Posts Tagged ‘Bill of Rights’

Why Have a Bill of Rights?

In any free society that area of life which is left to the sole discretion of the individual includes all actions that are not specifically forbidden by a general law.

In our nation when it came time for the ratification of the Constitution it would have been impossible to gain the votes needed if the backers of a centralized national government had not promised that the first thing they did was pass a Bill of Rights.  It had been asserted by the proponents of liberty that to enumerate such a list would eventually become a statement that only those rights enumerated were protected.  However, it was generally believed certain rights were so important and so open to suppression that fundamental guarantees were needed.  In consequence the Constitution was lengthened to include the first ten amendments as the opening business of Congress.

Over time the argument that these enumerated rights would come to be seen as the only ones protected has certainly come to pass, which is another of the assertions of the Anti-Federalists that have stood the test of time.  However, it has also been shown that without these constitutional protections these enumerated rights would have long ago been relegated to the ash heap of History.

Even with the protection of the Bill of Rights there has been a steady chipping away at the rights our forefathers thought were so important.  A Supreme Court that has abrogated onto itself the power to nullify the will of the people as expressed in legislation and to invent rights that are nowhere enumerated debates whether or not “shall not be infringed” really means it is legal to restrict.

In our age of seemingly endless technological change we must admit that any enumerated list of rights cannot be complete.  What about surveillance?  Does our right to privacy which has been asserted to allow tens of millions of abortions extend to our growing Orwellian Omni-present surveillance state?  Does the state have a right to follow us with drones?  To kill us without due process?  To collect our emails, our phone calls or keep a ledger of where we go?  Under President Bush people demonstrated because his administration wanted to see the records of library withdrawals.  Under President Obama the populace is silent about the most egregious violations of our rights.

What about the rights of the States?  Do they have the right to be protected from invasion?  Do they have the right to pass and enforce laws that call for local agencies to enforce the federal laws that the central government refuses to enforce?   Ever since the 17th Amendment stripped the States of their representation in Congress our federal system has been debilitated to the point of paralysis.  Today the central government runs roughshod over the States demanding that they stand by helplessly as their citizens are harassed and their sovereignty is evaporated.

If the Bill of Rights is to remain as any type of bulwark against tyranny it must be accepted that they contain a general assumption that government is restrained from infringing upon the traditional rights that we have enjoyed.  If we stand ideally by while our rights are redefined to irrelevance we will one day wake up to find ourselves in a prison camp we once called the United States of America.

We have experienced over the course of the last two hundred years that the Constitution could be no more than a somewhat porous protection from the assumption of total power by a centralized government.  Today we endure levels of control and taxation that make the causes of our own Revolution pale in comparison.  It is hard not to believe that if Washington, Henry, and that generation were with us today they wouldn’t be issuing declarations and raising the alarm, “The totalitarians are coming!  The Totalitarians are coming!!”

The only protection of this creeping corruption of our constitutionally limited government is an informed public.  If the people sleep the tyrants dream.  They dream of ordering society to match whichever version of a utopian pyramid scheme they adopt to fool the people.  It matters little whether they call it communism, fascism, or progressivism a re-education camp is a prison by another name.  It matters little whether we call it censorship or political correctness.  It matters little whether we call it taxes or penalties.  It matters little whether we call it coercion or regulation.

What does matter is whether we are truly free or free only in name.  Can we do what we want or can we merely do what is allowed?

Outside of the bounds of the constitutionally established amendment process the Progressives have used the fiction of a Living Document to make the Constitution a dead letter.  Executive orders, signing statements, court decisions, and the bewildering framework of regulation stretch the power of government while restricting the freedom of the people.

Empires rise and empires fall.  Some fall due to invasion and some due to suicide.  The European Empires committed suicide in two fratricidal World Wars that destroyed their cities and left their people shell-shocked and unwilling to bear the burden of power.

Today we watch while our great republic jettisons the world girdling empire it inherited from the exhausted Europeans.  We stand mute as our leaders abandon the leadership not only of the free world but of the world itself.  Not for the noble cause of reasserting freedom at home but instead because we have spent ourselves into bankruptcy with bread and circuses to amuse the masses while a clique of elites concentrates power.  We have empty suits leading representatives who have gerrymandered their way to perpetual election presiding over an unelected bureaucracy that rules by decree.

