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Alan Barth (1906-1979) served on the editorial board of The Washington Post for thirty years. This is an excerpt from his essay, "The Heritage of Civil Liberties," which appeared in Barth, The Rights of Free Men (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1984). Copyright by The Washington Post Company. Reprinted by permission.

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The Roots of Limited Government

The government of the United States, for all its majesty, is a government of limited powers. It operates under the terms of a fundamental charter — a written Constitution — which specifies what it may do, and also what ...