Constitutional Position on Liberty and Property - RR258C6

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Professor: Rushdoony, Dr. R. J.
Title: Constitutional Position on Liberty and Property-Delivered 1966
Course: Course - Critiquing Americas Fads, Myths, and Heresies
Subject: Subject:Conversations and Sermons
Lesson#: 12
Length: 0:41:43
TapeCode: RR258C6
Audio: Chalcedon Archive
Transcript: .docx Format
Neglected Lectures from the Sixties and Seventies, Critiquing Americas Fads, Myths, and Heresies.jpg

This transcript is unedited. It was:
Archived by the Mt. Olive Tape Library
Digitized, transcribed, and published by Christ Rules
Posted by with permission

[Introducer] {?} and so with that, I would like to introduce the Reverend Rousas John Rushdoony to speak on the topic of Liberty & Property.

[Rushdoony] The relationship between liberty and property is a very vital one in biblical faith and in American history. One of the battle cries of the patriots prior to and during the American War of Independence was “Liberty & Property!” Unfortunately, we know very little about their relationship because most current treatments are thoroughly evolutionary in their perspective. Thus, if you were to do any research in this field and go to a university library, you will find that virtually every treatment, in fact all treatments of the subject of property do not deal with its relationship to liberty, and they are, moreover, evolutionary. Thus, because they are evolutionary, they see property as a late development in human history. It is their opinion that man, as he emerged and evolved out of the animal state first of all, moved in a pack, and the prima hoard was communistic, and there was a communistic possession by the pack of all property, of all women, of all food, and only gradually, as some individuals, by brute force, set themselves apart from the group and asserted their individual rights as against the others, did private property emerge.

As a result, in this perspective, private property represents something that is an unhealthy development and a break of someone with brute force, superior to the others, from the pack. This then, is the standard approach to property. It is well to add that this standard approach has lately suffered a body blow, in that recently studies of animals show that animals are not socialistic or communistic, that the two characteristics of animals that most set them apart socially are first, that animals have a strong sense of territoriality or property. Every animal has his own particular hunting ground which no other animal dare trespass on. Every bird has his own particular branch, or a particular portion of a yard which he controls, and no one had dare trespass on that territory, no other bird of the same species, so that a strong sense of property characterizes all animals. [00:03:33]

Second, a very strong sense of status, or position

Second, a very strong sense of status, or position, characterizes animals. Pecking order, in other words, so that in every animal society, there will be an animal at the top and an animal at the bottom, and an exact rank all the way down the line. Thus, the old thesis has been pretty well exploded. The old thesis was based upon studies of caged animals, and caged animals are not, of course, animals in their natural atmosphere and habitat, but these evolutionary approaches were all futile. They are irrelevant to our study, because the founders of the United States were Christian. Their basic perspective was Christian. They had never heard of the doctrine of evolution. They knew the Bible backwards and forward, and they were trying to establish a concept of society and of property in terms of the Bible.

As a result, they took very seriously the biblical laws with respect to land. Now, as we study the biblical laws with respect to land that the basic premise of all biblical law with respect to land is that land represents man’s liberty and is immune to taxation. No taxation, therefore, of real property, so that a man could withdraw in to his house, if he were living in town, or to his farm if he were living in the countryside, and as long as he could produce food enough to live on, no one could take away his property. The only kind of taxation that was recognized was the taxation of increase. That is, of production.

