When I first heard Diane Sawyer, in early July of 2010, intone that we had a problem with “sovereigns” on ABC news, I thought I had better pay attention.
On July 4, of 2010 I wrote:
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.
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 have been jailed under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 Sec. 3512 Public protection (a) (1) [No OMB numbers on tax forms prior to 2014]) together. The only thing these folks have in common is that they felt that the Federal Government for the United States of America had overstepped its authority. A common sentiment in the general populace today in light of the revelations of Bradley/Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden.
Clearly, the contention of the government for the United States is that it reigns supreme in all things pertaining to the “general welfare” of the United States as a whole. We often hear how it is “sovereign” and we are frequently exhorted that our representatives operate under some “moral authority,” while others are granted “sovereign immunity” for their actions.
Even the Russians are still deemed a threat, though for different reasons this time around; and the “sovereign” problem is now “the self-radicalized lone wolf,” while the “protective” nanny state demonstrates its impotence to rise to its self appointed task. Which is probably just as well because we are operating under some misguided and down right deceptive notions, harmful to the well being of this Republic.
Sovereignty has never resided in or with the government for the United States. Some “sovereign powers” have been delegated to the Federal Government by the Sovereign Authorities of the United States, but it has never been granted Absolute Sovereignty. That still resides with and in the People of the United States.
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure[sic] 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 United States of America. It’s not mere happenstance that we should proclaim so, so boldly. The Federal Constitution isn’t just any document without a history. It was one of the earliest to declare a people’s sovereignty, the Declaration of Independence being the first, but it was fashioned after the long lineage of documents granting powers, properties & etc. from sovereigns, then seen as Kings, and occasionally Queens. While the rules of formal writing weren’t as concrete, or even the same as they are today, the oxford comma and its struggle for proper placement can be seen in the development of our Bill of Rights for example, some matters of style had been established as formal proclamations. The Colonies came into being with just such documents.
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union…”
Note how the document begins with “We the People,” in larger and bolder lettering than the remainder of the document. This was no accident or simple matter of style. Its intent was to emulate past charters.
The Charters of Virginia dated April 10, 1606, May 23, 1609, and March 12, 1611 begin:
“James, by the Grace of God, King of England, Scotland, France. and Ireland, Defender of the Faith…”;
the Charter of Massachusetts Bay in 1629 begins:
“Charles, By The, Grace, Of God, Kinge[sic] of England, Scotland, Fraunce,[sic] and Ireland, Defendor[sic] of the Fayth[sic]…”;
the Charter of Maryland in 1632 begins:
“Charles, by the Grace of God, King of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland, king, Defender of the Faith…”;
and as a final example, the Charter of Connecticut in 1662 begins:
“Charles the Second, by the Grace of God, King of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland, Defender of the Faith…”.
The Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union carry no such weight. Passed by the Second Continental Congress in late 1777 and ratified by the States on March 1, 1781. It begins:
“To all to whom these Presents shall come…”.
Establishing the sovereignty of the people of the United States beyond the stylings of previous charters, rather than the Federal Government as sovereign, is not really that difficult. Our founding documents and the array of pamphlets and opinions in the newspapers of the day are all we really need if the original intent of the people is to be known.
We begin with the second major document of the Continental Congress’, as they came to be known. That document is the Declaration of Independence. Contrary to your history lessons, it was not the first. That honor, from the First Continental Congress, goes to one now called 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 lexicon. 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 and acts of violence on 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[sic] 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 Government for the Confederation of the United States any powers over the people and neither does the Federal Constitution. The Federal Constitution is a document detailing the powers and responsibilities of the government for 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 general 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 Federal Constitution is the second rendition of the government for 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 Federal 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.
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.
Hamilton goes on in #85 to quote David 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[sic] 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 federalist’s arguments hit the papers in support of the Federal 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, those called 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 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 for 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 Federal 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 Federal Constitution grants the 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 they felt must be added to the Federal Constitution to ensure that the 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 government for the United States. 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 that 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 numbered #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 Federal Constitution. The Virginia Declaration of Rights, already in effect in his home 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 the 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
Every other amendment to the Federal Constitution has been proposed by the government for the United States! 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 government for the United States, are sovereign, we find far more compelling evidence of this fact in the actions and papers of our government after the revolution and the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union have fallen by 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 1799 and a committee of seven has been assigned to investigate the Virginia Resolutions 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. The Jay Treaty (or Jay’s 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 (as Madison conveys in his aforementioned Federalist arguments) to resist such incursions on theirs and the people’s sovereignty. Virginia sent its resolutions 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 government for the United States. Some, even, reverting to arguments of common law.
The author for the committee to investigate the Virginia Resolutions was James Madison. In the document, anyone can read by going to the Library of Congress’ website loc.gov, found in the Elliot’s 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 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?
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[sic] 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 most 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 and nobody else took notes so thoroughly as Madison.)
Furthermore, We the People of the United States have never relinquished that absolute sovereignty. No power we have granted the government for the United States, or any of our 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 200 plus years, there have been cases wherein the question needed to be addressed.
