In 1787, a 20-year-old English lass called Elizabeth Thackery fell afoul of the law.
Like Shakespeare’s Autolycus, Miss Thackery seems to have been a “snapper up of unconsidered trifles.”
The trifles in question were five handkerchiefs.
She purloined them, was caught, and for the tort of making off with property not her own valued at 1 shilling was sentenced to seven years transportation to the wild and distant fastness of Australia.
Being so much more enlightened than our forbears, we are, of course, appalled by the sentence, not only its cruelty but also the disproportion between the crime and the punishment.
Seven years for goods valued at 1 shilling? Really?
Now, ponder the fate of Ethan Nordean.
Who’s a terrorist?
In your mind’s eye, you might picture someone called Ahmed steering a Boeing 767 into the World Trade Center.
In the age of the Biden administration, anyone can be a terrorist.
Ms. Meggs, who spent about 18 minutes inside the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, destroyed or appropriated no property, but made the mistake of supporting the wrong candidate in the 2020 election.
For that, she must be branded a domestic terrorist and sent to jail.
British justice might have been draconian in the 18th century.
A transportation-for-life or death-by-hanging sentence for petty larceny is undoubtedly harsh.
But that process, harsh though it was, wasn't as horrible as what we're seeing unfolding all around us.
We've all heard the phrase “the weaponization of the DOJ.”
We may not think much about it. We should.
What that means is the obliteration of justice and its replacement by power politics.
The coercive power of the state is mobilized and sent into battle against those whom the state regards as enemies, i.e., people who disagree with its diktats.
This isn't a novel situation.
This bizarre caricature of justice, in which the institutions, rhetoric, and machinery of the legal system are perverted into an ideological weapon, is a regular feature of communist regimes.
In the Soviet Union, for example, “justice” was a matter not of publicly ratified laws but of what the party required.
In one sense, it operated according to the principle of “guilty until proven innocent.”
But at the end of the day, it was even worse. No one was truly innocent because everyone was, potentially, guilty if that state required it.
Some people say, “Well, Jan. 6 was different because it was an assault on ‘our democracy™’ and the Constitution.”
But then, what of the violent protests following Donald Trump’s inauguration in 2017?
Was that not an assault on “the peaceful transfer of power,” yada, yada, yada?
The media and the delicately educated elites who couldn't believe that President Trump had just been elected suffered a nervous breakdown. There was looting, arson, and injury of many police officers.
And what about the attack on the White House in May 2020?
President Trump had to be whisked to a secure bunker during that episode.
And what about the multiple indictments that President Trump now faces?
In my view, the effort to sift through and analyze the endless counts against President Trump is bootless; indeed, it plays into the hands of the enemies of the rule of law and liberty because it grants the process the dignity of legitimacy.
What's happening to President Trump, like what's happening to the hundreds swept up in the J6 investigation, doesn't deserve that courtesy.
What's happening may look like an ordinary legal proceeding.
There are plenty of police, U.S. attorneys, and judges crowding the stage.
And there's a compliant media to digest, rationalize, and explain what's happening to a public that's bemused by the novel spectacle of so many ordinary citizens branded as “terrorists” and jailed, not to mention the unprecedented spectacle of the chief political rival of the sitting president being hounded by the untrammeled power of the state.
We are, I submit, in uncharted territory.
Only a couple of years ago, when news of Merrick Garland’s appointment as attorney general was announced, a legally sophisticated friend of mine greeted the news with enthusiasm.
“Sorry,” he wrote, “Judge Merrick Garland didn’t get [the] day in the sun he deserves today, but he’s [a] superb choice to be AG. He was as good as it gets as [a] top DOJ official in [the] 90s: smart, committed, patriotic, terrific lawyer, and gentleman. We’ll disagree on some policy, but DOJ [is] in good hands.”
I hope my friend has revised that opinion.
I believe that what Mr. Garland has presided over is the deliberate subversion of justice and the rule of law by aiding and abetting a flagrant two-tier legal system.
Friends of the state—see, President Joe Biden, Hunter Biden, or the violent Black Lives Matter rioters—get treated one way.
Opponents get treated very differently.
Yes, it’s been going on for quite some time.
But it would be imprudent, I think, to assume that this yeasty status quo can continue indefinitely.
Here, as elsewhere in human affairs, Herb Stein’s mournful law is operative: What cannot go on forever, won’t.
This assault on justice and the rule of law can't go on forever.
Ergo, etc., etc.