Perspectives: Utah Sheriffs Association is on the right side of history

OPINION – The Utah Sheriffs Association’s letter opposing proposed federal gun control laws is a timely reminder that federal power is not unlimited. Read the letter here: Utah Sheriff’s Association Letter to Barack Obama Jan. 17, 2013.

The Sheriffs reminded the president, “We, like you, swore a solemn oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, and we are prepared to trade our lives for the preservation of its traditional interpretation.”

The constitutionality of a policy has significance that goes well beyond simple agreement or disagreement. To understand why, we must first comprehend what the Constitution is and is not.

It’s essential that we understand the proper origin of political power. On this subject, many Americans have been systematically misinformed by government schooling and media disinformation. We’ve been taught for generations that the federal government is the supreme power in our land, but that’s not what the Founders intended.

The Declaration of Independence established the “self-evident” truth that unalienable rights are not granted by government, but are something with which men “are endowed by their Creator.” The Declaration further states, “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Simply put, this means that the people are the ultimate source of political power. It also means that government is intended to be our servant, not our master.

As Joseph Sobran explained, “The rights of the people come from God. The powers of government come from the people. The American people delegated the specific powers they wanted the federal government to have through the Constitution. And any additional powers they wanted to grant were supposed to be added by amendment. Unless you grasp this basic order of things, you’ll have a hard time understanding the Constitution.”

The Constitution was the legal contract by which the people of the first states delegated, not granted, certain specifically enumerated powers to the government.

In his “Know Your Liberty” seminars, Stephen Pratt gave a brilliant and succinct definition of our Constitution: “A contract between states is called a compact. Because the compact constitutes our plan of government, it is called the Constitution.”

As Pratt explained the origin of our federal government, he noted, “It was created by compact and it was to act as an agent for the ratifying states. The sovereign states ‘vested’ the federal government with a few specific enumerated powers to execute in their behalf but the states retained ownership.”

Notice that the states and their people did not give the newly created federal government a blank check regarding its powers. Instead, they carefully enumerated and divided the specific powers that the federal government would be allowed to exercise on their behalf. This was done to prevent the consolidation of too much power in any single branch of the government.

The logic is inescapable: Why would the Founders enumerate federal powers if its powers were unlimited and undefined?

When the federal government seeks to assume powers beyond those expressly delegated to it, those powers should be considered usurped and tyrannical.

Sovereignty, or ultimate power, was still to reside in the people. The states retained powers that were, in James Madison’s words, “numerous and indefinite.” And the federal government, also according to Madison, was to exercise powers that were “few and defined” in the Constitution.

This hardly describes the way government conducts itself in our day. So where did it go wrong?

The consolidation of power at the federal level can be traced back to the earliest days of the American republic. The first leaders to test the Constitutional limits of their power included George Washington, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson.

The struggle between those who supported a true federal system of government, with specific and limited powers, and the consolidationists who sought unlimited power climaxed in Lincoln’s War of Involuntary Union. The states and the people were the ultimate losers of that conflict.

This was when our federal government transformed into a centralized national government that has presumed to define the limits on its powers ever since. Not surprisingly, those limits always seem to expand just far enough to encompass whatever power the feds wish to assume.

This is where those who prefer to define their terms will take special interest in understanding what the words “delegated”, “enumerated”, and “usurped” now mean in the context of government powers. Federal power is either limited or it is not.

The fact that our government has slipped its chains and is running amok is apparent to all but the most intentionally obtuse. By refusing to keep the federal government confined to its delegated powers, we are less free, less safe and more regulated than ever.

Critics of the Utah Sheriffs Association are supporting ongoing federal lawlessness when they condemn the Sheriffs for upholding the Constitution’s limits on federal power.

Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives morning show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Related post

Utah sheriffs send letter to president, they will defend rights to firearms

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Twitter: @youcancallmebry

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  • Karen January 24, 2013 at 2:01 pm

    I was unfamiliar with the use of Mr. Hyde’s phrase, ” Lincoln’s War of Involuntary Union” so I googled it. The first link listed led me to a website called Storm Front whose motto is White Pride World Wide. It was all about seceding from the Union and various white supremacy ideas. The next link led to a website that was subtitled “Just News. No Jews.”