Does liberty still ring or has the bell finally cracked beyond repair?  Why do we have a Bill of Rights?  So we can remember who we once were.

Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion. He is the Historian of the Future @ © 2014 Contact Dr. Owens Follow Dr. Robert Owens on Facebook or Twitter @ Drrobertowens / Edited by Dr. Rosalie Owens



By John F. Di Leo –
Bill of Rights
On December 15, 1791, the Bill of Rights was ratified by the Old Dominion – the Commonwealth of Virginia – enabling the Bill of Rights to hit the necessary three-quarters requirement for passage. With Virginia’s ratification, the Bill of Rights was now a part of the Constitution of the United States.

Both how we came to this point, and the reason it was done, tell us a great deal about the Founding Era. To better understand where we are today, let’s take a moment to look back, and remember 18th century America… and return to the present, and ponder how far we have fallen.

Rights Guaranteed, Rights Trampled

The United States of America was born in the British tradition of guaranteed civil rights. A once-unlimited monarchy was constrained, bit by bit, by hard-won agreements. The Magna Carta in 1215, the Petition of Right in 1628, the Habeus Corpus Act of 1679, the Declaration of Rights in 1689… again and again, over the 700 years between the Norman Conquest and the movement for independence in America, the British people had won guarantees against government abuse… through political action, through negotiation, through threat of insurrection.

The British Crown had been loath to agree to these rights. Kings and queens often fought tooth and nail against them. The ability to hold a citizen without trial, to search a home, to shut up a speaker or shut down a newspaper – these are critical tools in the toolbox of a tyrant.

But gradually, over these seven centuries, the British people had won concessions. First just for nobility, then expanded ever so slightly to include merchants, landowners, and more. One still couldn’t say by the 18th century that all British subjects were fully protected, but it was closer to the mark there than in most other countries of a not-yet-modernized world. By the time of our revolution, the British people were among the freest on earth, and were proud of the fact.

Unfortunately, the guarantors of those rights – the documents, the Parliament, the British public – were an ocean away in an era of slow communications, by the time young King George III took the throne.

The first really activist monarch of the Hanoverians, George III wanted to have plums to dole out to his supporters in Parliament, and – to be fair – he understandably wanted to make sure that the American colonies contributed something to their costs. So George started restricting American liberties – sometimes overtly, sometimes by acts of Parliament.

George III saw Americans getting self-sufficient in more and more areas. He didn’t want America to be independently successful; he wanted these colonies to be suppliers of raw materials and consumers of British finished goods, nothing else. So he saw foundries operating in these colonies, and he shut them down. He saw international trade between these colonies and other countries, and he mandated that most trade, then finally, all trade, must travel first through London middlemen. He saw rabble-rousers, and he sent ever more aggressive governors, then troops, to maintain order and quench opposition.

By the days of our War of Independence, George had placed Boston under military law for nearly a decade… he had mandated that our imports and exports be slowed and increased in cost by his politically-connected middlemen (the London factors)… he had stationed troops in hostile citizens’ private homes… he had summarily dismissed whole legislatures, even the Virginia House of Burgesses in Williamsburg!

The list of George III’s affronts to the liberty of British subjects in the Americas is simply too long to list here. Fortunately, the Declaration of Independence covers a good number of them – while still, long as it is, leaving quite a number out!

The question of course is – and was – how could he do it? How on earth could a country so protective of its rights allow its monarch to trample on them?

The answer is that George III did have a certain type of brilliance. While dismissive of our own rights on this side of the Pond, George III was generally a good king to the people of England proper, where the power of Parliament stood. He didn’t shut down printing presses, dismiss legislatures, station troops in people’s houses, at home in England. So when the Americans started shouting that the king was a tyrant, many in England thought it was poppycock; “George is just great as far as we’re concerned!”

George III had adopted a novel theory; that the guarantees of rights enjoyed by British subjects in England, were guaranteed only to the English. He believed that he was a limited monarch only at home in England, not abroad, in England’s many foreign holdings, where he was an absolute monarch.

Never mind that this theory stood in direct opposition to thousands of years of precedent. From the days of the ancient Romans, being a citizen meant that you enjoy the full rights of citizenship, no matter how far from the capital city you may be. But George III didn’t care about Roman citizens, only about the rough settlers of the distant American frontier, and as far as he was concerned, they were just his subjects, not fellow citizens at all. So to him, the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Rights, the Petition of Rights, none of these affected his plans to subjugate the people of the American colonies in the slightest.

