A second American revolution?

On the fourth of July, we come together as a nation to celebrate what we often call "the American Revolution." And in recent years, as America's freedom has become more precarious, many of us have felt compelled to consider whether it might one day be our duty to follow in the footsteps of our forefathers, and engage in a second revolution in defense of liberty. And it is this question which I wish to explore today: should American patriots be preparing for the unhappy event of a second American revolution?

When speaking of violent revolution, clarity is necessary. We do not wish to be seen as anarchists or traitors. So let me begin by saying that although I am indeed speaking of the possibility of real and violent revolution here, I am not encouraging anyone to take up arms against the Constitution, or against government itself. I only say that in the face of tyrants, men cannot help but see it their duty to rise up in defense of rights and freedoms, and of systems of government that protect, rather than destroy them. We do not suggest that arms should ever be taken up against lawful government, but rather in its defense against those who would subvert it to their own ends, in contravention the laws ordained by the people.

So then, if we are to endure a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariable the same object, evincing a design to reduce us under absolute despotism, what may be our chances of success in exercising our right, our duty, and throwing off such government, and providing new guards for our future security?

Being raised in the ideal of American patriotism, many of us have the conviction that patriots are always successful, and that truth always wins. It does not. That is why we speak of American exceptionalism. For most of history, throughout the world, tyrants have ruled. America's successful defense of liberty is not the rule, but the exception. So in contemplating how we should defend liberty ourselves, we would do well to consider why the founders succeeded, what made the American revolution so exceptional, and whether we can—no, how we must, if necessary—replicate that today. We need to understand what circumstances made it possible for America's "revolution" to have the glorious result that it did. Why it didn't end up like the French revolution, or the revolutions that take place in banana republics.

It is therefore paramount to understand that the American revolution was not a "revolution" at all, in the true sense of the word. The founders did not attempt to overthrow their government. They did not attempt to oust the king of Great Britain and replace him with somebody else. Rather, they seceded from his authority, and attempted to set up their own, independent system of government. The founders were truly fighting for self-determination, not among themselves to decide who would rule and who would not.

This is not merely a technical difference.

First, the accompanying geographic considerations certainly contributed to the success of the founders. It really did make little sense for the people in the colonies to be ruled by a crown on another continent, and a government in which they were unrepresented and which was unresponsive to their petitions.

And this fact of the situation is key. We must understand that the root cause of the problems within the American system of government at the time was out of the people's control. They did not have a democratic representative form of government. They had a government imposed upon them by outside forces. "Revolution" was not the solution to their problems 'because it was the only way that their democracy could be saved.' They did not have one. It was a solution precisely because, if they had had a democracy, the people would have voted to fix the problems that they were facing. Note that the delegates to the Continental Congress were elected by their respective colonial assemblies. Thus, were it not for an outside force placing restraints upon the colonies' right to self-government, there would have been no need for violent action. The same men as lead America through her quest for independence would have been elected to guide her ship of state peacefully. And indeed, many of them later were.

Today, people are sometimes forced by present affairs to contemplate the possibility that a defense of the Constitution may one day require arms to be taken up against the very government of the United States. That a true revolution may be necessary. The conviction is growing on some that by no other means will America be rescued from disaster. But in this, there is always inescapable the fantasy that such action would be done in solidarity with the founders, and would be likely to have a similarly glorious conclusion. Yet the circumstances which we now face could not be more starkly different than those faced by the founding fathers. We do in fact still have self-determination. The problems within our government are not imposed by some outside force. All members of the government, despite some popular misconceptions, do indeed ultimately answer to the people. If we so chose, we could almost completely turn over the personnel of the entire government in the course of a single election, if we voted for men who would impeach and remove from office every judge and bureaucrat that defies the Constitution. This is to say, that the problems in our government cannot be wholly ascribed to some outside force. It is in fact the people that are ultimately responsible. Because it is those who they have put into power that have created, and continue to exacerbate, the problem.

Let us consider then, that if the people are at the root of our problems, they are unlikely to be successful in fixing them in peace, without some kind of transformation—much less in war. Revolution, true revolution, overthrowing the Federal government, would be most likely to be usurped by opportunists, communists, socialists, and tyrants. It would be more likely to destroy the Constitution than to save it.

