ORIGIN OF CIVIL GOVERNMENT
(Its Application to American Government)
by Kerry Lee Morgan*
“Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah 5 and said to him, Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.’ 6 But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, Give us a king to judge us.’ And Samuel prayed to the Lord. 7 And the Lord said to Samuel, Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.'” 1 Samuel 8: 4-7.
“And when all Israel saw that the king did not listen to them, the people answered the king, What portion do we have in David? We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse. To your tents, O Israel! Look now to your own house, David.’ So Israel went to their tents.” I Kings 12:16.
“That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness” Declaration of Independence (1776).
We have so far examined the laws of nature, equality, unalienable rights, and government by consent including its “just powers.” Let us now turn to a very specific unalienable right asserted in the Declaration of Independence–the right to alter or abolish any form of government. The Declaration states: “that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
The phrase “destructive of these Ends” refers to the unalienable rights which civil government is instituted to preserve. It was the right to alter or abolish the form of government which the people exercised when Independence was declared. The framers did not abolish the Monarchy of Great Britain. They did, however, alter and abolish the king’s jurisdiction over the American Colonies. The nature of this right presumes that it is not to be exercised lightly. If wrongly employed today, it may constitute treason, defined by Article III, Section 3.
President George Washington declared that, “The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government.” George Washington, “Farewell Address,” quoted in James D. Richardson, ed., Messages and Papers of the Presidents, 1789-1897. (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1896), 1:217. Abraham Lincoln called this “the leading principle the sheet anchor of American republicanism.” Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1953), 2:266.
The framers declared that the people could organize the powers of government in whatever form they considered would secure their liberty. Accordingly, the people took steps to exercise their right and abolished the monarchial form of government because it was destroying their liberty. The framers recognized in the Declaration that “such has been the patient Sufferance of these Colonies.” They noted that in “every stage of these Oppressions we have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble Terms.”
Petitioning alone, however, was an insufficient remedy for the people, for “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 to provide new Guards for their future Security.” In other words, the people will right the wrongs of their civil government themselves, but not for light and transient reasons.
Article V of the Constitution is an excellent example of the rule regarding alteration or abolition of the national form of government. Through amendments, the people can establish a more perfect civil government of the United States, that is, render it better able to accomplish its purposes. They can also abolish it, if they so desire.
Recall chapter 12 discussed various declarations of independence from Israel. See also chapter 22. These declarations in one way or another altered the form of civil government. We have seen in Exodus 19 that the people adopted a form of government where in God was the King, supreme Legislative branch and Supreme Judge. That was a good choice for that people and nation.
However, in 1 Samuel 8 that the people altered their form of government by rejecting God as their King and substitution of a military commander in His stead. That is a perfect example of a bad choice. The people altered their government to make themselves slaves. Don’t be naïve to think the same bad choice isn’t happening today. The People love war and a President that will go to war. The irrational fear and aggression shown by the Presidents, Congress and media against Russia for example, is setting the people up for a further exchange of their government under law for a government of war-making men. Moreover, we are even now trading our freedom for medical security through mandatory masking and vaccination, which leads to our slavery in the end. The President, Congress and Supreme Court all exceed their power, yet we love to have its so. “An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule at their direction; my people love to have it so, but what will you do when the end comes?” Jeremiah 5:30-31.
Yet, though God judged Israel for their bad choice, He still let them choose. He honored their foolish consent. He will let us all be fools.
A movement in Israel also sought to alter their form of government when David was king. This event was recorded in 2 Samuel 20:20. We learn there of a man named Sheba who declared independence from the king of Israel and Judah. Samuel records that: “Now there happened to be there a worthless man, whose name was Sheba, the son of Bichri, a Benjaminite. And he blew the trumpet and said, “We have no portion in David, and we have no inheritance in the son of Jesse; every man to his tents, O Israel!” In other words, “We will not be governed any more by King David.”
So the men of Israel withdrew from David and followed Sheba but the men of Judah followed King David. We are later informed that Sheba took shelter in a fortified city. The people of that city killed him, cut off his head and threw it over the wall to David’s general waiting below. Sheba’s declaration of independence from King David’s monarchy was crushed with his assassination. His revolution had some support but was not widespread or unified. Nor was it based on any particular grievance, abuse or usurpation. Let us not follow his example.
