Government, Like Fire, Is a Dangerous Servant and a Fearful Master…

George Washington said, “Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master…” This quote underscores the danger of a government extending beyond its constitutional boundaries.

In this short video, we not only explore the principles relating to the protections afforded by the Constitution and our responsibility to keep the federal government within the confines of its limitations, but we answer a very important question to our understanding of constitutional authority: “Is it possible for one citizen to violate the constitutional rights of another?” The answer may surprise you…

To expand on Washington’s metaphor, if you view the government as fire, then the Constitution can be viewed as the fireplace, the structure that keeps the fire in it’s proper place.

Note of Appreciation: This is the last video in our Foundations of American Government series. Thanks for bearing with me on this lengthy study. Next week, I will resume some of our more traditional police and character-related posts…

Two Pivotal Dates in American History

How did America get in the mess it’s in? Why is there abortion on demand in every state? Why can’t the Ten Commandments be displayed at the Alabama State Supreme Court? Why can’t the City Council of Gray Court, SC begin with prayer? Why can’t a nativity scene be placed on the Town Square? Why can’t kids pray in public school? Why has the federal government intruded into so many areas that were intended to be under the sole jurisdictions of the states?

Regardless of how you feel about these issues, this fact is clear: the Bill of Rights originally only applied to the federal government which functioned with very limited and clearly defined authority.  There are two pivotal dates in American history that changed all this: the end of the War Between the States in 1865 and the Everson v. Board of Education ruling by the Supreme Court in 1947.

Authority and Jurisdictions – the Constitution and the Bill of Rights

Those of you who have attended Series 2 of the Police Dynamics training program may remember these definitions from the Dynamic of Jurisdictions:

  • Authority – the right to impose obligations on the time and resources of another

  • Jurisdiction – limitations on that authority

The Authority Maxim states that all human authority is delegated authority – it always flows from a higher source.

In the case of American government, the Constitution is a grant of authority from We, the People and it spells out certain limited authorities. Although the need for it was hotly debated by the Federalists and the Anti-federalists, our Founders understood the wisdom of placing further restrictions on the federal government by ratifying the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights further refines the jurisdiction of the federal government by limiting its power.

In these next three training videos from my presentation at Crossroad Church in Pensacola, I discuss the jurisdiction of the federal government. At the time, Crossroad was pastored by Chuck Baldwin, a great defender of constitutional government and the presidential candidate for the Constitution Party.

Starting with the First Amendment and moving through the Second, Third, and Fourth Amendments, we can get a feel for the intentions of the Founders as defined in the first four amendments to the Constitution.

The Second Amendment places limitations on the federal government in the arena of gun ownership. Many people don’t realize that the Second Amendment protects the right of the individual States to defend themselves from an intrusive federal force. The Second Amendment spells out the need for a State to maintain a well-regulated militia (one under the authority of the State and often called a State Defense Force today) by protecting the right of the people to keep and bear arms.

The Third and Fourth Amendments place restrictions on all three branches of the federal government: legislative, executive, and judicial.

Making an Appeal

Many people think obedience means merely following instructions. In other words, someone in authority gives you an order or directive and you follow it. But what if your authority is “out from under authority?”

One of the criticisms we often face when teaching the principle of authority is that we are advocating blind obedience. Nothing could be further from the truth. We recognize that there are times when an authority has made a bad decision and it is proper to make an appeal….

In order to make an appeal in court, there must be constitutional or procedural grounds. Otherwise there is no basis for the appeal. You cannot make an appeal simply because you disagree with the decision. In fact, the character test for obedience is often found in your willingness to follow directions that you disagree with.

In a character-based organization, “grounds” fall into two categories: ethical violations or additional information. If your authority instructs you to violate a clearly defined ethical or legal standard, you have grounds to make an appeal. And to respectfully disobey if necessary.


More often… you have additional information that may influence your authority’s decision. In this case, you have grounds to bring this information to their attention. Examples could be pointing out a consequence of the decision that your supervisor may not have considered. Or, it could be informing them of a prior conflicting instruction that you had received from another supervisor. Or, maybe there is a well-established law or policy that prohibits that course of action.

In addition to having grounds for an appeal, you must also have “standing.” In other words, you must be in a lawful position to address the court. The same is true in making an appeal to an authority. Your standing is established through your reputation of good character. If you have been a faithful and loyal employee, then you have the right to make an appeal.

Sheriff Ray