Quote Category: ‘Rights’
In recognizing God as the source of their rights, the Founding Fathers declared Him to be the ultimate authority for their basis of law. This led them to the conviction that people do not make law but merely acknowledge preexisting law, giving it specific application. The Constitution was conceived to be such an expression of higher law. And when their work was done, James Madison wrote: “It is impossible for the man of pious reflection not to perceive in it a finger of that Almighty hand which has been so frequently and signally extended to our relief in the critical stages of the revolution” (The Federalist, no. 37).
Our Creator endowed each one of us with certain rights at birth, among which are the rights to life, liberty, speech, and conscience, to name a few. These are not just human rights; they are divine rights. When these rights are not permitted expression by a nation, that nation becomes inhibited in its progress and development, and its leaders are responsible before God for suffocating sacred rights.
This native endowment is what separates man from the animals. It causes men to want to be good and to seek higher aspirations. It creates in man a desire to better his life and his station in life.
It must be remembered that the founding fathers of this great nation were men imbued with these principles [the Ten Commandments]. There are those in the land whose faith it is that these were “wise men whom [God] raised up” for the purpose of establishing the Constitution of the United States. They recognized that there are two possible sources to the origin of our freedoms that we have come to know as human rights. Rights are either God-given as part of a divine plan or they are granted as part of the political plan. Reason, necessity, and religious conviction and belief in the sovereignty of God led these men to accept the divine origin of these rights. To God’s glory and the credit of these men, our nation was uniquely born.
In framing that great document which Gladstone declared “the most wonderful work ever struck off at a given time by the brain and purpose of man,” our early leaders called upon a kind Providence. Later the product of the constitutional convention was referred to as our God-inspired Constitution. They had incorporated within its sacred paragraphs eternal principles supported by the holy scriptures with which they were familiar. It was established “for the rights and protection of all flesh according to just and holy principles” [D&C 101:77]. Later the Lord himself declared, “I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose” [D&C 101:80].
In our government, whether in a National, State, or Territorial form, all officers, of every grade, are requested to take a solemn oath to sustain and maintain the constitution of the United States, and of the State, or if a Territory, the organic act of the Territory as the case may be. If these things are not a fiction all these officers and authorities throughout the land in every department of Nation, State or Territorial government, are as much bound by their obligations and oaths as the people are bound to be subject to all constitutional laws, and the people are not one whit more bound to the observance of the law than these men are bound to the observance of the sacred and solemn covenants which they have entered into. And if the people have given up to governors, legislatures, the judiciary and to the officers of the law certain powers, rights and privileges, this authority coming of or from the people, it is expected that they shall act for and in the interests of the people; and furthermore, that while they possess those rights ceded to them by the people, whatever is not thus ceded and placed in the hands of their rulers is emphatically stated to be reserved to the several States or to the people. . . . But it must be understood here in matters pertaining to our government, that no charters or grants of any kind can be given by any parties, in excess of the rights which they themselves possess, and that the same obligations which vest in regard to constitutional rights and guarantees must be observed in all those municipal regulations by the recipients as of the grantees of those charters.
These rights and privileges in our government are formulated upon the idea that our government is “of the people, by the people and for the people.”
But what I admired in those Senators and Members was their fealty to the government, to the Constitution and the maintenance of the freedom and the inalienable rights of man, of every color, creed and profession.
We have no fault to find with our government. We deem it the best in the world. But we have reason to deplore its malad-ministration, and I call upon our legislators, our governors and president to pause in their career and not to tamper with the rights and liberties of American citizens, nor wantonly tear down the bulwarks of American and human liberty. God has given to us glorious institutions; let us preserve them intact and not pander to the vices, passions and fanaticism of a depraved public opinion. . . .