As a result, in all of the American colonies, without exception, because they established by men who were seeking to establish a Christian order, there was no taxation of property. The thesis of all of them was that a man’s home is his castle. When taxation came in in 1646, it was an increase, or production, tax, not a land tax. [00:06:24]

When finally, in some areas prior to the War of Independence

When finally, in some areas prior to the War of Independence, taxation of land came in, just in a few areas of New England, taxation was kept on the local level where the local people could control it, but even after the establishment of the Constitution, there was no taxation of real property except in a few areas, and it was not until after the Civil War that most of the South began to tax real property. Indeed, one of the things that the Continental Congress, in its first session, in its first meetings, was greatly concerned about, was the claim of Parliament to the right to tax in these areas, and in 1774, the delegates felt that property should be free from seizure and taxation. They insisted that questions of life and property were local concerns, and they had no intention of submitting to or “confessing the omnipotence of Parliament, and acquiescing in whatever disposition they might think proper to make of their lives and property.” In an appeal to Quebec, October 26, 1774, to join with them in the War of Independence, they asked, “What can protect your property from taxing edict and the rapacity of necessitous and cruel masters?” The property tax, when it came in, and it came in slowly and most slowly in the South, was mostly trusted to the county, and the county was established from the beginning as the basic unit of government in the United States. You are not taught this now a day, and the school, streets, the county government is horse and buggy government. Every educator today virtually is bent on bringing the county in disrepute, but the county is the basic order in American government. Your criminal law is county law. Your civil law is county law. Your property tax, which is the basic tax, is again a county tax, and to attack the county government is to attack the foundation of America. As late as 1921, James M. Beck, solicitor general of the United States, stated that “to the framers of the Constitution, the principle of local rule was their central concern, and so the Constitution was written to prevent the federal government from interfering with its basic government of the United States: county government. [00:09:48]

Now, to understand the relationship of liberty and

Now, to understand the relationship of liberty and property, and the county, let us analyze its basic nature. First, the county as it taxes property, has the basic tax in its hands, a tax by real property owners, on themselves to maintain local self-government, is the foundation of county government, and to surrender this right to tax property to any other body is to surrender self-government, because if the right to tax property goes to the local community where you at least have a closer relationship to the government where it is easier for you to control it, then your property can be taxed from the state or from the federal government, and you can be wiped out and you are helpless to do much about it, but you do have a measure of real control when it is in the hands of the county.

Thus, this is the basic tax. It keeps basic power close to home.

Second, the police power rests in the American system on local foundations, on the county, and on the property tax. Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as a police outside of the United States. Scarcely a country in the world, apart from America, that has a true police. There is no such thing as a police force in the Soviet Union, and anyone who tells you differently is trying to fool you, or is ignorant themselves. All they have in the Soviet Union are secret agents of the state who can move in anytime, and without any charge or rescue, and army troops stationed in barracks in every community, and these army troops, without any kind of training, simply patrol the streets in jeeps, or march two by two, and when they see something suspicious, they shoot. [00:12:30]

Moreover, these army men, these troops, are regularly

Moreover, these army men, these troops, are regularly moved around. They are never left long in any community because they don’t want them to have local roots. You only have a true police when it rests on the local foundation, property, for its financial support and is responsible to no other body but to the local supporting body. The framework of reference of our American police is the protection of local life and property. They are supported by the property tax of the local property owners. They are responsible only to the local property owners to protect their life and property. They have no national or political reference or responsibility. Although the police are in uniform, they are non-military. They are civilian body, and most important, the police power is a citizen’s power, not a state or county power. The police power is the citizen’s power. It is the power of the property owner to defend his life and property, and when he hired the local police, he is not giving them any power but his own power, so the police do not represent the state government. They do not represent the federal government. They do not even represent the county. They represent the property owner. It is a citizen’s power, delegated without surrender to a locally-controlled and created agency supported by the property tax. This is important. Every other power that you have as a citizen in government is delegated with surrender. Thus, when you elect someone to represent you in the country government, in the state government, and in the federal government, they go there and vote for you. You cannot vote. You cannot vote in the board of supervisors, the state legislature, or congress. You delegate that right by surrender, and you can only exercise it by surrender. The police power is the one power the citizen has that he can delegate without surrender. He has the right of civilian arrest. He is himself a policeman. This is his historic and American, Christian right, and if you go back to the law of God, as declared through Moses, you will find that the individual property owner has the right to defend his property, and to kill someone who trespass under certain circumstances only. In other instances, if he killed without provocation, and during the daytime when he could arrest the man, then he was guilty of manslaughter, but the Bible clearly defended the right of the local person to defend his right to life and property. In other words, in the Bible, every property owner had a police power. This was written into the American system. This is your right, the one right you have that you do not surrender by delegation. [00:16:53]

