Some Passages Unlikely to be Read in Washington This Week
By Vin Suprynowicz
Special to The Libertarian Enterprise
This "classic" column was originally filed for release on July 3,
What an inconvenient holiday the Fourth of July must seem to Bill
Clinton, who went to Michigan May 5, 1995 to warn that citizen
militias represent "the forces of organized destruction and evil" in
America, and that it is no longer permissible to "pretend" to love
our country while opposing its government.
"How dare you suggest that we in the freest nation on earth live
in tyranny?" the president asked.
On this date, of course, we celebrate the courage of men who
risked hanging to sign a certain document on July the Third, 1776,
men like Richard Henry Lee of Virginia and the young red-headed
fellow who signed just just beneath him, "Ths. Jefferson." But the
words for which they risked their lives were Jefferson's alone:
"Whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends
(securing the unalienable rights with which men are endowed by their
Creator), it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it."
When Mr. Clinton said in East Lansing that, "There is no right to
kill people who are doing their duty," he was, of course, referring
to the tragic, wrongful deaths of unarmed women and children in
But we expect our presidents to voice principles beyond the
emotion of the moment. What, for instance, would Mr. Clinton have us
do with teen-ager Jim Monroe, who awakened a small group of
government officials in Trenton, N.J. from a sound sleep one winter
day not so very long ago, charged at them with a huge, machete-like
weapon, and before they could even pull on all their clothes, slashed
a number of them to death? The dead men, surely, were "only doing
their duty," while young James was apparently under the absurd
delusion that the government they served was operating as some kind
The teen-ager Monroe's astonishing actions, of course, occurred
on Christmas Day, 1776, after he had crossed the icy Delaware with
the leader of this nation's "forces of destruction and evil,"
co-founder of the Fairfax County Militia, a man who definitely loved
his country but despised his government, George Washington.
And the young lieutenant's crime did not go unpunished -- his own
sentence in the White House lasted a full eight years, from 1817 to
If Mr. Clinton hopes to remain as long, he might remember that
the aforementioned Richard Henry Lee wrote in 1788, "A militia, when
properly formed, are in fact the people themselves. ... To preserve
liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always
But he was a piker next to Mr. Jefferson, who wrote to Madison:
"I hold that a little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing."
Later, writing to William S. Smith in 1787 -- six full years after
the last Redcoat departed Yorktown in disgrace -- Mr. Jefferson went
further: "What country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are
not warned from time to time that the people preserve the spirit of
resistance? Let them take arms. ... The tree of liberty must be
refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants."
Why is it that I doubt these passages will be among the readings
from the Founders at the White House this Fourth of July?
But the world is very different now from those days so long ago,
Here is the most childlike of error of all, to assume that
because we now have superhighways and personal computers, it must no
longer be true that the best defense of a free nation is an armed
populace. Ask the Afghans about that. Ask the North Vietnamese. Ask
the Israelis, many of whose grandparents so willingly gave up their
arms to prove they were "law-abiding Germans" in 1938, whether they
would turn over their own rifles now to the Syrians, in exchange for
"Americans have the habit of saying they're the freest nation in
the world," says Canadian tax scholar Charles Adams, author of the
current best-seller on the destructiveness of taxes through the ages,
"but they should say 'used to be.' America of all the Western nations
is the worst. No one else lets the government go through your bank
records, no one else makes you file a form when you hire a
"He has erected a Multitude of new Offices, and sent hither
Swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their
Substance," wrote Mr. Jefferson in 1776. Oh, nothing like today.
The problem is not that our current government is less tyrannical
than King George's, which never jailed anyone for practicing medicine
-- or self-medication -- without a license, which never would have
dreamed of stacking juries by asking them in advance whether they
agreed to convict if so ordered by the judge.
No, I think Mary Wollstonecraft hit our problem on the head a
century and a half ago, noting that men and women both "submit
everywhere to oppression, where they have only to lift their heads to
throw off the yoke," licking the dust instead of asserting their
birthright until, "at last, they despise the freedom which they have
not sufficient virtue to struggle to obtain."
Vin Suprynowicz is the assistant editorial page editor of the Las
Vegas Review-Journal. The web site for the Suprynowicz column is at
http://www.nguworld.com/vindex/. The column is syndicated in the
United States and Canada via Mountain Media Syndications, P.O. Box
4422, Las Vegas Nev. 89127.