Yesterday, the Engineering Geek and I attended a public meeting about the We the People Organization's 2009 Continental Congress.
At the meeting, we met Bob Schulz, the founder of the We the People Organization, who is traveling to cities in every state of the union in order to develop a mass movement to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
Bob Schulz is a man with a gift and a passion. An engineer by training and trade, he is thorough in his analysis of problems, and he has a passion for Liberty, and thus for the Constitution, which was written to restrain our government and protect our unalienable rights.
The road to the We the People Continental Congress began when Bob went to a municipal public meeting at a firehouse in upstate New York. The public meeting was about an upcoming public works project, and Bob rose to ask a few questions, since the project concerned a discipline he knew well. Evidently, his questions were a little too incisive, because the pols involved refused to answer them publically, and instead wanted to discuss the matter privately. But Bob wanted his questions aired and answered before the town meeting. The incident eventually led to a lawsuit, because the project was not beneficial to the town, but was intended to line the pockets of a few of the pols in charge. Bob won. And the town retaliated against him when he went to subdivide his property to fund his nascent government watchdog group, We the People. He accepted a gig as an afternoon drive talkshow host on his local radio station, and from talking to callers, Bob began to realize the extent of corruption in state and national politics as well. When he realized that the Federal government is in violation of nearly every article of the United States Constitution, Bob began to study that document.
The moral of the story: Politicians! Beware an engineer who develops a passion for a problem. Bob consulted Constitutional scholars, and his organization went national. Bob developed a particular passion for what he calls "the capstone right of the First Amendment": the right of the people to petition their government for redress of grievances. In his presentation to the concerned citizens of New Mexico yesterday, Bob traced the history of this right from the Magna Carta to the Constitution and beyond.
The Magna Carta, which was signed by King John at Runnymeade, England, in 1290 (at the point of a sword), was the document that forced the king to share power and recognize the rights of Englishmen as understood by English Common Law. The English were not about to accept an absolute monarchy which was a violation of their customs and traditions. In the Magna Carta, the redress of grievances is guaranteed thus:
“If we, our chief justice, our officials, or any of our servants offend in any respect against any man, or transgress any of the articles of the peace or of this security, and the offence is made known to four of the said twenty-five barons, they shall come to us - or in our absence from the kingdom to the chief justice - to declare it and claim immediate redress.
If we, or in our absence abroad the chief justice, make no redress within forty days, reckoning from the day on which the offence was declared to us or to him, the four barons shall refer the matter to the rest of the twenty-five barons, who may distrain upon and assail us in every way possible, with the support of the whole community of the land, by seizing our castles, lands, possessions, or anything else saving only our own person and those of the queen and our children, until they have secured such redress as they have determined upon. Having secured the redress, they may then resume their normal obedience to us.” Magna Carta, 1290
(The Royal "WE" is employed here to mean the monarch).
Thus, the great tradition of Court Days, upon which the monarch sat outside in the courtyard and heard the petitions of even the most humble of subjects was born. The American colonists brought that tradition across the Atlantic, and continued to insist upon their right to petition for redress and be answered. In the Declaration of Independence, the Founders justified their separation from England and their right to form a new government upon the fact that King George III and Parliament answered repeated petitions for redress only with repeated injury:
“In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms. Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by with repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is thus unfit to be the ruler of a free people….” Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776
(The capitalizations here are not just quaint colonial fashion, the mark specific concepts coming from the English Common Law).
In the Constitution, the right for Redress of Grievances is the capstone of the First Amendment, a right from which the other First Amendment rights are derived:
“Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, freedom of the press; or the Right of the People peaceably to assemble, and to Petition the government for a Redress of Grievances.” First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, 1791.
This right was cherished by the People of the United States up until 1830. Every Monday, petitioners came before the relevant committees of the United States Congress to air their grievances and receive an answer or the promise of a written response. In 1830, the southern states forced a "gag rule" to shut down the abolitionists, and the use of this right faded. . .
. . . Until 1995. In that year, Bob Schulz and his We the People Congress began a series of Petitions for the Redress of Grievances to all three branches of the Federal Government. These petitions all addressed grievances caused by the violation of the United States Constitution. Such petitions included:
- the violation of the monetary clause by bailing out the Mexican Peso (1995)
- the violation of the Constitutional ban on the direct unapportioned tax on labor (the income tax) (1999, 2000, 2001)
- the violation of Article 4 by use of the USA Patriot Act (2002)
There were many more, and a complete list can be found here.
Although the topics of the peoples petitions are interesting documentation of percieved injury, the content of the answers are not at issue; what is most important is that the government is required to respond, just as the King of England was. And none of the petitions thus far have received a response. No. Response. At. All.
What is a free people to do? As Bob says, "The Constitution does not defend itself." The Federal system of government is not Sovereign; As Alexander Hamilton put it, "Here, Sir, the People govern." It is the people who are Sovereign. And our rights are individual. Every individual has the right to petition and must be answered.
According to the Declaration of Independence, if the government instituted by the people at the consent of governed becomes tyrannical, the people have the right, derived from the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, to dissovle that government and institute a new one that will protect their rights. The rights belong to the individual. They are inherent in the nature of human beings; they are not a gift of government. The government exists only to protect those rights.
What must a free people do? This is the question that the 2009 Continental Congress is intended to answer. It will be a gathering of three delegates from every state in the United States. It is not a Constitutional Convention; it is a Congress at which the delegates, will consider the violations to the constitution by our government, ennumerate them, take note of the efforts of the People to Petition for the Redress of Grievances, and then consider and determine what the next step must be.
At this point, the People must take action to secure their Liberty once again. Taking a page from Ghandi, and Martin Luther King, Bob Schulz and the We the People Organization believes that three things are needed for successful action: it must be proactive, non-violent, and come from a mass movement. Thus the Mission of the 2009 Continental Congress is:
"The Mission of the Continental Congress is to end and reverse violations of the Constitution of the United States of America by educating Americans on the issue of petitions for redress. We will do this by acting in a proactive, non-violent, constitutionally based course of action to restore the original intent of our Founding Fathers for the free people of our Constitutional Republic." (WTPCC Powerpoint, e-mailed from Bob Schulz on March 21, 2009).
Although there will only be three delegates from each state, this movement will need local and state support, because the acts of civil disobedience that will be required as the course of action, can only be successful if a sizeable minority of citizens engage in them.
At our meeting, there came a moment when those who are willing to act to protect and defend the Constitution were asked to stand. The Engineering Geek and I, along with a sizeable majority in the room, did stand. We were mindful of the words of Thomas Paine:
"THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated." (The Crisis, December 23, 1776).
Our founders pledged to one another "our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor" in the cause of Liberty. If we want our children to receive their inheritance of Liberty, the time has come to act. For otherwise, in our old age, we will watch them toiling as indentured servants to the National Debt. It will take generations to pay for the pork and the earmarks, the acts of an irresponsible government at war with reality.