Compare this to a subsequent example of the people altering their government after David and his son Solomon’s death. The Book of 1 Kings 12:16 records this account. It was a declaration of independence with very similar wording as Sheba’s declaration, yet with a very different outcome. As if speaking with one voice, the People declared: “What portion do we have in David? We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse. To your tents, O Israel! Look now to your own house, David.” Regarding this declaration of independence, God said it was from Him and that King Rehoboam and his nation Judah, should not fight with the new King Jeroboam and his nation Israel.
This revolution was favored by God. Perhaps this difference is attributable to the people’s enumeration of legitimate grievances regarding abuses by former King Solomon his system of taxation was too heavy to bear. It was a taxation-based alteration of the government. God thought this change perfectly acceptable. God has sympathy with tax revolts. Don’t let the moneychangers tell you differently. They only care to ensure their feedbags are always full while you starve.
Finally we must not forget 1 Samuel 8’s discussion of the people altering the form of government to which they previously consented. See chapters 10 and 13. As previously noted, God had been the King of Israel because the people had accepted God’s proposal to “diligently listen to me and keep my covenant.” Exodus 19:5. But God was not a king like the man-made kings of the other nations. God was King pursuant to a covenant. He was King by the free and voluntary consent of the people. Yet, years after Moses and Joshua and after the period of the judges, the people demanded a king like all the other nations to fight their wars wars occasioned by their disobedience to God and his laws to which they has previously agreed.
The people of Israel came to Samuel and demanded this type of king. The Lord said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. According to all the deeds that they have done, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you. Now then, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.” 1 Samuel 8:7-9.
Here the people proposed to alter their form of government. They rejected God as their national king. They appear to have retained him at least as their lawgiver and judge, but not as their king. They proposed to alter their form of government. It was not wise to do so and God warned them of their folly, yet He let them do so. As an act of grace God said that the people might want to seriously consider limiting their folly by restraining the powers of their king as described in Deuteronomy 17. But as described in chapter 11, King Solomon trampled down almost all of those limitations.
The point is that while the people have a right to alter or abolish their civil governments according to the laws of nature, doing so is no guarantee that a better government is inevitable. It is no guarantee that altering a civil government may succeed. It is simply to observe that the people have just as much a right to institute a new government, as they have to alter it or abolish it.
As Attorney Gerald Thompson has observed: “Every nation of course has a right to preserve its government against foreign threats and from the lawless actions of persons within its borders. However, no government has the right of self-preservation as against the will of its own people. The people who have the right to form a government have the inherent right to re-form it (alter) or un-form it (abolish). This right is an inalienable (God-given) right which can never under any circumstances be denied.” https://lonang.com/commentaries/foundation/right-to-alter-or-abolish-government/
The right to alter or abolish is also articulated in the Virginia Declaration of Rights which states: “[t]hat government is, or ought to be, instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security of the people, nation, or community; of all the various modes and forms of government, that is best which is capable of producing the greatest degree of happiness and safety and is most effectually secured against the danger of mal-administration. And that, when any government shall be found inadequate or contrary to these purposes, a majority of the community has an indubitable, inalienable, and indefeasible right to reform, alter, or abolish it, in such manner as shall be judged most conducive to the public weal.”
In other words, our benefit, protection and security may be ensured by civil government. The means by which our security is exercised is diverse. It may include admonishment. It may be accomplished by injunction. Fines may serve the end of non-interference. Civil proceedings and the awarding of money damages in a court of law may be employed where make-whole remedies are appropriate for past deprivations. Deprivation of a wrongdoer’s liberty may sometimes be necessary to achieve non-interference or even deprivation of life where the life of another by murder has occurred.
We are not born, by either nature or God, for slavery. We have rights. Slaves do not. As Thomas Jefferson has observed, the “mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God.” God cannot mean we were born for civil slavery. He means that the legitimate delegated power of any civil government is limited to the power to enjoin interference with exercising our rights or award damages or punishment in a legal proceeding after the fact of deprivation or interference is duly established and the matter fully heard. Civil government may be instituted to punish murders. It is not instituted to plan, institutionalize and itself commit murder or genocide on a national or worldwide scale.
In each case the law of lex talionis serves as a rule of limitation on punishment, not as a rule of minimum mandatory punishment. It is the brutal ceiling, not the floor. It is the maximum, not the minimum. The law of proportionate remedies cannot justify revenge, cruel or unusual punishment or exemplary pains and penalties. It cannot justify rendition, beatings, deprivations, water boarding or torture. It does not sanction mutilation, amputation, electrocution or drugging. It does not permit the image of God to be degraded in any human being. It keeps men out of the business of revenge. (Deuteronomy 25:3.)