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Topic
The Constitution: Limits Government


Quotes

“Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master.” (George Washington)


“Liberty is not a means to a higher political end. It is itself the highest political end...liberty is the only object which benefits all alike, and provokes no sincere opposition...The danger is not that a particular class is unfit to govern. Every class is unfit to govern...Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” (Lord Acton)


“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, let no more be said of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.(Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson struck out with all the force that tounge and pen could muster against trusting in human nature. Kentucky Resolutions, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, pp. 389-390. November 10, 1798.)


“When governments fear the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.” (Thomas Jefferson)


“I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.” (Thomas Jefferson, To Archibald Stuart in Philadelphia 1791.)


“Government big enough to supply everything you need is big enough to take everything you have ... The course of history shows that as a government grows, liberty decreases.” (Thomas Jefferson)


“All laws which are repugnant to the Constitution are null and void.” (Marbury vs.Madison, 1803.)


“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 itself 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.” (James Madison, Federalist Papers, No. 51.)


“And that is what the Constitution is all about - providing freedom from abuse by those in authority. Anyone who says the American Constitution is obsolete just because social and economic conditions have changed does not understand the real genius of the Constitution. It was designed to control something which has not changed and will not change—namely, human nature.(Cleon Skousen, The Five Thousand Year Leap, p. 166. 1981.)


“Government is instituted to protect property of every sort.... This being the end of government, that alone is not a just government which impartially secures to every man, whatever is his own.… That is not a just government, nor is property secure under it, where the property which a man has in his personal safety and personal liberty is violated by arbitrary seizures of one class of citizens for the service of the rest.” (James Madison, The Complete Madison, p. 267.)


“I can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution, and I do not believe that the power and duty of the General Government ought to be extended to the relief of individual suffering which is in no manner properly related to the public service or benefit. A prevelent tendency to disregard the limited mission of this power and duty should, I think, be steadfastly resisted, to the end that the lesson should be constantly enforced that though the people support the Government, the Government should not support the people.

The friendliness and charity of our countrymen can always be relied upon to relieve thier fellow-citizens in misfortune. This has been repeatedly and quite lately demonstrated. Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the Government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character, while it prevents the indulgence among our people of that kindly sentiment and conduct which strengthens the bonds of a common brotherhood.” (President Grover Cleveland, Why The President Said No, Essays on Liberty)


“It is important, likewise, that the habits of thinking in a free country should inspire caution in those entrusted with its administration to confine themselves within their respective constitutional spheres, avoiding in the exercise of the powers of one department to encroach upon another.

“The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one and thus to create, whatever the form of government, a real despotism. A just estimate of that love of power and proneness to abuse it which predominates in the human heart is sufficient to satisfy us of the truth of this position.

“The necessity of reciprocal checks in the exercise of political power, by dividing and distributing it into different depositories and constituting each the guardian of the public weal against invasions by the others has been evinced by experiments ancient and modern, some of them in our country and under our own eyes. To preserve them must be as necessary as to institute them. If in the opinion of the people, the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates. But let there be no change by usurpation; for though this, is one instance, may be the instruments of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed.(George Washington, Farewell Address, Writings of George Washington, 35:228.)


“before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe....The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretence, raised in the United States” (Noah Webster, An Examination of the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution, 1787.)


“The powers delegated by the proposed constitution to the federal government are few and defined.” (James Madison, Federalist Papers, No. 45.)


“Every law consistent with the Constitution will have been made in pursuance of the powers granted by it. Every usurpation or law repugnant to it cannot have been made in pursuance of its powers. The latter will be nugatory and void.” (Thomas Jefferson, Elliot, p. 4:187-88.)


“…the laws of Congress are restricted to a certain sphere, and when they depart from this sphere, they are no longer supreme or binding. In the same manner the states have certain independent power, in which their laws are supreme.” (Alexander Hamilton, Elliot, 2:362.)


“The purpose of politics, [our founders] understood, was to keep government in its properly subordinate role, thereby leaving people free to build a better and more civilized world.” (William Norman Grigg, A Better World, The New American, October 20, 2003.)


“I consider it…as subverting the fundamental and characteristic principle of the Government…and as bidding defiance to the sense in which the Constitution is known to have been proposed, advocated, and adopted. If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the General Welfare, the Government is no longer a limited one.” (James Madison, Early in this country's history an attempt was made to enlarge the intended powers of the federal government by interpreting the Welfare Clause as a separate grant of power authorizing Congress to enact laws it deems desirable involving the use of tax money to promote the general welfare. This attempt was energetically opposed by James Madison, who is noted for the great part he played in designing our constitutional system.)


“As originally interpreted, the United States Constitution denied government the right to regulate and control the citizen in the use of his property. Over the years the commerce clause and the general welfare clause have been so interpreted as to permit both the state and Federal governments to regiment labor, agriculture, manufacturing, transportation, communication, finance and all other forms of economic activity. Today, if there is any limit on the power of government to regulate, no one knows what that limit is.” (H. Verlan Andersen, Many are Called But Few are Chosen)


“There is no position which depends on clearer principles than that every act of a delegated authority, contrary to the commission under which it is exercised, is void. No legislative act, therefore, contrary to the Constitution, can be valid.” (Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist Papers, #78.)


“No, my friend, the way to have good and safe government is not to trust it all to one, but to divide it among the many, distributing to every one exactly the function he is competent to.

“Let the National Government be entrusted with the defence of the nation and its foreign and federal relations; the State governments with the civil rights, laws, police and administration of what concerns the State generally; the counties with the local concerns of the counties, and each ward direct the interests within itself.

“It is by dividing and subdividing these republics from the great national one down through all its subordinations, until it ends in the administration of every man's farm by himself; by placing under every one what his own eye may superintend, that all will be done for the best.” (Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Joseph C. Cabell Letters, p. 1388. 1816.)


“Then do you profess to ignore the laws of the land? No; not unless they are unconstitutional, then I would do it all the time. Whenever the Congress of the United States, for instance, pass a law interfering with my religion, or with my religious rights, I will read a small portion of that instrument called the Constitution of the United States, now almost obsolete, which says — ‘Congress shall pass no law interfering with religion or the free exercise thereof;’ and I would say, gentlemen, you may go to Gibraltar with your law, and I will live my religion. When you become violators of the Constitution you have sworn before high heaven to uphold, and perjure yourselves before God, then I will maintain the right, and leave you to take the wrong just as you please.” (John Taylor, The Complete Difference Between the Saints and the World, Journal of Discourses, 11: 344 - 345. March 31, 1867.)


“Religion and the free exercise thereof, the right to worship God according to one's own conscience — how precious and treasured a boon it is. How necessary that it be safeguarded. Established religion becomes the guardian of the conscience of the people, the teacher of moral values, the defender of belief in the Almighty, the bridge between God and man. No people will live for long in freedom without it. The history of communism, whose founding father declared religion to be the opiate of the people, speaks with harshness and suffering concerning this basic matter.

“Congress shall not abridge ‘the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.’

“The history of tyrants is a history of the muzzling of free expression and the denial of assembly.” (Gordon B. Hinckley, Gathering of Eagles, June 20, 1991.)




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