The Patriot Post® · The Patriot's Primer on American Liberty (Part 2)
Liberty v Tyranny and the Primacy of Rule of Law over rule of men
“Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation deserts the oaths…?” —George Washington
Publisher’s Note: This essay is the second of a two-part treatise on constitutional Rule of Law. (Read Part 1) It is published as the introduction to our Essential Liberty Project, and printed pocket guides are available for bulk purchase here.
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“The Palladium of the Liberties of the Republic”
“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.” —Article Two, Bill of Rights
Article Two (the Second Amendment) was written as a proscription against government intrusion and usurpation upon all the other natural Rights of Man, because “the right of the People to keep and bear Arms” enables and empowers the defense of all other rights.
As previously noted, on April 19th, 1775, the first shots of the eight-year struggle for American independence were fired at Lexington and Concord, celebrated now as “Patriots’ Day.” “The Shot Heard Round the World” was in fact a response to the British government’s attempt to seize weapons and disarm the people.
Three months later, on July 6th, 1775, the Continental Congress passed Thomas Jefferson’s “Declaration of the Causes and Necessity for Taking Up Arms,” asserting the right of the people to defend themselves against tyranny: “We most solemnly, before God and the world, declare, that, exerting the utmost energy of those powers, which our beneficent Creator hath graciously bestowed upon us, the arms we have been compelled by our enemies to assume, we will, in defiance of every hazard … employ for the preservation of our liberties; being with one mind resolved to die freemen rather than to live slaves. … With a humble confidence in the mercies of the Supreme and impartial God and Ruler of the Universe, we most devoutly implore His divine goodness to protect us happily through this great conflict.”
During the 1788 Massachusetts Convention debates to ratify the U.S. Constitution, Samuel Adams stated, “The said Constitution shall never be construed … to prevent the People of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms.” Other states provided similar assurances in their constitutions, based on common law.
That same year, James Madison proposed what would become the Second Amendment in a speech advocating a Bill of Rights, a concession to the Anti-Federalists, who were concerned about essential Liberties under the Constitution. According to Madison, “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…” (Notably, in Madison’s construction of the Second Amendment, the right of the people to keep and bear arms is the primary clause — true as well in the text of the actual amendment, although the order of clauses has been reversed.)
Madison further defined the constitutional affirmation of this right in Federalist No. 46: “The ultimate authority … resides in the People alone. … The advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation … forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of.”
“What country can preserve its liberties,” Jefferson asked rhetorically, “if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms.”
George Mason, author of the Virginia Bill of Rights (which was the inspiration for our Constitution’s Bill of Rights), put it this way: “To disarm the people — that was the best and most effectual way to enslave them.” He added, “I ask, sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people, except for a few public officials.”
Indeed, the word “militia,” in context, as repeatedly confirmed by the Supreme Court, refers to “the People” and their individual right to keep and bear arms.
George Washington’s friend and Revolutionary War compatriot, Richard Henry Lee, wrote, “To preserve Liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them.”
Alexander Hamilton wrote, “If the representatives of the people betray their constituents, there is then no recourse left but in the exertion of that original right of self-defense which is paramount to all positive forms of government,” adding, “Little more can reasonably be aimed at, with respect to the people at large, than to have them properly armed and equipped.”
In his Commentaries on the Constitution (1833), Justice Joseph Story, appointed to the Supreme Court by James Madison, affirmed the pre-eminence of the Second Amendment: “The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered as the palladium of the liberties of a republic; since it offers a strong moral check against usurpation and arbitrary power of the rulers; and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the People to resist and triumph over them.”
Like Justice Story, Founder Noah Webster wrote, “Tyranny is the exercise of some power over a man, which is not warranted by law, or necessary for the public safety. A people can never be deprived of their liberties, while they retain in their own hands, a power sufficient to any other power in the state.”
While the Second Amendment has not been specifically altered by another amendment since ratification, it most certainly has been subject to much alteration by judicial misinterpretation and overreach.
Statists in the executive and legislative branches, and their activists in the judicial branch, endeavor, wherever possible, to enfeeble and erode the Second Amendment, with the ultimate objective of disarming Americans and demoting their constitutional standing as citizens to their former standing as subjects.
“The Powers Not Delegated…”
“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.” —Article Ten (the Tenth Amendment)
The federal government has, over the years, routinely violated this amendment by wielding all manner of legislative and regulatory powers — powers that should be, according to Rule of Law, “reserved to the States respectively, or to the People.”
Equally injurious to our Constitution is the manner in which the assurance of states’ rights outlined in the Tenth Amendment has been eroded by legislative malfeasance and judicial diktat.