We do not wish to place ourselves in a state of antagonism, nor act defiantly towards this government. We will fulfill the letter, so far as practicable, of that unjust, inhuman, oppressive and unconstitutional law, so far as we can without violating principle; but we cannot sacrifice every principle of human right at the behest of corrupt, unreasoning and unprincipled men; we cannot violate the highest and noblest principles of human nature and make pariahs and outcasts of high-minded, virtuous and honorable women, nor sacrifice at the shrine of popular clamor the highest and noblest principles of humanity!
We shall abide all constitutional law, as we always have done; but while we are God-fearing and law-abiding, and respect all honorable men and officers, we are no craven serfs, and have not learned to lick the feet of oppressors, nor to bow in base submission to unreasoning clamor. We will contend inch by inch, legally and constitutionally, for our rights as American citizens. . . .We stand proudly erect in the consciousness of our rights as American citizens, and plant ourselves firmly on the sacred guarantees of the Constitution; and that instrument, while it defines the powers and privileges of the President, Congress and the judiciary, also directly provides that “the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States, respectively or to the people” [US Const. Amend. X].
We need have no fears, no trembling in our knees about these attempts to deprive us of our God-given and constitutional liberties. God will take care of His people, if we will only do right.
Will we oppose the principles of this government? No. We will sustain them. But if people will act foolishly we cannot help it. If this nation can stand the results of the violation of constitutional principles, we can. If they tear down the bulwarks of freedom and with impunity trample underfoot the rights of men we cannot help it. If it is our turn, to-day, to suffer wrong, it will be somebody else’s to-morrow, national retrogressions are not often arrested. It behooves statesmen to pause in their career. The floodgates once opened who shall stay the torrent? We of all men would save the ship of state and would say to these national patricides avaunt [go away]! But if they will act foolishly and continue to do so until they subvert the principles of liberty, and thus destroy one of the best governments ever instituted on earth, then if forsaken by all else, the elders of this Church will rally round the Constitution, lift up the standard of freedom, which is being trodden under foot and bedrabbled by demagogues, and proclaim liberty to the world; equal rights, liberty and equality; freedom of conscience and of worship to all men everywhere. That is not a prophecy of mine; it is a prophecy of Joseph Smith’s, and I believe it very strongly.
But if they think we cannot stand up for our rights under God and the Constitution, they will find they are egregiously mistaken.
What was the great cause of complaint at the time the Constitution was framed? In the Declaration of Independence, it was stated that the people had rulers placed over them, and they had no voice in their election. Read that instrument. It describes our wrongs as plainly as it did the wrongs the people then laboured under and discarded.
As American citizens and patriots, and as sons of those venerable sires, can we, without disgracing ourselves, our fathers and our nation, submit to these insults and tamely bow to such tyranny? We cannot do it, and we will not do it. We will rally round the Constitution, and declare our rights as American citizens and we will sustain them in the face of high heaven and the world.
No man need have any qualms of conscience that he is doing wrong. You are patriots, standing by your rights and opposing the wrong which affects all lovers of freedom as well as you; for those acts of aggression have a withering, deadly effect, and are gnawing, like a canker-worm, at the very vitals of religious and civil liberty. You are standing by the Declaration of Independence, and sustaining the Constitution which was given by the inspiration of God; and you are the only people in the United States [at] this time that are doing it—that have the manhood to do it.. . .
According to the genius and spirit of the Constitution of the United States, we are pursuing the course that would be approved of by all high-minded, honourable men; and no man but a poor, miserable sneak would have any other feeling.
. . . I have watched with no little anxiety the encroachments of Government and the manifest desire to trample upon your rights. It is for you, however, to maintain them; and if those men that are traitors to the spirit and genius of the Constitution of the United States have a mind to trample under foot those principles that ought to guarantee protection to every American citizen, we will rally around the standard, and bid them defiance in the name of the Lord God of Israel.
In doing this, we neither forget our duties as citizens of the United States, nor as subjects of the kingdom and cause of God; but as the Lord has said, if we will keep His commandments, we need not transgress the laws of the land. We have not done it; we have maintained them all the time.
