In my recent video presentation “Adask on Sovereignty,” I argued that the Founding Fathers created a nation where each of the people were deemed to be an individual “sovereign”. That individual sovereignty was achieved by virtue of having received our “unalienable Rights” from God—as declared in “Declaration of Independence”.
I supported this argument, with text from the A.D. 1793 Supreme Court case of Chisholm vs. Georgia which declared in part that after the American Revolution, the American people became “sovereigns [plural] without subjects”.
If my argument is right, We the People are individual sovereigns and the government is our public servant. If my argument is wrong, We the People are subjects and the government is our master. The argument is important.
In the aftermath of the first article (“Adask on Sovereignty”) a number of readers disputed my argument based on the fact that the Supreme Court also described the people are “joint tenants in the sovereignty”. According to these readers the definition(s) of “joint tenants” prove that the Supreme Court did not declare the people to be individual “sovereigns” (plural) but instead confided all sovereignty to a single “collective” of which we are each a member, but only as subjects—never as sovereigns.
For example, here’s a comment from “Martens” claiming that all sovereignty is “collective” rather than “individual”.
“Indeed, the Supreme Court’s use of “joint tenants” in Chisholm v. Georgia makes it a slam-dunk that they considered sovereignty to be collective, not individual.
“The term “joint tenancy” expresses the essence of collective ownership. The court did not have to use such emphatic language. The fact that they did must be significant.
“As worthy as Prof. Adask’s contributions can be, saying a man having unalienable rights implies he is individually sovereign is a non sequitur.”
Well, here’s “Prof. Adask’s” response:
Martens, I’ll see your “non sequitur” and raise you one “ipso facto” and two “e pluribus unum’s”.
“Indeed, the Supreme Court’s use of “joint tenants” in Chisholm v Georgia does not make it a slam-dunk that they considered sovereignty to collective rather than individual.
Our dispute is based on a single, critical sentence in Chisholm v Georgia that reads:
“No such ideas obtain here; at the Revolution, the sovereignty devolved on the people; and they are truly the sovereigns of the country, but they are sovereigns without subjects (unless the African [2 U.S. 419, 472] slaves among us may be so called) and have none to govern but themselves; the citizens of America are equal as fellow citizens, and as joint tenants in the sovereignty.”
I read the Supreme Court’s meaning in that single sentence to be that:
1) The people “are truly the sovereigns [plural] of the country”.
2) The people are “sovereigns [plural] without subjects”.
3) There are no subjects in this country with the possible exception of “African slaves”.
4) The people “have none to govern but themselves” and therefore appear to be “self-governing” rather than subjects of some ruler or government.
5) The people that were expressly described twice in the same sentence as “sovereigns” (plural) are additionally described as “joint tenants in the sovereignty”.
For our current dispute as to whether the people are individual sovereigns (plural), the critical points are #s 1 & 2 (the people are “sovereigns” (plural)) and #5 the people are “joint tenants in the sovereignty”.
If there’s one “slam dunk” in that single sentence, it’s the fact that the Supreme Court twice described/defined the people as “sovereigns” (plural) and thereby made clear that each and every one of the “people” is deemed to be a sovereign. I see no way to avoid that conclusion.
But, according to some of you, the definition of “joint tenants” that’s also used in that same sentence proves that, actually, despite having twice expressly declared the people to be “sovereigns” (plural), the Supreme Court contradicted itself in the very same sentence to also declare that the only sovereignty was a singular collective.
At first glance, there appear to be two possible explanations:
1) Your understanding of the meaning of “joint tenants in the sovereignty” is correct—and the Supreme Court’s definition for “joint tenants in the sovereignty” is wrong.
2) Your understanding of the meaning of “joint tenants in the sovereignty” is wrong—and the Supreme Court’s definition for “joint tenants in the sovereignty” is wrong.
Having read Chisholm v. Georgia, I’d say that the author(s) of that decision are not only fluent in the English language but also capable of applying serious logic. It’s not impossible, but it’s extremely unlikely that all of the several members of the A.D.1793 Supreme Court used a mistaken definition of “joint tenants” and thereby overlooked the alleged “fact” that they wrote a contradiction in the critical sentence. I.e., it’s almost impossible that those several members of the court unwittingly declared that the people are, and then are not, individual sovereigns in the same sentence.
But let’s assume that those idiots (who couldn’t possibly understand the meanings of words as clearly as some of you do), did, in fact, contradict themselves in the very same sentence. (What dolts, huh? Thank goodness we have some really smart guys on this blog who can correct the Supreme Court’s errors.)
Let’s assume that the Supremes did declare in the same sentence that: 1) each of us is an individual sovereign; and 2) the only sovereign is a collective (none of us are individual sovereigns).
OK—that would mean we have a contradiction: two mutually exclusive statements of which only one can be true.
Contradictions aren’t like matter and anti-matter what annihilate each other whenever they collide. When we have a contradiction, the next question is which of the two contradictory statements is true? At first glance, either might be true, either might be false. But whichever one is false does not defeat or annihilate the one that is true.
On the face it, if we have a contradiction, why decide or choose to believe one statement rather than the other?