    I want to make clear that I do not attribute anything on these websites to Mr. Hyde but I do observe his use of that phrase as ill-considered. Perhaps the phrase was used by Stephen Pratt who Mr. Hyde admires but it is still unfortunate and inaccurate.

    It is my opinion that conservatives would be well to remember the late William F Buckley, Jr.,editor of the main conservative magazine the National Review, who denounced the John Birch Society as “far removed from common sense” and urged the GOP to purge itself of it. Good advice for today’s conservatives.

  • sho down January 25, 2013 at 7:26 am

    Mr. Hyde has wasted 20% of his adult waking life afraid of everything. Hours and hours hiding in Utah from the boggy man. Sad life. Exactly what people like John Swallow want. Boo boo. Brian quit polishing your guns, or better yet move to south Central and use one.

    Please purge the Republican party of all those rich pragmatic people. I m sure Billy Bob and his boys are going to replace Mitts money. They can be gone soon.

    Hyde’s tangential links to Neo Nazis can’t be a surprise. He was on KDXU years ago. His most frequent caller was unemployed and lived is a trailer. His most common topic was taxes and the feds taking away “our lands.”
    A quick tax record check showed Hyde was wasting 20 minutes a day with people on disability handouts complaining about taxes they don’t pay.

    • Bryan Hyde January 25, 2013 at 1:18 pm

      Glad to know you’re still paying attention, Daniel. Now that the guilt by association card has been played, can you frame a response to what I’ve actually written? I’ve learned truth from a surprising variety of sources, but it never seems to originate from anonymous name-callers.

  • Leo Wright January 25, 2013 at 11:09 am

    I wanted to read this letter, but I had to go find it myself because your link doesn’t work. You might want to fix that.

    • Joyce Kuzmanic January 25, 2013 at 9:06 pm

      Thanks, Leo – Please accept our apologies for making you work so hard.
      We have attached a PDF file of the letter to the story now – first paragraph.
      Joyce Kuzmanic

  • Ron January 25, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    Brian Hyde is an excellent example of the dangers of “pure reason” as opposed to pragmatic thought. He seems unable to think in terms of compromise and a middle ground, both necessary requirements of a civil society. He has apparently done a lot of reading in the areas of logic and political theory, but he needs to go back and review the “slippery slope” and “continuum” fallacies. His arguments are rife with these two forms of flawed thought.

  • Harley Rockwell January 25, 2013 at 9:42 pm

    I love how everyone attacks Mr. Hyde, yet has not rebuttal for the salient points he makes in his article.

    Karen, while you are looking up words you have never heard before, you should check “Neocon” – beside it you will find a picture of William F. Buckley. As for William F. Buckley’s advice for the GOP, I wouldn’t bank on it- years of intellectual “advice” and “reasoning” by “scholars” like Buckley haven’t worked out so well for the party, now have they?

    Sho down- Ad Hominem. Look it up.

    Ron- where’s the “middle ground” on an Inalienable right? I’ll be waiting………

    • Ron January 26, 2013 at 1:10 am

      An inalienable right to own assault rifles? Sure, that’s what the Founders intended, isn’t it?

      • Bryan Hyde January 26, 2013 at 11:36 am

        That is why the Founders used the word “arms” instead of being overly specific. They knew that people would be tempted to parse their words in order to twist them.

        • ken January 26, 2013 at 5:24 pm

          No Bryan it was because they couldn’t have imagined “arms” that could kill many people in short period of time. You and all other media types constantly twist and spin words to fit your agendas!

          • Bryan Hyde January 26, 2013 at 10:09 pm

            All I’ve used was the actual word that the Founders used. I’m not the one trying to wring extra meaning out of what they might have “imagined.” My only agenda is good government. What’s your agenda?

        • Ron January 26, 2013 at 5:24 pm

          They knew that, did they, Brian? So can we own missile launchers? How about small nuclear devices? Or biochemical weapons (excuse me, “arms”)? And Harley, there is always a middle ground, even with an “inalienable right.” Take liberty. Are you at liberty to drive 110 mph down Bluff Street? To buy any drugs you might want to try? To own a pet tiger and let it run the neighborhood? To marry more than one woman? (Well, okay, maybe in Utah)? It’s all about where to draw the line. It has always been about where to draw the line.

