6 thoughts on ““Obedience to lawful authority is the foundation of manly character.” — Robert E. Lee

  1. The corollary to this, of course, would be that disobedience to unlawful authority is also a foundation of manly character. Robert E. Lee may never had said it, but his behavior gives one grounds to think that he probably would have agreed with the sentiment.

    • I think that is a safe assumption. His conflict over jurisdictions is what led him to resign his commission with the US Army and decline an offer to command the Union troops. He agonized over it but knew his first loyalty was to his State. He also freed his slaves, which is something U. Grant refused to do. When asked why he refused to free them, Grant responded “Good help is hard to find these days…”

      Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and George Washington are three of my heroes from history. They all three maintained strong character even in the face of unbelievable pressure…

      Sheriff Ray

    • Doran:

      I will be dealing with this issue in future posts. But the basic premise of the answer is this: an authority acting outside of its jurisdiction is not an authority. So the higher authority in this case is the Constitution. If the detention, arrest, or search is clearly outside of Constitutional boundaries, it does not require obedience. This sounds great in theory, but of course the real problem comes when you try to put it into practice. Physical resistance could result in injury or even death. And to compound the problem, the citizen may not have all of the facts known to the officer at the time of the arrest or search.

      Keep this in mind: the Constitutional standard for an arrest or a search is probable cause and the standard for a detention is reasonable suspicion. Both of these standards of proof fall far below the proof beyond a reasonable doubt which is the standard for a conviction. So just because you might be innocent, or just because the information that the officer is relying upon is inaccurate, doesn’t mean that the arrest, search or detention is unlawful. And you might not be privy to that information at the time of the police action. So I think the best course of action is to respectfully challenge the officers to be sure they have adequate probable cause. If they insist on moving forward, ask for a supervisor to be brought to the scene. If that fails, I suggest compliance and then fight the action in the courts. That is what the courts are for.

      Now don’t get me wrong. There may be a time where physical resistance is called for. But I believe that only occurs in a very small number of cases under some very narrowly defined circumstances. Great question and I hope this helps…

      Sheriff Ray

  2. Pingback: The Ten Virtues of a Law Officer – Virtue #1 « Police Dynamics Media

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