This is Why We Have a Constitution, and Why the Alternative is Tyranny
New York’s Trespass Act of 1783 offered relief for Patriots who had fled New York City during the time of the Revolutionary “by permitting them to recover damages from persons who had occupied or used their premises during the war.” Common law had typically required “that actions for trespass must be tried where the property was located, but the act allowed Patriots to sue in any court where the defendant could be found.” It also denied the laws of war by prohibiting the accused of arguing that they had been acting “under orders of the occupying British army, and the act also prohibited the defendants from appealing to a higher court.” (Citations from Forrest McDonald, Novus Ordo Seclorum.)
The New York Trespass Act was but one of many factors that led to the creation of the written United States Constitution. Under the Articles of Confederation government, the states had almost unlimited authority to pass any laws they pleased. The only check on the state governments were the citizens of the several states. Unfortunately, the people themselves were often the impetus behind the enactment of unjust laws.
Last night, by a vote of 43 to 18, the New York State Senate, which is run by a coalition of Republicans and breakaway Democrats,approved the new gun restrictions demanded last week by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, including a seven-round limit on magazines (down from 10) and a broader, California-style ban on “assault weapons.” Today the New York State Assembly, controlled by Democrats, followed suit by a vote of 104 to 43, allowing Cuomo to sign the legislation less than a week after he asked for it in his State of the State address last Wednesday—especially impressive given that yesterday was the first full day of the new legislative session. “The guns package was negotiated privately by the governor and legislative leaders over the last several weeks,” The New York Times reports, “but was only completed late Monday,” so “rank-and-file Senators had only a few minutes to read the legislation before voting on it.”
By comparison, the panicky passage of the PATRIOT Act was a model of legislative deliberation. While six weeks passed between 9/11 and George W. Bush’s signing of the PATRIOT Act, only four passed between the Sandy Hook massacre and Andrew Cuomo’s signing of New York’s new gun controls. And unlike the New York legislature, Congress was actually in session during that period.
Such “unusual haste” (as the Times describes it) deviates from the normal rule, laid out in Article II, Section 14 of the New York Constitution, that at least three days must elapse between the introduction of a bill and a vote on it. The constitition allows an exception when the governor publicly explains “the facts which in his or her opinion necessitate an immediate vote.” Here is Cuomo’s explanation:
Some weapons are so dangerous, and some ammunition devices so lethal, that New York State must act without delay to prohibit their continued sale and possession in the state in order to protect its children, first responders and citizens as soon as possible. This bill, if enacted, would do so by immediately banning the ownership, purchase and sale of assault weapons and large capacity ammunition feeding devices, and eliminate them from commerce in New York State.
In other words, there was no time to consider whether magazines holding more than seven rounds or guns with certain arbitarily selected cosmetic features pose an intolerable threat to public safety, because these items pose an intolerable threat to public safety. Also, it’s for the children!
There’s more at the link. Sullum goes on to opine that the legislation won’t actually accomplish anything to curb gun violence, but it does introduce new legislation that could scare people away from mental health services.
President Obama today
began his assault on the Second Amendment introduced several measures that he claims will also reduce gun violence. Citing the “But It’s For the Children Clause” of the Constitution, Obama issued a series of Executive Orders that will also do nothing to help curb gun violence, but which will also hopefully turn law abiding citizens into criminals.
While signing these executive orders at a wonderfully staged event, Obama issued a statement which so beautifully sums up the leftist ideology:
“If there’s even one life that can be saved then we have an obligation to try.”
Well yes, unless that life is a newly born child who survived an abortion. In that case, we just let the doctor stand around and play Parcheesi while the infant slowly dies. You see the latter doesn’t provide any good photo ops, so Obama is not so concerned with him.
Let’s get back to those old white men called the Federalists. Alexander Hamilton, a figure historical illiterates like to cite as a champion of big government, wrote in Federalist 71:
It is a just observation, that the people commonly intend the PUBLIC GOOD. This often applies to their very errors. But their good sense would despise the adulator who should pretend that they always reason right about the means of promoting it. They know from experience that they sometimes err; and the wonder is that they so seldom err as they do, beset, as they continually are, by the wiles of parasites and sycophants, by the snares of the ambitious, the avaricious, the desperate, by the artifices of men who possess their confidence more than they deserve it, and of those who seek to possess rather than to deserve it. When occasions present themselves, in which the interests of the people are at variance with their inclinations, it is the duty of the persons whom they have appointed to be the guardians of those interests, to withstand the temporary delusion, in order to give them time and opportunity for more cool and sedate reflection. Instances might be cited in which a conduct of this kind has saved the people from very fatal consequences of their own mistakes, and has procured lasting monuments of their gratitude to the men who had courage and magnanimity enough to serve them at the peril of their displeasure.
Well, Hamilton got it half right. Citizens and government officials alike intend to do right, but the actions they take often make matters worse. Where Hamilton got it wrong – or perhaps where he was a bit naive – was in thinking that the President would be a dispassionate and wise individual who would lead people away from their delusions. He did not anticipate the rise of an individual who would be the first one grabbing the pitchforks and inciting the mob.
It is in this regard that Plato has proven truly prophetic.
The third class will be “the people,” comprising all the peasantry who work their own farms, with few possessions and no interest in politics. In a democracy this is the largest class and, when once assembled, its power is supreme.
Yes, but it will not often meet, unless it gets some share of the honey.
Well, it always does get its share, when the leaders are distributing to the people what they have taken from the well-to-do, always provided they can keep the lion’s share for themselves. The plundered rich are driven to defend themselves in debate before the Assembly and by any measure they can compass; and then, even if they have no revolutionary designs, the other party accuse them of plotting against the people and of being reactionary oligarchs. At last, when they see the people unwittingly misled by such denunciation into attempts to treat them unjustly, then, whether they wish it or not, they become reactionaries in good earnest. There is not help for it; the poison is injected by the sting of those drones we spoke of. Then follow impeachment and trials, in which each party arraigns the other.
And the people always put forward a single champion of their interests, whom they nurse to greatness. Here, plainly enough, is the root from which despotism invariably springs.
How does the transformation of the people’s champion into a despot begin? You have heard the legend they tell of the shrine of Lycaean Zeus in Arcadia; how one who tastes a single piece of human flesh mixed in with the flesh of the sacrificial victims is fated to be changed into a wolf. In the same way the people’s champion, finding himself in full control of the mob, may not scruple to shed a brother’s blood; dragging him before a tribunal with the usual unjust charges, he may foully murder him, blotting out a man’s life and tasting kindred blood with unhollowed tongue and lips; he may send to death or exile with hinted promises of debts to be cancelled and estates to be redistributed. Is it not thenceforth his inevitable fate either to be destroyed by his enemies or to seize absolute power and be transformed from a human being into a wolf?
. . . In the early days he has a smile and a greeting for everyone he meets; disclaims any absolute power; makes large promises to his friends and to the public; sets about the relief of debtors and the distribution of land to the people and to his supporters; and assumes a mild and gracious air towards everybody. But as soon as he has disembarrassed himself of his exiled enemies by coming to terms with some and destroying others, he begins stirring up one war after another, in order that the people may feel their need of a leader, and also be so impoverished by taxation that they will be forced to think of nothing but winning their daily bread, instead of plotting against him.
Nah, doesn’t remind me of anyone at all.