Mr.President, Pardon Me, but Constitutionally You Have No Absolute Right to Do So


Part I- By God’s endowment, no human government has any “absolute” rights

The Declaration of Independence epitomizes the premises of government in light of which the people of the United States first formally assembled their organized powers of government (the State governments) to assert, as one nation, their God-endowed right of self-government (liberty). They successfully battled forces of the British monarchy to vindicate this assertion during the Revolutionary War. But the loose confederation of the States that triumphed in that war threatened to fail at the task of maintaining their union. Experiencing the symptoms of this impending failure, the representative governments of the States sent delegates to a convention establish an instrument of government for the nation that would “form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty” to the people of the United States and their posterity.

During the discussions and debates that took place at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, delegates to the convention often alluded to the principles for which Americans risked their all during their war for independence. They clearly strove to make sure that the government of the United States would not expose the people of the United States to the unjust abuses of power that forced that war upon them.

To describe such abusive government, they use words like tyranny and despotism. What both conveyed, at the core, was the consolidated influence of power in the hands of one individual or group of individuals, such that no other individual or group could adequately constrain their action. Hence the words of the Declaration, which said that:

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Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

The foregoing thoughts, including the above quoted passage from the Declaration of Independence, came to my mind recently when I read a story that featured the following tweet from President Donald Trump:

Given the premises of the American Revolution, no government or official at any level of government in the United States can claim “the absolute right” to do anything in consequence of the delegated powers vested in the office they hold. The British monarchy’s bid for “Absolute despotism” was the proximate cause of the Revolution. If, as a people, we Americans have now reached the point at which the claim of absolute right or power from anyone but God himself is not met with opposition from every respectable quarter of our body politic, then the understanding of liberty required to maintain our self-government as a people has surely gone extinct. We are ripe for whatever species of despotism wins the race to re-enslave us and our posterity.

Now, as a matter of fact I cannot say that President Trump’s words, insofar as they make a claim of power, are simply false. But I do say that as a matter of “right” (which is the word he uses), they are not only false, but ought to be offensive to any American who still even faintly remembers the first cause of our existence as a people. “Absolute right” is the term associated with absolute monarchy. It announces the government’s claim to be as God in respect of the people, with the absolute freedom to dispose of them and all their belongings (including their children) to whatever degree its superior power permits.

Because they have been miseducated to assume that empirical science is, in all cases, the rubric of truth, many Americans fall prey to the belief that factual truth is all the only truth that matters. But, as I have pointed out before, if factual truth is the only truth, even the most outrageous experiments in evil cannot be proven false until after the fact. But who in their right mind believes that moral judgment against the Nazi attempt to exterminate Jews and other “undesirables” had to wait until the passage of generations could disprove Hitler’s assertion that it such purification of the Volk would allow Germany, and indeed the whole human race, to flourish

It was no mere coincidence that the United States was the lynchpin of the effort to defeat Nazi absolutism. The moral premises of our founding forged us into the perfect instrument to represent the decent conscience of all humanity, whom our actual identity as a people was already well its way to representing. As a nation we looked to premises of justice that gave ground to the decent endeavors of people of every race and kind. Most Americans looked to Christ as the instructor of their moral will. So, we were conscientiously inclined to extend the gospel of true liberty, defined and guided by God’s endowment of right, to people from every nation on earth.

But, by the same token, we were inclined to oppose people from every nation who rejected “the laws of Nature and of nature’s God”, beginning with the commandment of love that moves us to extend the love God showed us to all those others He is willing to save through Jesus Christ. Since, through Christ, God enjoins us to teach people of all nations, we cannot assume that all the people of any nation are to be exterminated because they are “common and unclean.” In and by God they may be cleansed, as we are, by communion with God, in the body of Christ.

Though we followers of Christ too rarely reflect upon it these days, the command to teach and instruct people of all nations limits our right to govern them according to our whims. This is the very thought that led many Americans to oppose slavery before the Civil War. Christ made it repeatedly clear that only hearts freely given are truly given to God and Christ. People driven to profess the faith by fear or any other such compelling inducement, do so in vain. If and when anyone deprives people of the sense of personal responsibility freedom requires, they interfere with God’s purpose of salvation.

The tyrants and despots of the world are therefore stumbling blocks. They litter the path of salvation in Christ with obstacles and pitfalls into which people are haplessly driven by the unjust goads of abusive power. Such goads enslave the subjects of evil to fear, lust, greed and all the vain ambitions wicked tyrants use to bind people to do their evil will.

The Bible (Psalm 2:2-3) speaks of the kings of the earth and the rulers who:

Set themselves…against the LORD and against His Christ, saying, Let us break their bonds asunder and cast away their cords from us.1

Human rulers who assert the “absolute right” to use a government power as they choose thus discard the government of God, whose laws remain the permanent standard of right for all Nature, including human nature. No matter what power they can factually wield, human rulers whose acts disregard the God-endowed standard of right abuse their power. People who are bound, in Christ, to respect God’s standard are thus obliged, by His authority, to oppose them. For, in respect of God’s authority, Christ’s example enacted the rule, “Not my will but thine be done”—even unto death (e.g., Christ’s death on the cross.) (Follow this link to Part II, appearing later this week at


1 It’s worth noting that the Latin root of the English word absolve is abolvere from ab “off, away from” + solvere “to loosen, untie, release, detach”. Thus, though the English word has the sense of consolidating human power, it has overtones that refer to being released from all constraints by any other power, including, given the Christian understanding of many of America’s founding generation, the supreme power of the Creator, God.

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.

Once a high-level Reagan-era diplomat, Alan Keyes is a long-time leader in the conservative movement. He is well-known as a staunch pro-life champion and an eloquent advocate of the constitutional republic, including respect for the moral basis of liberty and self-government. He has worked to promote an approach to politics based on the initiative of citizens of goodwill consonant with the with the principles of God-endowed natural right.

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