“The Rights of the People” The American Sentinel 5, 24, pp. 185, 186.

June 12, 1890

IT is remarkable how everything in the way of State or legislative action is running more and more to the theory of force. Even now it has reached that stage where it is demanded that the people shall be forced to be religious, forced to be English, forced to be educated, forced to vote, and there is no knowing what next will come, nor where it will end.

By Sunday laws and the Bible in the public school the people are all to be forced to be religious. By such as the Bennett law in Wisconsin the people are all to be forced to be English. By a compulsory voting law Governor Hill of this State, as a leading executive, and David Dudley Field, a leading lawyer, propose that all the people shall be forced to vote.

This theory is subversive of the American principle of government which is the only true principle of civil government. The American principle of government is the principle of rights not force. This Government is a government of rights, not a government of force—a government for protection, not compulsion. “Oh,” it is said “we fully recognize that. We do not propose for an instant to take away anybody’s rights. We simply propose to compel everybody to exercise his rights.” But, the moment that government assumes the authority to compel a person to exercise his rights, that moment it robs him of all his rights. For who is to compel the minority to exercise their rights?—The majority of course. But if the majority may compel the minority to exercise their rights, then that majority have the equal right to compel the minority to exercise those rights as the majority say. Such a proceeding annihilates constitutional government, and substitutes only the government of the mob. The very idea of a constitution is sacredly and safely to guard the rights of the minority against even the slightest encroachment of the majority; whether it be in an attempt to say that any person shall exercise his right, or an attempt to say how he shall exercise it.

Any claim of the right to compel a person to exercise his rights necessarily carries with it the right to say how he shall exercise them. All this compulsion that is now advocated is claimed to be for the good of the State; it is claimed to be essential to the peace and safety of the State; that is of the majority. It would be absurd to compel a person to exercise a right and then leave him free to exercise that right to the detriment of the State. It would be suicidal to compel people to exercise their right to vote and then leave them free to exercise it in such a way as to overturn the power that does the compelling. It is destructive, rather than preservative, of the peace and safety of the State to compel people to rest and at the same time leave them free to hatch mischief. Therefore any claim of right to compel anybody to exercise his rights necessarily involves the claim of right to compel him to exercise them in a certain way. And that is only to rob him of his rights and his freedom altogether.

It is true that force is the only power at the command of a civil goverment [sic.]. But the only proper use that can ever be made of it is for protection. It is not to be used to compel a solitary individual to exercise his own rights; but to compel all to recognize, and not to infringe, the rights of others.

Every person in the United States has the natural right to rest, and to worship, and to be religious, and to speak English; and many of them have the political right to vote. Every person has the right to exercise those rights. And every person has an equal right not to exercise those rights. [186]

Another instance of this same spirit of despotic invasion of the rights of the people, is shown in the act of Congress empowering the Census Bureau to carry on such a political inquisition as to compel the people of the United State to answer such questions as the following:—

22. Whether [he or she is] suffering from acute or chronic diseases, with the name of disease and length of time afflicted.

23. Whether defective in mind, sight, hearing, or speech; or whether crippled, maimed, or deformed, and name of defect.

24. Whether a prisoner, convict, homeless child, pauper.

25 and 26. Is the home you live in hired? or is it owned by the head or by a member of the family?

27. If owned by head or member of family, is the house free from mortgage encumbrance?

28. If the head of the family is a farmer, is the farm which he cultivates hired? or is it owned by him or by a member of his family?

29. If owned by head or member of family, is the farm free from mortgage encumbrance?

30. If the home or farm is not owned by head or member of family and mortgaged, give the post office address of owner.

When Congress, and legislatures, and governors, and lawyers, advocate the compulsory speaking of English, and compulsory education, and compulsory voting, and the compulsory telling of every personal defect and every private disease, it is not so much to be wondered at that preachers should advocate compulsory religion. When Congress voluntarily sets on foot a political inquisition it is not to be greatly wondered at that the political preachers and churches should petition the same body to establish a religious inquisition also.

Every one of these things is an unwarrantable invasion of the rights of the people.

In this Government there are rights of the people, separate from and above both the rights of the States and of the United States. There is such a thing as the rights of the States; there is also such a thing as the rights of the United States; and there is yet further such a thing as the rights of the people. In other words there are State rights, national rights, and personal rights; and each of these is separate from both the others. This is all recognized and expressed in the United States Constitution. The Constitution begins with the words,


Then the Ninth Amendment says:—

The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Then the Tenth Amendment says:—

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or TO THE PEOPLE.

The makers of this Nation understood this question thoroughly; but it is now almost entirely forgotten. When will the people learn once more to recognize, and to assert, the rights of the people?

A. T. J.

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