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Sunday, September 1, 2013
RoxAnne Christley ended her Aug. 25 essay with a partial quote from James Madison. The full quote, which appeared in the National Gazette on March 29, 1792, reads, “In a word, as a man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in his rights. Where an excess of power prevails, property of no sort is duly respected. No man is safe in his opinions, his person, his faculties, or his possessions. Where there is an excess of liberty, the effect is the same, tho’ from an opposite cause.” (Emphasis added.)
While addressing those who questioned the efficacy and reach of the national Constitution of 1787, Madison observed “if men were angels no government would be necessary.” The Founding Fathers, swayed by Madison’s logic, designed a system of governance that seeks to balance individual freedom with the rights of the public. The Roanoke County land-use controls retain a substantial inheritance from the past, and they are Madisonian in spirit and practice.
Private property rights in America are exclusive. They are not absolute. The Constitution written by Mr. Madison makes this point with clarity. With equal clarity, the right of citizens to be heard and to participate in government is also guaranteed by the national Constitution as well as the Virginia constitution. Narrative designed to draw attention to these guarantees should be added to rules of procedure the Roanoke County governing body adopts annually. Instead of a property rights resolution, we believe a Code of Governance crafted, adopted and signed by each member of the Roanoke County governing body would be a more effective way to address the concerns raised by Christley.
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