Monday, November 19, 2007

Let the Constitution speak according to the promises of the Declaration

Charles Sumner

The modern founder of political science, Machiavelli, writer as well as statesman, in his most instructive work, the Discourses on Livy, has a chapter entitled, "For a Republic to have long life, it is necessary to bring it back often to its origin": where he shows how the native virtue in which a Republic was founded becomes so far corrupted that in process of time the body-politic is destroyed,—as in the case of the natural body, where, according to the doctors of medicine, something is daily added, from time to time requiring cure. The remarkable publicist teaches under this head that Republics are brought back to their origin, and to the principles in which they were founded, by pressure from without, where prudence fails within; and he affirms that the destruction of Rome by the Gauls was necessary, in order that the Republic might have a new birth, with new life and new virtue,—all of which ensued, when the barbarians were driven back. If the illustration is fanciful, there is wisdom in the counsel; and now the time has come for its application. The Gauls are upon us, not from a distance, but domestic Gauls, flinging their swords, like Brennus, into the scales; and we, too, may profit by the occasion to secure for the Republic a new birth, with new life and new virtue. Happily, the way is easy; for there is no doubt of its baptismal vows, or the declared sentiments of its origin. There is the Declaration of Independence: let its solemn promises be redeemed. There is the Constitution: let it speak according to the promises of the Declaration. Let it speak...
Charles Sumner (1811-1874)
Universal Emancipation, pp 213-214
His Complete Works, XI

Doesn't prudence sound easier?