Wednesday, April 1, 2009


Sedition is a word not often found in the American vocabulary. Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary defines it as “The raising of commotion in a state, not amounting to insurrection; conduct tending to treason, but without an overt act; excitement of discontent against the government, or of resistance to lawful authority.” That looks like it covers a rather narrow spectrum on the path to treason; but then, what is treason?

According to the Constitution of the United States of America, Article III, Section 3, “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.” When is it an act against the United States? Is it an act contrary to the interests of the State, or contrary to the government du jour? Is it treason to act against the government but in support of the nation?

The Constitution was born out of the desire to ensure the freedoms of the people. The authors knew that people need and desire the ability to govern their own lives. To this end, the Constitution was written to limit the ability of the government to interfere in our lives. The balance of power between the three branches of the government was designed to make it more difficult for those in power to encroach on our freedoms. The Bill of Rights was written to more specifically detail what we as a people have a right to; in other words, it details in what things we have a freedom from our government. All of this freedom comes at the cost of our responsibility. We are to be responsible for our own actions, and the consequences thereof. Out Founding Fathers were particularly clear in their personal speeches and writings as to what their opinions on the matter of taking personal responsibility instead of abdicating accountability to an outside force, such as a government, were. A few quotations of what I mean are to follow:

"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." -- Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania (1759)

"Against us are... all timid men who prefer the calm of despotism to the boisterous sea of liberty... We are likely to preserve the liberty we have obtained only by unremitting labors and perils." --Thomas Jefferson to Philip Mazzei, 1796. ME 9:336

"The two enemies of the people are criminals and government, so let us tie the second down with the chains of the Constitution so the second will not become the legalized version of the first."-- Thomas Jefferson

"Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are ruined." -- Patrick Henry, Virginia's Ratification convention, 1788

"I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedoms of the people by gradual and silent encroachment of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations." -- James Madison

But, as times have changed, must we change our views on for what the government is responsible? As our world and political climate has grown more complicated, are these opinions outdated and no longer functional? I, for one, do not believe that advances in society mean that we must have different principles. I cannot conscience the thought of relinquishing my freedom to gain freedom from my mistakes. The idea of allowing some entity to bail me out of my own mess is unfathomable. If you take responsibility for what I have done, I become indebted to you…I allow you to make my decisions. If you have responsibility for my life and make my decisions, it is no longer mine. Once a person gives over their responsibility, they say that someone else is more knowledgeable about their needs and wants. I don’t know about you, but I believe that no one can better decide for me what I need than I can. If you believe that the people in Washington are better than you at knowing your situation, then by all means, allow them to run your life. But remember, people in power are still mere people. Government is made up of fallible people and there is no guarantee that a government decree is any more trustworthy than the decree of someone on the subway sitting next to you.

The Founding Fathers knew they were mere mortals, as prone to mistakes as the next man. This is why they wanted the Constitution framed in a manner that put the government in a position of subservience to the people. Once the American people remember that our founding documents name us as the source of power, we will need a good, long look at what our government has been doing in the time between then and now.

"Do not separate text from historical background. If you do, you will have perverted and subverted the Constitution, which can only end in a distorted, bastardized form of illegitimate government" -- James Madison

If the government abandons the ideals of the Constitution and its authors, is it still lawful and moral to support it?

Is it seditious to ask?


  1. I'm reminded of a discussion between Bean and Carlotta in Shadow of the Hegemon. Bean comments that Jesus's command to "love your enemies" seems insane, that it sounds like a command to let his enemy Achilles murder him. Sister Carlotta tells him he's mistaken and the loving thing would be to prevent Achilles from having to answer for two more murders. Sometimes the same principle applies to the line "respect the office of the President."

  2. Hmm, apparently I should read more of Card's books than just Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow.

    However, the assumption of the Office of the President involves taking an oath stating "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." If the person so swearing does not "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States," are they then the President?