We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence[sic], promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
This is our country. We the People of the United States are the true sovereigns of the democratic republic of the United States of America. That preamble to the Constitution was the leading reason that James Madison, a staunch federalist and primary architect of the Constitution, initially objected to the addition of amendments to the document at the Virginia ratification convention. He felt that the preamble made the sovereignty of the people self evident. When it became obvious that the people of Virginia, as well as many other States, were greatly distressed by the lack of protections of the peoples rights, he promised his constituents that he would assist in the amending of the Constitution. His diligent work, even in the face of Patrick Henry’s political maneuvers to prevent him from doing so, is the cardinal reason we have the protections afforded us through the Bill of Rights.
When I first heard Diane Sawyer, in July 2010, intone that we had a problem with “sovereigns” on ABC news, I thought I had better pay attention. Since that broadcast, the CBS news show “60 Minutes” broadcast a story on the subject of “sovereign citizens.”
The tenor and tone of the “60 Minutes” story are consistent with other mainstream media perceptions of the Sovereign Movement. They informed the public that a sovereign citizen is an extremist American who “in its simplest form, believes that he is above the law.” Sovereign citizens are on average “30-35, and is in economic dire straits. They’ve probably lost their job. They’ve probably lost the wife,” and most are paranoid conspiracy theorists.
To support their premise, they tied the Posse Comitatus of the 1970s, the Montana Freemen, Terry Nichols and Wesley Snipes (who should not be in jail under the Paperwork Reduction Act, by the way) together. The only thing these folks have in common is that they all felt that the Federal Government of the United States of America had over stepped its authority. A common sentiment in the general populace today… as your eyes on this text may attest. As our consolidated, corporate owned media has become the mouthpiece of our government, it may serve to explain their hysteria on the subject.
I don’t think I can express the situation any more succinctly than I expressed it July 4, 2010 at UnfetteredSpeech.com:
Today, we hear that we are a nation of laws. We must sacrifice our liberty in the name of security. Our politicians and corporate media hounds see the bogey man at every turn. There are terrorist cells in every mosque, illegal immigrants are pouring over the borders and stealing American jobs, misguided Americans like Jihad Jane are defecting to the “terrorists,” the Tea Partiers are a threat to the individuals who make our laws, our old enemy has arisen again as Russian spies have permeated to the very heart of America, and even our own have turned against us. This past week, Diane Sawyer reported that citizens claiming to be sovereigns (in a nation of sovereign people) are taking aim at the police. We have all become the enemy in the eyes of our government.
The problem for me, with all of this rhetoric, is that none of it jives with my experience. As usual, our media has taken the most extreme elements of a situation and extolled its ideologies on the whole. The “sovereign citizens” that I’ve encountered in my travels throughout the country are highly intelligent individuals with no desire to clash with our government. On the contrary, it is our government that seeks to engage with them and us. While I can’t argue that any of them are ecstatic about paying taxes to our government, and I’d guess that some of them don’t, I’ve never met one who was broke. However, I can certainly see why the movement is attracting new recruits in light of the financial fiasco that has unfolded over the past few years. Allowed and then visited on this country by the Federal Government of the United States and its agents in the banking cartel known as the Federal Reserve, ostensibly fighting the fire, while generously feeding the flame.
Additionally, We the People aren’t the only ones grumbling about this sorry state of affairs. Many of our representatives, such as Ron Paul, Rick Perry and Jesse Ventura have taken to writing books over the last decade, bemoaning the situation with credibility in their writings not usually attributed to politicians. We are not alone in our discontent. It seems our government has seized power far beyond the wildest imaginings of us all.
Establishing the sovereignty of the people of the United States, rather than the Federal Government as sovereign, is really not that difficult. Our founding documents and the array of pamphlets and opinions in the newspapers of the day are all we really need. Further supporting evidence can be found in the actions of the people of the day.
We begin with the second major document of the Continental Congress, as it came to be known. That document is the Declaration of Independence. Contrary to your history lessons, it was not the first. That honor goes to the Articles of Association, a measured response to the “Intolerable” or “Coercive” Acts of the British Parliament, promising to “boycott” (Before the word became part of the English vocabulary. Charles Boycott, 1880) any and all British imports and cease all exports until such time as the British Parliament rescinded the offending laws. The Declaration of Independence was the response to the occupation of the colonies by the British army.
