Building a Great Nation, Part 5
Justice: The Absence of Injustice
Having suffered the many injustices of the British government, the Founders were intent on establishing a system of justice, order and defense within the legitimate function of the political realm a limited and delegated authority.
Because they believed a person’s unalienable rights such as life, liberty, property, personal pursuit of goals and happiness are gifts from God’s natural law, the role of government they believed would be to secure those unalienable rights.
They saw laws as protecting the citizen from criminals and the Constitution protecting the citizen from the government.
The Founders saw justice as the absence of injustice achieved by securing individual rights.
Justice and the Preamble
The Preamble to the Constitution states one of the key purposes of government, “in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice …” Justice does not exist by virtue of itself; rather, justice is the absence of injustice. Darkness does not exist – it is the absence of light. Cold does not exist – it is the absence of heat.
Justice is intended to curb crimes and warn criminals of punishment for injustices. In reality, to make something right after a crime, there would be restoration and restitution be made. But the punishment of the guilty rarely does this, but when administered properly, it forfeits the rights of the criminal.
Since the purpose of government is to secure rights, justice demands that before the government can use force to take action against an accused individual, the person has the right to a fair trial. No punishment can be administered without prior proof of guilt.
A right can be described as a just claim. Specifically, when it comes to individual rights, an individual is free to take action as long as that action does not interfere with the rights of others in their just actions.
The Founders believed individual rights such as life, liberty, property, the opportunity to produce, purchase, pursue personal goals, and happiness are given by God and not by government. The proper role of government is to secure these individual rights. The Founders also called them unalienable or inalienable rights.
Entitlements are beliefs that society or government owes us something. The problem is every entitlement comes out of the pocket of somebody else – which goes against other premises the founders condemned. The Founders wanted freedom and considered the role of government to protect equal rights, not provide equal things.
Thomas Jefferson at his Inaugural Address in 1801 stated, “…a wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.”
Limited Government and Justice
The Founders’ beliefs still echo as individuals battle taxes, laws and legislation considered to be an injustice.
“You cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the wealthy out of freedom. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that my dear friend, is about the end of any nation. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it.” [Dr. Adrian Rogers, Southern Baptist Minister/Author, 1931 to 2005]
The Bill of Rights was not directed at the private citizen, but against the government–as an explicit declaration that individual rights supersede any public or social power. The government’s authority is “the consent of the governed.” The government is not the ruler, but the servant or agent of the citizens, and has no rights except the rights delegated by the citizens for a specific purpose. And if a society is to be free, the government must be controlled.
Justice cannot prevail in a society that is not free.
The first four parts of this series are featured on The Founding Project’s website: Part 1- https://thefoundingproject.com/founders-vision-of-liberty/; Part 2- https://thefoundingproject.com/building-great-nation-faith-paradigm/, Part 3- https://thefoundingproject.com/building-great-nation-part-3-god-source-freedom/, Part 4- https://thefoundingproject.com/opportunity-absence-coercion/