Gentle Reader, if you read last week’s Gavel Gamut you will recall we were considering Alexis de Tocqueville’s observations of America as a country based on law. De Tocqueville’s parents, Hervé and Louise de Tocqueville, had barely escaped the guillotine during the French Revolution (1789-1799). De Tocqueville was born in 1805 so he and his family had an intimate personal understanding of the dangers of a nation ruled by individual people, not laws. De Tocqueville studied law and served as a magistrate. He knew the value of French philosopher Montesquieu’s theory of a government formed with a separation of balanced and competing powers (legislative, executive and judicial). And he agreed with the morality of English philosopher John Locke’s (1632-1704) theories that governments should serve their people whom nature had endowed with the rights to life, liberty and property.
When people call for revolution they might wish to re-visit Locke, Montesquieu and de Tocqueville or one could refer to those more contemporary English philosophers, The Beatles. As John Lennon sang while backed by the cabal of Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr in “Revolution”:
♫ You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world.
But when you talk about destruction
Don’t you know you can count me out.
You say you got a real solution
Well, you know
We’d all love to see the plan. ♫
Unfortunately, Mark David Chapman did not get the message. But Lennon’s untimely loss is an example of how ideology and ignorance can get weaponized as opposed to de Tocqueville’s prescient observation about how the United States holds its “revolutions” every four years via the ballot box. Americans may get quite passionate about their politics, but as Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861) might philosophize, “It (should be) a passion put to use”, not destruction. (How Do I Love Thee).
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