Come the Revolution…

As the colonies declared their independence, their state legislatures moved to issue new Declarations of Rights, clearly asserting the fact that these are innate human rights, granted by God, recognized by the people as their birthright. The new states declared that in the view of Americans, it’s government’s duty to defend these rights; government is in fact established for the very purpose of guaranteeing them, of protecting the people from any intruder, attacker or branch of government that would attempt to trample them.

The new state of Maryland included a bill of rights as part of their constitution in 1776; Massachusetts included one in its constitution in 1780. By the end of the War of Independence, every state’s constitution included a list of rights in some form, many based on the Virginia Declaration of Rights, written by George Mason in 1776. Rooted in the common law of England and the seven century British tradition, these new American documents synthesized both the pre-existing legal protections and the true American drive for freedom that had originally drawn our immigrants to these shores.

So these declarations incorporated freedom from a governmentally mandated religious denomination, freedom from government shutdowns of printing presses or public assemblies, freedom from having your business or property taken away by a greedy government. These declarations helped Americans appreciate what we were fighting for, in the hard years of a long and often painful revolution.

The publication of the Declaration of Independence, combined with each state’s own written guarantees, reminded every citizen of what Britain had been doing to us, and reminded us simultaneously that if we won this war, we would govern ourselves, and thus be free of such fears in the future.

The concept of including a bill of rights in every constitution was therefore a foregone conclusion, both from the long history of British documents and from the actions of each state in the 1770s as we broke away from the mother country and set out on our own.

By the time independence was won in 1783, many had forgotten what the purpose of a bill of rights was: to gain a promise from an otherwise unlimited government that, though it might intrude in a thousand other areas, it would never intrude in these. Promise!

The Constitutional Convention… and something new under the sun

In the summer of 1787, the greatest meeting of political philosophers in history gathered together to write a new Constitution. The 55 men of the Philadelphia Convention set out to do something new: not to draw up limits upon an existing king or emperor, but to establish a new form of government, a government that is not just limited by the imposition of a constitution, but that is born of that constitution.

Most arrived at the Convention expecting that the resulting document would include a bill of rights. Several of those in attendance had in fact authored such documents in their own states. George Mason, George Washington’s neighbor and friend – by now generally regarded as the father of such documents – had arrived in Philadelphia with the intent of ensuring that whatever the final document looked like, it would include as strong a bill of rights as possible.

But once the delegates started discussing it in detail – having written seven articles on establishing and controlling the national government, they found themselves recognizing a surprising fact: a bill of rights might not make sense in this document after all!

Here’s what they recognized, in a nutshell: a monarchy, duchy, empire, or other such dictatorship is inherently unlimited. It’s imposed on the people, so it needs to be constrained. A constitution and bill of rights are both needed to limit such a government. Without both, even after a century of honorable behavior, a king might overstep his bounds. So he needed to be told what he could do, and then, he needed also to be told what he could not. And the still-reigning (though ill) king of England had just demonstrated how weak such limits could be in such a situation.

The United States of America was to be a new form of government. The entire U.S. government – all three branches – would be hatched from this document. They would be, essentially, “born limited.”

The Constitution told them what they could do, listing their functions as precisely as they could. The brilliant program of “checks and balances” was designed to build in self-limiting boundaries throughout the new government. The executive wouldn’t try to spread, because the judiciary and legislative would thwart it. The judiciary wouldn’t try to spread, because the executive and legislative, equally jealous of their own power, would thwart the attempt.

Again and again, the Framers built constraints into the Constitution: When the president appoints, the Senate must approve. When the House wants to spend, the Senate and President must agree. When the House and Senate want something done, the Executive will be the one to do it. No one, so theory goes, would attempt to wield power beyond that which was constitutionally granted, because such power would be granted to a rival branch, which would know it was chartered to thwart such a threat.

So, when the time came, the Framers came to the surprising conclusion that a bill of rights would be unnecessary. Such a list is necessary only if there would otherwise be a fear that the government would feel itself unconstrained… but since the entire Constitution was designed to restrict anyway, a bill of rights would not only be unnecessary, it might even be viewed as counterproductive.

