Property, Liberty, & Due Process
By KrisAnne Hall, JD
Do we realize how important and essential property ownership is to Liberty? Our founders knew how essential property ownership was to every inherent right.
We must understand the proper definition of Property to know its necessity to Liberty. Property isn’t just the place where you hang your hat. It isn’t just the car you drive or the gun you own. Yes, those are property, yet the true definition of that word is so much greater.
James Madison explains the definition of property in his dissertation of 1792.
“In its larger and juster meaning, it embraces every thing to which a man may attach a value and have a right; and which leaves to every one else the like advantage…a man has a property in his opinions and the free communication of them. He has a property of peculiar value in his religious opinions, and in the profession and practice dictated by them. He has a property very dear to him in the safety and liberty of his person. He has an equal property in the free use of his faculties and free choice of the objects on which to employ them.
In a word, as a man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in his rights.”
Apply this understanding of “Property” to our lesson yesterday on “Due Process” and we can begin to fully understand what Madison is asserting:
“Where an excess of power prevails, property of no sort is duly respected. No man is safe in his opinions, his person, his faculties, or his possessions.” James Madison, Property, 1792
When the government has the power to seize your property, they have the unlimited power to control you. Our founders knew that property ownership is essential to self-preservation. They knew that human nature dictates that if the government has the power to take your property without due process and a jury of your peers, then people will tend to submit to tyranny just to maintain their property and ensure their self-preservation. People will then be silenced and oppressed into ultimate submission for fear of losing their property. Freedom of speech…gone. Freedom of press…gone. Freedom of religion…gone. ALL Liberty is gone, when we cannot own our property free from government seizure. Due process is your protection when the government wants to seize your property…any of your property.
Now suppose that the seizure of that property is no longer limited by due process, but only limited by the government’s need for safety, security, or economic considerations. Government can determine that you no longer deserve the property essential to your self-preservation. What if government decides you no longer have the right the property of your life or liberty? What if the government begins to claim the property of your rights to be a privilege only maintained by their permission or consent?
Here is the million-dollar question… would it matter if that government is federal, State, or local?
What do the testimonies of History tell us about government today? Here is what Madison has to say,
“That 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. A magistrate issuing his warrants to a press gang, would be in his proper functions in Turkey or Indostan, under appellations proverbial of the most compleat despotism.” (Property, 1792)
What kind of society do you want to live in? The decision is yours, as the authority over surrendering your Rights is yours alone.
“Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will, within the limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law’; because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the right of the individual.” Thomas Jefferson to Isaac H. Tiffany, 4 April 1819