Is the right of the people to alter or abolish it

“An ELECTIVE DESPOTISM was not the government we fought for,” James Madison wrote in Federalist Paper 41. As America nears the 229th anniversary of its independence, it is well to recall Madison’s words and to remember what the Founders fought for is best described in Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, which remains the single most important statement on the nature of our republic. It is true that Christian scripture informed the work of Jefferson and the Founders, but the declaration and the constitution that followed it are the only scripture to which Americans must hew. God, after all, will work His own will, to His own satisfaction, in His own time.

On this July 4th Americans must consider if it is again time to “dissolve the bands which have connected them with another” — this for the third time in their history. We did so in 1776 to shed ourselves of Britain’s thrall, and our wrong-headed but valiant Southern brethren did so in 1861 after deciding the Union’s political bands threatened their “country’s” economy, political aspirations, culture, and domestic institutions — including especially the abominable practice of black slavery.

Today, Americans confront a despotic threat to themselves and their nation like those of 1776 and 1861, but one that neither Jefferson nor the Southern secessionists would have imagined possible in the America the Founders designed. Americans now live under a Federal government that is pervasive and dictatorial — like Britain in 1776 — and which acts as the destroyer or suppressor of culture, economic endeavor, and political aspirations. In addition, today’s Federal government is the main inciter of American-vs.-American hatred, much as the South perceived the Federal government in 1861. The threat posed by the Federal government’s deliberate pitting of citizen against citizen, however, is not most dire threat to America. That tragic honor belongs to another aspect of the government’s performance: Its supine and resolute refusal to protect American citizens and territory. In regard to national defense, Americans today find themselves in what Thomas Paine described as the “intolerable state” of being “exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country without government …”


The three branches of the Federal government, and the two political parties that run and staff them, are knowingly and willfully failing to protect what Jefferson termed the “unalienable Rights” of Americans, chief among which, he wrote, are “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The Declaration described in simple terms what governments are meant to do, and what citizens are obliged to do if governments fail to perform to specification. “That to secure these [unalienable] rights,” Jefferson explained,

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 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.

Jefferson went on wisely to warn that long-established governments must not be changed for “light and transient reasons.” He added, however, that the documented record of a government’s “long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing … a design to reduce them under an absolute Despotism” creates for its citizens a right and a duty “to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

The “Despotism” Americans face today is not that of George III’s Britain, nor is it the expanding Northern commercial and social juggernaut the Secessionists despised and feared. No, Americans are confronted and oppressed by an “absolute Despotism” of incompetence, cowardice, and self-interest, a despotism controlled by an aristocracy of male and female life-time office servers who have forgotten that they are hired help, not demigods. These men and women care only for the perpetuation of their power and sinecures and only act to preserve their power. They care not a jot about protecting Americans and their land.

Americans today are ruled by a despotism of failure that is unresponsive — indeed contemptuous — of their needs, demands, culture, and history. As citizens, therefore, they must consider recourse to the duty the Founders assigned them: To rid themselves of a tyrannical Federal aristocracy willing to permit the destruction of their country in a selfish effort to preserve the power and prerogatives they exercise over their brethren. The citizen’s role in this unavoidable duty is central and immensely daunting. Still, citizen action is the only path toward safety and away from despotism. Calling for resistance to British tyranny, Patrick Henry in 1775 argued that America’s freedom depended on the willingness of its citizens to defend their liberties against “so formidable an adversary.” Delay, he said, would be fatal. “Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs and hugging the delusive phantom of hope until our enemies have bound us hand and foot?,” he asked. No, Henry concluded, whatever the risks of defying a despotic and powerful foe, the danger to liberty demanded the risks be run. Henry’s prescription was valid in 1775; it is valid today. Americans must either act or allow a despotic aristocracy of incompetence to commit suicide for them, their children, and their nation.

