of Rights, R.I.P?
by Karen Kwiatkowski: Why
was given at the Capitol Bell Tower in Richmond, Virginia, on December
15th, 2012, the 221st anniversary of the ratification
of the First Ten Amendments by the Virginia Assembly. The Virginia
Chapter of People Against the NDAA (PANDA) organized the event.
We are standing
here not far from the place where the first ten amendments – the
Bill of Rights – were made the law of the land. These amendments
were a great victory for the Anti-Federalists – that indispensable
group of founding fathers that included Thomas Jefferson, and George
Mason, Patrick Henry and Samuel Adams, James Monroe and George Clinton,
and many more.
It is fitting
that we celebrate here today what they accomplished here 221 years
ago – especially given that every prediction of the Anti-Federalists
seem to have come true, and not in a good way.
we speak of that, let’s take a moment to remind ourselves of what
happened back then. In 1776, the former colonies had united in a
war of independence from England and the British crown. By 1787,
these united States had won that war. It was not a quick or easy
war, but it was a war that was just and right. We know it was just
and right, because as Americans, we are familiar with the reasons
for the war, as recorded by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration
the Declaration as, "an
expression of the American mind." And what a rebellious
and powerful and inspiring expression it was!
that claimed independence from the King of England and his empire
did so because they understood that all men are created equal, and
that all men – all human beings – have rights that are inalienable
and intrinsic and timeless, rights granted by the Creator. Chief
among these rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
goes on to explain why we have government at all. It’s a simple
reason. Governments are instituted among men, by men, and derive
power from the consent of the governed for one reason: To secure
these God-given natural rights.
Let me repeat
– government exists only to secure our rights to life, liberty,
and pursuit of happiness.
There is a
debate as to what "pursuit of happiness" means.
known as the father of classical liberalism, explained
that property is a natural right, and that property is derived
from labor. Frederic Bastiat, several decades later, echoed Locke
and Thomas Jefferson when
We hold from
God the gift which includes all others. This gift is life – physical,
intellectual, and moral life.
production – in other words, individuality, liberty, property
– this is man. And in spite of the cunning of artful political
leaders, these three gifts from God preceded all human legislation,
and are superior to it.
The war for
independence was fought here by Virginians who understood the fundamental
role and reason for government. Government exists to secure our
rights. They knew that when a government fails to secure our Creator-granted
rights of life, liberty and property – of individuality, or expression,
of association, of the ability to conduct our physical lives, our
intellectual lives, and our moral lives – well, then that government
is illegitimate and wrong, and men have every right to withdraw
their consent and dissolve it.
So what happened
since then? We are today standing not twenty miles from Chesterfield,
Virginia, where in August of this year, former Marine Brandon Raub
was involuntarily committed to a mental hospital by federal and
state authorities because of something he wrote in a private Facebook
a 26 year decorated Iraq war veteran, had
commiserated to some of his friends about the state of government
in America today. I want to read to you some of what he wrote.
He wrote, "The
idea that men can govern themselves is the basis for every just
form of government. "
He wrote, "The
bill of rights is being systematically dismantled. "
He wrote, "You
elected an aristocracy. They are beholden to special interests.
They were brainwashed through the Council on Foreign Relations.
Your leaders are planning to merge the United States into a one
world banking system. They want to put computer chips in you.
He wrote: These
men have evil hearts. They have tricked you into supporting corporate
fascism. We gave them the keys to our country. We were not vigilant
with our republic.
He wrote: There
is hope. BUT WE MUST TAKE OUR REPUBLIC BACK."
For these words,
for this sentiment, Brandon
Raub not twenty miles from here was arrested and incarcerated by
the federal government, indefinitely, and without due cause.
No matter what you think about what he wrote – and I happen to agree
with Brandon – his communications and his individuality, his pursuit
of happiness –upset the federal government, and that government
then decided to take his rights away, and attempted to disappear
him into a federal mental institution.
