The Greatest Writer of the 19th Century » Brownson's Writings » Government


            Government exists in heaven as well as on earth, and in heaven in its perfection.  Its office is not purely repressive, to restrain violence, to redress wrongs, and to punish the transgressor.  It has something more to do than to restrict our natural liberty, curb our passions, and maintain justice between man and man.  Its office is positive as well as negative.  It is needed to render effective the solidarity of the individuals of a nation, and to render the nation an organism, not a mere organization- to combine men in one living body, and to strengthen all with the strength of each, and each with the strength of all- to develop, strengthen, and sustain individual liberty, and to utilize and direct it to the promotion of the common weal- to be a social providence, imitating in its order and degree the action of the Divine Providence itself; and, while it provides for the common good of all, to protect each, the lowest and meanest, with the whole force and majesty of society.  It is the minister of wrath to wrongdoers, indeed; but its nature is beneficent, and its action defines and protects the right of property, creates and maintains a medium in which religion can exert her supernatural energy, promotes learning, fosters science and arts, advances civilization, and contributes as a powerful means to the fulfillment by man of the Divine purpose in his existence.  Next after religion, it is man’s greatest good; and even religion without it can do only a small portion of her work.  They wrong it who call it a necessary evil; it is a great good, and instead of being distrusted, hated, or resisted, except in its abuses, it should be loved, respected, obeyed, and, if need be, defended at the cost of earthly goods, and even of life itself.