Entropy in the Executive

The Massachusetts Constitution’s Declaration of Rights says, in its conclusion, that:

In the government of this commonwealth, the legislative department shall never exercise the executive and judicial powers, or either of them: the executive shall never exercise the legislative and judicial powers, or either of them: the judicial shall never exercise the legislative and executive powers, or either of them: to the end it may be a government of laws and not of men.

That constitution, providing for a lower house, a Senate, and a governor armed with a (qualified) veto was, in many ways, the model for the federal Constitution drafted a few years later.

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“Government Is the Only Thing that We All Belong To”

What is American Government?

A recent Democratic Party campaign commercial suggests that “the government is the only thing that we all belong to.”

At first glance, the commercial seems to be suggesting that we the people are servants of the government–and belong to it the way my pen belongs to me. A more fair construction would be to read it as saying that we all are part of the government. We belong to it the way we belong to a church congregation, or a sports club. The language implies that the American people and the American government are inseparable and indistinguishable.

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John Adams and Religious Liberty: What Our Second President Can Teach Us About Constitutional Compromise

John Adams’ name is in the news again.  And once again he is being misrepresented. As in life, so too in death.  In the past few month, then noted historian Rosemarie Zigarri wrote in the Washington Post that (in the Post’s words)  “John Adams believed that the state should provide support for ministers.”  In a much discussed essay on Ricochet, the distinguished historian Paul Rahe recently made the same claim.

Everyone knows that Adams wrote the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780, and everyone knows that Article III of the Constitution’s Declaration of Rights created a church establishment.  QED, it would appear.  The trouble is that Adams did not write Article III of the Massachusetts Constitution.  Indeed, he refused to write it because, in his words, “I found I could not sketch [it], consistent with my own sentiments of perfect religious freedom, with any hope of its being adopted by the Convention, so I left it to be battled out in the whole body.”  In that refusal lies an important story of democratic statesmanship.

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