Alan Keyes
A government of laws and not of elitist student bodies
Significance of the 'God-endowed standard of justice'
By Alan Keyes
April 4, 2016

One of the saddest aspects of the tragic decline of the liberty of the American people is the ease with which the most obvious and important predicates of the institutions of self-government intended to sustain it are being undone. What brought this to my mind was an article reporting the fact that "the Library of Congress is will no longer use the term 'illegal alien' or 'illegal immigration,' due to pressure from Dartmouth College students who insisted the descriptions were discriminatory." Congress should immediately take action to compel reversal of this decision, which directly impugns its legislative authority.

It is by acts of Congress that the terms on which people who are not citizens of the United States can lawfully enter and reside in its territory are enacted. The action taken by the Library of Congress effectively challenges and nullifies laws made pursuant to the Constitution of the United States. This challenge tends to bring both those laws and the authority of Congress into contempt. This may seem to be a matter of mere words, what some would consider verbal semantics.

But under the republican form of government the United States Constitution requires, the activities of government are to be bound by the words of laws constitutionally enacted by their elected legislative bodies – not by the edicts of government bureaucrats submitting to the ignorant whims of students, no matter the elitist student body to which they belong.

When he drafted the Massachusetts Constitution, John Adams alluded to one of these critical properties of republican government in the United States, the "separation of powers." After scrupulously detailing its provisions, he wrote that it was prescribed for the government of Massachusetts "to the end it may be a government of laws and not of men."

As a matter of empirical fact, all governments depend on the decisions and actions of human beings. Laws are but words. Spoken, they may be ineffectual as the air that bears them. Even when written, they are of no effect unless enacted by people who understand them and take them seriously. So what sense does it make to speak of a government of laws?

Though we don't often focus on this fact, the separation of powers has precisely to do with the way in which laws are enacted. That is most obviously true of the executive branch of government, which is literally charged with carrying out the actions by which government directly affects people and things. This is particularly true when, as we say, "things heat up" and physical force comes into play. At such times, it may be true, as Shakespeare put it, that "words to the heat of deeds too cold breath gives."

It's telling that Shakespeare puts that observation into the mouth of a would-be tyrant who is urging himself to murder the sovereign of his country, a deed that will put the supreme power of government into his hands. The situation reminds us that republican constitutional government is intended to put sovereignty out of the reach of such foul murders as Macbeth is on his way to commit.

This is why, in America's republics, the power to act is held apart from the powers of government that pronounce the words that give rise to government actions, and which represent the authoritative judgment in light of which those actions must be accepted as right and just. The power that, in general terms, authorizes the government to act is held by the legislative body. The power to appraise the valid application of those general terms to any given case is held by the judicial body. Both logically, and in terms of the actual practice of America's republican governments, the pronouncements of the legislative body answer to the name of law in the formal sense, for they determine the form of words that is to govern the activities of the other two branches.

Why is this so? Because the legislative body represents the people, which on the whole are understood to represent the ultimate authority of the law. According to the organic law of the United States, set forth in the Declaration of Independence, that authority is the Creator, God. He is the Supreme Judge of the World. His self-proclaiming sentences convey the code which, by their conscientious consent, the good people who have instituted our governments are determined to carry out, of, by, and for themselves. When appropriate, they do so using institutions of government they ordain and establish for that purpose.

When the Constitution of Massachusetts refers to "a government of laws and not of men," it is this determination to execute the code endowed by God that makes sense of the reference to laws that are somehow not sourced in human will and decision, laws that apply a standard of justice that does not rise and fall with the whims and tides of individual or general human passions. That God-endowed standard of justice is particularly important for the people of the United States, since it is the basis for their right to govern themselves, through institutions that derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Another article I saw today had Ben Carson feebly justifying Donald Trump's careless remark about punishment for women who have abortions with the excuse, "I don't think he really had a chance to really think about it." As I observe toward the end of my Daily Caller column this week, a candidate who has "not given time and attention to the process of self-persuasion" that justifies his purported positions can't be trusted to hold on to them when challenged. GOP governors like Nathan Deal are a case in point.

But so will be the elected officials who presently lead the GOP majorities in Congress, if they fail to react against the Library of Congress' subversive decision to overturn the distinction between legal and illegal immigration (and the immigrants or aliens identified in those terms) made pursuant to laws duly enacted under the Constitution. The GOP's thoughtless dereliction will confirm that the degenerate, corrupt elitist partisan sham they are slyly inflicting on our country is already replacing our government of laws (enacted by duly elected legislative bodies) with an anarchic dictatorship of unelected bureaucrats and elitist cliques, including student bodies, bereft of any proper authority except their own tendentious, ignorant whims.

To see more articles by Dr. Keyes, visit his blog at and his commentary at and

© Alan Keyes


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Alan Keyes

Dr. Keyes holds the distinction of being the only person ever to run against Barack Obama in a truly contested election – featuring authentic moral conservatism vs. progressive liberalism – when they challenged each other for the open U.S. Senate seat from Illinois in 2004... (more)


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