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Wotta Revolting Development!

I've often said that I'm very proud of being a New Hampshirite. It's not just for political reasons, but that seems to be a big one.

One of the things I'm most proud of, though, is our state Constitution. It's a magnificent document, and in some ways I think that it's superior to the United States Constitution. We have a Bill of Rights, too, but in OUR Constitution, they aren't tacked on as Amendments -- they're enshrined in the main body. In fact, they are the whole first section. And coming in at #10 in the 39 Articles of Section I is the following:

Government being instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security, of the whole community, and not for the private interest or emolument of any one man, family, or class of men; therefore, whenever the ends of government are perverted, and public liberty manifestly endangered, and all other means of redress are ineffectual, the people may, and of right ought to reform the old, or establish a new government. The doctrine of nonresistance against arbitrary power, and oppression, is absurd, slavish, and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind.

That's right, people. We here in New Hampshire have not only the RIGHT of revolution, we have the DUTY. Can you imagine what that would mean in a oppressive state, totally insensitive to the will of its people? Say, North Korea, Iran, China, Cuba, or even Massachusetts?

Naturally, it's kind of like impeachment or nuclear weapons -- the mere existence tends to discourage its necessity. It's never been successfully invoked, I believe -- we have some other wonderful ways to discourage the politicians from getting too greedy. (Having a Senate of 24 and a House of 400 also helps, and paying them a grand total of $100 PER YEAR does even more. There aren't enough lawmakers who can afford to spend that much time making mischief.)

But the Right to Revolution is being invoked, by some good-hearted but soft-headed activists. Members of New Hampshire Peace Action have been trying get Senator Judd Gregg to hold a public meeting on the war in Iraq for some time. More specifically, they want to lean on him to work towards an exit strategy, a timetable for withdrawal, and Judd The Dud (I'm no fan of his, and never have been) has been blowing them off.

So they decided to take some Peaceful Action: a group of them showed up at his Concord office. They were very polite and considerate -- they even baked cookies for Judd The Dud's staffers. But they refused to leave voluntarily until he met their demands. Eventually, they were hauled off in handcuffs.

They're coming up for trial soon, and they plan to use the Right To Revolution as their legal defense.

On the one hand, I'm glad to see this right brought up -- it's a great civics lesson, and quite possibly a role model for the rest of the nation. On the other, though, I think that the activists are just plain wrong on so many points. They're wrong on the war, they're wrong on their tactics, and they're wrong on the state Constitution.

I've stated numerous times before my support for the war and the sheer wrong-headedness of a "withdrawal plan," so I'll give that a bye this time. And their tactics are noble and admirable, but simply not going to do a damned bit of good towards achieving their stated goals.

But most importantly, they're wrong about the Right To Revolution. For one, Gregg isn't being tyrannical or oppressive -- he's just not giving them what he wants, namely his presence at one of their events. Whether he should attend or not is irrelevant; he has no obligation to do so. And attempting to embarass him won't work -- he's been on the public payroll for well over 30 years, a state lawmaker, Executive Councilor, Attorney General, Governor, and now US Senator. Toss in that he was a tax lawyer back before he went on the public dole, and you have someone who's pretty much immune to shame.

The key point here, however, is that the Right to Revolution simply doesn't apply here. That Right is enshrined in the STATE Constitution. They are annoyed at Gregg for his activities (or lack thereof) in his capacity as a FEDERAL elected official. There is no federal right to revolt (and more's the pity), and even though the protesters violated state law, there was no state tyranny involved.

All in all, it was a nice try. I'll give 'em an A for effort (woulda been a C-, but the cookies for the staff impressed me and gave them a one letter-grade boost, and reminding me of the Right of Revolution gave them the A), but F for substance.

Let me bring back that Right of Revolution one more time, with a little extra emphasis tossed in:

Government being instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security, of the whole community, and not for the private interest or emolument of any one man, family, or class of men; therefore, whenever the ends of government are perverted, and public liberty manifestly endangered, and all other means of redress are ineffectual, the people may, and of right ought to reform the old, or establish a new government. The doctrine of nonresistance against arbitrary power, and oppression, is absurd, slavish, and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind.

