Posts tagged William Lloyd Garrison

Over My Shoulder #39: Garrison on radicalism, electoral abolitionism and third-party politics. From Henry Mayer’s All On Fire.

Here’s the rules:

  1. Pick a quote of one or more paragraphs from something you’ve read, in print, over the course of the past week. (It should be something you’ve actually read, and not something that you’ve read a page of just in order to be able to post your favorite quote.)

  2. Avoid commentary above and beyond a couple sentences, more as context-setting or a sort of caption for the text than as a discussion.

  3. Quoting a passage doesn’t entail endorsement of what’s said in it. You may agree or you may not. Whether you do isn’t really the point of the exercise anyway.

Here’s the quote. This is from Henry Mayer’s masterful biography, All On Fire: William Lloyd Garrison and the Abolition of Slavery. I was re-reading it recently because of an interesting debate over the Ron Paul campaign on LeftLibertarian2, in particular some interesting comments by Brad Spangler, who has been beating the anti-electioneering drum for some time, to the effect that he thought support for Ron Paul represented progress in people who would be otherwise be state liberals or state conservatives, but that the real shame was when radical libertarians, who ought to know better got sucked in to the same constitutional-statist song and dance.

Garrison agreed with [Abby Kelley and Stephen Foster] that the allure of the presidential campaign threatened the movement’s identity. Abolitionists should not bow down to the house of Rimmon, alluding to the parable (2 Kings 5:18) illustrating the dangers of false worship and conformity with outmoded rituals and reprehensible customs. The first duty of abolitionists, he concluded, was to avoid becoming Republicans. To the Fosters’ intense annoyance, however, he argued that the amount of conscience in the party and the sectional basis of its opposition to the slave power made it a political entity that the movement had to take seriously. Kelley conceded that the party may be the work of our hands, but she insisted that such progeny, like other children, required a great deal of reproof to bring it up in the way it should go. Garrison agreed, but sweetly added that, as in child-rearing, it was important to praise the party when it tried to do good work, as it had on the issue of nonextension.

That Garrison accorded the Republicans a measure of respect he had never conceded to the Liberty Party remnant should come as no surprise. He always had more interest in politicians who lifted themselves toward an acknowledgment of moral principles than he had in moralists who lowered themselves into partisan activities. For the Republicans to support and elect candidates willing to condemn slavery as wrong would be productive agitation, for it created something where nothing had previously existed. For Gerrit Smith to advance himself as a presidential candidate was ludicrous, in Garrison’s view, for he had no practical organization and demeaned himself in the futile process of making one. For Frederick Douglass to make persistent attacks on Garrisonian abolition as passé–as a phase of moral education through which the movement had inevitably traveled en route to more enlightened forms of practical agitation–was more than a continuation of their personal feud; it was the old Liberty Party idea that a token candidacy offered a greater opportunity for moral agitation than did the prophetic apostleship of Garrison. While the Republican nonextensionist approach had the virtue of exposing the constitutional compromises that prevented abolition, moreover, the Smithites continued to dwell, Garrison believed, in the realm of constitutional fantasy. They tried to claim the Framers as architects of an antislavery politics and advanced all sorts of schemes–a congressional repeal of the Fugitive Slave Law, a reconstruction of the federal judiciary through the appointment of antislavery judges, the fixing of a date certain for abolition in the states and federal control of states in default–that had no chance of peaceably breaking the national political deadlock and, far from saving the Union, would make a military confrontation inevitable. Theirs was an oblique disunionism that masked itself behind the facade of constitutional interpretation. For Garrison the special work of abolition lay not in adopting the model of politics, but in creating a redemptive vision. We see what our fathers did not see; we know that they did not know.

