What, Exactly, Is the Supreme Court Supposed To Do?

By a vote of 52-48, the U.S. Senate confirmed President Donald Trump’s nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

At Judge Barrett’s swearing-in ceremony held at the White House on October 26, President Donald Trump told her:

Justice Barrett, as you take your oath tonight, the legacy of our ancestors falls to you. The American people put their trust in you and their faith in you, as you take up the task of defending our laws, our Constitution, and this country that we all love.

It is strange indeed that in a republic of one 250 million citizens of voting age the protection of their fundamental liberty should be declared by president to depend upon the opinion of one unelected judge.

Strange, but true.

It wasn’t intended to be this way, though. No, the men who drafted and ratified the current Constitution had no idea that they were establishing an oligarchy, a government that would be under the control of men (and women) over whom the people could exercise no electoral control. That, they rightly believed, would be government without consent of the governed and such a government was the antithesis of the republican form preferred by our patriarchs.

Knowing that our Founding Fathers would never have ratified a plan of government establishing rule by an unaccountable cabal of judges, the question begged is what sort of Supreme Court did they intend to create.

The first obvious and overt evidence of their view of the intended power of the Supreme Court that the Framers and ratifiers of the U.S. Constitution left for us is found in Article VI of that document. Article VI reads, in relevant part:

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

In that list of those things which would, upon ratification, be afforded the respect of “supreme law of the land” you will not find opinions of the Supreme Court. That was not an oversight. The fact that the framers purposefully left the decisions of the Supreme Court off the list of things constituting the supreme law of the land should be persuasive. The 55 (some days more, some days less) men who sat in the State House in Philadelphia in 1787 would not have endured that sweltering summer only to have accidentally left off something that they intended to have supreme authority in the new government they were creating.

For additional evidence that these men never intended the Supreme Court’s decisions to be granted the deference due the law, it should be recalled that at least 33 of the 55 delegates chosen to represent the states at the convention of 1787 were lawyers. A very commonly invoked legal maxim known to the lawyers in the room — as well as to many others who would have had substantial legal knowledge without ever practicing law (James Madison, for example) should prove persuasive, as well. 

That oft-cited legal maxim is: Designatio unius (est) exclusio alterius, meaning “The designation of one (is) the exclusion of the other.” In other words, the fact that Supreme Court decisions were not listed among those things which would be considered the supreme law of the land, means that it was intentionally left off. Article VI omitted Supreme Court opinions, therefore, they were not to be viewed as part of the supreme law of the land.

A real world application of this maxim will bring its meaning into clearer view. If you tell your son to take out the trash, sweep the garage, and walk the dog before he can go to his friend’s house, you did not intend for him to have to wash the car before he headed out. If your son left after performing all the tasks you set out for him, you wouldn’t ground him for not washing the car before he left. If you had intended for him to have to wash the car, you would have included that task on the list your gave him. You didn’t, so it isn’t required of him.

The constitutional application, then, is that if the framers and ratifiers had intended for the opinions of the Supreme Court to have been enshrined as the supreme law of the land, they would have included it in that list, as set out in Article VI. They didn’t, so they intended to leave it off.

While anyone can look to the record of the debates of the convention of 1787 for evidence that the drafters of the Constitution did not intend the decisions of the national judiciary to rise to the level of legislation, I’ll include here a few of the clearest statements to that effect.

On July 18 the convention took up the question of the federal judiciary and its powers. On that day, James Wilson of Pennsylvania declared his understanding of the relative authority of the legislature and the judiciary:

“Laws may be unjust, may be unwise, may be dangerous, may be destructive; and yet may not be so unconstitutional as to justify the judges in refusing to give them effect.”

Read that again. Congress might pass some truly poor and, in fact, bad, laws, but that did not justify judicial interposition. 

Wilson’s understanding is seconded and supported by the very first sentence of the U.S. Constitution: “All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.”

Here again, had the framers intended for the Supreme Court to have any hand in drafting or defining acts passed by Congress, they would have noted that authority in Article I (the list of legislative powers) or Article III (the list of powers of the federal judiciary). They did not, so it must be accepted that they did not intend to endow the courts with such authority.

Later during that same debate on the proposed power of the federal courts, Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts said, “The power of making laws ought to be kept distinct from that of expounding the laws.”

A quick jump over to Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language (1785 edition) reveals that the word expound means, simply, “to explain.” 

No one today or in 1787 would have believed that explaining is the same as making. I can explain the way the engine in a 1964 Chevy BelAir works, but I couldn’t begin to make one.

Later that summer when the subject of judicial authority was taken up again, Charles Pinckney of South Carolina summed up his understanding of the issue, saying that he “opposed the interference of the judges in the legislative business; it would involve them in parties and give a previous tincture to their opinions.”

Are we not living Pinckney’s prediction today? Would anyone care whether a Supreme Court judge was nominated by a Republican or a Democrat if judges weren’t already tainted with the presumption of partisanship? The fact that the confirmation vote was along party lines is enough to testify to the truth of Pinckney’s proposition.

Finally, on September 17, 1787 39 of the 42 remaining delegates agreed to the final form of the U.S. Constitution, the form we know today. With that vote, the document was sent to Congress and then to the states for their consideration. According to Article VII of the proposed Constitution, “The Ratification of the Conventions of nine States, shall be sufficient for the Establishment of this Constitution between the States so ratifying the Same.”

Thus began the several states’ deliberation of the constitution as delivered to them by the delegates in Philadelphia. It is during the months of these debates that we find many of the statements from advocates and adversaries of the Constitution as to the power we are to understand the federal judiciary to possess.

Beginning in October 1787, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay took up their pens and wrote a series of 85 letters expounding the Constitution and recommending its ratification. These letters are commonly known as The Federalist Papers. It is in these missives that we find the meaning of many constitutional provisions as understood by the men who supported its adoption. Accordingly, we can afford great authority to these letters.

In Federalist Number 78 Alexander Hamilton expounds on the intended relationship between the judiciary branch and the legislative branch created by the newly endorsed Constitution and whether the former could override the will of the latter when it came to the laws of the United States:

It can be of no weight to say that the courts, on the pretense of a repugnancy, may substitute their own pleasure to the constitutional intentions of the legislature. This might as well happen in the case of two contradictory statutes; or it might as well happen in every adjudication upon any single statute. The courts must declare the sense of the law; and if they should be disposed to exercise WILL instead of JUDGMENT, the consequence would equally be the substitution of their pleasure to that of the legislative body. The observation, if it prove any thing, would prove that there ought to be no judges distinct from that body. (Emphasis in original)

Did you notice the restriction Hamilton recognized on judicial power? He declared that the Supreme Court (or any federal court) could not substitute their will for the intention of the legislature. The justices would be limited to judging the law, not making the law, even, Hamilton writes, if that law was “repugnant.”

Later in that same essay, Hamilton doubles down on his demarcation of the limits on judicial power:

Whoever attentively considers the different departments of power must perceive, that, in a government in which they are separated from each other, the judiciary, from the nature of its functions, will always be the least dangerous to the political rights of the Constitution; because it will be least in a capacity to annoy or injure them. The Executive not only dispenses the honors, but holds the sword of the community. The legislature not only commands the purse, but prescribes the rules by which the duties and rights of every citizen are to be regulated. The judiciary, on the contrary, has no influence over either the sword or the purse; no direction either of the strength or of the wealth of the society; and can take no active resolution whatever. It may truly be said to have neither FORCE nor WILL, but merely judgment; and must ultimately depend upon the aid of the executive arm even for the efficacy of its judgments.

This simple view of the matter suggests several important consequences. It proves incontestably, that the judiciary is beyond comparison the weakest of the three departments of power; that it can never attack with success either of the other two; and that all possible care is requisite to enable it to defend itself against their attacks. It equally proves, that though individual oppression may now and then proceed from the courts of justice, the general liberty of the people can never be endangered from that quarter; I mean so long as the judiciary remains truly distinct from both the legislature and the Executive. For I agree, that ‘there is no liberty, if the power of judging be not separated from the legislative and executive powers.’ (Emphasis in original; the statement quoted by Hamilton are from Montesquieu’s Spirit of the Laws)

Could there be any clearer condemnation of the modern behavior of the federal courts? Federal judges today most certainly do “annoy” and “injure” our rights, regardless of the plain and printed intent of the men who drafted the U.S. Constitution!

While these expositions should be enough to define the metes and bounds of the judiciary branch created by the current Constitution, there were those of the Founding Generation who worried that those limits weren’t as clearly marked as the proponents professed. 

The men who opposed the ratification of the proposed Constitution are known to history by the malapropism Anti-Federalists.

Most of those who published essays exposing what they perceived as weaknesses and dangerous vagaries of the Constitution of 1787 wrote under pseudonyms. One of the most prolific and persuasive of those anonymous authors is Brutus.