Unfortunately today, none of our schools teach you

Unfortunately today, none of our schools teach you what your right is here, and with good reason. They are not Christian schools. They are statist schools and the state does not want you to know what your rights are. The state wants you to know what the state’s rights against you are. So, the state in educating you and in educating your children today talks about all the things that the government, or the state, can do to you, not what you can do.

As a result, virtually all citizens in the United States are ignorant of the civilian right of arrest. It is a right which is exercised, of course, under law, as is every right in the American system. But, the policemen also can only exercise that right for you under law. he is, like yourself, at all times, under law, and he exercises his police-delegated power under law. The police power, therefore, is the citizen’s right of self-defense., and every time there is an attack on the police, it is an attack upon your right of self-defense, and in every government that has gone statist, socialist, they have begun first of all, by taking away from the citizens their right of self-defense. In England, they did two things some time back in order to make possible the centralization of power in Parliament. First, they took the right of police power away from the citizens and put it in Parliament, so that all the English police now are under Parliament, not under the local community. Second, they disarmed the citizens and they disarmed the police. They give you all kinds of nonsense about they the English Bobbies are disarmed. The truth is they were disarmed, just as the civilians were disarmed, because the stated wanted to control all power, and today, the English citizen has no right of self-defense. This is true of most citizens the world over. It is true, for example, in Australia. Today, they are advertising in California for sharpshooters to go down to Australia, to shoot kangaroos because they are a nuisance to the ranchers. A young man can make $700 a month going down there, with expenses paid, to shoot kangaroos, because the Australians don’t know how to use guns. They are not permitted to use guns, and you cannot take an Australian who has grown up without the use of guns, even if he’s been in the army and used them for awhile, and make a sharpshooter out of him. An army sharpshooter is not a real sharpshooter, western style. A real sharpshooter is one who’s grown up with a gun, knows how to use it, and on a snapshot{?}, can hit a target that he sees only for a second. An army sharpshooter can take his time and shoot at a stationary target, and to a western sharpshooter, that’s a joke. [00:21:04]

Most of the world today is disarmed

Most of the world today is disarmed. Even the soldiers in most of the armies by the way, are disarmed. In the Soviet Union today, when the army troops patrol the streets, they are given just a limited number of bullets; three usually. When they return from their patrol, they must either surrender the three bullets, or the three empty cartridges. If they don’t make a full accounting, they are in trouble. They are not even trusted, therefore, with more than so many bullets at any given time, and must account for every one, and there’s signs that this may soon be true with our army.

The police power therefore, is the citizen’s right of self-defense, and to create a total state. I could go on at greater length with respect to the police power, and local self-government. Those of you who are interested in pursuing the subject further can read my book which will be out in a week or so, The Nature of the American System. I have an entire chapter in The Nature of the American System on localism and the police power, but to continue, third, citizenship in the United States is impossible without prior citizenship in a state and a county. You cannot be a citizen of the United States without holding a triple citizenship. You become a citizen of the county of Los Angeles, and that makes you a citizen of the state of California, which makes you a citizen of the United States. So you hold a triple citizenship, and the most important, the basic aspect is the citizenship in the county, because this is what gives you a right to be a citizen in the other two units. There are variations in the voting rights, we’ll come to that subsequently, and there are variations sometimes in the requirements of citizenship in these three units, but the present trend increasingly is to destroy the primacy of the county in determining citizenship, but historically, the local property owners, through their self-government, determined the grounds under which a man was citizen of their county, and therefore, a citizen of the state, and a citizen of the federal union. [00:24:26]

