On this day in 1857, Ralph Waldo Emerson excoriated slavery’s supporters who were killing settlers in Kansas. In a speech raising money to help settlers in Cambridge, Mass., Emerson’s words about the supramacy of the individual to the government should hold true today:
“I own I have little esteem for governments. I esteem them only good in the moment when they are established. I set the private man first. He only who is able to stand alone is qualified to be a citizen. Next to the private man, I value the primary assembly, met to watch the government and to correct it. That is the theory of the American State, that it exists to execute the will of the citizens, is always responsible to them, and is always to be changed when it does not. First, the private citizen, then the primary assembly, and the government last.”
The speech is not long. It is worth reading, if only for the joy of reading eloquent, direct speech that cuts to the heart of the matter.