“Toland,” one of the regular “commenters” on this blog, posted the following comment. I replied. Both comments appear towards the end of one of my recent articles where they’re not likely to seen by many more readers..
On reflection, I think this pair of comments deserve to be posted as an article to ensure that they’re seen by more readers:
Searching the internet for info on this William Blackstone you mention, a few results from this very blog turned up. Someone in November of 2013 was, like you are now, asking fellow commenters for a dictionary definition of “sovereignty” that’s consistent with supposed “individual sovereignty” in American law.
Also, like you are now, this commenter was asking the “individual sovereignty” campaign to square their notion with Blackstone’s definition of sovereignty as “the making of laws”.
Sure ’nuff this commenter in 2013 got back a combination of complete silence, attempts to change the subject, and fancy song-and-dance routines in reply – but not one responsive answer.
So we see that a conspicuous hole in the “individual sovereignty” campaign is its inability to make sense in terms of any definition of “sovereignty” found in a law dictionary.
The flaw is that fundamental, take note. Though it’s possible this is considered a problem only in the “real world”, where facts and law matter.
First, who is the beloved “commenter” of A.D. 2013 who was so shockingly abused back in A.D. 2013? It wasn’t you, Toland. According to WordPress, your first comment on this blog was in February of A.D. 2014. Please say the “secret name” of the A.D. 2013 “commenter” and, time permitting, I’ll look up his comment to see what he said or asked.
Second, in the past several years, I’ve written and published 1,717 previous articles on this blog. If I spent my time reading and responding to every comment, I would probably have published no more than 500. I don’t have the time, inclination or obligation to respond to every comment posted on this blog. Don’t imagine that my failure to reply to any comment on this blog is evidence of the comment’s brilliance and overwhelming strength of their arguments.
Third, I agree that the fundamental power of the sovereign is to make laws. According to Article 6.2 of the Constitution, the Constitution is the “supreme law of the land”. Given that the Constitution is the “supreme law of the land,” it follows that the “author” of the Constitution must be the “supreme sovereign of the land”. Who is the author/authority that enacted and established the Constitution? Not Congress. Not the presidency. Not the courts. The author/authority behind the Constitution was, and is, We the People.
The only question is whether We the People in the sovereign capacity of: 1) a multitude of individual sovereigns or, 2) as a single sovereign “collective,” when We ratified the Constitution in A.D. 1788 in conventions (not by State legislatures or any other agency of established government) held in each of the States of the Union.
The answer to that question can be inferred from Noah Webster’s A.D. 1828 Dictionary which was published just 40 years after We the People authorized the Constitution. That was certainly one of America’s earliest dictionaries and was probably America’s first dictionary.
Wikipedia describes Noah Webster as follows:
“Noah Webster, Jr. (October 16, 1758 – May 28, 1843), was an American lexicographer, textbook pioneer, English-language spelling reformer, political writer, editor, and prolific author. He has been called the “Father of American Scholarship and Education.” His blue-backed speller books taught five generations of American children how to spell and read, secularizing their education. According to Ellis (1979) he gave Americans “a secular catechism to the nation-state.”
“Webster’s name has become synonymous with “dictionary” in the United States, especially the modern Merriam-Webster dictionary that was first published in 1828 as An American Dictionary of the English Language. He was one of the Founding Fathers of the nation.
My copy of Webster’s A.D. 1828 Dictionary includes the word “collective” as an adjective and as an adverb, but does not define “collective” as a noun. The failure to define “collective” as a noun implies that there was no such thing as a singular, political “collective” (in the sense later seen in communism, socialism, and democracy) before A.D. 1828.
Given that that: 1) the essence of sovereignty is the capacity to make laws; and 2) We the People ratified and thereby “authorized” the Constitution in A.D. 1788; it follows that 3) We the People acted in a sovereign capacity when we authorized the Constitution in A.D. 1788.
Given that the Constitution is declared to be the “supreme law of the land,” it follows that We the People must’ve acted in the capacity of “supreme sovereign(s) of the land” when we authorized the “supreme law of the land”.