In Brutus’s eleventh letter (published in January 1788), the author predicts a latent tyranny present in the judiciary called for in the Constitution:

The judicial power will operate to effect, in the most certain, but yet silent and imperceptible manner, what is evidently the tendency of the constitution: – I mean, an entire subversion of the legislative, executive and judicial powers of the individual states. Every adjudication of the supreme court, on any question that may arise upon the nature and extent of the general government, will affect the limits of the state jurisdiction. In proportion as the former enlarge the exercise of their powers, will that of the latter be restricted.

That the judicial power of the United States, will lean strongly in favor of the general government, and will give such an explanation to the constitution, as will favor an extension of its jurisdiction, is very evident from a variety of considerations.

Sadly, there are few objective observers who will dare deny that Brutus’s predictions have come true and that the federal courts have usurped the powers intended to be exercised exclusively by the legislature, namely the power of lawmaking. 

In the second paragraph quoted above, Brutus’s foresight is on full display as he warns that once the federal courts have accumulated legislative and executive power, they will then never fail to decide cases that come before it in favor of the federal government and against the rights of the people of the United States. Can anyone refute this?

In case someone dare deny the truth of this foretelling, Brutus continues his harrowing prophecy of judicial activism and legislating:

When the courts will have a precedent before them of a court which extended its jurisdiction in opposition to an act of the legislature, is it not to be expected that they will extend theirs, especially when there is nothing in the constitution expressly against it? And they are authorized to construe its meaning, and are not under any control?

This power in the judicial, will enable them to mold the government, into almost any shape they please. 

Again, readers, can anyone cogently and convincingly argue that the federal courts have molded Constitution into a new shape, a shape that would be unrecognizable to the men who wrote and the men who ratified that document?

Brutus’s final warning to those being called on to consider whether or not to join the union that would be created by the proposed constitution speaks to the lifetime appointment of federal judges and how that would place them beyond the ability of the people to censure or control. In letter 15, Brutus writes:

They have made the judges independent, in the fullest sense of the word. There is no power above them, to control any of their decisions. There is no authority that can remove them, and they cannot be controlled by the laws of the legislature. In short, they are independent of the people, of the legislature, and of every power under heaven. Men placed in this situation will generally soon feel themselves independent of heaven itself. (Emphasis in original)

It is perhaps appropriate at this point to note that at the White House swearing-in ceremony Justice Barrett swore an oath to God to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States, against all enemies, foreign and domestic” and “to bear true faith and allegiance to the same.”

Such a sacred oath should be enough to restrain any judge from placing his or her will above the Constitution’s plain language and the published intent of its drafters.

I will conclude with statements from James Madison and Thomas Jefferson. 

James Madison has been given the honor of being called “The Father of the Constitution.” He himself rejected this monicker, but the weight of his authority in defining constitutional powers is nearly irrefutable, given that he was not only present every day of the Convention of 1787, but he was a delegate at the Virginia ratifying convention and he was the member of the First Congress to propose the Bill of Rights.

In 1800, Madison felt compelled to explain to a minority of members of the Virginia House of Delegates who favored reduced power of the states that their position was historically and constitutionally wrong. He published this position in a document known to history as the Report of 1800. In that paper, Madison addressed the issue of power placed by the Constitution in the judiciary:

However true therefore it may be that the Judicial Department, is, in all questions submitted to it by the forms of the constitution, to decide in the last resort, this resort must necessarily be deemed the last in relation to the authorities of the other departments of the government; not in relation to the rights of the parties to the constitutional compact, from which the judicial as well as the other departments hold their delegated trusts. On any other hypothesis, the delegation of judicial power, would annul the authority delegating it; and the concurrence of this department with the others in usurped powers, might subvert forever, and beyond the possible reach of any rightful remedy, the very constitution, which all were instituted to preserve.

I don’t pretend to be worthy of paraphrasing Madison, but in case there was anyone lost in the weeds of his syntax, what Madison said was that if we were to accept that the Supreme Court (or any federal court) had the power to define the limits of its own power, then we believe that there truly are no limits of that authority and that was most affirmatively not the will of the framers of the Constitution. 

Think about it: if we turn to the justices of the Supreme Court to have the final word on whether abortion, gun control, federally mandated health insurance, marriage, or life itself are legal in the United States, we simultaneously have granted to that body unlimited power over everything dear to human existence. 

This was never intended.

Next, consider this statement by Thomas Jefferson on the danger of placing liberty at the mercy of even the most trusted, respected, religious, and right-minded federal judges:

To consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions: a very dangerous doctrine indeed and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy. Our judges are as honest as other men, and not more so. They have, with others, the same passions for party, for power, and the privileges of their corps. Their maxim is ‘boni judicis est ampliare jurisdictionim,’[Good justice expands its jurisdiction] and their power the more dangerous as they are in office for life, and not responsible, as the other functionaries are, to the elective control. The Constitution has erected no such single tribunal knowing that, to whatever hands confided, with the corruptions of time and party its members would become despots. It has more wisely made all the departments co-equal and co-sovereign within themselves.

Finally, while the foregoing does — I hope — thoroughly, albeit briefly, set out those things that federal judges were never intended to have within their power, there is still the lingering question: what did the Framers intend that federal judges would do?

The first step in answering any question about the authority granted to any office created by the U.S. Constitution is to read the relevant article of that document. In the case of the federal judiciary, its powers are listed in Article II.

I won’t copy Article II here, as that is something easy enough for the reader to do on his own. For the purposes of this article, I will reveal the answer to the question posed above by referring to the words of the Framers (and others of the Founding Generation) on that very topic.

Before citing these various statements, though, I believe it should be recalled that one of the chief strengths of the U.S. Constitution is the check and balance given to each branch over its sister branches. This is true of the Supreme Court, as well. That is to say, it has its own set of exclusive authority (balance), but that authority may be kept within constitutional bounds (checked) by the other two branches of the federal government. 

As noted law professor Raoul Berger wrote in his influential book Government by Judiciary, “The judicial role, it cannot be unduly emphasized, was limited to policing constitutional boundaries.” I’ll describe how that looks in real life.

For example, while it is true that “all legislative power” in the federal government is granted to Congress, the president may veto any bill passed by Congress. Likewise, in their turn, the Congress may override the president’s veto.

While it is true that the electors of the several states elect the president, the Constitution grants power to the Congress to impeach and remove a president from office. 

So, how does this apply to Supreme Court? It has a similar relationship regarding checks and balances. Congress and the president may pass and sign a bill into law. What if that law is thought by some to be unconstitutional? Then, that law is presented to the federal judiciary for constitutional analysis. If the law is judged constitutional, then no further action is taken. The law is enforced as every other constitutional law.

If, however, the federal judges declare that in their opinion the law is unconstitutional, then the matter was meant to return to the legislature (Congress) where representatives and senators would decide if they should take the Supreme Court’s advice (opinion) and alter the text of the law, or whether to ignore that opinion. If Congress were to ignore the opinion of the court, then the next check and balance belongs to the president who can refuse to sign the new bill (veto), thus sending it back to the Congress for further consideration.

What if, let’s imagine, a judges or a group of judges begin issuing opinions that laws passed by Congress and signed by the president are unconstitutional? How are such judges to be prevented from usurping the authority of the legislature and the executive? Article II, Section 4 combined with Article III, Section 1 reveals the answer.

Judges who trespass beyond the borders of their constitutional authority into the territory of authority of the other branches may be impeached by Congress. The standard for impeachment is “good behavior.” What does that mean? Good behavior, as that phrase is used in the Constitution, would be behavior whereby one keeps within the boundaries of his authority. To usurp powers not granted to him, would be bad behavior for a judge.

Finally, I offer the following quotes from the men who framed the Constitution or who played a significant role in its ratification as to what they intended to be the legitimate constitutional role of federal judges. These statements, when read with the material above, should illuminate for the reader the scope of the Supreme Court’s authority, thus revealing the real threat posed to the Constitution and to the liberty it was designed to protect by federal judges on any level who take to themselves the powers granted to the legislature or to the executive.

James Wilson said that Congress would be kept inside its constitutional cage “by the interposition of the judicial department.”

Oliver Ellsworth said the court would be “check” on any attempt by legislators “overleap their limits.”

Alexander Hamilton declared that the purpose of the Supreme Court was to serve as “bulwarks of a limited Constitution against legislative encroachments.”

John Marshall wrote, “Courts are mere instruments of the law and can will nothing. When they are said to exercise a discretion, it is a mere legal discretion, a discretion to be exercised in discerning the course prescribed by law.”

To sum up, then, the power of the Supreme Court is to check and balance the other two branches, opining on the constitutionality of the acts of the other two branches. There is no power in the Supreme Court (or any federal court) to usurp the powers granted to the other two branches of the federal government. As Thomas Jefferson said, ” If [power is boundless] then we have no Constitution. If it has bounds, they can be no other than the definition of the powers which that instrument gives.”

