Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Senator Daniel Webster

In the comments of one of my posts over at Chicago Boyz:
"Good motives may always be assumed, as bad motives may always be imputed. Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of power; but they cannot justify it, even if we were sure that they existed. It is hardly too strong to say, that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intention, real or pretended. When bad intentions are boldly avowed, the people will promptly take care of themselves. On the other hand, they will always be asked why they should resist or question that exercise of power which is so fair in its object, so plausible and patriotic in appearance, and which has the public good alone confessedly in view? Human beings, we may be assured, will generally exercise power when they can get it; and they will exercise it most undoubtedly, in popular governments, under pretences of public safety or high public interest. It may be very possible that good intentions do really sometimes exist when constitutional restraints are disregarded. There are men, in all ages, who mean to exercise power usefully; but who mean to exercise it. They mean to govern well; but they mean to govern. They promise to be kind masters; but they mean to be masters. They think there need be but little restraint upon themselves. Their notion of the public interest is apt to be quite closely connected with their own exercise of authority. They may not, indeed, always understand their own motives. The love of power may sink too deep in their own hearts even for their own scrutiny, and may pass with themselves for mere patriotism and benevolence."
Daniel Webster "Reception at New York"  March 15, 1837.

1 comment:

Christopher B said...

Back in a college poli sci class, we read a little paperback called 'Plunkitt of Tammany Hall'. One of Plunkitt's political principals was 'honest graft'. It was graft in that it was patronage directed to the officeholder's supporters but honest in the sense the project was genuinely in the public interest, and completed with efficiency.

I've seen nothing in the three and a half decades between then and now that has convinced me it would be better to vote for a politician who declares their sole motivation for seeking office is the betterment of the public welfare than one who would honestly claim to be interested in lining their own pocket. Everybody expects a payoff.