It is in the body of the Declaration of Independence that we find the most compelling evidence that the people themselves are the sovereign entities of the United States.
That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.
That statement, alone, confirms the sovereignty of the people. No document that follows this one, in our history, grants any government we’ve formed any powers above that of the people. The Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union didn’t grant the Federal Government of the Confederation any powers over the people and neither does the Constitution of the United States. The Constitution is a document detailing the powers and responsibilities of the government of the United States. It speaks directly to the participants of the government it creates. The legislature, alone, is tasked with the making of laws for the new Republic. Its powers and responsibilities are specifically enumerated. Not one of those grants authority over the people. The President, the only individual or political body outside of the Legislature with any participatory power of establishing law, is limited to three choices; do nothing, sign the bill into law or veto the bill and send it back to congress, the legislature.
The principles the founders, from the States and its representatives down to the foot soldiers, fought for are to be found in the very same document:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights…
The obvious point that the government of the Constitution is the second rendition of the government of the United States of America in just over a decade, should make the point of our sovereignty self evident, as well as setting the second precedent of the people of the United States and its common law systems of the States. The public debate over the adoption of the Constitution and the actions and demands of the people of the States themselves bear sufficient proof of the solid footing of the Declaration of Independence.
One of the largest displays of resistance to the Constitution came on July 4, 1788. On that day over 1000 armed men marched on Providence, Rhode Island in protest. Little tiny Rhode Island in 1788 stirred up the ire of 1000+ men over the perceived power grab of the Constitution. Any way you slice it, that is some serious opposition for the day! The necessity of the Massachusetts Compromise is the result of such activities prior to ratification.
It is in the Federalist arguments of Jay, Madison and Hamilton, known collectively as the Federalist Papers, we find much discussion on the protections of the freedoms of the individuals as coming from the States, particularly from Madison, but it is Hamilton that most clearly articulates the intent and design of the sovereignty of the people in Federalist #85 when he said;
A nation, without a national government, is, in my view, an awful spectacle. The establishment of a Constitution, in time of profound peace, by the voluntary consent of a whole people, is a prodigy, to the completion of which I look forward with trembling anxiety. I can reconcile it to no rules of prudence to let go the hold we now have, in so arduous an enterprise, upon seven out of the thirteen States, and after having passed over so considerable a part of the ground, to recommence the course. I dread the more the consequences of new attempts, because I know that powerful individuals, in this and in other States, are enemies to a general national government in every possible shape.
Hamilton goes on in #85 to quote Hume;
To balance a large state or society [says he], whether monarchical or republican, on general laws, is a work of so great difficulty, that no human genius, however comprehensive, is able, by the mere dint of reason and reflection, to effect it. The judgments of many must unite in the work; experience must guide their labor; time must bring it to perfection, and the feeling of inconveniences must correct the mistakes which they inevitably fall into in their first trials and experiments.
establishing, by the nature of experience, time and feeling, the transience of any government as it evolves and grows in response to the lessons of the people.
Yet, even before the first of the federalists arguments hit the papers in support of the Constitution, the anti-federalists had begun their crusade. At various points in history, soon after, the debates of both sides were bound into various books. Needless to say, the Federalist Papers are held up to support the current paradigm of federal power. We rarely hear about the anti-federalist views in today’s culture, while the views of the federalists are held in such high regard as to overshadow counter arguments.
The Declaration of Independence avowed the clear sovereignty of the people and their equally clear right to abandon and empower governments. The Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union limited the Federal Government so severely that it had to go begging to the States for money for the very war it was empowered to wage, while it was the people who brought their own guns to the fight. The Federal Constitution of the United States contains specifically enumerated powers, particularly divided political bodies, with each a limited power to contribute to the governing of the whole.
The specifically enumerated powers of the two houses of legislature grant no authority of law over the people, the executive holds only the tentative power of commiseration or renunciation of the laws of the legislative bodies, the judiciary powers extend only so far as any dispute of law or equity arising under the Constitution, the specified and enumerated areas where the legislature, with the possible approval of the executive, has been granted authority to make law. As a matter of fact, the Constitution grants the Federal Government only three situations in which it may prosecute citizens of the United States; treason, piracy and counterfeiting.
