Thomas Knapp: Sedition is the Foundational American Political Trait

As the founder and leader of Oath Keepers,  an organization allegedly organized to defend the US Constitution,  Stewart Rhodes seems like the last guy one might expect to “conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof” (18 U.S. Code § 2384 — Seditious Conspiracy).

Nonetheless, Stewart finds himself charged with doing exactly that in actions related to the 2021 Capitol Riot. And while he entered a “not guilty” plea in federal court on January 25, it seems pretty clear that the intent of the rioters in general and of the organized Oath Keepers presence among them was, in fact, to forcibly “prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of” Congress’s constitutionally mandated counting of electoral votes from the 2020 presidential election.

The devil, of course, is in the details. What did Rhodes actually do? Who did he do it with or for? What was his intent? The obvious counter-argument, from those who believe the election was stolen, is that Congress itself comprised the “seditious conspiracy” and that Rhodes and company were attempting to put down an insurrection against the “legitimate” government. That argument seems unlikely to take flight in the courts, but it’s going to be an interesting show.

My interest in the affair is more by way of noticing a massive contradiction between the US Constitution in general, and the seditious conspiracy statute in particular, on one hand, and the founding principles of the United States on the other.

Governments, the Declaration of Independence declares, “deriv[e] their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed,” and absent such consent for a particular government, “it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it.” Which, as you may recall, America’s British colonists proceeded to do. By force.

But then came the Constitution: “Oh, we didn’t mean THIS government!”

The ink wasn’t dry on that document when George Washington led an army into Pennsylvania to suppress, among other things, the “setting [of] seditious poles” — liberty poles, the symbols of the very revolution which brought Washington to power.

The Constitution was, to put it bluntly, the American counter-revolution. Its purpose was to put the pre-revolution planter/merchant aristocracy back in charge, albeit without the King of England over them, to put the serfs back in their place, and to lay all that “Right of the People to alter or to abolish” guff to rest once and for all.

The dust-up between Congress and the Oath Keepers wasn’t about your rights or your freedom. It was about which tyrant’s hand would wield the scepter of power for another four years in service to a machine which assumes itself permanently entitled to rule you.

Fortunately, such assumptions of permanency are always wrong.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.

12 thoughts on “Thomas Knapp: Sedition is the Foundational American Political Trait

  1. SocraticGadfly

    You missed one point for all this, Thomas.

    America, the “city on a hill,” the allegedly “Christian nation,” etc.?

    That 1775 revolt, and the sedition by the Oath Keepers, are all SINS!

    Romans 13: “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities.” Note that Paul lived under a quasi-dictatorial authoritarian government, not a somewhat restrained constitutional monarchy of 1775 or a republic of today.


    That’s not counting, per George, the big thing you got wrong with your libertarian framing. If that’s the case, why aren’t you revolting yourself? Or Dan “taxation is theft,” running for gov here in Tex-ass this year, the most clownish nominee possible if he beats out Andrew Jewell.

  2. Sammy H

    The dildos that ransacked the Capitol building want to act like it’s 1776? Well their revolution failed, they should all prepare for the noose then right.

  3. SocraticGadfly

    Only an idiot claims that there was a “brief” occupation, that the US Capitol is “a building” and etc etc.

  4. Nathan Norman

    “that the US Capitol is ‘a building'”

    Of course I forgot that the US Capitol is a magical place and that the mere presence inside of it gives people the power over the government.

  5. Andy

    Another who thinks that J6 was an attempt at overthrowing the US government is a moron. It was an OBVIOS manipulated event, with government plants leading a small percentage of the protestors that day into the Capitol, and the Capitol police being ordered to let them in so the Democrats and the media could engage in phony outrage.

    I wish it had been a real insurrection, because the federal government is woefully corrupt, but it was NOT an insurrection, and anyone who says otherwise is either an idiot or they are lying.

  6. Thomas L Knapp

    “The notion that the small group of Trump Stooges who attacked the Capitol are ‘the people’ with the right to change the government is absurd.”

    It certainly is.

    Who suggested otherwise?

  7. Thomas L Knapp


    I’m not big on the idea that Paul got to define what sin is. Especially since the religion he subverted/paganized was based on the story of a Jewish rabbi who claimed to be the messiah (heir to the throne of Judea in the Davidic dynasty) and was executed by the Romans for attempting to overthrow their rule.

  8. Robert Milnes

    Luke 23:3, King James Version,
    And Pilate asked him, saying, Art Thou the King of the Jews?
    And he answered him, and said, THOU sayest it.
    It seems to me to be purely coincidence that Jesus arose in Roman occupied Judea.
    Or, perhaps, one such as him could only survive long enough to be heard in the most advanced for its time civilization, before getting killed. Which Rome was. And the jews were.
    His message of God and Love is quite universal; how could it be otherwise?
    It was the jewish longing for a Messiah, which Jesus did not fit, that led them to formulate a reason
    for the Romans to execute him. They roused the crowd to demand he be handed over for execution, ridding the jewish elites the trouble of doing it themselves. In time, the Romans would have gotten around to it though. His ministry only lasted about three years, reportedly.
    IMO, based on scripture.

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