In light of President Obama’s “I’ve got a pen, and I’ve got a phone” comments followed by calls fordirect executive action in his State of the Union, Senator Rand Paul’s 4th Amendment suit being filed against the President over NSA surveillance, the recent controversy over perceived pay-to-play appointments of U.S. ambassadors and the President’s joke about being able to do whatever he wants to French President Francois Hollande at Monticello, we found the below excerpt particularly striking.
It comes from Cato’s Letter IV of the “Anti-Federalist Papers,” dated November 8, 1787. All emphasis is courtesy of “Cato” (likely George Clinton).
It is remarked by Montesquieu, in treating of republics, that in all magistracies, the greatness of the power must be compensated by the brevity of the duration; and that a longer time than a year, would be dangerous. It is therefore obvious to the least intelligent mind, to account why, great power in the hands of a magistrate, and that power connected, with a considerable duration, may be dangerous to the liberties of a republic–the deposit of vast trusts in the hands of a single magistrate, enables him in their exercise, to create a numerous train of dependents–this tempts his ambition,which in a republican magistrate is also remarked, to be pernicious and the duration of his office for any considerable time favors his views, gives him the means and time to perfect and execute his designs–he therefore fancies that he may be great and glorious by oppressing his fellow citizens, and raising himself to permanent grandeur on the ruins of his country.–And here it may be necessary to compare the vast and important powers of the president, together with his continuance in office with the foregoing doctrine–his eminent magisterial situation will attach many adherents to him, and he will be surrounded by expectants and courtiers–his power of nomination and influence on all appointments–the strong posts in each state comprised within his superintendence, and garrisoned by troops under his direction–his