GLEN COVE, NY — The United States Constitution
is the best designed constitution in human history for the protection
of liberty. It effectively balances power among the branches of government
and provides a system by which each branch checks the power of the
others. Furthermore, it creates an effective balance between federal
and state power. Despite this system, John Adams observed that the
Constitution and its checks would only work if the American people
remained virtuous. Once the leaders of America ceased fearing God,
they would start finding ways to subvert the Constitution.
Every complex society is led by a class of politicians, bureaucrats,
journalists, lawyers, judges, intellectuals, and other people who know
how to influence it. Once this political or ruling class ceases to
fear God, it will begin to enhance its power at the expense of the
liberty of the people.
Judges have done this most brazenly. Those who drafted a constitutional
provision to prevent federal interference with local civic religious
exercises never imagined it would be twisted to forbid all local civic
religion and prayer. Those who drafted a constitutional provision to
prevent lawless deprivations of life, liberty, and property by state
governments never dreamed that it would have been distorted to require
the killing of innocent babies. More to the point, no judge who really
feared God would have invented these perversions.
When politicians and bureaucrats stopped fearing that God would punish
them for dishonesty and venality, they began to bind the people with
incomprehensible and burdensome legal and regulatory schemes that classified
activities located entirely on one farm or in one store as “interstate.” When
journalists ceased to fear God, they ceased to protect the people’s
This phenomenon, and its opposite, have occurred throughout history.
John I was a most unjust King of England, oppressing the Scots, stealing
from his subjects, ignoring the rights of city governments, and forcing
peasants to work without pay on his public works. Enough of the barons
and bishops of England were afraid that he would bring God’s
punishment down on the country that they forced him to sign a great
charter of liberties. His prompt repudiation of his coerced signature
was irrelevant. Most of the subsequent medieval kings of England voluntarily
adopted most of its provisions because the ruling class of England
continued for centuries to fear God.
By the time of Henry VIII, England had an elaborate legal system
that placed great emphasis on due process of law. The ruling class
had, however, lost its fear of God. Henry VIII was a competent theologian,
but he could not control his desire to turn his wives in for newer
models and to steal from the Church, including robbing the graves of
saints. Only two great leaders of society in his day feared God more
than they feared death — the martyrs Saint John Fisher and Saint Thomas
More. All the rest went along with six wives for the king, the theft
of all monastery property, and the sacrilegious theft of jewels and
precious metals from reliquaries. All of these actions were clearly
known to be contrary to God’s law, but the rulers of England
had become more afraid of the king and each other than of God.
Henry VIII’s sins led to centuries of deadly religious persecution,
civil wars, the killing of one king, and the unjust exiling of another.
Indeed, as he faced death, Charles I described himself as a martyr
for the people’s liberty. Half a millennium later, English law
still bears the scars from Henry VIII. Of course, today the threats
to liberty are much less deadly except for unborn babies and terminally
ill persons, but they are far more pervasive.
America can learn from English history. The modern world has seen
power grow more and more concentrated in Washington, generation after
generation. As long as the people in power have no fear of God, they
will invent more and more reasons to increase their power. They will
increase it in the name of safety, and they will increase it in the
name of liberty. They will increase it by appeals to greed and appeals
to generosity. Until we can again acquire a political class in America
that fears God and believes itself morally bound to respect the people’s
liberty — and is courageous enough to do its duty as God gives them
the light to understand it — we will continue to go deeper and deeper
into a dark period in history.
The Confederate Lawyer column is copyright © 2009
by Charles G. Mills and the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation, www.fgfBooks.com.
All rights reserved.
Charles G. Mills is the Judge Advocate or general counsel for the
New York State American Legion. He has forty years of experience in
many trial and appellate courts and has published several articles
about the law.
See his biographical sketch and additional columns here.
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