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ORIGIN OF CIVIL GOVERNMENT
(Its Application to American Government)

by Kerry Lee Morgan*

Ch. 23: What Actions of Civil Government are Predictable According to The Laws Of Nature’s God?

Chapter 24
Are the Declaration’s Grievances Found in the Laws of Nature’s God?

Kings That Love War – Genesis 14

We have observed in Genesis 14 that the way of kings is to make war. Did the king of Great Britain fit this profile? Was he a king like other kings of history? Was it predictable he would be a man of war? The framers of the Declaration of Independence thought so. Whether they consciously read Genesis 14 and said to themselves “Oh my goodness, this passage perfectly describes George III” may be an interesting question from a historical scholarship point of view. But whether or not they listed the war waged by the king as a conscious Biblical indictment, or from a practical dislike of being invaded and enslaved, the point is that they appealed to the law of nature and of nature’s God and concluded that from such a legal premise, the king’s war upon his own people was wrong.

There is no dispute that the very first kings of the world identified only after the flood were known for war. Thus, the framer’s articulation of the king of Great Britain’s war making tendencies has palpable support in the laws nature’s God. Their invocation of this law is not some linguistic pablum, con job or public relations scam. The framers accused the king of making war upon them saying:

  • He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
  • He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
  • He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
  • He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
  • He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

Kings That Love Wealth and Slavery – 1 Samuel 8

We have also observed that the tendency of civil government is to take the children, property and freedom itself from the people as expressed in 1 Samuel 8. Did the king of Great Britain fit this profile? Did he take by force the children, family, property and freedom of the people of the colonies? The framers thought so, in at least five instances. The king severely limited immigration into the colonies which denied the colonists the ability to be united with their family and friends. The king taxed the people without their consent and deprived them of the right to a trial by a jury of their peers. He also burdened the people with bureaucratic regulations enforced by homeland security goons, all designed to take and control their ability to live as free men and women.

Whether the framers conscientiously said: “Wow, Samuel was absolutely right about the kings of the earth and King George is no different than the kings of the earth in times past” is not the immediate question. But the framers did assert that the revolution was grounded on the laws of nature and nature’s God. By invoking the laws of nature and of nature’s God, the framers at least asserted that the tendency of kings to take that which is not theirs and to reduce people to a state of servitude or slavery was not unusual. It should not surprise us, therefore, to see that several of the complaints against the king coincided with the declaration of God Himself regarding what could be expected from a king with power “like all the other nations.” 1 Samuel 8:5 & 20.

Thus, when the framers articulated how and what the king had taken from the colonists and why this was a basis for independence grounded in that law, they did so consistent with their premise that the law of nature and of nature’s God plainly established the wrongfulness of the king’s taking and justified the legality of independence. The framers stated grievances which showed that the king treated the people as if they had limited rights. God had granted dominion to the individual and family, but the king had interfered with migration, trade, and commerce through his royal bureaucracy. God had recognized that people may be governed with their own consent, but the king declared their consent was unnecessary regarding taxes and contrary to their consent regarding criminal prosecutions and trials.

  • He has endeavored to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
  • For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
  • For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:
  • For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
  • For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
  • He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

Kings Above The Law – Deuteronomy 17

The framers also listed grievances against the king of Great Britain identified in Deuteronomy 17. Recall that God had advised the people that if they were going to consensually establish a civil government that they would do well to limit its power. God identified five limitations which He thought were especially important. We have previously summarized them but let us restate them again. The universal principles of limited civil government found in Deuteronomy 17 are that: 1) civil government should be forced under the law (or as Thomas Jefferson later observed: “in questions of power then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the constitution.”); 2) civil government should be limited by law; 3) civil government should avoid entangling alliances with other nations; 4) public officials should avoid personal enrichment at the expense of the people; and 5) civil government should keep its military small, not create a massive war machine or seek worldwide global hegemony.

We do not here undertake to determine whether the people of the colonies or of England themselves previously imposed these specific limits on the king of Great Britain. Rather, our focus here is to identify whether the framers thought the king violated these limitations in regard to his colonial government. Indeed, the framers had a great deal to say about the king of Great Britain and his serial disregard for the law. Grievances that relate to the king’s rejection of the idea that the law should govern him or that the law should limit his government, are readily identified.

While it is important to understand these grievances, our point here is to better understand that the framers, should they have explicitly desired to do so, had a legitimate basis for deriving or deducing these grievances from their stated premise that the laws of nature and of nature’s God established standards for the conduct of nations and civil governments which when transgressed, warranted the alteration or abolition of that government.

They were free to hold up their king’s conduct to the light of the Biblical standard. We too are free to do so in our day and age. Do not look to lawyers or clergy to help you since nothing in their education or faith if any, has prepared them to do so. It is the same law which binds all nations and governments without regard to time and ages. Wise limitations on civil government identified in Deuteronomy 17 are universally wise. Every wise People should impose them and other absolute limits of a similar import and effect, upon their civil governments, if human freedom is to have any hope of survival, let alone of free exercise. The framers observed:

  • He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
  • He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
  • He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
  • For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighboring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies.
  • For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments.