When we talk about the Constitution of the United States, we are sometimes apt to quote—”Vox populi, vox Dei;” that is, The voice of the people is the voice of God. But in some places they ought to say, VOX POPULI, VOX DIABOLI; that is, the voice of the people is the voice of the Devil.
We are moved by a higher law. . . .
We are not taking any steps contrary to the laws and the Constitution of the United States, but in everything we are upholding and sustaining them.
There was not virtue enough either in state or general government to protect an innocent, helpless people in the enjoyment of their Constitutional rights.
We are more indifferent in regard to this subject in a religious than in a political sense, for, whether we are organized in a Territorial or State capacity, Government is bound to protect us in the rights of conscience, or over-ride plain Constitutional guarantees. And no intelligent person holds in very high estimation that union which is hourly endangered by the frenzied zeal of rampant, misguided, and fanatical demagogues, who trample that heaven-inspired instrument—the Constitution—into the dust, and regard neither their fathers’ legacy nor their children’s inheritance.
The progress of revolution is quite considerable in every government of the world. But is the revolution for the constitutional rights of the people in progress? No: it is on the retrograde. I know how they can be brought back to the people, and the Government be redeemed and become one of the most powerful and best on the earth. It was instituted in the beginning by the Almighty. He operated upon the hearts of the Revolutionary Fathers to rebel against the English King and his Parliament, as he does upon me to preach “Mormonism.” Both are inspired by him; but the work unto which they are called is dissimilar. The one was inspired to fight, and the other to preach the peaceable things of the kingdom of God. He operated upon that pusillanimous king to excite the colonists to rebellion; and he is still operating with this nation, and taking away their wisdom, until by-and-by they will get mad and rush to certain destruction.
Will the Constitution be destroyed? No: it will be held inviolate by this people; and, as Joseph Smith said, “The time will come when the destiny of the nation will hang upon a single thread. At that critical juncture, this people will step forth and save it from the threatened destruction.” It will be so.
With regard to the doings of our fathers and the Constitution of the United States, I have to say, they present to us a glorious prospect in the future, but one we cannot attain to until the present abuses in the Government are corrected.
Sustain the government of the nation wherever you are, and speak well of it, for this is right, and the government has a right to expect it of you, so long as that government sustains you in your civil and religious liberty, in those rights which inherently belong to every person born on the earth and if you are persecuted in your native land, and denied the privilege of worshiping the true God in spirit and in truth, flee to the land of Zion, to America—to the United States, where constitutional rights and freedoms are not surpassed by any nation—where God saw fit, in these last days, to renew the dispensation of salvation, by revelations from the heavens, and where all, by the constitution and laws of the land, when executed in righteousness, are protected in all the civil and religious freedom that man is capable of enjoying on earth; and our national institutions will never fail, unless it be through the wickedness of the people, and the designs of evil men in brief authority; for those rights were ordained of God on this land; for the establishment of the principles of truth on the earth; and our national organization originated in the heavens.
Come, all ye lovers of liberty, break the oppressor’s rod, loose the iron grasp of mobocracy, and bring to condign punishment all those who trample under foot the glorious Constitution and the people’s rights.
To the Honorable the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress Assembled:
Your memorialist, a free-born citizen of these United States, respectfully showeth that from his infancy his soul has been filled with the most intense and philanthropic interest for the welfare of his native country; and being fired with an ardor which floods cannot quench, crowns cannot conquer, nor diplomatic intrigue corrupt, to see those principles which emanated from the bosoms of the fathers of seventy-six, and which cost the noblest talents and richest blood of the nation, maintained inviolate and perpetuated to future generations; and the proud eagle of American freedom soar triumphant over every party prejudice and local sinistry, and spread her golden pinions over every member of the human family, who shall stretch forth their hands for succor from the lion’s paw or the oppressor’s grasp; and firmly trusting in the God of liberty, that He has designed universal peace and goodwill, union, and brotherly love to all the great family of man, your memorialist asks your honorable body to pass the following… Ordinance for the Protection of the Citizens of the United States Emigrating to the Territories, and for the Extension of the Principles of Universal Liberty.