Fourth, suffrage or voting has similarly been subject

Fourth, suffrage or voting has similarly been subject to three sets of regulations; federal, state, and local, with different requirements. In many states to this day, it is possible to vote in state and federal elections, and not to have the right to vote in a county election. Why? Because there are restrictions on voting rights in the county and they are restricted to the property owner. I lived, for example, in one state in which, at election time, there were two ballots. One for me because I was living in a [?] and I was not an owner of real property and another one for those who were owners of real property. I could not vote on county measures that affected taxation and property, which was proper and just. From the beginning of the United States, this was the rule. Since about the Civil War, it has been steadily disappearing, but originally, no one could vote in any county who did not own real property. He could be a multi-millionaire, but if he did not own a home or land, he could not vote. Some states also required that you own property. For federal elections, since the federal government had no relationship to property, there was no property requirements, but every county, since it rested on the property tax, required that you owned property to vote. Those of you who are interested in pursuing the study of this question and the beliefs of Americans of that day concerning it can read James Fennimore Cooper The American Democrat, in which he says it is unreasonable to give the right of voting in the county to anyone who is not a property owner. You’ll find additional data on Cooper’s book and quotations from it in my work, This Independent Republic.

At the time of the Civil War, one writer in Europe remarked, “Man proclaims politically that private property is abolished as soon as he abolishes the property qualification for the vote. Is not private property as an idea abolished when the non-owner becomes legislator for the owner? The property qualification for the vote is the ultimate political form of the recognition of private property.” This statement was made by Karl Marx. In other words, Karl Marx said simply this: All you have to do to abolish private property and bring in communism is to let the man who does not own property vote in the county. Give him the power to vote taxes against the property owner. You have then, he said, abolished private property. It’s just a question of time. It’s logical, is it not? How long would the churches last if any atheist could come and vote in a church election? How long would any organization last if anyone in the community had the right to come into that organization without subscribing to its precepts and principles, and vote in its election? How long can private property last when non-property owners can vote taxes against property? [00:28:54]

This is the issue in much of the South today, and you

This is the issue in much of the South today, and you’re not being told. Private property can be very quickly abolished in the South. If Negroes without property can vote taxes against the property owners, because they are there in great numbers, they are being given good schools, and in recent years, the new schools that have been built there in great numbers, especially have been for Negroes. In one state that I visited, about a year and a half ago, I could almost say, as I saw a school building, whether it was white or Negro, because the largest and newest ones were all for Negroes.

The issue is this: Are they going to be allowed to vote in the county elections? They’re ready to comply with regard to federal elections where they’re not, property is not involved. Are they going to be allowed to vote in the county elections and destroy property?

Fifth, the basic law of the county and of the country is county law and {?} property. Your civil law is county law. Your criminal law is county law. Your police power is in the county. You are governed by county law primarily, and today you have an assault in the county by the state and the federal government, a steady assault, but take away this right of self-government on the county level, and you have statism, you have totalitarianism, and so it is that every totalitarian power has always worked to destroy the local unit. If you have a civil suit, you go to a county court. If you are arrested on criminal charges, you go to a county court and you’re tried before a jury of your peers, your local peers. This is the historic American system of government. You’re not hauled off to an outside court, over which you have no control ultimately.