In Federalist No. 39, James Madison expounded upon the covenantal nature of the states’ would-be federal arrangement, voluntarily bound by mutual obligation. “Each State,” he wrote, “in ratifying the Constitution, is considered as a sovereign body, independent of all others, and only to be bound by its own voluntary act. In this relation, then, the new Constitution will, if established, be a FEDERAL, and not a NATIONAL constitution.”
In Federalist No. 45, Madison highlighted the definite limits placed upon power in such a federal structure, writing, “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.”
To help ensure that the central government would not overstep its constitutional authority, Madison wrote in Federalist No. 46, “Ambitious encroachments of the federal government, on the authority of the State governments, would not excite the opposition of a single State, or of a few States only. They would be signals of general alarm. … But what degree of madness could ever drive the federal government to such an extremity.”
But by 1792, Madison foresaw the potential for abuse, and he protested loudly against the prospect of the new government’s urge to redistribute the wealth of its citizens for purposes other than those expressly authorized by our Constitution: “If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the General Welfare, the Government is no longer a limited one, possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one, subject to particular exceptions.”
Similarly, Jefferson wrote: “Giving [Congress] a distinct and independent power to do any act they please which may be good for the Union, would render all the preceding and subsequent enumerations of power completely useless. It would reduce the whole [Constitution] to a single phrase, that of instituting a Congress with power to do whatever would be for the good of the United States; and as sole judges of the good or evil, it would be also a power to do whatever evil they please. Certainly no such universal power was meant to be given them. [The Constitution] was intended to lace them up straightly within the enumerated powers and those without which, as means, these powers could not be carried into effect.”
In his remarkable wisdom, Jefferson also warned that the legislature and courts should not enact laws so complex and convoluted as to conceal their meaning and implications from those for whom they were, ostensibly, created: “Laws are made for men of ordinary understanding and should, therefore, be construed by the ordinary rules of common sense. Their meaning is not to be sought for in metaphysical subtleties which may make anything mean everything or nothing at pleasure.”
Unfortunately, the law today is barely comprehensible in its scope even to those who legislate and interpret it, and this has dire implications for the federalist system of government established by our Constitution.
“A Republic, if You Can Keep It”
“Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” —Benjamin Franklin
As our Founders debated the language of our Constitution, Ben Franklin wrote, “I have so much faith in the general government of the world by Providence, that I can hardly conceive a transaction of such momentous importance to the welfare of millions now existing, and to exist in the posterity of a great nation, should be suffered to pass without being in some degree influenced, guided and governed by that omnipotent, omnipresent Beneficent Ruler, in whom all inferior spirits live & move and have their being.”
At the close of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Franklin was asked by a citizen if the delegates had formed a republic or a monarchy. He responded famously, “A republic, if you can keep it.”
To that end, as a warning for future generations to beware of “cunning, ambitious and unprincipled men,” George Washington wrote, “A just estimate of that love of power, and proneness to abuse it, which predominates in the human heart is sufficient to satisfy us of the truth of this position.”
“Good intentions,” noted Daniel Webster, “will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority. It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the People against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters.”
Or, as Alexander Hamilton put it, “Of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the People, commencing demagogues and ending tyrants.”
John Adams observed, “Is the present State of the Nation Republican enough? Is virtue the principle of our Government? Is honor? Or is ambition and avarice adulation, baseness, covetousness, the thirst of riches, indifference concerning the means of rising and enriching, the contempt of principle, the Spirit of party and of faction, the motive and the principle that governs?”
On the necessity of wisdom and reason, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “Man, once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against absurdities the most monstrous, and like a ship without rudder, is the sport of every wind. With such persons, gullibility takes the helm from the hand of reason and the mind becomes a wreck.”
John Adams warned of dire consequences should such wisdom and reason fail to sustain Liberty as enshrined in our Constitution: “A Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.”
Unfortunately, and at the expense of our Liberty, the Constitution has suffered under generations of “cunning, ambitious and unprincipled” politicians and judges whose successors now recognize only vestiges of its original intent. Today, constitutional Rule of Law has been weakened by those who have failed to abide by their sacred oaths to “support and defend” the same.
As the erosion of constitutional authority undermines individual Liberty, it likewise undermines economic Liberty, and the primary instruments of that erosion are taxation and regulation.
Our Founders were uniformly concerned about government power to lay and collect taxes, most notably direct taxation of income, and, accordingly, enumerated specific limitations on taxing and spending.
James Madison addressed the issue of unlimited spending and warned that misconstruction of “the power ‘to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises, to pay the debts, and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States,’ amounts to an unlimited commission to exercise every power which may be alleged to be necessary for the common defense or general welfare.”
