Why does the US have a problem with insurrectionism?

This is something I have been pondering for a while since the US Constitution and its history make it clear that it does not condone rebellion.  Indeed the document is intended on establishing the rule of law, which runs contrary to the insurrectionist doctrine.

Recap: Shays’ Rebellion was the event which led to the attempt to rework the Articles of Confederation.  Instead the Constitution came out of that movement with its specific intent of “insuring domestic tranquility”.  The militia is supposed to “to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions”:  Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance of the US Constitution.

The Constitution only mentions one crime: Treason. This is found in Article III, Section 3.

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.

Levying war is defined as:

The assembling of a body of men for the purpose of effecting by force a treasonable object; and all who perform any part however minute, or however remote from the scene of action, and who are leagued in the general conspiracy, are considered as engaged in levying war, within the meaning of the constitution. 4 Cranch R. 473-4; Const. art. 3, s. 3. Vide Treason; Fries’ Trial; Pamphl. This is a technical term, borrowed from the English law, and its meaning is the same as it is when used in stat. 25 Ed. III.; 4 Cranch’s R. 471; U. S. v. Fries, Pamphl. 167; Hall’s Am. Law Jo. 351; Burr’s Trial; 1 East, P. C. 62 to 77; Alis. Cr. Law of Scotl. 606; 9 C. & P. 129.

The Constitution does not itself create the offence; it only restricts the definition (the first paragraph), permits Congress to create the offence, and restricts any punishment for treason to only the convicted (the second paragraph). The crime is prohibited by legislation passed by Congress: 18 U.S. Code § 2381 – Treason.  Congress has passed laws creating other related offences that punish conduct that undermines the government or the national security (See 18 U.S. Code Chapter 115).

In many nations, it is also often considered treason to attempt or conspire to overthrow the government, even if no foreign country is aiding or involved by such an endeavour.

it should also be noted that the Declaration of Independence is a historic document with no legal authority under the US Constitution (Article VI).

Which take us back to the quote from Dennis v. United States, 341 U.S. 494 (1951):

“The obvious purpose of the statute is to protect existing Government, not from change by peaceable, lawful and constitutional means, but from change by violence, revolution and terrorism. That it is within the power of the Congress to protect the Government of the United States from armed rebellion is a proposition which requires little discussion. Whatever theoretical merit there may be to the argument that there is a “right” to rebellion against dictatorial governments is without force where the existing structure of the government provides for peaceful and orderly change.”

I would hold that the Bundy family and anyone else who would attempt to recruit for the purpose of starting a civil war has engaged in the act of Treason in accordance with this definition.  18 U.S. Code Chapter 115 – TREASON, SEDITION, AND SUBVERSIVE ACTS has  variety of options if you are not willing to call incitements to rebellion treason.

Additionally Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment states:

No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any state, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any state legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any state, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

Very few people are willing to do anything about the promotion of the belief that people are somehow being patriotic and somehow following the constitution when the insurrectionists act in their seditious manner to the point of actual rebellion. There have been fewer than 40 federal prosecutions for treason and even fewer convictions since the Constitution was ratified. Several men were convicted of treason in connection with the 1794 Whiskey Rebellion but were pardoned by President George Washington.

Which is where the US differs from other countries with a Common Law heritage.  Yes, there have been rebellions in England, Canada, and Australia, yet they do not have the belief that there is somehow a “right” to rebellion (as they do not have a concept of a “right to arms/guns”).  Unlike the US, where the largest rebellion, the Civil War/War Between the States, went without too many of the instigators being hanged, rebellion has been punished severely in other nations with a British heritage.  Only recently has the death penalty been abolished for treason in most Common law countries.

What I find even more bizarre are the people who somehow claim to be “conservative” while spouting seditious nonsense. Especially since the term “conservative” is defined as:

a political and social philosophy promotes retaining traditional social institutions in the context of culture and civilization. Some conservatives seek to preserve things as they are, emphasizing stability and continuity.

By that definition, insurrectionism and supporting sedition are hardly conservative qualities, but this gets into the bizarre notion of what is “conservative” in the United States.  If anything, true conservatism believes in the rule of law: not the rule of the gun.

The problem is that like the Second Amendment revisionism, there has been a neglect of the concept of the rule of law in US society. The rule of law is that a nation is ruled by laws rather than the capricious whims of individuals.  It is part of the Constitutional Structure under Article VI.  The rule of law is expressed in these four principles:

  1. The government and its officials and agents as well as individuals and private entities are accountable under the law.
  2. The laws are clear, publicized, stable, and just; are applied evenly; and protect fundamental rights, including the security of persons and property.
  3. The process by which the laws are enacted, administered, and enforced is accessible, fair, and efficient.
  4. Justice is delivered timely by competent, ethical, and independent representatives and neutrals who are of sufficient number, have adequate resources, and reflect the makeup of the communities they serve.

This is also summed up in Article VI of The Declaration of the rights of Man and of the Citizen of 1789:

The law is the expression of the general will. All the citizens have the right of contributing personally or through their representatives to its formation. It must be the same for all, either that it protects, or that it punishes.

The bottom line is that the US has moved from the concept of the rule of law and somehow allowed the absurdity that individuals can decide which laws they can follow.  But the reality is as I pointed out in my last post:

Just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean it is unconstitutional.

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