To those who are still compelled to entertain the specter of a revolution as the only means to restoring the Constitution, we offer three superior alternatives.

The first is to avoid true revolution, and to do as the founders did, and seek independence instead.

Secession has been attempted before, of course, and failed. And this was not due to a lack of will, of courage, or of integrity. Yet even then it was infiltrated by Jesuits, usurped by racists, and plagued with opportunists. No state or collection of states in the union today can boast itself of half the virtue represented in the southern cause.

To think then, that success would be easy, would be naive. We must be cognizant not only of the risk of tyrannical action on the part of the Federal government, and of defeat, but of the peril posed by the inevitable quest on the part of wicked men to subvert such a cause to their own will. If men of such caliber as represented the southern people were unable to avoid those rocky shoals, how can we think ourselves well able to do so?

Thus it is that the minds of many have been drawn to the prospect of holding a convention of the states, in accordance with Article V of the Constitution. Such a convention would seek to amend the Constitution, in the hope of fixing Washington when it will not fix itself.

Here again, however, is the danger of subversion. How can we feel confident that the delegates chosen to such a convention will not be subject to the same faults that now plague Washington? Is it not, rather, likely that such an opportunity will be used to shred the Constitution's protections, instead of reinforcing them?

The convention was, indeed, designed by the founders so that the people could correct an out-of-control government. But this fact that it is through the people is important, because it means that the people must have a popular conception of the problems, and how to fix them.

The nature of the convention is such that it attempts to prevent the tyranny of a single faction over the popular will. It is specifically designed to require consensus and compromise, as in the original Constitutional Convention. But what is there on which this people can have consensus today? Very little. We are a heavily divided county. This means that the usefulness of a convention will be limited. It may be able to deal with some particular questions, but in regard to the large general questions of what sort of country we want to be, it will have little success, and coercive force would likely be necessary to implement the results. Indeed, such a convention may only precipitate the violence that it attempted to avoid.

We can, of course, see in the original Constitutional Convention an example of what is possible through compromise when two deeply opposed factions come together. But we cannot think our present state to be at all analogous to that event. The founders were not at fundamental odds. They all held a similar view of man, of rights, and of the proper role of government. The disagreement was primarily over how to best apportion the powers of just government between the federal head and the states. Today we have a war between fundamentally opposing ideologies: on the one hand, leftists advocating socialism (by any other name), and on the other, conservatives advocating for free-market republican constitutional government. There is no room for compromise between these two options; if there is, our present situation perfectly outlines what such a compromise looks like. That admixture is the cause of our current problems, and what a convention would hope to fix.

Thus, a convention's power is only useful when the people are able to stand united against federal oppression. And today, that being impossible, we might well fear that it will be the catalyst of the violence it is designed to avoid, or the destruction of the Constitution that it is endued to protect.

We must present then, finally, the greatest and most sacred act of duty that may be performed in defense of Truth. To avoid both revolution and secession, and to instead, while by God's grace we have yet opportunity, transform our government by a transformation of the people. As long as the government must answer to us at the polls, we have in our power the ability to mold it to our will. But we must align that will with the will of God. We must seek his will, and then cause that vision to be the conviction of this people. Only in this manner can a nation be saved without violence. And only in this manner can it, as a whole, truly be saved at all.

Yet many men find that it is easier to die in battle than to be a casualty in the fight against spiritual powers and principalities. But though this may seem like the most difficult, the longest and most arduous path to take, it is in the end the least destructive, the least dangerous, and the most likely to succeed, because it is in fact the most powerful. And without such a transformation of the people, no correction of the federal government can possibly find success, or long endure.

In summary, the founders did what they did in reference to the circumstances that then existed. To follow in their footsteps is not to take up arms today, without considering whether our own circumstances are analogous to theirs. Too many have been raised to believe that patriotism must, and can, always be successfully defended with the musket. It cannot. Circumstances when the founders took this path were far from certain, but the state of the people was quite favorable to a happy resolution. Today, we wager against far steeper odds, and tempt fate if we embark on so bold a mission, in defiance of our very selves, the American people.

