Sovereign Citizens – Walk Like a Citizen, Talk Like a Citizen, Guess What… You’re Not Sovereign.
I’m seeing more-and-more about the phenomena called “Sovereign Citizens”. People subscribing to this theory assert that the government is not something that can compel one to follow its laws, pay its taxes, or otherwise claim legitimate authority over an individual. As a result, one would attempt to claim their rightful place in the hierarchy of authority, and call themselves sovereign citizens. Many of the followers employ a number of tactics to divest themselves of government control and act within their sovereign prerogatives. They will create their own ID’s, license plates, courts, and official documents. Many of the followers base their sovereignty on biblical principles. I believe sovereign citizens fail on a number of levels, but agree with the basic premise that in essence, people are the true authority over government. However, in many reports about sovereign citizens we see commentators and officials impugning the sovereign citizen movement because it fails to acknowledge or accept equal claims of sovereignty by government. We will examine this and determine just whose claim of sovereignty is legitimate.
The main questions we have to examine here are:
1.) What is sovereignty?
2.) Who is sovereign?
3.) Is government superior to the individual?
4.) Do people have a right to deny government authority?
There are many definitions of sovereignty. The word itself has been used in a number of ways from the ancient Greeks to modern political theorists. I won’t touch on all of the ways sovereignty has been used, but I’ll look at the relationship between the individual and the State, and competing claims of sovereignty. Here are two examples of how sovereignty is defined:
1. The word “sovereign” is defined in the 6th edition of Black’s Law Dictionary, published in 1990, as being, “A person, body, or state in which independent authority is vested; a chief ruler with supreme power; a king or other ruler in a monarchy.” Prior to the War for American Independence, the British king was the sovereign and the American people were his subjects. The war’s outcome changed all this:The sovereignty has been transferred from one man to the collective body of the people – and he who before was a “subject of the king” is now “a citizen of the State.” – State v. Manuel, North Carolina, Vol. 20, Page 121 (1838)
It will be sufficient to observe briefly, that the sovereignties in Europe, and particularly in England, exist on feudal principles. That system considers the prince as the sovereign, and the people as his subjects; it regards his person as the object of allegiance… No such ideas obtain here; at the revolution, the sovereignty devolved on the people; and they are truly the sovereigns of the country, but they are sovereigns without subjects… and have none to govern but themselves… – Chisholm v. Georgia, Dallas’ Supreme Court Reports, Vol. 2, Pages 471, 472 (1793)
2. The supreme, absolute, and uncontrollable power by which any independent state is governed; supreme political authority; the supreme will; paramount control of the constitution and frame of government and its administration; the self-sufficient source of political power, from which all specific political powers are derived; the international independence of a state, combined with the right and power of regulating its internal affairs without foreign dictation; also a political society, or state, which is sovereign and independent.
The power to do everything in a state without accountability, –to make laws, to execute and to apply them, to impose and collect taxes and levy contributions, to make war or peace, to form treaties of alliance or of commerce with foreign nations, and the like.
Sovereignty in government is that public authority which directs or orders what is to be done by each member associated in relation to the end of the association. It is the supreme power by which any citizen is governed and is the person or body of persons in the state to whom there is politically no superior. The necessary existence of the state and that right and power which necessarily follow is “sovereignty.” By “sovereignty” in its largest sense is meant supreme, absolute, uncontrollable power, the absolute right to govern. The word which by itself comes nearest to being the definition of “sovereignty” is will or volition as applied to political affairs.
We see constant references made to the “state”, and its ability to make and enforce laws. This brings two things to mind. From where does the state originate, and where does it get its authority? The state is not a thing that comes into existence by an act of nature. It has not existed since the beginning of time, and is not self-perpetuating. Many articles make reference to the state, as though it were an omnipotent and self-aware entity that could compel allegiance and dispense punishment. The state cannot exist without people. People are not, by nature, compelled to be a member of, or otherwise recognize, the state. People must first recognize it, desire to associate with it, and choose to observe and obey it. It can be said, that without people the state is just an abstraction, and in its fundamental sense, the state is nothing but people acting collectively in a political fashion, but possessing no inherent or natural authority over any other who does not choose to likewise participate. For instance, the word sovereign/sovereignty is used in the Federalist Papers 93 times.