The Framers had to consider this:

If we only say “Here’s what the government can do, and no more,” we are being consistent in declaring the government as utterly limited. It’s a shopping list: government can do this, and only this. If it’s not on the list, you can’t do it.

But if we then say “And here’s what the government can not do… this or this or this or that. You can’t ever do any of this, is that clear,” then what have we done? We’ve contradicted ourselves. Because the Constitution doesn’t say that the government can control businesses, so it doesn’t make sense to say “especially not newspapers.” The Constitution doesn’t say that the government can control people’s religious observance, so it doesn’t make sense to say “especially not to set up a taxpayer-funded denomination.” The Constitution doesn’t say that the government can seize anybody’s land, so it doesn’t make sense to say “but if we do, we’ll agree to compensate the landowner at the proper market value of the land.”

And why say “any power not specifically granted in the Constitution is restricted to the states or the people,” when that’s so obvious, it must go without saying?

When they thought about it this way, the Framers realized that it simply wouldn’t make sense to include a Bill of Rights; it would just confuse the issue. They thought that a message that read “you can ONLY do this” would be diluted terribly if you added “but if you DO exceed these bounds, be sure you don’t exceed them in these other directions!” So the Framers voted to stop there, and they published their final document without a Bill of Rights.

George Mason walked out in horror, refusing to sign the final document without such a list, but the majority of the Framers agreed with the logic. So the Constitution was submitted to the states for ratification, just a poetic preamble and the seven articles, ready for the consideration of the states.

A Firestorm Erupts

Perhaps they should have expected it: as soon as the idea of a replacement for the Articles of Confederation was announced (most assumed they would propose amendments, at least at first), the next shock was that this new document included no bill of rights. None at all. No mention of freedom of the press, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly? No mention of the right to be safe in our homes from unwarranted searches, the right to a speedy trial by a jury of one’s peers?

The ratification debate was bound to be hard enough as it was. A potentially bigger central government, certainly a stronger one, this was not what the public had rebelled against England to get. The Federalists (those who supported ratification) went into overdrive, writing articles, giving speeches, organizing support in every state capital, as thirteen separate battles for ratification had to be fought separately.

The Federalists caved quickly on the subject of the bill of rights. They tried to explain why there was no need for one, why in fact it would even be counterproductive, but the idea fell on such deaf ears, they realized that if they didn’t capitulate, the Constitution would be stillborn. The supporters of ratification agreed, in state after state, to make the addition of a bill of rights a condition of ratification, and on that basis, the ratification process began to succeed.

Once the Constitution was ratified, and the new Congress was seated, James Madison, now a Congressman from Virginia, drawing heavily from George Mason’s popular list, drew up a list of amendments for consideration. Seventeen passed the House, and twelve of those passed the Senate on September 25, 1789, ready to be sent on to the states. It took two years for the states to work it out, and on December 15, 1791, the state of Virginia ratified the ten most popular ones, bringing the number of ratifying states to three quarters, and causing the Bill of Rights to become law.

And how have they worked out?

We have now spent 222 years with both a Constitution and a Bill of Rights at the national level. We can never know for sure how the nation would have turned out without the Bill of Rights, but this much we do know:

The federal government has expanded in almost every imaginable direction. It has grown in size and numbers, as the biggest employer and biggest spending entity in the country. It has become the employer of last resort for many, and the employer of choice for even more. It dominates the home loan market and higher education, and now seeks to dominate the healthcare business as well. It buys and sells massive manufacturers like Chrysler and GM, and orders banks and insurance companies around like they were pawns on a chessboard. The federal government has expanded without noticeable resistance in every area not specifically forbidden by the Bill of Rights.

On the other hand, whenever there have been attempts to encroach upon the areas forbidden by the Bill of Rights (and there have been, oh, so many!), the judiciary has usually respected the amendments, though perhaps kicking and screaming along the way. If anything, the judiciary has often imagined these ten amendments to be more restrictive than they were intended to be.

The protection against unfair trials has been morphed into a guarantee of a trial in which conviction is often almost impossible even for the guilty. The protection against government establishment of a religious denomination has been insanely interpreted as a hostility toward government support of the Judeo-Christian worldview that 99% of the Founders themselves held. The protection against restrictions on assembly has been used to support socialist takeovers of state capitols and other federal land, while being conveniently forgotten when tea party groups legally apply for permits.

