"A constitution is not the act of a government,
but of a people constituting a government;
and government without a constitution is power without a right.
All power exercised over a nation, must have some beginning.
It must be either delegated, or assumed. There are not other sources.
All delegated power is trust, and all assumed power is usurpation.
Time does not alter the nature and quality of either."
Thomas Paine
(1737-1809) US Founding father, pamphleteer, author
Bookmark and Share  
Reader comments about this quote:
Very Powerful -- Absolutely! I would give this 10 stars if able.
 -- Logan, Memphis, TN
Excellent!!! Imagine if this were actually taught and remembered by Americans...
 -- E Archer, NYC
A great man, he made people think He was ostracized because truth & religion can not
 -- farley moxley, richmond,va.
ahhh, that anything like such could be in current political language; if it were, we could eliminate de facto tyranny, compelled compliance, theft of the noble labor's fruits, license, forced charity_ID_health care, etc., etc., etc.
 -- Mike, Norwalk
A constitution, at least the U.S. Constitution, defines the limits of the government and the rights of the people it guarantees to protect ...not, as some would have it, limits on the people, as was done in the 18th Amendment, or the everpresent attempts to add prohibitions against abortion, or same-sex marriage, or flag burning, etc. These are matters for the states and by statutes to regulate society - not bya constitution.
 -- Jack, Green, OH
Superb quote. A constitution is a contract between the people and the government. It can be changed (amended) by mutual consent. The interesting part is that it was commonly accepted back then, at the time of the 18th Amendment, that we would need a Constitutional Amendment to prohibit alcohol, but now, even those who know it is not true, are willing to prohibit drugs with laws; as they are willing to expand the meaning of speech while simultaneously diminishing the meaning of shall not be infringed; and conveniently call a prohibition on establishing a state sponsored religion, a separation of church and state, but virtually ignore the prohibition against restricting the free exercise there of. It does not matter if it is taught or remembered what a Constitution means or where power or rights come from, you need people willing to lay it on the line to protect and preserve it. Few of those exist. We are rapidly becoming a nation of shortsighted, self-centered, moral and physical cowards who will accept lies as long as they pad our standard of living an provide us with the illusion of security.
 -- helorat, Milton
what does it mean in a way that a 7th grader can understand?
 -- sara, ct
Great quote.
 -- Pedro Borrero, Yauco, Puerto Rico
 -- taxed-to-death-in-Boston, Boston 
Where are people like Paine when you need them. If there's any around, they surely aren't in Washington. Paine, Jefferson, Franklin, Adams, Washington and the like, were giants, now we have pygmies running (ruining?) the country.
 -- jim k, austin
We do not live in a world of absolutes - we live in a world of constant change and that applies to all applications, but not course of the form, that, time cannot change.
Jack, I disagree, there are inalienable rights which should be protected by the constitution those rights are not for individual states to decide upon they are inalienable. Civil Rights for all law abiding citizens are not up for a vote.
If he were here today he would be called a radical right wing extremist. Obama would have him watched as a possible terrorist. The press would chuckle and joke about his "ludicrous" ideas. Congress would propose legislation to shut him up.
 -- warren, olathe
Robert, 'Civil Rights' is an ambiguous term at best. Originally, the civil designation separated it form criminal understandings in limited specific day to day activities but, as used currently (as is applied from the executive, legislature, judiciary, and their PR merchants - the media) is a designation that states: the origin of the 'right' is from government (a democracy or collective kinda thing), it not being inalienable. Inalienable rights are, depending on your religious orientation, either eternal from an extra corporeal experience or a faculty of birth beyond man's jurisprudence, both having the same result concerning man's authority, codes, rules, statutes, etc. Common law is an application that address the most specific of man's inalienable rights experience. There is no federal common law so any attempt at regulating such common law jurisdiction from a federal perspective is a usurpation and tyranny.
 -- Mike, Norwalk
Well said Mike.
 -- Anon
Mike, thank you for your thoughtful reply, but I'm afraid I must disagree. There are certain rights which transcend individual (state) regulation, however those who do transgress may be individually dealt with by the appropriate authority. The Supreme Court upholds (or they are meant too) the rights of the individual regardless of religion or ethnicity - those rights are not subject to majority rule. Universal Human Rights is the core of this argument "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness". States rights which can be used to discriminate MUST and always be secondary to Universal Human Rights. Common Law by definition is Universal (as the Supreme Court is the final arbiter, based on precedential decisions and other legal and common law interpretations) and not applied arbitrarily by individual states. States do not have the governing decision but the people do - they can change government not States. States are but vehicles to administer the law of the LAND. Would we still allow slavery in one state and not another; would we still subject women and children to the abuse of men in one state and not another. There are indeed Universal laws, which agreed on by the people, remain Federal; and, only the people can change that. Otherwise, leave the Union.
RBESRQ, Mike was trying to make a distinction - I think we all agree that our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are not granted by anyone, they are our natural born rights. However, the term 'civil rights' is from Roman law -- civil rights are not natural-born, they are as the government decides. Civil rights are not inalienable rights -- they are those that the State grant and can also take away since they are civil not natural. Civil rights are in fact privileges or licenses granted by the civil authority. The slaves may have been freed by a civil declaration, but they already had those rights when they were born whether the state or its citizens respected them or not. The 'civil rights' movement is in fact a statist movement to promote the state as savior and perpetual benefactor. Natural born rights are not civil rights -- there is an important and significant difference.
 -- E Archer, NYC