I will quote from one of the first Supreme Court cases in Illinois, which in my opinion is one of the most oppressive and corrupt states in the union, but from a time when the court recognized the source of political power as being that of the individual:
“What is ment by the term constitution as applied to government? It is the form of government instituted by the people in their sovereign capacity, in which first principles and fundamental law are established. The constitution is the supreme, permanent and fixed will of the people in their original, unlimited and sovereign capacity, and in it are determined the condition, rights and duties of every individual of the community.”
“From the decrees of the constitution there can be no appeal, for it emanates from the highest source of power, the sovereign people. Whatever condition is assigned to any portion of the people by the constitution, is irrevocably fixed, however unjust in principle it may be. The constitution can establish no tribunal with power to abolish that which gave and continues such tribunal in existence. But a legislative act is the will of the legislature, in a derivative and subordinate capacity. The constitution is their commission, and they must act within the pale of their authority, and all their acts, contrary or in violation of the constitutional charter, are void.
An act of the legislature is different, and if it contravenes the constitution, no repetition of it can render it valid.” – Justice Samuel Lockwood, Phbe. V. Jay1 Ill. 268, December 1828
It would appear that Justice Samuel Lockwood was espousing many of the same sovereign citizen rhetoric we see today. It is not so absurd to view people as sovereigns, since before there can be a state there must be people who draft a constitution which creates that state, and in order for the people to have that ability they must first be free of any duty, allegiance, or submission to another authority, thereby placing them in a position of sovereignty to create a state. It would also follow that should the state move against the people, in violation of the powers enumerated to it by the people through the constitution, the people have the power and right to alter the state or abolish it. In doing so, it is not necessary to take physical measures to rail against that which has become so big, oppressive, and violent; it is merely that the people refuse to further support, obey, or acknowledge the state. It can be said that the state exists only as long as people support, obey, and acknowledge it.
Now remember, as Justice Lockwood said, it is the “people in their sovereign capacity”, not the citizen. For one to be a citizen there must first be a state for which to apply that citizenship. Citizenship is a political condition, not a natural one. Once the state, an un-natural thing deriving its existence from natural people, is created the people then relate to it through their citizenship. People cannot interact with un-natural things. Citizehship is that condition by which people relate to the thing they created. Claiming to be a sovereign citizen is to mix two conditions, natural and un-natural, one beholding to nothing and the second beholding to a political body.
To quote from this article from canadafreepress.com, the writer aptly states:
Under the Articles of Confederation, which preceded the Constitution as the foundational document and framework of organization of the United States, stated categorically in Article II, Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence. Nowhere in the Constitution is this retention of inherent sovereignty surrendered. The so-called sovereignty clause found in Article Six of the Constitution obviously gives precedence to the laws and treaties made by the Federal government it does not however expressly say anywhere in the document that the States surrendered or forfeited their inherent sovereignty. If it had it never wouldve been ratified. As expressly stated in the 10th Amendment neither the States nor the people surrendered their sovereignty to the Federal Government, they delegated it. There is a difference between these two actions. To surrender is to give entirely and irrevocably to another while delegation is a temporary action based upon continued agreement between the parties involved.
Another strong argument can be made that since all governments are the products of a social contract between those who govern and those governed sovereignty ultimately resides in the people and governments are therefore merely agents of the peoples will. According to this line of thought all governments wield delegated powers and can have no more power in and of themselves than the moon has light without the sun.
Amendment is the only legitimate process for change under the Constitution. If the design calls for a decentralized diffused sovereignty in an asymmetrical system how was change achieved from that to the current system of highly centralized power and control? Was it by amendment or practice? Is it possible for an illegitimate practice to become a legitimate tradition? Is it possible for an illegitimate tradition to set a legitimate precedent?
All of these historically based academic discussions aside and for all intents and purposes the argument about who is sovereign was forever settled by Abraham Lincoln. When the South attempted to secede, an action not prohibited by the Constitution they were beat back into submission to the Federal Government. Debate over. Question answered. The Federal Government is supreme. However, though this is the reality of our circumstance since the Civil War this is a reality imposed through the use of military force not to be confounded with the original condition based upon the voluntary agreement between the people, the states and the national government in Constitution.