For me, I choose to believe that the Supreme Court (having twice expressly declared that the people were individual “sovereigns“) meant that statement more clearly and forcefully than they meant (by the single use of the term “joint tenants”) that the people were not individual sovereigns.
More, the Supremes (in that single sentence) not only expressly declared twice that the people are “sovereigns,” the also implicitly said the same thing a third time when they declared that the people were “without subjects“. If none of us are subjects, then all of us would appear to be “sovereigns” (unless government devised a third classification for the people as “animals”—but I’m not getting into that argument here).
Plus, I choose to believe that the Supreme Court intended to declare each of us to be an individual sovereign because, by doing so, I advance my own interests, as well as the interests of every other American, in Liberty.
● You, Martens, on the other hand, seemingly choose to believe your definition of “joint tenants” proves that it’s a “slam-dunk” that the only American sovereignty is that of a collective and therefore no individual is or can be a sovereign.
But if that’s true, how do you explain the fact that England, France and Spain each had one individual “sovereign” (a king) and all others within each kingdom were deemed to be subjects? Are you arguing that all of the European monarchies were actually collectives long before our “Declaration of Independence”?
If that’s your argument, I guarantee it won’t stand. No one will believe that European monarchies were collectives. And therefore, no one is going to believe that modern, constitutional collectives (of the sort seen in the former Soviet Union) existed prior to the American Revolution.
One the other hand, if you’re not arguing that all of the European monarchies were collectives prior to the American Revolution, then you imply argue that the American Revolution created the world’s first modern collectivist society. If so, you implicitly argue that Thomas Jefferson et al were closet communists who created a collectivist government here in the USA long before Karl Marx was even born.
Did America’s first real flag contain a hammer and a sickle? Were Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and George Washington the real authors of the collectivism that we came to call communism and socialism? If so, why is it that Marx, Engels, Trotsky, Lenin and Stalin never claimed Jefferson et al as collectivist/communist “saints”?
Could it be that you and others who argue that it’s a “slam-dunk” that America’s only sovereignty has, from the beginning, been that of a collective—are the first geniuses to see that America has been communist from the git-go? If so, somebody better alert the Nobel Prize people because you guys are due for a medal.
● In choosing to argue that America’s sovereignty was collectivist from the beginning, you implicitly concede that we’re all subjects who must accept the rule of our governmental masters. You deny that we ever were or could be free from government tyranny. You also imply that the American Revolution did nothing to improve the political and spiritual condition of the American people; that all we did was swap one sovereign King George for another sovereign collective—but that We the People never gained any freedom or Liberty and remained subjects then, now and forever.
You leave us with no hope for anything more than a world where might makes right.
● If you really believe that we’re all subjects in a collective, why do you waste your time hanging out on a blog like this? If your argument about “joint tenants” is right, this blog is more or less crazy and no “good little American” (subject) would waste his time reading the anti-government articles and comments that we post here.
You’d be better off joining the Obama Youth, get yourself a bright red kerchief and learn to goosestep with pride.
So, I really wonder why, Martens, that you and others choose to believe an argument that is contrary to your own freedom and Liberty? Are you simply that ignorant? Are you self-destructive? Are you so pessimistic and/or depressed that you refuse to believe that any hope of Liberty is the least bit rational? Do you have some other ulterior motive?
● All of these questions and the analysis in this comment are premised on the notion that your understanding of the meaning of “joint tenants” is superior to that of the Supreme Court of A.D. 1793.
But is that premise reasonable? Can we easily believe that a man who posts occasional comments on a blog understands language and definitions better than several former Supreme Court judges of A.D. 1793? Isn’t it at least more likely that after having first asserted or implied three times in the same sentence that the people are individual sovereigns, that the Supreme Court did not use the term “joint tenants” in a way that did not contradicted the first assertions?
● And finally, was there really a contradiction in that single sentence Chisholm vs. Georgia?
The Supreme Court expressly referred to “sovereigns” (plural) twice (and once more by implication). And then, in the same sentence, they referred to “joint tenants in the sovereignty” (singular).
Note that the court didn’t simply say that the people were “joint tenants”. They said the people were “joint tenants in the sovereignty”. On the one hand the court is talking about several sovereigns, on the other, a single “sovereignty”.
Are you sure that the “sovereigns” (plural) and “the sovereignty” (singular) signify the same subject?
Sovereignty runs in levels. There’s a hierarchy, a pecking order, of sovereignty. In the English law form, God is sovereign over the universe; the king of England is subject to God but sovereign over all the government apparatus of England; the government is subject to the king, but effectively sovereign over all the English subjects.
As originally envisioned by the Founders, the American hierarchy of sovereignty ran like this: 1) God is sovereign over the universe; 2) the people are subject to God but sovereign over all other earthly things including their governments; and 3) the original state governments created by the people are subject as public servants to the people but sovereign over no individual because (according to Chisholm vs. Georgia) there are no American “subjects”. This hierarchy of authority was the basis for “land of the free,” “American exceptionalism” and the idea that a man’s/sovereign’s home was his “castle”.
Each lower level of sovereign receives its sovereignty from its immediately superior sovereign. (Confusing, hmm?)