Congratulations to Justice Amy Coney Barrett. May she always be faithful to the oath she swore to God to be faithful to the Constitution and may Americans never ask her to violate the boundaries of her constitutional authority by requiring her to decide questions never meant to be within the purview or power of the Supreme Court of the United States.

400 Year-old Advice that Could Save Us

Four hundred years ago, before setting foot on that famous rock, 41 passengers aboard the Mayflower signed the Mayflower Compact, a document of immeasurable influence on the country that would become the United States of America.

The pious congregation of Christians known to history as Pilgrims was in their own time called Separatists for their schism with the greater Church of England. Dissension from the Church of England was illegal during the reign of King James the First, and the king was determined to brook no effrontery to his royal highness. He would sooner purge his country of disloyal subjects than allow those subjects to effect a purge of the state religion of which the king was the titular head. To enforce his egotistical and tyrannical will, James sent agents far and wide into the country to round up those Separatists reportedly meeting in secret in small groups to avoid detection by the king’s sycophantic spies.

Fearing imprisonment or worse at the hands of the royal agents, 400 English Separatists fled their beloved England. They sailed surreptitiously to Holland (leaving England without permission was a crime), where the atmosphere was more accommodating to those given to alternative (read: unofficial) interpretations of the word of God. The Dutch were historically more tolerant of religious dissidents and would permit, within limits, pilgrims of many religious creeds to assemble without fear of reprisal or persecution.

Although the Pilgrims found a welcoming harbor in Holland, it proved to be a brief respite, as political situations altered as crucial peace treaties with Spain and France expired, leaving Holland politically unallied and therefore exposed to the avarice of other less-progressive states. As the climate in Holland became increasingly inhospitable, the Pilgrims met to formulate a new plan and consider the options open to them. It was decided that, despite the possible implications, they would return to England, and they immediately set about acquiring investors to fund their ultimate journey: to America. 

As I considered the Mayflower Compact on the anniversary of its signing, my mind was brought less to the text of the Compact and more to the words of John Robinson, the spiritual leader of the Pilgrims.

I’ve read Robinson’s “Farewell Letter to the Pilgrims” many times. Reading this time, though, certain messages seemed to stand out more than others. I believe it is because our time seems so violent, so cruel, and so devoid of Christian kindness that Robinson’s counsel to his congregation sank so deeply into my heart. I sincerely believe that if we were to heed the advice and direction given by Robinson to the Pilgrims some 400 years ago, we could return to a body politic that is much more civil — something for which we would all be grateful to God.

Feeling the sober and historic choices we continue to face in our country, I thought Robinson’s words might inspire readers the way they have inspired me.

First, Robinson suggests we must “daily renew our repentance with our God.” This, Robinson writes, would give us “security and peace in all dangers.” That is certainly something we could all do with more of.

Next, Robinson counsels his congregants to “carefully provide for peace with all men.” In an increasingly violent and vitriolic world, peace is at a premium, but must be sought for if we are to avoid further fighting and bloodshed.

A big part of peace with our fellowman, Robinson explains, is neither offending, nor “easily tak[ing] offense being given by others.” One need only spend seconds on social media to know that we aren’t doing very well at this. These days it seems we’re all too quick to take offense at someone else’s opinions and too quick to share our opinions in offensive ways.

In support of his suggestion to not offend or be offended, Robinson writes that in his experience people who are easily offended or who easily offend have never “proved sound and profitable members in societies.” Certainly, we’d all benefit from being a little more thick-skinned and a little kinder in our discourse, particularly as it relates to politics.

Finally, more than anything else it was the tireless and unwavering faith of our Pilgrim Fathers that kept them alive and animated their firm resolve to bloom where the Hand of the Almighty God had planted them, no matter how rocky, unknown, and hostile the soil.

On this 400th anniversary of the landing of the Pilgrims, may we try to live up to their example of brotherly kindness, Christian charity, and reliance on the grace of God to help our “body politic” be much more civil in 2021.

License Plate Readers: Surveillance on a Smartphone

License plate scanners aren’t just for the surveillance state anymore.

According to a story published by Bloomberg Business Week, your neighbors might have already added the devices to their home security system.

Here’s the explanation:

Maryland-based Rekor Systems Inc. has started offering home video surveillance software through a service called Watchman, starting at $5 a month. In addition to reading a license plate, the system can record a vehicle’s make, color, and body type. In October, Rekor will launch what it says is a “first of its kind” mobile app, which will let users scan license plates with their phone camera. The app could come in handy for schools, to “securely identify valid visitors for student pickup lines” or to manage cars in parking lots, among other uses, the company says.

Yep. You read that right. For about $5 a month, your neighbors could have technology at their fingertips capable of reading a license plate and recording details about your car. 

Standing there in front of their house, your neighbor — or anyone with the app — can point their smartphone camera at your car’s license plate and immediately give law enforcement and government access to all the personal data attached to your car registration.

Not that you should be pleased that such personal information is searched and stored by police — unless they have a warrant, such a collection of data from your license plate violates the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution — but it’s quite another level of invasiveness for strangers walking down the street to be able to access that information on their phone!

Nathan Wessler, a civil liberties attorney, calls out the genuine privacy concerns that come with having license plate scanning software loaded on smartphones and available to most consumers.

“As companies get their software hooked up to more and more peoples’ cameras that are already out in the wild, we’re going to see these databases grow in really robust ways, which is troubling,” Wessler says. “The data can reveal information about how someone’s living their life, and all that data is sitting on servers of companies. And there’s not very clear legal protection for a lot of that data.

It’s not like Rekor Systems is trying to hide the power (and potential abuse) of their Watchman software package. Here’s the company’s description of the capability of the app:

Watchman enables accurate automatic license plate and vehicle recognition on nearly any IP, traffic, or security camera. Detection results are displayed on a web-based interface, which can be accessed from anywhere. Installation is quick and easy, making it perfect for businesses of all sizes and homeowners alike.

Wow. When it comes to automatic license plate recognition (ALPR) tech installed on smartphones, you don’t want to see words like “everywhere,” “nearly any,” and “quick and easy” used in the promotional literature!

I have to share just one of the several “use cases” highlighted by Rekor on the Watchman website.

Under the label “Protect your family and property,” Rekor promotes the Watchman product with this example of how the product could be used by consumers:

Watchman allows homeowners to increase safety and receive alerts to thwart criminals and keep their loved ones safe. Additionally, Watchman’s vehicle recognition allows homeowners to automate common tasks such as garage door opening, turning on/off lights, and locking/unlocking doors.

OK. There are a few problems with this promo, beginning with the notion that the tech will thwart “criminals.” In the United States, one is not a criminal until they have been: first, charged with a crime; second, been given an opportunity to answer those charges; third, had those charges presented before an impartial tribunal (judge or jury); fourth, being found guilty of the charges; and finally, having received a sentence from an impartial tribunal. 

That, my friends, is what we call due process, and it is what separates us from the totalitarian regimes that round up dissenters and “criminals” without rhyme, reason, or repercussion. We don’t want to become such a society.

I propose the following scenarios as something maybe readers can relate to that might motivate you to be aware and wary of such surveillance technology. 

Two neighbors are arguing for months over some matter and the disagreement has escalated to a heated exchange of words. Now imagine that one of the neighbors subscribes to Rekor’s Watchman security system and he knows that he can go out at night and instantly give law enforcement access to critical personal data simply by pointing his smartphone camera at his neighbor’s license plate.

Or, how about when you’re driving down the road without wearing your tyranny towel (A.K.A. face diaper, A.K.A. COVID mask) and the guy next to you at a stop light has the Watchman app and he turns you in to the police for not obeying the mask mandate.

That’s a whole new level of “see something, say something.”

This, dear readers, is the reason the Fourth Amendment exists and this is why such powerful and invasive technology is turning our very neighborhoods into outposts of the surveillance state.

490 B.C. Project: Why Marathon Matters

“I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past.” 

Patrick Henry, March 23, 1775. 

“Today, I am also pleased to announce that I will soon sign an Executive Order establishing a national commission to promote patriotic education. It will be called the “1776 Commission.” 

With that statement, on September 17 President Donald Trump announced his intent to create a curriculum for public schools that would increase the appreciation for the miraculous founding of this country.

“It will encourage our educators to teach our children about the miracle of American history and make plans to honor the 250th anniversary of our founding. Think of that — 250 years,” the president explained.

Earlier in this proclamation President Trump claimed that his “1776 Commission” was necessary as a counterbalance to the much-maligned “1619 Project” created chiefly by Nikole Hannah-Jones and heavily hyped by The New York Times.

