Temple Beth Joseph of Herkimer, New York

A Conservative Synagogue in New York’s Mohawk Valley

The Way of the King

July 2017

This month’s column is a little different than usual. I propose to offer no more commentary other than my choice of material &, that material, is not my own. During the month of July we celebrate American Independence Day. To honor that event, I propose the following question for thought: What is the purpose of government? We all have our own opinion. Rather than offer mine, I suggest we consider the opinions of some very famous & well respected sources:

“Government is instituted for the common good; for the protection, safety, prosperity, & happiness of the people…” John Adams, Thoughts on Government, 1776

“The care of human life & happiness, & not their destruction, is the first & only legitimate object of good government.” Thomas Jefferson letter to The Republican Citizens of Washington County, Maryland, March 31, 1809

“The end of the institution, maintenance & administration of government, is to secure the existence of the body politic; to protect it; & to furnish the individuals who compose it, with the power of enjoying, in safety & tranquillity, their natural rights, & the blessings of life.” Preamble to the Massachusetts Constitution, 1780

“We ought to consider what is the end of government, before we determine which is the best form. Upon this point all speculative politicians will agree, that the happiness of society is the end of government, as all Divines & moral Philosophers will agree that the happiness of the individual is the end of man. From this principle it will follow, that the form of government which communicates ease, comfort, security, or, in one word, happiness, to the greatest number of persons, & in the greatest degree, is the best.” John Adams, Thoughts on Government, 1776

“The freedom & happiness of man… [are] the sole objects of all legitimate government.” Thomas Jefferson letter to Thaddeus Kosciusko, 1810

“…insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, & secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves & our posterity…” Preamble to the Constitution of the United States

“Government being for the preservation of every man’s right & property, by preserving him from the violence or injury of others, is for the good of the governed”. John Locke First Treatise, Chapter 9

“Government’s first duty is to protect the people…” Ronald Reagan

“Each individual of the society has a right to be protected by it in the enjoyment of his life, liberty, & property, according to standing laws…” John Adams, Thoughts on Government, 1776

“The only proper purpose of a government is to protect man’s rights, which means: to protect him from physical violence.” Ayn Rand

“National defense is one of the cardinal duties of a statesman.” John Adams, letter to James Lloyd, January, 1815

“But the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel. They said, ‘No, for there shall be a king over us, that we, we also, may be like all the nations, & that our king may judge us, & go out before us, & fight our battles.’” 1Sam.8:19-20

Finally, here is one just because I like it…

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty & the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, & to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles & organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety & Happiness.” Declaration of Independence. 1776

Have we measured up? Do we measure up? Will we measure up?

שלום וברכה
-shalom uverakha-
(peace & blessing)
Rabbi Ronald B. Kopelman