Saturday, February 16, 2008

Most Influential Princeton Alumni

The January issue of the Princeton Alumni Weekly features an article called "The most influential Princeton alumni ever." I didn't make the list, but I was happy to see that James Madison was number one. He is a hero of mine. He was the main author of the US Constitution, he wrote a third of the Federalist Papers, and he authored the Bill of Rights. Today, we ignore many of Madison's principles and it gets us into a mess of trouble.

Some of my favorite quotes from Madison:

It is a universal truth that the loss of liberty at home is to be charged to the provisions against danger, real or pretended, from abroad.

If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.

The executive has no right, in any case, to decide the question, whether there is or is not cause for declaring war.

War should only be declared by the authority of the people, whose toils and treasures are to support its burdens, instead of the government which is to reap its fruits.

The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home.

Of all the enemies of public liberty, war is perhaps the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other.

No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.

Each generation should be made to bear the burden of its own wars, instead of carrying them on, at the expense of other generations.

The Constitution preserves the advantage of being armed which Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation where the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.

In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.

In Republics, the great danger is, that the majority may not sufficiently respect the rights of the minority.

It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood.

The truth is that all men having power ought to be mistrusted.

What is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? 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.

Where an excess of power prevails, property of no sort is duly respected. No man is safe in his opinions, his person, his faculties, or his possessions.

The third most influential Princetonian was Woodrow Wilson. The article says
After serving as Princeton's 13th president, American's 28th president achieved a host of domestic reforms, including the creation of the Federal Reserve System, the income tax, and the Federal Trade Commission, which ushered in a new era of government regulation. He led the United States through World War I; his Fourteen Points remain an outstanding liberal expression of international relations, though he failed to gain the U.S. entry into the League of Nations.
So to recap. Wilson achieved two of the 10 Planks of the Communist Manifesto by establishing a "A heavy progressive or graduated income tax" (plank 2) and "Centralization of credit in the hands of the State, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly" (plank 5). He set the precedent for government to regulate and interfere with the buying and selling of goods in the free market. The article says he led the United "through" World War I, but it should have said he led us into World War I. He also managed to set the stage for World War II through the Treaty of Versailles, a war that resulted in the deaths of tens of millions of people. He can be considered the first neocon as he believed in spreading the goodness of American through the world by use of force. He also believed in World Government, which takes power away from the people and puts their lives under the control of bureaucrats in a far away land.

We need more James Madisons and fewer Woodrow Wilsons. Unfortunately, Clinton, Obama, and McCain have a much deeper resemblance to Wilson than to Madison.

1 comment:

Vijay said...

Fantastic post; I really love the Madison quotes.

One can only despair that the wisdom and admonitions of the Founders are long forgotten and have been replaced by seductive panaceas peddled by politicians, both Left and Right, who care more for power than for liberty.

I think I'm going to write Madison in on November 2nd, 2008.