Most of us
know about Brandon Raub’s experience. We know because his
mother raised Cain about the illegal arrest, John Whitehead
of the Rutherford
Institute aided his legal case, and a judge soon ordered him
without charges. We know this because the Internet was on fire
with his story for several months, and Brandon Raub has become one
of many lightning rods for the modern liberty movement.
How did this
happen? Sure, we’ve read about President Adams and his Alien and
Sedition Acts, and we know about the suspension of habeas corpus
and imprisonment of opponents by Abraham Lincoln, martial law in
the South after the war between the states. We have watched the
modern Drug War effectively eliminate posse comitatis, a constitutionally
derived post-Civil War concept that prevented the federal army from
conducting domestic law enforcement. We have watched, often silently,
as millions of Americans patiently submit to repeated and egregious
violations of their fourth amendment rights every time they fly
on an airplane or visit a federal facility.
I’ll tell you
how it happened. And in thinking about how we got here, the way
to take our republic back may become clear.
First – the
Constitution itself, when offered at the end of that long hot summer
in Philadelphia was very much the work, to use Bastiat’s phrase,
of cunning and artful political leaders. Their assigned task was
to improve upon the Articles of Confederation – specifically addressing
issues of central government funding, and of interstate standardization
of trade and tariffs.
doors were locked, the Articles – which had functioned well and
had survived and thrived for a dozen years, were discarded, and
a document establishing a central and unified government for the
13 colonies was drafted.
and 10th amendments were demanded as a weak remedy to
a Constitution that seemed to grant ultimate power to a distant
capitol. These two amendments were demanded by the Anti-Federalists
to ensure that the Republic was not a Kingdom in disguise; that
the President and the Congress were not a King and his court all
language can be, and often is, construed to have created a strong
centralized government capable of taking life, liberty and property
from its citizens. This was no secret, then or now, and the many
predictions of the Anti-Federalists have a special poignancy today.
did these Anti-Federalists – these drafters of our Bill of Rights,
and judge Robert Yates, writing as Brutus,
warned that the Supreme Court would become a source of almost unlimited
federal over-reaching, that the vague language of the Constitution
would be interpreted broadly, and would have the effect of drastically
increasing the power of the federal government. He believed that
Supreme Court, as constructed, would not to be guided at all by
Natural Law, precedent, or any other law, just by its own whims
and whatever precedents it might set.
believed that the Constitution would indeed bind many of those who
signed it – effectively, one generation. After that, he wrote famously,
that the tree
of liberty would be watered by the blood of patriots. Of course,
a contract that no living person has signed in
a sense is void – and clearly while many people in this country
believe in and honor the Constitution – overwhelmingly, we must
agree that most politicians and government bureaucrats do not.
Gerry of Massachusetts summed up anti-Federalist concerns when he
predicted that the new Constitution would "produce
a monarchy, or a corrupt, tyrannical aristocracy."
also argued that one representative in the House for 30,000 inhabitants
few to communicate the . . . local circumstances and sentiments
of so extensive" a country. Bryan also attacked the Constitution's
checks and balances, saying these would not protect liberty but
only serve to obfuscate federal corruption.
all over the colonies, and especially here in Virginia, demanded
ten amendments to the Constitution – a written Bill of Rights. That
these amendments were written on paper did not limit them. As we
see in the wording of the 9th Amendment – this enumeration
of rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage other rights
retained by the people. Imagine, a government that does not deny
our rights, and beyond that, does not disparage, belittle, mock,
and laugh at them!
The daily abuses
of the Department of Homeland Security, the American presidents’
lists and free
speech zones, and 30
thousand drones flying over our country operated by local, state
and federal law enforcement and spy agencies don’t seem to fit in
or under the Constitution. The many property abuses we face every
day, from illegal searches of our papers, computers, and phones
to actual takings and condemnations of land and property, tell us
in no uncertain terms that the federal government is disparaging
our natural rights. It tells me our modern government has nothing
but contempt for our life, liberty, and property. It has nothing
but contempt for, as Bastiat defines it, our life, our faculties,
our production and our individuality.
