Provocateur of the Right: Winston Churchill on the US Constitution

August 19, 2015

In the United States, also, economic crisis has led to an extension of the activities of the Executive and to the pillorying, by irresponsible agitators, of certain groups and sections of the population as enemies of the rest. There have been efforts to exalt the power of the central government and to limit the rights of individuals. It has been sought to mobilize behind this reversal of the American tradition at once the selfishness of the pensioners, or the would-be pensioners of Washington, and the patriotism of all who wish to see their country prosperous once more. It is when passions and cupidities are thus unleashed and, at the same time, the sense of public duty rides high in the hearts of all men and women of good will that the handcuffs can be slipped upon the citizens and they can be brought into subjugation to the executive government. Then they are led to believe that, if they will only yield themselves, body, mind, and soul, to the State, and obey unquestioningly its injunctions, some dazzling future of riches and power will open to them….

I take the opposite view. I hold that governments are meant to be, and must remain, the servants of the citizens; that states and federations only come into existence and can only be justified by preserving the ‘life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness’ in the homes and families of individuals. The true right and power rest in the individual. He gives of his right and power to the State, expecting and requiring thereby in return to receive certain advantages and guarantees….

(From “What Good’s a Constitution?” by Winston Churchill, 1936)

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