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For the Common Good

Article 7 (1780)

Government is instituted for the common good; for the protection, safety, prosperity and happiness of the people; and not for the profit, honor, or private interest of any one man, family, or class of men: Therefore the people alone have an incontestable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to institute government; and to reform, alter, or totally change the same, when their protection, safety, prosperity and happiness require it.

Precedents and Quotations

James Otis, “The Rights of the British Colonies Asserted and Proved”, Boston : Estes and Gill (pamphlet) (1764):

“[G]overnment is founded on the necessity of our natures…. It is therefore originally and ultimately in the people. . . But let the origin of government be placed where it may, the end of it is manifestly the good of the whole.. . The end of government being the good of mankind, points out its great duties: It is above all things to provide for the security, the quiet, and happy enjoyment of life, liberty, and property. There is no one act which a government can have a right to make, that does not tend to the advancement of the security, tranquility and prosperity of the people. . . For no man or society of men having a power to deliver up their preservation or consequently the means of it to the absolute will and arbitrary dominion of another; whenever any one shall go about to bring them into such a slavish condition, they will always have a right to preserve what they have not a power to part with; and to rid themselves of those who invade this fundamental, sacred and unalterable law of self preservation, for which they entered into society.

 

James Madison, Federalist Paper No. 10, “The Same Subject Continued: The Union as a Safeguard Against Domestic Faction and Insurrection” From the New York Packet, 7th paragraph (1787):

“A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good. . . But the most common and durable source of factions, has been the various and unequal distribution of property. . . the regulation of these various and interfering interests, forms the principal task of modern legislation, and involves the spirit of party and faction in the necessary and ordinary operations of government.”

 

George Washington, “To the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island (1790):

“(T)he Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.  . . May . . .every one . . . sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid. “

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