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 and 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, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.
But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
Decency, security, and liberty alike demand that government officials
shall be subjected to the same rules of conduct that are commands to
the citizen. In a government of laws, existence of the government will
be imperiled if it fails to observe the law scrupulously. Our government
is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches
the whole people by its example. Crime is contagious. If the government
becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man
to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy. To declare that in the
administration of the criminal law the end justifies the means-to declare
that the government may commit crimes in order to secure the conviction
of a private criminal-would bring terrible retribution.
- Justice Louis D. Brandeis, in Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 438 (1928)