Powerful organizations never espouse great reforms, the editor told a December 1855 meeting called to celebrate the desegregation of Boston’s public schools after a decade-long struggle by abolitionists of both races. Social reform, he said, begins in the heart of a solitary individual and grows strong among humble men and humble women [who], unknown to the community, without means, without power, without station, but perceiving the thing to be done … and having faith in the triumph of what is just and true, engage in the work…. He always regarded the abolitionists as a saving remnant who would create the preconditions for reform. Theodore Parker compared such non-political reformers either to the windlass that raises the anchor while the politicians haul in the slack or to the spinners and weavers who make the material from which politicians cut their clothes, but Garrison found the humblest metaphor of all in the baking of bread. By and by, he said with the apostle Paul, the little leaven leavens the whole lump … [and] this is the way the world is to be redeemed (1 Cor. 5:6). The most popular metaphor for the progress of reform in the 1850s, however, drew from both mechanics and nature. The world moves, people said, having found a shorthand way of remarking social change that evoked at once the lever of Archimedes and the stubborn faith of Galileo that the earth itself revolved in obedience to higher laws.

–Henry Mayer (1998), All On Fire: William Lloyd Garrison and the Abolition of Slavery, pp. 456-457.

International Ignore the Constitution Day #220

Today is the 220th annual International Ignore the Constitution Day!

In the United States, the federal government’s arbitrary laws supposedly mandate that over the course of this day, schools put on Spontaneous Demonstrations celebrating the founding of the federal government. (I suppose this is after the schools begin their day by ritualistically forcing students to swear allegiance to the federal government.) When Turkmenbashi did this sort of thing, it was called megalomania; when federal government of the United States does it, it is called civics education.

In this secessionist republic of one, we mark the day as a special reminder that the United States Constitution, in its origins, was an act of naked usurpation and an objective force for evil, imposed upon a great mass of people who never agreed to it (nor were even asked), and effecting genocide and the protection of chattel slavery at the point of federal bayonets. Today it is treated as the Enabling Act of a monster State, and as such is the begetter of war, the builder of prisons, the armament of professional thugs, the authorization of Presidential and Congressional power over the lives of innocent people, and all of it over people who have never given any meaningful consent to the arbitrary rule of Washington, D.C. Domineering presidents, legislators, and judges use the powers delegated explicitly or implicitly as an excuse to dominate, to ruin and to kill; cowardly or opportunistic presidents, legislators, and judges use the supposed separation of powers as an excuse to stand by and do nothing while the predators in other branches of government keep on dominating and ruining and killing. The Constitution is interpreted by the highest legal authorities designated by that very document as licensing imperial war, Star Chamber courts, domestic and foreign surveillance, the racist War on Drugs, ruinous taxation, corporate welfare, government cartelization and regimentation of every key industry, in direct proportion to its importance; and if the Constitution does not in fact state that these things are allowed, it has done nothing to prevent them. Some people who ought to know better pretend that a document such as this one deserves respect, or even that it should be taken as a source of our [marching orders][] in matters of life and death, substituting a genuflection to that damned rag in place of a moral defense of freedom and peace. Ignoring the Constitution is routinely used as a grave insult in political discourse — whether applied to the president, the legislature, or the courts — supposedly synonymous with arbitrary tyranny. As if slavishly complying with the dictates of a 220 year old edict, arbitrarily issued without the consent of more than a handful of scheming conspirators, and now laying its dead hands upon us without the consent of anyone at all, were any less tyrannical!

Today is a day to mark that nonsense for what it is. Tyranny is tyranny whether or not it is written into a document, whether that document is called Constitution or any other name. And justice is justice, whatever any document may say; it can stand on its own in arguments, and needs no authorization from any human-crafted covenant or edict, which can neither make nor unmake even one of the rights or even one of the obligations that inhere in justice towards free and equal people, prior to any agreement or act of will. Of course, when government officials ignore the Constitution, they almost always do so in order to usurp arbitrary power and inflict the worst sorts of injustices on innocent people who never did anything to deserve it. But when government officials obey the Constitution, they still almost always do so in order to usurp arbitrary power and inflict the worst sorts of injustices on innocent people who never did anything to deserve it. That is what government officials do, and it’s what government officials did at the time they made up the Constitution, too; and the evils of it have exactly nothing to do with whether or not those usurpations and injustices have been formally enacted according to the procedures set forth in the arbitrary United States Constitution. William Lloyd Garrison knew how to educate the people and celebrate the glorious achievements of that document:

