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When the Constitutional Convention met to craft a new government that would supplant the Articles of Confederation they did so feeling a tension.  A tension between making the federal government too powerful, and thereby taking away individual liberty and making it too weak where it can’t protect liberties that we have (they can protect and promote our liberty, but government can’t “provide” it).

James Madison who was one of the chief architects of the Constitution of the United States wrote about that tension in The Federalist Papers:

But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?  If men were angels, no government would be necessary.  If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.  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.

Our federal elected officials have seemed to have forgotten the obligation they have in the Constitution to control themselves.  We need to remind them.

Source: Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto by Mark Levin

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5 comments
  1. OK, I’m coming from the opposite (yet Christian symp) perspective. I have read the entirety of Madison’s entry in the Federalist Papers, in addition to his expository letters following. Doesn’t make me an expert, but I do have a passionate opinion.

    The whole of Madison’s apparent argument is not simply to protect the government from religion, but to protect religion from the government. Administrations come and go with their man-made wisdom. What you support under an administration you trust (and public powers of any kind, municipal, state, etc.) might just as easily be used against you under another administration. Four years can be a mere head-turning interval.

    What I take to heart from Madison’s writings is this: Keep the ham-hands of government out of my religion. Faith is intimate, and best kept under the tent of individual, family and church/synagogue/mosque/et al.

    I am against school prayer on this basis, along with all Presidential co-opting of scripture quotes or symbols to make political hay (of whatever religion) as much as I may admire and share their personal religious beliefs. (Lieberman, Obama, Bush, Clinton, Carter, Reagan, etc.)

    Another item to keep in mind is that Madison’s generation was personally cognizant of their own and their father’s and grandfather’s experiences with religion and religious wars on the Continent and the Americas. They knew first hand what havoc the confluence of political power and religion could wreak upon the individual, and individual faith and liberty.

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