“Government is frequently and aptly classed under two descriptions, a government of FORCE [arbitrary and changeable decrees imposed by authoritarians], and a government of LAWS [governments that derive ‘their just powers from the consent of the governed’]; the first is the definition of despotism–the last Liberty” (Alexander Hamilton, Tully Papers, 1794).
In the words of Chief Justice John Roberts: “Governments in world history have so often abused the power, and people have suffered because of it. The framers decided they were going to lay down some rules to try to keep that from happening–that’s what the Constitution is. Of all the major written constitutions in history, it is the shortest. It’s not an elaborate code. They were laying down basic principles that they wanted to endure and it is timeless… our Constitution is different from a lot of others. Many countries that have constitutions–they’re really just political documents.”*
Corruption is limited when the development of law comes from the people unless, of course, they become estranged from God and the moral certainties of creation’s nature. When this happens the people become vulnerable to exploitation and paternalistic authoritarians.
“In questions of power let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution” (Thomas Jefferson).
The American Principles One through Fifteen, Chapter 1, in the Restoring Education Central To American Greatness book that we have listed in previous blogs are changeless, practical and appropriate for government “by written and permanent law.” That “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
George Washington reminded future generations that they cannot neglect the personal responsibility for upholding the moral predicate for law: “It is easy to foresee, that from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed, to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth (‘keep alive the spirit of Liberty’); as this is the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively directed.**
*Chief Justice John Roberts, discussing the role of Constitutional American politics with C-Span host, Brian Lamb, on August 5, 2006.
**George Washington, Farewell Address, September 17, 1796, in The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources 1745-1799, published by the authority of Congress, ed. John C. Fitzpatrick, vol. 35, 214-38.
~ David Norris