Monday, December 20, 2010

Quote of the day: on the structure of our government as a guarantee of liberty

The truth is, after all the declamation we have heard, that the constitution is itself in every rational sense, and to every useful purpose, A BILL OF RIGHTS. The several bills of rights, in Great-Britain, form its constitution, and conversely the constitution of each state is its bill of rights. And the proposed constitution, if adopted, will be the bill of rights of the union. Is it one object of a bill of rights to declare and specify the political privileges of the citizens in the structure and administration of the government? This is done in the most ample and precise manner in the plan of the convention, comprehending various precautions for the public security, which are not to be found in any of the state constitutions. Is another object of a bill of rights to define certain immunities and modes of proceeding, which are relative to personal and private concerns? This we have seen has also been attended to, in a variety of cases, in the same plan. Adverting therefore to the substantial meaning of a bill of rights, it is absurd to allege that it is not to be found in the work of the convention. It may be said that it does not go far enough, though it will not be easy to make this appear; but it can with no propriety be contended that there is no such thing. It certainly must be immaterial what mode is observed as to the order of declaring the rights of the citizens, if they are to be found in any part of the instrument which establishes the government. And hence it must be apparent that much of what has been said on this subject rests merely on verbal and nominal distinctions, which are entirely foreign from the substance of the thing.
 -Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804), American founding father, The Federalist #84 (1788).

2 comments:

Pinky said...

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I read that a few times to understand what Mr. Hamilton was wanting to convey.
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It is too bad that the leaders of our society today do not speak with such deep meaning.
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What a bunch of crap we are presently being handed regarding the deficit, debt, and taxes.
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Damn the Republicans and Democrats alike!
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Plain, unadulterated horse manure rolls out of Washington these days.
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Mark in Spokane said...

Well, yes, but so has it ever been. Whenever I think, "bah, the government is so corrupt, everybody is so bad now," I like to dust off a couple of books and read about how deceptive and corrupt Thomas Jefferson was, how naive John Adams was, how conspiratorial Alexander Hamilton was, how manipulative Madison was, how weird Gouvenor Morris was, how stubborn Patrick Henry was, how truly vile Aaron Burr was. It provides some context.

Our Founders were great men, but like all men, they had their vices. Our current political leaders are mediocre men, but like all men, they have within them the seeds of greatness. The wisdom of our Founders was to see both the good and the bad in human nature, and to design a government where the bad would be restrained along with the good. That was their wisdom. No political messiahs, but no despots either.