The New American’s Alex Newman describes the reason the Progressives’ proposed “history” lesson has been so widely denounced:

Even the first sentence of the headline of the first essay in the project contains multiple factual errors: “Our democracy’s founding ideals were false when they were written,” it says. Of course, America is not and never has been a democracy. If Hannah-Jones had bothered studying any American history, she could have read The Federalist, No. 10, by James Madison, the Father of the Constitution (and an enemy of slavery), to understand why he rejected democracy as a terrible form of government, and chose to create a republic instead. Instead, the project blasts the “decidedly undemocratic Constitution,” as if that were a bad thing. Also, claiming that America’s founding ideals are false implies that all men are not created equal, a self-evidently racist statement.

The second sentence of the 1619 Project’s opening essay title is deceptive, too. “Black Americans have fought to make them true.” Of course, Americans of all skin tones struggled in the fight, with hundreds of thousands of European-descent Americans dying in the Civil War that freed the slaves in the South. Instead of recognizing that, the racist Project demonizes “white Americans” for their supposed collective “sin” of slavery, while falsely suggesting that black Americans have been left on their own to struggle for freedom against evil “white Americans.”

Now, in fairness, there is no constitutional authority for the president to create curriculum or to issue executive fiats foisting approved history lessons onto the country’s public schools.

That said, in light of the outright lies and outrageous maligning of many of our country’s Founding Fathers that are the core of the “1619 Project,” one could almost forgive President Trump (and those behind his history lessons) for trying to offset the propaganda posing as history.

Recently, however, a few bona fide historians — Morgan E. Hunter, Williamson M. Evers, and Victor Davis Hanson — have proposed their own alternative to the “history” being taught in schools across the country; their suggested curriculum correction is called the “490 B.C. Project.”

Why 490 B.C.? The fact that I have to explain why the historians’ chose that year for the name of their suggest curriculum is evidence of the embarrassing state of classical education in this country.

The Battle of Marathon was fought in that year on the plains near Marathon, Greece, and it saw the victory of the Greeks over the invading Persian forces, thus preventing Athens from becoming a Persian satrapy. Can you imagine the effect on the history of the world if there had been no Golden Age of Athens? There would have been no Socrates, no Plato, no Aristotle, no Pericles, no Demosthenes, no Athenian influence on Rome, no influence of Greece and Rome on England, thus no influence of Greece and Rome on the government of the states and the union.

In short, our society, our government, our very culture would be unrecognizable from that we’ve inherited and enjoyed for over two millennia. 

Here’s how the authors of the newly proposed 490 B.C. Project describe the purpose and power of their proposal:

When Americans knew classical history, they could reach beyond partisan differences by drawing on the shared roots of our civilization. American students once learned, for example, about the Greek victory at Marathon in 490 B.C. This kept Greece from being swallowed up by the Persian Empire and ushered in the Golden Age of Athenian democracy which, for all its shortcomings, was a pathbreaking achievement. Democratic Athens, counterbalanced by Sparta’s tripartite system, led to broad-based polities and ultimately the Roman Republic. From there we trace a clear line to Magna Carta and the Renaissance republics, to the Enlightenment, and ultimately to the American Founding in the years around 1776.

There is no doubt that when compared to the education in the classics received by the Founding Generation (and for generations before them) modern American young people receive next to no training in the teaching of the events and people of the Ancient Greeks and Romans.

This has left generations of contemporary Americans unable to understand many of the events of their own time in a proper historical context, a context that might help them recognize threats to their liberty. As explained by the authors of the “490 B.C. Project:”

Without classical knowledge, Americans are likely to misconstrue the achievements of 1776—not to mention other significant historical moments (as evidenced in recent inconclusive contentions over the events of 1619). Unfortunately, contemporary school curricula leave students with major gaps in their knowledge of classical history and the humanities more broadly.

Not surprisingly, these historians make a very good point. Every day I am asked why we’ve never seen the emergence of another generation of Americans on par with the pantheon of Founding Fathers. There’s a very easy explanation for that lack.

For decades, we have claimed that our education system is able to produce a generation of people as dedicated to liberty as were our ancestors. Thousands of American parents enroll their children in this “Classical Academy” or that “American Academy,” with the belief that the “ingredients” being mixed into our children’s mind are taken from the recipe followed by the parents and teachers of our Founding Fathers. 

This is a lie. For over a hundred years we’ve substituted salt for sugar and then wonder why our cookies tasted so bad! 

While the White House’s “1776 Project” has much to recommend it, the “490 B.C. Project” is much more suited to inculcate our country’s children with the depth of historical awareness that will take us a long way toward restoration not only of an appropriate appreciation for the miraculous founding of our country, but of the ability to identify the causes of cultural catastrophes and thereby avoid the devastating effects of them.

The details of the “490 B.C. Project” are available here.

My own study of the effect of Greece and Rome on the Founding Fathers can be found here.

George III Knew More About State Sovereignty Than We Do!

“His Brittanic Majesty acknowledges the said United States, viz., New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, to be free sovereign and Independent States….”

That is the first clause of Article 1 of the Treaty of Paris, the agreement ending hostilities between Great Britain and the United States, signed September 3 ,1783.

While the end of an 8-year war, a war that restored self-government to the 13 American states is worthy of celebration, there are a few words in the clause quoted above that are especially worthy of remembrance: “free sovereign and Independent.”

Later, in Article I, George III reaffirms that not only are his former colonies “free sovereign and independent,” but he vows from that day forward to “treat with them as such.” 

Notice, moreover, he is not signing a treaty with one nation; he is signing a treaty with 13 nations, each of which is listed at the beginning of Article 1.

Further down in this historic agreement, the representatives of George III and the representatives of Congress agree that “Congress shall earnestly recommend it to the Legislatures of the respective States to provide for the Restitution of all Estates, Rights, and Properties, which have been confiscated belonging to real British Subjects.”

Again, pay close attention to the relative status of the Congress of the United States and the legislatures of the respective states comprising that confederation.

Congress is not tasked with telling the states to restore the property of British subjects confiscated during the war. Congress is required to “earnestly recommend” a course of action to the 13 state governments. Think about what that reveals about the relative power of Congress and the state legislatures. If Congress were superior to the state legislatures, then the treaty would simply have enjoined Congress to inform the states that it — the Congress — would be returning to British subjects the property seized from them during the War for Independence. George III, his representatives, and the representatives of the Congress knew that Congress did not have that authority and that such an act would be up to the free, sovereign, and independent states to execute, or not.

Next, in Article 7 peace is explicitly declared between “his Britannic Majesty and the said states.” The states are now at peace with Britain, if Congress is able to convince the state legislatures to agree to the terms. 

The final clause of Article 7 of the Treaty of Paris commits all official documents, deeds, and papers that may have been confiscated by the British army or agents of the British government to be “forthwith restored and delivered to the proper States and Persons to whom they belong.”

You see? Those things weren’t to be delivered to Congress or to some U.S. government official. These items were to be returned to the states from where they were seized or the individuals to whom the items rightfully belonged.

Yet another of the provisions of this peace treaty illuminating the proper relationship and relative roles of the governments of the states and the Congress!

Next, in several articles of the Treaty of Paris (there are ten total) the people native to Great Britain are called “subjects,” while the people of the several states are called “citizens.” This may seem an insignificant and perhaps legalistic distinction, but it is not. The difference between those two conditions is vast and worth noting. Here is the essence of the distinction as described by historian David Ramsay:

Subjects look up to a master, but citizens are so far equal, that none have hereditary rights superior to others. Each citizen of a free state contains, within himself, by nature and the constitution, as much of the common sovereignty as another. In the eye of reason and philosophy, the political condition of citizens is more exalted than that of noblemen. Dukes and earls are the creatures of kings, and may be made by them at pleasure: but citizens possess in their own right original sovereignty.

Finally, it is valuable to recall that the language of the Treaty of Paris wherein the 13 states are recognized as fully-functioning, free, and sovereign entities, is substantially similar to the language of the Declaration of Independence, the document that formalized the state of war that had existed since April 19, 1775 when “the shot heard ‘round the world” was fired on Lexington Green.

The Declaration of Independence affirms in clear and unmistakable terms:

That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.

In 2020, some 237 years after the Treaty of Paris effectively ended the War for Independence, it is sad that we don’t know as much about the concept of federalism and the relationship it creates among the government of the United States and the governments of the several states that comprise that union.

Joe Wolverton II, J.D., is the author of the book The Real James Madison, What Degree of Madness: Madison’s Method to Make America STATES Again, and The Founders Recipe. He hosts the popular YouTube channel “Teacher of Liberty” and the podcast of the same name.


“Make way! Make way for the good Dr. Price!”

This is reportedly the familiar cry of farmers and tradesman that would greet Richard Price every morning as he would pass by their stalls at the marketplace. Today, there are PhDs in American history who have never heard of this man once known as the “Torchbearer of Liberty.”

There are scores of books published every year about the various men and movements that influenced the Founding Fathers of the United States, but there are few that even mention the celebrated Richard Price. This article is going to change that. 

Richard Price is a name that every American who loves liberty and wants to more fully understand the true value of “so celestial an article as freedom” should know and whose words should be taught to every child in every home in the country whose liberty Dr. Price praised so fully and so frequently.

