Rhode Island Independence Day

In the spirit of Rhode Island Independence Day — to understand how far we’ve strayed, please take a moment to read the following words from our Founders who were clear about our Constitution’s Rule of Law and its prescribed protections for our Independence…

George Washington: “The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their Constitutions of Government. But the Constitution, which at any time exists, ’till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole People is sacredly obligatory upon all. … Should, hereafter, those incited by the lust of power and prompted by the supineness or venality of their constituents, over-leap the known barriers of this Constitution and violate the unalienable rights of humanity: it will only serve to show, that no compact among men (however provident in its construction and sacred in its ratification) can be pronounced everlasting and inviolable, and if I may so express myself, that no Wall of words, that no mound of parchment can be so formed as to stand against the sweeping torrent of boundless ambition on the side, aided by the sapping current of corrupted morals on the other.”

John Adams: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other. … The only foundation of a free Constitution is pure Virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our People. … [T]hey may change their Rulers, and the forms of Government, but they will not obtain a lasting Liberty. … A Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.”

Thomas Jefferson: “Our peculiar security is in the possession of a written Constitution. Let us not make it a blank paper by construction. … To consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all Constitutional questions [is] a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy. … The Constitution has erected no such single tribunal, knowing that to whatever hands confided, with the corruptions of time and party, its members would become despots. … The opinion which gives to the judges the right to decide what laws are Constitutional and what not, not only for themselves in their own sphere of action but for the Legislature and Executive also in their spheres, would make the Judiciary a despotic branch. … 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. … In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.”

Alexander Hamilton: “[T]here is not a syllable in the [Constitution] which directly empowers the national courts to construe the laws according to the spirit of the Constitution, or which gives them any greater latitude in this respect than may be claimed by the courts of every State. … The Judiciary … has no influence over either the sword or the purse; no direction either of the strength or of the wealth of the society, and can take no active resolution whatever. It may truly be said to have neither force nor will. … If it be asked, ‘What is the most sacred duty and the greatest source of our security in a Republic?’ The answer would be, an inviolable respect for the Constitution and Laws — the first growing out of the last. … A sacred respect for the Constitutional law is the vital principle, the sustaining energy of a free government. … [T]he present Constitution is the standard to which we are to cling. Under its banners, bona fide must we combat our political foes — rejecting all changes but through the channel itself provides for amendments.”

James Madison: “I entirely concur in the propriety of resorting to the sense in which the Constitution was accepted and ratified by the nation. In that sense alone it is the legitimate Constitution. And if that is not the guide in expounding it, there may be no security for a consistent and stable, more than for a faithful exercise of its powers. … If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the General Welfare, the Government is no longer a limited one, possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one, subject to particular exceptions.”

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