Kings and Entangling Alliances Destructive Of Freedom – Deuteronomy 17

The framers also articulated another grievance against the king which has its origins in Deuteronomy 17. They asserted that the king had allowed entangling alliances with foreign nations to oppress the people themselves, declaring:

  • He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation.

Kings With The Power To Make, Enforce And Judge Law

Though not specifically identified in Deuteronomy 17 as a mechanism by which civil government could be limited and restrained by law, it nevertheless follows that additional mechanisms to limit civil government should be sought. Thus, the idea of separating civil power and not aggregating all power within one branch of government has become an important element of limited government itself. Though not specifically declared in Deuteronomy, it may be reasonably inferred that complaints against the king to the effect that he has aggregated executive, legislative, and judicial power solely within his hand, is a hallmark of trampling down the idea that government should be limited by law itself. That the power of civil government should be further limited by dividing it among the executive, legislative and judicial can be reasonably deduced from the propositions contained in Deuteronomy 17 concerning the importance of limiting government.

Of course in the nation of Israel, God himself held all three branches of civil government within his person. “For the Lord is our judge; the Lord is our lawgiver; the Lord is our king; he will save us.” Isaiah 33:22. God still retained control of the legislative and supreme judicial branches of the government, after the executive branch was taken from Him and given to human kings beginning with Saul. While God can be certainly trusted to avoid misusing such aggregated power, our faith in mankind to follow His suit would be severely misplaced. We must be soberly tempered by God’s warning in 1 Samuel 8 describing what can realistically be expected from the civil governments of the earth if not restrained by law: theft, slavery and death. What then did the framers say about the king of England’s efforts to bring all civil power into his hand?

Control Of The Executive Branch

Regarding his attack upon the colonial executives or governors, the framers stated:

  • He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

Control Of The Legislative Branch

Regarding his attack upon the Legislature the framers stated:

  • He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
  • He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
  • He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
  • For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

Control Of The Judicial Branch

Regarding the kings attack upon the judicial branch, the framers stated:

  • He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.
  • He has made judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

Kings With Powerful Military Forces – Deuteronomy 17

Deuteronomy 17 also warns about the dangers of a standing Army. The framers clearly declared that the king was likewise guilty of transgressing this Biblical admonition. This is also tied to the disposition to make war discussed earlier. The framers stated that:

  • He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
  • He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.
  • For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
  • For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
  • In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Conclusion

This completes our review of the grievances articulated by the framers against the king of Great Britain. We have sought to identify specific Biblical passages wherein God describes civil government itself, specific limitations upon civil government’s power and the importance of government by consent in both creating a civil government, and limiting and dividing its powers. These concepts are well grounded in the Scripture directly or by implication. But what is even more important in understanding the Declaration of Independence, is that the laws of nature and of nature’s God itself reflects these particulars and this law was the explicit basis of the legal justification for American independence. The revolution was not a Christian idea. It was an idea based on the universal laws of God as applied to the conduct of man-made civil governments.

Whether the framers sat down and read the Scripture and came away with these ideas, or deduced the Declaration’s standards which the king failed to meet by application of pure reason or through metaphysical disquisitions, poses an interesting question which we leave to others to investigate. Our point here is to simply observe that most if not all of the grievances alleged against the king in the Declaration of Independence are logically traceable back to several key passages in the Bible for those who are disposed to look. Such inquiry is not dependent on the faith of the inquirer, but rather on his or her willingness to read what is plainly written and let it guide us as we evaluate the future of our civil governments. Do these governments need alteration? God provides us guidance. Do they need abolition? God again can help us to understand because He has shown us what abuses to look for.

Friend, let us stop being naïve about civil government. Let us try to see it from God’s viewpoint as a creation of humans. That creation should be limited, restrained, and disobeyed when appropriate. It is not an institution created by God to be venerated, obeyed without question, or as a means to ensure our success or salvation. Left unrestrained its natural and inevitable power always tends toward taking our property, theft of our wealth, controlling our personal and medical decisions, subjugating our labor, and commandeering our children’s education. Its suppression of these freedoms are but degrees of slavery. God has shown us that government must be limited chained down to law. Let us also recall that individual self-government, marriage and family governance are the perpetual governments God actually created and established from the beginning and continue unto this very hour. No human civil government may interfere with these pre- existing governments when discharging those duties, both religious and secular, which God has requested of them or charged them to perform.

Ch. 23: What Actions of Civil Government are Predictable According to The Laws Of Nature’s God?


ENDNOTES

*     Copyright © 2022 Kerry Lee Morgan. Ver. 1.5. All rights reserved. Used by permission.