Sunday, July 10, 2016

Local Officials Must Protect Citizens from Federal Tyranny

By James Wilson

Most world governments have historically given way to tyranny when allowed to seize too much control over their people. However, American citizens, accustomed to unprecedented freedom, will only endure a “long train of abuses” for so long.
Language of Liberty
When the federal government behaves more like a king and master than a servant by plundering fundamental rights through unjust laws, decrees, or bureaucratic policies, it is the duty of state and local officials to stand against it.

For this very reason, America’s Framers established the essential principle of “dual jurisdiction.” According to the 10th Amendment, the bulk of governmental authority is retained at the state and local level, making local authorities the last line of defense against a federal government run amok.  In contrast to the tyranny of a monarchy, which deals directly with the people, a more stable form of government was established; one that “derives its just powers from the consent of the governed.” 

Representation from the grassroots up –not solely from the top down- is essential for maintaining liberty and stability.
Yet this system of checks and balances will only work if state and local officials have the necessary honor and backbone to enforce it.  Anarchy will naturally occur when the people’s representatives fail them, forcing citizens to defend themselves from a system bent on absolute control.

In today’s culture, we are intentionally led to believe that we must obey an “all-powerful” federal government unconditionally.  Nothing could be further from the truth. Because this absurdity is rarely challenged, we are easily deceived into believing that we have no choice but to comply with all manner of assaults against liberty. Contrary to popular belief, it is those elected at the LOCAL level who represent our last, peaceful line of defense against unlawful federal encroachment.

This memorable quote from America’s Revolution explains why the principle is so essential: “Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God.” 

Or as Martin Luther King referred to illegitimate power grabs, “An unjust law is no law at all."

In his book “The Doctrine of Lesser Magistrates,” Matthew Trewhella explains that a government in which local magistrates protect the people from the cruelty of lawless rulers was not a new idea in 1776.  America’s Framers attribute the basis for “dual jurisdiction” to examples woven throughout Biblical accounts and specify these same principles detailed in the Magna Carta. The principle of “dual jurisdiction” is woven throughout our Republican form of government and was established for the primary purpose of protecting the rights of the American people from injustice and tyranny at the hand of their own government.  

The legendary tale of Robin Hood was inspired by the true account of King John’s unjust and immoral acts against the people of England. The cruelty ended only because the Christian noblemen of the day interceded on behalf of their fellow citizens. These noblemen acted in much the same capacity as our modern-day state and local officials. The Magna Carta (1215) ultimately ended the reign of evil King John and served as a cornerstone for the U.S. Constitution.

When an unjust law, decree or policy is imposed by a federal authority, local elected officials must make a choice to either submit to that authority’s abuse of the people, or stand in opposition to the injustice in order to protect their fellow citizens. But this takes courage.

Were the noblemen in 1215 afraid of coming against the tyranny of evil King John and his henchmen on behalf of their countrymen? 

Do we think for a minute that the Continental Congress –the people’s layer of protection from the tyranny of King George- was not mightily concerned about the prospect of war against the British military, the most powerful empire on the globe?

Did Hebrew midwives–responsible for the safety of Israel’s innocent newborns- fear for their lives when they refused Pharaoh’s heinous demand to kill all male Hebrew infants?

What about Daniel who defied King Darius and prayed anyway, spending the night in the lion’s den?

Of course! All of them were afraid. Their refusal to obey meant certain execution. But they were honorable men and women of courage, more intent upon obedience to God and the future freedom of others than submission to evil tyrants.

Sometimes resistance to tyranny comes at a high personal cost. However, the duty rests with all citizens, beginning with local officials, who must recognize when federal employees have overstepped their authority. Local authorities are then duty-bound to intervene on behalf of their fellow citizens.  And this pertains to ALL locally elected and appointed officials, from the school superintendent to the governor. When duty is neglected, social instability results and can eventually deteriorate into anarchy. It is then that citizens are left with no choice but to defend their own fundamental rights.

Given decades of federal abuse of individual liberty, the duty of local authorities to defend their fellow citizens must become America’s new norm. Citizens must understand their Constitution rights in order to know when liberty is under assault. It is then that they must demand their elected officials stand firm on their behalf.

The American people are responsible for electing only those who are serious about upholding their oath of office to protect and defend liberty. Few elected officials are able to muster this kind of courage, yet it must be a requirement for holding public office, especially in this day of blatant federal overreach. Otherwise, candidates need not apply for the job. 

The Language of Liberty series is a collaborative effort of the Center for Self Governance (CSG) Administrative Team. CSG is a non-profit, non-partisan educational organization, dedicated to training citizens in applied civics. The authors include administrative staff, selected students, and guest columnists. The views expressed by the authors are their own and do not reflect the views of CSG. They may be contacted at

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