The question first arises in 1793 in Chisholm v Georgia with John Jay, an author of the Federalist Papers, presiding as the Chief Justice. The State of Georgia claimed itself to be a sovereign incapable of being sued by an individual, in spite of the wording of the Federal Constitution or the fact that it was in the process of suing two sovereign citizens of South Carolina using the same clause as John Jay writes:
The judicial power of the United States shall extend to controversies between a State and citizens of another State.” If the Constitution really meant to extend these powers only to those controversies in which a State might be plaintiff, to the exclusion of those in which citizens had demands against a State, it is inconceivable that it should have attempted to convey that meaning in words not only so incompetent, but also repugnant to it; if it meant to exclude a certain class of these controversies, why were they not expressly excepted; on the contrary, not even an intimation of such intention appears in any part of the Constitution. It cannot be pretended that, where citizens urge and insist upon demands against a State, which the State refuses to admit and comply with, that there is no controversy between them. If it is a controversy between them, then it clearly falls not only within the spirit, but the very words, of the Constitution.
In addressing the sovereignty of the state of Georgia, Justice Jay proceeds to lay out the sovereignty of all parties involved, from the citizens and the states to the government for the United States. He begins with sovereignty as seen in Europe and progresses through the differences and shifts that shape the sovereignty of the United States:
In determining the sense in which Georgia is a sovereign State, it may be useful to turn our attention to the political situation we were in prior to the Revolution, and to the political rights which emerged from the Revolution. All the country now possessed by the United States was then a part of the dominions appertaining to the Crown of Great Britain. Every acre of land in this country was then held mediately or immediately by grants from that Crown. All the people of this country were then subjects of the King of Great Britain, and owed allegiance to him; and all the civil authority then existing or exercised here, flowed from the head of the British Empire. They were in strict sense fellow subjects, and in a variety of respects one people. When the Revolution commenced, the patriots did not assert that only the same affinity and social connection subsisted between the people of the colonies which subsisted between the people of Gaul, Britain, and Spain while Roman Provinces, viz., only that affinity and social connection which result from the mere circumstance of being governed by the same Prince; different ideas prevailed, and gave occasion to the Congress of 1774 and 1775.
The Revolution, or rather the Declaration of Independence, found the people already united for general purposes, and at the same time providing for their more domestic concerns by State conventions and other temporary arrangements. From the Crown of Great Britain, the sovereignty of their country passed to the people of it, and it was then not an uncommon opinion that the unappropriated lands, which belonged to that Crown, passed not to the people of the Colony or States within whose limits they were situated, but to the whole people; on whatever principles this opinion rested, it did not give way to the other, and thirteen sovereignties were considered as emerged from the principles of the Revolution, combined with local convenience and considerations; the people nevertheless continued to consider themselves, in a national point of view, as one people; and they continued without interruption to manage their national concerns accordingly; afterwards, in the hurry of the war and in the warmth of mutual confidence, they made a Confederation of the States the basis of a general government. Experience disappointed the expectations they had formed from it, and then the people, in their collective and national capacity, established the present Constitution. It is remarkable that, in establishing it, the people exercised their own rights, and their own proper sovereignty, and, conscious of the plenitude of it, they declared with becoming dignity, “We the people of the United States, do ordain and establish this Constitution.” Here we see the people acting as sovereigns of the whole country, and, in the language of sovereignty, establishing a Constitution by which it was their will that the State governments should be bound, and to which the State Constitutions should be made to conform. Every State Constitution is a compact made by and between the citizens of a State to govern themselves in a certain manner, and the Constitution of the United States is likewise a compact made by the people of the United States to govern themselves as to general objects in a certain manner. By this great compact however, many prerogatives were transferred to the national government, such as those of making war and peace, contracting alliances, coining money, etc. etc.
If then it be true that the sovereignty of the nation is in the people of the nation, and the residuary sovereignty of each State in the people of each State, it may be useful to compare these sovereignties with those in Europe, that we may thence be enabled to judge whether all the prerogatives which are allowed to the latter are so essential to the former. There is reason to suspect that some of the difficulties which embarrass the present question arise from inattention to differences which subsist between them.
It will be sufficient to observe briefly that the sovereignties in Europe, and particularly in England, exist on feudal principles. That system considers the Prince as the sovereign, and the people as his subjects; it regards his person as the object of allegiance, and excludes the idea of his being on an equal footing with a subject, either in a court of justice or elsewhere. That system contemplates him as being the fountain of honor and authority, and from his grace and grant derives all franchises, immunities and privileges; it is easy to perceive that such a sovereign could not be amenable to a court of justice, or subjected to judicial controul[sic] and actual constraint. It was of necessity, therefore, that suability became incompatible with such sovereignty. Besides, the Prince having all the Executive powers, the judgment of the courts would, in fact, be only monitory, not mandatory to him, and a capacity to be advised is a distinct thing from a capacity to be sued. The same feudal ideas run through all their jurisprudence, and constantly remind us of the distinction between the Prince and the subject. No such ideas obtain here; at the Revolution, the sovereignty devolved on the people, and they are truly the sovereigns of the country, but they are sovereigns without subjects (unless the African slaves among us may be so called), and have none to govern but themselves; the citizens of America are equal as fellow citizens, and as joint tenants in the sovereignty.
