Magistrate Letter 5
In the 1770s and 80, those involved in the struggle for colonial independence were by no means perfect men, nor was their cause at all times waged in conformity to principle. But the principles were nonetheless real and on the whole determined their actions and reactions. The patriots were opposed to the deliberate disruption of law and order which later characterized the French revolution, and, on the other hand, were equally hostile to blind obedience which is the attitude apparent today in oft-repeated assertions that, because the Supreme Court of the United States has delivered an opinion, good citizens have no alternative but to obey.
The doctrine of interposition has long legal and religious roots in American history. Interposition is the concept of that “magistrate” which is closer to the people “positions” himself between the people and the unruly magistrate which is further away from the people (i.e. a county sheriff prevents a state or federal authority from arresting a citizen).
The doctrine of interposition was advocated by Thomas Jefferson and others as a necessary aspect of federalism, whereby a state could prevent the invasion of the reserved powers of state and people by some department of the federal government. John C. Calhoun of South Carolina on the eve of the War for Southern Independence reasserted interposition in the doctrine of nullification.
Today we are seeing an increasing interference in local affairs by courts, legislation, and agency regulation out of the Empire in Washington. Large corporations are also exerting financial/political influence for their own self-interest. Citizens two hundred years ago took to arms because of encroachments upon their liberties which were of a far lesser magnitude than what we face today.
Citizens today are still opposed to the deliberate disruption of law and order because they expect their elected and appointed representatives to act in their best interest. This hesitation to take up arms cannot last forever. Responsible legislators and those in the executive branch must be more forceful in their interposition for the citizens they represent.
If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.
What is liberty without wisdom and without virtue?