The warping of the Bill of Rights – this most well-intentioned of documents – has in fact gone on for generations, and today, one political party openly thrashes the Constitution as a document of so-called “negative rights,” as if the very concept of restrictions on government is a dangerous thing!

How far we have fallen.

Our Framers would not recognize the government we have today. They would never have blessed a nation in which half the country depends on government for schooling, for housing, for food, for allowance. They would never have dreamed that such a transformation could occur without a revolution, but it did… in a long slow slide that arguably started with the 16th amendment – the ability to tax individuals directly – and the 17th amendment – the removal of the states’ one and only brake on the federal government, by switching senators to direct election by the masses.

It is perhaps only an academic game – and not a happy one, by any means – to ponder what might have happened had the Framers’ will prevailed, 222 years ago.

What if there were no Bill of Rights at the federal level? What if all there was, in all that short but well-packed document, was a laundry list of things that government might do, nothing else? What if when Hamilton wanted a central bank, the Congress had to debate it, and win public support before it could be chartered? What if when Jefferson wanted to buy land from France, the Congress had to debate that too, and win public support before the check to Napoleon could be cut?

That’s how the nation began. The Constitution was just a list, and anything outside it had to be debated. But ever since the Bill of Rights was added, the argument shifted. Now instead of asking “Can we do that?” we ask “Is it forbidden?” When it is not plainly forbidden by the Bill of Rights, the political strength of the limiting side is rarely sufficient to successfully oppose the expansion. The small-government faction – the faction that stands with the Founding Fathers against the Progressives who seek to empower the leviathan to break free of its bonds – is only strong enough to compete on an ever-dwindling field of battle.

And as we have seen since the dawn of the 20th century, tragically, the list of things forbidden can never be as long as the list of things that an insatiably omnivorous leviathan desires.

The framers gave us one tool, however. Like the “Hope” that was buried in the corner of Pandora’s Box, we have the last amendment of the Bill of Rights – the 10th Amendment – which, if aggressively wielded, can yet wrest control back from Washington, and set this nation free to again be the City on a Hill envisioned by the Founding Fathers.

If only we had them today, in proportional numbers, to help lead us in the fight.

Copyright 2013 John F. Di Leo

John F. Di Leo is a Chicago-based Customs broker and regulatory compliance trainer. He studied his history and political science at Northwestern University, but learned the real impact of the growing leviathan through four decades in international trade. A spokesman of the Illinois Small Business Men’s Association in the 1980s, and a county chairman of the Milwaukee County Republican Party in the 1990s, he has now been a recovering politician for over sixteen years.


By John F. Di Leo – 82507772MB023_2008_Republic

The Founding Generation of Americans were Englishmen.

The term had a special meaning, and was a badge of pride, no matter whether the individual had a drop of English blood or not.

The people of the thirteen Atlantic coast colonies in those years were already a diverse group, as these colonies had been settled by not just Englishmen but Scots, Irish, Dutch, Germans, Swiss, Danes, Frenchmen, and still others.

These settlers, or their parents, or grandparents, or great-grandparents, had come to these shores for many reasons – religious liberty, freedom from persecution, a fresh start in a land without the same old social classes as back home, a chance to prosper in a land brimming with opportunity.

There were other colonies too, all over the world, that they could have chosen. The French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Dutch also had established colonies, in South America, Africa, and Asia. But these settlers didn’t choose those countries. Brazil, Quebec, Argentina, India, Mexico, and many more of these other colonies had natural resources, lovely scenery, exotic locales. But there was a reason that our ancestors chose to settle on what is now the United States’ east coast: There they would be settling alongside Englishmen, and they would become Englishmen themselves.

The Legacy of the Magna Carta

The English had a different relationship with royalty than most other countries. The French and Spanish had absolute monarchs; the Italian and German city-states had a mixture of kings and dukes and emperors who often got away with ruling by fiat. The rights of man were often denied by the might of royalty.

But the English had seen a steady improvement in the relationship of the people and their government over the centuries. Not just a flash in the pan moment like Macchiavelli’s brief Florentine republic, but a steady decline in the power of the British crown, a steady increase in the power of the British Parliament.

This process had begun centuries before, when English nobles forced King John to the table and made him sign the Magna Carta in 1215. The Provisions of Oxford followed in 1258, establishing an elected council of 24, and ensuring that Parliament would meet three times a year.

