The Four Boxes

Views from Liberty Hollow

It used to be said that American liberty rested on four boxes:
– The soap box;
-The ballot box;
-The jury box;
-The cartridge box.
It was also said that they ought to be employed in that order.  

What is the status of the 4 boxes that support our freedom?

For those are too young to know such things, soap used to be shipped in a sturdy wooden box about 18″ in each dimension, used when somebody wanted to stand up and sound off about a complaint or an issue.  Soap boxes were inexpensive, relatively lightweight containers that could carry a man’s weight.  They were akin to the plastic milk crate of the latter half of the twentieth century.  A soap box was the average American’s podium,  and “getting up on a soap box” was a metaphor for the ability of every American to use the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment to speak his mind on issues of importance to him.

So, what would happen if you or I were to set up a soap box or a small stool or a plastic milk carton and stood on top of it and started explaining to passers-by how badly corrupted our judicial system is, or how the Federal government is engaging in gross violation of the Constitution, or even questioned the eligibility of the present occupant of the White House to be there?

Well, I haven’t done it lately, but I expect that I would get arrested.  For protesting without a permit, or for possessing a non-CPSC approved ladder, or for use of a product outside the government-approved instructions, or for obstruction of a public way, or for that perennial favorite of police officers searching for a charge, ‘disorderly conduct.’  Not for exercising my right to free speech, oh no!  That is protected, but I should have gone to the approved free speech zone 12 blocks away.  Where I could get all the video coverage I wanted courtesy of the cameras piped to the nearest federal terrorism fusion center, and where my audience would be the rats feasting on the filth left by the OWS protesters.

Those presently exercising authority do not want to be bothered with free speech from the general public, and more to the point they do not want the taxpayers or their voters bothered with free speech either. Letters to elected representatives serve mainly to get you onto one or another lists of potential troublemakers, (which has not deterred me,) but such letters cannot inculcate morality and ethics into those who demonstrably have none.  Just as few people today have ever seen a soap box, fewer still know or care about the meaning behind it and almost nobody is willing to stand on top of one, either literally or figuratively.  Still, a table can stand on three legs;  what about the ballot box?

A number of factors, historically, have borne on the attempt to secure free and fair elections.  Equal access by candidates, an informed electorate, open debates and discussion of the ideas of each candidate, and an impartial ballot counting process were all part of the mix.  At least in theory.  The practice of elective politics, however, has been tarnished to some extent since the founding of the Republic, and especially so in the big cities.    Probably one of the most notorious examples is Boss Tweed of Tammany Hall (New York City, Democratic-Republican party, mid 19th century) who is supposed to have said, “I don’t care who the public votes for as long as I do the nominating!” Another relevant quote is “It isn’t who votes that counts, it is who counts the votes!”

Those in power dislike giving it up, especially those who have overtly corrupted the system and are benefiting from that corruption.  (It is interesting to note that today there are many times more millionaires per capita in politics than in private employment, even including the financial services area.  One reason is that politicians are exempt from insider trading laws. If one excludes the banks and trading exchanges from the definition of ‘private’, it gets far worse.  Politicians today are thousands of times more likely to be rich than a businessman.)  These electoral manipulations included exclusion of candidates, gerrymandering of voting blocks, vote counting irregularities, and warping of popular perception, but for the most part, everyone involved saw the need for at least the perception of fair elections, and the more significant outrages were generally checked by the press, the people and the court system.  At least up until the latter half of the 20th century.

Constraints, both lawful and not, on candidacy  have been in play since before the Revolution, but the latter half of the twentieth century saw the fruition of the American Empire, and with superpower status came enormous financial incentive to maintain the status quo.  As the economy became more and more deformed by the various legislative manipulations inflicted upon it, and as businesses became increasingly dependent upon political rather than economic forces, the incentive to ensure the status quo also became increasingly great.  The present political system is designed and operated to ensure that no candidate who threatens the status quo is ever allowed to speak freely, witness the outrageous treatment of Ron Paul in the last presidential primary contest.

Candidates who espouse the philosophy of limited government, sound money, and personal liberty are demonized and hounded from the field by any means, fraudulent, facile or felonious.  It is incredibly rare to hear any candidate for any office talk about principle;  most candidates from either ‘mainstream’ party argue about how much they are going to loot from the productive, and who ought to receive the swag.  Vanishingly few candidates talk about whether looting ought to be done in the first place; principles are never debated amongst the ‘acceptable’ ‘mainstream’ candidates, only minor variations on the status quo.

Parenthetically, restrictions on the franchise have become fewer over time, to the point that illegal immigrants are being encouraged to vote to support the present entitlement system, and the status quo.  Ballots used to be paper records that could be checked, recounted and verified, but increasingly elections are resolved by means of electronic devices which are supposed to be ‘tamper-proof.’  The manufacturers all stoutly maintain that nothing could be more secure than the present electronic voting machines, but there are numerous confirmed reports of persons having voted for one candidate and seeing another come on the screen as having been that voter’s selection.  During the 2012 elections, some precincts reported 104% registered voter turnout, with 100.0% voting in favor of one candidate.  These results were certified as correct. Free and fair?

Then there are the recent overt attempts to block participation, such as the stationing of gang members and Black Panthers outside polling places who blocked white voters from entering the polls.  In a similar vein, many absentee ballots were sent too late to be used to the soldiers, sailors and Marines serving overseas, and of those that were sent out in time, many were ‘lost.’ Free and fair, or fee and fear?