For years this question of who is sovereign has see-sawed back and forth. Today the Progressives and their two headed government party seek to make the exaltation of the central government permanent. If this stands unchallenged, America has devolved from the defused model established under the Constitution to a centralized version reminiscent of its original absolutist definition. If this new normal is enshrined as reality it will become increasingly obvious as States strive to assert their rights and people seek to preserve their freedom. For if the central government is now absolutely sovereign it will eventually crush all rivals. If the people are sovereign, in time theyll find their voice, reassert their power, re-establish the federal system, and return to the social contract as ratified in the Constitution.
As the writer points out, it was ultimately the use of force, in contravention of the Constitution which formed the United States Government, and which concordantly breathed life into the office of Mr. Lincoln’s presidency, that laid to rest the question of whether the States retained, or relinquished, their sovereignty when forming the union. It was this force, violent, destructive, blood-spilling force, wielded by Mr. Lincoln which subdued the rebellious south and “saved the union”.
Let’s now look at two recent mainstream stories regarding the sovereign citizen movement and how it is described. One is from ABC News and the other from Vegas News Review. The ABC News story was titled, “Sovereign Citizens: Radicals Exercising ‘God-Given Rights’ or Fueling Domestic Terrorism?“. The Vegas News Review story similarly was titled, “Sovereign Citizens – American citizens or domestic terrorists?” Notice how there is a recurring reference to “domestic terrorism”. This is the light being cast upon sovereign citizens. If someone wishes to remove themselves from the government, then that government implies they are engaging in domestic terrorism.
Quoting from the ABC News story:
Sovereign citizens are a loosely-organized collection of groups and individuals who believe they are both above the law and “true defenders of the Constitution.”
They follow their own set of rules and many refuse to pay taxes. The movement’s followers believe, in large part, that the existing government in the United States is illegitimate and needs to be “restored.” Many sovereigns refer to themselves as “patriots” or “constitutionalists.” Driver’s licenses, license plates, and insurance are not required, many sovereign believe, going as far as making their own identification badges and gun permits. Some members are known to turn violent against law enforcement and are notoriously hostile towards the media.
Federal government officials describe sovereign citizens as an “extremist anti-government group” and the FBI is concerned about members of the group becoming more violent, accusing them of “comprising a domestic terrorist movement.”
Quoting from the Vegas News Review story:
SCs are a growing group of radicals who claim no allegiance to the government and its rules, laws and representatives. They have their own mishmash of gibberish they consider laws that they follow and enforce, sometimes with deadly results. In the United States, over 100,000 have dedicated themselves to the cause of Sovereign Citizenry with another 200,000 involved in one way or another.
Bear in mind, that the American political system is a bottom-up model,where monarchy was a top-down model. Kings and princes were placed on par with God on earth. They were accountable to no one, and their authority was without question. After the American Revolution, which resulted from people being tired of the abuses of monarchy, they felt it best to leave power with themselves and delegate only what they felt a government would need to secure their safety and happiness, never surrendering their sovereignty, but endowing the newly created State with power which rendered it as a sovereign power against all other powers that would lay a claim to govern or subjugate the people. It can be said that the Founding Fathers were, in a sense, sovereign citizens. They too, were radicals who claimed no allegiance to government or its rules, laws, and representatives. Both articles seem to be describing the very men who overthrew the shackles of monarchy and formed the United States of America.
Truth be told, I claim no allegiance to the government nor follow its rules, yet, I am not a sovereign citizen. I do not consider myself to be a citizen of any political body. I fail to find one worthy of my allegiance or participation. The current system of government we have before us is violent, thieving, and oppressive. I am, in the words of Justice Lockwood, sovereign. I have unlimited power to do as I see fit with the self-imposed limitation that I do not transgress upon the like-rights and sovereignty of others. I am not extremist in any sense other than I regard myself as the only authority over my life. Government, on the other hand, could be viewed as extreme in that it believes it has power to pass and apply laws to anyone it wishes, tax their labor, and imprison or kill them for failing to obey. Who is the extremist?
Both stories fail because they rely upon the presupposition that the United States Government is legitimate, and has the legitimate authority to do the things it does. Likewise, they fail to recognize the the source of governmental power, the people, and their right to “alter or abolish” the government. There is a very strong inference that the government, as now constituted, exists of its own volition and has plenary authority over everything. I won’t waste time here going tit-for-tat over everything the government says about sovereign citizens also applying to actions of government. However, for every negative aspect of sovereign citizens, there are equally and more heinous actions taken by government but it gives itself a pass because it is our master. Enough said.