It is the time to fight with the pen, and not the sword. To take up the word of God, the sword of the Spirit, and seek that the heart of our nation might be transformed. This is how our fathers found it possible to achieve freedom and independence. And across the centuries, their words still admonish us, that it is only through this that our freedom and independence can be maintained. It is to this, on Independence Day, that we must pledge our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor. That by God's grace, through his word, we will restore the heart of this people. So help us our God.

Independence requires Reliance

In the spirit of Independence day, I’d like to share the original full text of a speech I wrote for the under-30 speech contest put on by the organizers of the Western Conservative Summit. A shortened version of the speech is given in this video.

The gist of the speech is that our independence and liberty can only be maintained if we have, as the founders did, a firm reliance on God.


Fellow conservatives,
Today I would like to talk about how we can win the fight against liberalism, and save America, both today, and in the next generation.
Right now, America is in peril. I think that most of us would agree that this is a critical time in our nation’s history.
The choices that America makes over the next decade will have a profound impact on her future. It will decide what kind of country my children, and your grandchildren, will be living in when they are my age.
Will America be free, or will she have an oppressive form of government?
We in the conservative movement understand the dangers facing America. We can see the peril.
You saw it coming. And you fought to try to prevent it. And we will continue to fight to turn America around.
Many of you have warned America of what would happen if we forsook our founding principles, and our founding documents.
Those things are the foundation of this nation, and if we allow that foundation to be eroded beneath our very feet, we will fall.
So you have fought to uphold those foundations.
We have signed petitions and called and written Congress on innumerable issues.
We have held rallies, many thousands and hundreds of thousands strong, on numerous occasions.
We have founded organizations to promote our values and beliefs.
We hold conferences like this one.
We’ve raised millions of dollars to take the fight to the courts, to lobby Congress, and to support conservative candidates.
We have recruited and endorsed candidates at all levels of government.
Many of you have held office, are currently serving, or have run for office or are running for office, to advance the conservative cause.
We have done, and continue to do, what we can, to build the conservative movement.
And we have accomplished so much.

And yet… Here America stands, as if at the edge of a great abyss.
And some of us cannot but question whether a movement which has tried so hard to pull America back from that danger, as she steps closer and closer, whether that movement will be able to stop her from leaping over the edge.
If everything that we had couldn’t keep America out of peril, how will it be enough to bring her back from that peril, to restore her footing on the firm foundations of liberty and the constitution, and the values that we hold dear?
Is what we are doing enough?
I think that we have to ask ourselves this question, for the sake of America.
If what we are doing is going to come up short, then we need to form a new battle plan.
If there is anything more that we can do, then we must.
For the sake of America. For the sake of my children, and your grandchildren.

I don’t think that there is anybody here who can say with confidence that they believe America will still be clinging to her conservative moors in two generations.
I don’t think that there is anybody here who can say with confidence that they believe that America, the America that you and I know and love, will be preserved, and understood and embraced, by the next generation.
Even if we rescue America today, can we really be confident that she won’t begin edging back toward liberalism tomorrow?

I was born in ’95. The only thing that I can remember about Ronald Reagan, is the day he died, and his funeral.
But Reagan lives on in a legacy that he left to us.
To many today, he is the paragon of conservatism.
Reagan was a great man, and he was President at another critical time in our nation’s history.

The conservative movement was still young then.
But it fought hard. And won.

And yet, one generation later, a liberal dictator sits in the Oval Office.

How does that happen?
I reckon the conservative movement today must be bigger than it ever was before.
There are more people, who are more involved, raising more money and taking more action, than ever before.
And yet, we still can’t be confident that this time we will win.
Or that even if we do, we will truly be securing America for the next generation.
Will America learn from that, and embrace the principles that can save her?
Or will she once again move toward the abyss of tyranny, from which she will hardly be able to recover herself?

What did America learn from Reagan?
Did America learn from Reagan?
Or did the next generation forget?

We have all done so much. Everything we can, it seems.
And yet it seems that America will likely continue to hover near the edge of socialism for generations to come.
Even if she has her Reagan’s.
She may swerve at times to the left or to the right, but in the end she will continue traveling down the same path.
A path away from our founding documents. Away from our founding principles. Away from the vision of our forefathers. Away from conservative values.

