Defy Tyrants: Lesser Magistrates are Sentinels
“…I believe most sincerely and solemnly that the last hope of free, representative and responsible government rests upon the state sovereignties and fidelity of state officers…”
In 1859, the Wisconsin Legislature defied the U. S. Supreme Court and the entire federal government by declaring the federal Fugitive Slave Act to be “null, void, and without authority” in the state of Wisconsin. This act of interposition was needed and necessary.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court also defied the U. S. Supreme Court and the entire federal government. The federal government was charging Sherman Booth under the Fugitive Slave Act for helping a runaway slave in federal custody escape from jail. Justice Abram Smith stated in the Booth case: “The duty of the states to watch closely and resist firmly every encroachment of the federal government becomes every day more and more imperative, and the official oath of the functionaries of the states becomes more and more significant.”
After making plain the duty of the states, Justice Smith then spoke from a more personal level. He wrote in Booth:
But believing as I do, that every state officer who is required to take an oath to support the Constitution of the United States as well as of his own state, was designedly placed by the federal constitution itself as a sentinel to guard the outposts as well as the citadel of the great principles and rights which it was intended to declare, secure and perpetuate, I cannot shrink from the discharge of the duty now devolved upon me.
Smith understood his duty as a sentinel – as a state magistrate. His duty was interposition. Defiance of SCOTUS. A sentinel is a watchman who guards against the approach of danger.
Today we have a lawless federal judiciary once again. SCOTUS dispenses injustice and immorality. The preborn are being butchered and God’s created order for marriage is impugned. Where are the sentinels of our day?
They appear to be busy cowering and singing the common song – “The Supreme Court has ruled – all we can do is obey.” Justice Smith and the legislators of 1859 defied federal law. When it comes to the slaughter of the preborn and the perverting of marriage there is no federal law – just a mere court opinion. Yet they cower and quibble.
Justice Smith went on to write:
I know well its consequences, and appreciate fully the criticism to which I may be subjected. But I believe most sincerely and solemnly that the last hope of free, representative and responsible government rests upon the state sovereignties and fidelity of state officers to their double allegiance, to the state and federal government; and so believing, I cannot hesitate in performing a clear, an indispensable duty.
Interposition is an indispensable duty. If the state and county magistrates bow down to the federal tyrant, the federal tyrant has the convenience to build the next plank of his tyranny. The federal judiciary has been doing that for decades now.
The interposition of the state and county magistrates is needed and necessary.
The preservation of a free Government requires, not merely that the metes and bounds which separate each department of power may be invariably maintained, but more especially that neither of them be suffered to overleap the great Barrier which defends the rights of the people. The rulers who are guilty of such an encroachment, exceed the commission from which they derive their authority, and are Tyrants. The people who submit to it are governed by laws made neither by themselves nor by an authority derived from them, and are slaves.
– James Madison, 1785
Matthew Trewhella is the pastor of Mercy Seat Christian Church (MercySeat.net). He and his wife, Clara, have eleven children and reside in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area. You can obtain his book The Doctrine of the Lesser Magistrates: A Proper Response to Tyranny and A Repudiation of Unlimited Obedience to Civil Government at our resource page or by going to the websites www.DefyTyrants.com or www.LesserMagistrate.com.