The Petition of Right came along in 1628, forbidding the king from billeting soldiers in people’s homes, restraining him from issuing his own taxes in addition to Parliament’s, restricting his ability to impose martial law or imprison British subjects without cause. The Bill of Rights followed in 1689, further limiting the king by codifying the freedom of speech, the right to bear arms, certain religious liberties, guarantees of regular elections.

There were many more such acts throughout the centuries. Great Britain has no single Constitution like our own, but this gradual march toward ever-greater liberty served as a beacon to a certain type of immigrant – the right kind of immigrant – and caused people seeking that new start to gravitate toward Great Britain’s colonies over those of her rivals’. And of all Britain’s colonies, those on the North American coast seemed the most evocative of the mother country; more English in feel, with the added freedom of distance and open land for expansion.

It was the perfect place for the right kind of immigrants – those who valued the opportunity to prosper from hard work, to practice the worship of the Good Lord in the Judeo-Christian denomination of their choice, to write and speak and participate in the community without fear of the crushing boot of government.

The Erosion of Rights

Unexpectedly, however, the 18th Century saw an erosion of these rights in the American colonies.

Perhaps in a reaction to the Bill of Rights of 1689, the British monarchs began to act out… they started restrictions on our very independent colonies. During the 1700s, they began ever-increasing controls on the mercantile options available to the colonists, because Parliament gave the king greater latitude abroad than it gave him at home.

During the 1700s, Parliament strengthened itself in England, establishing the cabinet-style government, led by a prime minister, that it retains to this day. Prime Ministers like Sir Robert Walpole ensured that the people of England were secure from the infringement of their long-established rights by a foreign-born king. The Hanoverian kings weren’t detested, but as the first two of the three Georges were born abroad, the people wanted a strong Parliament to ensure that the rights of Englishmen were not abused by “German despots.”

And so these three King Georges made a show of fully respecting the English, at home… and fulfilled their fantasy of old-style autocratic power by taking advantage of the fact that colonists had no seats in Parliament to speak up for them. By the 1750s, colonies were beginning to send representatives to London to find some manner of redress, most famously, Benjamin Franklin of Philadelphia, who traveled to England in 1757 to represent Pennsylvania alone, but ended up the hired diplomat for Georgia, Massachusetts, and New Jersey too by the end, serving in this capacity through the outbreak of hostilities in 1775.

There were colonies in which the King forbade certain Christian denominations… or compelled the taxpayer support of a favored one. There were colonies in which going businesses had their licenses yanked outright, as the king decided to grant monopoly rights to English firms. George Washington’s farm at Mount Vernon, for example, had its own foundry, which had been closed at the king’s order, to force colonists to be dependent on the mother country for such things.

By the late 1760s, most American colonists were forbidden from trading directly with other countries; George III decreed that if we wanted to trade with Holland, or Italy, or Denmark, or India, we would have to buy and sell through factors (middlemen) in London. These London factors, no matter how honest and well-intentioned, were an often unnecessary additional burden on the process of international trade, making commerce costlier, ever more indebting the colonists, wrecking the plan of limitless potential for prosperity that our Founders and their ancestors had expected from this open land.

Those who think of our Founders’ complaints as mere “taxation without representation” are unaware of the extent of these denials of the Colonists’ freedoms. It wasn’t just a matter of raising tax rates from two percent to three, or from three percent to four.

The king had shuttered manufacturers on these shores. He forbade our direct sale of goods to most other countries. He had broken promises to support westward expansion, and worse, broken promises of that western land to colonial veterans who had served England honorably in the French and Indian War. He had quartered troops in our homes, more to threaten us than to threaten invaders. He had authorized his governors to disregard traditional English rules governing prosecutions – holding prisoners without trial, and denying trial by jury.

Worst of all, he repeatedly closed American legislatures, denying the public their right as Englishmen to self-government, enshrined in the English psyche since 1215. And he even put one town – Boston – under martial law for seven years.

Is it any wonder the Americans finally had enough?

Who to Blame?

One of our Founders’ greatest challenges was allocating blame for all these injustices. Since we knew we had friends in Parliament – the Rockingham/Burke faction – we long assumed our opponents were the majority in Parliament.

So our Founders long retained their traditional pride in being Englishmen, directing their anger at Parliament. Only at the very end did it become truly clear that King George III was acting the role of a tyrant – that not only his obvious direct actions, but the negative actions of Parliament as well, were all the doing of King George.

