The Right To Revolution

If Thomas Jefferson had used Powerpoint, the first slide of the Declaration of Independence might have looked like this:

Self-evident truths:
* all men are created equal
* they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights
* among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness
* to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed
* whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness

I offer this somewhat humorous presentation lest we forget that the self-evident truths upon which this nation was founded do not end with the pursuit of Happiness. Jefferson’s words go on to emphasize not only that free men must consent to be governed by others, but that whenever our systems of government run afoul of our wishes, we have a right to modify or destroy those systems of government.

Now I am not a lawyer, but you do not need to be one to see that the signatories to the document that gave birth to the United States of America all agreed that the right to revolution is inherent among our unalienable rights. If this is clear to the layman reading this document, it surely would be clear to a lawyer. Certainly no lawyer would claim otherwise. Would they?

I mean if a professor of law at, say, Roger Williams University made the claim that there’s no right of revolution in a democracy, surely he would become a laughingstock among his peers and the general public, right? Right?! Which is why I was amazed that Professor Carl Bogus was invited to post these exact sentiments in an opinion piece on CNN yesterday that would be more at home on The Onion.

To support his claim, Professor Bogus cites two insurrections early in our country’s history — Shay’s Rebellion and the Whiskey Rebellion — and asserts that since the government did not recognize the right of those actors to rebel, the right must not exist. The possibility that the government’s reaction was both tyrannical and hypocritical apparently never occurred to Professor Bogus. The government is, after all, infallible.

So, just a heads-up to anyone thinking of attending law school at Roger Williams University — you might want to avoid the Bogus Theories 101 course.

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