So, if the people are sovereign and create a government which has limited power and uses that power in a way not intended or agreed upon by some citizens of that government, then when reclaiming their rightful place and exerting their sovereignty, why would they emulate or take on the characteristics of that government? If you are sovereign, why would you need to issue drivers licenses, license plates, and other official documents similar to those issued by government? If you are sovereign, then you need no license or plates on your vehicle. They cling to the notion of the “republic”, when the republic is a political body that required allegiance and surrendering some of your sovereignty.
Sovereign citizens exhibit many of the same tendencies people using such theories as the “Strawman“, or “Redemption Process” espouse. Again, these are people claiming to be sovereign, yet resorting to an amalgamation of convoluted machinations found in government. If I am sovereign, I have no court, no official currency, and need for licensure. I cannot sue since civil procedure and remedies are a product of a government, and I renounce that government. It’s like canceling your membership to the YMCA, but claiming some divine right to go there and swim because no one has the right to confine hydrogen and oxygen in a pool and away from everyone else. In essence, sovereign citizens exhibit many of the same characteristics as government, but they do not agree with the government when it does those very things. They rebel against government issued license plates and legal processes by creating their own license plates and legal processes.
The ABC News story makes reference to the sovereign citizens being “defenders of the Constitution”. Why would someone want to defend the Constitution when, as Lysander Spooner said, “But whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain – that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case, it is unfit to exist.” People in the sovereign citizen movement, the patriot movement, and other movements hold the Constitution in almost ecclesiastical reverence. They don’t realize that every action taken by government, upon which they disagree, is justified by government as originating with the Constitution. As a matter-of-fact, it is not even their constitution to defend. The Supreme Court has even commented that people in the States, have no claim to the Constitution. The case is Barron v. Mayor & City Council of Baltimore – 32 U.S. 243 (1833), and the court said:
The question thus presented is, we think, of great importance, but not of much difficulty. The Constitution was ordained and established by the people of the United States for themselves, for their own government, and not for the government of the individual States. Each State established a constitution for itself, and in that constitution provided such limitations and restrictions on the powers of its particular government as its judgment dictated. The people of the United States framed such a government for the United States as they supposed best adapted to their situation and best calculated to promote their interests. The powers they conferred on this government were to be exercised by itself, and the limitations on power, if expressed in general terms, are naturally, and we think necessarily, applicable to the government created by the instrument. They are limitations of power granted in the instrument itself, not of distinct governments framed by different persons and for different purposes.
So, you see, the Constitution has no connection with individuals in the States. It stands apart as a source of political power. The respective States have their own constitutions, written by the sovereign people belonging the the political body creating such, but each retains their sovereignty. A body of people cannot draft a constitution that then binds people who do not consent to be ruled the ensuing laws. It is not majority rule. If such were the case, we could dispense with constitutional formality and just have people voting to what to do to whomever. There is a fundamental issue of law which supersedes even government and constitutions. The sovereign citizens call this “God’s law”.
As with anything, when you limit or define rights as deriving from something, you run the risk of deciding who interprets those laws or rights. The majority of sovereign citizens are Christian, therefore, it can be implied that if someone is not Christian they do not acknowledge your rights if, even though similar, derive from a deity not of the Christian persuasion. Likewise, they refer to biblical principles in justifying or supporting their position. What if someone does not find any legitimacy with the Bible, or worships in accordance with the Quran? As with government, religion can be just as tyrannical.
In my opinion, individuals are sovereign, for lack of a better word. We are born into this world with all the power, rights, and abilities we will ever possess. There may be enormous disparity in circumstances or opportunity by which to exercise such, but we possess them regardless. People are not created alike with physical attributes, but no one has any right to determine how or by what means another may try to make the best life they can for themselves. Government, tasting the blood of the ignorant and apathetic, becomes more aggressive, until some point it takes on a life of its own, manned by armies of supporters, bureaucrats, agents, and subjects who twist and bend so-called laws for the conquest and subjugation of other people, many of whom do not consent nor agree with that government. Do people have a right to rebel? Of course they do. However, successfully executing that rebellion is another thing to be considered. Being right does not make you successful.
