Power Tends To Corrupt…

ryanAmerican History(ML), Mini Lessons

Read from Common Sense American History eBook:

Those who attended the convention were men of power and privilege, yet they distrusted unrestrained power, whether in a king or a tyrant, a corrupt legislature, or the demos – the people – themselves. Their faith in progress was tempered by their understanding of human nature, which combined the ability to reason and a capacity for passion. All humans, they believed, were endowed with rights to life, liberty, and property, but people were easily corrupted by power, greed, and passion. If left unconstrained, governmental power and direct democracy degenerated into tyranny, oligarchy, or mob rule. As a result, power needed to be restrained, distributed among the components of government, so that no one branch or one group could dominate the others and deprive them of their rights.


  1. While watching the video, contemplate the costs and consequences of war. Benjamin Martin, a fictional character, goes on to become a hero. He is based upon the famous Revolutionary war leader Francis Marion, nicknamed the “Swamp Fox,” who harassed the British forces in South Carolina and is considered one of the fathers of “guerrilla warfare”. What role did reason play in this short debate? What role passion? How are political decisions made?
  2. Reflecting on the passage above, and the quote from Lord Acton about power, do you agree that power is corrupting and the more power, the more corrupting it becomes? If so, what does this say about the power we should transfer to government? If you disagree, discuss examples of the benevolent use of power, and what traits made it possible for those exercising it not to be corrupted.
Image Citation:

21, August 2018 aphorism by Lord Acton [Digital image].  Retrieved from <google.com>.