June 2, 2015

"The Spirit of Party" ... is itself a frightful despotism.


I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the state, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations.

Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party, generally.
This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but, in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.
The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty.
Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind, (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight,) the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.
It serves always to distract the Public Councils, and enfeeble the Public Administration. It agitates the Community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which find a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another. - - Washington's Farewell Address

Posted by gerardvanderleun at June 2, 2015 9:07 AM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Amazingly, human nature hasn't changed much in the last 250 years. The warning is timeless rather than prescient, and we have seen many of the evils of faction in the last decade.

Posted by: chuck at June 2, 2015 12:42 PM

“Party is the madness of many, for the gain of a few.”
―Alexander Pope

Posted by: Denny at June 2, 2015 2:39 PM

Wow! That nails it.

Posted by: David at June 2, 2015 4:12 PM

It is interesting to read essays by these "Founding Fathers".
Washington and Patrick Henry a few days ago. James Madison had things to say as well.
They all warned about the soon to be accepted Constitution and the weaknesses inherent in it.

The commonality I drew from the essays was that of: if you have good men in the offices of rule you will have good government for the people.
If you have bad men in office you will have bad government, one of power for the few and misery for the population, the People.

What to do about bad rulers is not discussed but implied is that we oust them by whatever means is necessary.
Talk and hand-wringing may not be enough; this is a case where the sword will be mightier than the pen.

Posted by: chasmatic at June 3, 2015 6:28 AM