To ensure that federal taxation would be limited to these constraints, Article I, Section 8, Clause 1, of our Constitution (the “Taxing and Spending Clause”), as duly ratified in 1789, defined “Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises,” but Section 8 required that such “shall be uniform throughout the United States.” This, in effect, limited the power of Congress to impose direct taxes on individuals, as further outlined in Section 9: “No Capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, unless in Proportion to the Census or enumeration herein before directed to be taken.”
That constitutional limitation survived until 1861, when the first income tax was imposed to defray Union costs during the War Between the States. That three-percent tax on incomes over $800 was sold as an emergency war measure. In 1894, congressional Democrats tested the Constitution again, passing a peacetime tax of two percent on income above $4,000. A year later, that tariff was overturned by the Supreme Court as not complying with the limitations set forth in Article 1.
Perhaps the most devastating blow to economic Liberty, however, was dealt by the father of American socialism, Woodrow Wilson, who was elected in large part due to his mastery of classist rhetoric as outlined by Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto in the mid-19th century. Wilson used that rhetoric to gain rapid passage of the Sixteenth Amendment in 1913, which specified, “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.”
“From whatever source derived” indeed.
The top tax rate levied under the new amendment was seven percent on incomes above $500,000, but today, almost every individual with an income of $25,000 or more (less than $1,000 in 1914 dollars) is taxed. If Wilson had attempted to impose his tax on incomes of $1,000, a second American Revolution may well have commenced. But like most assaults on Liberty, the income tax levy has avoided insurrection by incremental imposition on ever-broader income groups over the past century.
James Madison’s warning was prescient: “There are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the People by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”
The Sixteenth Amendment has been used to enact unequal and discriminatory taxation of targeted groups of income classes — “progressive” taxation as it is known. The resulting classism is the bulwark of all socialist movements. The “class warfare” agenda opened the floodgates for populist executives and legislators to enact taxes for expenditures not expressly authorized by our Constitution, and thus, the end of constitutionally limited government and the empowerment of the rule of men.
Notably, however, the construction of the Sixteenth Amendment notwithstanding, Article I, Section 9, of our Constitution assures that “No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed,” as these would allow the targeting of individuals or minority groups for undue punishment. Thus, it should be argued that targeting certain classes of income earners constitutes a bill of attainder, which should disqualify all but the even distribution of taxation by way of a flat tax across the board.
The most reckless of the 20th century’s class warfare provocateurs was Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was, ironically, an aristocrat. At the onset of the Great Depression, he instituted a plethora of policies that further challenged constitutional limits on our government, the cost of which now threatens our nation’s economic solvency.
FDR’s economic and social solutions were shaped by his upbringing as an “inheritance welfare liberal” (those raised dependent on inheritance rather than self-reliance). He used the Great Depression as cover to redefine and expand the role of the central government via countless extra-constitutional decrees, and he expanded Wilson’s program for redistribution of wealth in order to fund those extra-constitutional efforts.
Roosevelt proclaimed, “Here is my principle: Taxes shall be levied according to ability to pay. That is the only American principle.”
If that language sounds somehow familiar, it is because his unconstitutional “American principle” is essentially a paraphrase of Karl Marx’s communist maxim, “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.”
Roosevelt’s “principles” had no basis in Rule of Law or the principles of free enterprise. Consequently, his New Deal policies and programs set the standard for government expansion funded by wealth redistribution under what is the central government’s most powerful weapon: The U.S. Tax Code.
As Chief Justice John Marshall wrote in McCulloch v. Maryland (1819): “An unlimited power to tax involves, necessarily, a power to destroy; because there is a limit beyond which no institution and no property can bear taxation.”
But a century later under Wilson, government began to nibble around the edges. Today, it gobbles wholesale.
However, even some of the most noted Democrats in the second half of the 20th century, sounded more like Ronald Reagan than their current statist party leadership.
John F. Kennedy, arguing for tax cuts in 1963, proclaimed, “It is increasingly clear that no matter what party is in power … an economy hampered by restrictive tax rates will never produce enough revenues to balance our budget just as it will never produce enough jobs or enough profits.”
On the relationship between taxes, income and revenue, JFK noted, “It is a paradoxical truth that tax rates are too high today and tax revenues are too low and the soundest way to raise the revenues in the long run is to cut the rates now. … A tax cut means higher family income and higher business profits and a balanced federal budget. … As the national income grows, the federal government will ultimately end up with more revenues. … A rising tide lifts all boats.”
The gross expansion of the federal government’s power to tax and spend, and the resulting centralization of government authority and control, has fueled the abject violation of our Constitution’s Article Ten (the Tenth Amendment), which affirms: “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.” The resulting corruption of constitutional Rule of Law and limitations on the federal government, has propagated a perilous assault on Liberty.
The Rise of Statism and the Welfare State
“I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion of the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. In my youth I travelled much, and I observed in different countries, that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer.” —Benjamin Franklin
The ability to impose direct taxes to support a welfare state was anathema to our Founders and the Liberty they fought to secure for their posterity.
