she gets, to continually label the president as racist, incompetent, rude, etc and to try to have him impeached on these unimpeachable claims. We have other representatives also so colossally incompetent, useless, and reckless.

But Judge Moore, a man who singlehandedly stood up to judicial tyranny and tried to set the Constitution right, is vilified. A man like him was not elected to DC. Democrats want Obama back, and in fact, they wanted someone worse (more corrupt) – Hillary Clinton. But Judge Moore was not suitable.

Just how did Judge Roy Moore interpose? In 1868, the Fourteenth Amendment was added to the US Constitution. I did not write “In 1868, the Fourteenth Amendment was passed” because it never did legally pass. And it wasn’t an amendment as much as it was “punishment” for the Southern states. The North forced it on the subjugated southern states. In fact, the amendment is not legitimate at all under the required process outlined in Article V. But for a moment, let’s suppose that it was. The amendment was intended as a codification of the Civil Rights Law at the time, the Civil Rights Act of 1866.

The Civil Rights Act of 1866, enacted on April 9, 1866, was the first federal law to define citizenship and affirm that all citizens are equally protected by the law. It was mainly intended to protect the civil rights of persons of African descent born in or brought to the U.S., in the wake of the American Civil War. In other words, it was intended to over-ride the portion of the Dred Scott decision of 1857 that said that persons of African descent (all blacks) were never intended to be citizens and therefore could not be so, and as such were not entitled to the protections of the US Constitution. The Civil Rights Act was actually enacted by Congress in 1865 but was vetoed by President Andrew Johnson. In April 1866, Congress again passed the bill as a companion to, and in support of, the Thirteenth Amendment. Although President Johnson again vetoed it, a two-thirds majority in each chamber overcame the veto and the bill became law. Rep. John Bingham (R-OH) and some other congressmen argued that Congress did not yet have sufficient constitutional power to enact this law and then the idea came to memorialize the Civil Rights Act in constitutional amendment form and force the former confederate states to ratify it (as a condition to being re-admitted to the Union. Note, they had been admitted to the Union implicitly by including them in the ratification process for the Thirteenth Amendment. But then they were “kicked out” again for the sole purpose of conditioning their re- re-entry on ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment !!]

So, assume the Fourteenth Amendment’s purpose (stated purpose in fact) was to provide citizenship for the newly-freed slaves and to recognize that as citizens, they also have the same rights and privileges as every other US citizen and they are entitled to equal protection under the laws. When the slaves were freed, the North wanted to make sure that the South couldn’t tacitly continue to treat them as slaves by denying them the rights and privileges necessary to assume an equal and meaningful place in society. Secretly, the North just wanted to make sure the freed slaves stayed in the South. The Supreme Court, however, found a way to use this amendment to usurp the original meaning of the Bill of Rights and to strip the States of their powers. Beginning in the 1920s, a series of United States Supreme Court decisions interpreted the Fourteenth Amendment to “incorporate” most portions of the Bill of Rights, making these portions, for the first time, enforceable against the state governments.

Prior to the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment and the development of the “Incorporation doctrine,” the Supreme Court in 1833 held in Barron v. Baltimore that the Bill of Rights applied only to the federal, but not any state governments. Even years after the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment, the Supreme Court in United States v. Cruikshank (1876) still held that the First and Second Amendments did not apply to state governments. [See Richard Aynes’ law journal article on the meaning and intent of the Fourteenth Amendment]. But the temptation to strip the States of its ability to remain free from the constraints of the Bill of Rights was too great. And little by little, areas historically reserved to the States to regulate have been taken away by nine men in black robes.

For example, with respect to the First Amendment: The guarantee against an Establishment of Religion was incorporated against the States in 1947 (Everson v. Board of Education – the infamous “Wall of Separation” case); the guarantee of one’s Free Exercise of Religion was incorporated against the States in 1940 (Cantwell v. Connecticut); the guarantee of Freedom of Speech was incorporated in 1925 (Gitlow v. New York); the guarantee of Freedom of the Press was incorporated in 1931 (Near v. Minnesota); the guarantee of Freedom of Assembly was incorporated in 1937 (DeJonge v. Oregon); and the guarantee of the Right to Petition for Redress of Grievances was incorporated against the States in 1963 (Edwards v. South Carolina). Now, most Americans might think that it’s a good thing to guarantee that the States can’t infringe these essential liberty rights, but history has shown that the Supreme Court has actually stripped individuals of their rights to self-governance in their States and localities by the Incorporation Doctrine. The federal courts are using it to establish a one-size fits all model across the United States. Each state will feel, and BE the same. There used to be the notion that each state had their own “character,” their own social environment and their conditions of living, as determined by those who live in that “backyard.” And those who don’t like the character or condition of their “backyard” are free to move to a state that is more to their liking. State borders are supposed to mean more than mere physical boundaries and confines of legal jurisdiction.

Alabama Supreme Court Judge Roy Moore understood the unconstitutionality of the Incorporation Doctrine. He understood the decisions amounted to judicial over-reach and judicial tyranny. And so, in 2001, when the first of two lawsuits was brought demanding that he take down the a 5,280-pound (2,400 kg) block of granite with the Ten Commandments engraved on it, which was placed in front of the Alabama state courthouse, he stood his ground. In the case Glassroth v. Moore (Fed District Court, 2003) [and the companion case Maddox and Howard v. Moore], the court agreed with the plaintiffs, lawyers who were concerned that their clients might feel they would not be treated fairly if they didn’t agree with the Judeo-Christian tenets, and held that the statue is an impermissible establishment of religion, violates the First Amendment as incorporated against the state of Alabama by the Fourteenth Amendment, and therefore had to be removed. Judge Moore refused. He appealed to the Federal Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit but the panel of judges affirmed the lower court decision. Again Judge Moore refused to take the statue down. If the federal government wanted to erase any connection to the Ten Commandments at any federal court because God forbid it might convince someone that the government is establishing a national religion, then that was within the government’s right. But according to Moore, if the state of Alabama wanted to have the Ten Commandments at their courthouse to remind them “of a higher law,” to remind them of the moral foundation of law, and to also remind them of the provision including in the very preamble to the state constitution “that in order to establish justice we must invoke ‘the favor and guidance of almighty God,’” it had the right to do so under the rightful interpretation of the US Constitution and Bill of Rights, including the Fourteenth Amendment.

The other judges of the Alabama Supreme Court finally stepped in and had the statue taken away from the courthouse, and Judge Moore was removed from office for his refusal to comply with the federal court decision.

Indeed, as Mike Scruggs put it: “A great opportunity to insist on both States’ Rights and Religious Liberties was forfeited when the Governor and most of the Alabama Supreme Court failed to back Judge Moore in his resistance to federal judicial tyranny.”

All tyranny needs is people to do nothing.

Our government in Washington DC is full of people who don’t know how to say NO or even how to conduct themselves as government officials in accordance with the rightful authority given to them. Day upon day, we allow government tyranny, and especially, judicial tyranny. Do we even realize how many of our rights have been burdened over the years? We say we are “Free” but freedom implies the ability to exercise our God-given rights without condition and without government intervention or regulation. How “freely” are we really able to exercise our rights? Think on that as you self-censor, as you hide the cross around your neck in certain situations, as you decide not to put a bumper sticker on your car, as you decide not to say a prayer before your meal because someone might see you doing so, as you watch 1/3 of your hard-earned money get siphoned off by the government to spend predominantly on items that are unconstitutional, as you break into a sweat when April 15 comes around and you question whether you have saved all your receipts and if you have listed everything on your taxes so that you aren’t audited, and as you lose your job because someone in some cubicle somewhere was offended by something you said, posted in your private cubicle, wrote on FB, or something you wore around your neck or embossed on a tote bag.

Judge Moore may have been an unfavorable candidate, but it is most likely that the allegations against him were fabricated. He may be a flawed individual, but he is the RIGHT kind of individual for government. He is an unashamed, unapologetic, and undeterred interposer. Thomas Jefferson was a flawed man, as the left loves to point out, but he gave us the most consequential and meaningful document that any man has produced for mankind – the Declaration of Independence. The world has never been the same.

References:

VIDEO – President Obama, in a press conference, stating “I have a pen and I have a phone.” Referenced on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G6tOgF_w-yI

Richard L. Aynes, “On Misreading John Bingham and the Fourteenth Amendment,” Yale Law Journal, October 1993, Pg. 57. Referenced at: http://www.constitution.org/lrev/aynes_14th.htm

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/statutes/titlevii.cfm

“The Short History of the Battle Over the Ten Commandments in Alabama.” http://www.wsfa.com/story/421482/short-history-of-the-battle-over-the-ten-commandments-in-alabama

Lawrence “Mike” Scruggs, The Un-Civil War: Shattering the Myths; 2011, Universal Media (Charlotte, NC), Chapter 6.

INTERPOSITION: The Duty to Say “NO!”

NO - Just say NO (signs)

by Diane Rufino, January 25, 2018

The word Interposition means “to place between; cause to intervene.” In the context of the Constitution and the system of government it has established in this country, interposition is the doctrine that says that an individual State may oppose any federal action it believes encroaches on its sovereignty. It is a doctrine tied to the Tenth Amendment. The Tenth Amendment, as we all know, is a restatement of the fact that government power is split between two sovereigns, the federal government and the individual States. The Constitution establishes a horizontal separation of powers between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches at the federal level. By the very nature of its limited grants of delegated powers to those branches, the Constitution also establishes a vertical separation of powers between the federal government and the State governments. By “vertical,” we mean that the federal and State governments are co-equal sovereigns. The Tenth Amendment is a restatement of the fact that the Union is not a consolidated one with unlimited power at the federal level but rather a federation of sovereign states with most of the day-to-day running of people’s lives and governing of communities being reserved to the States and the powers to regulate for safety and security, immigration, commerce, and currency being delegated to the common government. Dual Sovereignty. The Tenth Amendment, quite simply, reads: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the People.”

Since the Tenth Amendment cannot enforce itself, interposition is one of the doctrines that allows the States and the People to stand up for the rights that are reserved to them.  Right now, the federal government has a monopoly over the meaning and scope of its powers. Congress makes the laws, the president signs the laws and enforces then, and the courts review them for constitutionality.  It wasn’t always this way. The federal courts were originally only supposed to render an “opinion” to the other branches. They were to take that opinion under advisement and amend the particular law or alter their conduct. The “check” that the “opinion” offered was that it was public; once the States found out the opinion, as sovereigns and as the co-parties to the compact known as the US Constitution, they always had the option to nullify and refuse to enforce a law or policy that the court deemed as unconstitutional. But the judicial branch made sure that its power was much more substantial than rendering a mere opinion. The federal monopoly was established when Chief Justice John Marshall handed down the Marbury v. Madison opinion in 1803.  Essentially the decision asserts that the Supreme Court is the tribunal tasked with interpreting the Constitution and as such, it’s “opinions” are not really “opinions” at all but binding decisions. Whatever the men in robes decide is the meaning and the intent of the Constitution IS the meaning and intent and its decisions are final and binding.

But rights and liberties are never secure when men and women have the power to interpret while also being motivated by political opinions, personal passions, etc. The Tenth Amendment MUST not be left to the federal government monopoly to ignore or re-interpret as it sees fit.

The remedy always available to those who hold the reserved powers is interposition – to recognize that certain acts are unconstitutional and exceed delegated powers (and hence are null and void and legally unenforceable) and then to take the necessary steps to make sure that they are NOT enforced. To allow them to be enforced is allowing government usurpation.

I. Interposition: Its Roots in the Magna Carta –

Interposition is a doctrine that the federal government abhors. Arizona tried to interpose in 2010 or so when it was fed up with the fact that the Obama administration refused to enforce immigration laws and the State was being overly burdened by illegal immigration. It passed a law giving its state law enforcement powers to determine which immigrants were undocumented and to require employers to do the same in the hiring process (e-verify). The Arizona legislature and Governor Jan Brewer interposed for the benefit of their citizens and for the proper functioning of the State. Quickly, however, Obama sued the State. How dare it interpose.

