It’s All the Fault of ‘Those Foreigners’

Brilliance, in governance, is expressed in one’s ability to take the long view, and few Americans have ever surpassed a certain old political scientist’s gift for abstracting and deriving lessons from current events:

…perhaps it is a universal truth that the loss of liberty at home is to be charged to provisions against danger real or pretended from abroad. [James Madison, as quoted by Ralph Ketcham in James Madison: A Biography, 393.]

The context of Madison’s remark was the infamous Alien and Sedition Acts which directly attacked that critical definition of American values, the Bill of Rights, by seeking to destroy freedoms of speech and assembly by making illegal democratic activism against “measures of the government” or bringing the Federal Government “into contempt or disrepute” [see Ketcham, 394]. Democracy (the method of governance) as well as liberty (the goal and value) were imperiled right at the start of the new American experiment in free government by one of autocracy’s favorite weapons, the assertion that “I, Autocrat, cannot be criticized…and am thus above the law.”


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