Bristling at the constraints placed upon the monarch by five centuries of English patriots, King George III became adept at the art of corruption. He utilized techniques worthy of a Chicago or Tammany Hall machine to control the majority in parliament. By doling out appointments, favors, knighthoods, contracts, and monopolies, George III was usually able to see that his man became prime minister.

Prime Minister Frederick North, therefore, the focus of colonial fury throughout the 1770s, was in fact a mere puppet of George III. The corrupt Lord North became what Tolkien fans would think of as “The Mouth of Sauron,” a man who had long since traded away his ability to think for himself, a man who was merely the incarnation of his master in another body, another place.

Much of this was only discerned by later historians, amazed at the machinations by which George III had managed to direct a theoretically independent Parliament. But even by 1776, enough was understood that the American colonists could properly focus their anger – not at the British people, not at the legitimately elected Members of Parliament like the Marquess of Rockingham and Edmund Burke – but at this tyrannical king alone.

The Declaration of Independence

And so it was, in June and July of 1776, that the delegates to the Continental Congress finally voted to pass and sign the Declaration of Independence – authored by Virginia Delegate Thomas Jefferson (but much amended) – a document that would set forth before the world the grounds under which we were issuing this separation.

What many forget, when they read this magnificent document, is that it is not a radical declaration of rights that an upstart nation is claiming for itself. Rather, the Declaration lists specific violations of our people’s rights as Englishmen. These were rights guaranteed to us by five and a half centuries of British law, which a corrupt and tyrannical king sought to illegally deny. He could never have gotten away with such abuses on English soil, but because the colonists were an ocean away, lacking direct representation of their own, it was possible for awhile.

He got away with it, in fact, more and more every year, despite the screams of a vocal minority in Parliament to oppose it. “You CAN’T do this!” they would scream at Lord North, but they were drowned out, voted down by a majority that didn’t represent the colonies, so they didn’t care, or that was too dependent on the king’s favors to act independently, even when the right move was so crystal clear.

The Declaration of Independence, so cherished by Americans for over two centuries now, was a declaration of a tyrant’s personal action, a recognition that this tyrant had severed the bonds between our lands far more permanently than even an ocean could ever do. This tyrant made it necessary for us to separate from England, in order that we might again have the birthright that patriots for centuries had worked to guarantee for us.

That declaration set in motion a world war – along with a revolution in philosophy, economics, and political science – and established the eternal obligation of American statesmen to devote their focus to the preservation of these rights.

The question of how best to accomplish that goal – how best to design a government that would secure these rights for all time, and protect against corruptors and corruptees like George III and Lord North – would have to wait another eleven years, until the magnificent Constitutional Convention produced the document that has guided this nation ever since.

But today, and every year on July 4, we celebrate the Declaration of Independence, that bold move in which we Americans took it upon ourselves to declare and secure our own liberties. And we celebrate the Founding Fathers themselves, those courageous visionaries who pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor that we might be free, more than two centuries thereafter.

Copyright 2013 John F. Di Leo

John F. Di Leo is a Chicago-based Customs broker and trade compliance manager. A former president of the Ethnic American Council and a former Milwaukee County Republican Party Chairman, he has now been a recovering politician for over sixteen years.

Permission is hereby granted to forward freely, provided it is uncut and the byline and IR URL are included. Follow John F. Di Leo on LinkedIn or Facebook, or on Twitter at @johnfdileo.

Real Rebels and the Counter Revolution

Think ofAmerica’s Founders.  These were real rebels.

Sam Adams agitated against the imposition of taxes.  He penned the petitions which brought forth the rallying cry “No taxation without representation!”  While avoiding violence he led the effort to organize resistance to tyranny.  He founded the Committee of Correspondence inMassachusetts and inspired its spread to the other colonies.  He organized boycotts of British goods and the public trial of the British soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre.

In a world of divine right kings where the common man was a pawn to be exploited and demeaned James Madison made these revolutionary statements, “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.”  And, “An ELECTIVE DESPOTISM was not the government we fought for; but one which should not only be founded on free principles, but in which the powers of government should be so divided and balanced among several bodies of magistracy, as that no one could transcend their legal limits, without being effectually checked and restrained by the others.”