Where did this doctrine come from???

It has its roots in the Great English Charter itself – the Magna Carta, signed in the year 1215 by King John to formally recognize the “rights” recognized by ancient tradition and custom of the barons and other lower-class Englishmen. (Remember, this was Medieval England, the era of serfdom)

At the end of the Charter, the English barons included a section providing for the enforcement of its provisions. Section 61 read:

“Since, moveover, for God and the amendment of our kingdom and for the better allaying of the quarrel that has arisen between us and our barons, we have granted all these concessions, desirous that they should enjoy them in complete and firm endurance forever, we give and grant to them the underwritten security, namely, that the barons choose five and twenty barons of the kingdom, whomsoever they will, who shall be bound with all their might, to observe and hold, and cause to be observed, the peace and liberties we have granted and confirmed to them by this our present Charter, so that if we, or our justiciar, or our bailiffs or any one of our officers, shall in anything be at fault towards anyone, or shall have broken any one of the articles of this peace or of this security, and the offense be notified to four barons of the foresaid five and twenty, the said four barons shall repair to us (or our justiciar, if we are out of the realm) and, laying the transgression before us, petition to have that transgression redressed without delay. And if we shall not have corrected the transgression (or, in the event of our being out of the realm, if our justiciar shall not have corrected it) within forty days, reckoning from the time it has been intimated to us (or to our justiciar, if we should be out of the realm), the four barons aforesaid shall refer that matter to the rest of the five and twenty barons, and those five and twenty barons shall, together with the community of the whole realm, distrain and distress us in all possible ways, namely, by seizing our castles, lands, possessions, and in any other way they can, until redress has been obtained as they deem fit, saving harmless our own person, and the persons of our queen and children; and when redress has been obtained, they shall resume their old relations towards us.”

Put simply, Section 61 established a representative group of 25 barons, to be selected as they see fit, who would be tasked with the responsibility of making sure that the promises made by King John when he signed the Charter are kept, even at the point of rebellion against him. This group of 25 “shall be bound with all their might, to observe and hold, and cause to be observed, the peace and liberties we have granted and confirmed to them by this our present Charter.”

In other words, because the King may eventually ignore the promises he made, those who hold the rights and liberties have the right to decide when they’ve violated and then to take any and all steps to make sure that such violation is remedied.

I would argue that inherent in any compact that protects individual rights is the right of those who hold those rights to decide when they’ve been violated and then to take any and all steps to make sure that such violation is remedied.

I would also argue that in any social compact where government power is delegated and powers are reserved, that each party (the one receiving the delegated power and the ones holing the reserved powers) has the right to prevent the other from taking what is legally theirs. This doctrine therefore applies to the Constitution, itself being a social compact.

How did the Magna Carta come about?

II. The History – The Meeting at Runnymede and The Story of King John and the Magna Carta [Constitutional Rights Foundation, 2001. Referenced at: http://www.crf-usa.org/foundations-of-our-constitution/magna-carta.html ]

A. Who Was King John?

Myth and history are intertwined in the England of 800 years ago. We all remember the outlaw, Robin Hood. From his hideout in Sherwood Forest, he and his band of Merry Men preyed on the rich and gave to the poor. Their archenemy was the Sheriff of Nottingham, who took his orders from the sinister Prince John. While Robin Hood never existed, John certainly did. He was the central character in a real life drama that led to a milestone in human liberty: Magna Carta. Prince John’s older brother, Richard, became king of England when their father, Henry II, died in 1189. King Richard I (also called Richard the Lionhearted) spent almost the entire 10 years of his reign away from England. He fought in tournaments, led crusades and waged several wars on the continent of Europe.

Since Richard needed revenue to pay for his adventures, he taxed his subjects heavily. At one point Richard was captured by his enemies and held for ransom (a common practice in feudal Europe). Richard’s tax collectors in England had to raise an enormous sum of money to free him. Despite Richard’s demands, the people back home in England loved him as a conquering hero.

When Richard died in 1199, John became King. Unlike his brother, John tended to stay at home and run his kingdom on a day to day basis. John, however, continued his brother’s harsh tax policy. Because John lacked Richard’s heroic image and charisma, his subjects began to hate him for his constant demands for more tax money

B. King John vs. The Church –

King John made more enemies when he refused to accept the appointment of Stephen Langton as Archbishop of Canterbury, the most important position in the English Catholic Church. By so doing, John challenged the authority of Pope Innocent III in Rome, who punished John by excommunication. John retaliated by taxing the Church in England, confiscating its lands and forcing many priests to leave their parishes.

While King John carried on his dispute with the Pope, powerful English landowners called barons conspired against him. Fuming over John’s heavy taxes and other abuses of power, the barons plotted rebellion. To head them off, King John made an unexpected move.

In 1212, King John agreed to have Stephen Langton become Archbishop of Canterbury. John also promised to compensate the Church for its money and lands. John even went so far as to make England a fief of the Pope. King John still ruled England, but, as John’s liege lord, the Pope gained tremendous prestige throughout Europe. Pope Innocent was delighted and in 1213 ended John’s excommunication. With John now under the protection of the Church, the resentful barons retreated—at least for a while.

C. King John vs. the Barons —

Convinced that his throne was again safe, King John returned to one of his favorite projects. For years he had dreamed to retake possession of lands in France that had once belonged to his ancestors. Once before, John had led a military expedition to France. Although he won a number of battles, John failed to decisively defeat the French king. Now, in 1213, John planned another campaign.

An invasion of France required many soldiers and more money. Under feudal law, a liege lord had the right to call upon his vassals to provide knights or money during times of war. From the English barons, all vassals of King John, he demanded men-at-arms or gold to support his new French war. Many of the barons refused, having little interest in John’s quarrel with the French king. Enraged, King John set out to punish them by attacking their castles.

Early in 1214, he abandoned his domestic quarrels and left with a force of loyal barons and mercenaries (paid soldiers) for France. History repeated itself. John succeeded in winning some battles, but failed to gain control of the disputed lands.

D. The Road to Runnymede —

Soon after returning to English soil in October 1214, King John resumed his demand for money from the rebellious barons. His demands fell on deaf ears. Sensing John’s weakness after his failure in France, the barons began to make their own demands. In January 1215, a group of them appeared before King John asking for a written charter from him confirming ancient liberties granted by earlier kings of England. Evidence suggests that the newly appointed Archbishop Stephen Langton may have encouraged these demands.

John decided to stall for time; he would give the barons an answer later in the spring. In the meantime, John sent letters to enlist the support of Pope Innocent III, and also began to assemble a mercenary army.

In April, the barons presented John with more specific demands. John flatly rejected them. He remarked: “Why do not the barons, with these unjust exactions, ask my kingdom?”

In response, the barons withdrew their allegiance to King John, and started to form their own rebel army. At the head of the rebel forces was Robert FitzWalter, who called himself “Marshal of the army of God and Holy Church.” In an effort to cool things off, John proposed that the Pope settle their differences. With the Pope openly siding with King John, the barons refused. John ordered his sheriffs to crush the rebel barons and they retaliated by occupying London.

A stalemate ensued. The 40 or so rebel barons and their forces held London as well as their own fortified castles throughout England. King John commanded a slightly smaller force of loyalist barons and mercenaries. Unaligned were about 100 barons plus a group of church leaders headed by the ever-present Archbishop Stephen Langton. Langton (who was sympathetic to the rebels if not one himself) began to work for a negotiated settlement to prevent all-out civil war and arranged a meeting to be held at Runnymede, a meadow on the Thames west of London.

E. Meeting at Runnymede —

King John and his supporters, the rebel barons, the neutrals, church leaders and Archbishop Langton all met at Runnymede on June 15, 1215. Actually, the Charter was negotiated at Runnymede between 10 and 15 June 1215, with King John riding down each day from Windsor, and the barons encamped in their tents across the meadows beside the Thames. Significantly, while most of King John’s fighting men were scattered throughout his kingdom, the rebels appeared at full military strength.

Little is known about the details of this historic meeting, but we do know that King John placed his seal of approval on a document called the “Articles of the Barons.” Over the next few days these articles were rewritten, expanded, and put into the legal language of a royal charter. At some point, probably on June 19, King John put his seal on the final draft of what we call today “Magna Carta” or “The Great Charter.” In exchange, the rebellious barons renewed their oath of allegiance to King John, thus ending the immediate threat of civil war.

With the document, the nobles compelled John to execute this recognition of rights for both noblemen and ordinary Englishmen. The Charter begins with Article 1, which, besides asserting that “the English Church shall be free,” also states: “We have also granted to all freemen of our kingdom, for us and our heirs forever, all the underwritten liberties, to be had and held by them and their heirs, of us and our heirs forever.” Besides recognizing the right of the church to be free from governmental interference, the Magna Carta also recognized the rights of all free citizens to own and inherit property and to be protected from excessive taxes through representation in a “common counsel.” It established the principles of due process and equality before the law, the right to a jury of one’s peers, and the right of widows who owned property to choose not to remarry. It also contained provisions forbidding bribery and official misconduct.

And, as mentioned earlier, it included an enforcement provision: Section 61 read: “61. Since, moveover, for God and the amendment of our kingdom and for the better allaying of the quarrel that has arisen between us and our barons, we have granted all these concessions, desirous that they should enjoy them in complete and firm endurance forever, we give and grant to them the underwritten security, namely, that the barons choose five and twenty barons of the kingdom, whomsoever they will, who shall be bound with all their might, to observe and hold, and cause to be observed, the peace and liberties we have granted and confirmed to them by this our present Charter, so that if we, or our justiciar, or our bailiffs or any one of our officers, shall in anything be at fault towards anyone, or shall have broken any one of the articles of this peace or of this security, and the offense be notified to four barons of the foresaid five and twenty, the said four barons shall repair to us (or our justiciar, if we are out of the realm) and, laying the transgression before us, petition to have that transgression redressed without delay. And if we shall not have corrected the transgression (or, in the event of our being out of the realm, if our justiciar shall not have corrected it) within forty days, reckoning from the time it has been intimated to us (or to our justiciar, if we should be out of the realm), the four barons aforesaid shall refer that matter to the rest of the five and twenty barons, and those five and twenty barons shall, together with the community of the whole realm, distrain and distress us in all possible ways, namely, by seizing our castles, lands, possessions, and in any other way they can, until redress has been obtained as they deem fit, saving harmless our own person, and the persons of our queen and children; and when redress has been obtained, they shall resume their old relations towards us.

Tricky to the end, however, King John left off the names of the 25 barons who were to be tasked with the enforcement of the charter’s terms. By doing so, John intended to downplay the enforcement provision and in general hoped the Charter would become no more than a toothless symbol of his generosity to the kingdom.

Magna Carta of 1215 was not really intended to be a list of rights for Englishmen or even the barons themselves. It was more like a contract in which John bound himself to abide by its provisions. The barons only wanted King John to satisfy their complaints against his abusive rule, not overthrow the monarchy. The real significance of this document lies in the basic idea that a ruler, just like everyone else, is subject to the rule of law. When King John agreed to Magna Carta, he admitted that the law was above the king’s will, a revolutionary idea in 1215.

F. Aftermath —

King John surrendered significant power when he agreed to Magna Carta. It is doubtful that he really ever intended to live up to all his promises. Certainly, the barons hoped that its terms would be rigorously enforced. While John did satisfy some of the barons’ personal grievances, he secretly wrote the Pope asking him to cancel Magna Carta on the grounds that he signed it against his will. At the same time he continued to build up his mercenary army. Not trusting John’s intentions, the rebel barons held on to London and maintained their own army.

