In reply to this post:
I originally wrote this in response the request for opinions was made after a friend, and fellow patriot, read a couple of quotes from Spooner’s No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority.
Having never read the book where the quotations were found, nor heard of the man quoted in the book, I limited my response to the isolated quotes:
“But whether the Constitution really be one big thing, or another, this much is certain – that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or it has been powerless to prevent it.”
“In either case, it is unfit to exist.”
Having now read both works, my position is the same now as it was then. What follows is my response to a friend asking people to think…
Spooner puts forth two possible options regarding the Constitution, and for the sake of this discussion, let’s initially pretend that those are the only two possibilities: either it essentially gave us the government we now have, or it was unable to prevent it. And in narrowing our focus to these two possibilities he leads us to a conclusion being the Constitution is unfit to exist. I would disagree.
Originally, I had planned to take a different tack. I propose we begin by looking at the second premise, as I believe this provides a surer footing when approaching the first. That being said, could the Constitution ever have prevented the government we have today? Nope.
If you will allow, let’s start with another quote:
“A law cannot restrain anyone from doing anything. It is like a book, written on paper, meaningless, except that it conveys an idea. The restraint is self imposed, from either fear of punishment or a sense and alignment of morality.”
In order for the author of this statement to believe what he wrote here, I suggest to you that he, too, would agree with my simple answer. When has a law, edict, dictate, mandate, legislation, regulation, et al, ever been able to prevent, let alone stop, the immorality of man? Never.
Paul, in his letter to the Romans speaks of this basic idea (Romans 7). Though chapter 7 does not stand alone, in it Paul makes the case that the Law was not meant to save mankind. Rather it was meant to show man his sinfulness and need of a Savior (he continues this thought through chapter 8).
Consider the history of God’s Law as it relates to man. First, there was only one law (and consequence): don’t eat this fruit – you do and you die! Some have argued over whether God made such a silly law. To spend time here is to waste a lot of energy and miss an important point in that there was only one restriction placed on mankind – and we blew it! The law did not prevent man from sinning against God, it merely defined sin.
[One point worthy of contemplation here is man's ability to choose. As it pertains to God's Law, though God gave man the ability to choose, He never gave man the right to choose. Had he done the latter, He would be unjust, and therefore not God, in punishing those who chose to rebel against God by violating His law(s).]
We move forward in history, and God has now given man ten laws to abide by. Oh, my! What would we do if congress ever tried to make us abide by ten laws? (Sorry, the sarcasm slipped out.) Ten laws which did not have any more ability to prevent man from sinning against God, nor committing offenses toward others. Does that mean that the Ten Commandments are unfit to exist? (If you believe that, you can argue that one out with God on your own.) Certainly not. The Ten Commandments point out a number of things that are both offensive to God and hurtful of others. Regardless of where one is at in his faith, who can argue that murder is wrong? That one should not steal from another? That adultery destroys lives?
Well, just a few steps farther on our journey through history, and we find a group of individuals who decided that it was necessary to add to God’s Law. Hundreds upon hundreds of [religious] laws were made which affected every manner of an Israelite’s life. Imagine our government… (Oops, sarcasm again). None of these laws made a man more holy in God’s eyes. Instead, these additional laws became a burden to those on whom they were placed and benefited those imposing them. (filter, filter, filter)
Now for the real fun. Jump all the way to Revelations (chapter 20). Here we are told that Satan will be bound in a bottomless pit for 1000 years and mankind will be free from his temptations during this time (vv.2-3). And at the end of the 1000 years, Satan will be let loose (v.7) and he will go about the earth to gather as many followers as he can muster in one last rebellion against God (vv.8-9).
My intent here is not to preach but rather make a point. Not only did God’s Law not make man holy, let alone a morally upstanding and law abiding citizen of earth, but even after living in what will be the most just and peaceful time the earth has ever seen, man (generally speaking) chooses a path of self-damnation. So my question to Spooner is: what makes him think that man-made laws will be of any greater effect than those of God? Spooner sees the Constitution as something it is not: something that could stop man’s propensity for evil. In the physical sense, the Constitution is but thoughts penned on parchment. But the idea, the spirit of those thoughts is where the power is. It was never meant to be rolled up to beat an offender over the head with. Rather, it was intended to empower the individual to stand on his God given freedoms. It was intended to be the measure by which the people held those in government accountable. It was intended to warn our government that it was only to operate within prescribed boundaries, and that it should fear the people if it did not.
I believe our Constitution is second only to God’s written word in its beauty and content. But again, man still has the ability to choose whether or not to adhere to the Constitution – be it the man elected to office who usurps authority, or the man who sits idly by watching his neighbor’s life being stripped from him by the elected official. As it relates to power, the issue isn’t with the Constitution, the issue is with mankind: both the governor and the governed.
Suggesting that the issue is, as it always has been, with mankind, we naturally come to a place where we can discuss Spooner’s first premise: that the Constitution authorized the government we have now have.
The handling of this premise could easily lead into much debate. To put it simply, I believe that the Constitution was intended to set the boundaries within which government was allowed to act. I also believe that, like today, there were many who wanted more power in the hands of the government. But why would a person, or people, who had just escaped tyranny, want to set up a government which could/would ultimately become more tyrannical than the one they just escaped? I suggest to you it comes back to mankind’s natural bent toward evil. Though he may resist [on his own] for a time, he eventually succumbs to it – much like he does to gravity. So it isn’t really an issue of what kind of government the ink and parchment of the Constitution wanted for our country: left to our (generally speaking) own volition, we have brought this upon ourselves.
Finally, Spooner’s asserts the Constitution should no longer exist. He is wrong. I propose to you that Spooner, and those who hold this tenet, are themselves incapable of solving the problems we face today that stem from our government.
Let me explain.
The minute one either fails or refuses to accept responsibility for a situation he forfeits any ability to solve it. I did not say blame, I said responsibility. By transferring the responsibility to the Constitution, Spooner, and those of similar mind, are attempting to transfer the ability to authorize and/or the power to prevent in the proverbial hands of an inanimate object; thereby emptying himself of the ability and/or power necessary to solve the problems we face. And the solutions we must find today to the problems within government are our responsibility. No amount of Viagra can cure the impotence of Spooner’s conclusion here.
Consider what would happen if an armed resistance came against the Feds – and won. Would that guarantee we would instantly return to the Republic we were intended to be? Nope, and I will tell you why. First, our culture has degenerated so much over these past two hundred years. It isn’t that they were perfect then, but when stood next to men and women of generations past, we pale in comparison. Second, without the cultural integrity of years past, what will fill the void left by an overthrown government? It is the latter question that scares me more than an armed conflict.
Now consider what would happen if we threw out the Constitution. What kind of government would fill the void? What would be the character of the men/women ruling in this new government?
Spooner is wrong. The Constitution should stay.
What IS unfit to exist? The person within government who is unwilling to discipline himself to live within the bounds of the Constitution for the United States of America; who would rather destroy the life of free men and women for financial gain. And what about the person who allows him to get away with it? The person who does not resist the tyrant; who sees his own life more precious than his prodigy.
We have gone to great lengths to preserve the written record of the idea, and yet, generally speaking, we have done little to fan the flames of that idea that once burned bright in the hearts and minds of the men and women who safeguarded our freedoms – often at the price of their lives.
Before the smoldering embers are extinguished, we need to stoke the fire.