Assertions Explained

Assertions made are not assertions proved. Jefferson recognized this and so enumerated in his declaration the British transgressions that compromised the “unalienable rights” of Americans. He and the Founders submitted their list for review by “a candid world.” In this bill of particulars, Jefferson used the pronoun “He” to refer to George III and his ministers, whom the Founders identified as the agent and symbol of America’s oppression. Hereafter in this essay, the pronouns “He” and “His” will refer to the elected officials and their senior political appointees — of both parties — who run and administer the Federal government. Let the “candid world” of the American citizenry consider the following:

  • He has taxed citizens at usurious rates and yet has failed to avoid budget deficits astonishing in size and crippling to future generations. He has spent massive amounts of these taxes on building the strongest military on earth, and yet refuses to use that military to remorselessly destroy America’s enemies, instead allowing America to be attacked with impunity. Preferring not to offend the opinion of foreign nations, He refused to exploit numerous opportunities to kill Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi before they became strategic threats, and then hid those failures through the work of three intelligence investigations staffed by safe and trusted former members of the Federal aristocracy. More recently, He wantonly wasted the lives of U.S. Marines by aborting, on victory’s threshold, the first attempt to take Fallujah in Iraq. And today, as Americans wait for their foes to detonate a nuclear weapon in their country, He shamelessly begs and bribes a South Asian military dictator to use a Third-World army to find and kill the terrorist most likely to inflict nuclear devastation on America.
  • He has routinely ignored constitutional sanctions by allowing the president to oppress the American people by initiating wars without an official, public, and recorded vote by the legislative branch declaring war. Nothing in our Constitution is clearer than the requirement for Congress to declare war. In Federalist 41, Alexander Hamilton stressed that the Constitution made sure the president’s ability to make war would not equal that of the British king. To this end, the powers to declare war and raise and regulate military forces were given to the legislative branch. Our first and greatest president respected this limit on his power. “The constitution vests the power of declaring war in the Congress,” George Washington wrote, “[and] therefore no offensive expedition of importance can be undertaken until after they shall have deliberated upon the subject and authorized such a measure.” Notwithstanding the Constitution’s clear intent, He has, for half a century, acted in the arbitrary manner of the British king and rendered the Founders’ absolute requirement an irrelevant anachronism.
  • He has passed laws with unbecoming fanfare and bravado and then refused to enforce them. Thus today, in time of war, the nation is under a continuous and growing domestic threat because of His deliberate failure to control borders and check illegal immigration, as well as His cowardly refusal to identify the millions of aliens in our midst because He fears political retribution. He has thereby created and nurtured a situation that vastly increases the chance of more terrorist attacks in the United States. Worse, this situation all but ensures American-against-American violence — targeting immigrant Americans — after the next attack.
  • He has failed to make laws that would curb the undue and destructive influence of foreign powers in America. He instead holds hands with tyrannical Arab princes who sponsor religious war against America and extort billions by manipulating oil supplies. He lines up to genuflect before and pander to the agent of a minor, arrogant, and larcenous foreign power in the guise of the America-Israel Public Affairs Committee. He recoils in terror before the war-through-inundation-of-immigrants threats issued by yet another venal mountebank who is ensconced as Mexico’s president.
  • He has dictated that a cruel bureaucratic war be waged against all religions in our own country, consistently passing laws and issuing decisions from the bench that denigrate and humiliate the faiths of American believers. In so doing, He has set American against American as each religious group strives to protect its identity. He has, for the first time, and by deliberate policy, created an environment conducive to the spread of religious acrimony — and perhaps violence — among believing Americans in America. He has done the same through His dictations on issues ranging from education to road construction to law enforcement. He has made Federal domestic polices the single greatest instigator of disunity and divisiveness in America, almost as if pitting American against American is His goal. He has, moreover, negated the ability of Americans to talk, debate, and, if necessary, argue out their differences by imposing Federal censorship laws cynically and deliberately mislabeled as prohibitions on hate speech.
  • He has recklessly squandered hundreds of billions of dollars in payments to foreign powers whose policies and ambitions are antithetical to U.S. interests. He has, moreover, spent like amounts in monetary and/or military aid to support religious theocracies in places like Saudi Arabia and Israel, thus supporting religious persecution abroad and unilaterally abrogating the Constitution’s prohibition against official U.S. support for religion. It is patently absurd to fund and promote established, discriminatory, state-dominating religions overseas, while waging war against the faiths of the American people at home.
  • He has negated the ability of the nation’s military to protect Americans and their territory by continuing to purchase weapons systems irrelevant to defeating the enemies now threatening America. He has done so because the makers of these unusable weapons systems contribute massively to the funds that allow His continued manipulation of the electoral system and thereby maintain both His power and His ability to ignore citizens’ safety. He then involves the nation’s military in wars it is not equipped to fight and binds it with rules of engagement that make our military personnel more targets than soldiers.
  • He has for more than thirty years knowingly failed to create an energy policy that lessens America’s dependence on foreign energy resources. He has willingly put the country under the thumb of Arab tyrants and Latin American dictators, leaving it liable to unexpected and savage increases in energy prices. He has deliberately left Americans in a situation where they will pay extortionate energy prices which will, in turn, fund the terrorists who are killing their children serving in the military.

