Website of Dr. Almon Leroy Way, Jr.




Page One

RE: Political Society, Government, & the People.

"Society in every state is a blessing, but government, even in the best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one."

      Thomas Paine, COMMON SENSE (1776).

RE: Human Nature & the Need for Government.

"Why has government been instituted at all? Because the passions of men will not conform to the dictates of reason and justice, without constraint."

      Alexander Hamilton, Essay Number 15, THE FEDERALIST

RE: The Power of Coercion--An Essential Power of Any Effective Central Government.

"I confess ... that my opinion of public virtue is so far changed, that I have my doubts whether any [political] system, without the means of coercion in the sovereign, will enforce due obedience to the ordinances of the general [national, or central] government; without which every thing else fails. Laws or ordinances unobserved, or partially attended to, had better never have been made; because the first is a mere nihil, and the second is productive of much jealousy and discontent."

      George Washington, Letter to James Madison (1787).

RE: Political Power & Human Nature.

"Power always thinks it has a great soul and vast views beyond the comprehension of the weak, and that it is doing God's service, when it is violating all His laws."

      John Adams, Letter to Thomas Jefferson (1816).

RE: Government & the People.

"Government consists of acts done by human beings; and if the agents, or those who choose the agents, or those to whom the agents are responsible, or the lookers-on whose opinion ought to influence and check all these, are mere masses of ignorance, stupidity, and baleful prejudice, every operation of government will go wrong."

      John Stuart Mill, REPRESENTATIVE GOVERNMENT (1861).

RE: Government Protection--The Price of Obedience.

"Protection is the price of obedience everywhere, in all countries. It is the only thing that makes government respectable. Deny it and you cannot have free subjects or citizens; you may have slaves."

      Robert Toombs, Speech, U.S. Senate (1861).

RE: American Individualism, Self-reliance, & Political Authority.

"The citizen of the United States is taught from the earliest infancy to rely upon his own exertions in order to resist the evils and the difficulties of life; he looks upon social [political] authority with an eye of mistrust and anxiety, and he only claims its assistance when he is quite unable to shift without it."

      Alexis Charles Henri Clerel de Tocqueville, DEMOCRACY
            IN AMERICA (1835).

RE: The Objects of Good Government.

"Good government, and especially the government of which every American citizen boasts, has for its objects the protection of every person within its care in the greatest liberty con- sistent with the good order of society, and his perfect security in the enjoyment of his earnings with the least possible diminution for public needs."

      Grover Cleveland, Message to Congress (1886).

RE: Political Power Exercised by Small-minded, Mean-spirited Persons.

"To put political power in the hands of men embittered and degraded by poverty is to tie firebrands to foxes and turn them lose amid the standing corn."

      Henry George, PROGRESS AND POVERTY (1879).

RE: The Government of a Free People.

"Who are a free people? Not those over whom government is reasonably exercised, but those who live under a government so constitutionally checked and controlled that proper provision is made against its being otherwise exercised."

      John Dickinson, FARMER'S LETTERS (1767).

RE: Political Liberty & the Need for a System of Separation of Powers.

"The political liberty of the subject is a tranquillity of mind arising from the opinion each person has of his safety. In order to have this liberty, it is requisite the government be so constituted as one man need not be afraid of another.

"When the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person, or in the same body of magistrates, there can be no liberty; because apprehensions may arise, lest the same monarch or senate should enact tyrannical laws, to execute them in a tyrannical manner.

"Again, there is no liberty, if the judiciary power be not separated from the legislature and executive. Were it joined to the legislature, the life and liberty of the subject would be exposed to arbitrary control; for the judge would be then the legislator. Were it joined to the executive power, the judge might behave with violence and oppression.

"There would be an end of everything, were the same man or the same body, whether of nobles or of the people, to exercise those three powers, that of enacting laws, that of executing the public resolutions, and of trying the causes of individuals...."

      Baron Charles Louis de Secondat de Montesquieu, THE SPIRIT
            OF THE LAWS (1748).

RE: Tyranny--A Definition.

"The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether heriditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny."

      James Madison, Essay Number 47, THE FEDERALIST (1787-1788).

RE: Political Liberty & the Need for a System of Checks & Balances.

"Political liberty is to be found only in moderate governments; and even in these it is not always found. It is there only when there is no abuse of power. But constant experience shows us that every man invested with power is apt to abuse it, and to carry his authority as far as it will go.

"To prevent this abuse, it is necessary from the very nature of things that power should be a check to power. A government may be so constituted, as no man shall be compelled to do things to which the law does not oblidge him, nor forced to abstain from things which the law permits."

      Baron Charles Louis de Secondat de Montesquieu, THE SPIRIT
            OF THE LAWS (1748).

RE: Political Power & Human Nature.

"I am more and more convinced that man is a dangerous creature and that [political] power, whether vested in many or a few, is ever grasping, and like the grave, cries, 'Give, Give.'"

      Abigail Adams, Letter to John Adams (1775).

RE: Human Nature, Original Sin, & the Need for Limitations on the Power of Popular & Legislative Majorities.