Why is this?
We seem to be doing the things that we are doing with all our might. And yet that doesn’t seem to be enough.
If you are thinking to yourself that you are doing everything that you can, know that I’m not here to tell you to try harder.
I’m not here to tell you that you need to do more.
But that maybe we should ask ourselves whether there is something more that we can do.
And if there is, we have a duty to ourselves, to our children, and to our country, to find out what it is, and do it.
Because otherwise, America will fall, never to rise again.

So, what else is there?
Why is it that all that we have done doesn’t seem to have changed Washington, to have changed the direction of this country?

Our first President, George Washington, once said that “[V]irtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government.”

In other words, you can’t have liberty, without integrity.
Liberty, without integrity, is anarchy.
That ultimately leads to more and more infighting and oppression, and ends in tyranny.

George Washington also said that: “Human rights can only be assured among a virtuous people. The general government . . . can never be in danger of degenerating into a monarchy, an oligarchy, an aristocracy, or any despotic or oppresive form so long as there is any virtue in the body of the people.”

Today we are keenly aware of that very danger. In fact, we could say that it is already upon us. That our government is actively in the process of degenerating into an ever more oppressive form.

According to our first President, it is impossible for this happen while there is any virtue in the people.
So if it is happening now, what does that tell us about the heart of the people of America?

Many of us like to talk about how out of touch so many of the people in Washington are. But I’d like to ask you today, is Washington really the problem? Or is it only the symptom of a much deeper illness?
Today, Washington boasts an incumbency rate of more than 95%. The incumbency rate hasn’t dropped below 80% for the last 30 years.
More than 16% of congress has served for 20 years or more. That means that a sixth of Washington’s aristocracy has remained unchanged for my entire life.
If Washington is so out of touch, and yet the people keep reelecting their representatives, who is really out of touch?
I think it is time that we step back, and consider whether Washington is really the problem, or whether the true problem is deeper than that.
Is Washington really just a reflection, a reflection of the heart of America? Of the heart of her people?
None of us wants to believe that.

But you see, every few years, America has the opportunity to create a new Washington. To change it. To shape it and mold it to be whatever it wants it to be.
And we all know the Washington that it has created, and maintained.

We like to joke about low-information voters.
But I’d like us to ask ourselves whether the problem with the voters is really only a matter of ignorance.
Is the problem that the voters don’t have enough head-knowledge to make informed decisions about whom to vote for, or is the problem really deeper than that?
Is the problem up here, in the voter’s heads? Or is it really down here, in their hearts?

George Washington believed that knowledge wasn’t the key to sustaining our republic. It was virtue.

In the Bible it says, “Add unto your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge.”
It puts virtue before knowledge.
Because without virtue, there is no will to obtain that knowledge.
It is only when you understand and embrace your duty to your God and your fellow man, that you will diligently seek the knowledge necessary to perform that duty well.
An ignorance in regard to our vote—a duty and privilege so precious—is inexcusable.
And it belies the fact that virtue has departed from America.

We in the conservative movement make an effort to reach out to people. To educate and inform voters.
And this is a necessary thing.
But there comes a time when this is not enough.
There comes a time when people won’t just ignorantly choose liberalism. They’ll knowingly choose it.
They’ll reject the country that our founders created, reject the principles in her founding documents that made her great.
Because it’s a matter of the heart.
They’ve rejected good and evil in favor of relativism.
They’ve rejected conservative values in favor of liberalism, or populism.
They’ve rejected virtue.
And that lack of morality, that lack of virtue, provides no foundation for conservatism. No supports upon which its principles can lean.
And so, as George Washington predicted, such a nation will fall from its republican form of government.
Conservatism, in the face of an amoral society, cannot be maintained.

And so I submit unto you today, that we will never truly change Washington, we will never truly change the direction of this country, until we first change the heart of America, and restore her virtue.

It seems like we have done everything that we can to promote conservatism. But America continues to step closer and closer to the edge of the abyss.
We have done everything possible to promote our solutions to her issues, and pull her back.
But it is not possible to impose conservatism upon a virtueless society.
It cannot be generated in a top-down manner. We cannot change Washington, and think that this will change America, and it will see the light.

