Title page of Democracy in America, by Alexis de Tocqueville, published in 1835. This French traveler and writer studied life in America and wrote about his findings, including the balance between liberty and equality in the United States. Work maintained by the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale University. Image online, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
We do not say
that a man who takes no interest in politics
minds his own business;
we say he has no business here at all.
"The Law" casts a large shadow over American life. Politics is part of that world since Congress makes, the President and his Administration enforce, and the courts interpret federal law. When each branch of government "checks and balances" the other, the system is functioning the way the founding fathers designed it.
Bitter disagreements can exist within, and between, the three branches. It’s a world frequently characterized by high tension, short tempers and large egos. Americans have always heard about political clashes, and legal wrangling, in the daily news.
As long as government generally leaves people alone, Americans live their daily lives without thinking much about the system which holds the country together. But when government gets too intrusive, or imposes restrictions with which the people disagree, Americans have a long history of raising their collective voices.
In days past, how did people react when the long arm of the law touched their lives? Did they think the hand at the end of that arm was heavy? Interfering? Helpful? Unwanted?
To answer those questions, we can examine evidence like political cartoons and newspaper headlines. If we want to know how people lived, and what was important to them, we look at the record they left behind.
Let’s randomly examine some of the American record from the last 275 years. If you think law and politics is a rough profession now, take a snapshot view of what it was like then! And if you believe American activists are vocal now, think about how this country became independent!
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