Abilene News

Published 3:46 pm Thursday, May 16, 2013

May 16 – “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

We have all heard that quote, or some version of it, many times. And many have claimed credit for it. In 1887, British historian and moralist, Lord John Acton, expressed this opinion in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton.

There seems to be a lot in the news these days about the corrupting influence power can bring to individuals or organizations.

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We have heard about the Army Lieutenant Colonel and the Army Sergeant who were responsible for sexual harassment counseling and training being charged with sexual harassment-using their positions to intimidate already vulnerable individuals.

And, what organization strikes more fear into the hearts of Americans than the IRS. And this week we have learned that the IRS was using their power to target certain conservative groups for extra scrutiny.

And the FBI investigating the AP to determine their sources for the information they printed about the IRS actions.

And most of us have probably seen the corrupting influence of power in our own lives.

When our Founding Fathers put their heads together to come up with a document that would provide a systems of checks and balances that would prohibit “absolute power” in any one organization, they came up with our Constitution.

Before the American colonies rebelled against the British monarchy and organized themselves into a country, most countries just “happened”. They grew out of a cluster of towns or regions when someone with a large enough army would declare the area to be under his power and a new country was born-with a new monarch.

But things were different in America. The idea that a group of towns or states could come together to form a country in an organized manner was new. But the American colonists did just that. They did so by setting down the rules that would bind them together into their new nation.

American law, like the British law from which it developed, is based on precedent. What a word meant before determines what it will mean today, and the way a law was applied to a certain set of facts determines how it will be applied to a set of facts today.

The U. S. Constitution is one of the historical documents on which Americans base their actions. The Constitution is accepted as the supreme law of the land.

The U. S. Constitution was written in 1787 to establish a set of principles that told how the new nation would be governed. Every law established in this country must agree with what is written in the Constitution.

The Preamble of the Constitution explains why the Constitution with all its rules was written: “We the people of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Our Founding Fathers-the authors of the Constitution-lived in a time when kings, emperors and czars ruled nearly all the countries of the world. They had come to this country to avoid such rulers and wanted to avoid the possibility of any one person seeking to have all the power of government in this new land. They wanted a strong and fair national government. They wanted to protect individual freedoms and prevent the government from abusing its power.

The authors of the Constitution wanted to create a document that clearly explained how our government was to run. But it does not contain the laws that the government uses to run the country.

The Constitution restricts the powers of the government, rather than the rights of the people. The Constitution created and defined the three branches of the federal government-the Legislative, the Executive, and the Judicial.

Each branch has its own set of responsibilities:

The Legislative branch is made up of the two houses of Congress-the Senate and the House of Representatives. The most important duty of the Legislative branch is to make the laws.

The President is the head of the Executive branch and their primary responsibility is to enforce the laws passed by the Legislative branch.

The Judicial branch oversees the court system of the United States. Through court cases, they interpret and apply the laws; explaining the meaning of the Constitution and laws passed by Congress. The Supreme Court is the head of the Judicial branch.

Therefore, the Constitution, by establishing the three branches of government, created a system of checks and balances to assure that power would remain with the citizens of the United States-we the people.

Many think that our Founding Fathers couldn't foresee the future and that it is time to make some radical changes in the way we approach things. As I have read and re-read our founding documents, I think they are still very pertinent to the world we live in today.

Friends And Neighbors

Saturday, May 18, is Armed Forces Day-a day to remember those who have and do serve in our military services. If you know someone in uniform, take a moment to thank them for their service; if you know a veteran, take a moment to acknowledge their service. And, it would be a good day to wear your red, white and blue!

On Tuesday, May 21, at 7 p.m. the Farmville-Prince Edward Historical Society will meet at the Train Station. James E. Harris, Jr. will present a program on “Growing up in the Triangle-Kingsville, Worsham, and Hampden-Sydney”. Visitors are always welcome.

MARK YOUR CALENDARS: On Saturday, May 25, from 6 to 8 p.m., the Abilene Community Club will hold a SPRING BINGO at the Abilene Community Center. Come on out and join your friends and neighbors for a fun evening of BINGO. Proceeds will benefit the programs of the Center.

If you have any news or announcements that you would like to share, please call me at 223-2271 or email me at kz5ro@kinex.net.