Cato’s Letter #37: Character of a Good And of an Evil Magistrate, Quoted from Algernon Sidney, Esq.

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Cato began his letter of July 15th 1721 with praise for the republican martyr, Algernon Sidney. Just a few decades after Sidney’s execution, open republicanism in Hanoverian England was still a bad idea. Since republics have no need for kings, such a declaration was tantamount to treason. Despite the risk, Cato reminded readers that traits like virtue and truth are not limited to republican forms, and he was blessed to be a subject under a constitution and king which far better resembled a commonwealth than an absolute monarchy. Truth is truth. He hoped it was not yet heresy in politics to assert that two and two make four.

In a patriarchal, hierarchal and class society, where everyone could look upward to a semi-father figure, the king at the top of society was ultimately responsible for the good of the people entrusted to his care. In turn, the king’s public officials were likewise to perform their duties with justice and virtue. Through his example, the official procures his safety in office and the good of the public. There can be no public safety without strength, no strength without union, no union without justice and no justice where faith and truth in accomplishing public and private engagements is wanting.

The good magistrate inculcates those values that the youth might be seasoned with them. They will be better able to resist as adults the most violent temptations which endanger society. By preferring the interest of the people before his own, he gains their affection, and power comes with it. In leading them to virtue he increases their strength, and provides for his own safety and glory.

However, when the magistrate fancies he is not made for the people, but the people for him . . . there will be problems. He doesn’t consider what he may do for them, but rather what he can draw from them. He sets up an interest for profit at their expense. “These contrary ends certainly divide the nation into parties,” and the nation suffers as everyone seeks to gain advantage. Occasions of hatred for injuries real or imagined must necessarily arise. When powers entrusted to high officials for the public good are twisted for the public demise, officials soon regard as sedition anything the people do for the preservation of themselves and their rights.

Soon, this wears hard on the affection and patriotism of the people. Should the time arise when the government needs the assistance of the people for external defense, those who are alienated will show an unwillingness to risk their persons and estates. Why defend oppression? The self-serving public official knows that truth, faithful dealing and integrity are the bonds of union; he must therefore debauch the youth, trick and divide society, whatever is necessary to prevent the formation of opposition groups.

Good magistrates increase the valor, strength, greatness, and happiness of the nation. The bad will corrupt the manners of the people, destroy the validity of oaths, teach vice and license, and overthrow the confidence that men should have in each other.

Once this confidence is destroyed, the evil official will likewise believe he has no dependence on, nor duty to, the people. He is above the institution he swore to serve; no man may inquire into or be the judge of his actions. All obedience is due to him, whether he be good or bad, wise or foolish, a father or an enemy to his country. Such men demand flatterers as friends and advisers, men who have abandoned or are ignorant of the good. They slide into an easy and blind dependence upon those in power, and only desire to know his will, regardless of what injustice they do, as long as they are rewarded.

Those who excel in virtue, wisdom, and spirit are not his friends; they are his enemies and are exposed to all persecutions.


What Cato feared in 1721, America has become in 2016. The facade of loyalty to the Constitution has devolved into practical loyalty to the persons in our government, whose ultimate loyalty is to Obama. Confidence in the honesty of government, of fair play and equality before the law has never been lower. Instead of serving as examples of the highest and best ideals under the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God, government enflames our basest natures and pits Americans against one another. A government designed to secure our liberty has become a lie, an open and continuing fraud.

John Locke described the situation in which government disregards the supreme law while demanding the people’s obedience to it as a state of war. In this condition, as further explicated by our Founders, we the sovereign people have the right and duty reestablish government “on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to (us) shall seem most likely to effect (our) safety and happiness.”

Thus armed, no enemy could defeat America. No false gods could supplant our righteous faith in ourselves and our nation.

We are the many; our oppressors are the few. Be proactive. Be a Re-Founder. Join Convention of States. Sign our COS Petition.