Among our Founding Fathers, not only was the name of Richard Price known very well, but many of the leading lights of that noble generation knew him personally, eating dinner with him, listening to him deliver fiery sermons in support of human freedom, and carrying on years of correspondence with him. If for no other reason, our Founders’ immense respect and innumerable references to him make Richard Price worthy of our interest. 

Born in Tynton, Wales in 1723 in a farmhouse that was home to his ancestors for over 200 years by the time he was born, Richard Price was raised in a family of devout faith who were members of a denomination of Christianity known in history as “Dissenters.” 

Dissenters were those who did not agree with the direction being taken by the Anglican Church when it was restored as the established church by Charles II. Many members of the Church of England, in fact, fled from their mother church and met together in defiance of the dictates of the political powers of the day. 

In a book describing the atmosphere that dominated Great Britain in those days, G.M. Trevelyan wrote that the Puritans and other Dissenters developed a “political tradition…of vigilant criticism of protest towards the powers that rule society and the State.”

During the reign of Charles II, Dissenters — including the Puritans, the Presbyterians, and others — were oppressed by laws passed by Parliament for that very purpose: denying Dissenters their religious liberty. 

Richard Price’s parents were Dissenters who attended the congregation created by Reverend Samuel Jones in Glamorganishire, Wales and Richard was raised in a home where protest against any power that limited liberty was a family tradition.

Reverend Jones and his parishioners, including the Price family, often met in a barn, being prohibited by Parliament from publicly meeting. While the laws restricting the activity of the Dissenters were sometimes not enforced strictly, at other times they were enforced with ferocity, which ferocity once saw Samuel Jones imprisoned for a short time.

This suffering for the sake of the right to worship according to one’s own conscience was a condition that would make a deep impression on the young mind of Richard Price and would set the course of his life. 

That attitude was cultivated and encouraged during his years studying at a school ran by a man named Samuel Jones, however this was not the same Samuel Jones who was the pastor of his family’s church. This Samuel Jones, was, though, a fellow Dissenter.

When he was twelve, Richard’s father Rees Price enrolled his son in Jones’s school, seeking a tutor for his son that would give him more than an ordinary education. Samuel Jones was an able teacher and one that exposed to his students scholarship that would have been ignored, had it not been for Jones’s zeal for teaching his young scholars to be free-thinking, farsighted, and tenaciously true to the cause of religious liberty. This was the fountain from which the young Richard Price would drink deeply.

Richard’s father died suddenly when Richard was only sixteen, forcing the young man and his two sisters to move from the family’s ancestral estate and into a small house some forty miles away. The death of her husband caused Mrs. Price’s own health to deteriorate and she died less than one year later.

So, at 17 years-old Richard Price was an orphan. Although yet young, Richard was determined to not allow the tragedy of his parents’ untimely deaths to determine the trajectory of his life. Accordingly, Richard set out for London and the home of his uncle, Samuel Price, a preacher of some note among the nonconformists.

While in the home of his uncle, Richard marinated in the teaching of his uncle and he enrolled in Coward’s Academy where his uncle was a professor. In order to be admitted to the Coward school, applicants were required to pass difficult entrance tests and deliver a sermon in front of the academy’s faculty and administration.

Richard Price not only passed this battery of examinations and discourses, but he was such a studious young man that he developed jaundice attributed to “fatigue from his arduous studies.” 

When surveying the lives of our own Founding Fathers and the men that formed their thinking, you come to find that with few exceptions all of them clung tenaciously to the concept that wisdom was acquired by sincere study and genuine faith in God. Richard Price was such a man. He was not afraid of the heavy lifting required of those who would be leaders, whether in the 18th Century or the 21st Century.

During his four years at Coward’s Academy, Richard studied Hebrew, Greek, Latin, philosophy, divinity, theology, the history of the Holy Land, algebra, trigonometry, physics, oration, logic, and “pastoral care,” the art and science of being a minister of the gospel.

These are the very subjects that were studied by our Founding Fathers during their own education and it would seem that anyone who wants to be a man of their mental power would do more than give lip service to such studies.

After graduating from Coward’s Academy Richard Price entered the world where those of his religious beliefs were still subject to widespread prejudice. This challenge sculpted men of Richard’s mien and, as Trevelyan wrote, they were shaped into “a large body of the most conscientious and enthusiastic men [who] became political critics and social reformers by profession.” They were leaders of the liberty movement because “their own wrongs sharpened their sensibility to the wrongs of others, and their own position never permitted them to fall into the sleep of those to whom the world is an easy bed.”

Are you starting to see the picture? Are you starting to appreciate why Richard Price was so influential on our Founding Fathers? Are you starting to sense why tyrants of any era would want to keep kids from learning about him and from reading the powerful words he wrote defending freedom and condemning despots?

There’s no doubt that those devoted to restoring liberty to our people and protecting the free exercise of religion would be better prepared for such an endeavor by reading some of the sermons delivered by the Reverend Richard Price that prove that he was a flamethrower of freedom! Before we get into some of those sermons, let’s look at how he came to call so many Founding Fathers his friend.

By the time he was 40 years-old, Richard Price had written a shelf-full of books on several subjects and a variety of religious tracts taking to task the established church and the politicians that propped it up. By 1767, Richard Price’s reputation as a staunch supporter of liberty and talented writer had drawn many famous men into the orbit of his friendship, including David Hume, Lord Shelburne (the prime minister of England), and Benjamin Franklin.

Respect spread rapidly for Richard Price all over the island of Great Britain, across the English Cannel to continental Europe, and across the Atlantic Ocean to America. Believe it or not, Richard’s rise to worldwide fame began after he published a book about how to determine a person’s expected lifespan and how to handle life insurance costs based on those calculations. His work in this area was so well regarded that many American leaders pointed to Price’s work as the best way for a country “to avoid sinking under a weight of debt.”

That statement alone should be enough to convince parents and professors in a country that’s currently over $20 trillion in debt to teach children and students about Richard Price!

In fact, American political leaders were so grateful to the good work of Richard Price that on October 6, 1778, the Second Continental Congress passed the following resolution:

RESOLVED, that the Honorable Benjamin Franklin, Arthur Lee, and John Adams, Esqrs., or any of them, be ordered forthwith to apply to Dr. Price, and inform him that it is the desire of Congress to consider him as a citizen of the United States and to receive his assistance in regulating their finances; that if he shall think it expedient to remove with his family to America and afford such assistance, a generous provision shall be made for requiting his services.

The resolution, offered by Henry Laurens of South Carolina, passed 6 to 3, with three states whose delegations were split.

Richard Price declined the offer, but wrote that he hoped that “British America may preserve its liberty, set an example of moderation and magnanimity, and establish such forms of government, as may render it an asylum for the virtuous and oppressed in other countries.” (Emphasis in original)

In a separate letter sent to his friend Benjamin Franklin, Price asked that Franklin inform Congress “that Dr. Price feels the warmest gratitude for the notice taken of him, and that he looks to the American States as now the hope and likely soon to become the refuge of mankind.” (Emphasis in original)

When the war between England and America started a couple of years earlier, Richard Price supported the states in their battle to defeat the forces of despotism. As the war continued and the breach between the colonies and their mother country became irreparable, Price clearly communicated his advocacy for the Americans.

Richard Price was such a strident proponent of American independence, in fact, that Congress hired him as a spy and he began sending secrets to the representatives of the states. The intelligence gathered by Price never made much of a difference in the Wagin of the war, but his pen certainly did.

First, in February 1776, Price wrote a pamphlet called “Observations on the Nature of Civil Liberty, the Principles of Government, and the Justice and Policy of the War with America,” setting out his positions on the importance not only of political liberty in general, but on the success of the American struggle to restore that very condition to their country.

In the preface to the fifth edition of the work published one month after it first appeared, Price summarized his purpose in penning this pamphlet, courageously calling out the British government for fomenting the war by denying Americans of the freedom they enjoyed as an endowment from God, not from government:

The principles on which I have argued form the foundation of every State as far as it is free, and are the same with those taught by Mr. Locke, and all the writers on Civil Liberty who have been hitherto most admired in this country. But I find, with concern, that they are not approved by our Governors; and that they chuse to decline trying by them their present measures: For, in a pamphlet which has been circulated by government with great industry; these principles are pronounced to be “unnatural and wild, incompatible with practice; and the offspring of the distempered imagination of a man who is byassed by Party, and who writes to deceive.”

I must take this opportunity to add, that I love quiet too well to think of entering into a controversy with any writers; particularly, nameless ones—Conscious of good intentions, and unconnected with any Party, I have endeavoured to plead the cause of General Liberty and Justice; and happy in knowing this, I shall, in silence, commit myself to that candour of the Public of which I have had so much experience.