Pope Innocent III replied favorably to King John’s appeal. He condemned Magna Carta and declared it null and void. By September 1215, King John and his army were roving the countryside attacking the castles of individual barons, but he avoided the rebel stronghold of London. The barons charged that King John had defaulted on his agreement with them and they were justified in removing him from the throne. They offered the throne to the son of the French king, if he would aid their rebellion.

A long and bloody civil war loomed across England, when suddenly, King John died. A round of heavy eating and drinking apparently led to a case of dysentery causing his death on October 18, 1216. Ten days later John’s nine-year-old son, Henry, was crowned as the new king of England. With John out of the way, the conflict gradually ceased. Less than a month after Henry was crowned, his supporters confirmed Magna Carta in his name. This time it received the approval of the Pope.

Magna Carta, carrying with it the idea of “the rule of law,” was reconfirmed a number of times over the next 80 years, becoming a foundation of English law. Eventually, Magna Carta would become the source of important legal concepts found in our American Constitution and Bill of Rights. Among these are the principle of no taxation without representation and the right to a fair trial under law. These foundations of our own constitutional system had their beginnings in a meadow beside a river almost 800 years ago.

III. CONCLUSION

As I hope you all remember from school, the Magna Carta was a crucial turning point in the struggle to establish freedom and recognize individual rights. The ancient laws and customs by which England had been governed, and which had been abused by the King, were enumerated most clearly and explicitly on its parchment. His signature, his assent, was demanded by those who refused to be mistreated any longer by him. These ancient laws and customs, defended strongly by those who believed were not to be transgressed by the King, would eventually be thought of as human rights.

The next recorded milestone in the development of these “human rights” would be the Petition of Right, drafted in 1628 by the English Parliament and sent to Charles I as a statement of civil liberties and a reminder of the obligation of Kings to recognize that the throne is not above the law. (See my recent article “The English Roots of American Liberty,” January 20, 2018)

Winston Churchill once admonished the free world to learn to pronounce the word “No.” Summoning the wisdom of Alexander the Great, Churchill, in the face of Nazi aggression, challenged the free world to muster the courage to tell Hitler “no.” In his famous October 16, 1938, broadcast to the United States and England, termed “The Defense of Freedom and Peace: The Lights are Going Out”, Churchill reflected: “Alexander the Great remarked that the people of Asia were slaves because they had not learned to pronounce the word ‘No.’ Let that not be the epitaph of the English-speaking peoples or of Parliamentary democracy, or of France, or of the many surviving liberal States of Europe.”

If we don’t learn to say “NO,” then it may also become the epitaph of the United States.

It takes courage to stand up against a person or a body having great power. It often comes at some personal sacrifice. Our challenge is to stand up as a people, and as individual States, to the government officials, the government bodies, and yes, even federal judges who are violating, ignoring, eroding, or otherwise re-interpreting the Constitution our Bill of Rights. Each unconstitutional act usurps the powers delegated or reserved to the People and the States. Nature’s Law supersedes man’s law. Every failure to resist the tyranny posed by an unconstitutional act tightens the noose around freedom’s neck.

References:
The Magna Carta – http://www.constitution.org/eng/magnacar.htm

“The Meeting at Runnymede: The Story of King John and Magna Carta,” 2001, Constitutional Rights Foundation, 601 South Kinglsey Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90005. Referenced at: http://www.crf-usa.org/foundations-of-our-constitution/magna-carta.html [Section II, Parts A, B, C, D,, and F are taken directly from this source. Only a part of Section E comes this source].

Diane Rufino, “The English Roots of American Liberty,” For Love of God and Country (Diane’s blog), January 20, 2018. Referenced at: https://forloveofgodandcountry.com/2018/01/24/the-english-roots-of-american-liberty/

Jason K. Allen, “Pronouncing the Word ‘No’: The Most Important Lesson I Learned from Al Mohler,” Jason Kallen’s Blog, Nov. 9, 2015. Referenced at: https://jasonkallen.com/2015/11/pronouncing-the-word-no/

The English Roots of American Liberty

MAGNA CARTA - King John signing

by DIane Rufino, January 20, 2018

From the Declaration and Resolves (petition to King Charles listing the colonies’ grievances against the King and Parliament), the Declaration of Independence, to the Bill of Rights / Declaration of Rights adopted by the individual states, to the US Constitution, and to the US Bill of Rights, the Founding Fathers looked to English history for the words and templates to navigate the colonies towards independence and then into a republic. They reflected on the abuses of the Kings and the compacts demanded by the people to check those abuses, as well as the Enlightenment era philosophy on government in building a lasting republic. It is said that our Founding Fathers were wise and extremely well-read, but moreso, they were keenly aware of England’s history, which was, of course, also the history of the American colonies.

The colonists certainly embraced the liberty they found in the American colonies and the chance they had to self-govern as they saw fit. They worshipped according to their conscience, they engaged in trade freely, and they established their own colonial governments. But then they began to see that new-found liberty in jeopardy. The historic abuses of the English monarchy on its subjects now turned to the colonies. The colonists were taxed without their representation in Parliament (a right listed in the Magna Carta and English Bill of Rights of 1689), their trade interfered with (Tea Act), their colonial assemblies suspended (violation of their colonial charters), they had standing armies kept among them (in violation of the English Bill of Rights), they were forced to quarter troops (in violation of the Petition of Right of 1628 and English Bill of Rights), and their firearms and ammunition were confiscated (in violation of the English Bill of Rights). And when they protested and remonstrated these violations of their rights as English subjects, as those of centuries earlier had done, King Charles III ignored and mocked them. To the King, the colonists were crude, almost laughable in their simpler ways. He accused them of acting like petulant children and essentially being bothersome. He did not answer their written complaints, nor was swayed when they pleaded to him, “as loyal subjects,” to please intervene on their behalf to Parliament (for such things as the Intolerable Acts). By 1774, the King had had enough of them and accused them of being in active rebellion against Great Britain. All the colonists wanted was to have their rights respected. [Watch the DVD Set “Liberty – The American Revolution” (PBS) to feel the frustration the colonists felt in the years leading up to the American Revolution].

The question was this: How would the colonists respond?

Well, we know how they responded. Looking at the totality of the situation (“The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States…”), the colonists, assembled in the Second Continental Congress, felt it had no other meaningful course but to seek its independence. In asserting what they believed was their natural right of self-determination and right of self-governance, they took a cue from their English roots (the Grand Remonstrance of 1640) and set forth a list of grievances against the King. In the Declaration of Independence, they listed 27 grievances – abuses of their rights – which, as the colonies declared, justified their separation from Great Britain.

When the fighting began the colonies weren’t seeking their independence; they were merely rebelling against tyranny. But North Carolina and then Virginia, and then others, began to call for independence, and on July 2, 1776, the resolution declaring independence was adopted and on July 4, Jefferson’s formal Declaration was issued – “to a candid world. The rebellion turned into a war for independence. Luckily, trust in George Washington paid off and friendship with France paid off as well. After our victory at Saratoga, France sent troops and its naval forces. British General Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown, VA on October 19, 1781 and on September 3, 1783, representatives of King George III of Great Britain and representatives of the United States of America signed the Treaty of Paris to officially end the American Revolutionary War. Article I of the Treaty read: “His Brittanic Majesty acknowledges the said United States, viz., New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, to be free sovereign and independent states…” The colonies were free.

But then next question was perhaps more important: How would they secure the liberty and individual rights they had just fought for? What kind of government system would best suit that goal?

Luckily our Founding Fathers were students of history and philosophy. They studied the Greek and Roman republics and knew what made them great and what led to their demise. They knew the history of England – a monarchy – and knew that although the great charters of liberty were written by the English to limit the conduct of the King and then to include Parliament, they also knew that those protections often went unnoticed. There were several attempts in England’s history to limit (forever) the rights of kings to place themselves above the law, but in some cases, the king took the “Divine Right of Kings” doctrine far too seriously. The Divine Right of Kings was the political/ religious doctrine in England that asserted that a monarch is subject to no earthly authority, deriving the right to rule directly from the will of God. Indeed, the history of England was a series of repeated events – abuses of the King over his subjects followed by a charter or petition demanding that their rights be acknowledged and that the King recognize limits to his power, followed by periods where the King or Kings ignored the charter/petition and subjects were again abused, followed by another petition, etc. For example, King John (1199-1216) signed the Magna Carta in 1215 after his barons took up arms against him, but almost immediately, he broke those promises. In 1928, Parliament presented King Charles I with the Petition of Right, complaining of a series of breaches of law and the Great Charter (Magna Carta) he had committed. The violations were of four general types – unfair and illegal taxation, as well as imposing taxes without the action of Parliament, many due process violations, including imprisonment without cause, quartering of soldiers on subjects, and imposing martial law in peacetime. The remainder of his reign would be marked with such extreme abuses that he would eventually be brought to trial and executed. James II, his son, would be another abusive king. With James II, the people (and Parliament) had had finally enough. He was removed by a bloodless revolution and the new King and Queen, William and Mary (Mary being James II’s daughter) signed the English Bill of Rights in 1689. Drafted by Parliament, the Bill of Rights officially set limits to the right of kings to put themselves above the law. The statute which offered the throne to William and Mary legally conditioned their rule on signing and respecting it. And subsequent kings would thus be limited as well.

All of our Founding Fathers knew that history very well. Again, England’s history was the history of the American colonies. But it was, after all, a monarchy. And a monarchy, as shown, was incapable of truly securing the inalienable rights of the individual. A democratic form of government would work either. True democracy is mob rule. It is always a rule by the majority. It could easily be tyranny by the majority.

In drafting the Constitution, which created our system of government here in the United States, our founders decided the best form of government would be a republic. Their study of history taught them that. As James Madison, author of the Constitution, wrote in Federalist No. 10: “Hence it is that democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and in general have been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths … A republic, by which I mean a government in which a scheme of representation takes place, opens a different prospect and promises the cure for which we are seeking.”

Article IV Section 4, of the Constitution: “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of government … ”

At the Philadelphia Convention in 1787, the task of the delegates was to design the new republic as wisely as possible. like what Dr. Joe Wolverton II wrote in a 2004 article for The New American: “They believed they could find the key to inoculating America against the diseases that infected and destroyed past societies. Indeed, it has been said that the Founders were coroners examining the lifeless bodies of the republics and democracies of the past, in order to avoid succumbing to the maladies that shortened their lives.”

The Constitution was signed by the delegates on September 17, 1787 and then it was sent to each state to be ratified or rejected. Several of the delegates were unhappy with the final draft because it did not include a Bill of Rights and some, including the powerful George Mason from Virginia, promised to try to defeat its ratification in the state conventions. (Patrick Henry planned to help Mason do so). Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, believed strongly that a Bill of Rights needed to be added, but Madison, author of the Constitution, did not. Jefferson wrote: “A Bill of Rights is what the people are entitled to against every government, and what no just government should refuse, or rest on inference.” States like Virginia and North Carolina and Rhode Island would not ratify unless a Bill of Rights was added, and New York was up in the air. Although it may have been likely that 9 states (as required by Article VII) would have ratified so that the Constitution would have done into effect, the states couldn’t imagine a union without the large powerful states of VA, NY, and NC. And so a deal was made with Madison at the VA Ratifying Convention. He would submit a Bill of Rights as amendments to the Constitution in the first session of the first US Congress. Madison was an honorable man. The rest is history.

Before the deal was made, however, Patrick Henry got up before the Convention to make the case that a Bill of Rights was necessary to secure the blessings of liberty from a government that (as history has always shown) will eventually become too powerful. He spoke these words: “Liberty, the greatest of all earthly blessing — give us that precious jewel, and you may take everything else!….. I say, the time has been when every pulse of my heart beat for American liberty, and which, I believe, had a counterpart in the breast of every true American.”