Comments (6)

Well, good for him.<p... (Below threshold)
Flakbait:

Well, good for him.

I do not see, however, how you can possibly think of it as a good thing to have a stated 'right of revolution' inherent in the legal document creating a government at any level. That is the most specious idea for a constitutional right I have seen, right up there with the Right Not to Be Offended and the Right to Drive My Car As I Please.

That's literally putting a self-destruct device into the ship of state. What, are you worried that the Klingons are going to capture the amazing technology of the USS New Hampshireprise?

The right to revolution is already stated in the Declaration of Independence-- "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." It doesn't NEED to be in the federal constitution, as it is already part of the whole "implied/inalienable right" thing. Have you noticed how "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" aren't explicitly in the Bill of Rights either? Gee I wonder why.

The whole 'you have a right to rebel' thing as part of a constitution means WHAT, exactly? If you rebel and succeed, you are already protected from the consequence of the rebellion by your success in eradicating the organs of power that would have otherwise punished you-- "Treason doth never prosper, for why if it prosper, none dare call it treason."

And if you fail? Well, let's see. Either your government is not as tyrannical as you, the rebel, think it is and you're not protected because there were other forms of redress available, OR the government IS as tyrannical as the insurrectionists think it is, and well wouldn't you know it, The New Hampshire Fascist Party doesn't care that the state constitution gives you a "get out of gulag free" card. To the mines with you.

So what you have there is something on the order of a stated constitutional right to breathe-- something which will never come into play in any meaningful way because either it doesn't apply and the rebellion is unneeded, or it DOES apply but the tyrrany doesn't care about the legalities of the issue (Oh no, we can't kill all these people threatening our grip on power; they have a RIGHT to rebel! Oh darn. Guess we'll just have to pack up and let them shuffle us off to prison for being evil, then)

Sounds to me like it was just something that New Hampshire put in its constitution to fondle its state ego and squeeze a few extra pages into its founding document because the local typesetters were running a bulk discount that week.

Hmmm.That's really... (Below threshold)
ed:

Hmmm.

That's really amusing. What's even more amusing is that "Flakbait" doesn't have a clue even after that lengthy post.

As for the "peace activists" it's even more amusing that they're trying to use that portion of the NH constitution as a defense, when it was instituted precisely for the opposite reason. I.e. against their interest, not for it.

It's a cluelessness trifecta!

I'm betting their goal was ... (Below threshold)
Faith+1:

I'm betting their goal was little more than a publicity stunt--probably to try and encourage some money donations from somewhere. By doing this they can get arrested and garner some attention while not really accomplishing anything toward their supposed goal. They get extra Smugness points and that's about it.

Reminds me of a kid in college who used to sit out in front of the Student Union in a cardboard box supposedly to protest the eating of veal. I asked one day exactly how his sitting in a cardboard box did a damn thing for the young animals being killed.

He had no clue. He actually thought he was doing something good. I told him he should stop dislocating his shoulder patting himself on the back over his Smugness success and actually DO something about his cause. Otherwise his little box sitting wasn't for the poor veal, but nothing more than an ego-masturbating exercise for himself.

Flakbait doesn't get it. As... (Below threshold)
jdavenport:

Flakbait doesn't get it. As a fellow New Hampshirite, I'm glad our framers did.

I love this state.

Live Free or Die.

Even Vito Spatafore is tryi... (Below threshold)

Even Vito Spatafore is trying to find peace there... ...they even entitled the episode "Live Free or Die" LOL

Hmmmm.I t... (Below threshold)
ed:

Hmmmm.

I told him he should stop dislocating his shoulder patting himself on the back over his Smugness success and actually DO something about his cause.

Reminds of when I went to viist a friend who was living in Boston while his wife was attending Harvard. When I got there his wife and a bunch of her cronies were all gaggling around the coffee table discussing all of the potential political options that *Romania* had now (at that time) that the USSR had effectively fallen.

As you can expect there was a lot of discussion, some crying, quite a bit of fist shaking and soon enough all decamped for a local coffee shop.

And Romania you ask? Well evidently the country didn't fall into the 5th level of Hell, even without the input of the "brain trust".




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