The [4th of July 1851] rally began with a prayer and a hymn. Then Garrison launched into one of the most controversial performances of his career. To-day, we are called to celebrate the seventy-eighth anniversary of American Independence. In what spirit? he asked, with what purpose? to what end? The Declaration of Independence had declared that all men are created equal … It is not a declaration of equality of property, bodily strength or beauty, intellectually or moral development, industrial or inventive powers, but equality of RIGHTS–not of one race, but of all races.

Massachussets Historical Society, July 2005

We have proved recreant to our own faith, false to our own standard, treacherous to the trust committed to our hands; so that, instead of helping to extend the blessings of freedom, we have mightily served the cause of tyranny throughout the world. Garrison then spoke about the prospects for the success of the revolutionary spirit within the nation, prospects he regarded as dismal because of the insatiable greed, boundless rapacity, and profligate disregard of justice prevalent at the time. He concluded his speech by asserting, Such is our condition, such are our prospects, as a people, on the 4th of July, 1854! Setting aside his manuscript, he told the assembly that he should now proceed to perform an action which would be the testimony of his own soul to all present, of the estimation in which he held the pro-slavery laws and deeds of the nation

— from Thoreau: Lecture 43, 4 July, 1854

Producing a copy of the Fugitive Slave Law, he set fire to it, and it burst to ashes. Using an old and well-known phrase, he said, And let all the people say, Amen; and a unanimous cheer and shout of Amen burst from the vast audience. In like manner, Mr. Garrison burned the decision of Edward G. Loring in the case of Anthony Burns, and the late charge of Judge Benjamin R. Curtis to the United States Grand Jury in reference to the treasonable assault upon the Court House for the rescue of the fugitive–the multitude ratifying the fiery immolation with shouts of applause. Then holding up the U.S. Constitution, he branded it as the source and parent of all the other atrocities,–“a covenant with death, and an agreement with hell,”–and consumed it to ashes on the spot, exclaiming, So perish all compromises with tyranny! And let all the people say, Amen! A tremendous shout of Amen! went up to heaven in ratification of the deed, mingled with a few hisses and wrathful exclamations from some who were evidently in a rowdyish state of mind, but who were at once cowed by the popular feeling.

–from The Liberator, 7 July 1854 (boldface added)

As I said last year:

I think that legalism is an insidious error that liberals and libertarians alike are all too prone to fall into. In fact the rule of law is something to be hoped for only insofar as the laws are just: rigorously enforcing a wicked law–even if that law is duly published and generally formulated–is just relentlessness, not virtue. And in our bloodstained age it is as obvious as anything that many laws are very far from being just. But one way of trying to accomodate this point, while entirely missing it, is to throw your weight behind some Super-Duper Law that is supposed to condemn the little-bitty laws that you consider unjustifiable. Besides taking the focus away from creative extremism and direct action, and leaving power in the hands of government-appointed conspiracies of old white dudes in black robes, this strategy also amounts to little more than a stinking red herring. It diverts the inquiry from the obvious injustices of a State that systematically robs, swindles, extorts, censors, proscribes, beats, cuffs, jails, exiles, murders, bombs, burns, starves countless innocent people in the name of its compelling State interests, and puts the focus the powers that are or are not delegated to the government by another damn written law. As if the contents of that law had any more right to preempt considerations of justice than the subordinate laws supposedly enacted under its authority. Those who have spent their days trying to find a lost Constitution under the sofa cushions are engaged in a massive, sophisticated, intricately argued irrelevancy. I’d compare it to debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, but that would be grossly unfair–to Scholastic metaphysicians.

