No Comment, Quotation — December 4, 2010, 9:15 am

Madison – The Threat of Gradual Accretions of Executive Power

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If powers be necessary, apparent danger is not a sufficient reason against conceding them. He has suggested that licentiousness has seldom produced the loss of liberty; but that the tyranny of rulers has almost always effected it. Since the general civilization of mankind, I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power, than by violent and sudden usurpations; but, on a candid examination of history, we shall find that turbulence, violence, and abuse of power, by the majority trampling on the rights of the minority, have produced factions and commotions, which, in republics, have, more frequently than any other cause, produced despotism. If we go over the whole history of ancient and modern republics, we shall find their destruction to have generally resulted from those causes. If we consider the peculiar situation of the United States, and what are the sources of that diversity of sentiment which pervades its inhabitants, we shall find great danger to fear that the same causes may terminate here in the same fatal effects which they produced in those republics. This danger ought to be wisely guarded against.

James Madison, Remarks to the Virginia Ratifying Convention, June 6, 1788

Listen to the Piano Trio No. 25 in G Major (the “Gypsy”)(1795) by Franz Joseph Haydn in a performance by Alfred Denis Cortot, piano; Jacques Thibaud, violin; Pablo Casals, cello:

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