Pubdate: Tue, 28 Jun 2011
Source: North Shore Sunday (Beverly, MA)
Contact:  2011 GateHouse Media,  Inc.
Author: Steven S. Epstein, Esq., GateHouse News Service
Note: Attorney Steven S. Epstein of Georgetown is founder and an officer
of the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition.


Georgetown - "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men 
are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain 
unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit 
of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are 
instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of 
the governed, - That whenever any Form of Government becomes 
destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or 
to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation 
on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them 
shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

As we celebrate the 235th anniversary of the Declaration of 
Independence, do Americans still "hold these truths to be 
self-evident"? Are they obeying the laws of Congress, state 
legislatures and municipalities because they are just and "binding in 
conscience" as Thomas Aquinas wrote over 700 years ago, or because 
most people wish, as he also wrote, "to avoid scandal or disturbance"? 
That is, obedience obtained by fear of punishment.

The challenge for imperfect humans is to elect to power those humans 
that, as legal scholar Randy Barnett in "Structure of Liberty" notes, 
"respect the "bounded individual discretion" or liberty that is 
essential to the pursuit of happiness, peace, and prosperity." When 
legal commands do not "bind in conscience," he agrees with the 
Declaration that resistance, secession or revolution are justified.

Resistance can take many forms. As noted in the Declaration it can 
take the form of humble petitions for redress to those in power and to 
our fellow citizens, in the founders' case their "British brethren." 
It can take the form of civil disobedience of unjust commands by 
destruction of property as happened at the Boston Tea Party, or 
refusing to go to the back of the bus, like Rosa Parks. Resistance 
does not have to be public. That there are scores of millions of 
cannabis consumers in this country and untold thousands supplying them 
establishes that a significant number of Americans do not feel bound 
in conscience to obey the prohibition.

At times in our history jurors resisted unjust laws by withholding 
guilty verdicts against persons accused of disobedience. This 
phenomenon began in England in the 17th century. Following colonial 
jurors' exercise of this power, Parliament passed laws "depriving us 
in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury," an injury complained 
of in the Declaration.

When the colonists' "humble" petitions fell on the deaf ears of a 
rapacious king and Parliament they resisted by secession and 
revolution. They instituted new forms of government established by 
written constitutions intended to constrain the foibles and faults of 
human "rulers" and establish government based upon the principles of 
justice and the rule of law, including frequent elections intended to 
replace the violence inherent in secession and revolution.

In the United States and Massachusetts of the 21st century, secession 
and revolution as means of resistance are impracticable if not 
impossible in response to abuses and usurpation that now burden the 
people with a $14,000,000,000,000 debt. Only one means of resistance, 
other than civil disobedience with its risk of punishment, remains to 
the patriot, voting out those in power who, although they may be well 
intended, reject the self-evident truths that the signers of the 
Declaration of Independence did "mutually pledge to each other our 
Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."

The usurpations that redistribute wealth to: individuals deserving of 
individual acts of charity; to corporate interests deserving of only a 
level field; and, the ever-increasing number of government employees 
do not create prosperity. They are naked bribes by those in power to 
those who benefit to vote to maintain the status quo. As John Adams 
writing as Novanglus warned in 1775:

"Nip the shoots of arbitrary power in the bud, is the only maxim which 
can ever preserve the liberties of any people. When the people give 
way, their deceivers, betrayers, and destroyers press upon them so 
fast, that there is no resisting afterwards ... The revenue creates 
pensioners, and the pensioners urge for more revenue. The people grow 
less steady, spirited, and virtuous, the seekers more numerous and 
more corrupt, and every day increases the circles of their dependents 
and expectants, until ... vanity, luxury, foppery, selfishness, 
meanness, and downright venality swallow up the whole society."

As the next municipal, state and national election approaches, you 
have time to study the conception of justice and the rule of law 
described by Professor Barnett in the tradition of John Locke. 
Adherence to these self-evident principals will restore legitimacy to 
government in city halls, town halls, Boston, and Washington and bring 
prosperity to the nation.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.