The 28 Principles of Liberty: Principle 13
“A Constitution Should be Structured to Permanently Protect the People from the Human Frailties of their Rulers.”
by: Charity Angel
At the Constitutional Convention, the Founding Fathers had to answer the following question: “How can you have an efficient government, but still protect the freedom and unalienable rights of the people?”
The Founders had much more confidence in the people then in the leaders of the people, especially if those leaders are trusted, even if those leaders were themselves. They felt that the greatest of all danger arises when the people so completely trust a leader that they feel no anxiety to watch him and what he is doing. Alexander Hamilton wrote, “For it is a truth, which the experience of all ages has attested, that people are commonly most in danger when the means of injuring their rights are in the possession of those toward whom they entertain least suspicion.”
Over two hundred years of American history have demonstrated the wisdom of the Founders in proclaiming a warning against the human frailties of their elected or appointed leaders. Every unconstitutional action has been justified because it was for a ‘good cause.’ Every illegal transfer of power from one department to another has been excused as ‘necessary.’ The expansion of the government in Washington is in direct result of trusting political leaders. Thomas Jefferson used all the force that he could muster by tongue and pen when he wrote: “It would be a dangerous delusion were a confidence in the men of our choice to silence our fears for the safety of our rights; that confidence is everywhere the parent of despotism; free government is founded in jealousy, and not in confidence; it is jealousy, and not confidence, which prescribes limited constitutions to bind down those whom we are obliged to trust with power; that our Constitution has accordingly fixed the limits to which, and no farther, our confidence may go…In questions of power, then, let no more be said of confidence in man, BUT BIND HIM DOWN FROM MISCHIEF BY THE CHAINS OF THE CONSTITUTION.”
George Washington also made this very clear. The Founders saw the government as a very volatile instrument of explosive power which must be harnessed, by an strictly interpreted Constitution, or it would destroy the freedom it was designed to preserve. He Said, “Government is not reason, it is not eloquence-it is force! Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.” Additionally, James Madison said, “It may be a reflection on human nature that such devices as Constitutional chains should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?….If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. But lacking these, in framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: YOU MUST FIRST ENABLE THE GOVERNMENT TO CONTROL THE GOVERNED; AND IN THE NEXT PLACE OBLIGE IT TO CONTROL ITSELF.”
And this is what the Constitution is all about, providing freedom from abuse by those in authority. Those who say that the Constitution is obsolete just because social and economic conditions have changed do not understand this. The Constitution was designed to control something that has not changed, and that is human nature. Therefore, the original Constitution will never be obsolete.
The Founders also knows that the loss of freedom comes through gradual erosion of constitutional principles, and it not always so obvious that the people detect it. Madison stated, “I believe there are more instances of abridgement of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power, than by violent and sudden usurpations…This danger out to be wisely guarded against.”
In 1785 Madison stated that it is right to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties. Having prudent jealously was the first duty of citizens and one of the great characteristics of the American Revolution. The Freemen of America did not wait for usurped power to strengthen itself, they acted, and because they acted, they avoided the consequences that come when denying this principle.
You might ask, where will abuse leaders encroach, where are they likely to attack? Are their some basic rights which aggrandizing politicians seek to destroy first? The Founders said there was. And the Founders said we should especially concentrate on the preservation of one particular right because all other rights are related to it. We will discuss this in principle 14.
The 28 Principles of Liberty are written by Charity Angel, and are adapted from W. Cleon Skousen’s book “The 5000 Year Leap.” Learn more about the 28 principles of liberty at http://theprinciplesofliberty.com
Learn the 28 Principles of Liberty