Madison introduced his proposed amendments to the Constitution (a Bill of Rights) to Congress on June 8, 1789, and after a committee put them in final form and Congress adopted them, they were sent to the states on September 25 for ratification. Out of the twelve proposed amendments, the states ratified ten. There are approximately 26 individual rights identified in the Bill of Rights (excluding the unenumerated possibilities in the Ninth Amendment). Of those 26 individual rights, 9 can be traced back to Magna Carta, 7 can be traced to the English Petition of Rights of 1628, and 6 can be traced to the English Bill of Rights of 1689.

I used to think our Founders were divinely inspired to write some of the documents that they wrote….. the words, the themes, the ballsy language. But when you go back and study England’s illustrious history and you read the great charters and documents of liberty – the 1100 Charter of Liberties, the Magna Carta (1215), the Petition of Rights (1628), the Grand Remonstrance (1641), and the English Bill of Rights of 1689 – you realize that our Founders had all the templates they needed. In many cases, they followed in the very footsteps of their forefathers – English subjects – who petitioned every hundred years or more for their rights and for the King to limit his jurisdiction over their lives. For example, the Grand Remonstrance listed a series of grievances against Charles I, from the beginning of his reign, explaining why he needed to answer for his actions. In drafting the Declarations & Resolves of Oct. 14, 1774 (series of petitions and resolutions to King Charles I and Parliament in response to the Intolerable Acts), the First Continental Congress adopted the same petition formats that the English used to their King to petition for the rights that were being violated. In drafting the formal Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson used the same format in order to condemn King Charles III and to make the case to a candid world why the people of the American colonies were seeking their political and legal separation from Great Britain. And so history lessons like this are so important because they serve to remind us that our system rests on a very distinguished history of standing up for liberty against tyranny and that the principles embedded in our documents are ones designed to withstand the abuses of those in power, in any branch. And that is why it is so important that those principles should not be taken for granted, maligned just because our fore-fathers were products of another era, or happened to own slaves or represented social norms of the day or happened to sneeze the wrong way, or “legislated” away from the bench by activist judges. Charles I was a miserable, ambitious King who, perhaps more than any other King of England, embraced the notion of the Divine Right of Kings and hid behind the artificial status it created. He quarreled with Parliament (the people’s body established by the Magna Carta to give them representation when it came to taxation) over taxes. He wanted more and more to finance his endless wars. When Parliament wouldn’t give him the funds he demanded, he merely dissolved the body. He did so three times from 1625-1629. When he dissolved Parliament in 1629, he resolved to rule alone and to get the money he needed. And so he raised revenue through non-Parliamentary means – including Ship Money (taxing those who lived along the coast). Most of these things helped to lead to his demise, which followed after he waged a civil war on Parliament itself, which he lost. Charles was tried, convicted, and executed for high treason by (a rump) Parliament in January 1649. He was beheaded. I point to Charles I because he was so abusive and dismissive of the rights of the people that the damage he did signaled the end of British system. After he was executed, Oliver Cromwell served as Lord Protector over England until his death in 1658. The monarchy was restored two years later, at which time, Charles II took the throne. He ruled until 1685 and when he died, his brother James II took the throne. He was deposed less than 3 years later. William and Mary were offered the throne and England got an official Bill of Rights at their coronation.

But one good thing came out of Charles’ reign. He cracked down quite heavily on the Puritans in England, and as a result, they emigrated (ultimately) to New England to found colonies based on religious liberty and eventually to establish the commonwealth of Massachusetts. The history of England is also one of religious tyranny and persecution, and no doubt provided the passion that certain Founders, such as Thomas Jefferson, had to secure religious freedom in the colonies.

England’s history is vital to our education because in her 600-year-or-so history, her people have stood up for their rights – rights they believed were fundamental and essential to their humanity and dignity – and in the end, their petitions, once merely requesting for the recognition of certain rights, became a Bill of Rights (1689), officially recognizing essential rights belonging to the individual that government was obligated to respect. While England does not have an official Constitution, per se, it considers a group of documents (including the English Bill of Rights) as being its “constitution” or governing document. But those documents, which represented the plight of the English for their rights to be free and to be free from government made it to the minds of our American Founders who then incorporated it into our nation’s founding documents. Our founding documents are superior to England’s because in this country, there is an “official” Constitution and an “official” Bill of Rights and both are predicated on something the English system is not – that government power originates from the individual. Those documents memorialize not only the formal recognition of inalienable individual rights, but they set important limits and boundaries on government. If you don’t think the English system of protest and petition didn’t work and if you don’t think it SHOULD be the model we embrace here – consider this: Each time the English people petitioned for their rights, those rights were enlarged, as mentioned above. Also consider this: The ability to have and bear arms originated as a “duty” in England, under the Militia laws. But after many years of the Crown confiscating guns and leaving England’s subjects undefended and vulnerable in the face of despotic Kings (willing to arrest and imprison them merely for political reasons or belonging to the wrong religion), that duty became a “right” in the English Bill of Rights. We have our Right to Have and Bear Arms (Second Amendment) because of the will and determination of the English people.

References:

“English and Colonial Roots of the US Bill of Rights – http://teachingamericanhistory.org/bor/roots-chart/

Virginia Ratifying Convention, Thursday, June 5, 1788 – http://www.constitution.org/rc/rat_va_04.htm

Federalist No. 6 (Alexander Hamilton), Avalon Project (Yale Law School) – http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/fed06.asp

“Liberty – The American Revolution” (3 disc, DVD set), PBS – https://shop.pbs.org/

The Petition of Right of 1628 – http://www.constitution.org/eng/petright.htm

The Grand Remonstrance of 1640 – http://www.constitution.org/eng/conpur043.htm

The English Bill of Rights of 1689 – http://avalon.law.yale.edu/17th_century/england.asp

Dr. Joe Wolverton II, “The Founding Fathers & the Classics,” The New American, September 20, 2004. Referenced at: https://21stcenturycicero.wordpress.com/tyrrany/the-founding-fathers-the-classics/

QUESTION: Was – Is – Secession Legal?

SECESSION - Map of North America after Confederacy was formed

by Diane Rufino, but based in large part on Leonard “Mike” Scruggs book THE UN-CIVIL WAR, January 19. 2018

On July 4, 1776, thirteen British colonies announced their secession from Great Britain and declared to the world their just reasons: “When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the Earth the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to separate.” (paragraph 1 of the Declaration of Independence)

The Declaration of Independence (second paragraph) goes on to say: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. –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….”

The Declaration then goes o to list numerous grievances against the British Crown and Parliament. Most of these have to do with the British Crown and Parliament usurping the powers of the colonial legislatures, but mention is made of the King keeping troops among the colonists in times of peace, quartering British troops, cutting off colonial trade with the rest of the world, taxing the colonists without their consent (representation), depriving colonists the benefits of trial by jury, arbitrarily dissolving colonial charters, inciting insurrection against the colonies (including among the unfriendly Indian tribes), and more. (Ironically, the one thing not mentioned among the list of 27 grievances was the disarming of the colonists and confiscation of their arms and ammunition – the one thing that inspired Patrick Henry to submit resolutions he’d written to the Virginia colonial legislature to build and train a militia from each county; “They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot?….. The war is inevitable–and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come. The war has actually begun. The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms. Our brethren are already in the field. Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?  I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”)  After the listing of the specific grievances, the Declaration emphasized that neither the King nor Parliament would listen to their complaints and pleas for relief. “In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”

In the closing paragraph, the signers declare that the colonies are “Free and Independent States.” This paragraph also contains the words “appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World” and “with firm Reliance on the Protection of divine Providence.”  Note that the United States of America were not formed into a single national state, but a confederation of independent and sovereign states.

Previous to the Declaration of Independence, both North Carolina (May 20, 1775) and Virginia (early 1776) had already declared their independence from Great Britain. North Carolina took the lead in calling for independence from Great Britain, and her state flag reflects the two historic dates on which she did so – May 20, 1775 and April 12, 1776. On May 20, 1775, a Charlotte government committee drafted the Mecklenburg Resolves which declared the residents of Mecklenburg County, NC independent of Great Britain:

Resolved, That we the citizens of Mecklenburg county, do hereby dissolve the political bands which have connected us to the Mother Country, and hereby absolve ourselves from all allegiance to the British Crown, and abjure all political connection, contract, or association, with that nation, who have wantonly trampled on our rights and liberties — and inhumanly shed the innocent blood of American patriots at Lexington.

Resolved, That we do hereby declare ourselves a free and independent people, are, and of right ought to be, a sovereign and self–governing Association, under the control of no power other than that of our God and the General Government of the Congress; to the maintenance of which independence, we solemnly pledge to each other, our mutual co-operation, our lives, our fortunes, and our most sacred honor.

Resolved, That as we now acknowledge the existence and control of no law or legal officer, civil or military, within this country, we do hereby ordain and adopt, as a rule of life, all, each and every of our former laws, wherein, nevertheless, the Crown of Great Britain never can be considered as holding rights, privileges, immunities, or authority therein.

On May 31, the Committee put the document in final form and adopted it. The updated document announced that all the colonies were independent of Great Britain:  “Whereas by an Address presented to his Majesty by both Houses of Parliament in February last, the American Colonies are declared to be in a State of actual Rebellion, we conceive that all Laws and Commissions confirmed by, or derived from the Authority of the King or Parliament, are annulled and vacated, and the former civil Constitution of these Colonies for the present wholly suspended. To provide in some Degree for the Exigencies of the County in the present alarming Period, we deem it proper and necessary to pass the following Resolves:  (1) That all Commissions, civil and military, heretofore granted by the Crown, to be exercised in these Colonies, are null and void, and the Constitution of each particular Colony wholly suspended……….”

The Resolves were delivered to the North Carolina delegation meeting at the Continental Congress with the hope that the entire Congress would vote and adopt it. The Congress felt the time was not right and did not take the matter up.

On April 12, 1776, the Fourth Provincial Congress, meeting in Halifax County, adopted the “Halifax Resolves,” which gave North Carolina’s delegates to the Continental Congress the authority to vote for independence. It was the first state to give such authority to its delegates.

On May 4, 1776, the colony of Rhode Island declared herself independent of Great Britain, and in late May – June, the Fifth Virginia Convention passed a series of resolutions rejecting all aspects of British authority and establishing a new form of independent government for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Richard Henry Lee, of Virginia, then urged the Continental Congress to follow Virginia’s (and North Carolina’s) lead.

On June 7, 1776, Lee introduced a resolution (the Lee Resolution) to the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia declaring independence, and John Adams seconded the motion.

Lee’s resolution declared “That these United Colonies are, and of right out to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved; that measures should be immediately taken for procuring the assistance of foreign powers, and a Confederation be formed to bind the colonies more closely together.”

The Continental Congress adopted the resolution, finally declaring independence for the 13 colonies, on July 2, but this day has been largely forgotten in favor of July 4, when the “formal” Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson, was adopted.

Clearly, the idea that a people could separate from a government that did not serve them, or in the worst case, had become tyrannical and abusive, was something the colonists believed was a natural right.

The right of self-determination for people seeking independence is firmly established in international law. With US backing, Panama seceded from Columbia in 1903. Norway seceded from Sweden in 1905. In the United States, the right of self-determination and therefore secession is supported by the precedence of the Declaration of Independence which declared our own secession from Great Britain.

While the Declaration of Independence is of immense importance as a founding document, it is the Constitution of 1787 and the Bill of Rights ratified in 1791 that are the official founding documents. The Constitution was made official by the approval of the people of each state acting independently in convention, not by the people of the United States in general. Nor did these states surrender their sovereignty to the United States. Only limited government powers were delegated to the Federal Government and every state reserved the right to withdraw these powers. In fact, three states – Rhode Island, Virginia, and New York – specifically stated in their ratifications that they reserved the right to withdraw. Other states had less strongly-worded reservations, but no state would have ratified the Constitution if they believed that in doing so they would be surrendering their newly-won independence.

When New York delegates met on July 26, 1788, their ratification document read, “That the Powers of Government may be resumed by the People, whensoever it shall become necessary to their Happiness; that every Power, Jurisdiction and right which is not by the said Constitution clearly delegated to the Congress of the United States, or the departments of the government thereof, remains to the People of the several States, or to their respective State Governments to whom they may have granted the same.”

On May 29, 1790, the Rhode Island delegates made a similar claim in their ratification document. “That the powers of government may be resumed by the people, whensoever it shall become necessary to their happiness: That the rights of the States respectively to nominate and appoint all State Officers, and every other power, jurisdiction and right, which is not by the said constitution clearly delegated to the Congress of the United States or to the departments of government thereof, remain to the people of the several states, or their respective State Governments to whom they may have granted the same.”

On June 26, 1788, Virginia’s elected delegates met to ratify the Constitution. In their ratification document, they said, “The People of Virginia declare and make known that the powers granted under the Constitution being derived from the People of the United States may be resumed by them whensoever the same shall be perverted to their injury or oppression and that every power not granted thereby remains with them and at their will.”

As demonstrated by the ratification documents of New York, Rhode Island and Virginia, they made it explicit that if the federal government perverted the delegated rights, they had the right to resume those rights. In fact, when the Union was being formed, where the states created the federal government, every state thought they had a right to secede, otherwise there would not have been a Union.

It was to guarantee the sovereignty of the states that the Ninth and Tenth Amendments were added to the Bill of Rights. The Tenth Amendment is a particularly straightforward restatement of the federal nature of the government established by the Constitution: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

Since the Constitution was ratified by sovereign states who desired to retain their sovereignty, the document is classified as a social compact. In essence, it is a contract and thereby its legality is guided by contract law, one of the oldest areas of law. The Constitution is a compact – a contract – between the individual sovereign states, which are the parties, to create the federal government (the creature, or if likening the compact to agency law, the government would be the agent) in order to carry out certain common functions for the states in order that the Union itself could be successful. In the case of Chisholm v. State of Georgia (1793), the Supreme Court expressly declared that the US Constitution is a compact. The right of withdrawal or secession is inherent in the basic document (ie, the right of secession “supersedes” the Constitution) and the Ninth and Tenth Amendments further establish it as a right retained or reserved to each state. It is the option of each state, not the federal government (merely the creature or agent), as to whether it shall remain in the Union or whether it will withdraw. The right of secession was almost universally accepted until Lincoln came up with a new theory of the Constitution – based on a treatise on the Constitution, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States, written in 1833 by then Supreme Court associate Justice Joseph Story. [It should be noted that Story’s treatise was highly criticized by leading constitutional experts of the day – including Henry St. George Tucker, Sr., John Randolph Tucker, Abel Parker Upshur, James Kent, and John C. Calhoun. Calhoun was revered as an expert on the Constitution and perhaps even more “Jeffersonian” than Jefferson himself.]

New Hampshire’s constitution of 1792 contains very strong words reserving its sovereign powers as a state. In 1798, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison circulated the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions among the states. These resolutions strongly supported the Doctrine of States Rights and thus also the right of secession. Together these resolutions became known as the “Principles of ’98.”

The Kentucky Resolution, the work of Thomas Jefferson, asserted States’ Rights in very strong terms: “If those who administer the general government be permitted to transgress the limits fixed by that compact, by a total disregard to the special delegations of power therein contained, annihilation of the state governments, and the erection upon their ruins, of a general consolidated government, will be the inevitable consequence: That the principle and construction contended for by sundry of the state legislatures, that the general government is the exclusive judge of the extent of the powers delegated to it, stop nothing short of despotism; since the discretion of those who administer the government, and not the constitution, would be the measure of their powers: That the several states who formed that instrument, being sovereign and independent, have the unquestionable right to judge of its infraction; and that a Nullification, by those sovereignties, of all unauthorized acts done under color of that instrument, is the rightful remedy….”  (Kentucky Resolutions or Kentucky Resolves of 1799)

The Virginia Resolution, the work of James Madison, asserted States Rights also in very strong terms; perhaps stronger: “That this Assembly doth explicitly and peremptorily declare, that it views the powers of the federal government, as resulting from the compact, to which the states are parties; as limited by the plain sense and intention of the instrument constituting the compact; as no further valid that they are authorized by the grants enumerated in that compact; and that in case of a deliberate, palpable, and dangerous exercise of other powers, not granted by the said compact, the states who are parties thereto, have the right, and are in duty bound, to Interpose for arresting the progress of the evil, and for maintaining within their respective limits, the authorities, rights and liberties appertaining to them.”  (Virginia Resolutions or Virginia Resolves of 1798)

The doctrines of Nullification, Interposition, and Secession are all rights reserved to the states under Natural Law (the Law of Nature and God’s Law) and by the US Constitution (both implicitly by the limited nature of the delegations of power to the federal government, and expressly by the Tenth Amendment). Furthermore, they are remedies available under contract theory (compact law).

None of the states disagreed with the “Principles of ‘98” (which, by the way, were articulated to resist the unconstitutional Alien & Sedition Acts, signed into law by President John Adams, which were gross violations of several of the Bill of Rights, but most notably the First Amendment).

The New England states threatened secession on five occasions: (1) In 1803 because they feared the Louisiana Purchase would dilute their political power; (2) In 1807 because the Embargo Act was unfavorable to their commerce; (3) In 1812, over the admission of Louisiana as a state; (4) In 1814 (the Hartford Convention) because of the War of 1812; and (5) In 1814, over the annexation of Texas (which had seceded from Mexico). Additionally, many New England abolitionists favored secession because the Constitution allowed slavery.  From 1803 to 1845, anytime that New England felt that their political power or commercial power might suffer, they threatened secession. Yet when the Southern states did the same, a war was initiated to force them to remain in the Union against their wishes.

As early as 1825, the right of secession was taught at West Point. William Rawle’s View of the Constitution, which was used as a text at West Point in 1825 and 1826 (and thereafter as a reference), specifically taught that secession was a right of each state. Rawle was a friend of both George Washington and Benjamin Franklin and his 1825 text was highly respected and used at many colleges. A subsequent text by James Kent maintained the same position and was used at West Point until the end of the war in 1865. Several Union and Confederate generals were at West Point during the time Rawle’s text was used. Rawle even spelled out the procedure for a state to secede, explaining: “The secession of a state from the Union depends on the will of the people of each state. The people alone… hold the power to alter their Constitution.”

The right of secession was very well-stated by none other than Congressman Abraham Lincoln himself in 1848: “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 and most sacred right, a right which we hope and believe is to liberate the world.”

That same year, Lincoln further stated: “Any people that can may revolutionized and make their own of so much territory as they inhabit.”

But in 1861, Lincoln adopted a view of secession more expedient to holding the Southern states in the Union against their will. He discovered the theory that Supreme Court associate Justice Joseph Story concocted in his 1833 Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States, asserting that there was an American nation in the minds of the people before the States were formed. This humbuggery had been strengthened by Daniel Webster’s eloquent but disingenuous and speeches to Congress, claiming that the Constitution was not a compact.

So, Lincoln characterized the orderly, democratic Secession Conventions of South Carolina and the Gulf States, conducted in accordance with Rawle’s treatise on the Constitution, and carried out step-by-step in the same manner as the states when they declared their independence from Great Britain and formed the United States of America, as a rebellion perpetrated by a small minority and proceeded on a path that every member of his Cabinet meant war.

As to the question of whether Secession is legal today, the answer is yes. Again, the right is an inherent and natural right, seared into our history by example (secession from Great Britain), implied by the very limited nature of the general government created by the Constitution and the limited powers delegated to it under that document, and expressly reserved to the states by the Tenth Amendment.  Lincoln’s government may have waged a war to somehow reclassify the nature of the conduct of the Southern states in 1860-61 (“rebellion” rather than secession) in order to force those states back into the Union, but its actions cannot change the fact that those states exercised a natural and inherent sovereign right. The Constitution was never amended to prohibit that right to a State and despite attempts to judicially remove it, as well requiring the Southern states to include such a prohibition in their amended state constitutions (in order for them to be “re-admitted” to the Union that Lincoln said they never left), such actions are merely exercises in futility; they are extra-constitutional actions that lack authority or power of enforcement. The right of a people of self-determination, as it applies to government, can never be legislated, decreed, or written away. It is an inalienable right, having its place among the other Laws of Nature and among God’s Law.

***  For an in-depth discussion on the topic of Social Compact, why the US Constitution is, in fact, a social compact, and the remedies naturally available to the parties of a compact (which in our case are the individual states), including the remedy of secession, please read by article “The Social Compact and Our Constitutional Republic,” which is the article preceding this one.

BOOK - The Un-Civil War (Mike Scruggs)

— This article is based, in good part, on Leonard “Mike” Scrugg’s book: THE UN-CIVIL WAR: SHATTERING THE HISTORICAL MYTHS (Chapter 6, Constitutional Issues and the Un-Civil War). The purpose of this article and the reason for relying so heavily on Mr. Scruggs’ book is to get the reader interested not only in the topic at hand but also to be motivated to purchase and read his most excellent book in its entirety and then to share the information with others!

References:

Leonard “Mike” Scrugg’s, THE UN-CIVIL WAR: SHATTERING THE HISTORICAL MYTHS (Chapter 6, Constitutional Issues and the Un-Civil War), 2011, Universal Media (Asheville, NC).

Walter Williams, “States Have a Historical Right to Secede,” Columbia Tribune, April 25, 2009. Referenced at: http://www.columbiatribune.com/02023ee6-5191-5fd7-85a8-b533bfab9c2e.html [The section on the Rhode Island, Virginia, and New York Resumption Clauses – included at the time that these states adopted the US Constitution – is taken entirely from Mr. Williams’ article]

The Social Compact and Our Constitutional Republic

CONSTITUTION - at the Philadalphia Convention

by Diane Rufino, Jan. 21, 2018 (first section only; other sections attributed to other authors)

I. INTRODUCTION

A Social Compact is an agreement, entered into by individuals, that creates some form of self-government and results in the formation of an organized society, the prime motive being the desire for protection and the performance of common functions to serve the community of individuals. To form an organized community, a surrender of some personal liberties is the trade-off.

Perhaps you may remember the Mayflower Compact from your days in grade school. You may remember that it was a document – you probably don’t remember what kind of document it was – that was drafted aboard the Mayflower, as it brought the Pilgrims to the shores of what would one day become Massachusetts. Well, the Mayflower Compact is actually quite significant. It was the first American document to establish a framework of self-government. It was perhaps the first the American Social Compact. The Compact was drafted by the Pilgrims as they sailed across the Atlantic and was signed on November 11, 1620 and became the governing document of Plymouth Colony.

I know that most people have never heard of the term “Social Compact” but I make the case here that this term is probably one of the most important terms to know and understand. The next American Revolution will be to wrestle power away from the federal government and to transfer it back to its rightful depositories, which are the States and the People themselves. The only way this will be possible is if the American people understand that the US Constitution is a social compact, was intended as such, was promoted as such, and was commonly referred to as such up until the end of the Civil War. All of the primary documents that explain the Constitution, refer to it, document its drafting, its adoption, and ratification characterize it as a “social compact.” Early Supreme Court decisions refer to it as a “social compact.” (See Chisholm v. Georgia, 1793; Calder v. Bull, 1798), and dozens of lower federal courts, as well as state courts, have done the same. When the colonies sought their independence from Great Britain, they articulated in the Declaration of Independence they believed that governments are products of social compacts (constitutions establish government authority, and set appropriate limits, all by the consent of the governed) and due to the “compact” or “contract” nature of that agreement, they had the right, under the Laws of Nature and God’s Law, to establish a new government, of their own design and suited to serve them accordingly (“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them….”)

