The Constitution: Human Nature


“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.)

“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 Anyone who says the American Constitution is obsolete just because social and economic conditions have changed does not understand the real genius of the Constitution.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.)

“We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.” (Scriptural, Doctrine and Covenants, Section 121:39. March 20, 1839.)

“Our wise founders seemed to understand, better than most of us, our own scripture, which states that ‘it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority … they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.’” (Ezra Taft Benson, Civic Standards for the Faithful Saints, Ensign, p. 59. July 1972.)