July 25, 1994
"The evil that was produced by disarming the people in the time of James the second, was, that the King, by means of a standing army, quartered among the people, was able to overawe them, and compel them to submit to the most arbitrary, cruel and illegal measures. Whereas, if the people had retained their arms, they would have been able, by a just and proper resistance to those oppressive measures, either to have caused the King to respect their rights, or surrender the government into other hands. . . If the subjects had been armed, they could have resisted the payment of excessive fines, or the infliction of illegal and cruel punishments."
Aymette v. the State, 2 Humphrey (21 Tenn) 154, 157
Just what was meant by "they could have resisted the payment of excessive fines, or the infliction of illegal and cruel punishments." in this case from 1840? Was the court suggesting that there might be circumstances in which the people can decide whether "law", as administered by the government, is beyond those concepts that should be considered tolerable?
The case suggests that we may (must?) judge the actions of government and continue to compare them to the benchmark called the constitutions. The government continues to tell us that the times have changed, and that these new impositions on our freedom and liberty are necessary. They fail to point out that human nature does not change.
A scholar named Tyler wrote "The Decline and Fall of the Athenian Republic". In that book he described the stages through which every Republic goes: They begin in Bondage; They then go from Bondage to Spiritual Faith; With that Spiritual Faith they develop Great Courage; That Great Courage leads to Liberty; Liberty then leads to Abundance; Abundance then leads to Selfishness; This Selfishness then leads to Complacency; The Complacency grows into Apathy; Apathy then degenerates into Dependence; This Dependence brings them full circle back to Bondage.
Human nature has not changed. Government, even though created by the people, must be held in constant control. Governments" nature has always been to pass power, and control, on to those that would aspire to that end. This is as true today as it was when the Founding Fathers attempted to provide us with a means to maintain a republican form of government, at least within the States. The government, on the other hand, would tell us that the Founding Fathers could not understand what would evolve with population and technical growth. Who would we believe? Those in power, or those who gave so much to provide us the tools with which to break this cycle described by Tyler?
The judge in the Aymette case gave us a clue as to what our tools are in this matter. "If the subjects had been armed, they . . ." said he. Is this a suggestion that we might follow the course laid out by the Founders? Would it be proper for us to begin to impose punishment on those who would defend unlawful laws? The Sons of Liberty took this task upon themselves when the King"s government violated the covenants (charters and constitutions) that protected the colonies. Is the government (especially the federal government) not violating the covenant that is our birthright?
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