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The Rule of Law: America’s Highest Maxim

On Behalf of | Aug 20, 2010 | Legal News |

By J. Gregory Hardman, Shareholder–Note:  The following is extracted from the insightful observations of retired Associate Professor Ronald R. Pope, Department of Politics and Government, Illinois State University, found at this link.

The Nuremburg trials that followed World War II to prosecute Nazi war criminals emphasized a principle that needs to be better understood by all of us: the Rule of Law.

We need to understand what it is and how to preserve it for the good of our children and the future of all humanity. It is not well understood by most.

Occasionally you hear the Rule of Law mentioned in editorials or in the commentary of newscasters. You may have heard it said of America, “Ours is a nation of laws. We are ruled by laws, not men.” What does this mean? Before America was born, men and women were ruled by kings who claimed the right to rule, who changed the law to suit their every whim. This was considered intolerable by our founding fathers who envisioned a nation established on the rule of duly enacted laws … not the conceited edicts of arrogant tyrants.

Humanity had lived under the rule of one form of king or another for thousands of years until that fateful day in Philadelphia, when wise, courageous men gathered on the Fourth of July 1776 to institute a new form of government whereby the people would rule themselves under law.

America was born, and the Rule of Law was made our highest maxim. Not without many problems was America born. Not without mistakes. Not without errors of the most horrible kind. Yet America was born, and there appeared upon the face of this war-worn planet a new hope. Hope for peace to come. Hope for the day when right will conquer might, and when truth will overcome deceit.

The Rule of Law lives in the hearts of free men and women everywhere. The maxim states that men should not be trusted to rule others unless their rule is tempered by fixed laws that prevent tyranny, laws that prevent individuals from accumulating wealth by force, laws that prevent those in high office from exercising power over the populace without restraint, laws that prevent the majority from acting without a due regard for the rights and well-being of individuals, laws that prevent the powerful from plundering the weak. The Rule of Law is what our heroes died for in past wars for liberty. The Rule of Law is worthy of our highest efforts as a people. This principle that laws should govern us instead of men — laws of our own making and not the cruel edicts of tyrant dictators or divine right decrees of kings — is the bedrock of human justice, the philosophical cornerstone of these United States, and the foundation of hope for all mankind.

Additional sources of information on the “Rule of Law”: