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/

Advertisements

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]

Making Sense of the Meaning and Intent of the Second Amendment: It Isn’t Hard, Folks!

2nd amendment - there are no rights if you can't defend them

by Diane Rufino, May 24, 2017

“No free man shall be debarred (denied) the use of arms.” –  as proposed by Thomas Jefferson for Virginia’s Bill of Rights, 1776

The Federal Farmer (anti-Federalist author) in 1788: “To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms and be taught how to use them.”

Patrick Henry to the Virginia Convention to Ratify the US Constitution, in June 1788: “The great object is that every man be armed.”

At the same time it ratified the US Constitution in 1788, the New Hampshire Ratifying Convention proposed this amendment for the Bill of Rights: “Congress shall never disarm any citizen, unless such as are or have been in actual rebellion.”

The Federal Gazette, dated June 18, 1789, described James Madison’s proposal for a Bill of Rights: “The people are confirmed in their right to keep and bear their private arms.”

“We have found no historical evidence that the Second Amendment applies only to members of a select militia while on active duty. All the evidence indicates that the amendment, like other parts of the Bill of Rights, applies to and protects individual Americans.”   —  The Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit (2001)

INTRODUCTION –

The Second Amendment: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

For most of our nation’s history, the Supreme Court has essentially managed to avoid ruling on the meaning and intent of the Second Amendment and that worked out just fine. And that’s probably because for about 150 years, it apparently was universally understood that the amendment protected an individual right to arms rather than a right only when organized in a militia. It wasn’t until the 20th century that a legal debate began in earnest over the characterization of the right recognized in the Second Amendment.

Is the right to arms an individual right or a collective right?  Indeed, in the 20th century, federal courts have seemed confused on this question. Some embrace the historical model, which holds that the amendment recognizes the right of people, as individuals, to bear arms.  And others embrace the more radical model, the “collective rights” model, which holds that individuals have the right to arms but only when they are members of a militia.

The “collective rights” model was embraced in 1939 in a case called United States v. Miller.  The case arose after two men, Jack Miller and Frank Layton, were arrested for transporting a double-barrel 12-gauge shotgun across state lines and in interstate commerce. They were charged with violating the National Firearms Act (“NFA”).  Miller and Layton argued that the NFA violated their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms and therefore it was unconstitutional as it applied to them. The federal district court agreed and dismissed the case. The government appealed and it went to the Supreme Court. The issue at the heart of the case was whether the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to keep and bear arms. The Supreme Court concluded that it does not. It reasoned that because the possession of a sawed-off double barrel shotgun does not have a reasonable relationship to the functioning or efficiency of a well-regulated militia, the Second Amendment does not protect the possession of such an instrument.

Although the right to arms became an increasingly heated topic as the 20th century went on, the Supreme Court refused to hear cases to re-address the amendment.  And so, the Miller decision defined the position of the federal judiciary from 1939 for almost 70 years.  The Second Amendment did not recognize an individual’s right to have and bear arms for self-defense – only the defense of a State. But then in 2008 and then in 2010, the Supreme Court, with the late great Antonin Scalia on the bench, agreed to hear two cases, each addressing the same issue and each directly asking the Court to re-address the meaning and intent of the Second Amendment.  The 2008 case, District of Columbia v. Heller, addressed a federal gun control law, and the 2009 case, McDonald v. Chicago, addressed a state gun control law. [The first was a direct challenge to the Second Amendment and the second was a challenge under the incorporation clause of the Fourteenth Amendment].

In Heller, at issue was a gun ban in the District of Columbia (hence, it was a federal gun law) which regulated firearms in several ways: (1)  It made it illegal to carry an unregistered firearm; (2) It prohibited the registration of handguns; (3)  It required owners of lawfully-registered firearms to keep them unloaded and disassembled, even in the home, or bound by a trigger lock or other similar device unless the firearms were located in a place of business or being used for legal recreational activities.  Dick Anthony Heller was a D.C. special police officer who was authorized to carry a handgun while on duty. He applied for a one-year license for a handgun he wished to keep at home, but his application was denied, and so he brought suit to challenge the gun ban as violative of the Second Amendment.

The Supreme Court agreed with Officer Heller (5-4 majority, of course). It held that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.  Therefore, the ban on registering handguns and the requirement to keep guns in the home disassembled or nonfunctional with a trigger lock mechanism was inconsistent with the intent of the Second Amendment. Justice Antonin Scalia delivered the opinion.  The Court held that the first clause of the Second Amendment that references a “militia” is a prefatory clause that does not limit the operative clause of the Amendment. Additionally, the term “militia” should not be confined to those serving in the military, because at the time the term referred to all able-bodied men who were capable of being called to such service. To read the Amendment as limiting the right to bear arms only to those in a governed military force would be to create exactly the type of state-sponsored force against which the Amendment was meant to protect people. Because the text of the Amendment should be read in the manner that gives greatest effect to the plain meaning it would have had at the time it was written, the operative clause should be read to “guarantee an individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation.” This reading is also in line with legal writing of the time and subsequent scholarship. Therefore, banning handguns, an entire class of arms that is commonly used for protection purposes, and prohibiting firearms from being kept functional in the home, the area traditionally in need of protection, violates the Second Amendment.

The piece of legislation addressed in the McDonald case was Chicago’s gun registration law, which: (1) Prohibited the registration of handguns, thus effecting a broad handgun ban; (2) Requires that guns be registered prior to their acquisition by Chicago residents; (3) Mandated that guns be re-registered annually, with another payment of the fee; and (4) Rendered any gun permanently non-registrable if its registration lapses. 76-year-old Chicago resident Otis McDonald, a retired maintenance engineer, had lived in the Morgan Park neighborhood since buying a house there in 1971. He complained about the decline of his neighborhood, describing it as being taken over by gangs and drug dealers. His home and garage had been broken into five times. An experienced hunter, McDonald legally owned shotguns, but believed them too uncontrollable in the event of a robbery, and so he wanted to purchase a handgun for personal home defense. Due to Chicago’s requirement that all firearms in the city be registered, yet refusing all handgun registrations after 1982 when a city-wide handgun ban was passed, he was unable to legally own a handgun. So, he and some of his neighbors challenged the Chicago gun registration law as violative of the Second Amendment, as applied to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment. He didn’t believe that the Second Amendment was meant to leave him as a sitting duck – a potential victim – in his crime-ridden neighborhood.

The Supreme Court held that the Fourteenth Amendment makes the Second Amendment’ right to keep and bear arms for the purpose of self-defense applicable to the states. With Justice Samuel A. Alito writing for the majority, the Court reasoned that rights that are “fundamental to the Nation’s scheme of ordered liberty” or that are “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition” are appropriately applied to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment. The Court recognized in Heller that the right to self-defense was one such “fundamental” and “deeply rooted” right, and so, the Second Amendment’s protections and prohibitions apply to the States.

As you read the body of this article, consider what liberal justices Stephen G. Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Sonia Sotomayor argued in their dissent. They wrote that there is nothing in the Second Amendment’s “text, history, or underlying rationale” that characterizes it as a “fundamental right” warranting incorporation through the Fourteenth Amendment.  Keep that in mind.

Heller and McDonald were decided after a deep look into the historical roots of the Second Amendment, something that the Court should have done in the Miller case. The current understanding is that the Second Amendment recognizes and protects an individual’s right to arms for self-defense and equally recognizes the right to have and bear arms for the purpose of a state militia.

The opinion makes sense.  According to the Declaration of Independence, and natural law, we have the right to life and liberty. These rights are inherent with our humanity. They are inalienable. We never surrender them. Therefore, by extension (by corollary), we must have the right to defend them. In other words, the right to life, and liberty (and Property too) also implies the right to defend them. Otherwise, the rights are meaningless; there are merely parchment pronunciations.

The desire to live and survive is innate; we reflexively act to protect our lives and to thrive. And when we can’t, we feel violated. Just ask anyone who has been the victim of a violent crime, of a robbery, an assault, a break-in.  Ask someone who has the experience of a stranger breaking into their house in the middle of the night. I had that experience. And I have a gun today because I never want to feel helpless and vulnerable and the victim of predation again.

From a simple reading of the Bill of Rights, one notices that the First Amendment and the other amendments as well, address individual rights. If the Bill of Rights identifies individual rights – as did the Magna Carta and the English Bill of Rights – shouldn’t one sense pressure to view the Second Amendment similarly?

Historically, the “individual right” view is the best proven one, and so the Supreme Court rightly decided the Heller and McDonald cases.  But what is that history that so grounds our Second Amendment and so secures its meaning as an individual right?

The DVD “In Search of the Second Amendment” explains this history very clearly.

THE HISTORY of the SECOND AMENDMENT

[This section is lifted, in part, from the DVD “In Search of the Second Amendment (A Documentary),” produced and directed by David T. Hardy (2006)]

The 1930’s through the 1970’s was a time period when Americans were embracing their gun rights, but lawyers weren’t paying much attention to the Second Amendment – one way or another (that is, on either side of its interpretation).  There wasn’t much thought given to it. But as the years went on, there was growing evidence for the “individual right” view. Law reviews were publishing articles on the topic and books on the Constitution were taking notice of this meaning. Momentum was slowly building for a show-down in the Supreme Court to address this building consensus.

One of the leading Constitutional Law treatises of the later 20th century, American Constitutional Law, was written by Laurence Tribe, professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard Law School. His first edition was written in 1978. Attorney Leonard Levy wrote a subsequent book, Essays on the Making of the Constitution, in which he attacked Tribe’s textbook for failing to acknowledge the growing the evidence of the “individual right” view of the right to have a bear arms. Tribe immediately published a second edition accepting this evidence.

Why this growing trend?  And what does it mean for the Miller decision?  Did the Court at the time not have the evidence?  Before coming to the conclusion that the Second Amendment conferred only a collective right (although it appears they only alluded to this viewpoint without coming right out with a bright line rule of construction), didn’t they bother to go back and research the amendment’s history?

What got the ball rolling towards the “individual right” point of view?  One article appears to be responsible. The recent boom in Second Amendment legal scholarship that has led to most constitutional scholars to accept the view that the amendment protects an individual’s right to have and bear arms began with an article by Don Kates, published in the Michigan Law Review. That article was titled “Handgun Prohibition and the Original Meaning of the Second Amendment.’ [http://www.constitution.org/2ll/2ndschol/57mich.pdf].

Top legal scholars, many of which are liberal, such as Sandy Levinson (of the University of Texas, writing in the Yale Law Journal), Randy Barnett (Boston University School of Law), Bill Van Alstyne (Duke University), and Eugene (Professor at the UCLA School of Law) have made it clear that their research has led them to conclude that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to have arms.

The history behind the Second Amendment goes back well before the colonies were even settled. It goes back to the very history of the fore-fathers and founders of our country. It goes back to the history of England, the country that gave us so much of our common law, gave us our Bill of Rights, and gave us much of the foundation upon which we built our Declaration, our Constitution, and our system of government.

In medieval England, there was no royal army. There wasn’t enough money or control to have such a formal army. Instead, the King would have to count on his subjects to fight for him – to fight for the kingdom. And so, by law, the King established a citizen militia.  By law – the Militia laws – every male subject, beginning at a certain age, was required to own guns, have ammunition, be trained in their use, and show up for regular training sessions. Citizens could be called up at any time by the King to form the militia and so they had to always be in a state of readiness.  Henry VIII lowered the age of the males required to be trained to use guns. Under his rule, fathers were required to train their sons from age 7 and older in the use of firearms. “Bring them up in shooting!”

In 1688, a medieval “duty” to have and bear arms became an “indubitable right.”  How did this happen?   Dr. Joyce Malcolm, Patrick Henry Professor of Constitutional Law and the Second Amendment at George Mason University School of Law and fellow of the Royal Historical Society, is an expert on this topic. She has been called “the leading historian on the history of English gun rights and English gun control.” Malcolm explains that gun ownership transformed into a “right” during the tumultuous 17th century in England, and for understandable reasons. The transformation arose out of a conflict between King Charles I and Parliament. Eventually, in 1642, civil war broke out and members of Parliament, led by Oliver Cromwell, brought charges against Charles. He was captured, tried for treason, and beheaded. His sons, the future King Charles II and King James II had fled to France at the time.

After Cromwell died and his son took over, rather than stability in England, there was mass chaos. The people, out of sheer desperation, asked Charles II to come back to England, assert his right to the throne, and rule, which he did.  But what did Charles come home to?  He returned to a country that turned on his father; a country that beheaded him. He also returned to a country that was very well-armed. Almost immediately, he sought to disarm the subjects and control the bearing of arms. He instituted serious gun control measures, both on individuals and on manufacturers. Gun manufacturers had to report to the King how many guns they manufactured each week and who purchased them. There were controls on the importing of guns, licenses were required for subjects who needed to move weapons around the countryside, and subjects had to report if they were traveling with a firearm. In the year 1660, King Charles II issued a series of orders to disarm those citizens that he deemed were – or would be – political opponents. One particular act that Parliament passed, in 1662, was especially repugnant. It was the Militia Act of 1662 and it gave militia officers the power to disarm anyone they believed was likely to be an opponent of the Crown.  And at first, the Act was actively enforced.  In 1671, Parliament passed the Game Act, which proved to be the greatest control over ownership of firearms that England ever had. The Game Act listed a whole host of weapons that were prohibited for hunting, and at the head of that list was guns !!

Charles II died and having produced no heirs, he was succeeded by his brother James. King James II would use the Game Act to try to disarm all those subjects who he deemed were not well-enough off. In other words, he tried to limit gun ownership to only those of a certain class of subjects. He sent out mass orders to disarm the citizenry.  According to the record, Dr. Malcolm explains, the orders were apparently not carried out.  But the actions of the King to disarm his subjects certainly arose concern and fear among the people of England.

And so, finally in 1688, the English people had had enough. They, together with a union of Parliamentarians, invited William and Mary, of Orange to take over the throne and depose King James II. Mary was the daughter of the king. The people promised they would oust James and offer no resistance to William and Mary if they agreed to sign a Bill of Rights acknowledging the rights of the people and promised to be held to that document. William and Mary agreed. They sailed from Orange and were met with the support of the citizenry, in what would be known as the “Bloodless Revolution” (or Glorious Revolution). James was forced to flee.  A new Parliament was formed (one not loyal to James, who was still alive) and this Parliament decided that a Bill of Rights was necessary to re-affirm all the rights that had been imperiled by James.  In order to tie the new King and Queen to an obligation to abide by these rights, the same statue that elevated William and Mary to the throne also contained those rights – The Charter of Rights – The Charter of Ancient and Indubitable Rights.”  In fact, this Bill of Rights of 1689 was referred to as “The new Magna Carta.”  The statue created a contractual obligation, one that tied the right of the King and Queen to rule to an obligation to respect the rights contained in the Charter.

One of those rights was the right of British subjects (“who are Protestants”) to have arms for their defense (self-defense) “suitable to their position and allowed by law.”

Arms seizure weighed heavily during the deliberations in Parliament as it drafted the Bill of Rights of 1689. So incensed that the people, in mass, had been targeted for arms confiscation under the Militia Act (and even some members of Parliament had been targeted), that the people and Parliament felt that the “duty” to have and bear arms was actually a “right.” The ability to arm oneself for self-defense was considered a right.

Indeed, by 1688, and enshrined in the Bill of Rights of 1689, the duty to be armed became a right. One of the rights of Englishmen became the right to have arms for self-defense.

Between 1603 and 1776, the rights of Englishmen became the rights of Americans.

When the first three ships arrived in the New World, in what would become the commonwealth of Virginia, the English settlers encountered hostile French and Dutch settlers as well as hostile Indians. Because of this hostile environment, the arms laws were even stricter than the English ones. English colonists were required to have arms on them at all times and they were required to be trained in their use. “Every male inhabitant shall carry a firearm wherever he goes.”  As the colonies were settled, one by one, they established their state militias. They drew from their knowledge of the militia system in England to develop their own military forces. The resulting colonial militia laws required every able-bodied male citizen to participate and to provide his own arms. For example, in the colony of Virginia, in 1623, the Virginia General Assembly commanded, “that men go not to work in the ground without their arms; That no man go or send abroad without a sufficient partie well-armed.” In 1661, its Governor, William Berkeley stated, “All our freemen are bound to be trained every month in their particular counties.”  Virginia followed the British county lieutenant system; each county had a lieutenant, appointed as the county’s chief militia officer.

Yes, it was a “duty” to have and bear arms, in order to serve in the militia and help defend the colony, but apart from this duty, the colonists knew, as loyal British subjects (which they were and which they considered themselves), they also had the right to own them and to bear them.  For confirmation, they only needed to consult the second most popular book of the day (the first being the Bible), Blackstone’s treatise on the English common law, “Commentaries on the Laws of England” (1765).

In Blackstone’s “Commentaries on the Laws of England,” he addressed the right to arms:

“The fifth and last auxiliary right of the subject that I shall at the moment mention, is that of having arms for their defense – suitable to their condition and degree, and as such as are allowed by law. It is indeed a public allowance, of the natural right of resistance and self-preservation, when the sanctions of society and law are found insufficient to restrain violence of oppression.”

Blackstone says clearly that the right is not only for defense and for protection, but it is also to resist tyranny. The main purpose of the right to bear arms is to resist tyranny – in order that the people in the community, together and with their firearms, could overthrow a dictatorship in the last resort, should none of the other checks and balances work.

By the mid 1760’s, tensions were growing increasingly high particularly in the colonies, and in Boston in particular. It wasn’t long before the redcoats arrived, to live among the people of Boston and to make sure that they stayed “in line.” With the Redcoats came acts of criminality – rapes, robberies, murder.  The Boston Gazette published articles warning the colonists that they would soon be disarmed and should they “act out,” they would be taken to England and tried for treason. The colonists began to arm themselves – first to defend themselves against the criminal tendencies of the soldiers and also because it seemed likely that the tensions would escalate into conflict.  They cited the English Bill of Rights, the Militia Acts of the colonies, and even Blackstone’s “Commentaries” for their right to arm themselves.  “It is beyond sophistry to prove (meaning, it is clearly fallacious) that British subjects, to whom the privilege of necessary arms is expressly recognized by the [English] Bill of Rights, and who live in a province were the law requires them to be equipped with arms, are guilty of illegal acts in calling upon one another to be provided with them – as the law directs!”

Citing Blackstone, the colonists understood the reason they were vested with the right to bear arms: “It is a natural right, which the people have reserved to themselves, confirmed by the [English] Bill of Rights, to keep arms for their own defense; and as a Blackstone observer, it is to be made use of when the sanctions of society and law are found insufficient to restrain the violence of oppression.”

Tensions soon escalated and a series of events followed.  Under the Intolerable Acts, the colonial legislature in Boston was abolished and King George III sent General Thomas Gage, a proven military commander at the time, there to serve as the Royal Governor. British spies tipped off General Gage that the colonists were stockpiling ammunition and artillery at nearby Concord. On the night of April 18, 1775, Gage sent a column of soldiers to Concord to destroy the supplies. Their trip led them through Lexington, where they encountered a small group of colonial militiamen. A shot went off (no one knows how it happened), but the response was immediate. Shots rang out and armed conflict between England and Massachusetts had begun. The revolution had begun. British forces drew first blood.

Despite the skirmish, the troops continued to Concord where they found the ammunition and where they also found several thousand angry townsfolk. The troops proceeded to burn the stockpile but from the vantage point of the townsfolk, it looked like they were attempting to burn down the town. And so, the townsfolk opened fire on the troops, forcing them to retreat. As they were retreating the 15 miles or so back to Boston, more and more members of the militia turned out to fire upon them. The British soldiers suffered over 300 casualties. Not only did they draw first blood, but they were defeated.

The fighting, however, was not to be contained in Massachusetts. In Williamsburg, Virginia, the colonists built an armory to store their gunpowder. Late during the night of April 20, 1775, royal governor Dunmore ordered British sailors to raid the armory and to take the gunpowder back aboard their ships. Dunmore allowed this even as statesmen such as Patrick Henry and William Henry Lee and other Virginians were already pushing to revive the state militia – to put into execution the militia law that was passed in the year 1738 – and to put them in the posture of defense (that is, to prepare them to defend the State against the British).

Just a month prior to that event, there was a general alarm that was spreading among the colonies – fueled, no doubt, by men like Patrick Henry and Thomas Paine – that the British were removing gunpowder from the public stock in order to render the colonists unable to resist the Crown. Clearly, as was done in Boston, England was intent on disarming them – just as King Charles II had done to his subjects approximately 100 years ago in the mother country. The King (George III) was not depriving them of their right of representation in Parliament this time (no taxation without representation); now he was stripping them of their right to bear arms for defense.

Only a handful of statesmen recognized what was happening and what its significance was. Patrick Henry was one. It was this general alarm, this general fear that England was coming to disarm the colonists, that prompted him, on the night of March 23 at St. John’s Church to propose three resolutions to raise, equip and prepare the militia for conflict.

His resolutions read simply:

Resolved, that a well-regulated militia composed of gentlemen and yeomen is the natural strength and only security of a free government; that such a militia in this colony would forever render it unnecessary for the mother country to keep among us, for the purpose of our defense, any standing army of mercenary forces, always subversive of the quiet, and dangerous to the liberties of the people, and would obviate the pretext of taxing us for their support.

That the establishment of such a militia is at this time peculiarly necessary, by the state of our laws for the protection and defence of the country some of which have already expired, and others will shortly do so; and that the known remissness of government in calling us together in a legislative capacity renders it too insecure in this time of danger and distress, to rely that opportunity will be given of renewing them in General Assembly or making any provision to secure our inestimable rights and liberties from those farther violations with which they are threatened.

Resolved therefore, that this colony be immediately put into a posture of defence: and that Patrick Henry, Richard Henry Lee, Robert Carter Nicholas, Benjamin Harrison, Lemuel Riddick, George Washington, Adam Stephen, Andrew Lewis, William Christian, Edmund Pendleton, Thomas Jefferson and Isaac Zane, Esquires, be a committee to prepare a plan for the embodying arming and disciplining such a number of men as may be sufficient for that purpose.

Perhaps the most rousing speech delivered in colonial America was by Patrick Henry and it was in support of these resolutions:  [As you read the speech, consider the circumstances to which he is speaking, and keeping in mind that men like Henry, Thomas Jefferson, Lee, Washington were keenly aware of the history of the people England, the continued struggle to assert their rights, to seek assurances, to have them violated, and only to have to try to re-assert them again, and again…..]

“The question before the House is one of awful moment to this country. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfil the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offence, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the majesty of heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.

Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.

I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided; and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years, to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves, and the House? Is it that insidious smile with which our petition has been lately received? Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss. Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our petition comports with these war-like preparations which cover our waters and darken our land. Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation? Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled, that force must be called in to win back our love? Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are the implements of war and subjugation; the last arguments to which kings resort. I ask, gentlemen, sir, what means this martial array, if its purpose be not to force us to submission? Can gentlemen assign any other possible motive for it? Has Great Britain any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies? No, sir, she has none. They are meant for us; they can be meant for no other. They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the British ministry have been so long forging. And what have we to oppose to them? Shall we try argument? Sir, we have been trying that for the last ten years. Have we anything new to offer upon the subject? Nothing. We have held the subject up in every light of which it is capable; but it has been all in vain. Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication? What terms shall we find which have not been already exhausted? Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves. Sir, we have done everything that could be done, to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and Parliament. Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne. In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free² if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending²if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained, we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of Hosts is all that is left us!

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? Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. Three millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations; and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.

Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace but there is no peace. The war is 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? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”

With the raid on the armory at Williamsburg, thus confirming Patrick Henry’s worst fears, the most powerful colony in the South (Virginia) was driven into an alliance with the most powerful colony in the North (Massachusetts).  The Boston Revolution soon became an American Revolution.

Thus, the American revolution started over our RIGHT to keep and bear arms. Tensions between the colonies and Great Britain may have started over the right not to be taxed without representation in Parliament (the body from which such taxing measures arose), but the actual revolution itself erupted over the actions of the Crown to disarm the people.

In 1775, the colonies called up the First Continental Congress to seek a peaceful resolution of the growing tensions. That Congress sent a series of petitions to the King to implore him to intercede on their behalf and recognize that their rights were being violated. He laughed at the petitions and likened the colonist to petulant little children who liked to throw fits. [Patrick Henry referenced this effort in his fiery speech at St. John’s: “We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and Parliament. Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne.”]  In 1776, the colonies called up the Second Continental Congress to manage the war effort against the British. General George Washington was put over the Continental Army and on July 4, 1776, the Congress signed the Declaration of Independence, declaring the colonies to be independent from Great Britain and articulating to a “candid world” the list of grievances against Great Britain which would support and justify its decision to separate.

Once the colonies proclaimed their independence, the strongest sign they could send to demonstrate that independence was to assume statehood and adopt state constitutions (the signs of sovereignty).  And so, each colony organized itself as a state and drafted and adopted a constitution. Most also adopted a Bill of Rights, in one form or another.

Different states provided different models for the right to bear arms. In 1776, George Mason went to work on the Virginia Declaration of Rights. He introduced the enumerated rights with a statement of nature’s law and a statement of the relationship of individuals and government, in general.  He wrote:

THAT all men are by nature equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.

That all power is vested in, and consequently derived from, the people; that magistrates are their trustees and servants, and at all times amenable to them.

That government is, or ought to be, instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security, of the people, nation, or community; of all the various modes and forms of government that is best, which is capable of producing the greatest degree of happiness and safety, and is most effectually secured against the danger of mal-administration; and that whenever any government shall be found inadequate or contrary to these purposes, a majority of the community hath an indubitable, unalienable, and indefeasible right, to reform, alter, or abolish it, in such manner as shall be judged most conducive to the public weal.

Then he addressed the right to arms:

That a well-regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defense of a free state; that standing armies, in time of peace, should be avoided, as dangerous to liberty….

The Virginia Declaration of Rights was adopted June 12, 1776.

Thomas Jefferson submitted a draft of a Bill of Rights to be taken up at the upcoming convention (to draft a constitution for the first government of the “united” states, which as we know, was the Articles of Confederation). He wrote: “No free man shall be debarred the use of arms.”

The Pennsylvania Bill of Rights, adopted in September 1776, recognized a right to bear arms for both self-defense and in defense of the State.

  1. That all men are born equally free, and independent; and have certain, natural, inherent, and inalienable rights; amongst which are; the enjoying and defending of life and liberty; acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.

XIII. That the people have a right to bear arms for the defense of themselves and the state.

In March 1780, Massachusetts adopted its Constitution and Bill of Rights, written by John Adams. It acknowledged a right to keep and bear arms, but added that it was for “the common good.”  The MA Bill of Rights read, in part:

The end of the institution, maintenance and administration of government, is to secure the existence of the body-politic; to protect it; and to furnish the individuals who compose it, with the power of enjoying, in safety and tranquility, their natural rights, and the blessings of life: And whenever these great objects are not obtained, the people have a right to alter the government, and to take measures necessary for their safety, prosperity and happiness.

The body-politic is formed by a voluntary association of individuals: It is a social compact, by which the whole people covenants with each citizen, and each citizen with the whole people, that all shall be governed by certain laws for the common good.

Part the First. A Declaration of the Rights of the Inhabitants of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Art. I.  All men are born free and equal, and have certain natural, essential, and unalienable rights; among which may be reckoned the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties; that of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property; in fine, that of seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness.

XVII.  The people have a right to keep and to bear arms for the common defense.

Looking at these three Constitutions and Bills of Right, we can see that there were at least three (3) colonial models to address the right to arms.

Again, to compare and contrast them concisely, addressing them in the order they were adopted:

(1)  The Virginia model emphasizes the militia.  “A well-regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defense of a free state…”

(2)  The Pennsylvania model doesn’t mention militia; it emphases self-defense and defense of the State.  “The people have a right to bear arms for the defense of themselves and the State.”

(3)  The Massachusetts model took the Pennsylvania approach, but added a limitation in the form of the clause “for the common defense, and added the people also have a right to “keep” arms.  “The people have a right to keep and bear arms for the common defense.”

These models would become important when our new nation would look to draft a national Bill of Rights.

And that time came in 1787, when after certain leading state leaders – namely, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton – found the Articles of Confederation unworkable for the growing union and took the initiative to call up a new constitutional convention. The Convention was held in Philadelphia from May to September 1787 and rather than heed the constitutional call of the Convention to “amend” the Articles of Confederation, a brand new plan of government was pursued and a brand new Constitution was drafted. Although the delegates from 12 states labored through the hot summer months of that year, engaged in countless debates, and pursued and negotiated through many contentious issues, in the end the final draft, the US Constitution, was not acceptable to many of the delegates. Seven delegates to the Convention walked out and refused to sign it on the last day – September 20, including Virginia’s George Mason. These delegates either complained that it conferred too much power to the federal government (mainly, an unlimited power to tax and spent, and to raise an army) or that it lacked a Bill of Rights, or both. Many of those who did not sign it were anti-Federalists, those who feared a weakening of the States at the hands of the federal government.

Nevertheless, once the Constitution was signed, it went to the States, which, acting in their own conventions, would take up the issue of ratification. If they ratified the Constitution, they would become part of the Union of States and if they didn’t, they would not.  Delaware ratified first, by a unanimous vote. Then came Pennsylvania, New Jersey (unanimous vote), Georgia (unanimous vote), and Connecticut (overwhelmingly). In January 1788, Massachusetts called its convention. Samuel Adams, who, although he did not attend the Philadelphia Convention, attended the ratifying convention. Assessing the Constitution, he addressed the Convention:

“And that the said Constitution be never construed to authorize Congress to infringe the just liberty of the press, or the rights of conscience, or to prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceful citizens, from keeping their own arms, or to raise standing armies, unless necessary for the defense of the United States or of one or more of them, or to prevent the people from petitioning, in a peaceable and orderly manner, the federal legislature, for a redress of grievances, or to subject the people to unreasonable searches and seizures of their persons, papers, or possessions.”

Samuel Adams is the strongest unsung hero of the Second Amendment. His writings on the right to have and bear arms goes back many years, even before his days in the Sons of Liberty.

Next, Maryland ratified the Constitution (overwhelmingly), then South Carolina, and finally New Hampshire (narrowly).  When New Hampshire ratified in June 1788, it became the ninth state to do so.  According to Article VII of the Constitution, the Constitution would go into effect when 9 states ratified. And so, the new Union was born.

But this new Union was still terribly fractured.  Virginia, New York, North Carolina, and Rhode Island still hadn’t decided. Actually, North Carolina met in Convention on August 2, 1788 but quickly rejected the Constitution (193-75). It agreed to meet again; it was waiting to see what the other States did regarding a Bill of Rights.

When New Hampshire ratified the Constitution on June 21, 1788, the Virginia Convention was actually still going on. It was contentious. Virginia, New York, and North Carolina were not expected to ratify, and the issue was over a Bill of Rights, which James Madison had argued in Philadelphia was not necessary. George Mason and Edmund Pendleton, two of the delegates from Virginia at the Philadelphia Convention who would not sign the Constitution, were now delegates at the Virginia Ratifying Convention and were committed to preventing the document from being ratified. These men, and many others, were already calling for another Constitutional Convention – particularly George Mason, and he had the potential power to move the plan forward. Mason and Pendleton were joined in sentiment at the Convention by Patrick Henry, who was highly skeptical of the Constitution and was confident it would lead to the consolidation of the states under the federal government.

At issue at the Virginia Ratifying Convention was essentially the concerns of the anti-Federalists, which was that the Constitution lacked a Bill of Rights (and that the government tended to be overly-ambitious and powerful).  The Virginia view, in general, was that a Bill of Rights is the very least that a government owes to its people. Mason argued for a Bill of Rights, and of course, any Bill of Rights worth its salt would have to include a right to bear arms. Patrick Henry told the Convention: “The great object is that every man be armed!”

In the end, a compromise was reached.  James Madison promised that if the Virginia delegation would ratify the Constitution in the Convention he would recommend to the first US Congress that a Bill of Rights be added, as a series of amendments. Madison was known to be a trustworthy man and so, the Constitution was narrowly ratified on June 25 (89-79). However, the Virginia delegation did not merely ratify; in anticipation of a national Bill of Rights, it also proposed and drafted a series of amendments for consideration.

“Resolved, that, previous to the ratification of the new Constitution of government recommended by the late federal Convention, a declaration of rights, asserting, and securing from encroachment, the great principles of civil and religious liberty, and the unalienable rights of the people, together with amendments to the most exceptionable parts of the said Constitution of government, ought to be referred by this Convention to the other states in the American confederacy for their consideration”

When the Virginia delegation went back to write the amendments they would recommend, they looked to the Massachusetts and the Pennsylvania models, in addition to their own model.  The language that they came up with is as follows: “That the people have a right to keep and bear arms; that a well-regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defense of a free state.”

The right to bear arms for defense of oneself and the State comes from the Pennsylvania model. The right to keep and bear arms comes from the Massachusetts model.  By removing express limitations (such as “for the common good” or other qualifiers that might be later construed to limit the right (“for defense of themselves and the State”), the first part of the proposed amendment construes the right to arms in its broadest terms. The second part of the proposed amendment comes from the Virginia model and addresses the militia. The Virginia delegation already believed it was expressed in its broadest terms.

So, the Second Amendment is actually two separate thoughts. The intentional, conscious effort was to express the right to arms in the broadest terms possible, to be understood in its broadest sense.

The New York Convention followed. It wrapped up on July 26, one month after the Virginia Convention. It was another contentious convention. As in Virginia, it was a battle between anti-Federalists and Federalists.  On the anti-Federalist side, the words of the Federal Farmer (possibly Richard Henry Lee) were invoked: “To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms and be taught how to use them.”  Daniel Webster, for the Federalists, answered: “Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed, as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword because the whole body of the people are armed and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be raised in the United States.”  [to paraphrase: Because of the fact that the people are armed and therefore superior to any troops raised by the United States, they can prevent the execution of any law they perceive not to be just and constitutional].

The debates in New York led to the most famous work on the meaning and intent of the Constitution – the Federalist Papers.  In fact, Madison addresses the militia (and a standing army) in Federalist No. 46.  He wrote: “The people will never have to worry about a standing army because of the state militias.”

The New York Convention very narrowly ratified the Constitution (30-27). But as Virginia did, it called for a Bill of Rights and provided several for consideration.  North Carolina went on to ratify, but only because a Bill of Rights has actually been adopted!  And then Rhode Island ratified after that.

The Constitution was adopted on June 12, 1788 when the ninth state, New Hampshire ratified it. Fall 1788 saw the first national elections and as expected, James Madison was elected to the House of Representatives. In the months after the election and before taking his seat in Congress, which was in New York City at the time), Madison sat at his home in Montpelier and drafted a Bill of Rights. He drew from the proposed amendments that were submitted by the states.  He planned to bring them with him to the first session of Congress and present them, thus making good on his promise. He drafted twelve amendments.

On June 8, 1789, Madison stood up in the House of Representatives and proposed what would become the federal Bill of Rights. His proposed Second Amendment read: “The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; a well-armed and well-regulated militia being the best security of a free country; but no person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms shall be compelled to render military service in person.”

The first Congress amended Madison’s proposal; it removed the language concerning the conscientious-objector.  Then a committee was formed – a drafting committee – consisting of Madison himself and Roger Sherman, an anti-Federalist, to provide the final draft. The final draft of the Second Amendment was a pared-down version which read: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

In the debates in the Senate on the proposed Bill of Rights, a motion was made to insert into the Second Amendment the words “for the common defense” next to the words “bear arms.”  It was rejected !!

On September 25, 1789, Congress approved the amendments (all 12 of them) and then they were sent to the states.

James Madison’s friend, Tench Coxe, of Philadelphia, provided the most comprehensive analysis of the Second Amendment in a publication under the pen name “The Pennsylvanian.” It was printed in all the states.  He wrote: “As civil rulers, not having their duty to the people duly before them, may attempt to tyrannize, and as the military forces which might be occasionally called to defend our country, might pervert their power to the injury of their fellow citizens, the people are confirmed by the next article [the Second Amendment] in their right to keep and bear their private arms.”

The Bill of Rights was ratified on December 15, 1791.

All the leading commentators of the day saw the right to bear arms as an individual right, including  US Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story (1811-1845), who was the leading constitutional expert and commentator during the early-mid 20th century, Michigan Supreme Court Justice Thomas Cooley (1864-1885), the leading constitutional commentator at the end of the 19th century, and Sir William Blackstone, the leading English commentator who was very influential on our founders and framers.

St. George Tucker, who first gained fame as a Revolutionary War hero from Virginia, became famous again for writing a very famous treatise. In 1803, he wrote a 5-volume set, being characterized as the American version of Blackstone’s “Commentaries.”  It was titled: Blackstone’s Commentaries, with Notes of Reference to the Constitution & Laws of the Federal Government of the United States & of the Commonwealth of Virginia.  Tucker was seen as the best source and authority on the original intent and early interpretation of the US Constitution until about 1825, and his work has been cited by the US Supreme Court over forty times. For those looking to understand the meaning and intent of the Constitution at the time it was adopted and as it served our first sessions of government, it would be interesting to read Tucker’s volumes.

Tucker wrote about Blackstone’s exposition on the right to arms as it existed in the English law and explained how it applied to the United States. Tucker wrote: “’The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.’ This amendment is without any qualification as to their condition or degree, as in the case of the British government.”

He went on to elaborate even further:  Explaining the scope of the amendment, he wrote: “This [the Second Amendment] may be considered the true palladium of liberty…  The right of the self-defense is the first law of nature; in most governments, it has been the study of rulers to confine this right within the narrowest limits possible. Wherever standing armies are kept up, and the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any color or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, then liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction.”

In 1825, Tucker’s treatise was replaced by the text written by William Rawle – A View of the Constitution of the United States of America. Regarding the Second Amendment, Rawle wrote in his book: “No clause in the Constitution could by any rule of construction be conceived to give to Congress a power to disarm the people..”  [Rawle was part of the convention in Pennsylvania that ratified the US Bill of Rights; he was offered the position of first US Attorney General but turned it down].

The most influential constitutional commentator of the late 19th century and early 20th century was Thomas Cooley. He was considered the greatest legal mind of the time. He wrote the text: The General Principles of Constitutional Law in the United States of America.  In his text, he explains exactly what the right is that is protected in the Second Amendment: “It may be supposed from the phraseology of this provision that the right to keep and bear arms was only guaranteed to the militia, but this would be an interpretation not warranted by the intent. The militia, as has been elsewhere explained, consists of those persons who, under the law, are liable to the performance of military duty, and are officered and enrolled for service when called upon. But the law may make provision for the enrollment of all who are fit to perform military duty, or of a small number only, or it may wholly omit to make any provision at all; and if the right were limited to those enrolled, the purpose of this guaranty might be defeated altogether by the actions or neglect to act of the government it was meant to hold in check. The meaning of the provision undoubtedly is that the people, from whom the militia must be taken, shall have the right to keep and bear arms, and that they need no permission or regulation of law for the purpose…”

Professor Randy Burnett of Boston University’s School of Law sums up the history of the Second Amendment this way: “What is shown by the historical record is that we have statements made before the second amendment was proposed, while the second amendment was being considered, and immediately after the second amendment was ratified, each of which reflects the understanding of the speaker that the amendment protects an individual right to have and bear arms.  What we don’t have – what we don’t find in the historical record is a single example of any contemporary at the time of the second amendment referring to it as anything other than an individual right.”

Professor Eugene Volokh, of the UCLA School of Law, comments: “Throughout the 1700’s, throughout the 1800’s, and up until the early 1900’s, the right to bear arms was universally seen as an individual right. There was virtually no authority for the collective rights/ states’ right point of view.” (States right to call a militia, that is).

But yet, in the late 20th century and now in the 21st century, somehow this history means nothing?

“The Second Amendment is a right held by States and does not protect the possession of a weapon by a private citizen.”  — The Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit (2000)

“The right to keep and bear arms is meant solely to protect the right of the States to keep and maintain an armed militia.”   — The Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit (1996)

The conservatives on the bench in the Heller case and then in the McDonald case got it right. They chose to be intellectually honest.

References:

DVD:  “In Search of the Second Amendment (A Documentary),” produced and directed by David T. Hardy (2006).  Second Amendment Films LLC

United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939)

District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008)

McDonald v. Chicago, 561 US 742 (2010)

Don B. Kates, Jr.  “Handgun Prohibition and the Original Meaning of the Second Amendment,” 82 Michigan Law Review (MICH. L. REV.) 204-273 (1983).    Referenced:  http://www.constitution.org/2ll/2ndschol/57mich.pdf

Resolutions of the Provincial Congress of Virginia (Patrick Henry) regarding the militia, March 23, 1775 – http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/res_cong_va_1775.asp

George Mason, the Virginia Declaration of Rights.  Referenced at:  http://www.history.org/almanack/life/politics/varights.cfm

Virginia’s Ratification of the Constitution, Elliott’s Debates (June 25, 1788) –  http://teachingamericanhistory.org/ratification/elliot/vol3/june25/

The proposed amendments to the Bill of Rights submitted by the State of Virginia (June 27, 1788) –  http://teachingamericanhistory.org/ratification/elliot/vol3/june27/

Teaching American History (an Intereactive Resource) –  http://teachingamericanhistory.org/ratification/overview/

ELECTION 2016: Exercise Your Right to Protest

trump-rally-oct-26-2016-trump-sign

by Diane Rufino, October 27, 2016

Donald Trump should appeal to all those who identify as independent and who wish to break from the strict, disinterested, controlling 2-party system. All those who are fed up being controlled and railroaded by the self-interested 2-Party system should exercise their First Amendment right of protest by voting for Donald Trump!

On June 5, 1788, Patrick Henry warned his fellow Virginia delegates (assembled in convention to consider the ratification of the US Constitution) that the constitution would eventually lead to an unfortunate transition from a confederacy (group of strong, sovereign states, which is what the States had wanted and intended) to a consolidated central government – one surely capable of tyranny and oppression. He said:

“It is radical in this transition; our rights and privileges are endangered, and the sovereignty of the states will be relinquished: and cannot we plainly see that this is actually the case? The rights of conscience, trial by jury, liberty of the press, all your immunities and franchises, all pretensions to human rights and privileges, are rendered insecure, if not lost, by this change, so loudly talked of by some, and inconsiderately by others. Is this tame relinquishment of rights worthy of freemen? Is it worthy of that manly fortitude that ought to characterize republicans? It is said eight states have adopted this plan. I declare that if twelve states and a half had adopted it, I would, with manly firmness, and in spite of an erring world, reject it. [The States] should not be inquiring how to improve trade or how Americans can become a more powerful people. The question the People [in their state conventions] should inquire about any government is how their liberties can be secured; for liberty ought to be the direct end of your government. Liberty, the greatest of all earthly blessing — give us that precious jewel, and you may take everything else!

I am convinced the new government is fraught with many dangers. It will eventually and effectually oppress and ruin the people.”

Patrick Henry was perhaps our most liberty-minded Founding Father.  He was the conscience of our founding generation, ever reminding them of their right to be free and to be free from an overly ambitious government.  On the evening of March 23, 1775 in what is now called St. John’s Church in Richmond, he addressed members of a convention called to address the actions of the British against the colonies (particularly, against Massachusetts with the Intolerable Acts). He warned that the British were coming to confiscate their guns and ammunition and then would unleash the military on them. He spoke these inspiring words: “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?… Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

The system of government and the corrupted 2-Party system that hold us hostage in this country and subjugate our interests to the interests of government are the very definition of TYRANNY and OPPRESSION. If we don’t use this opportunity to elect an outsider – a man not bought for and controlled by special interests – Donald Trump, we may find ourselves in a position, as Patrick Henry warned, without a position to regain our liberties and our beloved country.

We have been deceived far too long. VOTE FOR DONALD TRUMP and EXERCISE YOUR RIGHT TO PROTEST.

trump-no-more-bullshit

 

Impending Federal Gun Control Laws or Confiscation: States Don’t Fail Us Now !

NULLIFICATION - Gun Control (Clint Eastwood)

       by Diane Rufino, October 4, 2015

Obama Wants our Guns and It’s Time for the States to Make Clear: “We Will Not Comply…. We Will Nullify!”

Obama appears to be intent on burdening the second amendment – a fundamental and essential right of a free people.

The States need to decide where they stand: Either they will protect its people or the country is exactly what Abraham Lincoln envisioned – a country where the states are irrelevant and the federal government reigns absolutely supreme.

The States (and the local sheriffs) are the last line of defense between a rogue federal government and the People. The federal government appears to become more unhinged from the Constitution with each passing day and this should scare everyone. The need to erect lines of protection becomes ever more urgent. And this is where the States and sheriffs need to step in. They need to make clear that they will NULLIFY and INTERPOSE should the federal government attempt to infringe the right of the people to have and bear arms. We know what will be right around the corner should that happen… We only need to look at what happened to the unfortunate people of totalitarian regimes whose leaders confiscated guns. In this country, Patrick Henry explained it better than anyone else. A people who can’t defend themselves cannot assert their rights against the government and are therefore doomed to surrender them.

In 1775, after the British Crown and Parliament set out to punish the colonies for their “rebellious spirit” in frustrating its taxation schemes and its conduct in tossing tea overboard in Boston Harbor in protest of the monopoly established by the Tea Act by imposing the series of laws known as the Coercive Acts (unaffectionately referred to as the “Intolerable Acts” by the colonists), the colonies sought to appeal King George III to interpose on their behalf and end the arbitrary and oppressive treatment of them.

In September 1774, the First Continental Congress met in Philadelphia to address the colonies’ collective response to the Intolerable Acts. On October 25, it drafted a respectful response to the King, which would be known as the “Declarations and Resolves” and delegates were then dispatched to present them to him in person. Despite the anger that the colonies felt towards Great Britain after Parliament enacted the Coercive Acts, our first Congress was still willing to assert its loyalty to the king. In return for this loyalty, Congress asked the king to address and resolve the specific grievances of the colonies; in particular, it asked that the Acts be repealed. The petition, written by Continental Congressman John Dickinson, laid out what Congress felt was undo oppression of the colonies by the British Parliament. King George would ignore the Declarations and Resolves and rather, he would use them to mock the colonies. He laughed, claiming that while they publicly pledged their loyalty to him, they were probably preparing for armed revolution. He found them ingenuous and not very clever.

[Approximately eight months after the Declarations were presented to King George and without any response, on July 6, 1775, the Second Continental Congress adopted a resolution entitled “Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms.” On October 27, 1775 that King George appeared before both houses of the Parliament to address his concern about the increased rebellious nature of the colonies. He described the colonies as being in a state of rebellion, which he viewed as a traitorous action against himself and Britain. He began his speech by reading a “Proclamation of Rebellion” and urged Parliament to move quickly to end the revolt and bring order to the colonies. With that, he gave Parliament his consent to dispatch troops to use against his own subjects – the very people who looked to him for respect and protection].

On March 23, 1775, Patrick Henry attended a meeting of the Second Virginia Convention, with a very important issue he intended to address. It would be the second convention held after the Royal Governor of Virginia dissolved the colonial legislature, the House of Burgesses, for its solidarity with Massachusetts (after Parliament closed the port of Boston as punishment for the Boston Tea Party). The House of Burgesses would continue to meet, albeit in secret, but would operate in convention (These would serve as Virginia’s revolutionary provisional government).

While he knew the King had ignored the respectful petition by the First Continental Congress and had continued to treat them without the reserved rights afforded all English subjects, Henry could not know for sure that he would authorize military action against them. But he certainly saw it coming.

As tensions were mounting between Great Britain and the colonies, the Second Virginia Convention convened in secret at St. John’s Church in Richmond to discuss the Old Dominion’s strategy in negotiating with the Crown. The roughly 120 delegates who filed into Richmond’s St. John’s Church were a veritable “Who’s Who” of Virginia’s colonial leaders – George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Richard Henry Lee, and Patrick Henry, a well-respected lawyer and orator. Henry had long held a reputation as one of Virginia’s most vocal opponents of England’s oppressive taxation schemes. During the Stamp Act controversy in 1765, he bordered on treasonous activity when he delivered a speech in which he hinted that King George risked meeting the same fate as Julius Caesar if he maintained his oppressive policies. As a recent delegate to the Continental Congress, he resounded Ben Franklin’s call for colonial solidarity by proclaiming, “The distinctions between Virginians, Pennsylvanians, New Yorkers and New Englanders are no more. I am not a Virginian; I am an American.”

Henry was convinced that war was around the corner. And he arrived at the Virginia Convention determined to persuade his fellow delegates to adopt a defensive stance against Great Britain. On that fateful evening of March 23, he put forward a resolution proposing that Virginia’s counties raise militiamen “to secure our inestimable rights and liberties, from those further violations with which they are threatened.” The suggestion of forming a colonial militia was not shocking in itself. After all, other colonies had already passed similar resolutions and had begun forming militias. And Henry himself had already taken it upon himself to raise a volunteer outfit in his home county of Hanover. Nevertheless, his proposal was not met with the approval he had hoped for. Many in the audience were skeptical at approving any measure that might be viewed as combative. Britain, after all, was the strongest military power in the world. They still held out hope for a peaceful reconciliation.

After several delegates had spoken on the issue, Patrick Henry rose from his seat in the third pew and took the floor. A Baptist minister who was present that evening would later describe him as having “an unearthly fire burning in his eye.” Just what happened next has long been a subject of debate. Henry spoke without notes, and no transcripts of his exact words have survived to today. The only known version of his remarks was reconstructed in the early 1800s by William Wirt, a biographer who corresponded with several men that attended the Convention. According to this version, Henry began by stating his intention to “speak forth my sentiments freely” before launching into an eloquent warning against appeasing the Crown.

I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.

Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation?

I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves and the House. Is it that insidious smile with which our petition has been lately received? Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss. Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our petition comports with those warlike preparations which cover our waters and darken our land. Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation? Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled that force must be called in to win back our love? Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are the implements of war and subjugation; the last arguments to which kings resort. I ask gentlemen, sir, what means this martial array, if its purpose be not to force us to submission? Can gentlemen assign any other possible motive for it? Has Great Britain any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies? No, sir, she has none. They are meant for us: they can be meant for no other. They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the British ministry have been so long forging. And what have we to oppose to them? Shall we try argument? Sir, we have been trying that for the last ten years. Have we anything new to offer upon the subject? Nothing. We have held the subject up in every light of which it is capable; but it has been all in vain. Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication? What terms shall we find which have not been already exhausted? Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves. Sir, we have done everything that could be done to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and Parliament. Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne! In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free– if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending–if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained–we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts is all that is left us!

They tell us, sir, that we are weak and 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? Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us……. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged!

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace– but there is no peace. The war is actually begun…… Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

Less than a month later, shots would be fired at Lexington and Concord. The war that Henry saw coming had finally begun.

Patrick Henry had the intuition to understand that a leader “whose character is thus marked by every act which defines a tyrant” cannot be trusted to allow his people to enjoy the freedom that they petition for. And when push comes to shove, the more they demand it, the more oppressive his response would be. And thus, since that leader, King George III, was considered to be unfit to be the ruler of a free people, in the mind of Patrick Henry, if he indeed decided to use force to subjugate the people of Virginia should be prepared with a force of their own to defend their liberty. Henry would later refer to Liberty as “that precious gem.”

A leader “whose character is thus marked by every act which defines a tyrant is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”

Americans still consider themselves a free people. And Americans still want to believe their government believes in their right to be so. But the one problem is that most Americans believe their “government” to be the federal government. A people who understand the foundations and underpinnings of liberty and freedom know that the federal government is not their government but rather their state government is their government. The federal government primarily serves the states, or at least, it was intended that way. Yet for limited objects, expressly defined in Article I, Section 8, its legislation can touch the people.

It is the state government, and not the federal government, that can protect an individual’s inalienable liberties. Which government in recent years has shown disregard for the fundamental rights of the People – federal or state? Which government has enacted the largest tax increase in our nation’s history? Which government has denied people the fundamental right to manage their healthcare? Which government has ignored immigration laws and attempted to fundamentally change the character of the nation illegally? Which government has demanded that marriage laws (based on natural criteria in place for thousands of years) be fundamentally altered? And which government has poised itself for years now to restrain the people in their right to have and bear arms? Again, a government “whose character is thus marked by every act which defines a tyrant is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”

The American states, after fighting and winning a costly war for their independence, had to decide on the best form of government to embrace the values they proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence. They asserted the same rights that the British held dear and which they fought to defend, spanning hundreds of years, but their task was to secure them more firmly so that their posterity – “millions yet unborn and generations to come” (from the anti-Federalist paper, Brutus I) – would enjoy the same degree of freedom. They didn’t want Americans to endure the same tortured history as the British, who enjoyed freedom under benevolent kings but oppression and even death under tyrants. Freedom, according to Thomas Jefferson, including as alluded to in the Declaration of Independence, was the right to be free from an aggressive or oppressive government. To that end, the government established by the Constitution of 1787, with powers limited in DC and balanced by the bulk of powers retained by the states, with its separation of powers and elaborate system of checks and balances, with its week judicial branch, and with a Bill of Rights, was believed to provide the best system to preserve the rights they fought for. Furthermore, in America, rights are understood to be inalienable, endowed by our Creator. In Britain, on the other hand, rights are those generously granted by government. Rights were only those limitations on government that Kings recognized by a signature on a charter.

The US Bill of Rights, modeled after the English Bill of Rights of 1689, exists to protect the individual against the government. Included in our Bill of Rights are the rights to be free from a national religion, the right to the free exercise of one’s religion and the rights of conscience. It includes the right of free speech, the right of assembly, the right to a free press, the right to petition the government, the right to have and bear arms, the right to be free in one’s home, papers, and effects from unreasonable searches and seizures, the right to a jury trial, various rights of a person accused of a crime, the right not to have one’s property arbitrarily confiscated by the government, the right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment, and others.

The second amendment is currently under unrelenting attack by our current administration, with Obama leading the charge. Just two days ago, he spoke not only about the need for gun control but hinted about possible confiscation. When Obama spoke in reaction to the heinous October 1 attack on Umpqua Community College, in Oregon, he went beyond his usual calls for more gun control and suggested instead that the United States consider following the path taken by Australia and Great Britain.

In the mid-1990s Australia and Great Britain both instituted complete bans on firearm possession. And Obama referenced those bans: “We know that other countries, in response to one mass shooting, have been able to craft laws that almost eliminate mass shootings. Friends of ours, allies of ours – Great Britain, Australia, countries like ours. So we know there are ways to prevent it.”

What Obama didn’t clarify is that Australia has no constitution nor does it have a Bill of Rights. The rights of the people are not absolute. Great Britain, which also does not have a constitution, per se, does protect gun rights to some degree in its Bill of Rights of 1689. That document allowed for Protestant citizenry to “have Arms for their Defense suitable to their conditions and as allowed by law,” and restricted the right of the English Crown to have a standing army or to interfere with Protestants’ right to bear arms “when Papists were both armed and employed contrary to Law.” It also established that regulating the right to bear arms was one of the powers of Parliament and not of the monarch. Thus, the right was not absolute and it was clearly articulated as such. In fact, Sir William Blackstone wrote in his Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765) about the right to have arms being auxiliary to the “natural right of resistance and self-preservation,” but subject to suitability and allowance by law.

As Mark Levin explained: “The second amendment isn’t in the Bill of Rights to protect you in your hunting rights. The second amendment isn’t there to protect you in your sports-shooting rights. The second amendment was added to the Constitution to protect you against a centralized government. The militia part of the second amendment underscores this point. The point is that the states can maintain militias to protect the states from an oppressive tyrannical central government. I don’t mean to be provocative, but that’s just history. That’s why we have the second amendment.”

What is that history? Our Founding Fathers, having just broken away from Great Britain, understood the new federal government they were ratifying might one day become just as tyrannical. If it had the authority to control citizen access to firearms, then it could disarm them, just as the British attempted to do. This would make any attempts to restore liberties futile. The second amendment was specifically included in the Bill of Rights to prevent this.

James Madison, the father of the Constitution, said in 1789 that “A well-regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the best and most natural defense of a free country.” When the Founders wrote of a “well regulated” militia, they meant that militias needed to be well-regulated through training and drilling in order to be effective in battle. It was merely common sense. This could only happen if citizens had unrestricted access to firearms.

The Second Amendment’s guarantee of an individual’s right to have and bear arms is the right which secures all other rights. The First Amendment protects the other rights by permitting the speech and the expression, and the assembly and the petition and the use of the press to call out the government when it tramples on those rights, but the Second Amendment, with its force, is able to secure them, should the government ignore the former. In other words, when the First Amendment fails, the Second is there to preserve and secure the people in their liberty.

The Preamble to the Bill of Rights expresses the States’ intention in demanding a Bill of Rights as a condition to ratification. It reads: “The Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, that in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added, which shall extend the ground of public confidence in the Government, and will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution” According to the Preamble, the federal government is PROHIBITED from even contemplating the issue of abridging the rights guaranteed in the second amendment. The liberty rights contained in the Bill of Rights demand an ABSOLUTE BAN by the federal government action in those areas. Being that the Supreme Court has been in the business of enlarging the rights contained in those amendments (ie, privacy rights, for example, rights of criminals), we can assume that our right to have and bear arms is similarly enlarged.

Although the Bill of Rights was adopted after the Constitution was ratified, it was the absolute assurance by James Madison that he would draft a Bill of Rights and have it submitted and adopted by the First US Congress (June 8, 1788) that convinced several skeptical, and important, states to finally ratify. In other words, BUT FOR the fact that a Bill of Rights would be added to the Constitution to further protect the rights of the People and the States, the Constitution would never have been adopted and the Union, as we know it, would not have been formed. After the delegates concluded their convention in Philadelphia in September 1787, it was clear that the Constitution that had been written was not very popular (particularly with the anti-Federalists). Some very important delegates refused to even sign it and some promised to do all they could to prevent its ratification by the states. Edmund Randolph and George Mason (both of VA), Elbridge Gerry (of MA), John Lansing and Robert Yates (both of NY), and Martin Luther (of DE) all refused to sign because of a lack of Bill of Rights and a deep concern that the government created would endanger the rights of the States. Yates would go on to write some of the strongest anti-Federalist essays, under the pen name Brutus, and fellow New Yorker, Governor George Clinton, would write some as well (under the name Cato). Two of our most important Founding Fathers, Patrick Henry and Richard Henry Lee, although asked to be delegates to the Convention, declined because they were suspicious of those running the Convention (namely Madison, whom they suspected to have ambitious plans for the meeting). They believed a government stronger than the Articles would compromise the sovereignty of the States.

Indeed, it was unclear whether the Constitution would be ratified by the States. The Constitution was in deep trouble in the conventions of four states – Virginia, New York, Massachusetts, and North Carolina. They were some of the biggest states. The first three were the most important and influential of the States. Without the guarantee of a Bill of Rights, those states were not going to ratify. The formation of a “more perfect union” appeared to be in jeopardy. Even with the guarantee, the votes for ratification were by a fairly slim margin. North Carolina had rejected the Constitution outright. It was not until a Bill of Rights was added that it called another ratifying convention to take another vote.

Does anyone believe that a constitution that expressly created a government as large, bloated, concentrated, oppressive, arrogant, monopolistic, and corrupt as the one in existence today would have been drafted and produced by the delegates to the Constitutional Convention of 1787? Does anyone believe that the delegates in attendance at that convention, the great leaders of our founding generation, knowing their concerns to respect the spirit of the Revolution and to protect their state sovereignty (and yield as little sovereign power as possible), would have drafted and signed such a document? And even if such a document would have been produced at the Convention, does anyone believe a single State would have ratified it and surrendered essentially all of its sovereignty? NO WAY !! There is no way that Virginia or New York or Massachusetts or North Carolina would have ratified it. NO WAY! None of them would have ratified it.

And yet we’ve allowed the government – what it’s become – to assert, unchallenged, that whatever it does and says is the supreme law of the land. Tyranny is defined as the action of an unjust and oppressive government. For a country that defines the boundaries of government on its people through a written constitution, tyranny occurs when unconstitutional laws are forced – enforced – on the people. After all, when a government assumes powers not delegated to it, it naturally has to usurp them from their rightful depository, which in the case of the United States is the States and the People.

Our government – all three branches – continue to act to mock individual liberty and states’ rights. Certainly our president does so at every given opportunity. Our government – all three branches – continues to act to ignore and frustrate the will of the People even though a democracy is their birthright. As Daniel Webster once wrote: “It is, Sir, the people’s government, made for the people, made by the people, and answerable to the people.” (note that this quote is the forerunner to Lincoln’s famous line in the Gettysburg Address).

The federal government, which was conceived as a “government of the people, by the people, for the people,” unfortunately now only rests on two of those legs. In has failed for many years now to be a government “for the people.”

Enough is enough.

Gun Rights mark a line in the sand. That line represents a tolerance of government that absolutely cannot be crossed. If government should attempt gun control that burdens or attempt confiscation, the line will have been crossed. The Supreme Court WOULD HAVE TO IMMEDIATELY STRIKE THAT ACTION DOWN. Hell, the Supreme Court has held over and over again that any action by government that should happen to burden even ever so lightly a woman’s right to have an abortion cannot be tolerated. And an abortion actually and absolutely KILLS another human being – an innocent and helpless one. The right to an abortion is NOT mentioned in the Constitution and certainly NOT in the Bill of Rights. The right to have and bear arms is. It is addressed plainly and without condition or pre-condition in the second amendment. By applying the same rational as the Court uses to ensure women their unfettered right and access to an abortion, the government MUST NOT in any way, shape, or form burden an individual’s right to have and bear arms. The right to bear arms is rooted in the natural rights of self-defense and self-preservation. The right to have an abortion is rooted in the selfish goal of convenience.

When the government crosses that line, the Declaration of Independence tells us what the Peoples’ rights are, under the theory of social compact (which the US Constitution is):

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.

Should the government attempt to burden or deny the American people of their gun rights, our natural right of self-defense (even from our own government) and self-preservation (to live free, as our Creator endowed us and as nature intended) allows us to dissolve our government – that is absolve us from allegiance to it – and establish a new government that is dedicated to the protection of our God-given liberties. Personally, I believe the Constitution is perfect; it just needs verbage that makes it absolutely clear that its very terms are its limitations, there are no elastic clauses or implied powers, there is no independent legislative power attached to the General Welfare or Necessary and Proper clauses, no object expressly delegated to the legislative branch is allowed to be delegated to an un-elected group of people, Congress is expressly forbidden to tax and spend for any reason other than what is listed expressly in Article I Section 8, a provision should be included to give the states the power to audit the spending budget of the government for strict constitutionality, a provision should be added to require Congress to balance its budget every year, the Supreme Court can only offer an opinion which is subject to an appeal to the State courts, the “Wall of Separation” is removed from federal court jurisprudence, the president’s powers must be severely limited by additional language in the Constitution, presidents will no longer be allowed to issue executive orders, the bar for impeachment of a president will be lowered and in certain cases Congress MUST issue articles of impeachment and seek to remove him, consequences will be provided for in the Constitution for representatives and officials who violate their oath of office, the 14th amendment must be clarified as not intending to include the incorporation doctrine (so that the Bill of Rights once again only applies to the actions of the federal government), the 16th and 17th amendments must be repealed, an outright prohibition and a provision should be added that states that when the federal government over-steps its authority that threatens the balance of power between federal government and the states, it shall be viewed as a fatal breach of the compact that binds the states and as such they have the option of dissolving their allegiance. However, if the Constitution cannot be amended to assure that a future government remains adherent to its limits, then James Madison has set the example for us. We don’t have to “amend” the Constitution if we believe it to be seriously flawed. We can simply start from scratch.

The second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence continues:

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security….”

Our government has been intent on enlarging and redefining its powers almost from the very beginning. It has done everything it has wanted to do to achieve the things it believed it needed to do or simply wanted to do (as in Barack Obama’s case). A government dependent on the separation of powers for proper functioning has become a government monopoly to ignore proper functioning in order to become what the British Kings used to be…. Supreme, domineering, coercive, and oppressive. The people’s government has been replaced by the government’s government. Liberty-loving Americans have been disposed to suffer long enough. Threats to take away our gun rights, however, would be the final straw.

Should Obama and his administration do more than simply talk about gun control and possible confiscation, it would be incumbent upon the states to NULLIFY any legislation or policy and then INTERPOSE for the protection and security of the People to have and bear arms. The next step, should the government fail to back down, would be to declare the federal action or actions to constitute a FATAL BREACH of the compact that brought the states together in the union and therefore the bonds of allegiance are severed and the Union creating the “United States” is thereby dissolved. The federal government would therefore have no jurisdiction except within the District of Columbia, I suppose.

The states need to act – NOW. Each state needs to adopt resolutions and enact legislation protecting the gun rights of its citizens. Those that respect the second amendment need to start attracting gun manufacturing and ammunition industry to their states. The states need to put the president and the administration, and including the federal courts, on notice of their intentions.

If the federal government intends to or attempts to violate the second amendment, the People need to know they can count on their government – that is, their state government. I hope their response will be clear and collective – WE WILL NOT COMPLY… WE WILL NULLIFY! Liberty will require such a response.

References:

Patrick Henry’s Speech, History.com. Referenced at: http://www.history.com/news/patrick-henrys-liberty-or-death-speech-240-years-ago

Congress Petitions English King to Address Grievances, History.com. Referenced at: http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/congress-petitions-english-king-to-address-grievances

King George III Speaks to Parliament of American Rebellion, History.com. Referenced at: http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/king-george-iii-speaks-to-parliament-of-american-rebellion

Declaration and Resolves of the First Continental Congress. Referenced at: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/resolves.asp

“Obama Trashes the Constitution and No One Says a Damn Thing!”, Mark Levin Show. Referenced at: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=mark+levin+obama+trashes+the+constitution+and+no+one+says+a+thing Also referenced at: http://therightscoop.com/mark-levin-obama-trashes-the-constitution-and-nobody-says-a-damn-thing/

“Obama Goes Beyond Mere Gun Control; Hints at Confiscation,” Breitbart News, October 3, 2015. Referenced at: http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/10/03/obama-goes-beyond-mere-gun-control-hints-confiscation/

“The Second Amendment: It’s Meaning and Purpose, The Tenth Amendment Center, September 22, 2014. Referenced at: http://tenthamendmentcenter.com/2014/09/22/2nd-amendment-original-meaning-and-purpose/

“Madison’s Introduction of the Bill of Rights,” usconstitution.net. Referenced at: http://www.usconstitution.net/madisonbor.html

Appendix:

The Intolerable Acts included the following:
(i) Boston Port Act, which closed the port of Boston to all colonists until damages from the Boston Tea Party were paid.
(ii) Massachusetts Government Act, which gave the British government total control of town meetings, taking all decisions out of the hands of the colonists.
(iii) Administration of Justice Act, which made British officials immune to criminal prosecution in America.
(iv) The Quartering Act, which required colonists to house and quarter British troops on demand, including in private homes as a last resort.

by Diane Rufino, October 4, 2015

Obama Wants our Guns and It’s Time for the States to Make Clear: “We Will Not Comply…. We Will Nullify!”

Obama appears to be intent on burdening the second amendment – a fundamental and essential right of a free people.

The States need to decide where they stand: Either they will protect its people or the country is exactly what Abraham Lincoln envisioned – a country where the states are irrelevant and the federal government reigns absolutely supreme.

The States (and the local sheriffs) are the last line of defense between a rogue federal government and the People. The federal government appears to become more unhinged from the Constitution with each passing day and this should scare everyone. The need to erect lines of protection becomes ever more urgent. And this is where the States and sheriffs need to step in. They need to make clear that they will NULLIFY and INTERPOSE should the federal government attempt to infringe the right of the people to have and bear arms. We know what will be right around the corner should that happen… We only need to look at what happened to the unfortunate people of totalitarian regimes whose leaders confiscated guns. In this country, Patrick Henry explained it better than anyone else. A people who can’t defend themselves cannot assert their rights against the government and are therefore doomed to surrender them.

In 1775, after the British Crown and Parliament set out to punish the colonies for their “rebellious spirit” in frustrating its taxation schemes and its conduct in tossing tea overboard in Boston Harbor in protest of the monopoly established by the Tea Act by imposing the series of laws known as the Coercive Acts (unaffectionately referred to as the “Intolerable Acts” by the colonists), the colonies sought to appeal King George III to interpose on their behalf and end the arbitrary and oppressive treatment of them.

In September 1774, the First Continental Congress met in Philadelphia to address the colonies’ collective response to the Intolerable Acts. On October 25, it drafted a respectful response to the King, which would be known as the “Declarations and Resolves” and delegates were then dispatched to present them to him in person. Despite the anger that the colonies felt towards Great Britain after Parliament enacted the Coercive Acts, our first Congress was still willing to assert its loyalty to the king. In return for this loyalty, Congress asked the king to address and resolve the specific grievances of the colonies; in particular, it asked that the Acts be repealed. The petition, written by Continental Congressman John Dickinson, laid out what Congress felt was undo oppression of the colonies by the British Parliament. King George would ignore the Declarations and Resolves and rather, he would use them to mock the colonies. He laughed, claiming that while they publicly pledged their loyalty to him, they were probably preparing for armed revolution. He found them ingenuous and not very clever.

[Approximately eight months after the Declarations were presented to King George and without any response, on July 6, 1775, the Second Continental Congress adopted a resolution entitled “Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms.” On October 27, 1775 that King George appeared before both houses of the Parliament to address his concern about the increased rebellious nature of the colonies. He described the colonies as being in a state of rebellion, which he viewed as a traitorous action against himself and Britain. He began his speech by reading a “Proclamation of Rebellion” and urged Parliament to move quickly to end the revolt and bring order to the colonies. With that, he gave Parliament his consent to dispatch troops to use against his own subjects – the very people who looked to him for respect and protection].

On March 23, 1775, Patrick Henry attended a meeting of the Second Virginia Convention, with a very important issue he intended to address. It would be the second convention held after the Royal Governor of Virginia dissolved the colonial legislature, the House of Burgesses, for its solidarity with Massachusetts (after Parliament closed the port of Boston as punishment for the Boston Tea Party). The House of Burgesses would continue to meet, albeit in secret, but would operate in convention (These would serve as Virginia’s revolutionary provisional government).

While he knew the King had ignored the respectful petition by the First Continental Congress and had continued to treat them without the reserved rights afforded all English subjects, Henry could not know for sure that he would authorize military action against them. But he certainly saw it coming.

As tensions were mounting between Great Britain and the colonies, the Second Virginia Convention convened in secret at St. John’s Church in Richmond to discuss the Old Dominion’s strategy in negotiating with the Crown. The roughly 120 delegates who filed into Richmond’s St. John’s Church were a veritable “Who’s Who” of Virginia’s colonial leaders – George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Richard Henry Lee, and Patrick Henry, a well-respected lawyer and orator. Henry had long held a reputation as one of Virginia’s most vocal opponents of England’s oppressive taxation schemes. During the Stamp Act controversy in 1765, he bordered on treasonous activity when he delivered a speech in which he hinted that King George risked meeting the same fate as Julius Caesar if he maintained his oppressive policies. As a recent delegate to the Continental Congress, he resounded Ben Franklin’s call for colonial solidarity by proclaiming, “The distinctions between Virginians, Pennsylvanians, New Yorkers and New Englanders are no more. I am not a Virginian; I am an American.”

Henry was convinced that war was around the corner. And he arrived at the Virginia Convention determined to persuade his fellow delegates to adopt a defensive stance against Great Britain. On that fateful evening of March 23, he put forward a resolution proposing that Virginia’s counties raise militiamen “to secure our inestimable rights and liberties, from those further violations with which they are threatened.” The suggestion of forming a colonial militia was not shocking in itself. After all, other colonies had already passed similar resolutions and had begun forming militias. And Henry himself had already taken it upon himself to raise a volunteer outfit in his home county of Hanover. Nevertheless, his proposal was not met with the approval he had hoped for. Many in the audience were skeptical at approving any measure that might be viewed as combative. Britain, after all, was the strongest military power in the world. They still held out hope for a peaceful reconciliation.

After several delegates had spoken on the issue, Patrick Henry rose from his seat in the third pew and took the floor. A Baptist minister who was present that evening would later describe him as having “an unearthly fire burning in his eye.” Just what happened next has long been a subject of debate. Henry spoke without notes, and no transcripts of his exact words have survived to today. The only known version of his remarks was reconstructed in the early 1800s by William Wirt, a biographer who corresponded with several men that attended the Convention. According to this version, Henry began by stating his intention to “speak forth my sentiments freely” before launching into an eloquent warning against appeasing the Crown.

I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.

Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation?

I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves and the House. Is it that insidious smile with which our petition has been lately received? Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss. Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our petition comports with those warlike preparations which cover our waters and darken our land. Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation? Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled that force must be called in to win back our love? Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are the implements of war and subjugation; the last arguments to which kings resort. I ask gentlemen, sir, what means this martial array, if its purpose be not to force us to submission? Can gentlemen assign any other possible motive for it? Has Great Britain any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies? No, sir, she has none. They are meant for us: they can be meant for no other. They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the British ministry have been so long forging. And what have we to oppose to them? Shall we try argument? Sir, we have been trying that for the last ten years. Have we anything new to offer upon the subject? Nothing. We have held the subject up in every light of which it is capable; but it has been all in vain. Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication? What terms shall we find which have not been already exhausted? Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves. Sir, we have done everything that could be done to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and Parliament. Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne! In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free– if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending–if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained–we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts is all that is left us!

They tell us, sir, that we are weak and 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? Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us……. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged!

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace– but there is no peace. The war is actually begun…… Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

Less than a month later, shots would be fired at Lexington and Concord. The war that Henry saw coming had finally begun.

Patrick Henry had the intuition to understand that a leader “whose character is thus marked by every act which defines a tyrant” cannot be trusted to allow his people to enjoy the freedom that they petition for. And when push comes to shove, the more they demand it, the more oppressive his response would be. And thus, since that leader, King George III, was considered to be unfit to be the ruler of a free people, in the mind of Patrick Henry, if he indeed decided to use force to subjugate the people of Virginia should be prepared with a force of their own to defend their liberty. Henry would later refer to Liberty as “that precious gem.”

A leader “whose character is thus marked by every act which defines a tyrant is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”

Americans still consider themselves a free people. And Americans still want to believe their government believes in their right to be so. But the one problem is that most Americans believe their “government” to be the federal government. A people who understand the foundations and underpinnings of liberty and freedom know that the federal government is not their government but rather their state government is their government. The federal government primarily serves the states, or at least, it was intended that way. Yet for limited objects, expressly defined in Article I, Section 8, its legislation can touch the people.

It is the state government, and not the federal government, that can protect an individual’s inalienable liberties. Which government in recent years has shown disregard for the fundamental rights of the People – federal or state? Which government has enacted the largest tax increase in our nation’s history? Which government has denied people the fundamental right to manage their healthcare? Which government has ignored immigration laws and attempted to fundamentally change the character of the nation illegally? Which government has demanded that marriage laws (based on natural criteria in place for thousands of years) be fundamentally altered? And which government has poised itself for years now to restrain the people in their right to have and bear arms? Again, a government “whose character is thus marked by every act which defines a tyrant is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”

The American states, after fighting and winning a costly war for their independence, had to decide on the best form of government to embrace the values they proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence. They asserted the same rights that the British held dear and which they fought to defend, spanning hundreds of years, but their task was to secure them more firmly so that their posterity – “millions yet unborn and generations to come” (from the anti-Federalist paper, Brutus I) – would enjoy the same degree of freedom. They didn’t want Americans to endure the same tortured history as the British, who enjoyed freedom under benevolent kings but oppression and even death under tyrants. Freedom, according to Thomas Jefferson, including as alluded to in the Declaration of Independence, was the right to be free from an aggressive or oppressive government. To that end, the government established by the Constitution of 1787, with powers limited in DC and balanced by the bulk of powers retained by the states, with its separation of powers and elaborate system of checks and balances, with its week judicial branch, and with a Bill of Rights, was believed to provide the best system to preserve the rights they fought for. Furthermore, in America, rights are understood to be inalienable, endowed by our Creator. In Britain, on the other hand, rights are those generously granted by government. Rights were only those limitations on government that Kings recognized by a signature on a charter.

The US Bill of Rights, modeled after the English Bill of Rights of 1689, exists to protect the individual against the government. Included in our Bill of Rights are the rights to be free from a national religion, the right to the free exercise of one’s religion and the rights of conscience. It includes the right of free speech, the right of assembly, the right to a free press, the right to petition the government, the right to have and bear arms, the right to be free in one’s home, papers, and effects from unreasonable searches and seizures, the right to a jury trial, various rights of a person accused of a crime, the right not to have one’s property arbitrarily confiscated by the government, the right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment, and others.

The second amendment is currently under unrelenting attack by our current administration, with Obama leading the charge. Just two days ago, he spoke not only about the need for gun control but hinted about possible confiscation. When Obama spoke in reaction to the heinous October 1 attack on Umpqua Community College, in Oregon, he went beyond his usual calls for more gun control and suggested instead that the United States consider following the path taken by Australia and Great Britain.

In the mid-1990s Australia and Great Britain both instituted complete bans on firearm possession. And Obama referenced those bans: “We know that other countries, in response to one mass shooting, have been able to craft laws that almost eliminate mass shootings. Friends of ours, allies of ours – Great Britain, Australia, countries like ours. So we know there are ways to prevent it.”

What Obama didn’t clarify is that Australia has no constitution nor does it have a Bill of Rights. The rights of the people are not absolute. Great Britain, which also does not have a constitution, per se, does protect gun rights to some degree in its Bill of Rights of 1689. That document allowed for Protestant citizenry to “have Arms for their Defense suitable to their conditions and as allowed by law,” and restricted the right of the English Crown to have a standing army or to interfere with Protestants’ right to bear arms “when Papists were both armed and employed contrary to Law.” It also established that regulating the right to bear arms was one of the powers of Parliament and not of the monarch. Thus, the right was not absolute and it was clearly articulated as such. In fact, Sir William Blackstone wrote in his Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765) about the right to have arms being auxiliary to the “natural right of resistance and self-preservation,” but subject to suitability and allowance by law.

As Mark Levin explained: “The second amendment isn’t in the Bill of Rights to protect you in your hunting rights. The second amendment isn’t there to protect you in your sports-shooting rights. The second amendment was added to the Constitution to protect you against a centralized government. The militia part of the second amendment underscores this point. The point is that the states can maintain militias to protect the states from an oppressive tyrannical central government. I don’t mean to be provocative, but that’s just history. That’s why we have the second amendment.”

What is that history? Our Founding Fathers, having just broken away from Great Britain, understood the new federal government they were ratifying might one day become just as tyrannical. If it had the authority to control citizen access to firearms, then it could disarm them, just as the British attempted to do. This would make any attempts to restore liberties futile. The second amendment was specifically included in the Bill of Rights to prevent this.

James Madison, the father of the Constitution, said in 1789 that “A well-regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the best and most natural defense of a free country.” When the Founders wrote of a “well regulated” militia, they meant that militias needed to be well-regulated through training and drilling in order to be effective in battle. It was merely common sense. This could only happen if citizens had unrestricted access to firearms.

The Second Amendment’s guarantee of an individual’s right to have and bear arms is the right which secures all other rights. The First Amendment protects the other rights by permitting the speech and the expression, and the assembly and the petition and the use of the press to call out the government when it tramples on those rights, but the Second Amendment, with its force, is able to secure them, should the government ignore the former. In other words, when the First Amendment fails, the Second is there to preserve and secure the people in their liberty.

The Preamble to the Bill of Rights expresses the States’ intention in demanding a Bill of Rights as a condition to ratification. It reads: “The Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, that in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added, which shall extend the ground of public confidence in the Government, and will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution” According to the Preamble, the federal government is PROHIBITED from even contemplating the issue of abridging the rights guaranteed in the second amendment. The liberty rights contained in the Bill of Rights demand an ABSOLUTE BAN by the federal government action in those areas. Being that the Supreme Court has been in the business of enlarging the rights contained in those amendments (ie, privacy rights, for example, rights of criminals), we can assume that our right to have and bear arms is similarly enlarged.

Although the Bill of Rights was adopted after the Constitution was ratified, it was the absolute assurance by James Madison that he would draft a Bill of Rights and have it submitted and adopted by the First US Congress (June 8, 1788) that convinced several skeptical, and important, states to finally ratify. In other words, BUT FOR the fact that a Bill of Rights would be added to the Constitution to further protect the rights of the People and the States, the Constitution would never have been adopted and the Union, as we know it, would not have been formed. After the delegates concluded their convention in Philadelphia in September 1787, it was clear that the Constitution that had been written was not very popular (particularly with the anti-Federalists). Some very important delegates refused to even sign it and some promised to do all they could to prevent its ratification by the states. Edmund Randolph and George Mason (both of VA), Elbridge Gerry (of MA), John Lansing and Robert Yates (both of NY), and Martin Luther (of DE) all refused to sign because of a lack of Bill of Rights and a deep concern that the government created would endanger the rights of the States. Yates would go on to write some of the strongest anti-Federalist essays, under the pen name Brutus, and fellow New Yorker, Governor George Clinton, would write some as well (under the name Cato). Two of our most important Founding Fathers, Patrick Henry and Richard Henry Lee, although asked to be delegates to the Convention, declined because they were suspicious of those running the Convention (namely Madison, whom they suspected to have ambitious plans for the meeting). They believed a government stronger than the Articles would compromise the sovereignty of the States.

Indeed, it was unclear whether the Constitution would be ratified by the States. The Constitution was in deep trouble in the conventions of four states – Virginia, New York, Massachusetts, and North Carolina. They were some of the biggest states. The first three were the most important and influential of the States. Without the guarantee of a Bill of Rights, those states were not going to ratify. The formation of a “more perfect union” appeared to be in jeopardy. Even with the guarantee, the votes for ratification were by a fairly slim margin. North Carolina had rejected the Constitution outright. It was not until a Bill of Rights was added that it called another ratifying convention to take another vote.

Does anyone believe that a constitution that expressly created a government as large, bloated, concentrated, oppressive, arrogant, monopolistic, and corrupt as the one in existence today would have been drafted and produced by the delegates to the Constitutional Convention of 1787? Does anyone believe that the delegates in attendance at that convention, the great leaders of our founding generation, knowing their concerns to respect the spirit of the Revolution and to protect their state sovereignty (and yield as little sovereign power as possible), would have drafted and signed such a document? And even if such a document would have been produced at the Convention, does anyone believe a single State would have ratified it and surrendered essentially all of its sovereignty? NO WAY !! There is no way that Virginia or New York or Massachusetts or North Carolina would have ratified it. NO WAY! None of them would have ratified it.

And yet we’ve allowed the government – what it’s become – to assert, unchallenged, that whatever it does and says is the supreme law of the land. Tyranny is defined as the action of an unjust and oppressive government. For a country that defines the boundaries of government on its people through a written constitution, tyranny occurs when unconstitutional laws are forced – enforced – on the people. After all, when a government assumes powers not delegated to it, it naturally has to usurp them from their rightful depository, which in the case of the United States is the States and the People.

Our government – all three branches – continue to act to mock individual liberty and states’ rights. Certainly our president does so at every given opportunity. Our government – all three branches – continues to act to ignore and frustrate the will of the People even though a democracy is their birthright. As Daniel Webster once wrote: “It is, Sir, the people’s government, made for the people, made by the people, and answerable to the people.” (note that this quote is the forerunner to Lincoln’s famous line in the Gettysburg Address).

The federal government, which was conceived as a “government of the people, by the people, for the people,” unfortunately now only rests on two of those legs. In has failed for many years now to be a government “for the people.”

Enough is enough.

Gun Rights mark a line in the sand. That line represents a tolerance of government that absolutely cannot be crossed. If government should attempt gun control that burdens or attempt confiscation, the line will have been crossed. The Supreme Court WOULD HAVE TO IMMEDIATELY STRIKE THAT ACTION DOWN. Hell, the Supreme Court has held over and over again that any action by government that should happen to burden even ever so lightly a woman’s right to have an abortion cannot be tolerated. And an abortion actually and absolutely KILLS another human being – an innocent and helpless one. The right to an abortion is NOT mentioned in the Constitution and certainly NOT in the Bill of Rights. The right to have and bear arms is. It is addressed plainly and without condition or pre-condition in the second amendment. By applying the same rational as the Court uses to ensure women their unfettered right and access to an abortion, the government MUST NOT in any way, shape, or form burden an individual’s right to have and bear arms. The right to bear arms is rooted in the natural rights of self-defense and self-preservation. The right to have an abortion is rooted in the selfish goal of convenience.

When the government crosses that line, the Declaration of Independence tells us what the Peoples’ rights are, under the theory of social compact (which the US Constitution is):

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.

Should the government attempt to burden or deny the American people of their gun rights, our natural right of self-defense (even from our own government) and self-preservation (to live free, as our Creator endowed us and as nature intended) allows us to dissolve our government – that is absolve us from allegiance to it – and establish a new government that is dedicated to the protection of our God-given liberties. Personally, I believe the Constitution is perfect; it just needs verbage that makes it absolutely clear that its very terms are its limitations, there are no elastic clauses or implied powers, there is no independent legislative power attached to the General Welfare or Necessary and Proper clauses, no object expressly delegated to the legislative branch is allowed to be delegated to an un-elected group of people, Congress is expressly forbidden to tax and spend for any reason other than what is listed expressly in Article I Section 8, a provision should be included to give the states the power to audit the spending budget of the government for strict constitutionality, a provision should be added to require Congress to balance its budget every year, the Supreme Court can only offer an opinion which is subject to an appeal to the State courts, the “Wall of Separation” is removed from federal court jurisprudence, the president’s powers must be severely limited by additional language in the Constitution, presidents will no longer be allowed to issue executive orders, the bar for impeachment of a president will be lowered and in certain cases Congress MUST issue articles of impeachment and seek to remove him, consequences will be provided for in the Constitution for representatives and officials who violate their oath of office, the 14th amendment must be clarified as not intending to include the incorporation doctrine (so that the Bill of Rights once again only applies to the actions of the federal government), the 16th and 17th amendments must be repealed, an outright prohibition and a provision should be added that states that when the federal government over-steps its authority that threatens the balance of power between federal government and the states, it shall be viewed as a fatal breach of the compact that binds the states and as such they have the option of dissolving their allegiance. However, if the Constitution cannot be amended to assure that a future government remains adherent to its limits, then James Madison has set the example for us. We don’t have to “amend” the Constitution if we believe it to be seriously flawed. We can simply start from scratch.

The second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence continues:

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security….”

Our government has been intent on enlarging and redefining its powers almost from the very beginning. It has done everything it has wanted to do to achieve the things it believed it needed to do or simply wanted to do (as in Barack Obama’s case). A government dependent on the separation of powers for proper functioning has become a government monopoly to ignore proper functioning in order to become what the British Kings used to be…. Supreme, domineering, coercive, and oppressive. The people’s government has been replaced by the government’s government. Liberty-loving Americans have been disposed to suffer long enough. Threats to take away our gun rights, however, would be the final straw.

Should Obama and his administration do more than simply talk about gun control and possible confiscation, it would be incumbent upon the states to NULLIFY any legislation or policy and then INTERPOSE for the protection and security of the People to have and bear arms. The next step, should the government fail to back down, would be to declare the federal action or actions to constitute a FATAL BREACH of the compact that brought the states together in the union and therefore the bonds of allegiance are severed and the Union creating the “United States” is thereby dissolved. The federal government would therefore have no jurisdiction except within the District of Columbia, I suppose.

The states need to act – NOW. Each state needs to adopt resolutions and enact legislation protecting the gun rights of its citizens. Those that respect the second amendment need to start attracting gun manufacturing and ammunition industry to their states. The states need to put the president and the administration, and including the federal courts, on notice of their intentions.

If the federal government intends to or attempts to violate the second amendment, the People need to know they can count on their government – that is, their state government. I hope their response will be clear and collective – WE WILL NOT COMPLY… WE WILL NULLIFY! Liberty will require such a response.

References:

Patrick Henry’s Speech, History.com. Referenced at: http://www.history.com/news/patrick-henrys-liberty-or-death-speech-240-years-ago

Congress Petitions English King to Address Grievances, History.com. Referenced at: http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/congress-petitions-english-king-to-address-grievances

King George III Speaks to Parliament of American Rebellion, History.com. Referenced at: http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/king-george-iii-speaks-to-parliament-of-american-rebellion

Declaration and Resolves of the First Continental Congress. Referenced at: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/resolves.asp

“Obama Trashes the Constitution and No One Says a Damn Thing!”, Mark Levin Show. Referenced at: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=mark+levin+obama+trashes+the+constitution+and+no+one+says+a+thing Also referenced at: http://therightscoop.com/mark-levin-obama-trashes-the-constitution-and-nobody-says-a-damn-thing/

“Obama Goes Beyond Mere Gun Control; Hints at Confiscation,” Breitbart News, October 3, 2015. Referenced at: http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/10/03/obama-goes-beyond-mere-gun-control-hints-confiscation/

“The Second Amendment: It’s Meaning and Purpose, The Tenth Amendment Center, September 22, 2014. Referenced at: http://tenthamendmentcenter.com/2014/09/22/2nd-amendment-original-meaning-and-purpose/

“Madison’s Introduction of the Bill of Rights,” usconstitution.net. Referenced at: http://www.usconstitution.net/madisonbor.html

Appendix:

The Intolerable Acts included the following:
(i) Boston Port Act, which closed the port of Boston to all colonists until damages from the Boston Tea Party were paid.
(ii) Massachusetts Government Act, which gave the British government total control of town meetings, taking all decisions out of the hands of the colonists.
(iii) Administration of Justice Act, which made British officials immune to criminal prosecution in America.
(iv) The Quartering Act, which required colonists to house and quarter British troops on demand, including in private homes as a last resort.

Constitution Day 2013

Constitution - #2  by Diane Rufino

Last Tuesday was Constitution Day – September 17.  It marks the day that the Convention in Philadelphia in 1787 concluded and the final draft of Constitution was signed by the delegates who attended.  It is fitting that this is the day we choose to honor the US Constitution.  As we all probably know, the Convention was called in a somewhat devious and misleading manner.  James Madison and others from Virginia called the Convention (after securing a promise that the most beloved man in America would serve as its president – George Washington) for the express purpose of AMENDING the Articles of Confederation and tweaking the Continental Congress (the government at the time) to make it more effective. The most glaring defect of the common government was its ability to raise the revenue it needed to carry out its functions.

All the states sent delegates except Rhode Island.  And so 12 of our original 13 states participated in Philadelphia. Collectively they appointed 70 individuals to the Constitutional Convention.  But a number of our most important Founding Fathers did not accept or could not attend. These included Richard Henry Lee (of VA), Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Samuel Adams, and John Hancock. Jefferson, who authored the Declaration, was overseas at the time, acting as Minister to France. And Patrick Henry did not trust the intentions of some of the delegates.  He found out the real intention of the Convention – to scratch the Articles entirely and to write a new Constitution and design a new government.  Patrick Henry suspected that New York’s delegate, Alexander Hamilton, a strong monarchist, would try to get his way and fashion our new government after the British Monarchy. And so Henry declined to go to Philadelphia, claiming: “I smell a rat.”

And so when a total of 55 delegates from the states met in Philadelphia, they soon found out the real purpose of the gathering. Some did not take the news very well and argued that they did not have the proper authority to abandon the Articles of Confederation.  James Madison, George Mason and Edmond Randolph, all of Virginia, arrived in Philadelphia well-prepared. In fact, Madison was the first to arrive.  He arrived in February, three months before the convention began, with a Plan already prepared and a blueprint for the new Constitution and government in place. Although he authored the Plan, it was Randolph, who was Governor of Virginia at the time, who proposed it at the Convention – in the form of 15 resolutions. It was known as the Virginia Plan. It called for a strong NATIONAL government with many centralized functions and also with a UNIVERSAL VETO power over the States.  Madison called it a “universal negative.” Under Madison’s Virginia’s Plan, the government would have the power to veto any state law “for any case whatsoever.”

Luckily, the Virginia delegation couldn’t sell all of their plan to the other states and the Convention turned out to be a 4-month exercise in compromise and well-intentioned debate.  In the end, on September 17th, we got a constitution that created a limited FEDERAL government.  It was quite different in many respects from the government that the Virginians proposed. Luckily, the overwhelming number of delegates at the Convention that year did not believe in concentrating too much power in a common government; they believed that government is most responsive when it is closest to the People and so they remained steadfast that the bulk of government power must remain with the States.  A government that is closest to the People can serve them best and can be “altered or abolished” by them when circumstances demand it.

The delegates ranged in age from Jonathan Dayton (of NJ), aged 26, to Benjamin Franklin, aged 81, who was so infirm that he had to be carried to sessions in a chair. They brought with them the interests of their States and their people. They brought with them a wealth of knowledge and a keen eye on the prize they fought for in the American Revolution (which Patrick Henry would later describe as “that precious jewel – Liberty”).  They brought with them their understanding of what a common government should do to serve them and also to serve a common good for all States.  Not one State intended to surrender its sovereignty or its influence.  Not one state intended to surrender its individual identity for a “national” identity.

In the close of the Convention, only 39 delegates would feel compelled to sign the Constitution.  Many refused to sign because there was no Bill of Rights.  More than half of the Virginia delegation wouldn’t sign, including Mr. Randolph himself and George Mason (who wrote Virginia’s Bill of Rights). Elbridge Gerry, of Massachusetts was another powerhouse that refused to sign it.  A Bill of Rights, they argued, was an absolute necessity to limit any government.

The particular opposition by George Mason is most compelling.  While Elbridge Gerry was, by most accounts, cantankerous, irritable, and most disagreeable to many things and Randolph was likely sulking since his Plan was rejected in good part and believing that the States would ultimately reject a new constitution anyway, it was Mason who refused to sign based on pure principle.

George Mason didn’t trust a large republican government…  not without a Bill of Rights, that’s for certain.  He believed certain stipulations were necessary to protect the liberties of the People from the reaches of government.  James Madison, on the other hand, argued against a Bill of Rights. It was his position that such stipulations weren’t necessary due to the nature of the Constitution. He argued that the Constitution specifically enumerated the powers that were delegated to the federal government. That is, the document explained what the government COULD do and not what it COULD NOT do.  He feared if a Bill of Rights was included, it could ultimately backfire on the People. He feared that if a Bill of Rights was added to prohibit the government from intruding on rights A, B, and C, then it could be inferred that the government could intrude on rights D, E, and F. Madison explained that if you listed some individual rights, you must list them all and that would necessarily change the Constitution from forbidding the federal government from doing anything not enumerated to something that allows the government do whatever it wants as long as it is not listed in a Bill of Rights.

But Mason wasn’t convinced by fellow his fellow Virginian’s rationale.  For Mason, it came down to principal, basic human nature, and the enormity of history that taught us what happens when government has the ability to concentrate power. In early 1776, before Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence, Mason drafted the Virginia Declaration of Rights and helped frame Virginia’s constitution. George Mason was exceedingly proud of Virginia’s Declaration of Rights, and was pleased that it became a model for other states. In part, the Declaration of Rights provided:

SEC.1 That all men are by nature equally free and independent and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.

SEC. 2. That all power is vested in, and consequently derived from, the people; that magistrates are their trustees and servants and at all times amenable to them.

SEC.3.  Government is, or ought to be instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security of the people, nation, or community; of all the various modes and forms of government, that is best which is capable of producing the greatest degree of happiness and safety, and is most effectually secured against the danger of maladministration and […] when any government shall be found inadequate or contrary to these purposes, a majority of the community hath an indubitable, inalienable, and indefeasible right to reform, alter, or abolish it, in such manner as shall be judged most conducive to the public weal.

The document had sixteen sections, but it’s quite clear that these short paragraphs encompassed America’s Founding Principles, which Thomas Jefferson would later incorporate into the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence. Mason simply did not trust a government to police itself.

Even Thomas Jefferson agreed.  He wrote James Madison from his post in France that a Bill of Rights should be added: “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.”

The decision of whether to add a Bill of Rights ultimately came down to the States in their Ratifying Conventions. And George Mason, along with Patrick Henry, would do all they could to derail the ratification of the Constitution until proper assurances and restraints were added.

At the Virginia Ratifying Convention in June 4, 1788, Mason took the floor and addressed the delegates:  “Does any man suppose that one general national government can exist in so extensive a country as this? I hope that a government may be framed which may suit us, by drawing a line between the general and state governments, and prevent that dangerous clashing of interest and power, which must, as it now stands, terminate in the destruction of one or the other. When we come to the judiciary, we shall be more convinced that this government will terminate in the annihilation of the state governments: the question then will be, whether a consolidated government can preserve the freedom and secure the rights of the people.  If such amendments be introduced as shall exclude danger, I shall most gladly put my hand to it. When such amendments as shall, from the best information, secure the great essential rights of the people, shall be agreed to by gentlemen, I shall most heartily make the greatest concessions, and concur in any reasonable measure to obtain the desirable end of conciliation and unanimity…”

Patrick Henry accused the Virginia delegation of abandoning the spirit of the Revolution by taking the Constitution at face value and trusting a common government to respect the sovereign powers of the States and limit itself to expressly-delegated objects.  On June 5, 1788, he addressed the members of the Ratifying Convention with these words:

“When the American spirit was in its youth, the language of America was different.  Liberty, sir, was then the primary object.

      We are descended from a people whose government was founded on liberty; our glorious forefathers of Great Britain made liberty the foundation of everything. That country is become a great, mighty, and splendid nation; not because their government is strong and energetic, but, sir, because liberty is its direct end and foundation. We drew the spirit of liberty from our British ancestors; by that spirit we have triumphed over every difficulty. But now, sir, the American spirit, assisted by the ropes and chains of consolidation, is about to convert this country into a powerful and mighty empire. If you make the citizens of this country agree to become the subjects of one great consolidated empire of America, your government will not have sufficient energy to keep them together. Such a government is incompatible with the genius of republicanism. There will be no checks, no real balances, in this government.

      Consider our situation, sir; go to the poor man and ask him what he does. He will inform you that he enjoys the fruits of his labor, under his own fig tree, with his wife and children around him, in peace and security. Go to every other member of society; you will find the same tranquil ease and content; you will find no alarms or disturbances. Why, then, tell us of danger, to terrify us into an adoption of this new form of government? And yet who knows the dangers that this new system may produce? They are out of sight of the common people; they cannot foresee latent consequences. I dread the operation of it on the middling and lower classes of people; it is for them I fear the adoption of this system. I fear I tire the patience of the committee, but I beg to be indulged with a few more observations.

 I profess myself an advocate for the liberty of the people. I have said that I thought this a consolidated government; I will now prove it. Will the great rights of the people be secured by this government?  Suppose it should prove oppressive, how can it be altered?  Our Bill of Rights (Virginia’s) declares that ‘a majority of the community hath an indubitable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to reform, alter, or abolish it, in such manner as shall be judged most conducive to the public weal.’ 

      The voice of tradition, I trust, will inform posterity of our struggles for freedom. If our descendants be worthy the name of Americans they will preserve and hand down to their latest posterity the transactions of the present times……

      Liberty, the greatest of all earthly blessings…  Give us that precious jewel, and you may take everything else!   Guard it with jealous attention. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel…

At this point, the adoption of the Constitution seemed unlikely. Virginia would likely not ratify and neither would New York, and North Carolina clearly would not ratify. Without Virginia, Madison realized, there could be no hope of ever building a coalition to adopt it.  Madison needed Virginia. And so he began working tirelessly for ratification. He teamed up with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay on a series of articles (collectively called “The Federalist Papers”) that were published in newspapers all throughout the States making the case for ratification. And then he changed his stance on a Bill of Rights. He promised to include a bill of rights as the first order of business for the new federal congress. This finally brought George Mason around, which then helped tip Virginia towards ratification.

In the end, as we know, the Constitution was ratified by the States and we became a “more perfect Union” in 1788.  On June 21, 1788, New Hampshire became the ninth and last necessary state to ratify the Constitution of the United States, thereby making it the Law of the Land.  Virginia and New York ratified it within a month and North Carolina wouldn’t ratify it until over a year later (November 1789).

The Federalist Papers, the debates in the various State Ratifying Conventions, and the Bill of Rights itself continue to be a lasting testament to the limited nature of the US Constitution.

In past years, Tea Parties, Constitutional groups, and other conservative organizations honored Constitution Day by passing out pocket Constitutions.  We have asked people to take the time to read it and become familiar with it.  But perhaps the real message we need to send is how all our Founding documents fit together and why the Constitution still matters.

First, let’s ask what IS a Constitution?  Our Founders gave us that answer.

The Supreme Court, with John Jay (author of some of the Federalist Papers) as the Chief Justice, told us in 1795:

What is a Constitution? It is the form of government, delineated by the mighty hand of the people, in which certain first principles of fundamental laws are established. The Constitution is certain and fixed; it contains the permanent will of the people and is the supreme law of the land…
       It is stable and permanent, not to be worked upon by the temper of the times, nor to rise and fall with the tide of events; notwithstanding the competition of opposing interests, and the violence of contending parties, it remains firm and immovable, as a mountain amidst the raging of the waves.”   [Opinion in Vanhorne’s Lessee v. Dorance, 2 U.S. 304, 308 (1795)]

A constitution is not the act of a government, but of a people constituting a government; and government without a constitution is power without a right. All power exercised over a nation, must have some beginning. It must be either delegated, or assumed. There are not other sources. All delegated power is trust, and all assumed power is usurpation. Time does not alter the nature and quality of either.”   — Thomas PaineRights of Man (1791-1792)

The purpose of a written constitution is to bind up the several branches of government by certain laws, which, when they transgress, their acts shall become nullities; to render unnecessary an appeal to the people, or in other words a rebellion, on every infraction of their rights, on the peril that their acquiescence shall be construed into an intention to surrender those rights.” — Thomas JeffersonNotes on Virginia, 1782.

Our peculiar security is in the possession of a written Constitution. Let us not make it a blank paper by construction.” — Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to W. Nicholas (1803)

Does it sound like our Constitution was intended to become a LIVING, BREATHING DOCUMENT?

The reality is that the Constitution is not a stand-alone document.  And I think that is where our discussions have failed.  Our founding documents fit together as follows:

(i) The Declaration of Independence.  It proclaims our philosophy of sovereignty, rights, and government.  It establishes the order in our country and puts government in perspective. The individual precedes government. Government must serve the individual by protecting his rights.

(ii) The US Constitution.  It designed a government (checked by the sovereign powers of the States and the People) to embrace the philosophy set forth in the Declaration.

(iii) The Bill of Rights.  It further limits the authority of the federal government (as the preamble to the Bill of Rights states: “In order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added…..”)

We enjoy our God-given rights because our founding documents boldly assert that only We the People have the right to determine our government, since it is only by the voluntary and temporary delegation of our rights to govern ourselves that government exists. We have the right to “alter or abolish” government when it becomes destructive of its ends (which is first and foremost to protect and preserve our rights to Life, Liberty, and Property and the right to defend them). Nowhere in any of our founding documents is government given a life of its own; it has no right or power to seek its own self-interests nor to preserve, insure, or protect its existence. Yet today, government’s interests are placed above those of the People. Government has made sure that it has the exclusive power to define its own powers.

Our creature has become our master.

Too often the Supreme Court uses a skewed perspective. Instead of asking:  ’Are citizens’ rights being violated by this law?’  the Court asks: ‘Is the violation of citizens’ rights justified because of overriding government goals and objectives?’  Too often the answer the court delivers is ‘yes.’  When your rights get in the way of a government objective, you lose.

       Government created to protect your rights should have no goal higher than the protection of those rights. When government’s own goals override your rights, government is acting unconstitutionally. Government often states that these violations of citizens’ rights are necessary ‘for the good of society.’  Society is ill served by laws which violate the rights of the citizens making up that society.

       The Constitution (and the federal government it brought into existence) was created by the states to serve the states. It sets forth the rules for how the government must behave and says, in effect (in the tenth amendment)  ’Any powers that we did not give to you are ours; we’re still the boss.’

This is like exercising parental control. You tell your child how to act, with whom he (or she) may associate and what time he must be home. You assign household chores and responsibilities. In short, you establish rules of proper conduct.

       Suppose that this works fine for a while, but as your child grows, he begins testing the boundaries you had set and breaking the rules, but you do nothing to prevent it. One day you realize that your child is making his own rules, even telling you what to do and what you cannot do. If you object that he is not acting within the rules you set down, he says that he knows better than you what your rules mean. If you try to assert your own rights, you are punished — your child is now bigger and stronger than you are. Your child’s allowance demands are ever increasing. If you don’t do something to correct the situation soon, you’ll be declared incompetent and your child will control all aspects of your life.”

The Tea Party and Constitutional groups take a lot of criticism.  The media, for example, says that the Tea Party has lost steam and has lost relevance.  And sometimes, I admit it, I wonder if it might be true. But when I celebrate Constitution Day and when I continue studying the Constitution and what our Founders intended, and when I have those “light bulb” moments when I begin to understand why certain principles were incorporated into our founding documents, I am reminded of why the Tea Party was founded in the first place and why it is so important.  And I am re-inspired to be a part of it, as well as the Tenth Amendment Center.  It’s because the Tea Party is the party of the Constitution.  We understand its relevance……   We understand why our Founders rejected that Virginia Plan in Philadelphia and why they spent four months building the consensus for a government that would be delegated only limited powers and that would be restrained by a series of checks and balances.

We understand that the problems our country faces today are all a direct consequence of the federal government’s failure to keep itself limited to the express powers delegated to it by the States back in 1791 AND the States’ failure to stand up and remind the government of its limits.

We understand – because we know that America is still defined by the Declaration of Independence – that every time the federal government oversteps its constitutional authority, it is taking sovereign power away from We the People and from the States.  And it has to stop.   We are slowly (maybe not slowly) slipping back into tyranny.

There is a lot at stake in the American experiment. Ours is a nation founded on an ideal and nothing else.  Whether that grand ideal will survive depends on whether the American experiment is successful or not. What is that ideal?  It is the notion that individuals are sovereign and that they are endowed with Natural rights that are “self-evident” and “inalienable” which are an integral part of their very humanity. Since these rights come from our Creator, they cannot be deemed to be granted by government. Hence government is powerless to take them away or violate them. In fact, governments are instituted to serve the People and to protect those rights.

It was from that ideal that our Founders understood the great challenge that would be presented:  How to keep the role of government strictly limited in order that liberty is enlarged and that government is prevented from growing into a new form of tyranny.  They studied history and were well-aware that the nature of any government is to control and gain more power from those it governs. And that in that challenge, we understand why the Constitution is still relevant.  At one time it defined a limited government and it offered numerous protections against those governmental intrusions which they knew would come eventually.  The Constitution still holds the power of limited government and still defines the proper relationship between the People, the States, and the federal government. The key is to put that document, with its original meaning and its original intent, back to work for the American people and for the protection of their inalienable rights.

The Tea Party summoned the spirit of the Revolution to resurrect the Constitution. They went back to the days of peaceful civil disobedience, ownership of their rights and destiny, engagement of their government in their civil liberties, and robust discussion of what it means to be a “free” people.

They took the name “Tea Party” because of its rich historical significance. The Boston Tea Party occurred on December 16, 1773 as a protest against the tax on tea imposed by a government in a far-off land that did not permit its representation in the legislative process (Parliament).  Earlier that year, the British government passed the Tea Act, which authorized the British East India Company to ship tea directly to colonies while the government levied a tax of three pence on each shipment. While the Tea Act actually lowered the price of tea for colonists (so that even with the tax, the colonists were still paying less for tea), many colonists were still angry at being taxed at all.

“Taxation without Representation” was a rallying cry that was particularly significant. The taxes the British tried to collect were modest and the revenue collected was to be spent entirely in the colonies for their benefit and protection. It wasn’t even going to be sent back to the mother country. So why all the fuss and cry of “tyranny”?  It was because the real reason for American Revolution was the lack of political machinery to protect the colonists’ rights.  In short, our founding agitators and revolutionaries weren’t as concerned about the insignificant tax on tea as they were with the underlying violations of their basic human rights.

The American experiment will continue to be successful only as long as we continue to be as vigilante and protective of our rights and as long as we continue to demand that government keep its distance. And so, as we recognize Constitution Day each year on September 17, we should re-commit to our Revolutionary spirit as Americans and read our founding documents in that light. As Jefferson warned, we shouldn’t render our government one of general and unlimited power because we’ve tacitly allowed it the exclusive domain to interpret the Constitution as it sees fit.  We can all know the meaning and intention of the Constitution simply by doing our homework and reading what words of wisdom our Founders left. We don’t need government officials or judges to tell us.  Government wants power.  People want liberty.

As Patrick Henry warned on June 5, 1788 when he addressed the Virginia Ratifying Convention: (paraphrasing) “When we lose the American spirit and our mental powers have decayed, then our liberty will be gone forever.”

Nullification: Comments to a Harsh Critic

Thomas Jefferson - Change We Can Believe in   by Diane Rufino

I wrote an article in support of Nullification (“Limit Federal Spending through Nullification and State Escrow Accounts”).  A man responded with this comment: “You  propose a remedy and say it’s based on Nullification… In other words, it’s based on crackpottery, along the lines of ‘sovereign citizens.’  SCOTUS has repeatedly rejected nullification and yet loons still pop out of the woodwork claiming to perform legal smoke-and-mirrors using it.”

I wrote the following to him in response:

You seem to understand very little of the most critical of the checks and balances that our Founders created in order that our government remained limited and the liberty of the American people (who had just seceded from the most powerful empire on the planet at the time because that King and Parliament refused to respect the rights of the colonists under the English Bill of Rights of 1689) remain paramount, protected, and unburdened. I’m talking about the federal nature of our government. State versus federal government. Sovereign versus Sovereign. Each acting as jealous guardians of their power in order that neither invade the sphere of power of the other. This was the unique design feature of our American government and the gemstone upon which our liberty was to be secure. I mean, the Ninth and Tenth Amendments certainly are not obscure, And that’s what Nullification is all about. It’s about recognizing this critical doctrine, giving it practical meaning, and about recognizing what Patrick Henry warned about in 1788 in the Virginia Ratifying Convention (Our eye must always be on Liberty….”give us that precious jewel and you can take everything else.”).

If you truly believe that the federal government has the exclusive right to judge the extent of its own powers, then you are unfit to preserve liberty for your grandchildren.  You are fit for a master and deserve one.

If the federal government has the exclusive right to judge the extent of its own powers, as Madison and Jefferson warned in 1798-99, it will continue to grow – regardless of elections, the separation of powers, and other limits on government power.  And then we will have a government no better than the one our forefathers fought a bloody revolution for or the ones that we fought a horrendous world war to wipe off the face of the planet.

You may trust 9 men who wear black robes and sit on the bench of the Supreme Court, but that’s all they are…. men (“motivated, as we all are, by the same passion for party, for power, for social change, and for legacy). And their power is the most dangerous because they are in office for life, and not responsible or accountable, as the other functionaries are, to Elective control. 4 members of the Court already believe that their job is to re-interpret the Constitution. How would you like it if an unaccountable group of people took a look at your mortgage agreement and decided that its terms all of a sudden don’t mean the same as when you signed the document? How would you like it if, for the good of the bank and its ability to lend more money to more people, it was going to increase your interest rate by 100% (that is, double it), or even triple it.  A free people deserve transparency. They deserve to know that the document that protects them from the reaches of government is ironclad and means today what it meant yesterday and what it will mean tomorrow. Let me ask you this. You say the Supreme Court addressed the issue of secession and nullification and decided that they are unconstitutional. (I lump them both together since that is what most critics of Nullification seem to do).  First of all, the justice who wrote the decision was a personal friend of Abraham Lincoln. He was promoted from Sec, of State to Chief Justice. He owed his career to Lincoln and the decision reads as if Lincoln himself wrote it. Second of all, Chase did not go to law school. He learned law pretty much by an apprenticeship. And you’re willing to say his decision should be worthy of being called “the law of the land”?  Third, and finally, the ONLY job of the Supreme Court is to interpret strictly the Constitution (see Marbury v. Madison). As Justice Marshall wrote in that decision: “To take one step beyond the bounds of the Constitution is to violate the oath of allegiance that one takes to that document and that amounts to treason.” (I’ve paraphrased).  Secession and Nullification are NOT addressed in the Constitution at all. Why? Because secession is a fundamental right, as explained in the Declaration of Independence. It is as fundamental to free individuals as is the inalienable rights of Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness. (Go to paragraph 2; it’s all right there). And Nullification is implied in the very nature of federalism and in the Tenth Amendment. It’s like saying to an individual… “You have the right to life but you can’t defend it.”  Well, we DO have the right to life and we DO have the right to defend it. The implied right is our right to self-defense and self-preservation, which is also in second paragraph of the Declaration.  If the issue is NOT in the Constitution, the Court has nothing to interpret. It is beyond their jurisdiction. The Declaration is not a document for the federal courts to interpret or dismiss.  Thomas Jefferson wrote: “To this I am opposed; because, when all government, domestic and foreign, in little as in great things, shall be drawn to Washington as the center of all it will render powerless the checks provided of one government on another and will become as venal and oppressive as the government from which we separated.”  This is great advice and one that no one seems to heed.

You may put your trust in SCOTUS, but it is poorly-placed trust, my friend. That Court has taken away your right to alter or abolish your government, even when it becomes destructive of your God-given rights, it has taken your money (ear-marked for “social security”) and said it is NOT your property after all and the government can do what it wants with it, it has forbidden you to express your religion in public institutions, it has said you have no right to be informed or consulted if you child wants an abortion, and it recently announced that the government can use the taxing power to coerce ordinary Americans into doing what it wants them to do,  As for me, I put my trust in Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, the very men who remember why we separated from England and who wrote our founding documents (and therefore, understood them best).