Despotism

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  • When a ruler holds unlimited authority. The drafters of the U.S. Constitution considered Great Britain to be a despotic government and sought to prevent the United States from following this model. This fear became a leading reason put forth by the Anti-Federalists for less national powers at the 1787 Constitutional Convention. George Washington additionally warned of the potential of despotism in his 1796 Farewell Address to the American people:

    It is important, likewise, that the habits of thinking in a free country should inspire caution, in those intrusted with its administration, to confine themselves within their respective constitutional spheres, avoiding in the exercise of the powers of one department to encroach upon another. The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments ...

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