I would admonish you, … to read in the 8th section and 1st article of the Constitution of the United States, the first, fourteenth and seventeenth “specific” and not very “limited powers” of the Federal Government, what can be done to protect the lives, property, and rights of a virtuous people, when the administrators of the law and law-makers are unbought by bribes… And God, who cooled the heat of a Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace or shut the mouths of lions for the honor of a Daniel, will raise your mind above the narrow notion that the General Government has no power, to the sublime idea that Congress, with the President as Executor, is as almighty in its sphere as Jehovah is in his.
I am the greatest advocate of the Constitution of the United States there is on the earth. In my feelings I am always ready to die for the protection of the weak and oppressed in their just rights. The only fault I find with the Constitution is, it is not broad enough to cover the whole ground.
Although it provides that all men shall enjoy religious freedom, yet it does not provide the manner by which that freedom can be preserved, nor for the punishment of Government officers who refuse to protect the people in their religious rights, or punish those mobs, states, or communities who interfere with the rights of the people on account of their religion. Its sentiments are good, but it provides no means of enforcing them. It has but this one fault. Under its provision, a man or a people who are able to protect themselves can get along well enough; but those who have the misfortune to be weak or unpopular are left to the merciless rage of popular fury.
The Constitution should contain a provision that every officer of the Government who should neglect or refuse to extend the protection guaranteed in the Constitution should be subject to capital punishment; and then the president of the United States would not say, “Your cause is just, but I can do nothing for you.”
Shall we longer bear these cruelties which have been heaped upon us for the last ten years in the face of heaven, and in open violation of the constitution and law of these United States and of this state? God forbid! I will not bear it. If they take away my rights, I will fight for them manfully and righteously until I am used up. We have done nothing against the rights of others.
We have not enjoyed unmolested those rights which the constitution of the U.S.A. and our Charters grant.
If we have to give up our chartered rights, privileges, and freedom, which our fathers fought, bled, and died for, and which the constitution of the United States and of this state guarantee unto us, we will do it only at the point of the sword and bayonet.
I want you to hear and learn, O Israel, this day, what is for the happiness and peace of this city and people. If our enemies are determined to oppress us and deprive us of our constitutional rights and privileges as they have done, and if the authorities that are on the earth will not sustain us in our rights, nor give us that protection which the laws and constitution of the United States and of this state guarantee unto us, then we will claim them from a higher power—from heaven—yea, from God Almighty.
I am tired of the misrepresentation, calumny and detraction, heaped upon me by wicked men; and desire and claim, only those principles guaranteed to all men by the Constitution and laws of the United States and of Illinois.
We may continue to expect the enjoyment of all the blessings of civil and religious liberty, guaranteed by the Constitution. The citizens of Illinois have done themselves honor, in throwing the mantle of the Constitution over a persecuted and afflicted people.
Your constitution guarantees to every citizen, even the humblest, the enjoyment of life, liberty, and property. It promises to all, religious freedom, the right to all to worship God beneath their own vine and fig tree, according to the dictates of their conscience. It guarantees to all the citizens of the several states the right to become citizens of any one of the states, and to enjoy all the rights and immunities of the citizens of the state of his adoption.
Blessed be the memory of those few brethren who contended so strenuously for their constitutional rights and religious freedom, against such an overwhelming force of desperadoes!
By their complying with your request to leave they [the Saints in Clay County] are surrendering some of the dearest rights guaranteed in the Constitution of our country; and that human nature can be driven to a certain extent when it will yield no further.
While other men were peacefully following their vocations and extending their interests they [the Saints in Clay County] have been deprived of the right of citizenship, prevented from enjoying their own, charged with violating the sacred principles of our Constitution and laws.