Of government welfare programs, the Congressional Record notes that James Madison “acknowledged, for his own part, that he could not undertake to lay his finger on that article in the Federal Constitution which granted a right of Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.”
Neither Article 1, Section 8, of our Constitution, nor its Sixteenth Amendment, gave Congress the authority to collect taxes for bailing out financial institutions, or subsidizing industries such as manufacturing and health care, or funding education and welfare, or issuing tens of thousands of earmarks for special interest “pork” projects. Nor is Congress authorized to institute countless conditions for the redistribution of wealth in its more than 75,000 pages and four million words of tax code alone, or to impose millions of regulations on everything from carbon emissions to toilet water volume.
So corrupt is this process of funding special interests in return for campaign contributions that it is now a grave threat to our Constitution.
Put another way, a large percentage of income is confiscated by the government and redistributed for purposes not expressly authorized by our Constitution. Consequently, our federal government has in recent years saddled the nation with more debt than in all its past history combined — debt that obligates future generations for repayment.
Of such debt, Jefferson concluded, “The principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale.” This debt burden will, unless it is reversed, break the back of our nation’s free enterprise system and permanently replace it with the statist policies of Democratic Socialism.
Washington warned, “Avoid likewise the accumulation of debt … not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burden which we ourselves ought to bear.”
However, historians and economists concur that Democratic Socialism, like National Socialism, is tantamount to Marxist Socialism repackaged. It seeks a centrally planned economy directed by a single-party state that controls economic production via regulation and income redistribution. All three socialist manifestations are formed around class-warfare propaganda and are in direct opposition to free enterprise. As noted economist and philosopher F.A. Hayek wrote, “There is no difference in principle, between the economic philosophy of Nazism, socialism, communism, and fascism and that of the American welfare state and regulated economy.”
Our Founders’ wisdom notwithstanding, today, more than 70 percent of the federal budget is allocated for “objects of benevolence” for which there is no original constitutional authority. Despite claims to the contrary, the debt issue is not a government revenue problem but, rather, a government spending problem.
At this writing, taxes on the top 50 percent of income earners total almost 97 percent of government revenue, while some 40 percent of Americans bore virtually no direct cost of government. Much more ominous is the fact that almost 35 percent of Americans are now dependent upon redistributed wealth. Thus, they are predisposed to vote for those promising such redistribution rather than working for their own prosperity. Indeed, in the words of socialist playwright George Bernard Shaw, “A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.”
Under siege of oppressive taxation, regulation and debt accumulation, can our republic survive? Can Liberty long endure?
Principium Imprimis — Restoring First Principles
“In disquisitions of every kind there are certain primary truths, or first principles, upon which all subsequent reasoning must depend.” —Alexander Hamilton
If we are to bequeath to our posterity the Liberty that our Founders enshrined, then we must return to principium imprimis, or First Principles. Our freedoms cannot long endure unless we, the People, reaffirm what was well understood by our Founders: Liberty is “endowed by [our] Creator.” The primacy of faith must be protected in order to preserve the most fundamental conviction that, as Jefferson wrote, our “liberties are the gift of God” and not the gift of government.
We must be steadfast in our advocacy for individual rights and responsibilities, and we must demand restoration of constitutional limits on government and the judiciary. We must be tireless in our promotion of traditional American values, particularly those family values that are the cornerstone of democratic society. We must support free enterprise in order that all Americans have the opportunity for prosperity, and a strong national defense to protect our national interests.
The Cycle of Democracy has been summarized as follows: from bondage (rule of men) to spiritual faith; from spiritual faith to great courage; from courage to Liberty (Rule of Law); from Liberty to abundance; from abundance to complacency; from complacency to apathy; from apathy to dependence; from dependence back into bondage (rule of men).
Our Founders established a democratic republic, not a democracy, in order to enfeeble this cycle. However, with the erosion of constitutional authority, our republic is now in jeopardy of following in the footsteps of all other republics throughout history. Only intervention by citizens and leaders who fight for the primacy of constitutional Rule of Law, those committed to supporting and defending the foundation of Liberty above their self-interest, will secure the republic for future generations.
Our Founders understood that such self-interest would undermine Liberty.
John Hancock wrote, “Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed, by the soft arts of luxury and effeminacy, into the pit digged for your destruction. … I thank God that America abounds in men who are superior to all temptation, whom nothing can divert from a steady pursuit of the interest of their country, who are at once its ornament and safeguard.”
Irrevocably linked to the rights ensured by constitutional Rule of Law is economic Liberty.
In 1916, an outspoken advocate for Liberty, a Presbyterian minister named William J. H. Boetcker, published a tract entitled “The Ten Cannots.” It fittingly contrasts the competing political and economic agendas of the Right and Left in our modern era:
“You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.