Some folks vaguely comprehend that something has gone dreadfully wrong with our representative Republic and it’s electoral process, but few can quantify their concerns, and those few are assiduously ignored by politicians and media alike.    As any number of commentators have put it- “We are not voting our way out of this!”  Bottom line: the ballot box has rotted out from the inside, and cannot support Liberty.  We must change that, but rebuilding the ballot box is a task which will take years, and must be built upon an educated populace.  This is an essential task, but Liberty is being assaulted right now, and she needs help.

What about the jury box?  Surely the right to a fair trial, being judged by a jury of your peers, can help restore Lady Liberty?

Well, the short answer is that it might, if we actually had the same jury and court system that existed in 1800.  Back then, juries were randomly selected from the registered voters of the area.  They were not screened or examined apart from being voters, but back then being a registered voter meant that you were either a landowner, a journeyman in a trade, or a businessman, meaning that you were a respectable pillar of the community, and almost certainly fully literate and well read. (literacy among the general population was well over 90% and among voters it was virtually 100%.)  There was no “one man, one vote” universal suffrage;  to be a voter you had to have a stake in the community.

In those days, literacy meant that you had studied Locke and Blackstone, had read the Declaration of American Independence and understood it, knew the Articles of Confederation and the new Constitution, and were familiar with the principles of individual rights.  You kept up with the issues of the day, whether you were a Whig or a Federalist, and you had a lively interest in maintaining the rule of law.  Such a man understood that an American jury had the right and the duty to not only judge the facts of a case, but also to judge whether a law was just under the Constitution, or being justly applied in a particular case.

Fast forward to today.  Today, the surest way to avoid jury duty is to wear a “FIJA”  T-shirt (FIJA = Fully Informed Jury Association, an organization which promotes the rights of juries to employ all of their traditional power to judge both the law and the facts.)  The second fastest way is to let slip that you are active in ‘alternative’ politics, such as the Tea Party, or the Constitution party, or especially the Libertarian Party.  Both judges and prosecutors jealously covet their arrogated power and if they even suspect that you do not share their warped vision of ‘justice’ they will get you out of the courtroom posthaste before you ‘contaminate’ the other jurors.  As Neil Smith has put it, “voire dire” is French for ‘jury tampering;’ the examination process ensures an ignorant pliable jury.

It is likely that not one in a thousand members of an average jury today know who John Adams was, or what he had to say about the powers of an American jury.  “It is not only his right, but his [the juror’s] duty – to find the verdict according to his own best understanding, judgment, and conscience, though in direct opposition to the direction of the court.”  This ignorance of history and the law is one reason that Federal case conviction rates are over 98%, and most state courts are not far behind.  These presently united States have the highest per capita conviction and incarceration rates of any western culture, and one of the highest in the entire world.

Today, sadly, a fair trial is nowhere to be found, and the process of getting to court itself is a harrowing ordeal which can destroy families and strip the innocent of all resources just by accusation.  Books have been written about the degeneration of the court system, but suffice it to say that what has happened to the jury is but a small part of the deterioration of the once-admirable American ‘justice’ system.
No, the jury box cannot save Liberty, although you, gentle reader, can change that eventually.  Educate all those you know of the traditional power of the jury; the liberty you save may someday be your own.

So, we appear to be left with the ‘cartridge box.’

In Revolutionary days, the cartridge box was a weather resistant leather pouch in which musket cartridges were kept for ready use;  it had to be regularly oiled or greased to ensure that it could keep the powder in your cartridges dry.   Cartridges were typically loaded into the cartridge box only when action was contemplated.  When taken into context, references to “the cartridge box” meant not only possessing adequate ammunition, but also the weapon and the skill needed to fire those cartridges.

What is to be said of the “cartridge box” in this day and age?  Today, the modern equivalent is fully charged normal capacity magazines for one’s self-loading rifle, and the web gear that holds such magazines and the various other accessories, along with the rifle itself.  On the one hand, we have would-be tyrants and their syncophants trying to further limit our Constitutionally recognized right to own and carry weapons of all sorts, especially those of military utility.  On the other, we have the encouraging fact that in the last five years Americans have bought enough arms to equip the US, Chinese and Indian armies, and purchased enough ammunition to fight a war for many months.

Clearly, Americans increasingly understand their right and duty to defend themselves and their rights, and are preparing to do so.  Regardless of the extensive efforts being made to pull their own wool over their eyes, Americans are becoming aware of how badly they have been sheared, and they are preparing to defend themselves.

Some would have us believe that the cartridge box is an anachronism, that a rifle-armed populace is incapable of defending itself from a modern army.  I am sure that the Afghanis and the Iraq irregulars would be interested to hear that, and so would over a hundred thousand dedicated soldiers, sailors and marines who are fighting less than a thousand Al-queda in the ‘stans. You could also ask the SAS about fighting less than two hundred IRA in Great Britain, or the 10th Cavalry about chasing the Apache.

The cartridge box is more than simply owning arms and ammunition;  in order to possess the power of the cartridge box, and defend liberty, you must be skilled and trained with your arms and their accessories. More than that, you must know why your resistance is moral, and have the will to resist.

Have you, gentle reader, oiled your cartridge box lately?  Jeff Cooper famously remarked that one is no more armed because he owns a gun, than he is a musician because he owns a guitar.  Will you be able to play when the dance starts?  Time passes, tyranny progresses, and the day may come when, as the schoolmaster in 1775 said, “Deponite libros!”  or “Put your schoolbooks down!”

With regard to all who serve the Light,


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