Representative Government and Environmental Management

By Edwin T. Haefele | Go to book overview

1 1976 and the Machinery of American Government

INTRODUCTION

There will be many commemorations of the 200th anniversary of American independence and it is fitting that there should be. The Republic is now, as it long has been, "the best hope of mankind" and no cavil about our present problems diminishes that hope one whit. Indeed, our problems persist because we persist in trying to achieve the goals set down 200 years ago by pragmatic men who were confident enough to strive for excellence.

It would be, I believe, a disappointment to those men to know that we have left out one element in our plans of commemoration, self-praise, and celebration. As men consciously constructing the machinery of self-government, they were aware they built imperfectly and they depended upon later generations to change and perfect as experience demanded. George Washington wrote to his nephew Bushrod Washington on November 10, 1787, as follows:

The warmest friends and the best supporters the Constitution has do not contend that it is free from imperfections; but they found them unavoidable and are sensible, if evil is likely to arise therefrom, the remedy must come hereafter; for in the present moment it is not to be obtained; and, as there is a Constitutional door open for it, I think the people (for it is with them to judge) can, as they will have the advantage of experience on their side, decide with as much propriety on the alterations and amendments which are necessary, as ourselves. I do not think we are inspired, have more wisdom or possess more virtue than those who will come after us.

-1-

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