Founders’ Vision: God Is Our Master And The State Is Our Servant

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Posted: Mar 05, 2019 9:40 AM
Founders’ Vision: God Is Our Master And The State Is Our Servant

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The Declaration of Independence shifted government power from the master to the servant.  With the Declaration establishing each citizen of newly formed United States with “certain unalienable Rights” given to each person by God, the Constitution solidifies the master, or who exactly has and holds the authority of the Great Experiment, We the People.[1]  The absolute authority is God – only He has the authority to give and take our rights – and the holder of the governance of this authority is “We the People”; the citizenry of the United States.  We are the arbiters of the governance – not the government.  The government is only established under our authority, with God as the world’s Supreme Judge.  Thus, the government is our servant, which is why the Constitution and Bill of Rights are documents of limited authority and negative rights; and granted only at our pleasure.

It is important to understand what is meant by We the People.  Historian Marshall DeRosa articulates it most astutely; in the appropriate context of sovereign Children of God, citizens of nation-States, and citizens of a confederacy or compactual union.  DeRosa explains:

The phrase “We the People” does not constitute a people separate from the states, for the same reason that the peoples of the respective states do not exist independent of the national community.  Within the context of federalism, “the people” is multifarious designation of those who theoretically could, and historically have, utilized their state governments to exercise sovereignty toward political objectives conductive to and at odds with the national community and its agent the U.S. government.[2]

“American federalism and a poignant reminder that, to protect American liberty, sometimes Americans have to rise up, and, in the worst case, they may even have to strike down,”[3] as scholar Richard Rosenfeld summarizes in the foreword of the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions by William J. Watkins, Jr., J.D.  Of course, this forceful response is in reference to the Declaration’s articulation of our Fundamental Rights as Children of God to smite down our government when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government.

Another critical feature of the Declaration of Independence is it put forth a united confederation of states, which is why Jefferson penned it as the “The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America.”   The word “united” was not capitalized.   The word “State”, as Jefferson used it and at that time in the 18th-century, was a sovereign political county – a nation state.  The Founders view the formation of the United State as a union of united States – a union of separate, but united independent nations, each with their own constitutions.   For this reason, the power and control level of the federal government was so limited and demanded the extensive debate among these men.  They realized the potential danger of too much power given to any government, especially a federal government.  Furthermore, they understood for free people to be governed best was to drive that governance to the lowest and closest level – We the People.  This is why it was further delineated in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

The intention was for the States to be more powerful than the federal government, and not subservient to the federal powers.  This was one of the methods put in place to preserve liberty.  Although State sovereignty remains in place; the people simply must exercise their natural right to it.  As Chief Justice John Roberts recently wrote, “The States are separate and independent sovereigns.  Sometimes they have to act like it.”[4]  Thomas Jefferson, over thirty-five years after the ratification of the Federal Constitution, in a letter to John Cartwright in 1824, directly states the subservience of the federal government to the States.  Jefferson explains to Major Cartwright that “With respect to our State and federal governments, I do not think their relations correctly understood by foreigners.  They generally suppose the former subordinate to the latter.  But this is not the case…To State governments are reserved all legislation and administration, in affairs which concern their own citizens only, and to the federal governments is given whatever concerns foreigners, or the citizens of the other States; these functions alone being made federal.   The one is domestic, the other the foreign branch of the same government; neither having control over the other, but within its own department.”[5]

[1] This is why these three words were written in large and bold print.  It was absolute since we are Children of God and sovereign as His children.

[2] Marshall L. DeRosa, 1991, The Confederate Constitution of 1861: And Inquiry into American Constitutionalism, (Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press), pp. 18-19.

[3] William J. Watkins, Jr., 2008 (originally published in 2004), Reclaiming the American Revolution:  The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions and their Legacy, (The Independent Institute, Palgrave Macmillan:  Oakland, CA, New York, NY), p. xi.

[4] C. John Roberts, Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, June 28, 2012, “National Federation of Independent Business vs. Sebelius,” (Washington, D.C.: Supreme Court of the United States, October Term), p. 49, [http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/11pdf/11-393c3a2.pdf].

[5] Thomas Jefferson, June 5, 1824, Letter to John Cartwright, (Founders Online, National Archives), [https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/98-01-02-4313].