If we want to change Washington, if we want to restore America, then we have to go to the heart of the problem.
And that is the heart of America. The hearts of her people.

But if the problem is in the heart of America, then how do we fix it?
If that “something more” that we must do in order to restore America, is to restore virtue to her people, how can we achieve that?

You can’t see into someone’s heart and know what’s there.
So how can you change it? How do you know how to change it?

We can’t.
We can’t. But God can.

It says in Psalm 7 verse 9 that “the righteous God trieth the hearts.”
God tries the hearts. As a metal is tried in the fire, tested and purified.
God is the one who can try and purify the hearts of America.
King David, who wrote Psalm 7, goes on to say in the next verse, “My defense is of God, which saveth the upright in heart.”

If we want to save America, if we want to restore her, and deliver her from liberalism, from socialism, from oppression and tyranny, we’re going to need God’s help.

We must rely today, as we seek to restore America, upon that same Divine Providence upon which the founders declared their firm reliance, when they penned the Declaration of Independence, and this nation was born.
If we want a new birth of freedom, it must come from that same Source of all life, which guided those men who first gave breath to our republic.

And God declares that he does help us, and deliver us.
He saves the upright in heart.
But before America can receive that deliverance, it needs to have its heart tried, and purified. It needs to be made upright in heart.

About a year ago, I set out on a journey. A journey of the heart.
A journey that led me unexpected places.
This journey began as I started studying the book of Psalms in the Bible.
You might guess that I wasn’t searching for political advice.
I was seeking to better understand the many prophecies of our Savior Jesus Christ which I knew to be there.
And I found that.
But at the same time I also found something that I was not looking for.
And that is how the heart of a nation affects their liberty, and determines whether they are oppressed or free.

You see, King David wrote the early chapters of the book of Psalms in just such a time as this.
The nation of Israel was in peril.
There was wickedness and oppression in government.
David himself even lost power and had to flee for a short time, while unjust men raised up the people against him, in an attempt to take the power of the kingdom to themselves.

But through it all, David stayed true.
And because he trusted in God, he was delivered, and the power of the kingdom was restored to him.

But that wasn’t the end.
That wasn’t the end because David saw that there was still a problem.
He saw that the upheaval that the nation had experienced, wasn’t just because of a few bad men in high office.
He understood that for these men to have obtained the support of many of the people, there must be a much deeper problem.
And when David returned to the throne, he realized that oppression was still taking place among the people.
He realized that God had delivered him, but that he hadn’t completely delivered them yet.
He realized that tranquility was only transient, and that upon his death the nation would again fall into the hands of oppressors and be destroyed.

And so David cried out to God.
In Psalm 10 verse 1 David asks, “Why standest thou afar off, O LORD; why hidest thou thyself in times of trouble?”

The people wanted deliverance from oppression. They were even asking God for it. And he hadn’t brought it.
It seemed as though he wasn’t listening.
But at the end of Psalm 10 David realized that God was listening.
He says in verse 17, “Thou hast heard the desire of the humble; thou wilt prepare their heart, thou wilt cause thine ear to hear.”

The problem wasn’t that God didn’t hear.
The problem was with the people. In their hearts.
Unlike David, they weren’t upright in heart. They weren’t virtuous.
And so, as a natural consequence, they were loosing their peace and liberty and prosperity.

But David didn’t settle for that.
When David understood what the problem was, he did something about it.
He asked God for help, he asked him to increase the number of the upright among the people. To restore virtue to the hearts of the people of his nation.
In Psalm 12 verse 1 he cries out, “Help, LORD, for the godly man ceaseth, for the faithful fail from among the children of men.”
David asked God to bring the hearts of the people to a place where they could be freed from oppression once again.
And he persisted, until he understood what he could do to change this. Until he understood how the hearts of the people could be tried and purified. How their virtue could be restored.

In verses 5-7 of Psalm 12, David received his answer from God.
In verse 5 God tells him that he is going to arise and set them in safety. He is going to show them how the nation can be delivered, how the virtue of the people can be restored.

