Government Did Not Create Rights, Rights Created Government

Posted: Feb 19, 2019 10:44 AM
Government Did Not Create Rights, Rights Created Government

Natural rights are given to us by God, and the purpose of government is to secure those rights – not to determine or to give any rights.  God is referenced in the Declaration of Independence five times as the Creator, Lawmaker, Source (of our rights), Judge, and Guardian.[1]  These references in the Declaration are, as if, in reference to Isaiah 33, “For the Lord is our judge [Judge], the Lord is our lawgiver [Lawmaker], the Lord is our King [Creator and Source]; it is he who will save us [Guardian].”[2]  Our two founding documents declare and articulate our natural, God-given, rights, and limits the government to a few enumerated responsibilities, which center around securing these unalienable rights on our behalf and subservient to us.

Therefore, the government has no rights over our life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.  No right to confiscate your property to do their bidding, regardless of how worthy or noble their purpose is.[3]  This includes all three branches of government – legislative, executive, and judiciary.  All three are subservient to the citizens of the United States.  Economist Walter Williams articulates well the result when government assumes it is the giver of rights.  “Forcibly using one person to serve another is one way to describe slavery,” notes Williams, “As such, it violates self-ownership.  If we accept the value of self-ownership, it is clear that most of what Congress does is clearly immoral.”[4]  Therefore, it is in violation of the Declaration of Independence.

Enlightenment philosopher Charles Montesquieu set the standard and directly impacted our Founders as they constructed the Constitution with the separation of powers.   Montesquieu separates government into “legislative,” “executive” and “judiciary power;” and he does this to completely curb, restrict, and diminish their power or ability to reach power beyond the people.  Montesquieu forewarns:

Democratic and aristocratic states are not in their own nature free.  Political liberty is to be found only in moderate governments; and even in these it is not always found.  It is there only when there is no abuse of power.  But constant experience shows us that every man invested with power is apt to abuse it…it is necessary from the very nature of things that power should be a check to power…in order to have this liberty, it is requisite the government be so constituted as one man need not be afraid of another.

When the legislative and executive powers as united in the same person, or in the same body of magistrates, there can be no liberty…the same monarch [executive] or senate [legislative] should enact tyrannical laws, to execute them in a tyrannical manner.

Again, there is no liberty, if the judiciary power be not separated from the legislative and executive.   Were it joined with the legislative, the life and liberty of the subject would be exposed to arbitrary control; for the judge would be then the legislator.   Were it joined to the executive power, the judge might behave with violence and oppression.

There would be an end of everything, were the same man or the same body, whether of the nobles or of the people, to exercise those three powers, that of enacting laws, that of executing the public resolutions, and of trying the causes of individuals.[5]

Montesquieu then discusses the concept of liberty of the individual and how the individual is best served by driving governance down to the local level, and cannot be served by governance removed or remote from the people intended to be serve.  He also espouses a republican government when he writes:

As in a country of liberty, every man who is supposed a free agent ought to be his own governor; the legislative power should reside in the whole body of the people…it is fit the people should transact by their representatives what they cannot transact by themselves.

The inhabitants of a particular town are much better acquainted with its wants and interests than those of other places; and are better judges of the capacity of their neighbors than of that of the rest of their countrymen…but it is proper that in every considerable place a representative should be elected by the inhabitants.[6]

“The Declaration did not “create” new rights, it simply re-affirmed the old.”[7]  The old being the Charter of Liberties, the Magna Charta, English common law, Natural law, the Mayflower Compact, and biblical law.  These were all sourced to the Creator, our real source of freedom and liberty.[8]  As John Adams wrote in his Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America:

The moment the idea is admitted into society, that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence.[9]

When the Pilgrims established their charter, the Mayflower Compact,[10] on November 11, 1620 in the captain’s cabin onboard the Mayflower, they set into motion a precedence that would become the foundation for over eighty colonial charters and the Declaration and Constitution.[11]  It established God as sovereign opening with the words, “In the name of God, Amen, “and stating that their undertaking was “for the glory of God.”[12]  The Pilgrims’ charter changed the course of the world by building the foundational for self-government in a Shining City Upon a Hill that would shine out and call to the world; as the American Constitution grew out of that original compact and the traditions developed and nurtured in the American colonies, it was “ultimately planted firmly in American soil.”[13]

The great American historian Clinton Rossiter observed, “The philosophy of the [American] Revolution was earnest faith rather than ordered theory.”[14]

[1] Phyllis Schlafly, July 6, 2010, “America’s Great Religious Document,”, [].

[2] Guideposts, The Guideposts Parallel Bible (Carmel, NY: Guideposts), New International, Isaiah 33:22, p. 1812.

[3] Michael Medved, September 1, 2010, “Which Side is God On?”, [].

[4] Walter E. Williams, December 8, 2010, “Moral or Immoral Government,”, [].  Dr. Williams also tells the story of James Madison objected to congress appropriating $15,000 to help some French refugees when he stood on the house floor and said, “I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.  If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the General Welfare, the Government is no longer a limited one, possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one.”

[5] Charles de Montesquieu, 2010 (originally published in 1748), The Spirit of the Laws, “Book XI: Of the Laws which Establish Political Liberty, with Regard to the Constitution,” ( Book), pp. 137-138, Emphasis added.

[6] Charles de Montesquieu, 2010 (originally published in 1748), The Spirit of the Laws, “Book XI: Of the Laws which Establish Political Liberty, with Regard to the Constitution,” ( Book), p 139.

[7] Brion McClanahan, July 4, 2010, “Rethinking the Declaration of Independence,”, [].

[8] This point is also discussed in Jacob G. Hornberger, June 2002 – May 2003, “Economic Liberty and the Constitution,” Freedom Daily, (Fairfax, VA: The Future of Freedom Foundation), Part 3, The Influence of Adam Smith, [].

[9] John Adams, 1856, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States: with a Life of the Author, Notes and Illustrations, by his Grandson Charles Francis Adams, 10 Volumes, (Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Co.), Vol. 6, “Chapter First, Marchamont Nedham: the Right Constitution of a Commonwealth Examined,” [].

[10] The original name of the Mayflower Compact and the name used by the Pilgrims was the Plymouth Combination.  See Mark Kalthoff, March 4, 2013, “Colonial Settlement,” History 102: American Heritage – From Colonial Settlement to the Reagan Revolution, February 25 to April 29, 2013, (Hillsdale College Lecture Series, Hillsdale College, Hillsdale, MI), [], see 16:15 – 17:30 minutes.

[11] Marshall Foster, November 2009, “America’s Thanksgiving: From Socialism to Prosperity,” Journal, (World History Institute: Thousand Oaks, CA).

[12] The Mayflower Compact, November 11, 1620, [].

[13] Donald S. Lutz, 1988, The Origins of American Constitutionalism, (Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press), p. 166.

[14] Clinton Rossiter, 1953, Seedtime of the Republic, (New York, NY: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc.), p. 439.