Compact Theory, as will be discussed below, follows the same legal theories as contract law, which is one of the oldest areas of law. There are parties to a compact, there are assigned obligations and benefits, there are consequences for a breach, and there are remedies. In the case of the Constitution, the parties are the individual States. The government is NOT a party but is the creature – it being created by the Constitution. The federal government was “created” to serve the States – to perform those common functions that each state would have to perform alone but could be more efficient, more effective, and uniform, when performed for all. The federal government was created as an Agent for the States – against, to serve their interests, thus making it easy to form and remain together in the form of a Union (a “confederation” of sovereign states). Being the rightful parties to the compact (ie, the “contract”), the obligations and benefits are reserved to them only. The obligations are that each State delegate some their sovereign powers (listed in Article I) to the federal government for the good of the Union and respect that the federal government will govern supremely on those objects. And the benefits are those mentioned – the federal government would serve as the Agent, mainly providing safety and defense, dealing with foreign nations, ensuring regular commerce, and providing a common currency. A compact is a formal, and stable embodiment of the terms on which a group of people decide to live together in a community. It creates their government and represents the “consent of the governed.” The compact retains the same meaning and terms until the people agree to change it.

So, one benefit of a Social Compact is that the parties have a right and an expectation that the terms will remain the same. In the case of the Constitution, the government created is one of limited powers, with those powers expressly listed for each branch. All remaining government power is reserved to the States (both implied by the limited nature of the delegation of power and expressly by the Tenth Amendment). So when the federal government exceeds its powers under the Constitution and passes an unconstitutional law, establishes an unconstitutional policy, or renders an unconstitutional court “opinion,” the States, as the parties to the compact, have a RIGHT to ensure that the government exercises only those powers given it and to PREVENT such unconstitutional law, policy, or court opinion from being enforced on We the People. After all, when the government assumes powers not delegated to it, it naturally usurps them from their natural possessor, which is either the States or the People themselves.

James Madison explained this concept best, when he articulated the doctrines of Nullification and Interposition in his Virginia Resolves of 1798, which were written for the Virginia legislature in order to nullify the Alien & Sedition Acts, which were clearly unconstitutional, and prevent the residents of the state from being subject to them. The Virginia Resolves read: “That this Assembly doth explicitly and peremptorily declare, that it views the powers of the federal government, as resulting from the compact, to which the states are parties; as limited by the plain sense and intention of the instrument constituting the compact; as no further valid that they are authorized by the grants enumerated in that compact; and that in case of a deliberate, palpable, and dangerous exercise of other powers, not granted by the said compact, the states who are parties thereto, have the right, and are in duty bound, to interpose for arresting the progress of the evil, and for maintaining within their respective limits, the authorities, rights and liberties appertaining to them.” In his term “interpose,” he encompasses “nullification’ as well, which is the doctrine that says any law made without the proper authority (ie, an unconstitutional law) is automatically null and void and therefore unenforceable. Of course the federal government will never admit on its own that any of its actions are unconstitutional. It is up to the sovereign States to do that. In this manner, government can be kept in check.

It is Compact Theory that provides this level of protection against government tyranny for We the People.

Besides keeping the federal in check with regard to its rightful powers, States like South Carolina also believed it had the right to intervene when the government violated the basic nature and purpose of its being – to govern for the individual States equally; that is, not to operate government primarily for the benefit of certain States or certain regions over others.

When South Carolina, at the end of 1832, took strong action to oppose the high protective tariffs supported by Andrew Jackson’s administration, the Tariffs of Abomination (of 1828 and then 1832), which were exceedingly burdensome and crushing on the economy of the state, it looked to the compact nature of the Constitution for justification: On January 22, 1833, Senator John C. Calhoun, of South Carolina, submitted the following resolutions:—

Resolved, That the people of the several States composing these United States are united as parties to a constitutional compact, to which the people of each State acceded as a separate sovereign community, each binding itself by its own particular ratification; and that the union, of which the said compact is the bond, is a union between the States ratifying the same.

Resolved, That the people of the several States thus united by the constitutional compact, in forming that instrument, and in creating a general government to carry into effect the objects for which they were formed, delegated to that government, for that purpose, certain definite powers, to be exercised jointly, reserving, at the same time, each State to itself, the residuary mass of powers, to be exercised by its own separate government; and that whenever the general government assumes the exercise of powers not delegated by the compact, its acts are unauthorized, and are of no effect; and that the same government is not made the final judge of the powers delegated to it, since that would make its discretion, and not the Constitution, the measure of its powers; but that, as in all other cases of compact among sovereign parties, without any common judge, each has an equal right to judge for itself, as well of the infraction as of the mode and measure of redress.

Resolved, That the assertions, that the people of these United States, taken collectively as individuals, are now, or ever have been, united on the principle of the social compact, and, as such, are now formed into one nation or people, or that they have ever been so united in any one stage of their political existence; that the people of the several States composing the Union have not, as members thereof, retained their sovereignty; that the allegiance of their citizens has been transferred to the general government; that they have parted with the right of punishing treason through their respective State governments; and that they have not the right of judging in the last resort as to the extent of the powers reserved, and of consequence of those delegated,—are not only without foundation in truth, but are contrary to the most certain and plain historical facts, and the clearest deductions of reason; and that all exercise of power on the part of the general government, or any of its departments, claiming authority from such erroneous assumptions, must of necessity be unconstitutional,—must tend, directly and inevitably, to subvert the sovereignty of the States, to destroy the federal character of the Union, and to rear on its ruins a consolidated government, without constitutional check or limitation, and which must necessarily terminate in the loss of liberty itself.”

South Carolina, in convention on November 24, 1832, adopted an Ordinance of Nullification which protested the constitutionality of the tariffs and stated that it would not provide the federal government with said tariff revenue. This would become the so-called Nullification Crisis of 1832. President Jackson threatened to invade South Carolina with federal troops and collect the revenue by force, but a compromise tariff bill was quickly reached in Congress which averted the crisis and which eventually lowered the tariff to pre-1828 levels. Nullification worked !! It prevented government abuse on the people and businesses of Virginia. (The tariff was discriminatory on southern states, particularly South Carolina and the Gulf States; the North did not pay tariffs because of the items that had duties attached; the North manufactured those items – that’s why the tariff was a “protective” tariff… it protected the industries and products of the North !!!!)

Another benefit of characterizing the Constitution as a Social Compact is that if the compact is violated, the State, as a party, has the option to resume its powers. Actually, it has the option of resuming those powers even if there is no violation, but merely because the compact is frustrating its “happiness.” We know the States viewed the Constitution as a compact when they debated it in their ratifying conventions, because all used that term. And we know they believed they had the inherent right to resume the powers delegated because three states, Virginia, New York, and Rhode Island, explicitly included Resumption Clauses in their ratification decisions. They reserved the right to withdraw from the compact. Other states had less strongly-worded reservations, but no state would have ratified the Constitution if they believed that in doing so they would be surrendering their newly-won independence.

When New York delegates met on July 26, 1788, their ratification document read, “That the Powers of Government may be resumed by the People, whensoever it shall become necessary to their Happiness; that every Power, Jurisdiction and right which is not by the said Constitution clearly delegated to the Congress of the United States, or the departments of the government thereof, remains to the People of the several States, or to their respective State Governments to whom they may have granted the same.”

On May 29, 1790, the Rhode Island delegates made a similar claim in their ratification document. “That the powers of government may be resumed by the people, whensoever it shall become necessary to their happiness: That the rights of the States respectively to nominate and appoint all State Officers, and every other power, jurisdiction and right, which is not by the said constitution clearly delegated to the Congress of the United States or to the departments of government thereof, remain to the people of the several states, or their respective State Governments to whom they may have granted the same.”

On June 26, 1788, Virginia’s elected delegates met to ratify the Constitution. In their ratification document, they said, “The People of Virginia declare and make known that the powers granted under the Constitution being derived from the People of the United States may be resumed by them whensoever the same shall be perverted to their injury or oppression and that every power not granted thereby remains with them and at their will.”

The most extreme benefit of a Social Compact is the right of a State, as a party, to secede from the compact.

In adopting her “Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union,” on December 24, 1860, the Palmetto State explained her right to do so based on the compact nature of the Constitution.

“The people of the State of South Carolina, in Convention assembled, on the 26th day of April, A.D., 1852, declared that the frequent violations of the Constitution of the United States, by the Federal Government, and its encroachments upon the reserved rights of the States, fully justified this State in then withdrawing from the Federal Union; but in deference to the opinions and wishes of the other slaveholding States, she forbore at that time to exercise this right. Since that time, these encroachments have continued to increase, and further forbearance ceases to be a virtue.

And now the State of South Carolina having resumed her separate and equal place among nations, deems it due to herself, to the remaining United States of America, and to the nations of the world, that she should declare the immediate causes which have led to this act…….

The parties to whom this Constitution was submitted, were the several sovereign States; they were to agree or disagree, and when nine of them agreed the compact was to take effect among those concurring; and the General Government, as the common agent, was then invested with their authority.

If only nine of the thirteen States had concurred, the other four would have remained as they then were– separate, sovereign States, independent of any of the provisions of the Constitution. In fact, two of the States did not accede to the Constitution until long after it had gone into operation among the other eleven; and during that interval, they each exercised the functions of an independent nation.

By this Constitution, certain duties were imposed upon the several States, and the exercise of certain of their powers was restrained, which necessarily implied their continued existence as sovereign States. But to remove all doubt, an amendment was added, which declared that the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States, respectively, or to the people. On the 23d May , 1788, South Carolina, by a Convention of her People, passed an Ordinance assenting to this Constitution, and afterwards altered her own Constitution, to conform herself to the obligations she had undertaken.

Thus was established, by compact between the States, a Government with definite objects and powers, limited to the express words of the grant. This limitation left the whole remaining mass of power subject to the clause reserving it to the States or to the people, and rendered unnecessary any specification of reserved rights.

We maintain that in every compact between two or more parties, the obligation is mutual; that the failure of one of the contracting parties to perform a material part of the agreement, entirely releases the obligation of the other; and that where no arbiter is provided, each party is remitted to his own judgment to determine the fact of failure, with all its consequences.

In the present case, that fact is established with certainty. We assert that fourteen of the States have deliberately refused, for years past, to fulfill their constitutional obligations, and we refer to their own Statutes for the proof.

The Constitution of the United States, in its fourth Article, provides as follows: ‘No person held to service or labor in one State, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up, on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.’

This stipulation was so material to the compact, that without it that compact would not have been made. The greater number of the contracting parties held slaves, and they had previously evinced their estimate of the value of such a stipulation by making it a condition in the Ordinance for the government of the territory ceded by Virginia, which now composes the States north of the Ohio River.

We affirm that these ends for which this Government was instituted have been defeated, and the Government itself has been made destructive of them by the action of the non-slaveholding States. Those States have assume the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have permitted open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloign the property of the citizens of other States. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection.

For twenty-five years this agitation has been steadily increasing, until it has now secured to its aid the power of the common Government. Observing the forms of the Constitution, a sectional party has found within that Article establishing the Executive Department, the means of subverting the Constitution itself. A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the common Government, because he has declared that that ‘Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free,’ and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction.

The guaranties of the Constitution will then no longer exist; the equal rights of the States will be lost. The slaveholding States will no longer have the power of self-government, or self-protection, and the Federal Government will have become their enemy.”    [For the full Declaration, go to: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/19th_century/csa_scarsec.asp ]

Note that South Carolina’s real issue with the federal government was the tariff issue; it was the immediate issue. Lincoln promised to support a new protective tariff (which Buchanan has just signed it in his waning days) which would elevate the tariff to its highest levels ever. But legally, the federal government has the authority under the Constitution to erect such tariffs. South Carolina agreed to that authority in adopting the document and joining the Union. It very well could not try to make a legal argument for secession based on its opposition to the high discriminatory tariff. But the slavery issue is a constitutional issue. And it represented an actual, palpable breach of the compact which would justify its withdrawal from the union.