Do I disagree with sovereign citizens? I find the term oxymoronic. I agree with people abandoning government and functioning in their own society without interference from anyone else. I find it pointless to emulate that which with you disagree. I fail to see how one can claim to be sovereign, and yet, be a citizen. If you are going to take the step to be sovereign, then do it and do it totally. I find the two stories referenced to be nothing but propaganda against a growing movement of people who have had it with this government, and who are at a loss for expressing their ultimate displeasure and no other recourse for asserting their sovereignty. Both stories presuppose the legitimacy of government and discount the source of its power. Government causes more harm under claimed sovereignty than citizens do, and government does it offensively where the sovereign citizens do it defensively. The government acts as an aggressor causing people to scramble for a defensive position, and having been indoctrinated in government schools, are left with limited options.
If you are truly free and sovereign, then just act like it. The government is not a behemoth immune to being dismantled, but it must be done individual-by-individual. It must rot and crumble from within, because it prepares its defenses for assaults from without. It has no control over you, other than what you provide by surrendering your mind to it. As the support weakens, the more vulnerable it becomes to, not bullets, but ideas. I recommend reading this article I previously posted. It is a very good analysis of the nature of governmental power. You do not need to take up arms against the tyrant, you only need to resolve to serve no more. That is the nature of true sovereignty.
Tracking the Sovereign Citizen Buzz on the Net.
Piedmont man faces charges in Pickens County burglary possibly tied to domestic terrorism group
The sovereign citizen movement, in all its various forms, poses a clear threat to the safety of our community because its an attempt to disengage from the rules which govern everyone, said Pickens County Sheriff David Stone. A person who fervently believes that he is not subject to the law, and can essentially dictate his own law, is potentially very dangerous. In result, theres not much difference between that type of individual and a jihadist who follows a radical form of Islam. In both cases, their belief structures convince them that what they are doing is right, regardless of the effect on society as a whole.
I would differ that the current rules govern “everyone”. Government clearly sets special rules aside for itself, indemnifying or absolving its actions, even when those actions “affect society as a whole”. But you see, government sets the rules to preserve its order, and not that of society. The government fervently believes it is not subject to the law because they dictate their own law. Government is that threat to society because when society finds its own rules for peaceful intercourse government intervenes claiming some overriding necessity to keep us safe or level the playing field. Police kill with relative impunity provided the killing could be justified as an officer being in fear for his safety, but let an individual kill a police officer, even in self-defense, and badges come from miles around to support “their” fallen brethren, as if they stand apart from the rest of us. Sure, to me, sovereign citizens are either misguided, ignorant, or opportunistic bottom-feeders using the same rules as bottom-feeding government bureaucrats to use a system for intimidation and theft.
Schaeffer Cox takes stand to detail when deadly force is justified
The only time that the use of force is morally justified is to stop someone from hurting you, Cox said from the witness stand, prompted by a question from his attorney. The use of violence to protect your family is morally justified. The use of violence to promote your fancies is not…
I do not know much about Schaeffer Cox, but aside from his sovereign citizen position and common law courts, I admire his tact. I believe he falls short of the philosophical mark about the illegitimacy of government in-general, but we’ll see how the jury takes to his charm. All things considered… good luck Mr. Cox.
Excerpt: Knezovich joined SWAT team negotiators because self-proclaimed sovereigns typically recognize the sheriff as the highest law enforcement authority, he said.
Commentary: I posted the following response to the story:
I’m concerned more about the government extremist mentality posting comments on this story. As usual, delusional sycophants supporting government power chime in to justify some illusory authority superior to the individual rights or people.
Sovereign citizen arguments fail on many levels, but what fails worse is government’s claim they have any natural or a priori sovereign right over individuals, which is not true.
I wrote at length on Sovereign Citizens and the concept of individual sovereignty trumping government’s claims of sovereignty. http://wp.me/p1uj3C-Ai
People are sovereign, citizens are not. That said, there is no obligation or duty for people to obey everything malignancy called “law”that flows from the legislative pens of thugs and usurpers. Of course, being violence incarnate, will resort to terrorism and violence in order to suppress any notion that people are superior to government and strike fear in the contemplative rebels.
This government has payback coming and it is moving now to further establish itself as the parens patriae for every human being who inhabits the soil within its fictitious boundaries.
People need to begin resisting and disobeying en masse, and overwhelm this corrupt system and shine the light on murderous police and despotic judges. Most people, who are by nature cowards and predisposed to following whatever edict passes the lips of their keepers, will blindly follow any man in in authority in placing the collective boot upon their neighbors necks.
This is just the beginning, and otherwise good men and women serving the Leviathan had better reconsider where their allegiance lies.