The right of revolt.

I have decided to take some time to cover the 28 principles outlined in W. Cleon Skousen’s book “The 5000 Year Leap”. The founders believed these principles to be necessary to establish and maintain the form of government that has made this country the greatest bastion of freedom in the world. In each post we will dissect one of the principles and apply it to problems faced by our country. I hope you will take the time to read “The 5000 Year Leap” and accompany me on this journey of exploration.

Today we will look at the eleventh principle: The majority of the people may alter or abolish a government which has become tyrannical.

The founding fathers understood that the set of circumstances that led them to revolution could very well occur again despite their best efforts to prevent it. Thomas Jefferson’s words from the Declaration of Independence are among my favorite as they remind us all that we are duty bound to act in the face of tyranny:

“Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly, all experience has shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed:.

“But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and provide new guards for their future security”.

Jefferson’s admonition to act should not be taken as an unqualified license to overthrow the government on a whim. To the contrary he is very specific that “governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes”. The first line of redress is the ballot box but what if the system is so corrupt that this option is no long an effective one?

The founders understood that revolution was necessary at times. This country was in fact forged in the furnace of revolution and tempered by the blood of its patriots. But there is a substantial qualification, a standard that must be met before revolution can be considered a viable option. Revolution must be endorsed by the majority of the population to be considered legitimate.

There is no right of revolt in a Minority.

Our government was established by a majority of the population and therefore can only be abolished by a similar majority. An individual or small group holds no right of revolt against the majority. John Locke clarified this when he wrote:

“For if it (government abuse) reach no farther than some private men’s cases, though they have a right to defend themselves…yet the right to do so will not easily engage them in a contest…it being as impossible for one or a few oppressed men to disturb the government where the body of the people do not think themselves concerned in it…
But if either these illegal acts have extended to the Majority of the people, or if the mischief and oppression has light (affected) only some few, but in such cases as the precedent and consequences seem to threaten all, and they are persuaded in their consciences that their laws, and with them, their estates, liberties, and lives are in danger, and perhaps their religion too, how they will be hindered from resisting illegal force used against them I cannot tell".

We are a nation of laws and those laws require of us a certain minimum standard of behavior. Our government is no less bound by this standard and cannot act in any manner that would be illegal for its citizens.

We should not consider revolt as the first course of action and indeed I do not believe that we have reached a point where armed revolt is a viable option. Where we should register our displeasure is the voting booth. The first shots should be fired on Election Day in the form of a ballot. No incumbent should be left standing and a clear message should be sent. If you govern contrary to our laws, and our wishes, you will be a casualty of war.

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