Later in the paper, Price puts a fine point on the problem, warning his own countrymen that if they love liberty, then they just support the cause of the colonies or their own freedom would be forfeited:

OUR Colonies in North America appear to be now determined to risk and suffer every thing, under the persuasion, that Great Britain is attempting to rob them of that Liberty to which every member of society, and all civil communities, have a natural and unalienable right. The question, therefore, whether this is a reasonable persuasion, is highly interesting, and deserves the most careful attention of every Englishman who values Liberty, and wishes to avoid staining himself with the guilt of invading it.

The case for considering Richard Price a starting player on the varsity squad of men who molded the minds of our Founding Fathers shouldn’t need much more evidence. For those who remain unpersuaded, there’s a more to come.

Writing of the freedom to worship, Price wrote that, “He likewise who, in religion, cannot govern himself by his convictions of religious duty, but is obliged to receive formularies of faith, and to practise modes of worship imposed upon him by others, wants Religious Liberty.”

Using Price’s definition of religious liberty, would a time traveler to the United States of 2019 believe that we enjoyed the right of unregulated religious practice?

In a final selection from “Observations on the Nature of Civil Liberty, the Principles of Government, and the Justice and Policy of the War with America,” Richard Price puts himself in the company of such renowned republicans as John Locke and Algernon Sidney:

FROM what has been said it is obvious, that all civil government, as far as it can be denominated free, is the creature of the people. It originates with them. It is conducted under their direction; and has in view nothing but their happiness. All its different forms are no more than so many different modes in which they chuse to direct their affairs, and to secure the quiet enjoyment of their rights.—In every free state every man is his own Legislator.—All taxes are free-gifts for public services.—All laws are particular provisions or regulations established by common consent for gaining protection and safety.—And all Magistrates are Trustees or Deputies for carrying these regulations into execution.

Liberty, therefore, is too imperfectly defined when it is said to be “a Government by Laws, and not by Men.” If the laws are made by one man, or a junto of men in a state, and not by common consent, a government by them does not differ from Slavery. In this case it would be a contradiction in terms to say that the state governs itself.

Again, would someone who’s a stranger to our world and our country read this description of liberty and judge the United States to be a free country? Would he think that Americans were self-governing?

Finally, in this time when political turmoil too often turns into partisan terrorism, Richard Price has a sermon that could set us straight.

On November 4, 1789 Richard Price delivered a discourse celebrating the centennial of the Glorious Revolution of Great Britain that should be required reading for every American who wants to make a difference on the direction our country is heading and on the people who we put in political office and the power they’re able to exert on the liberty that we once recognized as being composed of rights with which we were “endowed by our Creator,” but today is being converted by Congress, the courts, and the president into permission they can give and take away at their will. 

We know better. Richard Price knew better.

So, for us, in these days of deep political and moral division, here’s a couple words of counsel from Richard Price’s 1789 sermon entitled “A Discourse on the Love of Our Country”:

The love of our country has in all times been a subject of warm commendations; and it is certainly a noble passion; but, like all other passions, it requires regulation and direction. There are mistakes and prejudices by which, in this instance, we are in particular danger of being misled.—I will briefly mention some of these to you, and observe,

First, That by our country is meant, in this case, not the soil or the spot of earth on which we happen to have been born; not the forests and fields, but that community of which we are members; or that body of companions and friends and kindred who are associated with us under the same constitution of government, protected by the same laws, and bound together by the same civil polity.


In other families there may be as much worth as in our own. In other circles of friends there may be as much wisdom; and in other countries as much of all that deserves esteem; but, notwithstanding this, our obligation to love our own families, friends, and country, and to seek, in the first place, their good, will remain the same.

Do yourselves a solid and go read Richard Price for yourselves. All of his most influential works are available free online. 

Maybe, if enough of remember this forgotten influence on the Founding Fathers, we can develop the same unshakeable love of liberty that our ancestors had and maybe we can come to truly find the good and the commendable in other countries and other parties, realizing that such wisdom does not require us to reduce in any amount whatsoever the love of what is our own.

Aristotle Predicted 2020

The study of history is the best medicine for a troubled mind for in history you have a record of the infinite variety of human experience plainly set out for all to see; and in that record you can find for yourself and your country both examples and warnings; fine things to take as models, base things, rotten through and through, to avoid.

Livy, History of Rome

Some time in the 4th Century B.C., the Greek philosopher Aristotle (his name means “complete perfection in Ancient Greek) wrote a book aimed at inquiring into what it was that could keep the community — the polis — peaceful and functioning well and to the benefit of the citizens of the community. Aristotle’s guidebook to good governance is known as Politics.

Book 5 of Politics reads as if it were written for our day. Aristotle begins that section of his essay by reciting what happens when people in the polis begin to “stir up factions” with the intent of overthrowing the established order by using “party strife” to “change parts of the constitution.” The purported goal of these “revolutionaries,” Aristotle wrote is a “desire for equality.”

Sound familiar?

These fractious factions believe that “as they are equal to others in one thing, they should be equal in all things,” including control over property owned by others. The people trying to abolish the constitution, Aristotle warned, would not stop until they were given and “unequal share of all things,” due to their perceived unequal treatment in other times and in other areas.

Sound familiar?

What is the motivation of these adversaries of the constitution and order, Aristotle asks rhetorically. His answer might surprise you: “feelings.”

The “spirit of feelings,” Aristotle writes, grips those seeking to overturn the constitution and to seize control over the property of others.

“Those that desire this ‘equality’ stir up party strife because they feel that even though they are the equals of those that have more, they are not treated equally,” Aristotle explains. “We have said that those who feel they ought to be greater than others start party conflict because of the state of their feelings.”

Sound familiar?

Next, the great Greek philosopher reveals, the goal of these agitators is “to get gain and honor by creating conflict and partisan fighting to prevent themselves and their friends from experiencing any dishonor or loss.”

Sound familiar?

After igniting these fires of faction, those organizing the disturbances continuing following their feelings because “they resent others unjustly getting a larger share than them.” If the uproar and the conflagrations don’t deliver the power they are seeking, then the instigators will resort to “election intrigue.”

Sound familiar?

Now, so you don’t misunderstand Aristotle’s insightful understanding of the political situation that creates the sort of cultural cacophony we’re experiencing today, he does point out that many of those who support these insurgents are motivated to migrate to that camp by the “insolence and greed shown by men in office.” This greed of the politicians leads them to “prey on private property and raid the common treasury.” The men in power then use their “excessive predominance” to hand out benefits and honors to themselves and their friends, and to begin secretly setting up a tyranny on the ruins of the constitution.

Sound familiar?

With the de facto establishment of the despotic government, the tyrants use their extraordinary power to “gradually and little by little without being noticed” destroy the “peace and wealth of the middle class.”

Sound familiar?

In one of the last pushes for complete control over the polis and its property, the tyrants and the terrorists join forces to strengthen their stranglehold on the polis. They squeeze the middle class out of any political influence by siphoning its wealth and gaining control over its property. The cabal’s single policy is the perpetuation of its own power and the prevention of others from ever diminishing their dominance or growing powerful enough to challenge its hegemony.

Sound familiar?

The last act of the despotic drama is the construction of a political program, each plank of which is a part of a larger platform supporting the strongmen in their positions of absolute power.

Much to our benefit, in Book V Aristotle identifies the weapons in the autocratic arsenal, giving us a 2,300-year heads up, plenty of time to build the barricades between the liberty of our own polis and the tyrants that have through all ages of time have with laser focus fought to demolish them.

What follows is the list of policies published in Politics by Aristotle. With this advanced warning, it is hoped that we may, as Livy counseled, use history to avoid falling prey to those people and programs that are “rotten through and through.” 

Those of you with ears to hear, may you hear: there is a way to avoid the complete ruin of our republic.

This is Aristotle’s slate of statist tactics.

  1. Ostracize outstanding men
  2. Embarrass the virtuous people
  3. Prohibit eating together at public places
  4. Prohibit the meetings of clubs
  5. Close schools
  6. Keep close watch over anything in the society which could lead the people to develop confidence of pride.
  7. Close down any venues where people could gather to discuss or debate politics.
  8. Do whatever necessary to make it difficult for people to get to know each other.
  9. Keep the people who live in the cities constantly under the surveillance of the government.
  10. Never allow the government to be uninformed about any conversations or actions of citizens.
  11. Keep spies among the people or keep them under surveillance so that people become afraid to speak openly.
  12. Cause friends to quarrel with each other.
  13. Create class warfare.
  14. Keep the people divided into groups and pit those groups against each other.
  15. Make sure the people are not able to employ private security forces, requiring them to accept the government’s police forces as their only law enforcement.
  16. Keep the people occupied with the daily demands of living so that they will not have time to think about uniting to oppose the tyrant.
  17. Keep the people always working, but never able to increase their wealth.
  18. Tax the people heavily so as to be able to reduce a man to poverty within five years.
  19. Stir up war so that the people are compelled to demonstrate loyalty to the state and to need a strong leader to guide them through the war.
  20. As a tyrant, show that you distrust your friends and that you are in charge and they depend on you for their power.
  21. Flatter the lower classes of people.
  22. Make friends with foreign leaders.
  23. Tear down anyone who is perceived as being superior to the tyrant.
  24. Be rude and vengeful to anyone  who displays an independent and free spirit or who refuses to recognize the tyrants’ usurped supremacy.