"You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
"You cannot help the poor man by destroying the rich.
"You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.
"You cannot build character and courage by taking away man’s initiative and independence.
"You cannot help small men by tearing down big men.
"You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.
"You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than your income.
"You cannot establish security on borrowed money.
"You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they will not do for themselves.”
Simply put, the central government cannot give to anybody what it does not first take from somebody else.
Nineteenth century historian Alexis de Tocqueville once observed, “Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word: equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in Liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude.”
Tocqueville was commenting on Liberty and free enterprise, American style, versus socialism as envisioned by emerging protagonists of centralized state governments. And he saw on the horizon a looming threat — a threat that would challenge freedoms writ in the blood and toil of our nation’s Founders and generations since.
So what’s a Patriot to do?
Extending Our Legacy of Liberty to the Next Generation
“Contemplate the mangled bodies of your countrymen, and then say ‘what should be the reward of such sacrifices?’ … If ye love wealth better than Liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animated contest of freedom, go from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen!” —Samuel Adams
Some of our countrymen are overwhelmed with the current state of our nation. They have resorted to fratricide within their ranks, or withdrawn from the fields of battle altogether. In so doing, they have forsaken the legacy of Liberty extended to them by generations of Patriots who have sacrificed their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor.
Of such resignation, Jefferson declared, “Honor, justice, and humanity, forbid us tamely to surrender that freedom which we received from our gallant ancestors, and which our innocent posterity have a right to receive from us. We cannot endure the infamy and guilt of resigning succeeding generations to that wretchedness which inevitably awaits them if we basely entail hereditary bondage on them.”
On retreating from the defense of Liberty, Benjamin Franklin wrote, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”
George Washington warned, “Disorders and miseries … gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an Individual … [who] turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty. … The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create, whatever the form of government, a real despotism. … Let there be no change by usurpation; for though this, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed.”
“Is life so dear or peace so sweet,” asked Patrick Henry, “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!”
In the same vein, Alexander Hamilton wrote, “A nation which can prefer disgrace to danger is prepared for a master, and deserves one!”
On Patriotism, George Washington, in his Farewell Address, said, “Citizens by birth or choice of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of American, which belongs to you, in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of Patriotism, more than any appellation derived from local discriminations. … Of all the dispositions and habits, which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensible supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great Pillars of human happiness — these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens.”
But Washington also warned, “Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism.”
Plainly, none can claim the name “American Patriot” while passively submitting to laws and regulations that violate the most fundamental tenets of our Constitution.
At its core, the word “Patriot” has direct lineage to those who fought for American independence and established our constitutional republic. That lineage has descended through our history most conspicuously by way of those who have pledged “to Support and Defend” our Constitution — those who have been faithful to and have abided by their oaths, even unto death.
Those who can rightly claim the name Patriot in this era — men and women who have stood firm in defense of Liberty — are rightly encouraged by the grassroots groundswell of activism across the nation in recent years. Increasing numbers of our countrymen are awakening to the serious threats to our Constitution and their irrevocable terminus: tyranny.
The growing chorus of Patriot voices from every corner of the nation and all walks of life is demanding restoration of Rule of Law as enshrined in our Constitution.
Today’s Patriots exemplify not only the eternal spirit of Liberty conferred by previous generations of Patriots, but also a spirit enlivened in recent history by a constitutional advocate who many historians regard as the greatest American president of the 20th century.
A Time for Choosing
“It is [the citizens] choice, and depends upon their conduct, whether they will be respectable and prosperous, or contemptable and miserable as a Nation. This is the time of their political probation; this is the moment when the eyes of the World are turned upon them.” —George Washington
Ronald Reagan was elected president in 1980 on a platform of constitutional integrity and federalism, and he was devoted to that doctrine. Four years later he was re-elected on those same principles in a landslide, winning every state but his opponent’s home state (and, tellingly, the District of Columbia). Under his leadership, the nation’s slide into the socialist abyss was arrested.
In 1964, years before he expressed any presidential aspirations, Reagan delivered a treatise on Liberty titled, “A Time for Choosing,” which to this day appositely frames conservative philosophy.
In “The Speech,” as we now know it, Reagan insisted, “I think it’s time we ask ourselves if we still know the freedoms that were intended for us by the Founding Fathers. … Whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American Revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capital can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.”
He continued: “You and I are told increasingly that we have to choose between a left or right, but I would like to suggest that there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down — up to a man’s age-old dream; the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order — or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism, and regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would trade our freedom for security have embarked on this downward course.”
Reagan departed the Democrat Party at the dawn of his political career, but he made a point to clarify his decision: “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party; the Democratic Party left me.”
