Friday, October 29, 2010

The Danger of a Single Despot


"When the Constitution was thus perfected and established, a new form of government was created, but it was neither speculative nor experimental as to the principles on which it was based. If they were true principles, as they were, the government founded upon them was destined to a life and an influence that would continue while the liberties it was intended to preserve should be valued by the human family. Those liberties had been wrung from reluctant monarchs in many contests, in many countries, and were grouped into creeds and established in ordinances sealed with blood, in many great struggles of the people. They were not new to the people. They were consecrated theories, but no government had been previously established for the great purpose of their preservation and enforcement. That which was experimental in our plan of government was the question whether democratic rule could be so organized and conducted that it would not degenerate into license and result in the tyranny of absolutism, without saving to the people the power so often found necessary of repressing or destroying their enemy, when he was found in the person of a single despot."
Our president recently referred to people who value the ideals on which our government was founded as his "enemies."  I wonder if we might see in him the single despot so feared by the Founders?  Fortunately, they left us the saving power to prevent such things, if only we will be wise enough to use it.

UPDATE

The above quote is from an introduction to Democracy in America, by John T. Morgan in the Kindle edition of the book.  However, readers should be warned that this introduction is a product of, I believe, a 19th century historian, and some of his views on race are unfortunate, at best, at worst, racist.  Still, the truth of some points he makes about deToqueville's understanding of America are still valid.
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