In verse 6 David receives what he has been searching for.
He is given an understanding of what could purify the hearts of the people, and restore their morality:
“The words of the LORD, are pure words, as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.”
It was the word of God.
The words of God, which are tried, that could try the people.
The words of God, which are pure, and can purify the hearts of the people.
It was that which would restore their virtue, and save the nation.

And so David took the words of the LORD, and did not cease to proclaim them to the people.
The word of God in the Psalms, words of prayer and praise, were inserted into every trial and every joy.
And through them the people came to see the light of truth, and to understand that freedom from oppression could only come through the fear of God.
That it was only through faithfulness and virtue that they could be upheld as a free people.

And as a result, the nation was restored.
Upon David’s death, instead of the disintegration of the kingdom, what followed was one of Israel’s finest hours.
His son Solomon took the throne, and the nation entered a period of peace and prosperity such as she had never known.

As I came to see this, as the word of God in the Psalms worked in my heart, I came to believe that this is what is needed for America.
That if we want to restore America to her conservative roots, we first need to restore her virtue, through the word of God.

Some may think this quaint, and mock it. Some may believe it, but lay it aside.
But I would remind you, that if so, you are rejecting a truth that the founding fathers believed to be vital to the preservation of our nation.
If we are genuinely seeking to restore America to conservative principles, then we must heed the foundations upon which her architects built her, and the supports that they deemed necessary for her continuance as a free people.

And so we must continue the fight along all those fronts upon which we have drawn up our battle lines.
But we must remember, that the ultimate victory, the restoration of America, cannot be achieved without the restoration of the heart of her people.
And so let us not neglect that vital part of our fight.
Let us take good heed to reinforce the ranks of those that are already fighting on that front.
And, with a firm reliance upon God, let us use his word to purify the heart of America, and prepare it to receive a new birth of freedom. A new dawn of conservatism.
To once again be a shining city on a hill, a lady of liberty, holding forth a torch of light in a dark world.
Because America cannot shine without the light of truth, and virtue.
So let us seek to restore that light to her, with God’s help, through his word.

States’ Rights

On this 4th of July, as we celebrate our independence, I think it is an appropriate time to discuss the topic of states’ rights. This topic has been brought to the forefront by recent events, especially surrounding the Supreme Court. Just today I saw a poll that showed that 33% of Americans support states’ rights. This is a sharp increase over prior numbers, and was attributed to the recent rulings on homosexual “marriage” and Obamacare.

There have been other times like this in our nation’s history, where states’ rights have been promoted in the face of tyranny. The most prominent example would be the War for Southern Independence, known more generally as the Civil War.

Such times are steeped in controversy surrounding complex issues. And often, it seems as if the issue of states’ rights is only brought into the fray in desperation. That would seem to be our current case, as those who disagree with the way in which our leaders are directing our country turn to the states to aid them in civil disobedience and opposition.

Thus all to often, the issue of states’ rights is only examined within the context of an already heated debate. So much so, that it is often confounded with the other issues at hand. This is true of many peoples’ view of the Civil War, to the extent that secession is viewed as the equivalent of slavery and villainy. This in turn contributes to a vicious cycle, in which we become ever more timid to bring up the issue of states’ rights in times of relative tranquility, lest we should brew a storm (or be accused of doing so). It is therefore very seldom, if ever, that we are able to have a free and open discussion of states’ rights.

So on this holiday, as we set aside our politics in favor of patriotism, let us seize the opportunity to consider this important issue. In doing so, we must lay aside our current circumstance, and the circumstances of history which are so often associated with this issue. We must lay aside the companion emotions as well, and try to adopt the reasoning mind of the inquiring scholar.

What is States’ Rights?

No, the heading isn’t a typographical error. We do not ask the question, “What are states’ rights?”, but a much more fundamental one: “What is states’ rights?” Examining the particulars of what rights states may or may not have is not our current scope. The question which we will examine, and which is antecedent to that one, is the basis for and validity of the very concept of states’ rights.

This concept draws on an even deeper concept, that of rights itself. We might start by considering the definition of a right:

 A moral or legal entitlement to have or obtain something or to act in a certain way.

