Principle #3: Legitimate Governments Derive their Powers From the Consent of the Governed
"Free forms of republican government are “the world’s best hope” to secure liberty and are “the strongest Government on earth… Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the forms of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question.” (“Thomas Jefferson’s First Inaugural Address,” Thomas Jefferson, March 4, 1801)
The administrative mechanisms of government that establish and preserve representative government in perpetuity are the purest expression of the foundational principle of Consent of the Governed. The only form of free government on earth are those which are by the people and of the people, and free governments are the strongest on earth, but a pure representative democracy is not the best mechanism to secure liberty for all people and all time, that distinction goes to that form that is designed to reflect the will of the majority while at the same time securing the rights of the minority. For if the rights of the minority are not protected, then all are not equal under the law, and the law is unjust and the government illegitimate.
It was this principle that our Founders proclaimed to the world in our Declaration of Independence. Abraham Lincoln described the principles espoused within the Declaration as the nearest thing our nation has to a national religion. Though some of our early Founders owned slaves most of them understood that slavery must end for America's Constitution to survive. They understood this because they understood the principles upon which it was founded and framed were meant for the duel purpose to reflect the majority and protect the minority. They were not blind to the principle so powerfully articulated 70 years later by Abraham Lincoln when he said:
"We know how to save the Union. The world knows we do know how to save it. We -- even we here -- hold the power, and bear the responsibility. In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free -- honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth. Other means may succeed; this could not fail. The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just -- a way which, if followed, the world will forever applaud, and God must forever bless."
The struggle for civil rights among minorities has continued throughout our history and this has led some to believe it the fault of our Constitution or form of government, but one of the greatest civil rights leaders in American History, Martin Luther King Jr. understood that the best hope for equality under the law lay in the foundational principles of our Constitutional Republic. This was most artfully expressed on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963 when he spoke these immortal words:
"In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness... And so, we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice."
The greatest threat to civil liberties is the natural failings of human nature and the best way to guard against such failures is not to vest great powers into the hand of imperfect men.
Thomas Jefferson was right when he said, "Free forms of republican government are “the world’s best hope” to secure liberty and are “the strongest Government on earth."