A Declaration of Grievances

Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence that when an aggrieved people becomes fed up with governmental incursions into its liberty, that people "should declare the causes which impel them to the separation," such that the world can later judge the kinds and degree of the tyranny.  Thus, today we have a historical template for the kinds and the degree of despotism which informed the impetus for the dissolution of our nation from the British one.  With a few non-mention-worthy bits of historical garnish, the Jeffersonian template for grievance-enumeration comprised mostly four 1770s tariffs (Tea Act, Townsend Act, Sugar Act, Stamp Act), imposed on an improper theory of British legislative representation, from the point of view of the American colonists.

Now, does the list of current infractions by the American government a) reach, b) fail to reach, or c) surpass the level of those incurred by the American colonists against England in 1776?  Well, you be the judge. 

Our government is currently guilty of:

  • Gross congressional overreach of its Article I, Section 8 powers throughout the 20th century, with a collusive sanction by the court and the presidency.

ObamaCare, Great Society, New Deal legislation had no basis here.  All legislation must fit squarely into one of the meager 17 classes of Article I, Section 8 things that the federal Congress can legally make laws to do (of course, being so big, you'll see that it can do a million things illegally, when the court colludes to expand federal power).  Without any real basis for such laws, the court pushed the Congress's alleged "power" into the next-closest category!  This turned out to be, among the seventeen, the "commerce power," which the Federalists, in debate, had expressly guaranteed would never be used for something half as drastically nationalistic as, say, the New Deal.  They swore it up and down in the ratification debates. 

  • The standing unconstitutional federal "direct tax" on individual incomes amended into the Constitution in 1913.

The income tax should have been as fundamentally "unamendable" into the Constitution as an amendment which were to read "this amendment seeks to yield the territories of the United States back to King George III."  It, like the latter, countervailed against the fundamental reason for the Revolution.  As you might expect, after 1913, when the income tax was legally challenged, the Court "found" that it was an indirect tax, not a direct tax.  Shocker.  (And remember, for a little context, the tea tax was considered a direct tax since it was laid on a foodstuff!)  The most basic idea inherent in that of American taxation was that the federal government could basically tax only the states, who had to cough up the dough by their own means.  But the fed generally couldn't tax individuals.

  • The manner of the forced passage of 14th Amendment in 1868 was outright despotic.

The Southern states were forced to ratify the 14th, even as they still maintained a congressional majority after the Civil War (and they never, of course, would have diminished that freely).  On the spurious theory that these Southern states had "never been" outside the Union in the first place, advocated by Lincoln, how could they be forced to do something as a condition precedent to "getting back in"?  Nevertheless, they were forced to ratify the 14th, quite literally, as a martial compulsion.  As accounted below, the 14th Amendment fundamentally transformed this country into one run by federal judges colluding -- rather than clashing -- with the other two branches.  It finished off the already dying idea of states' rights after the Civil War.  (Again: note how many of the following infractions will stem from the 14th  Amendment!)

  • Unconstitutional "incorporation" of the Bill of Rights against States by 20th-century 14th-Amendment jurisprudence.

The beginning of the Bill of Rights expressly states that it seeks to bind only Congress and no state legislatures (so how can states be bound by an "incorporated" amendment which reads "Congress shall make no  law..."?).  The point of having a BOR in the first place was to recast the balance of power to tip to the states, in order to palliate the narrowly defeated Antifederalists in the ratification struggles of 1787-1788.  Obviously such an end is abolished and even reversed if the BOR arbitrarily starts being interpreted -- as it was -- to bind the states as well as the fed!

  • Unconstitutional judicial creation of 14th-Amendment "substantive due process" which itself violates "procedural [i.e., real] due process."

Substantive due process is a fabricated judicial doctrine arising out of the 14th which basically dictates that all the first three Articles of the Constitution (the most important ones, which state what branch of government can do what) can be bypassed if the court deigns to confer a new "right" on a new plaintiff or a special interest that it favors.  The 14th Amendment is often called "the new Constitution" for this stark reason: it ignores the rules that statutes have to follow in order to pass "constitutional muster" and survive the court's review.  And as it did so, it conferred even more -- infinite -- equitable power to "make law" on the court.  The court created more power for itself here than even when it "incorporated" the BOR against the states.  And it completely destroyed the Constitution!

  • The crown jewel (rarely mentioned) in any list of grievances which should impel a people to a separation: the violation of the 2nd Amendment by the federal government when it rolled the state militias into the national military after the Civil War.

The entire point of state militias was to guard against a federal tyranny, even if that meant fighting against the national military; in turn, the point of the national military was to guard against foreign invasion.  It was always understood that the state militias were the final guardians of state rights.  Without state militias, the concept that a state could "nullify" an illegal federal law by simply not following it, mentioned as an important instrument of states' rights by Jefferson in the Kentucky Resolutions of 1798, becomes a toothless joke.  With state militias, on the other hand, it's quite a serious proposition, because the militias themselves act as an enforcement mechanism.  Without them, there simply are no states' rights: 20th-/21st-century American states are paper tigers because they don't have militias.

  • The very day after the 2012 election -- this past Wednesday -- the executive branch, led by Obama, resumed work on an illegal treaty with the U.N. to achieve despotic gun control reforms that could not otherwise be achieved through the legislature.

Treaties to accomplish domestic policies -- instead of properly international matters -- are illegal, and yet Obama pursued this very goal throughout most of 2012, only to curtail his efforts during the campaign and then eerily resume them the very morning after he had guaranteed his continued tenure at the presidential seat.  Get ready to hold onto your guns...but again, they're mostly useless to vouchsafe rights in our republic unless we get militias back (the other half of the 2nd Amendment)!

  • Unconstitutional "agency law," made by executive officers ad hoc and not subject to the democratic process of what lingers of Article I, Section 8, accounts for roughly 95% of U.S. law.

Agency law bears no mention anywhere in the Constitution.  It is sheer despotism.  In an enumeration of diabolic shams pulled on the American people, it might very well be the ultimate legislative sham.

  • In almost each of the above, we see rampant judicial despotism.

While it is true that the court holds the power to oversee matters of "equity," and so they veritably hold a limited power of judicial review in questionable or vague cases, 20th-century "case law" comprises a vast list of instances when the court went against the clear meaning of the text, so as to make so-called "judicial law" to accommodate its own anti-constitutional, anti-American preferences. 

So, you make the call: was the colonial list of infractions (i.e., a couple of tariffs and a little impressment) against George III more severe than our current one?  If you hold so, please reread my list.  If you hold that it was not -- but simultaneously that our current system of failed federalism should not be significantly reconsidered -- then are you suggesting that the American Revolution was a whimsical sham or a failure of statesmanship?  That is, were the Revolutionaries being "too touchy" or "hypersensitive"?  Should the colonials have compromised or capitulated to Great Britain in the unmanly fashion of Pennsylvania's delegate Joseph Galloway?  Because that is the proposition for which such a thought stands.

What is the takeaway principle of the Declaration of Independence?  After answering my query above, one way or the other, how should an American patriot regard our own Declaration?  What is to be done with our republic: are its modern principles "past" the central ideas of the Declaration?

If you experience technical problems, please write to helpdesk@americanthinker.com