What I’m trying to explain is that God the sovereign grants certain “divine rights” to one individual and that individual thereby becomes the singular sovereign (king) over all others in his monarchy. That king can grant certain rights and powers to his “government” and while that government remains subject to the king, it also becomes sovereign over the remainder of “subjects” in the kingdom. Unless expressly granted by the king or his government, the subjects have no measure of sovereignty. The government has more sovereignty than the subjects. The king has more sovereignty than the government. And God has the ultimate sovereignty over all. But there are several subordinate levels of sovereignty.
Therefore, I believe that when the Supreme Court repeatedly referred to the people as individual “sovereigns,” the Supreme Court was almost certainly referring to the people as the individual “sovereigns” who were directly under the sovereign God and superior to whatever governments the people created. The people became earthly “sovereigns” because God had endowed them with “certain unalienable Rights”.
I suspect, however, that when the Supreme Court continued in the same sentence (in Chisholm v Georgia) to describe those people/individual-sovereigns as “joint tenants in the sovereignty,” they were referring to the (singular) sovereignty of the State that had been created by the people.
More, although the “State” created by the people was a fiction, it was not a collective. According to Chisholm vs. Georgia—the same case at the center of our dispute over individual versus collective sovereignty—we read,
“By a State I mean, a complete body of free persons united together for their common benefit, to enjoy peaceably what is their own, and to do justice to others. It is an artificial person. It has its affairs and its interests: It has its rules: It has its rights: And it has its obligations. It may acquire property distinct from that of its members: It may incur debts to be discharged out of the public stock, not out of the private fortunes of individuals. It may be bound by contracts; and for damages arising from the breach of those contracts. In all our contemplations, however, concerning this [2 U.S. 419, 456] feigned and artificial person, we should never forget, that, in truth and nature, those, who think and speak, and act, are men.”
In other words, the fact that our “State” may be an “artificial person” does not change the nature of the people who comprise that “State”. Each and every one of the people remain as “men” of the very same sort first mentioned in the “Declaration of Independence” when it declared,
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are [each] endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among them are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
No earthly collective exists or can exist that recognizes that its members possess certain unalienable Rights that, being God-given, are superior to the rights, powers and sovereignty of the fictional collective. God-given, unalienable Rights and a collective cannot coexist. They are anathema One or the other must perish.
As a man made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-28) and endowed by my Creator with certain unalienable Rights (“Declaration of Independence”), I can’t be lawfully deemed a member of, or subject to the alleged “sovereignty” of a collective.
If enough other “men” would understand their status as individual sovereigns and then stand up and present the legal foundations for the status in public forums, I hope and believe that this entire country might move away from the collectivism that’s killing the world and return to the “individual sovereignty” that offers us all a chance at prosperity, Liberty and service to our ultimate sovereign: God.
● Just as God created the people and then gave them “certain unalienable Rights” and those God-given rights rendered the people individual sovereigns, the people subsequently granted some of the rights and powers that had been given them by God to the people’s creation: the government. In doing so, the people granted some limited portions of their own sovereignty to the government. But they did so for limited purposes only.
Unfortunately, our government doesn’t want to be a “limited sovereign”. Government does not want to be the people’s public servant; it wants to be their master. It wants to be the whole “sovereign”; the singular sovereign; the only sovereign; the one “god” on earth.
For me, that’s the foundation for the tyranny, despotism and police state that we currently resist.
For me, the easiest, most righteous and potentially least violent way of attacking that current tyranny is to cause the American people to remember and understand that they are sovereigns and government is therefore their public servant rather than their master.
Chisholm vs Georgia’s repeated declarations that we are each individual “sovereigns” supports me in that attack.
Those who advocate collectivism impede my attack.
I regard all who advocate collectivism as adversaries.
I regard all who advocate collectivism as desirable or simply inescapable with contempt.
I therefore deny that, as Martens wrote, “saying a man having unalienable rights implies he is individually sovereign is a non sequitur.” I am instead convinced that understanding that our unalienable Rights flow from God is the key to our individual sovereignty and to defeating the purported authority of the modern police state.
By doing so, I believe I may be “hacking at the root” of our problem.
This is no game. I’m serious.
You should be, too.
I believe that the issue of individual sovereignty is critical and close to the heart of the spiritual warfare that’s going on within The United States of America—and probably around the world.
P.S. You might suppose from this article, that I’m pissed at “Martens” for challenging my notions on individual sovereignty. Well, you’d be right. It does piss me off. But only a little. Mostly, I’m grateful to Martens because he’s forced me to defend my notions in a way that’s forced me to consider my argument in greater depth.
For example, until I wrote this article, I didn’t realize that the Supreme Court had expressly declared the people to be “sovereigns” twice, and then made that same declaration a third time by implication in the same sentence. I’d read the sentence before . . . several times . . . but I hadn’t picked up on that repetition.
There are other instances where I learned a great deal by responding to Martens’ original critique.
I’ve even learned to recognize a one or two weak links in my argument that will have to be reinforced in the future. There are a couple of points where I don’t quite know how to express myself. However, over time, I have no doubt that I will learn how to do so.
The more I write, the more I learn.
Martens made me write.