Consistent with that assertion, contemporary leaders of the once-noble “party of the People” have turned the wisdom of their iconic sovereigns upside down.
In his 1961 Inaugural Address, President John F. Kennedy proclaimed, “My fellow Americans: Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
But today, his party insists: “Ask not what you can do for your country, ask what your country can do for you.”
In his famous 1963 address from the Lincoln Memorial, Martin Luther King Jr. proclaimed, “I have a dream that my children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
But now, his party asserts: “I have a dream that my children will be judged by the color of their skin, not the content of their character.”
Some said President Reagan won broad support because he was a “great communicator,” but he corrected that in his Farewell Address: “I wasn’t a great communicator, but I communicated great things, and they didn’t spring full bloom from my brow, they came from the heart of a great nation — from our experience, our wisdom, and our belief in principles that have guided us for two centuries.”
The principles of Liberty advanced by President Reagan were, and remain, a template for the victory of Liberty over tyranny.
But our Legacy of Liberty is at risk today because so many Americans are utterly unable to articulate the difference between Rule of Law and rule of men. The consequence of such perilous ignorance is the rise of a regressive ideology whose agenda is, according to the Democrat Party’s 2009-2017 standard-bearer, “fundamentally transforming the United States of America” through the transformation of our economic, social and cultural principles.
Thomas Jefferson warned in successive letters, “I place economy among the first and most important virtues and public debt as the greatest dangers to be feared. … To preserve independence … we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. … When all government … shall be drawn to Washington as the center of all power, it will render powerless the checks provided of one government on another. … Were we directed from Washington when to sow, and when to reap, we should soon want bread. … The fore horse of this frightful team is public debt. Taxation follow that, and in its turn wretchedness and oppression.”
Today, our economy is struggling under the enormous weight of mounting debt, and it may yet implode with much greater consequences than those of the Great Depression. The ensuing social crisis would result in government intervention under the pretense of “economic recovery,” structured to, ultimately, replace the last vestiges of free enterprise with a Democratic Socialist framework.
As Jefferson concluded, “We must make our election between economy and Liberty, or profusion and servitude.”
Alexander Hamilton wrote likewise, “No man in his senses can hesitate in choosing to be free, rather than a slave.”
Another Time for Choosing
“If men of wisdom and knowledge, of moderation and temperance, of patience, fortitude and perseverance, of sobriety and true republican simplicity of manners, of zeal for the honour of the Supreme Being and the welfare of the commonwealth; if men possessed of these other excellent qualities are chosen to fill the seats of government, we may expect that our affairs will rest on a solid and permanent foundation.” —Samuel Adams
Given that so many actions and regulations handed down by those in the executive, legislative and judicial branches fail to comport with the plain language and authority of our Constitution, it is clear that they have abandoned their “sacred oaths” to “support and defend” that venerable document “against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” and to “bear true faith and allegiance to the same.”
Our Founders understood that Rule of Law as enshrined in our Constitution was the foundational guarantee to protect and sustain Liberty for their generation and that of their posterity. Consequently, they prescribed that all elected officials be bound by sacred oath to “support and defend” our Constitution.
For presidents, Article II, Section 1, of our Constitution specifies: “Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation: ‘I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.’”
Likewise Article VI, Clause 3, specifies: “The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution.”
In the current era, however, many federal officeholders have forsaken their oaths and instead focus on redistributing wealth to their special-interest constituencies in order to perpetuate their own re-election. Here, we can be certain that when the number of constituents who vote for their income and provisions outnumber those who work for their income and provisions, the republic will be lost.
The time has come to inquire with a unified voice: If there is no explicit constitutional authority for the laws and regulations enacted by Congress and enforced by the central government, then by what authority do those entities lay and collect taxes to fund such laws and regulations? If they have no authority, does this then constitute “taxation without representation”? What should be the punishment for their dereliction?
Today, while the words “conservative” and “liberal” are ubiquitously used to describe political alliances, these words more essentially describe whether one advocates for Rule of Law or for the rule of men; the conservation of our Constitution as the Founders intended, or its leftist interpretation by regressive legislators and judicial activists.
As Reagan challenged, it is time for each of us to choose which of these we advocate and to fully understand the consequences of that choice. It is time for those of us who endorse the most basic tenets of our republic — “That all men are created equal,” that they are in fact “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” and “that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” — to honor that heritage and set about the formidable task of restoring individual Liberty and constitutional limits upon the branches of our federal government.
The futility of debating policy matters must now yield to a more substantive national debate about constitutional authority and the First Principles of Liberty.
If we are to fully restore Liberty and the integrity of our Constitution, we must continue to do so from the bottom up, a groundswell from the grassroots. Indeed, nothing great and enduring has ever been built from the top down. We must therefore start at the foundation, speaking with one disciplined, determined and unified voice toward one primary objective: the re-establishment of Rule of Law.