Sound familiar?

Kamala Harris Natural Born Citizen

Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, has chosen California Senator Kamala Harris to be his running mate. 

While such a story may seem somewhat unremarkable, the particulars of the two people involved in this political decision make the story more problematic than it appears on its face.

Joe Biden suffers from what many reckon are substantial setbacks in his cognitive capacity and his advanced is undeniable, placing Kamala Harris in a more likely than usual position to assume the office of president.

That likelihood is made more meaningful given that Harris herself has made a run at the Democratic Party’s nomination that her now-ticket mate has all but wrapped up.

So, while in most election years the specific constitutional qualifications of the vice-presidential nominee may be of no more than academic interest, but in light of Biden’s decreasing awareness and increasing age Harris’s constitutional eligibility for the presidency is of urgent import.

Put simply, Kamala Harris is constitutionally ineligible to be president of the United States because she is not a natural born citizen, as required by Article II (and, by reference, the 12th Amendment) of the U.S. Constitution.

While born in the United States — Oakland, California — at the time of her birth, Kamala Harris’s father was a citizen of Jamaica and her mother was a citizen of India. This makes Kamala Harris a native-born American — thus eligible to serve as a U.S. senator — but she is not a natural born citizen, the higher standard set for those occupying the office of president.

What follows is a historically detailed and constitutionally precise analysis of why the Framers of the U.S. Constitution raised the required citizenship bar for those elected president of the United States. I know it’s a bit lengthy, but stay with me. Preventing constitutionally unqualified candidates from usurping power is of critical concern to every American and every man and woman whose life and liberty could be taken by the person with his — or her — finger on the button.

The Constitution does not define natural born citizenship, neither have Supreme Court and Congress. The term “natural born citizen” comes from the English concept of “natural born subject,” which came from Calvin’s Case, a 1608 decision.

Natural born subjects were those who owed allegiance to the king at birth under the “law of nature.” The court concluded that under natural law, certain people owed duties to the king, and were entitled to his protection, even in the absence of a law passed by Parliament.

Let’s explore the possible sources and appropriate interpretations of the “natural born citizen” qualification.

At the time of the drafting of the Constitution, a person born subject to the British Crown could hold “double allegiance,” a concept similar to “dual citizenship” as understood today.

Our own Founding Fathers, nearly every one of whom was born in some outpost of the British Empire, feared the damage that could come from such divided loyalty. They instituted the “natural born citizen” qualification in order to avoid what Gouverneur Morris described during the Constitutional Convention as “the danger of admitting strangers into our public councils.”

As famed jurist of the early republic St. George Tucker, a contemporary of Morris, explained:

That provision in the constitution which requires that the president shall be a native-born citizen (unless he were a citizen of the United States when the constitution was adopted) is a happy means of security against foreign influence, which, wherever it is capable of being exerted, is to be dreaded more than the plague. The admission of foreigners into our councils, consequently, cannot be too much guarded against; their total exclusion from a station to which foreign nations have been accustomed to attach ideas of sovereign power, sacredness of character, and hereditary right, is a measure of the most consummate policy and wisdom.

The very source of the “natural born citizen” standard is known to us today. The Swiss jurist Emer de Vattel defined that term in his seminal book The Law of Nations, published in 1758 and, according to Benjamin Franklin, “had been continually in the hands of the members of our Congress.” 

Book I, Chapter 19, Section 212 of The Law of Nations reads:

[N]atural-born citizens, are those born in the country, of parents who are citizens. As the society cannot exist and perpetuate itself otherwise than by the children of the citizens, those children naturally follow the condition of their fathers, and succeed to all their rights. The society is supposed to desire this, in consequence of what it owes to its own preservation; and it is presumed, as matter of course, that each citizen, on entering into society, reserves to his children the right of becoming members of it. The country of the fathers is therefore that of the children; and these become true citizens merely by their tacit consent. We shall soon see, whether, on their coming to the years of discretion, they may renounce their right, and what they owe to the society in which they were born. I say, that, in order to be of the country, it is necessary that a person be born of a father who is a citizen; for if he is born there of a foreigner, it will be only the place of his birth, and not his country.

De Vattel’s definition of “natural born citizen” and the benefits derived from distinguishing between “natural born citizens” and “citizens” was well known to our Founding Fathers and, in fact, the very name of that high standard was copied verbatim by them into Article II of the U.S. Constitution wherein the qualifications for President of the United States are set out.

That such a qualification was universally agreed to by the delegates at the Constitutional Convention of 1787 one need only look to the record of that convention and note that the requirement that the president by a “natural born citizen” was mentioned only twice and was agreed to “nem con,” a contraction of a Latin legal phrase meaning, “without opposition.”

In fact, as indicated in early records of the naturalization process, men applying for American citizenship were required to make two renunciations of all fealty to foreign powers before swearing allegiance to the Republic of the United States.

As a matter of fact, the possibility of any legal acceptance of divided allegiance was explicitly rejected in a report issued by the House of Representatives in 1874:

The United States have not recognized a ‘double allegiance.’ By our law a citizen is bound to be ‘true and faithful’ alone to our government.

The practical effect of that proclamation is that in order to be a “natural born citizen” of the United States, one would have to be free from a competing claim for allegiance from another nation.

That such a schizophrenic situation was not only anticipated but accepted by His Majesty’s government during the time of the American founding can be inferred from the impressment of American sailors into the service of the Crown. During the War for Independence, British ships would block American ships from sailing and then the seamen on the British vessels would board the American ships and force the Americans to serve the side of the Empire.

The insistence on the part of the British that anyone born within the realm was a British subject regardless of any voluntary severance thereof and subsequent vow of allegiance to another prince was a significant factor in the hostilities known as the War of 1812. 

Finally, in this regard, the British required no process of naturalization as such. Simply being born within the dominions of the monarchy of Great Britain was sufficient to endow one with the rights and privileges granted to any British subject. Nothing such a person did later in life (including becoming a citizen of another country) would ever alter his status as subject.

Obviously, in the United States that concept is neither the law now, nor was it the law at the time of the founding. Quite the opposite, in fact.

One of the scholars frequently cited in articles on the subject of the definition of “natural born citizen” is Temple University law professor Peter Spiro.

Spiro often cites the 14th Amendment to the Constitution as further evidence that although born outside the U.S. to a foreign father, recent presidential candidates — including Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio — fit the 14th Amendment’s definition of a natural born citizen. 

The relevant clause of the 14th Amendment reads:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and the States wherein they reside.

The principal architect of the citizenship clause of the 14th Amendment was Michigan Senator Jacob Merritt Howard, a Republican representing Detroit. 

Senator Howard crafted much of the language that was eventually ratified as part of the 14th Amendment.

During the debates that embroiled the Senate in the years following the Civil War, Senator Howard insisted that the qualifying phrase “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” be inserted into Section 1 of the 14th Amendment being considered by his colleagues. In the speech with which he proposed the alteration, Howard declared:

This amendment which I have offered is simply declaratory of what I regard as the law of the land already, that every person born within the limits of the United States, and subject to their jurisdiction, is by virtue of natural law and national law a citizen of the United States. This will not, of course, include persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, [or] who belong to the families of ambassadors or foreign ministers accredited to the Government of the United States, but will include every other class of persons.

How could a person “born in the United States” be simultaneously a citizen and a “foreigner” or “alien” if the mere fact of nativity settled the question of citizenship?

Another legislator commenting at the time of the ratification of the 14th Amendment, Representative John Bingham, provided the following clarification of the meaning behind the “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” clause:

Every human being born within the United States of parents not owing allegiance to any foreign sovereignty is, in the language of your Constitution itself, a natural born citizen.

While similar questions have been raised regarding the Article II eligibility of Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) who ran for president in 2000 and in 2008, and Mitt Romney, who ran in 2008 and 2012, the case of those two men is distinct from that of Kamala Harris.

Both McCain, who was born in the Panama Canal Zone to an American father serving overseas in the military, and Romney, whose father was born in Mexico to American parents, pass constitutional muster.

However, although not necessarily in the way claimed by Professor Spiro, when applied to the case of Senator Kamala Harris, the principles of constitutional law and interpretation set forth above call into question her eligibility for president. 

So, to conclude, there is no reasonable or legal doubt that at the time of her birth (regardless of the location), Harris’s father was not an American citizen — and thus, should she assume the office of the president, the president would be the child of a person with legal allegiance to a foreign sovereignty and so would not conform to the accepted legal, constitutional, and historical definition of “natural born citizen,” thus Kamala Harris cannot serve as vice-president.

