Indeed it was. The motion introduced in the Second Continental Congress by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia read:
Resolved, That these United Colonies are, and of a right, ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved, from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved; that it is expedient forthwith to take the most effectual measures for forming foreign alliances; and that a plan of confederation be prepared, and transmitted to the respective colonies for their consideration and approbation.
The very introduction of this resolution, so far as the King, the British Parliament, and to tens of thousands of loyalists this side of the Atlantic was concerned was an open act of sedition, the sure fire equivalent of a death sentence to its authors, supporters, and enforcers. Remembering that 3 years prior those who had merely joined hands with the Boston Committee of Correspondence were branded as “atheists,” and “black-hearted fellows whom one would not choose to meet in the dark,” as well as “deluded … atrocious criminals,” and “malignant spirits.” “Traitor” and “death to these devilish traitors” logically came next and did.
But again, what of this charge, “traitor”? A decade earlier, in February of 1766, Richard Henry Lee authored another document, the Westmoreland Resolution, probably the first public and open resistance to the Mother Country. It bound citizens to support “our lawful sovereign, George the Third … so far as is consistent with the preservation of our rights and liberty.” (my emphasis)
Or to put it another way, sedition in a constitutional republic is defined as disloyalty to the Charter or Constitution and the Higher Laws upon which it rests, not disloyalty to any man, group of men, or current administration. If then the King, President, or other government official is fundamentally and/or dangerously at odds with those Higher Laws, criticism and the use of every legal channel of resistance is not treasonous but virtuous. “Rebellion to tyrants,” penned Jefferson, Franklin, and before them John Bradshaw, “is obedience to God.”
This was just as much the case in the last resort of violence, or when every legal channel had been exhausted and a long train of abuses became intolerable.
It is upon this proper understanding of things as they once were in America, and still ought to be, that Thomas Paine wrote in 1776:
But where says some is the King of America? I’ll tell you Friend, he reigns above, and doth not make havoc of mankind like the Royal Brute of Britain. Yet that we may not appear to be defective even in earthly honors, let a day be solemnly set apart for proclaiming the charter; let it be brought forth placed on the divine law, the word of God; let a crown be placed thereon, by which the world may know, that so far as we approve as monarchy, that in America THE LAW IS KING. For as in absolute governments the King is law, so in free countries the law ought to be King; and there ought to be no other.
There is a definite order of things here, the Foundation is God’s law, the structure built upon it, the Constitution (in 1776 the Charter), everything else, executive, legislative, and judicial officers, and the laws they make, enforce, and judge, are to be subservient thereto, and if not, the loyalty of the people flies to the law, not to the usurper or king man or socialist.
As if to put an explanation mark on this point, Paine added:
But lest any ill use should afterwards arise, let the crown at the conclusion of the ceremony be demolished, and scattered among the people whose right it is. A government of our own is our natural right.
Centralized power, and especially a distant centralized power, is too big a temptation for men in power, it tends to make kings, tyrants, even Gods of men, and thus is too big a threat to the whole idea of republican government — and so there ought not ever be toleration of a monarch or anything like unto it. But Paine is also reminding us that whereas the Divine and constitutional Law is King, one of those divine laws is that man should only be ruled by consent.
Why? God made man in his image, endowed him with agency, including various inalienable rights, and in that he forces no man to Heaven, certainly no government has the right to force him into a so-called heaven on earth, even a socialist Utopia.
Which brings us to the current crisis in America.
It is the loyal opposition that resists this betrayal of all that our forefathers bequeathed to us — especially when one recognizes that today’s brand of tyranny (a socialism which has advanced for a century, usually by stealth and gradualism, but of late, boldly and aggressively) is far worse than anything our forefathers faced.
Yet we have more tools to fight back than they had against England: representative government, frequent elections, vertical and horizontal separation of powers (including the unique blessing of federalism), checks and balances, impeachment, the rule of law, a bill of rights (to include freedom of speech, press, religion, assembly, petition, and so forth). The truly patriotic and wise will use these, use them first, use them effectively, use them consistently and persistently, and protect their continued availability with all the vigor of heart and soul and mind they merit.
This then is the best definition of the loyal opposition … to the usurpers in DC. Those who use every constitutional tool in the arsenal to throw the bums out! to restore the limited government and free enterprise system of our forefathers, and to be virtuous and vigilant thereafter. That is enough. Let it be no less.
Steve Farrell is one of the original pundits at Silver Eddy Award Winner, NewsMax.com (1999–2008), associate professor of political economy at George Wythe University, the author of the highly praised inspirational novel “Dark Rose,” and editor in chief of The Moral Liberal.