Protecting Property – The Very Purpose of Our Republic


Steve FarrellPublishers Note: An earlier version of this essay was published on July 17, 2001 at & elsewhere on the Internet and in print.

To possess a memory is to be blessed with a priceless good. It is our link to the past, our guidepost to the present and our passport to the future. It is who we are, what we believe and how we fit in. It is that fixed vantage point in a world of confusion that gives us a degree of security, stability and moral direction.

One need not tell us what would happen if we were to sever the cord that connects a man, a family, or a nation to who he is and what he has learned. Such a clean-slated one might be transformed into a naive Pinocchio or a tra-la-la Pollyanna, whose lack of experience would lead him or her into the grasp of one of a million Honest Johns who offer frills and thrills that later come crashing down upon them in a Carnival of Deception and Slavery.

Memory is critical, both to individuals and to nations.

Yet America has lost her memory, her fixed vantage point, her sense of the laws that protect liberty for all, not just liberty for the few. I speak of America’s failure to recall the historical belief that liberty is only possible within the confines of fixed law.

Today, the law floats upon the winds of emotion and upon the arrows of moral appeals which miss the mark about religion, and which miss the mark, also, about our Founders’ republic, the very republic which was established to protect religion and the inalienable rights religion proclaims as the common lot of mankind.

The Pre-eminence of Higher Law

So let us enter upon a brief reminder: Our rights, our liberties, our best laws are the result of the wisdom of our Forefathers in placing God’s law above man’s law – literally setting the biblical law as both the foundation stone and the keystone in the arch of the great body of American law.

Blackstone, the most frequently quoted legal authority, in the early days of our Republic noted:

“Upon these two foundations, the law of nature and the law of revelation, depend all human laws; that is to say, no human laws should be suffered to contradict these. There are, it is true, a great number of indifferent points, in which both the divine law and the natural leave a man at his own liberty; but . . . with regard to such points as are not indifferent, human laws are only declaratory of, and act in subordination to, the former.”

It was upon this same rock-solid conviction that Thomas Jefferson declared to all the world:

“We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness [the right and control of property].”

That is, since God is the author of our Rights, no king or president, no House of Lords or Senate, no House of Commons or House of Representatives, no Supreme Court or unelected bureaucrat can ever abridge those rights.

Which leads to Jefferson’s next point: “To secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among men.” Or in other words, the whole purpose of government in the first place, its legitimate role, is to secure the rights of man; “anything more or less than this is tyranny.”

Which Right Is the Greatest?

Government’s job, consistent with Divine Law, is to secure our rights. That’s clear enough. But it seems equally persuasive that there is one right upon which the survival of all others hinge – property.

Jefferson wrote:

“The true foundation of republican government is the equal right of every citizen in his person and property, and in their management.” To which he added, the defense of private property is the standard by which “every provision” of law, past and present, shall be judged. (1) This is partially so because the definition of private property, and its application in the law, is broader than we sometimes suspect.

French economist Frederic Bastiat, in his 1850 treatise on “The Law,” explains:

“What, then, is law? It is the collective organization of the individual right to lawful defense. Each of us has a natural right – from God – to defend his person, his liberty, and his property. These are the three basic requirements of life, and the preservation of any one of them is completely dependent upon the preservation of the other two. For what are our faculties but the extension of our individuality? And what is property but an extension of our faculties?” (2) Justice George Sutherland of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1921 echoed the following:

“The three great rights are so bound together as to be essentially one right. To give a man his life but deny him his liberty, is to take from him all that makes his life worth living. To give him his liberty but take from him the property which is the fruit and badge of his liberty, is to still leave him a slave.” (3)

Thus, the three great rights, Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence thundered – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – are but one great right – property – and as such, protecting private property becomes the chief business of a republic, as Jefferson stated.

Tyrants Know This Too

If a belief in higher law and the protection of private property is the work of a republic, then, plainly, the work of tyrannical government is to abolish or “control” God, the author of that law, and eliminate or control property, the great right God guarantees. It’s that simple. Ask Marx.