          • Bryan Hyde January 26, 2013 at 10:07 pm

            I’d be very interested to hear your definition of “inalienable right.” Based on the examples you’re using, it doesn’t appear that you’re clear on what distinguishes an inalienable right from state-granted privileges.

    • Karen January 26, 2013 at 11:52 am

      I have never been a fan of William F. Buckley but I did appreciate his advice that the Republican Party would do well to purge itself of the John Birch Society. I thought all that “Naked Communist” malarkey was in decline but it seems to still be a fringe element of the Republican Party. As for me, I didn’t leave the Republican Party. They left me. And now I see it lurching even farther to the right. GOP=Guns Over People

  • Allen January 26, 2013 at 6:06 am

    I am pleasantly surprised by how your willingness to accept truth from where ever it comes. So many are not willing.

    Justifying the actions of people who resist the ever increasing encroachments by government without acknowledging a path to rectify it feels wearisome. I applaud your tenacity and resilience. Most of us would shrink or have shrunk from the monotony of it. Power is so enticing through its easy aspiration and resolve and subsequent perceived morally justified action.

    Keep up the fight. I know you are also learning and teaching in your ‘free’ time, addressing the root of the problem.

  • zacii January 26, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    Keep up the good fight, Bryan.

    Sadly, so many of your detractors are so quick to cry foul, but they don’t take the time to educate themselves on the proper role of gov’t. It’s too easy to just take the spoon-fed version from popular culture.

  • Fred January 26, 2013 at 5:20 pm

    What is the discussion all about? The Sheriffs of Utah are upholding the United States Constitution against federal tyranny.

  • TERRY January 26, 2013 at 9:00 pm

    As for missle launchers etc….our liberal friends miss the point.. There are 300 million of us. We vastly outnumber them should centralization infringe on state freedom. We don’t need 300 million ‘missle launchers’…. but we do need to ‘keep and bear ARMS’. That term is meant to include firearms equivalent to whatever the fedzillacrats are carrying. Second Amendment ‘Arms’ are indeed about hunting power hungry politicians, not bambi. Liberals just can’t get their utopian brain around the fact that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The only thing we’ve learned from history is that man does not learn from history.

  • villefort February 11, 2013 at 7:17 pm

    If your interpretation of the historical motivations for, and content of, the constitution, then you’re correct to conclude that the powers of the federal government have expanded beyond the bounds of the constitution. But, you have failed to demonstrate either that your interpretation is correct, and if it ought to be the correct interpretation, or if this expansion has indeed led to a net social harm.

  • villefort February 11, 2013 at 7:19 pm

    *under your interpretation*

  • villefort February 11, 2013 at 7:29 pm

    You make broad assertions that the current state of our federal government is harmful, as though this was intuitive. It is neither intuitive nor reasonable upon reflection that a broadly empowered, though not limitless, central government is harmful, and you have failed to demonstrate that it is. More troubling than this, your entire thesis is predicated upon a fallacious false dillema. You state either government is limited or limitless, but you fail to recognize gradations of limitation. If I am to make any sense of this claim I must assume you mean either a central government is instrumental only or tyrannical. This is categorically false.

    • Bryan Hyde February 11, 2013 at 8:50 pm

      Right now, the executive branch of our federal government claims the authority to kill anyone, via drone strike, anytime, anywhere on the globe at the whim of the president or one of his bureaucrats. They also claim the authority to indefinitely detain anyone, anytime, anywhere based upon mere suspicion and not upon probable cause or due process. If our government can claim to exercise such powers without accountability or oversight, what powers couldn’t they claim? There are plenty of aspiring sophists who would try to explain how this is proper, but it is wholly incompatible with the proper role of government as framed by the Founders.

  • Fred February 12, 2013 at 6:04 am

    Unbelievable that people are not aware of our freedoms that have been lost and our current tyranny coming from the govt. I tell people like that to keep watching TV and keep getting “dumbed” down.

    And the Congressmen and Senators do nothing.

    • redrock February 12, 2013 at 11:53 am

      Fred please provide facts about this tyranny you banter so much about!

  • Fred February 12, 2013 at 6:05 am

    And DHS keeps buying more and more ammo and will never secure the borders. What goes on with this agency that was supposed to protect American citizens, not demonize them.

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