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The Foundations of American Goverment

6 Lessons


Are people good or evil? Your answer probably depends on how you have seen people around you behave. If you have studied history, the answer might further depend on what you think of past wars, as well as how people manage to live alongside one another in peace. People can be both hateful and noble, can’t they? James Madison, an ardent student of political philosophy, put it this way:

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; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions. (Federalist No. 51)