Sara, from Connecticut. I may not be the best one here to help you out but I’ll try. Someone else like Mike or perhaps Archer might be more helpful or want to add something. The first line simply says that the constitution is not something made by a government, it is made by individuals or people in order to set up a government. Something like a rule book or a set of rules. It goes on to say that a government without a constitution, or set of rules, is one that acts out it powers without the consent of the people because they had no say in the governments make up or rules. It then says all power has a beginning at some time and that the beginning comes from either being delegated or assumed. “Delegated” means the people GIVE other people the power to act for them in their interest; this involves TURST because you must have faith and trust when others are acting for you. “Assumed” means that the people TAKE (or assume) power themselves from other people that have the power currently; this is call usurpation. Lastly it says that time, no matter how long, doesn’t change the character or excellence (or lack of excellence) of this power obtained either by delegation or usurpation. Keep reading here, it’s a good place to learn about governments – what they do and shouldn’t do. I give 5* for putting into few words a tremendous thought that more should be thinking today. Especially those to whom "We the People" have delegated the power. I say this last with tongue prominently in cheek.
 -- zeitgeist, la crescenta, ca
Archer, I just returned (dinner was great) so forgive me for not sending a reply. Thank you for your explanation - in short, for rights to be rights they must be practiced and not left in some text book. I believe that justice must be seen to be just. I'll write more on civil rights tomorrow. We fool only ourselves when we see what should be or shouldn't be. Government is the people and the people can take it back.
Robert, I think its probably mostly semantics that are getting in the way and the law that is to be administered. I think we actually sound similar. There are different levels of law administration. Those laws that can not be administered locally must expand to the proper jurisdiction (interstate, postal, certain fiscal realms, etc.) As far as slavery goes, the Supreme Court in the Dred Scott case made clear those of African descent were lawfully defined as chattel. The 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments have been said to over-ride that decision. Those amendments did not eliminate the legal outcome, they only made all people equal to the previous slaves; the primary difference, the government with inherent right(s) aloof from we the people is/are the new masters. Such status is recognized by the government's ability to compel compliance, license, create and enforce victimless crimes, mandate working for the State with out compensation, mandate ownership positions in private enterprises (banking, transportation, student loans, insurance, etc.)
 -- Mike, Norwalk
Mike, thanks again for your time to further define how law and government collaborate. Mike and Archer, yes, it's probably semantics that separate our thought processes. I'm very much a person that cuts to the chase and believes firmly that what is right shall always prevail - the idea that we all perceive what's right differently is to some point true but there are basic and fundamental understandings that transcend those differences. Law, the constitution, the bill of rights, etc, etc., will, in my humble opinion, play a secondary role to that principle - it is after all the only constant factor in the Universe (nicked from Einstein).
So if a government is ignoring its own Constitution it is then a Government without a right. Like we have had for some time now...
 -- J Carlton, Calgary
A simple and powerful explanation of the rights of individuals that few understand. Sara's question is also a good one. How do you teach this? While youngsters in grammar school, maybe even high school, can learn or memorize the words, the understanding is another thing. Once you start paying taxes, having licenses, etc. it does become meaningful.
 -- J. B. Wulff, Bristol, CT
Let experience be our guide. Power with out a right is no power at all to the just. The (rock) upon which the republic rest is the source of power and authority of our founding fathers. Prov 1:3. and 1 Corinthians 7:21 sums up the stand to be free.KJB. To afford ourselves the opportunity to tell the truth of wisdom, justice, judgment and equity for all men and women to see. Our constitution is designed to set the children at liberty, financial and personal liberty with moral guidance from the rock. Quite an experiment of and in the grace of God. It did not take to long for the corrupt to take advantage of our big heart did it ? As the current administration expects us to turn the cheek as they feast upon our garden. Our rule is a gift from God. He has laid Judgment to the line and righteousness to the plummet. Some of our founding fathers were fully persuaded. Knowing they had the right to revolt in the name of God before the world.
 -- Ron, Salem
More brilliant words from a brilliant man.
 -- Johann Hollar, Saint Paul, MN
 -- G■l■k Zolt■n Buday, Vancouver, Paine County (Metro Van), BC
All consent to be governed in America--after its first Organic Law, the Declaration of Independence--must be personal in authority. Read the Stamp Act for confirmation. No official has ever taken an Art VI Constitutional oath to the written document--all take the oath patterned after the Office of the President of US. This leaves the written document ratified but not adopted--free to be ignored by all but those who ratified.
 -- dave, lebanon
amazing inspirational i love it!!!!!!!!!!!!
 -- michael warner, colorado springs
To address, speak with Sara the seventh grader, time does not alter the natural or natural law of delegated ( a group of people ) or assumed power by one person ( as Obama being a bad tyrant and dictator in his own mind ).
 -- Ronw13, Yachats Or
Succinct and to the point.... Brilliant!
 -- Robert, St. Emilion, France
Those who swore to uphold our Constitution and protect our nation through the rule and limitations of our laws and treaties, who then willfully and knowingly violate it, have criminally betrayed our trust.

Who policies the lawmakers, when the lawmakers violate the social contract, and all checks and balances fail?
 -- Dave Lynch, Sacramento
An unjust law is no law to be observed, Mischief is framed in a law. A den of thieves and a pit of vipers, it has become a attorneys world. Even Abraham Lincoln said, avoid litigation, there will be enough work to go around, this after implementing the property tax ! The devil is always in the details to deceive the ignorant.
 -- Ronw13, Yachats Or
Rate this quote!
How many stars?

What do YOU think?
Your name:
Your town:

More Quotations
Get a Quote-A-Day! Free!
Liberty Quotes sent to your mail box.
RSS Subscribe
Quotes & Quotations - Send This Quote to a Friend

© 1998-2015 Liberty-Tree.ca