This definition recognizes two different kinds of rights: moral, and legal. Our country is founded upon the self-evident truth that mankind has a Creator who has granted him certain rights. These rights come from God, and therefore we might indeed refer to them as moral rights. Moral rights, as morals themselves, are given by God, and are therefore universal in application. They go beyond any legal or human framework, which is why they are separate from legal rights.

Beyond these rights granted to mankind by God, we may also be granted certain legal rights within a given legal system. America’s founders understood the necessity that any such system always be in perfect harmony with the rights granted by God. Because God is sovereign over all, the rights which he has granted necessarily trump any actions of ourselves or our legal constructs. Nor do those in legal authority have the power to take those rights away, because they are inferior to the one who granted them.

Within a legal system, we may also construct abstract entities that are granted certain rights. This is the nature of the case which we now examine, that of the rights of states within the Union.

The Grantor of Rights

Having considered the nature of rights, we must recognize that the grantor of a right is fundamental to its character. We must therefore consider who has granted states’ rights, if indeed any such things exist. To answer this question, we should look first to the pattern of God-given rights. God, as our Creator, granted rights to us, his children. It is only logical that the creator of a thing must be the one to grant it moral rights. Indeed, he is the only one who has the power or right to do so. It would be very strange indeed for the creature to grant rights to his maker, or the children to their father.

Thus, in searching for the grantor of states’ rights, we would do well to begin by looking for the creator of the states.

This approach is backward to that which is generally taken. People usually assume that rights are granted not by one’s creator, but by the current legal authority that one is under. But this is contrary to the beliefs upon which this nation was founded. The founders understood that there are other rights beside legal ones. They did not deny legal authority, or that legal authority could grant them rights, and revoke those rights which it had granted when it saw fit. Rather, they asserted the superiority of God-given rights, of Creator-given rights, to any legal authority.

States’ rights are usually discussed under the presupposition that all rights states might have would be granted by the Federal Government. The discussion is limited to what rights, if any, are granted by the current legal authority for the states. Thus only half of the picture is analyzed, leaving the most important side of the topic unexplored. Creator-given rights are by nature superior to legal rights. Should we not therefore also consider the possibility that the states might be granted certain rights by their creator(s)?

Who Created the States?

We must ask then, who created the states?

This is not a legal question. We aren’t asking who created the states in terms of the current legal authority. We are asking who created the states in the most practical sense. And the answer is clear, both historically and legally: the states were created by the people.

The usual approach to states’ rights assumes, in effect, that the states were created by the Federal Government. Yet this is manifestly untrue. The states were not created from parts of the Federal Government, but the Federal Government was created by the states—by the people. The people created the states, and then through them created the Federal Government.

This fact is demonstrated in many ways, both historically and by our present legal institutions.

Historically, we all know that the states started out as colonies. Colonies founded by, and comprised of, people. This is how all of the states were created (except for West Virginia). The people created their own legal institutions, and then brought those institutions under the legal authority of the Federal Government as states.

One might argue that many of the original thirteen colonies were actually created by Britain. However, this conflates legal authority with moral sovereignty. The colonies may have originally resided under the legal authority of the British Crown, but they were not under its moral sovereignty. As the founders so eloquently explained in the Declaration, the people are morally sovereign under God. They are the ones with the superior rights, and nothing a government does has any moral authority without their consent and support. Thus, while the colonies were established by the legal authority of the British Crown, it is only the moral authority of the colonists that acted as the sovereign force behind the creation of those colonies.

Legally speaking, the Constitution, the highest law of the land, is unambiguous in demonstrating that the people are the creators of the states. Article 4, Section 3 says:

New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new States shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress.

First, note that there is nothing here prescribing how states ought to be created. New states aren’t created by Congress, they are only “admitted by the Congress.” Nor does Congress have the right to create states by splitting or combining existing states, without the consent of the people of those states. The right and power to create and destroy states is firmly in the hands of the people.

A Hierarchy of Sovereignty

The founding of our country was based on the idea of a hierarchy of sovereignty. This concept was derived from the basic teachings of scripture. In this hierarchy God is sovereign. He created man in his own image, and gave him dominion, and vested him with certain unalienable rights. Therefore, man is sovereign under God. The people then acted together to create the states. Therefore the states are sovereign under the people. Then the people acted through the states to create the federal government. The states created the federal government, and it is sovereign only under them—and under the people.