Also, initiated by the people, was the Bill of Rights. A series of clauses we felt must be added to the Federal Constitution to ensure that the Federal Government knew the limits of its authority. The first two Amendments establish the sovereignty of the individual to their own life and the right to guide and defend that life as the individual sees fit to do so. The next six assure the people of the limits of intrusion from the Federal Government. The next, the ninth, says we haven’t listed all of the rights of the people, while the tenth and last of the Bill of Rights, specifically tells the Federal Government “if we didn’t list it as yours- it’s ours or a power we grant the States.” Nothing else could be interpreted by the Tenth!
The progression of the development of the Bill of Rights most evidently portrays the intent and mindset of the founders. James Madison, who argued against a Bill of Rights in the Federalists Papers #38, 44, 46, and 48 on the grounds that the States could best protect the sovereign rights of the people, eventually came to offer up his promised amendments for the new Constitution. The Virginia Declaration of Rights, already in effect in his home State of Virginia, was highly influential in the wording of his thinking and presentation of his proposals for the amendments. His proposed First Amendment (June 8, 1789) illustrates this most clearly;
That there be prefixed to the Constitution a declaration–That all power is originally vested in, and consequently derived from, the people. That the government is instituted and ought to be exercised for the benefit of the people; which consists in the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the right of acquiring and using property, and generally of pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety. That the people have the indubitable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to reform or change their Government, whenever it be found adverse or inadequate to the purposes of its institution.
Furthermore, his wording of the amendments, the House committee’s phrasing and the parlance of the Amendments as passed by the House and sent to the Senate, clearly show that freedom of conscience and freedom of religion were interchangeable. It was the Senate that paraphrased the language of what, eventually became the First Amendment. The Senate, also, dropped the House’s suggested Fourteenth Amendment, limiting the rights of the States to infringe on the federally protected rights of trial by jury, rights of conscience, freedom of speech or the press. It is only coincidental that the current enumeration guards those and more!
Every other amendment to the Constitution has been proposed by the Federal Government! Three initiated by the results of our internal war, broadening the base of the population under Constitutional protection, further advancing the principles espoused by the Declaration of Independence. Three more amendments, pushed by movements of the people, equalizing access to participation in the government. Of the remaining eleven, eight pertain to the offices and operations of the government; leaving the remaining, however motivated, as incursions on the people.
While there is much more in the pro-federalists and anti-federalist letters and pamphlets that can be brought forth as evidence to support the contention that the people, and not the Federal Government of the United States, are sovereign, we find far more compelling evidence of this fact in the actions and papers of our governments after the revolution and the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union have fallen to the wayside and the Federal Constitution has become the supreme law of the land. One document in particular, we will examine, addresses the prior actions and intent of the people of the revolution in seeking to resolve the constitutionality of laws passed under the Federal Constitution.
The year is 1800 and a committee of seven has been assigned to investigate the Virginia Resolution that had been passed as a response to the “Alien” and “Sedition” acts signed into law by President John Adams in his attempt to keep the United States out of a war with England or France. A war the United States, in its infancy, could ill afford to wage. A treaty with England quickly negated the possibility that we would be forced into war there. With troops from France already on this side of the ocean, many in Congress saw threat there. The “Alien” and “Sedition” acts were their attempt to quell that possibility.
In response to the enactment of those bills into laws by President Adams, two states responded with alarm, Kentucky and Virginia. The Resolutions of the former of the two having been drafted by Thomas Jefferson, while the Virginia Resolution had been drafted by James Madison. Both felt that the laws were unconstitutional and that the states were duty bound to resist such incursions on theirs and the peoples sovereignty. Virginia sent its resolution to her sister states for concurrence and was rebuffed. While no southern states responded, Delaware, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Vermont all felt that those laws were within the purview of the powers granted to the Federal Government. Some, even, reverting to arguments of common law.