“The theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: abolition of private property.” (Communist Manifesto, p. 18) In saying this, it must be understood that Marx had the same broad interpretation of property in mind that the Founders did – for, said he, “the eternal laws of nature and of reason . . . [sprang] from [the] present mode of production and form of property.”

Religious principles – like thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not covet, thou shalt not lie, thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt have no other gods before me (including the state), and the command that man shall be “Lord over the whole earth,” that is, Lord over all living things – sustain the existing order of private property, and thus all of them are targeted for eradication as obstacles in the way of a revolution against the existing order. Thus, private property, religion and the religious definition of the family are one and the same enemy – property.

And so, there is a strand of thought here that we must understand: An attack on our property is an attack on our religion, and vice versa.

Founder John Adams understood why:

“The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is no force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. Property must be secured or liberty cannot exist.” (4)

True religion proclaims the right to private property. True government upholds it. Tyranny targets both private property and religion for elimination.

Enter Modern Liberalism and its sister Compassionate Conservatism

Communism with a capital “C” puts a bad taste in most folks’ mouths. Its real intent, the destruction of human liberty and the acquirement of personal power are generally known. But when you call the same underlying principles Compassionate with a capital “C” and Conservative with a capital “C,” miraculously the prospect of tyranny is supposed to taste sweet. Compassionate Conservatism, a political movement which preaches from the Bible even while it grasps behind its back a red (but softer metaled) hammer in one hand, and a red (but duller edged) sickle in the other, does this. It’s rhetoric is so persuasive that more than a few partisans on both sides of the political aisle actually believe it is Christian rather than Socialist and thus oppose or support it accordingly.

But think again.

Compassionate Conservatism states: “Individuals are responsible to love our neighbors as we want to be loved ourselves.” This sounds Christian. The trouble is not enough private citizens are taking care of their neighbors. So what is Compassionate Conservatism’s solution?

“It will be government that serves those who are serving their neighbors. It will be government that directs help to the inspired and effective. It will be government that both knows its limits and shows its heart. And it will be government truly by the people and for the people.” (5)

That is, government will forcibly confiscate property, in the tens of billions of dollars (that’s only the beginning), and redistribute it to “private” groups it “trusts” to disperse the money back to the people.

This age-old Communist trick of robbing Peter to pay Paul is defined by Compassionate Conservatism as “a different role for government. A fresh start. A bold new approach.” (6) Thus, theft is compassion, forced giving is charity, attacking private property is conservative, and all of the above is new.

It isn’t. It is but shades of liberalism, socialism, and the other “isms” dressed up in new garb.

James Madison, Father of our Constitution, rejected just such a scheme two centuries ago. He wrote:

“Government is instituted to protect property of every sort. . . . This being the end of government, that alone is not a just government, . . . nor is property secure under it, where the property which a man has in his personal safety and personal liberty is violated by arbitrary seizures of one class of citizens for the service of the rest.” (7)

It is easy to be “charitable” with other people’s money. It is convenient to rewrite the Bible in the image of one’s political ideology. And it is useful to re-invent government from the protector of man’s God-given rights to government being God himself, even a god who defines – on a flex schedule – what our rights are. Power-seeking men will always attempt the same. That is why our Founders preached the preeminence of God’s law, declared our rights inalienable and fixed, and established a Republic which had but one central purpose in mind:  the protection of private property.

Steve Farrell is the Founder and Editor In Chief of The Moral Liberal, one of the original pundits at (1999-2007), and the author of the inspirational novel Dark Rose.

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1. Bergh, Albert Ellery, ed. The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, 2d ed. rev. Washington: Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, 1907, p. 15:32.

2. Bastiat, Frederic. The Law, p. 6.

3. Skousen, Cleon. The Five Thousand Year Leap. Washington, DC: National Center for Constitutional.Studies, 1981, p. 173.

4. Adams, Charles Francis, ed. The Works of John Adams, 10 vols. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1850-56, 6:9, p. 280.

5. Olasky, Marvin: Compassionate Conservatism. New York: The Free Press, 2000, pp. 218-219 (from a speech by George W. Bush).

6. Ibid., p. 218.

7. Saul K. Padover, ed. The Complete Madison. New York: Harper & Bros., 1953, p. 267.

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