It appears to me that We the People could’ve acted only as: 1) a multitude of individual sovereigns acting in conventions (rather than through governmental legislatures, etc.) or 2) as a single sovereign “collective“–when we ratified the Constitution.
If so, it seems inexplicable that Noah Webster (one of the Founding Fathers, political writer, student of language) 40 years after the Constitution was ratified, published America’s first authoritative dictionary and neglected to define the word “collective” as a noun. Note that he did defined “collective” as an adjective and as an adverb, but not as a noun. The word “collective” was not overlooked or accidentally omitted. Only the the noun “collective” was omitted. If the American people had acted as a “collective” (noun) when they ratified the Constitution in A.D. 1788, how is it possible that Noah Webster failed to define that term in his A.D. 1828 dictionary?
If the American people had truly acted as a “collective” when they ratified the Constitution, they would probably have been the first nation to have ever done so. Wouldn’t America (rather than Karl Marx) therefore be the “father” of collectivism and thus communism, socialism, and democracy? We would certainly want to take credit for coining the words “collective” (as a noun) and “collectivism” since we invented them as part of our radical, new system of government–and because those terms were therefore fundamental to our political system.
Alas, Noah Webster neglected to define the noun “collective” in A.D. 1828.
Gee, I wonder why? As one of the “Founding Fathers,” he certainly should’ve known if Americans had acted as a “collective” when they ratified the Constitution. If we’d been the first collectivist nation, doncha think the facts and law would’ve compelled Webster to explain the radically-new use of the word “collective” as a noun, and its completely new, radical definition to the American people?
If the People had truly acted as a “collective” when they ratified the Constitution, don’t you think that Noah Webster would’ve been aware of that fundamental fact of the American Revolution? Don’t you think that Noah Webster would’ve defined the noun “collective” if such existed in A.D. 1828, let alone A.D. 1788?
And yet, 40 years after the Constitution was ratified by the People, Websters didn’t bother to define “collective” as a noun. How odd, hmm?
The fact that Noah Webster (a “Founding Father”) failed include the definition of the noun “collective” in his A.D. 1828 Dictionary (and, so far as I know, never corrected that omission) is powerful evidence that when We the People acted in our sovereign capacity to authorize the Constitution (“supreme law of the land”) we could not have acted as a “collective” (because such concept did not even exist in that era). That leaves only only possible sovereign capacity in which We the People could have ratified the Constitution–as a multitude of individual sovereigns.
So, while you argue that there’s “a conspicuous hole in the ‘individual sovereignty’ campaign [that is] its inability to make sense in terms of any definition of ‘sovereignty’ found in a law dictionary,” how do you explain the even bigger hole in the “collective sovereignty campaign”—the complete omission of the noun “collective” from Webster’s A.D. 1828 Dictionary?
I don’t yet know when the word “collective” was first used as a noun. I suspect that Karl Marx (A.D. 1818-1883) is responsible for devising the concept of a political “collective” somewhere between A.D. 1850 to A.D. 1870—several decades after the Constitution was ratified and Noah Webster published his dictionary. There’s a good chance that the word “collective” was not defined by anyone as a noun until at least a half century after We the People enacted the “People’s Law” we call the “Constitution of the United States”. That’s evidence that We the People could not have acted as a sovereign “collective” (noun) when We ratified the Constitution. Instead, it’s evidence that We the People must’ve acted as a multitude of individual sovereigns when We the People authorized the “supreme law of the land”..
So, Toland, how does that argument square up with your “real world” where only “facts and law matter”?
P.S. Those of you who argue in favor of the idea that this country started with the people acting as a single, political “collective” (noun) are collectivists cut from the same cloth as Marx, Engles and the former Soviet Union/ “Evil Empire”. Our government and the New World Order would be proud of you. The Founding Fathers would be appalled. Hitler would applaud your foolish usefulness. Our Father YHWH ha Elohiym would probably be less supportive.