If we are to succeed, we must understand our Constitution and the Rule of Law it enshrines, and we must extend that understanding to others. If we are to turn back the rising tide of tyranny, it is important that every American Patriot, all of whom are committed to preserving our constitutional heritage and extending our legacy of Liberty to future generations, be able to articulate the difference between Rule of Law and rule of men.
Indeed, in this, the third century since our foundational Declaration and Constitution were instituted, quiet encroachments have resulted in a central government poised to dictate the terms of Liberty according to the decrees of men. The threat of tyranny is imminent.
Although our Constitution provides the people with an authentic means for amendment, as prescribed in Article V, activist jurists and lawmakers have altered that founding convention well beyond any semblance of its original intent, using the courts, legislation and regulation to greatly expand the powers of the central government according to their decrees.
We must declare by all means that the scope of our government’s activities be constrained to the limits enumerated in our Constitution, and we must understand that this contraction will require courage, deliberation and years of steadfast diligence. It will take time to rebuild from generations of erosion to Rule of Law. But rebuild we must, and with determination. For if we fail, and Rule of Law is overwhelmed by the rule of men, tyranny will, once again, prevail.
On July 4th, 1776, our Declaration of Independence was inaugurated as our nation’s supreme contract, proclaiming the unalienable Rights of Man. It asserted, “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.” Our Declaration’s principal author, Thomas Jefferson, wrote, “The tree of Liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. … Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God.” On the signing of the Declaration, John Adams noted, “I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure that it will cost to maintain this Declaration.”
While one prays that Liberty will be restored and extended to our posterity by way of spirited electoral rebellion — ballots rather than bullets — history does not favor such prospects. But the beauty of our constitutional republic, as reinforced in recent years, is that an informed electorate can reverse by way of the ballot box the trends toward tyranny.
Founder Patrick Henry wrote of seemingly benign encroachments upon Liberty, “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 syren… For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it might cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.”
It is time to fully object to the degraded state of our Constitution and reject any further degradation by way of “illusions of hope” that these depredations will magically repair themselves. It is the responsibility of our generation of Patriots to provide for its revitalization. In the spirit of Thomas Paine’s 1776 assertion, “If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace,” so too it should be in our day.
As the means for restoring the integrity of our Constitution are weighed, in regard to a “constitutional convention” for amendment, let us beware. In this day of mass communication and mass manipulation, there may be severe unintended consequences to such a convention.
Here, let us consider an alternative, a “Constitutional Confederation of States,” an alliance of states whose delegations would assemble to re-affirm the authority of our Constitution — in effect, to re-ratify it and the Rule of Law it enshrines.
Article IV, Section 4, prescribes with no ambiguity, “The United States shall guarantee to every state in this union a republican form of government…” A Constitutional Confederation of States should demand no less than the federalism prescribed by our Constitution and affirmed in its Tenth Amendment.
Ronald Reagan said, “There are no easy answers, but there are simple answers. We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right. … You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the last step into a thousand years of darkness.”
Liberty or Tyranny?
“The citizens of the United States are responsible for the greatest trust ever confided to a political society. If justice, good faith, honor, gratitude and all the other qualities which ennoble the character of a nation and fulfill the ends of government be the fruits of our establishments, the cause of Liberty will acquire a dignity and lustre, which it has never yet enjoyed, and an example will be set, which cannot but have the most favourable influence on the Rights on Mankind. If on the other side, our governments should be unfortunately blotted with the reverse of these cardinal and essential virtues, the great cause which we have engaged to vindicate, will be dishonored and betrayed; the last and fairest experiment in favor of the Rights of human nature will be turned against them; and their patrons and friends exposed to be insulted and silenced by the votaries of tyranny and usurpation.” —James Madison
The cause of, and necessity for, the American Revolution was the violation of fundamental rights endowed by the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God. Unjust taxation was the catalyst for the first American Revolution and the attempt to disarm the People resulted in the “Shot Heard Round the World.”
Once again, the irrevocable “Rights of Man” are being violated, and that encroachment is sustained by wealth confiscation and redistribution, and by regulation, for purposes not expressly authorized by our Constitution. As was the case at the dawn of the American Revolution, taxes and regulations are the catalysts for undermining our rights. Liberty is not secure for us, nor for our posterity, if the legislature institutes regulations, collects taxes and accumulates insurmountable obligations of debt to support government agendas and expenditures that are clearly outside the limits of our Constitution.
Consequently, our nation approaches the precipice of insolvency, and the bill is rapidly coming due. It will most certainly be repaid in the currency of tyranny unless Liberty and Rule of Law prevail.