In adopting the Constitution, the states understood that they would be free to leave the Union, as situations dictated. After all, they left the Union established by the Articles of Confederation to establish a new Union under the Constitution. But that Union was different and only those states that adopted would be members of that new Union and bound by the Constitution. Article VII states that 9 states needed to ratify the Constitution in order for it to go into effect.

So, to recap, the particular benefits of a Social Compact lie in the remedies it provides the parties should the compact be violated, or breached. The consequences for a breach of the compact are simple: If a State breaches, the others, acting alone, can decide whether to consider the compact broken which then would allow it to be relieved of its obligations (ie, the State would no longer be bound by the Constitution). If the federal government attempts to assume powers not delegated to it, the States have a right, even an obligation, to identify that unconstitutional act and prevent its enforcement.

And an extreme remedy is always available – the right of rescission. Rescission is the right of one of the parties to rescind or cancel the contract for cause. It is the right of a party, if there are many parties, to withdraw from the agreement. This is the remedy of secession. The abrogation, or cancellation of a contract, or withdrawal or secession from a compact, is a remedy designed to restore the parties to the positions they would have been in if no contract or compact had ever been formed. As explained above, once a State decides to secede, it resumes all the powers it had delegated away and resumes its natural station under the Laws of Nature. It is then free to establish a new form of government that suits is purposes. As to the remaining States, they are free to remain in the compact, which at that point would be a new Union. That Union is free to remain on the same terms and under the same conditions.

The Constitution was roundly understood and recognized as a Social Compact up until the years leading to the Civil War. Again, all our founding documents and primary documents explaining the Constitution and referring to it characterize it as a Social Compact. But something happened in the years when South Carolina started to become contentious with regards to the high protective tariffs. The protective tariffs had became a hallmark of the Whig Party platform and then the Republican Party platform. Leading Whig (House Speaker, then Senator) Henry Clay initiated a new government plan to help businesses. It was called the “American System” and included protective tariffs and internal improvements. The money raised by high protective tariffs would be used not only to fund the government (about 1/3 of the revenue), but it would also go to the North, for internal improvements to further industrialize those states. In other words, the protective tariffs, according to the South (and particularly South Carolina, led by Senator John C. Calhoun), were nothing more than a government scheme to plunder the wealth of the South and transfer it to the North for its benefit. When the government realized that South Carolina was not playing along smoothly, was bucking the system, and was threatening to even leave the Union over the tariff situation (perhaps other Southern States would follow suit), and they had just causes under compact theory, suddenly the notion of the Constitution as a Social Compact became a liability. All of a sudden, political leaders began asserting that the Constitution was not a Social Compact, including Senator Daniel Webster and then Abraham Lincoln himself. Lincoln came up with a new theory of the Constitution – based on a treatise on the Constitution, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States, written in 1833 by then Supreme Court associate Justice Joseph Story. He would classify the Constitution as establishing a “perpetual Union” that the States had fully intended to create. [It should be noted that Story’s treatise was highly criticized by leading constitutional experts of the day – including Henry St. George Tucker, Sr., John Randolph Tucker, Abel Parker Upshur, James Kent, and John C. Calhoun. Calhoun was revered as an expert on the Constitution and perhaps even more “Jeffersonian” than Jefferson himself.] In 1833, after spending almost all of his life referring to the Constitution as a compact, leading politician and powerful orator (a “thundering” orator), Senator Webster took to the Senate floor and delivered a speech expressly denouncing the Constitution as a compact. [That speech, by the way, was given in response to the Resolutions introduced on Jan. 22 by Senator John Calhoun (shared earlier) to explain why South Carolina nullified the federal tariff].

It should be noted that years earlier, Senator Webster’s position was quite different: “But, sir, there is a compact, and no man pretends that the generation of today is not bound by the compacts of the fathers. A bargain broken on one side is a bargain broken on all; and the compact is binding upon the generation of today only if the other parties to the compact have kept their faith.” Works of Daniel Webster

If the Constitution is not characterized as a Social Compact, in total disregard of history and ignoring all of our historic documents, then we do not have the relationship between the government and the States, and the government and the People, as the States and our Founders intended. Liberty would not be safe. If is not a Social Compact, then the government is just one more group of people living in this broad general geographical territory. If we reject the status of the Constitution as a Social Compact, as liberals and progressives would like (because they favor a strong central government with plenary powers), then we must get used to the permanent notion that the federal government as the creature is more powerful than its creators. The powers “reserved to the States” would be usurped whenever the government deems it beneficial to do so. The powers surrendered to it by the States and by the People could not be resumed by them and the government would have total control over any object and over any individual or group it wishes. It would effectively mean the end to federalism – the only option left to limit the federal government. It would leave the States at the mercy of the intentions of DC politicians. The government would have a total monopoly over the meaning and scope of its powers (sorta like the monopoly it has now!) and our rights and the States’ rights would be exercised only at the good graces and designs of the federal government.

Lastly, if the Constitution is not characterized as a Social Compact, then the States do not have the remedies articulated earlier. Then the States truly have no option to secede and Lincoln’s Union will have become a reality – one that is perpetual. It will be perpetual because the government now has the right to seek its own longevity; under Compact theory, government only exists as long as it rightfully protects the rights of the individuals and serves them well.

II. DEFINITION & ORIGIN of the SOCIAL COMPACT (This section comes from: Martin Kelly, “The Social Compact,” ThoughtCo.)

The term “social contract” refers to the belief that the state exists only to serve the will of the people, who are the source of all political power enjoyed by the state. The people can choose to give or withhold this power. The idea of the social contract is one of the foundations of the American political system.

The term “social contract” can be found as far back as the writings of Plato. However, English philosopher Thomas Hobbes expanded on the idea when he wrote his classic, Leviathan, which was his philosophical response to the English Civil War. In the book, he wrote that in the earliest days there was no government. Instead, those who were the strongest could take control and use their power over others at any time. Hobbes’ theory was that the people mutually agreed to create a state, giving it only enough power to provide protection of their well-being. However, in Hobbes’ theory, once the power was given to the state, the people then relinquished any right to that power. In effect, that would be the price of the protection they sought.

Jean Jacques Rousseau and John Locke each took the social contract theory one step further. Rousseau wrote The Social Contract, or Principles of Political Right, in which he explained that the government is based on the idea of popular sovereignty. The essence of this idea is that the will of the people as a whole gives power and direction to the state. John Locke also based his political writings on the idea of the social contract. He stressed the role of the individual and the idea that in the ‘State of Nature,’ people are essentially free. However, they might decide to form a government to punish other individuals who go against the laws of nature and harm others.

It follows that if this government no longer protected each individual’s right to life, liberty, and property, then revolution was not just a right but an obligation.

The idea of the social contract had a huge impact on the Founding Fathers, especially Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. The U.S. Constitution itself starts with the three words, “We the people…” embodying this idea of popular sovereignty in the very beginning of this key document. Thus, government that is established by the free choice of its people is required to serve the people, who in the end have sovereignty, or supreme power to keep or get rid of that government.

III. THE SOCIAL COMPACT and CONSTITUTION REPUBLICS (This section comes entirely from the Constitution Society, 2007)

Between 1787 and 1791 the Framers of the U.S. Constitution established a system of government upon principles that had been discussed and partially implemented in many countries over the course of several centuries, but never before in such a pure and complete design, which we call a constitutional republic. Since then, the design has often been imitated, but important principles have often been ignored in those imitations, with the result that their governments fall short of being true republics or truly constitutional. Although these principles are discussed in civics books, the treatment of them there is often less than satisfactory. This section will attempt to remedy some of the deficiencies of those treatments.

The Social Contract and Government –

The fundamental basis for government and law in this system is the concept of the social contract, according to which human beings begin as individuals in a state of nature, and create a society by establishing a contract whereby they agree to live together in harmony for their mutual benefit, after which they are said to live in a state of society. This contract involves the retaining of certain natural rights, an acceptance of restrictions of certain liberties, the assumption of certain duties, and the pooling of certain powers to be exercised collectively.

The social contract is very simple. It has only two basic terms: (1) mutual defense of rights; and (2) mutual decision by deliberative assembly. There are no agents, no officials, that persist from one deliberative assembly to another. The duties of the social contract are militia. There may be customs that persist from assembly to assembly, such as customs for due notice, parliamentary procedure, judicial due process, and enforcement of court orders by militia. This second term could be called the constitution of society, but it precedes a constitution of government and should not be confused with it.

There is also a constitution of nature that precedes both the constitution of society and the constitution of government. It is also convenient to speak of a constitution of the dominion that follows the constitution of society and precedes the constitution of government. It arises after a society is created (by adopting the social contract), and after it acquires exclusive dominion over a well-defined territory. That is when we get things like a right to remain at and to return to one’s birthplace, which makes no sense for a society with no territory (such as nomads).

A constitution of government, such as the Constitution of 1787, is the next step in the development. It is to establish institutions, offices, procedures, duties, and structures that persist from one assembly to another that are not just customs. It is at that point that we begin to get things like laws, and paid agents and officials, whose jobs continue beyond transient assemblies. We also get taxes, standing armies, and professional law enforcers. Such pooled powers are generally exercised by delegating them to some members of the society to act as agents for the members of the society as a whole, and to do so within a framework of structure and procedures that is a government. No such government may exercise any powers not thus delegated to it, or do so in a way that is not consistent with established structures or procedures defined by a basic law which is called the constitution.

While it is possible in principle for such a constitution to consist entirely of a body of unwritten practices, traditions, court decisions, and long-established statutes, in practice no such basic order can be considered secure against confusion or corruption if it is not primarily based on a written document, which prescribes the structure, procedures, and delegated powers of government, and the retained rights of the people, and which is strictly interpreted according to the original intent of the framers.

Although in principle the procedures may allow for the direct adoption of legislation by vote of the people, this is both impractical and potentially dangerous, especially to the rights of minorities, so that it is generally best that most legislation require approval at some point in the legislative process by a deliberative assembly, a body of elected representatives rather than by direct popular vote, and that any such legislation be subject to judicial review, whereby legislation not consistent with the constitution can be voided. Such a form of government is called a republic, as distinct from a democracy, in which all legislation is adopted solely by direct popular vote. And if it operates under a well-designed constitution, it is a constitutional republic.

It is important that the deliberative assembly fairly represent all the competing interests of the people, so that the concerns of minorities can be weighed and not ignored. But fair representation is insufficient if deliberation is not effective in analyzing and anticipating all the consequences of any decisions that might be made. The consent of the majority should be necessary for action, but that consent should never be sufficient for action.

Origins of the Social Contract –

Critics of social contract theory argue that almost all persons grow up within an existing society, and therefore never have the choice of whether to enter into a social contract. Not having a choice, they say, makes any such contract void.

The original proponents of the social contract theory, John Locke, David Hume, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, answered these critics, but not in a way that is entirely satisfactory. To understand how the social contract comes about, we need to look at the kinds of contract that prevail during each stage in the development of a human being in society.

Each of us begins life under the terms of a special kind of social contract called a filial contract, between a child and his parents, and by extension to his siblings. That contract is established at the moment of bonding between parents and child following birth, and the terms of the contract are that the child will provide the parents certain pleasures that come with parenthood, particularly the satisfaction of helping to form a happy and admirable adult, and support for the parents in their later years, and in turn receives their love, support, guidance, and protection during childhood.

Although a filial contract can exist in a family that is isolated from any larger society, when the parents join a society, they pool their rights and duties as parents with other members of that society, and thereby become agents of the larger society in the raising of their own children, and accountable to that larger society for doing so properly.

