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We the People


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we-the-people.htmlLetters from an Ohio Farmer:



To My Fellow Citizens:


Our Constitution begins with the phrase "We the people." The people precede the Constitution. They, through their representatives, wrote it and then voted to adopt it. Following generations amended it. Since we can amend the Constitution, ultimately we cannot depend on it unless we ourselves are dependable. The people are the foundation upon which the legal edifice of the Constitution rests. No matter what the Constitution says, no matter how clever its provisions, it will never be sound and constitutional government secure, if the people are not sound.


We often hear another account of the relationship between the people and the Constitution. This account presents the Constitution as a necessary constraint on the people. The people are a collection of self-interested individuals, perhaps even self-indulgent. If not for the rule of law, the authority and the procedures of the Constitution, who knows what they would do? This was a view held by some at the time of our Founding. It is a view still held today.


This must disturb those who love liberty. For if the people are weak, and divided by self-interest, then the government must be strong. For what else could control such people and direct them to useful ends? It is also a paradoxical view of the Constitution, since some of those who complain of the self-interestedness of the people also praise limited government. But, again, if the people are weak and divided, does this not encourage their government to be strong and to take over responsibilities for which the people are supposedly unfit?








Not Yours To Give


CHAPTER XVII. That a corrupt People obtaining Freedom can hardly preserve it.

Discourses on the First Decade of Titus Livius

Niccolò Machiavelli

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