Our Constitution, as written and ratified, stipulates in its preface that it is “ordained and established” by the People to “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.” But the incremental revocation of our ability to defend ourselves from encroachments on our rights has greatly diminished our capacity to secure those blessing today, let alone for future generations.
“We, the People of the United States,” must demand that members of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the federal government abide by their sworn oaths to “support and defend” our Constitution as mandated in Article II and Article VI. The enforcement of regulations, the collection of taxes and the accumulation of debt for expenditures that have no express constitutional authorization is in violation of our Constitution and, thus, the oaths of those sworn to uphold it as the supreme law of the land.
“Representation” does not exist where there is no assurance that elected representatives will abide by their oaths to obey Rule of Law. As George Washington observed, “Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation deserts the oaths?” Those representatives who undertake unlawful expenditures of the treasury as an instrument to perpetuate their re-election, whose allegiance is secured with confiscated and redistributed wealth, betray their oaths and do damage to our Constitution and our Liberty.
We as American Patriots must, “with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor,” as we endeavor to restore Rule of Law and our Constitution’s limits on governmental power. As 18th century Irish statesman Edmund Burke, who supported the American Revolution, said of complacency and indifference, “When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.”
Likewise, on this critical need for association, on July 4th, 1776, Ben Franklin advised, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.” This is sage advice for today and for all those days to come.
Fellow Patriots, at the dawn of the first fight for American Liberty, Thomas Paine wrote, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” And so it is today.
This treatise on Liberty is not a call for revolution but for restoration — to undertake whatever measures are dictated by prudence and necessity to restore the integrity and primacy of our Constitution and the Liberty it enshrines.
Take heart in these timeless words of George Washington, who penned them when it seemed that the first American Revolution might fail: “We should never despair. Our situation before has been unpromising and has changed for the better, so I trust, it will again. If new difficulties arise, we must only put forth new exertions and proportion our efforts to the exigency of the times.”
Remember the words of Samuel Adams: “Let us consider, brethren, we are struggling for our best birthrights and inheritance… Let us disappoint the Men who are raising themselves on the ruin of this Country.”
Fellow Patriots, only time separates our obligations from those of past Patriots, who were much as we are today. For, in Washington’s words, “Our cause is noble; it is the cause of mankind!”
First and foremost, we are defenders of Liberty and First Principles. We are not defined by race, creed, ethnicity, religion, wealth, education, geography or political affiliation. Rather, we are defined by our devotion to the endowments of our Creator, and to the Liberty He has entrusted to us, one and all.
We are mothers, fathers and other family members nurturing the next generation of Patriots. We are farmers, craftsmen, tradesmen and industrial producers. We are small-business owners, service providers and professionals in medicine and law. We are employees and employers. We are in ministry at home and missionaries abroad. We are students and professors at colleges and universities, often standing alone for what is good and right.
We are Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen and public servants standing in harm’s way at home and around the world, who are loyal, first and foremost, to a solemn oath to “support and defend” our Constitution.
We are consumers and taxpayers. And we are voters.
We are Patriot sons and daughters from all walks of life, heirs to the blessings of Liberty bequeathed to us at great personal cost by our Patriot forebears, confirmed in the opinion that it is our duty to God and country to extend those blessings to our posterity, and avowed upon our sacred honor to that end. We are vigilant, strong, prepared and faithful.
Make it known far and wide that we remain steadfast in our duty to extend the legacy of Liberty to the next generation, and upon our sacred honor we affirm that obligation. We will make no peace with any measure of oppression.
In 1630, Pilgrim John Winthrop, the first governor of Massachusetts, wrote, “For we must consider that we shall be as a City upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us.”
On the eve of his first election in 1980, Ronald Reagan declared: “Let us resolve tonight that young Americans will always see those Potomac lights; that they will always find there a city of hope in a country that is free. And let us resolve they will say of our day and our generation that we did keep faith with our God, that we did act ‘worthy of ourselves’; that we did protect and pass on lovingly that shining city on a hill.”
He concluded his last national address in 1992, saying: “My fondest hope for each one of you — and especially for the young people here — is that you will love your country, not for her power or wealth, but for her selflessness and her idealism. May each of you have the heart to conceive, the understanding to direct, and the hand to execute works that will make the world a little better for your having been here. May all of you as Americans never forget your heroic origins, never fail to seek divine guidance, and never lose your natural, God-given optimism. And finally, my fellow Americans, may every dawn be a great new beginning for America and every evening bring us closer to that shining city upon a hill.”
Finally, hold fast to these words of encouragement from President Reagan: “America’s best days are yet to come. Our proudest moments are yet to be. Our most glorious achievements are just ahead.”
For indeed they are!
Semper Vigilans Fortis Paratus et Fidelis
Pro Deo et Libertate — 1776
Publisher of The Patriot Post
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