As a child grows, it encounters other members of the larger society, usually beginning with other children. Whenever any two or more individuals meet with the understanding and expectation that they will live together in harmony and not fight with one another using any available means, they are establishing a social contract among themselves. In most cases they will be contracting with persons who have already established such a contract with still other persons, so that the terms of the contract are not only to live in harmony with those in direct contact, but also with all those with whom each of the parties is already engaged in a social contract, and by extension, to all others that those are in a social contract with, and so on. In other words, the social contract is transitive: if a is in a social contract with b, and b with c, then a is in a social contract with c. In this way each of us is bound under a social contract with all the other members of the society, most of whom we have never met.

As a person makes the transition from childhood to adulthood, his obligations change to match his abilities, and the filial contract gives way to the larger social contract and obligations to larger communities at the local, provincial, national, and global levels.

Of course, the social contracts of several societies may not extend to one another, giving rise to tribes or nations, whose members are bound by social contract within their membership, but are in a state of nature with respect to one another. If that state of nature involves active conflict, whether at the individual, tribal, or national level, it is said to be a state of war.

Breaches of the Social Contract —

Although the situation of there never having been a social contract is a fairly simple one, the situation of either deceiving another into thinking there is a social contract between them, or of entering into a social contract and then violating its terms, can be much more complicated, and much of law and government is concerned with dealing with such situations.

In his treatment of the subject, Locke tended to emphasize those violations of the social contract that are so serious that the social contract is entirely broken and the parties enter a state of war in which anything is permitted, including killing the violator. Today we would tend to place violations on a scale of seriousness, only the most extreme of which would permit killing. Some would even go so far as to exclude killing for any transgression, no matter how serious, but that extreme view is both unacceptable to most normal persons and subversive of the social contract itself, which ultimately depends not on mutual understanding and good will, but on a balanced distribution of physical power and the willingness to use it. Sustaining the social contract therefore depends in large part on so ordering the constitution and laws as to avoid unbalanced or excessive concentrations of power, whether in the public or the private sector.

Checks and Balances –

The framers of the U.S. Constitution addressed the problem of avoiding unbalanced or excessive concentrations of power in government by adopting a constitution in which legislative, executive, and judicial powers are largely divided among separate branches, with each having some power to check the abuses of the others. Legislative powers were further divided between two legislative bodies. Some powers were delegated to the central national government, which others were reserved to the component states or the people.

Around the end of the 19th century, however, it became increasingly apparent that excessive and unbalanced concentrations of power in the private sector could subvert the system of checks and balances in government, and the first anti-trust laws were passed to try to provide a check on those undue influences. Unfortunately, such legislation has not been entirely effective, and we now face a situation in which to an intolerable degree the real powers of government are being exercised not by constitutional bodies but by secret cabals based in the private sector but extending throughout government, cabals which are increasingly coherent and increasingly abusive of the rights of the people, including the right to have government be accountable to them and not to a power elite. The continued constitutional development of this society will therefore require the development of a new, more sophisticated system of checks and balances that extends throughout the private sector as well as the public and does not entirely rely on market forces.

Much of the abuse that has developed arises from the assumption by the national or central government of powers not delegated to it under the Constitution, and the erosion of the powers of the States with respect to that central government. Some of those powers are arguably best exercised by the central government, but without constitutional authority even the exercise of reasonable powers becomes an abuse and leads to an escalating cycle of abuses as more and more people resist such intrusions, creating a crisis of legitimacy not only for those unconstitutional activities but for the constitutional ones as well. If government is to be brought into compliance with the Constitution, then there will have to be a carefully planned program of repealing or overturning unconstitutional legislation and official acts, combined with a number of amendments that will provide the needed authority for legislation and acts which are best exercised by the central government, and the re- enactment of legislation based on such amendments. That will leave a difficult problem of dealing with all those actions conducted without constitutional authority before the amendments are adopted. Making the amendments retroactive is not permissible under constitutional principles, which exclude not only ex post facto laws but ex post facto amendments as well.

Of Rights Natural and Constitutional –

Under the theory of the social contract, those rights which the individual brings with him upon entering the social contract are natural, and those which arise out of the social contract are contractual. Those contractual rights arising out of the constitution are constitutional rights. However, natural rights are also constitutional rights.

The fundamental natural rights are life, liberty, and property. However, it is necessary to be somewhat more specific as to what these rights include. Therefore, constitution framers usually expand them into such rights as the right of speech and publication, the right to assemble peaceably, the right to keep and bear arms, the right to travel over public roadways, and so forth. The exercise of such natural rights may be restricted to the extent that they come into conflict with the exercise of the natural rights of other members of society, but only to the minimum degree needed to resolve such conflict.

Such natural rights are inalienable, meaning that a person cannot delegate them or give them away, even if he wants to do so. That means that no constitutional provision which delegated to government at any level the power to take away such rights would be valid, even if adopted as an amendment through a proper amendment process. Such rights apply to all levels of government, federal, state, or local. Their enumeration in the constitution does not establish them, it only recognizes them. Although they are restrictions on the power of government, the repeal of the provisions recognizing them would not remove the restrictions or allow the delegation of any power to deny them. The people do not have that power, and therefore cannot delegate it to government.

Yet constitutions recognize the power to deprive persons of their rights under due process of law. Strictly speaking, a person may not be deprived of such rights in the sense of taking them away. Natural rights are never lost. Their exercise can, however, be restricted or, to use the proper legal term, disabled. While some might question the practical distinction between losing a right and having it disabled, that distinction is important. A right which is disabled under due process may also be re- enabled by the removal of that disability, and the disability is removed if the social contract is broken and persons return to the state of nature.

Due process is not defined in the written U.S. Constitution, which points out the fact that the constitution consists not only of the written document itself, but the body of court precedents, legal definitions and traditions, and prevailing civic processes as of the date the written document was ratified, which is called pre-ratification Common Law. It also includes the commentaries and records of the debates of the framers and ratifiers insofar as they provide guidance on how to interpret the provisions of the written document. The constitution is further expanded to include the body of court precedents since ratification which interpret its provisions, called post-ratification common law, but only insofar as those court precedents are consistent with the written document, pre-ratification Common Law, and the original intent of its framers and ratifiers.

Certain rights, therefore, such as the rights of due process and the right to vote, are contractual. They have no meaning in a state of nature, only within the context of a civil society. And they are defined within Common Law rather than in the written Constitution.

Due process requires, among other things, that any disablement of a right be done only by a court of competent jurisdiction in response to a petition to do so, and after arguments and evidence are heard from all sides to support or refute the granting of such petition. The only rights which may be disabled by statute and without a specific court proceeding are the rights of majority, or adulthood. Common Law recognizes that persons are born with disabilities of minority, and constitutions and laws typically define some age at which those disabilities are removed, such as age 18 in the United States for purposes of voting, although it may allow for such disabilities to be removed earlier, or retained past the usual age of majority, upon petition to do so. Due process therefore requires that each and every right which is to be disabled be argued separately on its merits, and the ruling or sentence of the court explicitly disable each such right.

This requirement therefore comes into conflict with legislation which prescribes the disablement of certain rights for persons convicted of certain types of crimes, such as the right to vote or to keep and bear arms, without that disablement being made an explicit part of the sentence or the sentencing hearing. Such legislation must be considered unconstitutional, for even though there may be due process in the case which results in the explicit disablement of the rights to certain liberties or properties, those disablements are openly stated and argued, and the statutory inclusion of other disablements that are not made explicit or separately argued is a denial of due process.

Duties under the Social Contract –

While a constitution prescribes the legal rights of individuals and the powers of government, the social contract also includes certain duties which members assume upon entry. Those duties include the duty to avoid infringing on the rights of other members, to obey just laws, to comply with and help enforce just contracts, to serve on juries, and to defend the community.

It is important to recognize that although individuals have a right of self-defense in the state of nature, when they enter into society under the social contract, the pooling of that right transforms it into a duty to defend the community, and therefore to risk or sacrifice one’s life, liberty, or property if such defense should require it. The right of self-defense is no longer supreme, although it survives the transition to society as a duty to defend oneself as part of the community. Pacifism in the face of mortal danger to oneself or others is therefore not consistent with the social contract, and persons who insist on that position must be considered not to be members of society or entitled to its benefits, and if they live in the same country, have the status of resident aliens.

This duty implies not only individual action to defend the community, but the duty to do so in concert with others as an organized and trained militia. Since public officials may themselves pose a threat to the community, such militias may be subject to call-up by officials, but may not be subject to their control except insofar as they are acting in accordance with the constitution and laws pursuant thereto, and in defense of the community. Since any official designated to call up the militia may be an enemy of the constitution and laws, and may fail to issue a call-up when appropriate, militias must remain able to be called up by any credible person and independent of official control.

Another important duty is jury duty. Since officials may be corrupt or abusive or their power, grand jurors have the duty not only to bring an indictment upon evidence presented to it by a prosecutor, but to conduct their own investigations and if necessary, to appoint their own prosecutors to conduct a trial on the evidence. Petit jurors have the duty to not only follow the instructions of the judge to bring a verdict on the “facts” in a case, but to rule on all issues before the court, overriding the judge if necessary. No matter how despicable an accused defendant might be or how heinous his acts, they have the duty to find that accused not guilty if the court lacks jurisdiction, if the rights of the accused were seriously violated in the course of the investigation or trial, or if the law under which the accused is charged is misapplied to the case or is unconstitutional; and to find the law unconstitutional if it is in violation of the constitutional rights of the accused, if it is not based on any power delegated to the government, if it is unequally enforced, or if it is so vague that honest persons could disagree on how to obey or enforce it. Since most jury instructions now discourage petit juries from exercising that duty, almost all convictions brought by such juries in which there was an issue in law must be considered invalid, due to jury tampering by the court.

Governmental Powers and Duties –

Some critics of social contract theory argue that there are some powers of government that are not derived from powers of the people or delegated to the government by them. However, a careful analysis will show that all powers exercised by government derive either from the people as a whole, or from some subset of the people, or from one person, and that only the first are legitimate. The power to tax? Persons in the state of nature have the power to tax themselves, although they would not ordinarily think of it that way.

Most written constitutions prescribe the powers delegated to government, but are not always explicit about the duties. It is implied that the government has the duty to exercise its powers wisely and pursuant to the purposes of the social contract. But some persons argue that the power to act is also the power not to act. Could the government choose not to exercise its power to conduct elections, or to defend the country, or to maintain a sound currency, or to organize and train the militias of each state? No. Except in case of emergency, and only for the duration of the emergency, government must exercise the powers delegated to it according to their purposes to the best of its ability. That is its duty. Just as it is the duty of every member of society to exercise his or her powers in service of the community.

References: Ernest Barker, ed., Social Contract, Oxford U. Press, London, 1960. Contains the essays: John Locke, An Essay Concerning the True Original, Extent, and End of Civil Government; David Hume, Of the Original Contract; Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract.

James Madison, Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention. The definitive record of the proceedings of the Constitutional Convention of 1787.

James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, The Federalist.

Bernard Schwartz, The Roots of the Bill of Rights, Chelsea House, New York, 1980.

Leonard W. Levy, Original Intent and the Framers’ Constitution, 1988, Macmillan, New York. Scholar examines “original intent” doctrine and its alternatives.

Stephen P. Halbrook, That Every Man Be Armed, 1984, Independent Institute, 134 98th Av, Oakland, CA 94603.

Clarence Streit, Atlantic Union Now, 1962, Freedom & Union Press, Washington, DC.

**** The Constitution Society gives its permission for this last section (“The Social Compact & Constitutional Republics”) to be copied with attribution for noncommercial purposes.

This post includes a compilation of two previous works:
I. My original composition

II. The Intro about Social Compact: Martin Kelly, “The Social Compact,” ThoughtCo., June 26, 2017. Referenced at: https://www.thoughtco.com/social-contract-in-politics-105424

III. “The Social Compact & Constitutional Republics,” 2007 Constitution Society. http://www.constitution.org/soclcont.htm

Other Resource: “Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union” (The Avalon Project; Yale Law School) — http://avalon.law.yale.edu/19th_century/csa_scarsec.asp