Government power is like a deadly disease.
If you don’t nip it in the bud, it grows faster and faster – and more dangerous.
That’s what the Founders and Old Revolutionaries warned us about – repeatedly. As a result of ignoring their warnings for generations, we now live under the largest government in history – and the disease keeps getting worse.
Virtually every time the people ignore one new government power or another, there’s an excuse – an “emergency” they claim requires us to ignore some limitation on power in the Constitution.
I’m sure you’ve heard things like this as much as I have.
“The Patriot Act is just for the terrorists”
“The income tax is only an emergency war time measure”
“If we don’t ban ___, people will die in the streets!”
“But it’s for the children!”
All these excuses are based in fear, what John Adams warned is “the foundation of most governments.”
We were warned – repeatedly – how dangerous this mentality is.
Founder after founder warned us against turning a blind eye to violations of the Constitution, which they also called “arbitrary power” or “usurpations” of power.
Samuel Adams put it this way:
Let us remember that if we suffer tamely a lawless attack upon our liberty, we encourage it, and involve others in our doom!
In his opinion against the constitutionality of Alexander Hamilton’s first National Bank, Thomas Jefferson warned that even a single step beyond the limits of the Constitution was a step too far:
To take a single step beyond the boundaries thus specially drawn around the powers of Congress, is to take possession of a boundless field of power, no longer susceptible of any definition.
Years earlier, John Dickinson, the “Penman of the Revolution,” took the same view as Jefferson and urged us to “Oppose a disease at its beginning” – because even a single concession to the limits of government power would act as a “PRECEDENT for other concessions” in the future.
He warned that those concessions would lead to the end of freedom. John Adams described it like a deadly disease:
The nature of the encroachment upon the American constitution is such, as to grow every day more and more encroaching. Like a cancer, it eats faster and faster every hour.
That’s why so many of the founders and old revolutionaries understood that arbitrary power needs to be opposed by the people themselves, the earlier the better. Adams put it this way:
“Obsta principiis – Nip the shoots of arbitrary power in the bud, is the only maxim which can ever preserve the liberties of any people. When the people give way, their deceivers, betrayers and destroyers press upon them so fast that there is no resisting afterwards.”
He was reiterating a long-standing maxim that James Otis also recognized a few years earlier:
“It is my countrymen of the utmost consequence that we boldly oppose the least infraction of our charter, and rights as men. Obsta Principiis is a maxim never to be forgot: If we do not resist at the first attack, it may soon be too late”
Thomas Jefferson gave the same advice in his “Notes on the state of Virginia.” He wrote:
“The time to guard against corruption and tyranny, is before they shall have gotten hold of us. It is better to keep the wolf out of the fold, than to trust to drawing his teeth and talons after he shall have entered.”
These leading founders and old revolutionaries recognized a timeless truth. When you allow a government to chip away at the limits on its power, eventually the dam will burst. You will end up with a government exercising virtually unlimited authority – arbitrary power.
Unfortunately, that dam burst many years ago. From money printing that powers an almost endless list of unconstitutional federal programs, to mass, warrantless surveillance, violations of your natural right to keep and bear arms, unconstitutional and undeclared wars – and everything in between – we can see the danger of ignoring the founders all around us.
Although going from where things are today – to a true “land of the free” won’t be quick or easy. It’s definitely not game over for liberty.
As St. George Tucker put it:
The acquiescence of the people of a state under any usurped authority for any length of time, can never deprive them of the right of resuming the sovereign power into their own hands, whenever they think fit, or are able to do so, since that right is perfectly unalienable.
We’ve got a long way to go, and a lot of work yet to do. But with your support, we’re building a strong foundation for the Constitution and liberty – whether the government happens to like it, or not.
- Constitution 101: Supremacy Clause - January 29, 2024
- Benjamin Franklin’s Finest: Top Views from the “First American” - January 17, 2024
- Breaking Free from the Monster State: 5 Essential Principles - January 15, 2024