The intent of the founders was not to insert a layer of sovereignty between the people and the states. This is manifest by the fact that all powers not vested in the federal government were reserved for the states and for the people. The federal government doesn’t represent an arbiter sandwiched between the people and their states. Rather, it represents a contract, drawn up by the states, to create a federal institution of government to which certain powers are collectively delegated for the common good of the people of the several states. The preamble to the Constitution says it well:

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, 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.

We the People

The Constitution’s famous first words are “We the People,” yet it was the states that sent delegates to the Constitutional Convention, and the states that had the power of ratifying it or rejecting it. Why is this?

The founders did not put a difference between the people and the states. The states are the representatives of their respective peoples. Nay, the states are the people, and are vested with all of their moral sovereignty.

Therefore the question is really not one of states’ rights, but of the rights of the the people when organized into a state. It is about the rights of man. If the people of a state vest one of their God-given rights in that state, no one but those people can revoke it. Only the people of the state have that right, have that power. And they may grant or revoke those rights from their state at will.

We might have to consult a Constitutional lawyer to answer the question of what legal rights a state has. But we need only consult the people of a state to know what moral rights that state has. The federal government has no more right to infringe upon the God-given rights of the people when they have vested them in a state than when they have not.

This cuts right to the heart of the issue, and reveals those who argue against states’ rights from a legal perspective for what they are: tyrants, whether they realize it or not. One cannot celebrate Independence Day without celebrating states’ rights. One cannot believe in God-given rights without believing in states’ rights. Only if the federal government can dictate how we exercise our rights can it tell us that we cannot vest those rights in the states which created it. As every true-blooded American knows, the duty of the federal government is not to regulate the people’s rights and how they are expressed, but to protect and defend the free expression of them. Our rights come from God, not the federal government, so it has no authority to tell us how we should use them.


Yet this leaves open the question, “How we should use our rights?” What rights should the people exercise through the states? While some of our rights can be exercised collectively, they are granted to each of us by God as individuals, and are usually exercised at the individual level. For this reason the question of states’ rights is usually focused around secession, or otherwise rebelling in some way against the actions of the federal government.

It would be remiss therefore, not to consider the question of whether states have the right of secession. Or, more precisely, whether the people of a state have the right to secede. Remember that we are not asking whether the people have a legal right, a Constitutional right, to secede. We are asking whether they have a moral right, a God-given right, to secede.

When properly framed in this way, the question hardly requires an answer of more than one word. And were it not Independence Day, we might stop there. But on this day, as we celebrate the secession of the thirteen colonies from Great Britain, we must take a moment to consider more deeply the answer which our founders gave to this question, an answer which they sealed with their own blood. An answer to which they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.

For the founders not only believed that the people had the right of secession, but they believed that right should be exercised through the states. And this they did when they signed the Declaration of Independence. If one will agree with the founders that they had the right to independence from Britain, then he must also believe that the people of every state have the right at every moment to independence from all others. As the founding fathers declared, the people have the right to alter or abolish their government, and institute a new one as they see fit. They further urged the conviction that there is a time, when it is more than a right, when it is a duty of a people to throw off a government.

There will be those who argue that the right to abolish a government must only be exercised by the agreement of all of the people. But this is to say that it is a right which the people can only exercise collectively, and within the confines of the current legal system. Let such a one read the closing of the Declaration of Independence:

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, 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. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

If one state may not secede without the permission of the other 49, then the thirteen colonies could not have seceded without the consent of the state of Great Britain and its many other colonies and holdings scattered across the globe. This state of things would amount to nothing more than the slavery of each individual to the collective will of the people. This is the very concept upon which Nazi Germany was built. It is the foundation of Marxism, socialism, communism. It is, indeed, the very antithesis of what the founders both practiced, and so eloquently preached in the Declaration of Independence:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

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, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of 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. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.

Today, we celebrate freedom from tyranny. Today we celebrate Independence. Today, we celebrate states’ rights. Today, we celebrate secession.