If stealing country were a tort, getting it back might be ‘action in replevin’

Wendell O’Reilly, Chattanooga attorney

The difficulty in strengthening local economy comes from the economic and political interests whose success is crowned by centralization. The government school. Federal welfare. Total surveillance.

The usual suspects.

By David Tuls

Thanks to Uncle’s control of entire marketplaces it sometimes is inconceivable that Chattanoogans will ever be their own masters. It is tough to envision local economy when so much of what happens in Chattanooga my hometown — or yours, for that matter — is controlled by people who are far away and care nothing for the city, who operate often as a result of statute, regulation or marketplace dominance achieved by overwhelming size (Wal-Mart, Microsoft).

Local economy implies that part of Chattanooga commerce, trade and industry in the hands of local people. It is up to them to improve and enlarge. Local economy refers to a city’s internal marketplace, covered daily by media outlets such as the newspaper, TV3 and Nooga.com under “business news.”

But the idea of local economy sometimes is difficult to keep in view, especially when so much appears daily to distract our attention. Under headlines such as “Obama poised to carry out hostile military takeover of US,” how is anyone able to keep one’s wits and think about the positive work required to restore local economy?

Have they already seized the U.S., or is that effort in process?

An essay at godfatherpolitics.com sees an armed takeover of the U.S. premised on the following preparations. • Military takeover, with homosexuals given responsibility and commands, Christian chaplains gagged, and top brass tapped on a willingness to shoot Americans • The department of homeland security’s stockpiling millions of rounds of ammo; even the national aeronautics agency is piling up ammo crates to help in predicting the weather. • The massive push for firearms registration, the imposition of gun surveillance on the medical profession, the National Defense Authorization Act with its authority to jail the dangerous • The executive order controlling all telecom activity in an emergency • Drones in the skies. Says the scribe, “When you put this all together into one package, it’s obvious the stage is set for [President] Obama to use force in a hostile takeover of the United States.”

The people who keep talking about these important subjects are forgetting one thing. We’ve been under a military takeover since 1865 and under a tightening of the straps since Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency in the 1930s, with his bank holidays and seizure of the U.S. industrial economy.

It’s easy to complain about Uncle Sam so much that we don’t get around to the remedy that is in our own hands. That remedy is local economy. The practice of it. The idea of it. The hope within it.

The gaining back of self-determination for the Chattanooga region could be akin to a remedy at law that has long interested me, that of replevin. Replevin is a remedy rising from common law in which an owner or one who has an interest in physical property taken or detained “seeks to recover possession of the chattel.” ‡

Replevin gets back illegally taken property

I ask Wendell O’Reilly, chairman of the Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce’s southeastern chapter, about the remedy of replevin. Mr. O’Reilly, who specializes in international law and business in Chattanooga, is today defending a client against an action in replevin.

In replevin, a party entitled to possession of a piece of property is restored it. Replevin is restitutionary in character, says an authority. It is an action that seeks to right a wrong, or a tort.

Here’s Mr. O’Reilly’s short-hand: “Replevin is you go to the court and you ask the court’s permission to recover something that you have ownership in that is being wrongfully withheld from you. It’s as simple as that.”

Mr. O’Reilly offers a scenario in which replevin applies. “I leave my car on the street; well, I can go with my key and I can go and get it back. I don’t have to ask anyone’s permission for that. I just go and do it.” This is self-help in a dispute. But — “Say somebody has my car in their garage. I have two options. I can try to break in and get my car out, which would constitute a breach of the peace and probably a trespass — and I would be talking to a sheriff’s officer or a police officer because I’ve done that. Or I simply go to the court and I ask the court, I want this order that I have my property restored; this person is holding onto my property. So you go and ask for the return of your goods that have been wrongfully held by somebody else that doesn’t have a superior color of right or ownership to you.”

Restoration of lost rights under similar process

Replevin in Mr. O’Reilly’s law practice cannot go after funds in a bank account, but it could seek to replevy a bag of coins or a particular sack or container of bills, currency or money. If a chunk of land is certificated by a deed, that deed could be seized by its lawful owner because it’s a physical instrument. Replevin wouldn’t work for abstract shares in Miller Industries in Chattanooga; but it might be used by a lawful owner to demand an engraved certificate for shares held in an enemy’s bank safe deposit box or at his home office.

Replevin is for chattel goods, not abstract property. It works on earthy objects, not ideals or hopes. We may dream of  recovering “America’s lost rights” or “the honor of our country as a great nation” or “the freedoms for which our soldiers fought and died.” To regain lost greatness, replevin won’t work.

Even if today we stop signing our name to the dotted line for contracts with commercial and government entities and withdraw consent, participation and compliance, nothing would immediately change in the big picture. America still wouldn’t belong to Americans; it would belong to the United States and its minders, its attorneys general and agency heads and the federal congress, a doleful prospect.

If replevin were a remedy writ upon the heavens and useable in spiritual terms, it might appear as follows. The people are mournful, sorrowful to God for their sins, and full of repentance. They ask God to restore their country, which has been overrun by strangers who have put them to tribute and hard labor. Will God have mercy and hear their petition for replevin? Yes; the sovereign accepts their repentance through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, His Son, and returns to the people their land and rightful title to and free use of it. Still, their maintenance of their national property is contingent on their devotion and obedience to Him; in our day, such a comment cannot go without saying.

The question is: Do we want America back after the United States has so worked her over? My mind glimpses into that scene in the book of Judges chapter 19 where the Levite’s concubine is found dead on the door stoop after a night of rape by the people of Gibeah. Americans are so vast in number, and so contradictory and various in their mores and ways, violent in their customs and increasingly agitated by political manipulation. Might we be better off if we left aside any sort of replevin and tried to build something new?

[This essay was originally published March 11, 2013.]

— David Tulis hosts Nooganomics.com, a talk show 1 to 3 p.m. weekdays at 1240 Copperhead AM that covers local economy and free markets in Chattanooga and beyond. The show streams live at Ustream.tv on a channel named after the station.

‡ Replevin, American Jurisprudence 2d, Vol. 66, pp 489-583

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