“Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites, — in proportion as their love to justice is above their rapacity, — in proportion as their soundness and sobriety of understanding is above their vanity and presumption, — in proportion as they are more disposed to listen to the counsels of the wise and good, in preference to the flattery of knaves. Society cannot exist, unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.” —Edmund Burke
The myth that civil liberties are the stock and trade of organizations like the ACLU has been exposed as but a mere memory of days gone by. What “so called” progress achieved by left leaning advocates in the arena of fighting for individual liberty, is relegated to the back corners of history. The true basis for fostering a culture of respect and preservation of citizen rights always reverts to the principles founded in the law, based upon natural rights. The trap that most social advocates fall into is that their reading of history has a significant blind spot. The notion that evolving circumstances are equivalent with a shifting character of rights misses the inalienable constancy of inherent autonomy as the primary principle.
Tom Head, over at About.com Guide provides a list and claims that – The civil liberties we have today weren’t created; they evolved. A careful review exposes the conventional wisdom that judicial review in Marbury v. Madison is a valid legal method. The sorry case history of the courts and juridic equity is seldom a shining light of favorable civil liberty protections.
1215: The Power of the Monarchy is Reduced
The Magna Carta restricts the absolute power of British monarchs, holding them accountable to the rule of law.
1689: The Rights of English Subjects Are Defined
The English Bill of Rights guarantees free speech to members of Parliament, bans cruel and unusual punishment, and supports a limited right to bear arms.
1776: The Power of the Monarchy is Rejected
In the U.S. Declaration of Independence from Britain, Thomas Jefferson argues that the sole legitimate purpose of government is to protect individual rights.
1787: A New Democratic System is Established
The new U.S. Constitution establishes limited roles for the President and Congress, but does not yet grant significant power to the Supreme Court.
1789: The Rights of U.S. Citizens Are Defined
The U.S. Bill of Rights protects the natural rights of U.S. citizens from infringement by U.S. Congress, but because the Supreme Court has no power to strike down legislation, it is in effect little more than a statement of principles. At this point in history it applies exclusively to the U.S. government–and not to U.S. states, which have their own, separate bills of rights.
1803: A Mechanism for Protecting Rights is Created
In Marbury v. Madison, the Supreme Court strikes down its first law and in so doing establishes its power to strike down unconstitutional legislation.
1868: The Rights of U.S. Citizens Are More Clearly Defined
The Fourteenth Amendment is ratified. Although its original purpose is to limit the efforts of Southern states to severely restrict the rights of recently freed slaves, it effectively makes individual states accountable to the human rights standards established in the Bill of Rights–though it will be more than a half century before the Supreme Court comes to that conclusion.
1925: State Legislatures Must Respect the Rights of U.S. Citizens
In Gitlow v. New York, the Supreme Court holds that states are bound by the U.S. Bill of Rights by way of the Fourteenth Amendment. The means by which the Fourteenth Amendment extends the power of the Bill of Rights is most commonly referred to as the incorporation doctrine.
1965: The Right to Be Left Alone is Defined
In Griswold v. Connecticut, the Supreme Court holds that the Fourth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution imply a right to privacy. This right to privacy will later be cited in court rulings legalizing abortion (Roe v. Wade, 1973) and striking down laws prohibiting gay sex (Lawrence v. Texas, 2003).
Placing legitimacy in the courts to interpret the law is essentially a practice by statist hypocrites hiding behind their own distortion of the eternal law. Pharisee Christians makes this point.
“John Marshall played godlike when he decided Marbury v. Madison. Federal Supreme Court judicial review crucified the Republic on a manmade cross of judges. Sunday Christians are celebrating a pagan holiday. If Constantine could move the Sabbath to a different day of the week, what hampers US District Judge Myron Thompson from banishing the granite tablets of a believer like Roy Moore?”
The Magna Carta, English Bill of Rights, U.S. Declaration of Independence and U.S. Bill of Rights are and were essentially political results brought about by revolutionary conflict. The introduction of justification for such revolts rests upon the old regimes violations of fundamental principles of natural rights that every person possesses.
