Answering Henry Wallace

2010 June 9
by ruleoflawrestoration

Having become aware through our web statistics program that some number of visitors have come to ROLR from a discussion about ROLR at, I traced the visits back to this discussion initiated by a Henry Wallace:

I tried to register with ResistNet to participate in the conversation there, but I would have been forced to sign a statement against the “leftist” trend in government.  I, however, do not believe that only “the left” in government is violating our Constitution.  Indeed, those identifying themselves as “the right” seem to violate it just as frequently.  Therefore, I opted not to join and to post my reply to Mr. Wallace here.

About ROLR’s Legislative Pledge, Mr. Wallace says the following to a candidate:

The first line of the Pledge you have taken probably says it all:

“I pledge allegiance to the Constitution of the United States of America, to the sovereign Republic established thereby, and to the just and equitable Rule of Law thereunder.”

Other than just sounding very amateurish, this Pledge never bothers to DEFINE this “Rule of Law” which it PLACES ON AN EQUAL FOOTING WITH OUR PRECIOUS CONSTITUTION.

Mr. Wallace fails to take the actual wording of the pledge into consideration.  He asserts that ROLR puts the rule of law “on an equal footing with our…Constitution.”  If this is so, how is it that the pledge says “I pledge allegiance to the Constitution….and to the ….Rule of Law thereunder.”?  Clearly, the “Rule of Law” referred to here is occurring under something.  And what is the antecedent of “thereunder”?  It is “the Constitution”, of course.  Therefore, the pledge calls for the Rule of Law under the Constitution.  Mr. Wallace, however, asserts that we are calling for the “Rule of Law” “on an equal footing” with the Constitution.  This is a simple matter of fact, however, which may be readily observed by any reasonable and honest person.

In criticizing a ROLR-pledge-signing candidate, Mr. Wallace attempts to raise suspicion about the definition of “rule of law”:

Simply put, Dianne, I don’t think you have ANY IDEA what you signed here! Someone could come to you later with a “definition” of Rule of Law, and you would not even be able to say, “Hey, THAT’S not what I signed!”. Because what you signed does not even DEFINE what is meant by Rule of Law.The term was NEVER USED in our Constitution. “…The rule of law has been described as “an exceedingly elusive notion” giving rise to a “rampant divergence of understandings”. See

The reason that there is no definition of “rule of law” included in the ROLR pledges is that the term’s definition is self-evident within the context of the pledges.  As previously discussed, the “thereunder” puts the Rule of Law under the Constitution, which is itself a finite and stable document. Thus “rule of law thereunder” is far from “an exceedingly elusive notion”.

Perhaps we catch of glimpse of Mr. Wallace’s drive to malign the term and his dubious tactics when we witness how he snatched his quotation from its natural context.  What Mr. Wallace quotes to give the impression that “rule of law” is beyond definition is this:

“an exceedingly elusive notion” giving rise to a “rampant divergence of understandings”.

Interestingly, however, the full sentence, from which the quotations are wrested, reads thus (emphasis added):

While the rule of law has been described as “an exceedingly elusive notion”[2] giving rise to a “rampant divergence of understandings”,[3] a dichotomy can be identified between two principal conceptions of the rule of law: a formalist or “thin” and a substantive or “thick” definition of the rule of law.

Thus do we see that Mr. Wallace’s suggestion that “rule of law” has so many possible definitions as to make it a useless and/or dangerous term actually does violence to the very context from which he quotes.  Indeed, this context notes two and only two “principle conceptions” of the rule of law.  One has a difficult time imagining that Mr. Wallace intent was to faithfully convey the assertion of the Wikipedia author.

Mr. Wallace suggests to the candidate that ROLR might someday come forward with a definition of “rule of law” that is contrary to her understanding of the term at the time of her signing of the pledge.  Interestingly, however, the term “rule of law” has been defined on this website for sometime as follows:

Q. What is the Rule of Law?

A. In short, it’s the idea that a society can adopt a set of good, just, and fair laws by which it will be governed.  This means that even the government itself is kept on a short legal leash.  The nasty alternative to the rule of law is that the government can do whatever it wants, and the people have no way to refuse laws that they don’t think are good, just, or fair.  Lately, the United States is resembling the latter more than the former.  See our Rule of Law page for more information on the concept.  And see our Lawlessness page for examples of how our laws are being violated by our governments.

It is interesting to imagine how Mr. Wallace might propose some alternative definition that might secretly replace this present definition in the future.

Now, to show just how easy is the common definition of “rule of law”, I have pasted below the results of a Google search on “define:rule of law”.  The results are pasted below in their entirety.  The items in gray font are the ones that do not purport to define the common term, but that deal with something else:

  • a state of order in which events conform to the law
  • [[File:A mosaic LAW by Frederick Dielman, 1847-1935.JPG|thumb|200px|right|Mosaic representing both the judicial and legislative aspects of law. Woman on throne holds sword to chastise the guilty and palm branch to reward the meritorious. …
  • The Rule of Law Index is a tool designed by the Wold Justice Project team to measure countries’ adherence to the Rule of Law. It is a comprehensive tool that measures nations’ performance on 16 factors and 68 sub-factors. …
  • The Rule of Law (Օրինաց երկիր, Orinats Erkir) is a centrist political party in Armenia, led by Artur Baghdasarian. It is the fourth largest party in the Armenian National Assembly. …
  • the doctrine that no individual is above the law and that everyone must answer to it
  • One of the cornerstones of democratic society, meaning that everyone is subject to the law. It is not just the rule that everyone is covered by the Criminal Code and must be charged and convicted if appropriate. …
  • A legal system in which rules are clear, well-understood, and fairly enforced, including property rights and enforcement of contracts.
  • All government officials and all private citizens must follow the laws of the nation and must be treated equally under the law. The government is created by and for the people and is answerable to the people.
  • another phrase for law and order; the principles that require that the powers of the state be derived from and limited either by legislation enacted by Parliament or a legislature or judicial decisions made by independent courts;
  • The rule of law is the principle that governmental authority is legitimately exercised only in accordance with written, publicly disclosed laws that are adopted and enforced in accordance with established procedure. The principle is intended to be a safeguard against arbitrary governance.
  • The principle that every member of a society, even a ruler, must follow the law.

So I ask just how “elusive” is the definition of this term?  If we were to listen to Mr. Wallace, we would immediately suspect that anyone using the term must be up to something.  But if we observe the use of the term in the real world, we can see that it is not suspicious at all.  And if the general definition is in question, there’s always the context, which Mr. Wallace didn’t seem interested in exploring.  Here’s the third paragraph of the Legislative Pledge:

I pledge that if I am elected, I will not act outside the limited powers of the office, even if the Executive or Judicial branches, or the people themselves, or any interest, whether foreign or domestic, should insist that I can or should do so.  I will obey the Constitution or Charter that created my office, and not the rule of popular opinion.  Should that Constitution or Charter prove inadequate or unjust, I will work to amend it lawfully as needed, but shall obey it strictly until it is lawfully changed.

Could it be any clearer that the ROLR pledges put the US Constitution as the Supreme Law of the Land?

One wonders, therefore, the true nature of Mr. Wallace’s objections to ROLR.

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