— GT 2006-09-17: International Ignore the Constitution Day festivities

And as I said in my first annual Ignore the Constitution oration:

You, too, can celebrate Ignore the Constitution Day! Today, completely ignore all claims to authority granted in the Constitution. Live your life as if the Constitution had no more claim on you than the decrees of Emperor Norton. Enjoy your rights under natural law; you have them whether or not the Constitution says one mumbling word for them. While you’re at it, treat the Constitution as completely irrelevant in political arguments too; instead of complaining that unbridled war powers for the President are unconstitutional, for example, complain that they are evil; instead of reciting that damn Davy Crocket bed-time story again and complaining that government-controlled disaster relief is unconstitutional, complain that government-controlled disaster relief is foolish and deadly. (If the Constitution clearly authorized unilateral war powers for the President, or abusive and incompetant government-controlled disaster relief, would that make it okay?) And, hell, while you’re at it, quit complaining that forced Constitution Day celebrations may be unconstitutional; complain instead that they force children to participate in cultish praise for the written record of a naked usurpation.

Just go ahead. Ignore the Constitution for a day. See what happens. Who’s it gonna hurt? And if your political reasoning becomes sharper, your discourse no longer bogs down in a bunch of pseudo-legal mummeries, and you have a pleasant day without having to ask anybody’s permission for it, then I suggest you continue the celebration, tomorrow, and every day thereafter.

— GT 2005-09-17: International Ignore the Constitution Day

Celebrations elsewhere:

Further reading:

Marching orders

So it seems that Ron Paul just had the following exchange with one of the moderators at the Republican Party primary debate, because of Paul’s opposition to the Iraq War and his proposals to withdraw American soldiers from both Iraq and the broader Middle East:

Chris Wallace: So Congressman Paul, … you’re basically saying that we should take our marching orders from Al-Qaeda …?

Ron Paul: No! I’m saying we should take our marching orders from our Constitution!

Max Raskin of the anti-war, anti-state, pro-secession LewRockwell.com Blog calls Paul’s retort Heroic! (exclamation point his). I call it cowardly.

Ron Paul is perfectly capable of making sharp moral arguments against the war. He does during the course of the debate, as in his later exchange with Mike Huckabee. But he doesn’t do it here, and that’s a damn shame. Taking a moral stand against domination and senseless slaughter, in the face of bellowing blowhards such as these takes courage. But instead Ron Paul makes a legal argument, which amounts to ignoring the demands of human decency in order to throw a scrap of paper in their faces and making legalistic excuses. (Would a formal declaration of war, which would certainly have been granted if Presidents were still in the habit of asking for such things, have somehow excused the killing, maiming, and ruining of hundreds of thousands of innocent people by this war?)

For the record, here is what a heroic stance on bloody oppression and the Constitution looks like:

There is much declamation about the sacredness of the compact which was formed between the free and slave states, on the adoption of the Constitution. A sacred compact, forsooth! We pronounce it the most bloody and heaven-daring arrangement ever made by men for the continuance and protection of a system of the most atrocious villany ever exhibited on earth. Yes—we recognize the compact, but with feelings of shame and indignation, and it will be held in everlasting infamy by the friends of justice and humanity throughout the world. It was a compact formed at the sacrifice of the bodies and souls of millions of our race, for the sake of achieving a political object—an unblushing and monstrous coalition to do evil that good might come. Such a compact was, in the nature of things and according to the law of God, null and void from the beginning. No body of men ever had the right to guarantee the holding of human beings in bondage. Who or what were the framers of our government, that they should dare confirm and authorise such high-handed villany—such flagrant robbery of the inalienable rights of man—such a glaring violation of all the precepts and injunctions of the gospel—such a savage war upon a sixth part of our whole population?—They were men, like ourselves—as fallible, as sinful, as weak, as ourselves. By the infamous bargain which they made between themselves, they virtually dethroned the Most High God, and trampled beneath their feet their own solemn and heaven-attested Declaration, that all men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights—among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They had no lawful power to bind themselves, or their posterity, for one hour—for one moment—by such an unholy alliance. It was not valid then—it is not valid now. Still they persisted in maintaining it—and still do their successors, the people of Massachussetts, of New-England, and of the twelve free States, persist in maintaining it. A sacred compact! A sacred compact! What, then, is wicked and ignominious?