Therefore, any assault on property and upon the right of property to govern itself locally is an assault upon your liberty. [00:32:07]

Sixth, liberty and property are closely linked to each

Sixth, liberty and property are closely linked to each other and together, to Christian faith. This is important for us to ascertain. A statement was made a few years ago, and I’ll read it in a moment if Ed will bring me a copy of This Independent Republic, by Bishop Sheen before a congressional committee a few years ago, and Bishop Sheen, in this statement, set forth very clearly, the relationship between liberty and property, which you will find given in full in This Independent Republic on page 52 and 3. “There are several reasons why there is no place for God in communism. One is because of its concept of freedom. Suppose I correlate the problem of religion and the problem of freedom in answering your question, and let me begin with freedom and then go to religion. A man is free on the inside because he has a soul that he can call his own. Wherever you have the spirit, you have freedom. A pencil has no freedom. Ice has no freedom to be warm. Fire has no freedom to be cold. You begin to have freedom when you have something immaterial or spiritual. Now, freedom must have some external guarantee of itself, the external guarantee of human freedom of property. A man is free on the inside because he can call his soul his own. He is free on the outside because he can call something he has his own. Therefore, private property is the economic guarantee of human freedom. Suppose now you’ve concocted the system in which you want to possess man totally. On what condition can you erect a totalitarian system so that man belongs to you completely? 1) you have got to deny spirit; 2) you have got to deny property. That is why the existence of God and private property are both denied simultaneously by communism. If a man has no soul, he cannot allege that he has any relationships with anyone outside of the state. If he has no property, he is dependent upon the state even for his physical existence. Therefore, the denial of God and the denial of freedom are both conditions of slavery.” We can add to that statement of Bishop Sheen’s, the fact that whenever statism has arisen, it has attacked Christianity and property. In order to enslave man, every totalitarian order has to attack Christianity and to attack property. The two go hand in hand. [00:35:43]

The purpose of the biblical land law was to preserve

The purpose of the biblical land law was to preserve man from the attempts of the state to become God over man, and the state cannot play the role of God as long as the state and the true God remain, and as long as private property is the refuge of the individual man, and so the state, as it seeks to possess man totally, works to destroy his faith and works to destroy his concept of property, and so it is that statist education bypasses both these things.

You cannot expect education that is controlled by the state and supported by the state to promulgate the faith. They will never promote Christianity. They have worked steadily to undermine it. They will not promote property. Go back more than a hundred years ago, and read the textbooks before the Civil War in Christian schools, and you find there was a great deal in them about the significance of property {?} liberty. Even in the McGuffey readers, a little bit of that was left because they could not eliminate it all immediately, and I believe you will find in the sixth reader of the McGuffey series, one passage from Blackstone, the attorney, on the importance of private property, but that was all. Today there is nothing, and children are taught that private property is a hindrance to human rights, and someone recently who is a very good friend of one of our most important fundamentalistic colleges in the country told me very sadly that they were becoming disappointed increasingly in that this emphasis on human rights against property rights was becoming standard even in that institution. The attack is mounting. [00:38:21]

Seventh, and finally, the independence of the local

Seventh, and finally, the independence of the local police and of private property from other jurisdictions; state, federal, and international, was guaranteed by the Constitution and by the Bill of Rights. The Constitution, by its doctrine of Express Powers and by its prohibition, barred the federal government from entering into this area. The Bill of Rights re-enforced it. It reserved to the individual the right of self-defense, the right to bear arms. It declared that his home could not be invaded by troops, even under the pretext of quartering them in time of war. It declared that he was immune, except by warrant, from any search or seizure. It declared moreover, that his basic right of self-government was fundamental to the American system, and all powers not specifically given to the federal and the state governments were reserved to the citizenry. This is now under steady erosion, and today, liberty and property are being together destroyed. Real property is being divided from local control, and from the police, and from Christianity. The impact is to destroy liberty.

What is the answer? First, we must recognize the significance of county government, and property in our historic, American tradition, but second and most important, we cannot revive the concept of property in this sense, and of liberty in our historic sense without reviving our Christian faith. This is the foundation, this is the cornerstone, and this is the biblical relationship. Liberty and property, carefully laid down in the law of God, and men who attempt to maintain the fruit of the tree without the root are seeking to maintain an impossibility. The roots of American liberty are deep in the word of God. To be defended, the faith must be defended, advanced, and proclaimed. Thank you. [00:41:28]

End of tape.

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