Patrick Henry did more than say, “Give me liberty or give me death.”  Before the Revolution, as a member of the Assembly in Virginia he led in the formation of a resistance movement against the tyranny of the British crown.  During the Revolution he served in the Continental Congress that passed the Deceleration of Independence.  After the Revolution he was not afraid to stand up against the desire of many to impose a Constitution without a Bill of Rights leading in the fight to maintain the greatest amount of individual liberty and the strongest limits to the central authority possible under the new Federal Government.  As if he could see the convolutions which currently threaten to swallow the Republic Mr. Henry reminded us at the beginning of our national experiment in limited government, “When the American spirit was in its youth, the language of America was different: Liberty, sir, was the primary object.”

Today the world is turned upside down.  The so called radical rebels of the sixties now own or control most things including the government.  The anti-establishment has become the establishment and the silent majority is being told to remain silent while this progressive minority transforms our nation into what their collectivist programmers have taught them it should be.  And yet they still see themselves as the rebels fighting a faceless bureaucracy for freedom never realizing they have met the enemy, and they are them.

All of this made me think about my old friend the professional revolutionary and something hit me.  He has always considered himself a rebel.  And considering he has made a living out of being a spokesman for the movements dedicated to destroying theAmericawe have always known that kind of made sense at one time. 

But in reality he is now and has consistently in the past loyally spouted the logical progression of the anti-American, anti-capitalist garbage that many of the teachers at our good old public High School tried to shove into our young skulls full of mush.  He also sounds exactly like all of our contemporaries who have spent a lifetime drinking at the well of the Corporations Once Called the Mainstream Media. Though they see themselves as deep thinkers it has always been obvious they receive their programming, their news and views from the major networks, and the transcripts in the print media.  They spout the same anti-traditional values pro-socialism talking points time after time.

Their representatives have spent decades chipping away at the America we love in the movies, on television, and in songs.  They have gained control of one component of society at a time: education, the media, the board room, the Congress, and finally the White House.   Through patience and planning they have gained control of the entire federal government and the elites of most areas of society.  Therefore I cannot see why we should continue referring to them as rebels merely because they see themselves that way.  When you listen to their current spokesmen such as the Daily Show, Bill Maher, or any of the MSNBC line up they come off as so hip and so cutting edge when in fact they agree 100% with the current administration and its collectivist anti-life New Age agenda.  What’s rebellious about that?  That’s like saying Pravda was a radical spokesman for change when they parroted whatever the leaders of the formerUSSRhad to say.

Today my friend the professional rebel is actively helping recruit and train the brown shirt Occupy troops?  They may rail against Wall Street but that same Wall Street promotes and funds the very people these protesters vote for.  Someone is being used for something, but they never seem to wake up to ask, “Why should we pay no attention to the man behind the curtain?”

I can no longer consider myself a conservative.  What is there left to conserve?  I am a radical and a rebel, because I advocate for limited government, personal liberty, and economic freedom.  These 1960s retreads who continue to advocate for the progressive collectivists who have won their revolution and now occupy the seats of power are faux rebels: organizational apparatchiks spouting the party line.

Look at how revolutionary some of our real rebels still sound today:

Sam Adams said, “The Constitution shall never be construed… to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms.” And “The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil constitution, are worth defending against all hazards: And it is our duty to defend them against all attacks.”  He also said, “Our contest is not only whether we ourselves shall be free, but whether there shall be left to mankind an asylum on earth for civil and religious liberty.”

Patrick Henry said, “Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are inevitably ruined.”  And, “We are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of Nature has placed in our power… the battle, sir, is not to the strong alone it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave.”  When thinking of his most famous statement we should keep it in context and recall the whole quote, “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!”

So the next time the nightly faux news shows are filled the antics of the faux rebels demonstrating for more government power, or the next time one of your relatives or old friends wants to fill your ear with their oft repeated mantras for the collectivist establishment tell yourself, “This is the time for real rebels and the counter revolution.”

And if pointing out the transparent hypocrisy of the faux rebels of today should ever be considered too rebellious for the faint of heart let me share one more quote from Patrick Henry, “If this be treason, make the most of it!”

Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion for Southside Virginia Community College.  He is the Historian of the Future and the author of the History of the Future @ © 2012 Robert R. Owens  Follow Dr. Robert Owens on Facebook or Twitter @ Drrobertowens

A History of the Bill of Rights

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