Who said this? “The truth is that all men having power ought to be mistrusted.” You’re right if you said many have expressed this sentiment over the decades. This particular quote is from the “Father of the U.S. Constitution” and our fourth president, James Madison.
When you first read it, maybe you thought it was a bit rash. (We live in a culture of offense these days, no?) Perhaps you immediately thought of all the powerful people in history that needed to be mistrusted and weren’t, with disastrous consequences. And then there’s the contingent that thought not only men but powerful women should not be trusted as well.
Let’s dive in to why Madison would develop a Constitution, yet think people in power should be mistrusted.
We’ve talked about this before, but our Founding Fathers believed in the inherent sinfulness of human beings. They saw from historical evidence that we are prone to selfishly love power, control, dominance, success, greed. They reasoned that this tendency to sin and selfishness was fertile ground for big-time tyranny and bad governance. So, Madison et al. designed a system of checks and balances to curb the tendency of power to land in the hands of any one person or group. Without a limited and defined government, our God-given unalienable rights could be taken from us, never to be returned. Now you can understand why there is the Second Amendment. It is in our Bill of Rights to restrain the tendency toward tyranny.
So, as you are selecting your primary candidates, have a process by which you determine who will have your support.
Does this person believe in the original intent of the Constitution? Or do they think it is only theoretical? Or a “living, breathing” document that can change with the prevailing winds in each generation?
Do they acknowledge the endless threat of tyranny? Or do they think that this time, under their leadership, they will rule you rightly? (Hint: that’s tyranny, not freedom).
Now that you understand the common tendency to misuse power, could you talk to your neighbors about the value of supporting someone who knows the Constitution’s original intent and the need to exercise restraint when given power?
Either We the People guard against the misuse of power or we will become tyranny’s servants.
This is Common Sense Civics and Citizenship.🇺🇸