The Road Back: Citizen Action, State-based Defiance, and the Ballot

Clearly, the Federal government, as now constituted and run, has the capacity but not the will, courage, or commonsense to protect what Jefferson called the “Safety and Happiness” of American citizens. Americans must act, therefore, to protect themselves and their country. At this date, violence against the Federal government is not needed, and must not be in the current set of options for Americans to consider.

Where to Start? The only place to start is with the physical security of the United States. Addressing this issue first has two clear benefits. First, without physical security, all of America’s so-called post-9/11 victories over Islamic militancy are mere eyewash. Second, if there is a single issue on which those we elected to run the Federal government have, for decades, failed monumentally and deliberately, it is the physical security of our nation. Criminal actions against these knowingly negligent men and women are in order, but for now let us leave them to babble lies about “improved Homeland Security” and act at the state and local levels to protect Americans by taking the responsibility for domestic security that the Federal government has abdicated.

How to Proceed? It has taken two-plus centuries to statutorily empower our elected Federal aristocracy of incompetence, arrogance, cowardice, and greed. These men and women are now the masters of the Federal system and have, through arms-makers and other industries, domestic and foreign lobbying groups, and incestuous relationships with foreign powers, built dependable financial resources that make them independent of and superior to the citizenry. These funds allow them to pay cynical lip-service to the American electorate. Armed with the power of legal precedent, the aristocracy will delay and ultimately defeat efforts by citizens to restore to themselves a government dedicated to securing their “Safety and Happiness.” In the short term, there is no way to alter the cupidity, cowardice, and self-serving arrogance of the Federal aristocracy. At first it can only be isolated, but then, over time, it can and must be destroyed from the bottom up by massive, popular resistance to its policies. “It was by the sober sense of our citizens,” Jefferson wrote in words as true today as two centuries ago, “that we were safely and steadily conducted from monarchy to republicanism, and it is by the same agency alone we can be kept from falling back.”

For now, then, an active defiance of the Federal government through cooperation at the state and local levels is the only means by which America’s domestic security can begin to be protected. At times such defiance will mean using the same state-government powers that governors invoke when man-made or natural disasters occur; at other times, defiance will require blatantly refusing to obey Federal edicts. The state governors must for now be the leading agents of defiance. If America is to be protected, the governors must work across party lines and focus solely on the security of their citizens and nation.

  • The Governors should exert their control over the military reserve units that fall under state jurisdiction and refuse to transfer that control to the Federal government. The governors should then mobilize and deploy these units to staff and administer state-mandated, border-control regimes to stop the flow of illegal immigration. Of course all governors do not have a border-control problem, but all governors do suffer from the adverse consequences derived from those who do. If extra military manpower is needed by the governors on the front-lines of this federally mandated and protected immigration debacle — such as those in California, Arizona, Washington, Texas, New York, Michigan, and New Mexico — it should be provided by the governors of interior states who do not have contiguous borders with negligent, apathetic, or ill-intentioned foreign powers. If the federal aristocracy threatens legal or physical action against the states, the governors must defy them. The Federal time-servers will quickly find that the electorate, in time of war, will rally to governors who act to protect them when the Federal government will not. The Federal aristocrats will also find themselves impotent: Can any American imagine a U.S. soldier shooting his brethren for defying the Federal government and trying to protect all citizens?
  • The Governors can also use their control over military reserves to begin to rein-in the president’s unilateral and unconstitutional war-making ability. The U.S. military’s reserve forces — including those state governors command — are key components of America’s war-making ability; without them large, long-duration wars overseas are not possible. Because the Federal legislature has allowed the president to abrogate the constitutional requirement that Congress declare war, such action by the governors will deny the Federal government vital military manpower, thereby negating the ability of presidents to take America to war simply because he or she is so inclined. By using the military units under their command to protect citizens, the governors will provoke a needed confrontation with the federal government that may at last return constitutional sanity to the issue of making war. Such actions are not meant to make America vulnerable or render it unable to wage war abroad. Rather, they are meant to help destroy an unconstitutional power that has been assumed by presidents, and to make domestic security certain and reliable, without which winning victory over our enemies overseas is, in any event, an illusion.