The only law that is lawful is the one endowed by our creator.
This is the most fundamental of conservative doctrines. Civil liberty rests upon the supremacy of individual gifted invariable rights. The authentic conservative recognizes this reality as a core component of any political action.
In practice, what is often labeled as conservative is actually just another version or twist on the authoritarian imperium that we get from every party establishment toady. The antithesis of genuine advocacy of civil liberties is the NeoCon promotion of their recycled internationalist empire, which requires the sacrifice of human dignity as the price for an imaginary security.
Contrast this perversion of conservatism with The Pillars of Modern American Conservatism by Alfred S. Regnery.
“The first pillar of conservatism is liberty, or freedom. Conservatives believe that individuals possess the right to life, liberty, and property, and freedom from the restrictions of arbitrary force. They exercise these rights through the use of their natural free will. That means the ability to follow your own dreams, to do what you want to (so long as you don’t harm others) and reap the rewards (or face the penalties). Above all, it means freedom from oppression by government—and the protection of government against oppression. It means political liberty, the freedom to speak your mind on matters of public policy. It means religious liberty—to worship as you please, or not to worship at all. It also means economic liberty, the freedom to own property and to allocate your own resources in a free market.
Conservatism is based on the idea that the pursuit of virtue is the purpose of our existence and that liberty is an essential component of the pursuit of virtue. Adherence to virtue is also a necessary condition of the pursuit of freedom. In other words, freedom must be pursued for the common good, and when it is abused for the benefit of one group at the expense of others, such abuse must be checked. Still, confronted with a choice of more security or more liberty, conservatives will usually opt for more liberty.”
Before Libertarians claimed the mantle as liberty champions, true conservatives carried the torch. When Frederic Bastiat writes in The Law, he acknowledges “Life Is a Gift from God”.
“Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.”
So when Edmund Burke proclaims:
“It is better to cherish virtue and humanity, leaving much to free will . . . than to attempt to make men machines and instruments of political benevolence. The world as a whole will gain by a liberty without which virtue cannot exist.”
He concludes that righteousness requires personal liberty and warns against governmental altruism.
And when Russell Kirk writes in Rights And Duties: Reflections On Our Conservative Constitution, his endorsement that liberty only exists in practice within an orderly framework, he is drawing a distinction from the abstract theorists.
“Two centuries later, the provisions of the Bill of Rights endure–if sometimes strangely interpreted. Americans have known liberty under law, ordered liberty, for more than two centuries, while states that have embraced the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, with its pompous abstractions, have paid the penalty in blood.”
The essence of conservative civil liberties links the relationship that all natural rights are bestowed with the ability for moral conduct by way of an orderly system that protects the exercise of individual rights.
All the confusion about authentic conservatism and the misleading emphasis that civil liberties are the bailiwick of progressives, ignore the intellectual underpinnings of the traditional defenders of our heritage.
When the term Radical Reactionary is used, civil liberties are core objectives in a respectful free society. “Essentially, at the end of the day, what matters is that the values and principles of traditional Western Civilization are founded upon rational honesty and spiritual compliance.”
The honest accept personal responsibility in light of divine providence. The order that Kirk often references is that compliance that observes the basic self-worth of each person.
Conservatism recognizes natural limit to convention and government. Popular culture in whatever era usually ignores proven standards of civilized conduct. As Thomas Jefferson made clear, the state in every age abuses the “Rights of the People” primal authority.
It is for this reason that citizens of all persuasions and ideologies share the task of advancing civil liberties, a most conservative practice.
“In the civil society, the individual is recognized and accepted as more than an abstract statistic or faceless member of some group; rather, he is a unique, spiritual being with a soul and a conscience. He is free to discover his own potential and pursue his own legitimate interests, tempered, however, by a moral order that has its foundation in faith and guides his life and all human life through the prudent exercise of judgment.” – Mark R. Levin