Should We Declare Independence Again?

July 2, 1776. Delegates from 12 of the 13 colonies represented in the Second Continental Congress voted to formally “dissolve the political bands” that bound them to Great Britain.

Just 24 hours before that historic vote, the severing of those ties was in doubt.

On Monday, July 1, Congress resolved itself into a committee of the whole to continue debating the resolution for independence proposed nearly a month before by Virginia representative Richard Henry Lee.

John Dickinson of Pennsylvania rose and spoke eloquently — although ultimately not persuasively — in favor of pursuing peaceful attempts to reconcile with the crown.

John Adams spoke next. Refuting Dickinson’s call for calm, he reminded his colleagues of the convincing case for an unqualified declaration of independence.

When the speeches ended, delegates cast their votes; each colony cast one vote, regardless of the number of delegates present at the proceeding. Pennsylvania’s representatives were specifically instructed to oppose any call for separation from England and they voted accordingly. South Carolina joined Pennsylvania, voting no on the Lee resolutions.

New York’s delegation was also forbidden by their colonial government from voting in favor of independence, so New York abstained.

Tiny Delaware’s delegation was split — one representative in favor of independence (Thomas McKean) and one opposed (George Read) — so no vote was recorded for that colony.

The delegations of the remaining nine colonies approved the declaration of independence.

Dissolving the committee of the whole, the resolution would now be put before the Congress for a binding vote.

Edward Rutledge of South Carolina, although personally opposed to passage of Lee’s resolution calling for independence, believed that the colonies should present a unified front in the fight for freedom from British tyranny.

Accordingly, he moved that the formal vote be postponed until Tuesday, July 2.

As the next day’s business got underway, representatives were surprised and pleased to hear that South Carolina had reversed her position and would vote yes on the declaration of independence. Next, the Pennsylvania contingent reported that John Dickinson and Robert Morris would demur, allowing their colleagues from Pennsylvania to vote 3-2 in favor of the resolution.

The third remarkable reversal occurred when Caesar Rodney rode in to town, tipping the Delaware delegation’s vote in favor of independence.

Upon calling the roll, the final vote on the Lee resolution declaring final and formal independence of the American colonies from Great Britain was 12 to none with one abstention: New York.

Although our independence is celebrated on July 4 (the day the final wording of the Declaration was approved by Congress and sent to the printer), the vote on July 2 and the timely swings in favor of the resolution and the revolution that happened on that day are truly historic and worthy of mention. This is particularly so in light of recent revelations regarding the scope of the tyranny of a president whose behavior is demonstrably monarchical.

The “long train of abuses” of which our forefathers accused Britain’s crown were enumerated in the Declaration of Independence. This historic indictment of King George III was penned principally by Thomas Jefferson and was laid out in a manner both methodical and lyrical. It stood on the rooftops and exposed for the all the world to hear the despotic measures levied against the American colonies by the government of Great Britain.

As our own modern government blows by the milestones on the road toward absolutism, the specific examples of the abuses of power cited in the Declaration of Independence may prove prophetic and may help to enlighten 21st-century Americans. Once we rehearse the reasons that compelled our Founders to sever ties to England, perhaps we, too, will redouble our efforts to restore liberty and the constitutional boundaries of government.

To this end, several organizations have been founded that seek to cause the drafting of a second document that would declare our independence from a federal authority that has grown unwieldy, unaccountable, and unchecked in its exercise of unconstitutional power.

One such group, for example, states on its website that “the actions of our government have created a moral and Constitutional crisis that demands a response from the people.”

Another party echoes that sentiment, proclaiming that present-day Americans “have patiently suffered mounting government outrages against us — lies, corruption, legal plunder and terror. We have waited in despair for reforms and redress, but the outrages have only gotten worse. We can now wait no longer. The fundamental rights of ‘We the People’ must be restored now.”

What of these claims? That the federal government has behaved unconstitutionally is beyond debate. Equally, few would sensibly argue that the borders of freedom have not been invaded repeatedly by bureaucratic regulations masquerading as laws.

Every president since 9/11 has overseen the weaponization of the executive branch, deploying the NSA, the IRS, the EPA, and other agencies to destroy the God-given rights of life, liberty, and property.

But the threshold question when one ponders the necessity of a second Declaration of Independence is, have these actions risen to a level that our Founding Fathers believed justified the dissolution of “the political bands” that bound them to the government of Great Britain?

To illuminate the matter a bit, one might consider the following three charges against George III contained in the original Declaration of Independence and the accompanying contemporary examples of similarly suspect suppressions of America’s God-given liberty as committed by her own leaders.

1. “He has refused to Assent to Laws”

Jefferson accused King George III of ignoring the constitution of Great Britain by taking from the American colonists the right to be represented in the legislature and by imposing his autocratic will on all who would not accede to the decrees made in the name of controlling the empire.

Rights afforded all Englishmen since the days of the Magna Carta were summarily stripped from Americans and their ability to nullify such actions through the appeal to local governments was denied by the abolition of those colonial councils.

In our own day, we have witnessed an unsettling de facto repeal of the Bill of Rights and the protections it affords. Most recently, the rescission of the Fourth Amendment has been in the news.

For years, the NSA has conducted dragnet surveillance of the phone records of millions of Americans. What’s more, in collusion with the country’s largest cyber-corporations, they monitor in real time the online activity of all Americans. There is not a single electronic communication that isn’t watched, recorded, and archived by the federal government.

While this level of totalitarianism was unknown to our colonial ancestors, they toiled for years under their own yoke of government oppression of liberty before finally throwing it off and declaring their independence from the oppressors.

2. “He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance”

So prevalent in today’s society are examples of this complaint taken from Jefferson’s indictment of the crown that it almost needs no recitation of modern re-enactments.

The IRS, to give but one example, admits that it targeted for investigation conservative groups who applied for tax-exempt status. Here’s a summary of the scandal as written by The New American’s Thomas Eddlem:

While despotic, the IRS’s abuses are mere annoyances when compared to the tyrannical tormenting of property owners perpetrated by armies of agents carrying out the unconstitutional and unlawful edicts of executive branch bureaucracies whose regulatory regime is nearly impregnable and inhumane.

Consider the case of an 80 year old U.S. Navy veteran from Montana. Here is the story as told by Dan Daru:

Were British officers ever so swarming as American bureaucrats?

3. “depriving us in many cases of the benefits of Trial by Jury”

Since 2011, both houses of the Congress of the United States have passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a bill that gave (and continues to give) the president of the United States the absolute power to arrest and detain citizens without their being informed of any criminal charges, without a trial on the merits of those charges, and without a scintilla of the due process safeguards guaranteed by the Constitution.

When asked if an American citizen indefinitely detained under the NDAA would be deprived of the right to counsel guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) responded:

These provisions of the NDAA have a lot in common with other abuses enumerated in the Declaration of Independence, namely that of “waging war against us” and the use of the military to “complete the works of death, desolation, and tyranny.”

These are only a few of the examples that could be provided of ways in which our government has ceased being our servant of the people and has become our cruel master.

We are witnesses of the words of Thomas Jefferson:

What Will We Declare?

Friends, this day in 1776 is the day we celebrate the secession of – eventually – 13 already-existing republics from an empire that had grown ever more despotic and injurious to the natural rights of the people of those 13 countries. Ambassadors from 11 of those 13 countries voted to unite in a Declaration of independence, wherein their common complaints were set forth for all to see. The form of that declaration was one familiar to the gathered representatives as it had been established by accepted historical precedent.
Today, there are 50 states, each of which is populated by a citizenry whose rights are oppressed in a degree of despotism George III could not have conjured up in his most monarchical and maddened fantasy. Yet, the citizens of those erstwhile republics do next to nothing to break the bands of tyranny hanging heavily on their necks.
That is our choice and, I believe, we will answer to Almighty God and His Son, Jesus Christ, for our unmanly disregard and dissolution of the liberty vouchsafed for us first by our earthly fathers and most certainly and surely by our Heavenly Father’s gift of His Only Begotten Son. Surely for our stupor and sacrifice of that blood-bought freedom we will be held accountable.
I won’t tell you not to celebrate the anniversary of July 4, 1776; it was an inspiring day in the history of our ancestors. I will say, however, that to celebrate that day and to proclaim our freedom is a most grave and galling insult to the men and women whose lives, fortunes, and sacred honor were on that day and for decades thereafter placed willingly on the altar of freedom. We draw nigh unto freedom with our lips while our hearts and habits are far from it. Our Independence Day celebrations are whited sepulchers, displaying freedom without, while containing nothing but the bleached and rotted bones of ignorance and indifference within.
May we repent. May we awake and arouse our faculties in the difficult and divine disgorgement of our liberty from the hands of tyrants and their sycophantic servants. May we be our fathers’ children and once again refuse to crouch down and meekly lick the hands that feed us.
Amen and amen.