Shattering the covenant between the ruler & the ruled
By Nancy Salvato
web posted November 24, 2014
As The 17th Century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes explained, absent a rule of law, man is dictated by a state of nature in which humans are in perpetual war. As rational beings, we can agree we'd rather be in a state of peace. As a matter of fact, Hobbes would assert that Laws of Nature impel us to seek peace. Hobbes suggested that man would transfer sovereign power to a ruler who would provide protection and safety. The framers embedded this objective, to "insure domestic tranquility" into the preamble of our US Constitution.
Serving as a catalyst to writing the US Constitution was Shay's Rebellion. This particular event, which I'm certain many will remember learning about during American History, frightened the Framers because they were reminded that our freedom, which we'd fought for and won from England, was vulnerable. Our sovereignty as a nation could easily be lost due to internal dissention and inability to fend off attack from foreign nations who would eventually realize we were unable to defend our new nation against aggression under our first constitution, the Articles of Confederation.
All were in agreement that our first constitution was weak and ineffective; the question that needed their attention was one of how much power to bestow on our new government. This was given tremendous consideration and there was a deliberate effort to check and balance the ability to wield a great nation against those who might fall prey to abusing their authority. Though this was a gargantuan task, the Framers employed their knowledge of political philosophy and history, as well drawing from their English heritage and most recent experiences under British rule.
The enumeration of particular powers was designed to prevent overreach of authority and the separation of powers was to safeguard against any branch or person from becoming tyrannical. Finally, everything was written into a constitution, ensuring a rule of law and not men.
Anyone watching current events through a constitutional lens has clearly identified we are experiencing great insecurity as a nation. Our borders are not safe. Law enforcement agencies are unable to protect us against potential rioters in Ferguson, Missouri, who want vigilante style justice, as opposed to following laws and procedures put in place to protect us against our own passions. Terrorists are beheading Americans on foreign and domestic soil. Our own president invited illegal aliens across our borders and now wants to provide them amnesty, blatantly dismissing the division of powers which grants the legislative branch legislative authority and the executive branch the responsibility of executing the law.
Our rule of law was designed to promote the general welfare; however, this was to be juxtaposed against the protection of our rights. Both our tax code and our healthcare law require wealthier individuals to pay more into a system which then redistributes this money to other people who for whatever reason do not produce as much and therefore have less income. We are not in balance. Though some would argue the current president has committed impeachable offenses, it is not politically expedient to pursue charges because it would inevitably be labeled racism to go after our "first president of color."
The preamble to our nation's rule of law clearly states that "We the People" ordain and establish our Constitution. According to the consent theory of government, the covenant between ruled and ruler ends when the ruler ceases to protect those who consented to his rule.
Thomas Jefferson famously wrote, "Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of our unalienable rights, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it and to institute new government."
All politics is local. If we expect to see change in our government, it must begin by keeping our local officials in check. The mid-term election was a bell weather of things to come. Our responsibilities as citizens are to make sure we know who we are electing and that our elected officials are serving us. We cannot do this if we do not adequately understand our own rights or what powers we ceded to our government to protect our rights and maintain peace. We need to understand the implications of any measures taken by those who represent us in our government. And we need to demand justice from the Judicial Branch which should be using its power to declare unilateral acts taken by the Executive Branch as unconstitutional when they are not within his power to make.
Our President said that words matter. He stated on numerous occasions that he does not have the authority to make and pass legislation in his role as our nation's leader. That said, he's doing so anyway.
Nancy Salvato is the Director of Education and the Constitutional Literacy Program for Basics Project, a non-profit, non-partisan research and educational project whose mission is to re-introduce the American public to the basic elements of our constitutional heritage while providing non-partisan, fact-based information on relevant socio-political issues important to our country. She is a graduate of the National Endowment for the Humanities' National Academy for Civics and Government. She is the author of "Keeping a Republic: An Argument for Sovereignty." She also serves as a Senior Editor for NewMediaJourna.usl and a contributing writer to BigGovernment.com and FamilySecurityMatters.org. Copyright ©2014 Nancy Salvato