My Liberty Tree series "Coup in the courts" is a study of the 1796 Supreme Court case Hylton v. United States, which challenged a tax imposed on carriages. It was previously only available by looking up the individual newsletters. But now, thanks to the efforts of Fellowship member Mike, it can now be viewed in this consolidated form. Hats off to you, Mike!
Ah, blessed spring. That time of renewal, when our lawns start growing again, trees start budding, and flowers start blooming. The time, they say, when young men’s thoughts turn to love. But along with these pleasant things, the thoughts of many also inevitably turn to taxes, as the April 15 deadline for filing dreaded 1040 returns — those self-confession forms that the government insists we are required to file every year — looms once again. And I’m not immune to those thoughts of taxes either; I’m just prohibited by an unconstitutional infringement on my right to free speech — that dastardly federal injunction against the Fellowship — from discussing income taxes. So, this month I’m going to talk a little about some other taxes that come to mind as April rolls around.
I was recently reading through the comments for an internet article discussing the situation in Syria, where people protesting against the government are being brutally attacked by that same government. It comes as no surprise that Syria is no more tolerant of those who don’t bow down to their every edict and whim than is the United States (or any government, for that matter). The discussion centered somewhat on the relative severity of the responses from the two governments, with the comparison on the U.S. side being the shooting of unarmed war protesters at Kent State University by National Guard soldiers on May 4, 1970. Some commentators denounced the comparison because while it was regrettable that a couple of people were shot in Ohio, Syria was using tanks against their protesters. Now there’s no question that tanks are an escalation over rifles, but it got me thinking about whether Kent State was really the best example of the U.S. government abusing its citizens.
April 19th is Patriots’ Day, because on that day in 1775 was fired the “shot heard ‘round the world” — the shot attributed with starting the War for Independence in Lexington, Massachusetts. In recent history however, Patriot’s Day has taken on other significance.1 On that day in 1995, the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City was blown up, purportedly by Timothy McVey in retaliation for the 1993 massacre in Waco, Texas. And that is the example that came to my mind when thinking about governments using tanks against their own people.
In the last few Reasonable Action newsletters, we discussed how our Constitutional rights are being systematically dismantled by our courts, especially the Supreme Court. In this article, we will illustrate one of the methods by which this is done. It is intended to show not only the progressive nature of this oppression, but also that the Justices are aware of what they are doing. To that purpose, a great deal of this article will be direct quotations from the opinions rendered in a case decided by the Supreme Court on May 24, 2004, Thornton v. United States (541 U.S. 615). This case is available on the internet1 for anyone who wants to read the decision in its entirety. To minimize confusion, direct quotations from the opinion will be shown indented and in italics, and internal citations are often omitted.
According to the background given of the case, a police officer (Nichols) in an unmarked car suspected Thornton of something (of what was never stated) because he believed Thornton was purposely trying not to pass him on the road. His suspicions aroused, Nichols pulled off so Thornton would have to drive by, and then ran a check on his license plate. He discovered the plates were not registered to the car Thornton was driving, and so decided to pull him over. Before he could do that, however, Thornton parked his car, got out, and began walking away. Nichols pulled in behind him, got out, and approached Thornton, who, according to the officer appeared nervous, was sweating, and began rambling and licking his lips.
A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. - U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights, Article 2
In the wake of the recent shootings in Connecticut, the public’s attention is drawn once again to the right of the people to keep and bear arms. And as always, the response of tyrannical governments to such crimes is to further restrict law-abiding citizens from owning and carrying firearms. Surely everyone can understand that the existence of laws prohibiting criminal behavior is an effective means of preventing such behavior. One need only look at the statistics on murder, for example, to see how well that theory works. Indeed, that theory doesn’t even hold true for Congress itself, since the 2nd Amendment — the supreme law of the land — makes it illegal to infringe on the right of the people to keep and bear arms, and yet, even as you read this, Congress is busy trying to enact all sorts of infringements on that sacred right.
The Declaration of Independence recognizes that our lives are a gift to each of us from God, our Creator. Every person thus having an inalienable right to his or her own life, it naturally follows that no other person can have a right to take it from us. Therefore, in order to preserve and secure our lives, the right to prevent such a taking is an inherent component of our right to life. And so, we come to the first reason why our right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed: because every infringement of that right, by hindering us in defending our lives, is equally an infringement of our right to life.
In the February 2010 and March 2010 issues of Liberty Tree, the analyses of compelled testimony, the federal immunity statute (18 U.S.C. § 6002) and their relationship to the exercise of one’s Fifth Amendment right centered on the 1972 Supreme Court case Kastigar v. United States (406 U.S. 441). The question decided in that case was “whether the United States Government may compel testimony from an unwilling witness, who invokes the Fifth Amendment privilege against compulsory self-incrimination, by conferring on the witness immunity from use of the compelled testimony in subsequent criminal proceedings as well as immunity from use of evidence derived from the testimony.”
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