In the longer term, Americans must destroy the current Federal aristocracy by establishing litmus tests for all candidates elected to the Federal legislature. For now, such litmus tests must have nothing to do with today’s contentious social issues. Those issues are important, but their resolution is both impossible and irrelevant unless America survives. The litmus tests should rather deal with a limited number of issues that pertain directly to national security and constitutional rigor. No candidate should be sent to the Federal legislature before he or she unambiguously pledges to support:

  • Effective control of our national borders by the U.S. military: the temporary suspension of all immigration until America puts its domestic house in order vis—vis immigration policy and enforcement; the deportation of proven illegal immigrants with tightly limited right of appeal; and the creation of an immigration system that welcomes foreign nationals if they enter America via the established legal system. Candidates must also support the construction of physical impediments to crossing U.S. borders, thereby forcing all individuals entering America to pass through official checkpoints. Without such barriers, the tens of billions of dollars spent on computerized identification and detection systems will be easily defeated by foes who will simply avoid official border crossings.
  • Equipping the U.S. military with appropriate weaponry to defeat America’s current enemies; reformulating rules of engagement to facilitate the killing of as many of America’s enemies as quickly as possible; and curtailing by statute the use of U.S. forces in other than war-fighting situations. Also, the immediate and permanent abrogation of Executive Order 12333, which forbids assassination of foreign leaders. America’s young must fight no more wars, and the U.S. government must invoke no more civilian-killing economic sanctions, when both can be avoided by killing simple butchers like Saddam and Castro or nascent brilliant, charismatic, and brutal leaders like Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Our own leaders are hired help and replaceable. If their lives are put on the line as the cost of eliminating threats to Americans as a whole, it is a chance they are paid to take. Their protective blanket of E.O. 12333 should be shredded in the interest of the greater good.
  • Substantial reductions in and eventual elimination of foreign aid to governments — especially dictatorships, tyrannies, and theocracies — and the creation of a foreign aid program catholic in its approach and limited to food, medical, technological, and educational aid, preferably administered entirely by secular private or public U.S. institutions.
  • An energy policy that demonstrably begins to reduce America’s dependence on foreign energy sources. This policy should include alternative energy sources, increased domestic production and exploration, and hybrid automobiles. Funds now spent on aid to foreign tyrants, theocrats, and gangsters must be used as a catalyst for creativity and innovation in the energy sector.
  • The immediate reclamation of the Congress’s now-usurped control of the war-making power. This to abide by the constitution, to end a half-century of the American people being oppressed by presidents who take them to war on personal whim, and to heed Madison’s warning that “If tyranny and oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.”
  • The reestablishment of Free Speech rights by systematically abrogating the Federal hate-speech laws that are meant to preclude criticism of Federal policy and action, allow the Federal aristocracy to experiment with and impose domestic policies antithetical to America’s culture, history, and constitution, and which pit Americans against Americans.

Finally, once the current Federal aristocracy is destroyed and a legislature is installed that has the protection of Americans as its foremost goal, we must work toward a constitutional amendment that will sanction the initiative, referendum, and recall for all Federal officials — elected and politically appointed — in all three branches of government. These measures must be applied to all Federal judges. Both political parties long ago made ideology, not talent and objectivity, the standard for judicial appointment. It seems best, therefore, to afford citizens the right to decide the brand of ideology they want in their judges. The Internet Age allows these measures to be executed in reasonable amounts of time and, once undertaken, they will begin to reestablish a link between citizens and their government that is vibrant, effective, and vigilant.