The author for the committee to investigate the Virginia Resolution was James Madison. In the document, anyone can read by going to the Library of Congress’ web site loc.gov, found in the Elliot Debates, he summarizes the views of the committee. On numerous occasions, throughout their report, they establish the rigidity of the enumeration of powers belonging to all three branches of the Federal Government. Moreover, they resoundingly deny that the common law arguments of the dissenting states have any bearing on United States Constitutional law. The following demonstrates;
“… If the common law had been understood to be a law of the United States, it is not possible to assign a satisfactory reason why it was not expressed in the enumeration.
In aid of these objections, the difficulties and confusion inseparable from a constructive introduction of the common law would afford powerful reasons against it.
Is it to be common law with or without the British statutes?
If without the statutory amendments, the vices of the code would be insupportable.
If with these amendments, what period is to be fixed for limiting the British authority over our laws?
Is it to be the date of the eldest, or the youngest, of the colonies?
Or are the dates to be thrown together, and a medium deduced?
Or is our independence to be taken for the date?
Is, again, regard to be had to the various changes in the common law made by the local codes of America?
Is regard to be had to such changes subsequent as well as prior to the establishment of the Constitution?
Is regard to be had to future as well as past changes?
Is the law to be different in every state, as differently modified by its code; or are the modifications of any particular state to be applied to all?
And on the latter supposition,which among the state codes forms the standard?
Questions of this sort might be multiplied with as much ease as there would be difficulty in answering them.
These consequences, flowing from the proposed construction, furnish other objections equally conclusive; unless the text were peremptory in its meaning, and consistent with other parts of the instrument.
These consequences may be in relation to the legislative authority of the United States; to the executive authority; to the judicial authority; and to the governments of the several states.
If it be understood that the common law be established by the Constitution, it follows that no part of the law can be altered by the legislature. Such of the statutes already passed as may be repugnant thereto, would be nullified; particularly the Sedition Act itself, which boasts of being a melioration of the common law; and the whole code, with all its incongruities, barbarisms, and bloody maxims, would be inviolably saddled on the good people of the United States.
Should this consequence be rejected, and common law be held, like other laws, liable to revision and alteration by the authority of Congress, it then follows that the authority of Congress is coextensive with the objects of common law; that is to say, with every object of legislation; for to every such object does some branch or other of the common law extend. The authority of Congress would, therefore, be no longer under the limitations marked out in the Constitution. They would be authorized to legislate in all cases whatsoever.
As they progress through the report, they go on from this point to demonstrate that the admission of common law as United States law “would overwhelm the residuary sovereignty of the states.”
Although there are several instances wherein they echo the sovereignty of the people, as the following exhibits;
Words could not well express, in fuller or forcible manner, the understanding of the convention, that the liberty of conscience and freedom of the press were equally and completely exempted from all authority whatever of the United States.
nowhere in this document do they state this point more clearly and succinctly than when comparing the freedoms of the British press with the freedoms of the American press. Mr. Madison writes;
In the United States, the case is altogether different. The people, not the government, possess the absolute sovereignty.
While this document holds no force of Federal law, (in January 1801 it passed the Virginia legislature with the house voting 60 for and 40 against and the Senate 15 for and 6 against) it certainly and clearly states the original intent of the people, the true and rightful founders of our country! That point is particularly evident when you consider that Mr. Madison actually attended the Philadelphia convention and took the notes we rely on to inform us of what went on behind those closed doors. (William Jackson, the official secretary of the convention, only recorded the vote tallies.)
Furthermore, We the People of the United States have never relinquished that absolute sovereignty. No power we have granted the Federal Government, or any of the state governments, awards them any authority to change that… ever!
Before we jump to conclusions, what do the courts, the judicial arm of our government, have to say on the subject. Surely at some point in our tumultuous 235 years there have been cases wherein the question needed to be addressed.