… It is said that if you agitate this question, you will divide the Union. Believe it not; but should disunion follow, the fault will not be yours. You must perform your duty, faithfully, fearlessly and promptly, and leave the consequences to God: that duty clearly is, to cease from giving countenance and protection to southern kidnappers. Let them separate, if they can muster courage enough—and the liberation of their slaves is certain. Be assured that slavery will very speedily destroy this Union, if it be left alone; but even if the Union can be preserved by treading upon the necks, spilling the blood, and destroying the souls of millions of your race, we say it is not worth a price like this, and that it is in the highest degree criminal for you to continue the present compact. Let the pillars thereof fall—let the superstructure crumble into dust—if it must be upheld by robbery and oppression.

— William Lloyd Garrison, The Liberator (1832-12-29): On the Constitution and the Union

And also this:

The practical difficulty with our government has been, that most of those who have administered it, have taken it for granted that the Constitution, as it is written, was a thing of no importance; that it neither said what it meant, nor meant what it said; that it was gotten up by swindlers, (as many of its authors doubtless were,) who said a great many good things, which they did not mean, and meant a great many bad things, which they dared not say; that these men, under the false pretence of a government resting on the consent of the whole people, designed to entrap them into a government of a part; who should be powerful and fraudulent enough to cheat the weaker portion out of all the good things that were said, but not meant, and subject them to all the bad things that were meant, but not said. And most of those who have administered the government, have assumed that all these swindling intentions were to be carried into effect, in the place of the written Constitution. Of all these swindles, the treason swindle is the most flagitious. It is the most flagitious, because it is equally flagitious, in principle, with any; and it includes all the others. It is the instrumentality by which all the others are mode effective. A government that can at pleasure accuse, shoot, and hang men, as traitors, for the one general offence of refusing to surrender themselves and their property unreservedly to its arbitrary will, can practice any and all special and particular oppressions it pleases.

The result — and a natural one — has been that we have had governments, State and national, devoted to nearly every grade and species of crime that governments have ever practised upon their victims; and these crimes have culminated in a war that has cost a million of lives; a war carried on, upon one side, for chattel slavery, and on the other for political slavery; upon neither for liberty, justice, or truth. And these crimes have been committed, and this war waged, by men, and the descendants of men, who, less than a hundred years ago, said that all men were equal, and could owe neither service to individuals, nor allegiance to governments, except with their own consent.

… Inasmuch as the Constitution was never signed, nor agreed to, by anybody, as a contract, and therefore never bound anybody, and is now binding upon nobody; and is, moreover, such an one as no people can ever hereafter be expected to consent to, except as they may be forced to do so at the point of the bayonet, it is perhaps of no importance what its true legal meaning, as a contract, is. Nevertheless, the writer thinks it proper to say that, in his opinion, the Constitution is no such instrument as it has generally been assumed to be; but that by false interpretations, and naked usurpations, the government has been made in practice a very widely, and almost wholly, different thing from what the Constitution itself purports to authorize. He has heretofore written much, and could write much more, to prove that such is the truth. But whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain — that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case, it is unfit to exist.

–Lysander Spooner, No Treason No. 2 and No. 6

There’s no heroism in begging the Warfare State to live up to its better nature, or in trying to recommend your position by its connections with power and tradition. Peace, reason, and humanity are good enough to stand on their own, and if the law doesn’t recognize it, then we need to say To hell with the law! not look around for a Super-Duper Law that will supposedly give some marching orders for a principle that never needed them in the first place.

In related news, there are only 12 more ranting days before International Ignore the Constitution Day.

International Ignore the Constitution Day festivities

Today is the 219th annual International Ignore the Constitution Day.