Conclusion: Heed Jefferson and the Founders

The current Federal despotism is ample proof that the Founders were correct about the imperfectability of human nature and the corrupting nature of centralized power in a republic. Sadly, it also is clear that their system of checks-and-balances has been destroyed by the men and women who staff and run the Federal government. These individuals will not reform themselves, and so the people who elected them must seek to take charge. The nationalization of the initiative, referendum, and recall is essential not only to remove those who deliberately pit Americans against Americans, but to block polices that further that goal and, concurrently, to initiate policies to stop the current divisiveness of American politics from descending into a new civil war.

The Federal government is now run by individuals who too closely resemble those Walt Whitman described as responsible for the Civil War. Listen to Whitman’s description of the members of a pre-Civil War political party convention and prepare to cringe as you recognize the same character types now populating our national parties and Federal government.

“The members who composed it [the convention] were, seven eighths of them, the meanest kind of bawling and blowing officeholders, office seekers, pimps, malignants, conspirators, murderers, fancy-men, custom-house clerks, contractors, kept editors, spaniels well trained to carry and fetch, jobbers, infidels, disunionists, mail-riflers, slave-catchers, pushers of slavery, creatures of the president, creatures of would-be presidents, spies, bribers, compromisers, lobbyists, sponges, ruined sports … crawling, serpentine men — the lousy combings and born freedom-sellers of the earth.”

Walt Whitman

Using ballots to destroy today’s venal, self-serving, and incompetent ruling elite may be the last chance to reclaim, without violence, a democratic republic in which, as Jefferson wrote, “the people [are] the safe, as they are the ultimate, guardians of their own liberty.” While close to being too late to do so, there is no need to despair. The Founders’ wisdom is at our disposal; indeed, it silently but forcefully demands our attention and action.

So on this Independence Day let all be of good heart as we accept our duty as American citizens and begin to destroy an elite — not a system of government — that is knowingly failing to protect the nation’s “Safety and Happiness.” In the early, dark days of America’s war against Britain, Thomas Paine outlined the dangers his countrymen faced from British military power and urged them to act with unity and confidence. “I thank GOD that I fear not,” Paine wrote. “I see no real cause for fear. I know our situation well, and see the way out.”

“… I call not upon a few, but upon all; not on THIS State or THAT State, but on EVERY State; up and help us; lay your shoulders to the wheel; better have too much force than too little, when so great an object is at stake. Let it be told to the future world, that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive, that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet and repulse it. Say not, that thousands are gone, turn out your tens of thousands; throw not the burthen of the day upon Providence, but ‘show your faith in your works,’ that GOD may bless you. It matters not where you live, or what rank of life you hold, the evil or the blessing will reach all of you. The far and the near, the home counties and the back, the rich and the poor, shall suffer or rejoice alike.”

Thomas Paine

There is, again, no cause now for Americans to use violence as they confront the Federal despotism. That said, the threat Americans face is as desperate as that faced by Paine and our forbearers. Our domestic security is deliberately and disastrously compromised by presidents and legislators who refuse to defend America. Our constitution is defied by presidents who covet the role of overseas military buccaneer. And worst of all, these presidential buccaneers are aided and abetted by a Federal legislature more concerned with safeguarding their sinecures than in exercising their constitutional duty. These failures must be rectified, and measures must be emplaced to prevent their repetition.

Let each of us, then, draw inner strength from belief in the God of our choice, but let all of us steel ourselves with the resolve and power found in Jefferson’s timeless declaration and the Founders’ actions and legacy — the eternal right and duty to change a government that does not secure our “Safety and Happiness.” “I love the man,” Paine wrote, “that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. ’Tis the business of little minds to shrink; but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death.” Fortunately for todayu2018s Americans, the Founders and their compatriots pursued their principles and were victorious. Now it is our turn, and we must keep in mind that our failure to act will yield the same result Paine forecast if his own generation had failed to act: “The blood of his children shall curse his cowardice, who shrinks back at a time when a little might have saved the whole and made THEM happy.”

Author: Michael F. Scheuer

Michael F. Scheuer worked at the CIA as an intelligence officer for 22 years. He was the first chief of its Osama bin Laden unit, and helped create its rendition program, which he ran for 40 months. He is an American blogger, historian, foreign policy critic, and political analyst.