From the differences existing between feudal sovereignties and governments founded on compacts, it necessarily follows that their respective prerogatives must differ. Sovereignty is the right to govern; a nation or State sovereign is the person or persons in whom that resides. In Europe, the sovereignty is generally ascribed to the Prince; here, it rests with the people; there, the sovereign actually administers the government; here, never in a single instance; our Governors are the agents of the people, and, at most, stand in the same relation to their sovereign in which regents in Europe stand to their sovereigns. Their Princes have personal powers, dignities, and preeminences; our rulers have none but official; nor do they partake in the sovereignty otherwise, or in any other capacity, than as private citizens.
In his ruling, Justice Jay lays out the principles of sovereignty as seen by the people of the new nation. As a result of the ruling, in order to placate the States, the new government for the United States promptly passed and sent to the States an amendment in accordance with Article V of the Federal Constitution, which the States wasted no time in ratifying. The new XIth Amendment rescinded the right of all citizens of the world, but the citizens of the State in question, to file a grievance against any said State.
In most of my research, I found it frequently stated the XIth Amendment overturned Chisholm v Georgia. This couldn’t be, as the saying goes, further from the truth. It simply made changes to Article III section 2 of the Federal Constitution. Overturning Chisholm v Georgia, as a whole, would have the effect of obliterating the sovereignty of the people; such a power was never granted to the government for the United States! For that matter, nothing in the Federal Constitution could be construed to overturn a single comma of the People’s grants of power and authorities except by Article V. Nothing in the Federal Constitution grants authorities over the people in general, or their sovereignty in particular.
The concept of the sovereignty of the people even survived the American Civil War. 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 Resolutions. 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 “uniform teachings” of the Court prior to the civil war. This ruling is seen to confirm the government’s power to print money, rather than coin silver and gold. A position inconsistent with the interpretation of the Constitution up until this day’s ruling.
Further, 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 infamous, prewar, 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 people’s 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 3, 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. (See John Jay on Chisolm v. Georgia) 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 and political necessity, 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 people’s rights, by the people themselves, denouncing the divine right of kings and their hereditary powers. It ends the division of class by the 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 the United States of America!
It is this document, the Declaration of Independence, and not the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union or the Federal Constitution for 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.
What does it mean that the people are sovereign? And just who are the people? While the particulars of voting were left up to the States under the Federal Constitution, in general, it predominately meant landowners and moneyed citizens, most of whom were primarily protestant (though no religious qualifications were ever stipulated) white males, of the United States. This point is made clear in Federalist #2, authored by John Jay, when he speaks of a “homogeneous society” to the very men who were debating and voting on the Federal Constitution. It follows that their “posterity” inherit the sovereignty of their fathers. It doesn’t end there, however. The ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment in February of 1870 extended it to the men of all races; the Nineteenth Amendment ratified in August of 1920 extended it to all genders; and in January of 1964, the barrier of unpaid taxes of any sort was removed by the ratification of the Twenty-fourth Amendment. Finally, the ratification of the Twenty-sixth Amendment in July 1971, set the minimum age of any voting citizen at eighteen, making all adult citizens of the United States sovereign citizens.
What does it mean to be sovereign?! In short, it means that we are the Kings and Queens of this nation. The rulers of everything. We are sovereign when we act in unison within our states and within the United States of America. The assertion, “We the People of the United States…” clearly establishes that fact. The conventions within each state, held by the people themselves, acting through representatives from the people at large came to the agreement that the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union should be replaced by the Federal Constitution for the United States. A document presented to them by the very states that formed the confederacy of the United States of America. The document neither grants nor holds any general power over the people themselves or the people as a whole. The government it creates is subject to its strictures, excepting where we have granted it such powers over us. Its powers are limited to those set forth in that constitution and any law passed that exceeds the authorities which have been specifically granted by that document are unconstitutional and therefore void and unenforceable. We continue to act as sovereigns in this manner in states where the people have a process to enact laws of their own volition. The Tabor amendment of Colorado limiting the states ability to tax and the marijuana laws of of California and Colorado are examples of how we continue to exert our sovereignty.
We are sovereign when we act within our daily lives. We are all together, and individually, free to go about our lives as we please with minimal interference from any of our governments, so long as we do not interfere with or infringe on the rights… the sovereign rights, of others. The people of those conventions also felt that the Federal Constitution did not adequately protect the rights of the people. As per Article V of the new constitution, the new government for the United States, and the states for which it stands, passed the ten amendments known as the Bill of Rights, thereby establishing a presumption of liberty and freedom with the shared responsibility for the governing of the United States of America and its governments.
1Original site archived at archive.org