Assigned Reading: James Madison Predicted This ‘Obama Obsession’ Thing
Every once in a while, I’ll read an article or commentary or hear an argument or even a joke and think to myself: “Dang it, I wish I had thought of that!” Reading this piece from Austin Hill over at Townhall.com was one of those moments. Here’s an excerpt:
In many ways, it’s a sad state of affairs. Americans are scared and want their President to be an omniscient, omnipotent savior, and the man we elected knows with certainty that he is that savior. Yet it’s comforting to know that, in many ways, some of the founders of our nation understood human nature so remarkably well that they could have predicted a day when future generations would want not a President, but a messiah, and a day when a President fancied himself as such.
Such wisdom is yours for the reading in “The Federalist Papers,” that old compilation of some 85 newspaper editorials that argued for the ratification of the U.S. Constitution, published in 1787 and 1788. While make the case for limiting the power of government, and establishing “checks and balances” between government’s various “departments,” James Madison eloquently wrote in “The Federalist Number 51:”
It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. 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. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government…
It would seem that Madison the philosopher (who went on to become our Fourth President of the United States) was quite certain that those who govern will never be “angels” (he would probably also concur that a President will never amount to a messiah). Madison also seems to indicate that those who govern will naturally begin to think a bit too highly of themselves, and will have difficulty with ‘self-restraint.”
I don’t know about you, but with almost each passing day I am reminded just how prescient our nation’s founders truly were. I’m fortunate enough to work across the street from the site of the home where Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, and just a few hundred yards from where that document, along later with our Constitution, was signed. These men constantly amaze me, and it saddens me that we have largely dismissed their wisdom as simply the antiquated ramblings of equally antiquated relics.