Here’s William Lloyd Garrison, in The Liberator, on December 29, 1832:

There is much declamation about the sacredness of the compact which was formed between the free and slave states, on the adoption of the Constitution. A sacred compact, forsooth! We pronounce it the most bloody and heaven-daring arrangement ever made by men for the continuance and protection of a system of the most atrocious villany ever exhibited on earth. Yes—we recognize the compact, but with feelings of shame and indignation, and it will be held in everlasting infamy by the friends of justice and humanity throughout the world. It was a compact formed at the sacrifice of the bodies and souls of millions of our race, for the sake of achieving a political object—an unblushing and monstrous coalition to do evil that good might come. Such a compact was, in the nature of things and according to the law of God, null and void from the beginning. No body of men ever had the right to guarantee the holding of human beings in bondage. Who or what were the framers of our government, that they should dare confirm and authorise such high-handed villany—such flagrant robbery of the inalienable rights of man—such a glaring violation of all the precepts and injunctions of the gospel—such a savage war upon a sixth part of our whole population?—They were men, like ourselves—as fallible, as sinful, as weak, as ourselves. By the infamous bargain which they made between themselves, they virtually dethroned the Most High God, and trampled beneath their feet their own solemn and heaven-attested Declaration, that all men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights—among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They had no lawful power to bind themselves, or their posterity, for one hour—for one moment—by such an unholy alliance. It was not valid then—it is not valid now. Still they persisted in maintaining it—and still do their successors, the people of Massachussetts, of New-England, and of the twelve free States, persist in maintaining it. A sacred compact! A sacred compact! What, then, is wicked and ignominious?

… It is said that if you agitate this question, you will divide the Union. Believe it not; but should disunion follow, the fault will not be yours. You must perform your duty, faithfully, fearlessly and promptly, and leave the consequences to God: that duty clearly is, to cease from giving countenance and protection to southern kidnappers. Let them separate, if they can muster courage enough—and the liberation of their slaves is certain. Be assured that slavery will very speedily destroy this Union, if it be left alone; but even if the Union can be preserved by treading upon the necks, spilling the blood, and destroying the souls of millions of your race, we say it is not worth a price like this, and that it is in the highest degree criminal for you to continue the present compact. Let the pillars thereof fall—let the superstructure crumble into dust—if it must be upheld by robbery and oppression.

— William Lloyd Garrison, The Liberator (1832-12-29): On the Constitution and the Union

Here’s Lysander Spooner, in No Treason (1867-1870):

The practical difficulty with our government has been, that most of those who have administered it, have taken it for granted that the Constitution, as it is written, was a thing of no importance; that it neither said what it meant, nor meant what it said; that it was gotten up by swindlers, (as many of its authors doubtless were,) who said a great many good things, which they did not mean, and meant a great many bad things, which they dared not say; that these men, under the false pretence of a government resting on the consent of the whole people, designed to entrap them into a government of a part; who should be powerful and fraudulent enough to cheat the weaker portion out of all the good things that were said, but not meant, and subject them to all the bad things that were meant, but not said. And most of those who have administered the government, have assumed that all these swindling intentions were to be carried into effect, in the place of the written Constitution. Of all these swindles, the treason swindle is the most flagitious. It is the most flagitious, because it is equally flagitious, in principle, with any; and it includes all the others. It is the instrumentality by which all the others are mode effective. A government that can at pleasure accuse, shoot, and hang men, as traitors, for the one general offence of refusing to surrender themselves and their property unreservedly to its arbitrary will, can practice any and all special and particular oppressions it pleases.

The result — and a natural one — has been that we have had governments, State and national, devoted to nearly every grade and species of crime that governments have ever practised upon their victims; and these crimes have culminated in a war that has cost a million of lives; a war carried on, upon one side, for chattel slavery, and on the other for political slavery; upon neither for liberty, justice, or truth. And these crimes have been committed, and this war waged, by men, and the descendants of men, who, less than a hundred years ago, said that all men were equal, and could owe neither service to individuals, nor allegiance to governments, except with their own consent.