In an 1884 case before the Supreme court, Julliard v. Greenman, Justice Stephen Johnson Field penned the lone dissenting opinion in a case that was tied intimately with the sovereignty of the people, the subject of money. His dissenting opinion echoed the tone and tenor of James Madison’s aforementioned Report on the Virginia Resolution. He writes:
Congress can exercise no power by virtue of any supposed inherent sovereignty in the general government. Indeed it may be doubted whether the power can be correctly said to appertain to sovereignty in any proper sense, as an attribute of an independent political community. The power to commit violence, perpetrate injustice, take private property by force without compensation to the owner, and compel the receipt of promises to pay in place of money, may be exercised, as it often has been, by irresponsible authority, but it cannot be considered as belonging to a government founded upon law. But be that as it may, there is no such thing as a power of inherent sovereignty in the government of the United States. It is a government of delegated powers, supreme within its prescribed sphere but powerless outside of it. In this country, sovereignty resides in the people, and Congress can exercise no power which they have not, by their Constitution, entrusted to it; all else is withheld. It seems, however, to be supposed that as the power was taken from the states, it could not have been intended that it should disappear entirely, and therefore it must in some way adhere to the general government notwithstanding the Tenth Amendment and the nature of the Constitution. The doctrine that a power not expressly forbidden may be exercised would, as I have observed, change the character of our government. If I have read the Constitution aright, if there is any weight to be given to the uniform teachings of our great jurists and of commentators previous to the late civil war, the true doctrine is the very opposite of this. If the power is not in terms granted, and is not necessary and proper for the exercise of a power which is thus granted, it does not exist.
Not only does Justice Field validate the sovereignty of the people, he points out that the predominate opinion of the Supreme Court on this matter, was inconsistent with the precedents set forth by the Court prior to the civil war. (Stare decisis being the modus operandi of the Supreme Court in spite of the indications of The Report on the Virginia Resolution declaring that it was never intended that common law had any place in Constitutional law!) This ruling is seen to confirm the governments power to print money, rather than coin silver and gold. A position inconsistent with the interpretation of the Constitution up until this days ruling.
In the racially motivated Yick Wo case of 1886, Yick Wo v. Hopkins, Justice Stanley Matthews penned the following:
Sovereignty itself is, of course, not subject to law, for it is the author and source of law; but in our system, while sovereign powers are delegated to the agencies of government, sovereignty itself remains with the people, by whom and for whom all government exists and acts.
Though there are other cases that reiterate the sovereignty of the people, none put it more succinctly than in the 1856, Dredd Scott v Sandford:
The words “people of the United States” and “citizens” are synonymous terms, and mean the same thing. They both describe the political body who, according to our republican institutions, form the sovereignty, and who hold the power and conduct the Government through their representatives. They are what we familiarly call the “sovereign people,” and every citizen is one of this people, and a constituent member of the sovereignty.
It would seem that there is plenty of judiciary precedent expounding upon the peoples sovereignty. Even going so far as expressing that the sovereignty itself is outside of and above the law. As inalienable from us as are our rights, inseparable!
In section 2, I spoke of the second precedent of the people as the change from the Confederation to the Federation, that begs the question of the first precedent. It is in the first precedent that we established the absolute sovereignty of the people. That precedent comes in the twofold events of the Declaration of Independence and the revolution it defined in establishing the peoples natural right to govern themselves. The significance of this first precedent cannot be underestimated.
As legal historical progression, the Declaration of Independence follows the Magna Carta Libertatum of 1297 (aka the Great Charter of Freedoms.) That document has its legal precedent in King Henry I’s Charter of Liberties. King Henry, of his own accord, proclaimed the limits of his power in the Charter of Liberties, while King John was being restrained by his subjects in the Magna Carta Libertatum. While these documents precede the Declaration of Independence, they carry no lineage of law.
The Declaration of Independence stands alone. It is a declaration of the peoples rights, by the people themselves, denouncing the right of kings and hereditary powers. It ends the division of class by aristocracy and proclaims the right of freedom and equal sovereign power for all in their own lives, by the simple virtue of their birth into this world!
It is this document, the Declaration of Independence, and not the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union or the Constitution of the United States that we celebrate every July 4th. This is the founding document of our nation and it, quite clearly, establishes the absolute sovereignty of the people! Any claim to the contrary can be met with the very same force of a revolution that evoked it. The document proclaims this point as well. While I don’t believe a second revolution of the sort or the scale of the first is required, I do believe that we can return the sovereignty of the people to the people, in practice and not just in rhetoric.
I, also, happen to believe we can accomplish this task by our 250th year celebration of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. It is going to be a lot of work, but I have no doubt that the sovereign citizens of the United States of America can and will rise to the occasion! Our pathway and methodology is through Article V of our Constitution.