"Though we allow benevolence and generous affections to exist in the human breast, yet every moral theorist will admit the selfish passions in the generality of men to be the strongest. ...Self-interest, private avidity, ambition and avarice will exist in every state of society and under every form of government....

To expect self-denial from men, when they have a majority in their favor and consequently power to gratify themselves, is to disbelieve all history and universal experience; it is to disbelieve Revelation and the Word of God, which informs us the heart is deceitful in all things and desperately wicked. There is no man so blind as not to see, that to talk of founding a government upon a supposition that nations and great bodies of men, left to themselves, will practice a course of self-denial, is either to babble like a new-born infant, or to deceive like an unprincipled imposter....

There is, then, no possible way of defending the minority ... from the tyranny of the majority, but by giving the former a negative on [a veto over governmental decisions and actions proposed by] the latter."

            OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (1787-1788).

RE: The Virginia Constitution of 1776 & the Need for a System of Checks & Balances.

All the powers of government, legislative, executive, and judiciary, result in the legislative body. The concentrating these in the same hands, is precisely the definition of despotic government. It will be no alleviation, that these powers will be exercised by a plurality of hands, and not by a single one. As little will it avail us, that they are chosen by ourselves. An elective despotism was not the government we fought for; but one which should not only be founded on free principles, but in which the powers of government should be so divided and balanced among several bodies of magistry, as that no one could transcend their legal limits, without being effectually checked and restrained by the others."

      Thomas Jefferson, NOTES ON THE STATE OF VIRGINIA (1787).

RE: The Essence of Free Government--A System of Balanced Government, or Checks & Balances.

"The great art of lawgiving consists in balancing the poor against the rich in the legislature and constituting the legislature a perfect balance against the executive power at the same time that no individual or party can become its rival. The essence of a free government consists in an effectual control of rivalries. The executive and legislative powers are natural rivals; and if each has not an effectual control over the other, the weaker will ever be the lamb in the paws of the wolf. The nation which will not adopt an equilibrium of power must adopt despotism. There is no other alternative. Rivalries must be controlled, or they will throw all things into confusion; and there is nothing but despotism or a balance of power which can control them."

            OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (1787-1788).

RE: The Need for a Strong Executive in a Free Government.

"If there is one certain truth to be collected from the history of the ages, it is this, that the people's rights and liberties, and the democratical mixture in a constitution, can never be preserved without a strong executive, or, in other words, without separating the executive from the legislature power. If the executive power, or any considerable part of it, is left in the hands either of an aristocratical or a democratical [legislative] assembly, it will corrupt the legislature as necessarily as rust corrupts iron, or as arsenic poisons the human body; and when the legislature is corrupted, the people are undone....

"Among every people, and in every species of republics, we have constantly found a first magistrate, a head, a chief, under various denominations, indeed, and with different degrees of authority. If there is no example, then, in any free government, any more than in those which are not free, of a society without a principal personage, we may firmly conclude that the body politic cannot subsist, any more than an animal body, without a head...."

            OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (1787-1788).

RE: The Notion that the People Are the Best Keepers of Their Own Liberties.

"If by the people is meant the whole body of a great nation, it should never be forgotten, that they can never act, consult, or reason together, because they cannot march five hundred miles, nor spare the time, nor find a space to meet; and, therefore, the proposition, that they are the best keepers of their own liberties, is not true. They are the worst conceivable; they are no keepers at all. They can neither act, judge, think, or will, as a body politic or corporation. If by the people is meant all the inhabitants of a single city, they are not in general [legislative] assembly, at all times, the best keepers of their own liberties, nor perhaps at any time, unless you separate from them the executive and judicial power, and temper their authority in legislation with the maturer counsels of the one [the chief executive officer] and the few [a senate, i.e., a smaller, upper house of the legislature]. If it is meant by the people ... a representative assembly [a house of representatives, i.e., a larger, more popular, lower house of the legislature], 'such as shall be successively chosen to represent the people,' still they are not the best keepers of the people's liberties or their own, if you give them all the power, legislative, executive, and judicial. They would invade the liberties of the people, at least the majority of them would invade the liberties of the minority, sooner and oftener than an absolute monarchy....

"All kinds of experience show, that great numbers of individuals do oppress great numbers of other individuals; that parties often, if not always, oppress other parties; and majorities almost universally minorities.

"... the people's fair, full, and honest consent, to every law, by their representatives, must be made an essential part of the constitution; but it is denied that they are the best keepers, or any keepers at all, of their own liberties, when they hold collectively, or by representation, the executive and judicial power, or the whole and uncontrolled legislative; on the contrary, the experience of all ages has proved, that they instantly give away their liberties into the hands of grandees, or kings, idols of their own creation. The management of the executive and judicial powers together always corrupts them, and throws the whole power into the hands of the most profligate and abandoned among themselves. The honest men are generally nearly equally divided in sentiment, and, therefore, the vicious and unprincipled, by joining one party, carry the majority; and the vicious and unprincipled always follow the most profligate leader, him who bribes the highest, and sets all decency and shame at defiance. It becomes more profitable, and reputable too, except with a very few, to be a party man than a public-spirited one."

            OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (1787-1788).

RE: Balanced Government & Protection of the Rights of the Rich & the Poor.

"It is agreed that the 'end of all government is the good and ease of the people, in a secure enjoyment of their rights, without oppression'; but it must be remembered, that the rich are people as well as the poor; that they have rights as well as others; that they have as clear and as sacred a right to their large property as others have to theirs which is smaller; that oppression to them is as possible and as wicked as to others; that stealing, robbing, cheating, are the same crimes and sins, whether comitted against them or others. The rich, therefore, ought to have an effectual barrier in the constitution against being robbed, plundered, and murdered, as well as the poor; and this can never be without an independent senate. The poor should have a bulwark against the same dangers and oppressions; and this can never be without a house of representatives of the people. But neither the rich nor the poor can be defended by their respective guardians in the constitution, without an executive power, vested with a negative [veto power], equal to either [that of the senate or that of the house of representatives], to hold the balance between them, and decide when they cannot agree.

"In every society where property exists, there will ever be a struggle between rich and poor. Mixed in one [legislative] assembly, equal laws can never be expected. They will either be made by numbers, to plunder the few who are rich, or by influence, to fleece the many who are poor. Both rich and poor, then, must be made independent, that equal justice may be done, and equal liberty enjoyed by all. To expect that in a single sovereign assembly no load shall be laid upon any but what is common to all, nor to gratify the passions of any, but only to supply the necessities of their country, is altogether chimerical. Such an assembly, under, under an awkward, unwieldy form, becomes at once a simple monarchy in effect. Some one overgrown genius, fortune, or reputation, becomes a despot, who rules the state at his pleasure, while the deluded nation, or rather a deluded majority, thinks itself free; and in every resolve, law, and act of government, you see the interest, fame, and power of that single individual attended to more than the general good...."

"The way to secure liberty is to place it in the people's hands, that is, to give them a power at all times to defend it in the legislature and in the courts of justice. But to give the people, uncontrolled, all the prerogatives and rights of supremacy, meaning the whole executive and judicial power, or even the whole undivided legislative, is not the way to preserve liberty.

            OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (1787-1788).

RE: Judicial Activism in the U.S. Government.

"This [judicial] member [organ, or branch] of the government was at first considered as the most harmless and helpless of all its organs. But it has proved that the power of declaring what the law is, ad libitum, but sapping and mining, slyly, and without alarm, can do what open force would not dare to attempt.

      Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Edward Livingston (1825).

RE: Tyranny of the Majority--Unlimited Majority Rule (Absolute Democracy, or Popular Despotism).

"A[n absolute] democracy is a state which recognizes the [absolute (total, or complete)] subjection of the minority to the majority, that is by one class against the other, by one part of the population against another."

      Vladimir Il'ich Ul'ianov (aka: Nikolai Lenin), THE STATE
            AND REVOLUTION (1917).

RE: American Federalism & States' Rights.

"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States, respectively, or to the people."

      Tenth Amendment, U.S. Constitution (Adopted in 1791).

RE: American Federalism & States' Rights.

"The maintenance inviolate of the rights of the states, and especially the right of each state to order and control its own domestic institutions, according to its own judgement exclusively, is essential to the balance of powers on which the perfection and endurance of our political fabric depend."

      Abraham Lincoln, Letter to Duff Green (1860).

RE: Centralization of Governmental Power versus States' Rights.

"To bring about government by oligarchy [unlimited political power in the hands of a very small group of persons], masquerading as democracy, it is fundamentally essential that practically all authority and control be centralized in our national government. The individual sovereignty of our states must first be destroyed."

      Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Radio Address (1930).

RE: Centralization of Governmental Power versus States' Rights.

"... should the whole body of New England continue in opposition to ... [the fundamental] principles of [American] government, either knowingly or through delusion, our govern- ment will be a very uneasy one. It can never be harmonious and solid, while so respectable a portion of it's citizens support principles which go directly to a change of the federal con- stitution, to sink the state governments, consolidate them into one, and to monarchize that. Our country is too large to have all its affairs directed by a single government. Public serv- ants at such a distance, and from under the eye of their constituents, must, from the cir- cumstance of distance, be unable to administer and overlook [oversee] all details neces-sary for the good government of the citizens, and the same circumstance, by rendering direction impossible to their constituents, will invite the public agents to corruption, plunder, and waste. And I do verily believe, that if the principle were to prevail, of a common law being in force in the United States, (which principle possesses the general [national, or central] government at once of all the powers of the state governments, and reduces us to a single consolidated government,) it would become the most corrupt govern- ment on the earth."

      Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Gideon Granger (1800).

RE: Honest Government & Respect for the Law.

"Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or ill, it teaches the whole people by its example. Crime is contagious. If the government becomes the lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law, it invites every man to become a law unto himself, it invites anarchy."

      Louis D. Brandeis, Dissenting Opinion, OLMSTEAD V. UNITED
            STATES (1928).


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