Does Absolute Power Corrupt Absolutely? via American Minute
|By Bill FedererOn OCTOBER 15, 1788, James Madison warned:
“As the courts are generally the last in making the decision, it results to them, by refusing or not refusing to execute a law, to stamp it with its final character.This makes the Judiciary department paramount in fact to the Legislature, which was never intended and can never be proper.”
On OCTOBER 15, 1991, the U.S. Senate confirmed Clarence Thomas as a Supreme Court Justice. During the hearings, in reply to Senator Thurmond, Clarence Thomas replied:”The role of a judge is a limited one. It is to…interpret the Constitution, where called upon, but at no point to impose his or her will or…opinion in that process.”
Thomas Jefferson wrote to Abigail Adams, September 11, 1804:
“Nothing in the Constitution has given them (judges) a right to decide for the Executive, more than to the Executive to decide for them…
The opinion which gives to the judges the right to decide what laws are constitutional… not only for themselves in their own sphere of action, but for the legislature and executive…would make the judiciary a despotic branch.”
Webster’s Dictionary defined “despot” as:
“Absolute and arbitrary authority power… independent of the control of men.”
“You seem…to consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions;a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy...”
“Our judges are as honest as other men, and not more so….and their power (is) the more dangerous, as they are in office for life and not responsible , as the other functionaries are, to the elective control.
The Constitution has erected no such single tribunal,knowing that to whatever hands confided, with corruptions of time and party, its members would become despots.”
In his 1841 Inaugural Address, PresidentWilliam Henry Harrison warned:
“The great danger to our institutions does…appear to me to be…theaccumulation in one of the departments of that which was assigned to others.
Limited as are the powers which have been granted, still enough have been granted to constitute a despotism if concentrated in one of the departments.”
In 1857, Democrat appointed JusticeRoger Taney gave the Supreme Court’s infamous Dred Scott decision that slaves were not citizens, but property.
Lincoln alluded to this decision in his First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861:”I do not forget the position assumed by some that constitutional questions are to be decided by the Supreme Court…
having to that extent practically resigned their Government into the hands of the eminent tribunal.”
Thomas Jefferson warned Mr. Hammond in 1821:
“The germ of dissolution of our federal government is in…the federal judiciary;
an irresponsible body…working like gravity by night and by day, gaining a little today and a little tomorrow, and advancing its noiseless step like a thief, over the field of jurisdiction, until all shall be usurped from the States.”
Jefferson wrote September 6, 1819:
“The Constitution is a mere thing of wax in the hands of the judiciary, which they may twist and shape into any form they please.”
Thomas Jefferson explained to Supreme Court Justice William Johnson, June 12, 1823:”On every question of construction, carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates,and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.”
Baron Montesquieu, the most frequently quoted writer by the Framers of the Constitution, warned of the dangers of uncontrolled judicial power in his Spirit of the Laws, 1748:”Nor is there liberty if the power of judging is not separated from legislative power and from executive power.If it were joined to legislative power, the power over life and liberty of the citizens would be arbitrary, for the judge would be the legislator.
If it were joined to executive power, the judge could have the force of an oppressor.
All would be lost if the same…body of principal men… exercised these three powers.”
Alexis de Tocqueville, author of Democracy in America, 1835, warned:
“The President, who exercises a limited power, may err without causing great mischief in the State.
Congress may decide amiss without destroying the Union, because the electoral body in which Congress originates may cause it to retract its decision
by changing its members.But if the Supreme Court is ever composed of imprudent men or bad citizens, the Union may be plunged into anarchy or civil war.”
Colonial leader John Cotton stated:
“For whatever transcendent power is given, will certainly over-run those that give it…It is necessary therefore, that all power that is on earth be limited.”
“All men having power ought to be distrusted.”
“And of fatal tendency…to put, in the place of the delegated will of the Nation, the will of a party – often a small but artful and enterprising minority…
They are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the Power of the People and to usurp for themselves the reins of Government;
destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”
“It is easy to conceive that great evils to our country and its institutions might flow from such a concentration of power in the hands of a few men irresponsible to the people.
Mere precedent is a dangerous source of authority, and should not be regarded as deciding questions of constitutional power.”
“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.”
“All history tells us that a free people should be watchful of delegated power,
and should never acquiesce in a practice which will diminish their control over it.”
Lord Acton wrote to Bishop Mandell Creighton. April 5, 1881:“All power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
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