Where are we
today, 221 years after the Bill of Rights was made the law of the
land right here in Richmond? We have a million pages of laws, and
less liberty than any generation before us. We have more taxation
and less representation than any previous generation. But we do
have a rallying cry – written into the supreme law of the land,
a cry for liberty and prosperity.
This is the
legacy of the Anti-Federalists, and it is alive and very real. The
Bill of Rights is not an agreement, a contract or a conditional
grant. It is a statement of a common and factual natural law. Men
are born free. We are born free. We are born free, to live free,
to create and produce freely as we are led and blessed to create
and produce, to care for and protect our own property, our environment
and our families, to trade peaceably with others, and to worship
and express our individuality, our faith, and our liberty in a thousand
ways. Government exists by our consent, and serves only to protect
I want to close
with my own tweetable version of each of the first ten amendments.
And we do need to tweet liberty, to sing liberty, and to live liberty
using the Bill of Rights as our guide to how it’s supposed to be.
Unlike the Anti-Federalists – who were forced to use pseudonyms
when they campaigned for liberty, we can stand and face our oppressor,
and together, we can put out-of-control government back in its constitutional
I understand the Bill of Rights:
assert our human freedom to speak, assemble, worship, read, write,
and to openly petition our government – anytime, anywhere, as
we wish, always.
assert our natural right, using arms and armaments both antique
and modern, to protect our families, our property and our states
as we wish, because an armed populace is the last defense against
refuse to be forced to participate in, to fund, to feed and to
maintain a standing army in peacetime, and we will support no
war conducted by unaccountable tyrants.
our children, our homes, our cars, our papers, blogs, emails,
and our property are – and must always be – secure from government
intrusion or seizure.
demand our right to due process when dealing with any part of
government, from the DMV to the DEA, the FDA to the FCC. We will
never be forced to testify against ourselves. Our private property
is secure from government seizure, even for public use, without
will be treated as equals in a court of law. We demand public
trials, access to evidence against us and to our accusers, and
assistance of counsel in our defense. We celebrate nullification
as protection from federal and judicial tyranny.
We assert our right to a trial by jury, and for the wisdom of
common law to prevail, not rarely or accidentally, but always.
will neither inflict nor tolerate cruel and unusual punishments,
excessive fines, or bails.
one and no government may use the Constitution as an excuse to
deny, limit, ridicule or mock any of our natural rights and liberties,
whether we have listed them here or not.
assert our ownership of ourselves, and of our government, and
demand that it act only as defined in Sections 1, 2 and 3 of the
Constitution. We positively claim all other rights in the name
of our states, and ourselves.
I hope that
as you listened just now, you were doing two things. First, I hope
you were reveling with me in the wonder of our real liberty, and
the opportunity and prosperity and happiness it promises. I also
hope you were quietly lamenting the fact that our Bill of Rights
is today being ignored, rebuked, and violated by a government we
have long tolerated, and continue to tolerate.
Henry’s famous speech in Richmond in 1775, he spoke of this
human tendency to tolerate bad government far longer than we should,
and to cling to vain hopes that governments will voluntarily stop
their abuse of human life, liberty and property simply because we
ask it to, and hope it will.
But he also
said, "We are not weak if we make a proper use of those means
which the God of nature hath placed in our power. Three millions
of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country
as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our
enemy can send against us."
I believe the
Bill of Rights is the natural companion to the Declaration of Independence.
May both of these documents inspire us all to seize the day, and
live free. May the Bill of Rights guide us in our lives and work,
focus our prayers, broaden our dreams, and lead us to end the tyranny,
and restore our badly damaged Republic.
columnist Karen Kwiatkowski, Ph.D. [send
her mail], a
retired USAF lieutenant colonel, blogs occasionally at Liberty
and Power and The
Beacon. To receive automatic announcements of new articles,
here or join her Facebook page. She
ran for Congress in Virginia's 6th district in 2012.
2012 Karen Kwiatkowski
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