… Inasmuch as the Constitution was never signed, nor agreed to, by anybody, as a contract, and therefore never bound anybody, and is now binding upon nobody; and is, moreover, such an one as no people can ever hereafter be expected to consent to, except as they may be forced to do so at the point of the bayonet, it is perhaps of no importance what its true legal meaning, as a contract, is. Nevertheless, the writer thinks it proper to say that, in his opinion, the Constitution is no such instrument as it has generally been assumed to be; but that by false interpretations, and naked usurpations, the government has been made in practice a very widely, and almost wholly, different thing from what the Constitution itself purports to authorize. He has heretofore written much, and could write much more, to prove that such is the truth. But whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain — that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case, it is unfit to exist.

–Lysander Spooner, No Treason No. 2 and No. 6

Here’s me, from last year’s celebration in the Rad Geek People’s Daily:

You, too, can celebrate Ignore the Constitution Day! Today, completely ignore all claims to authority granted in the Constitution. Live your life as if the Constitution had no more claim on you than the decrees of Emperor Norton. Enjoy your rights under natural law; you have them whether or not the Constitution says one mumbling word for them. While you’re at it, treat the Constitution as completely irrelevant in political arguments too; instead of complaining that unbridled war powers for the President are unconstitutional, for example, complain that they are evil; instead of reciting that damn Davy Crocket bed-time story again and complaining that government-controlled disaster relief is unconstitutional, complain that government-controlled disaster relief is foolish and deadly. (If the Constitution clearly authorized unilateral war powers for the President, or abusive and incompetant government-controlled disaster relief, would that make it okay?) And, hell, while you’re at it, quit complaining that forced Constitution Day celebrations may be unconstitutional; complain instead that they force children to participate in cultish praise for the written record of a naked usurpation.

Just go ahead. Ignore the Constitution for a day. See what happens. Who’s it gonna hurt? And if your political reasoning becomes sharper, your discourse no longer bogs down in a bunch of pseudo-legal mummeries, and you have a pleasant day without having to ask anybody’s permission for it, then I suggest you continue the celebration, tomorrow, and every day thereafter.

— GT 2005-09-17: International Ignore the Constitution Day

I think that legalism is an insidious error that liberals and libertarians alike are all too prone to fall into. In fact the rule of law is something to be hoped for only insofar as the laws are just: rigorously enforcing a wicked law–even if that law is duly published and generally formulated–is just relentlessness, not virtue. And in our bloodstained age it is as obvious as anything that many laws are very far from being just. But one way of trying to accomodate this point, while entirely missing it, is to throw your weight behind some Super-Duper Law that is supposed to condemn the little-bitty laws that you consider unjustifiable. Besides taking the focus away from creative extremism and direct action, and leaving power in the hands of government-appointed conspiracies of old white dudes in black robes, this strategy also amounts to little more than a stinking red herring. It diverts the inquiry from the obvious injustices of a State that systematically robs, swindles, extorts, censors, proscribes, beats, cuffs, jails, exiles, murders, bombs, burns, starves countless innocent people in the name of its compelling State interests, and puts the focus the powers that are or are not delegated to the government by another damn written law. As if the contents of that law had any more right to preempt considerations of justice than the subordinate laws supposedly enacted under its authority. Those who have spent their days trying to find a lost Constitution under the sofa cushions are engaged in a massive, sophisticated, intricately argued irrelevancy. I’d compare it to debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, but that would be grossly unfair–to Scholastic metaphysicians.

Further reading:

Festive occasions

Allowing people into a nation who do not identify themselves as part of that nation–who do not speak the language, who do not observe the holidays, who do not know or care about the history and ideals and cultural icons–is simply suicidal.

— Timothy Sandefur, Positive Liberty (2006-03-30): Illegal Alienation

I’m sure that all of you properly assimilated Americans realized that June 14th is Flag Day — a commemoration of the military colors of the Union, first established by the rabid segregationist, anti-feminist, and President Woodrow Wilson. And I hope that you all have observed this holiday in a manner befitting the solemnity of the occasion, and the importance of such cultural icons to the flourishing — indeed, the survival — of so great a nation.

So perish all compromises with tyranny! And let all the people say, Amen!William Lloyd Garrison