A Free People Cannot survive Under
a Republican Constitution Unless They
Remain Virtuous and Morally Strong
Between 1775 and 1776 the heated debates in the thirteen colonies were over the issue of morality. For many thousands of Americans the big question of independence hung dangerously on the single, thin thread of whether or not the people were sufficiently virtuous and moral to govern themselves. Self-government was generally referred to as “republicanism,” and it was universally acknowledged that a corrupt and selfish people could never make the principles of republicanism operate successfully. As Benjamin Franklin wrote:
Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters. (Smyth, Writings of Benjamin Franklin).
What is “Public Virtue”?
Morality is identified with the Ten Commandments and obedience to the Creator’s mandate for “right conduct,” but the early Americans identified “public virtue” as a very special quality of human maturity in character and service much like the Golden Rule.
In Republicanism it amounts to each person being persuaded to submerge his or her personal wants into the greater good of the whole. This willingness of the individual to sacrifice his/her private interest for the good of the community—such patriotism or love of country—the eighteenth century termed public virtue…The eighteenth century mind was thoroughly convinced that a popularly based government “cannot be supported without virtue.” (Gordon S. Wood, the Creation of the American Republic, 1776-177 Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1969. P. 68).
A Warning from the Founders
At the conclusion of the Revolutionary War, Samuel Adams, who is sometimes called “the father of the revolution,” wrote to Richard Henry Lee:
I thank God that I have lived to see my country independent and free. She may long enjoy her independence and freedom if she will. It depends on her virtue. (Wells, Life of Samuel Adams, 3:175).
John Adams pointed out why the future of the United States depended upon the level of virtue and morality maintained among the people. He said:
Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is completely inadequate to the government of any other. (Quoted in R. Howe Jr., The Changing Thought of John Adams (Princeton, N.J.:Princeton University Press, 1996, p.189).
Samuel Adams knew the price of American survival under a Constitutional form of government when he wrote:
The sum of all is, if we would most truly enjoy the gift from Heaven, let us become a virtuous people; then shall we shall both deserve and enjoy it. While, on the other hand, if we are universally vicious and debauched in our manners, though the form of our Constitution carries the face of the most exalted freedom, we shall in reality be the abject slaves. (Wells, Life of Samuel Adams, 1:22-23.)
What Is the Key to Preserving a Virtuous Nation?
Since the quality of virtue and morality in the character of a nation is the secret to its survival, one cannot help but wonder if there is some special ingredient which is fundamentally necessary to provide the greatest assurance that these qualities of our national life will be preserved.
The Founders had an answer to this question, which brings us to the 3rd Principle.
The Most Promising Method of
Securing a Virtuous and Morally Stable
People is to Elect Virtuous Leaders
The Nature of Virtue
The true reality of virtue has long been forgotten. However, the Founders had deep understanding and appreciation the fundamental role of virtue. They knew that neither the wisest constitution, nor the wisest laws, would not secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt. They rightly perceived that only those elected officials who were wise and virtuous; who would try to promote the country’s virtue should be elected into any office of power and trust because they would be the truest friends to the liberty of the country.
The Founding Fathers’ believed that absolute values exist, that these can be known, and therefore there is such a thing as truth. These values are summed up in the majesty of that which we call “the Good” and this good can be realized in man according to the abilities of each individual. The good is identical with the divine. It is a living treasure, radiating from God, at its source infinitely rich and yet simple, but breaking up and unfolding at its contact with human experience. Its realization leads man to true humanity as virtue comes into being, and this virtue is the perfection of life, freedom, and beauty. All this is everlastingly valid, even for us today.
Here is a list of the Virtues, the words that express moral values: Truthfulness, Acceptance, Patience, Justice, Reverence, Loyalty, Disinterestedness, Asceticism, Courage, Kindness, Understanding, Gratitude, Unselfishness, Recollection, Silence, and Justice before God.
A virtue which has suffered great damage in our day is truthfulness which includes also the love of truth, and the desire that truth should be recognized and accepted.
First, truthfulness means that the speaker should say what is so, as he sees and understands it, and it should express what is in his mind. Sometimes this may be difficult, and may cause annoyance, harm, and danger. But conscience reminds us that truth is an obligation that is something absolute and magnificent. It is not something we may say “if it is convenient for me or serves some purpose,” but, “When you speak, you must tell the truth, not abbreviate it or change it. You must tell it absolutely, simply—unless the situation urges you to be silent or you can evade a question in a decent and proper way.”
But apart from this, our whole existence depends upon truth. The relations of people to each other, social institutions, and government—all that we can call civilization and man’s work in its countless forms—depend on a respect for truth.
This is also true in regard to that great power, the government (local, state, federal) which is present in every aspect of man’s life. It is no accident whenever the government, whose basic role should be liberty and justice, becomes a tyranny, lying and falsehood grow proportionally. Even more, truth is deprived of its value; it ceases to be the norm and is replaced by success. Why? Because it is through truth that the spirit of man is constantly confirmed in its natural rights and the person is reassured of his dignity and freedom. When a person says, “It is so,” and this statement has weight in public because truth is honored, then he is protected against the force present in every government. But if the government succeeds in depriving truth of its value, then the individual is helpless.
The most hideous display of tyranny occurs when a man’s conscience and consciousness of truth are broken, so that he is no longer able to say “This is so…this is not so.” Those who bring this about—in political and judicial affairs, or elsewhere—should realize what they are doing: they are depriving man of his humanity. This realization would crush and destroy them.
Truth is also the means by which man becomes stable and attains character. That is determined by the fact that a man’s nature has taken on that firmness which is expressed by these statements: “What is, is. What is right must be done. What has been entrusted to me I uphold.”
In the last analysis, what is truth really? It is the way in which God is God and knows Himself. He knows He Himself is infinite truth and in His knowledge conducts Himself. Truth is the indestructible and untouchable solidarity with which God, by knowing, is based on Himself. From Him truth moves into the world and gives it solidity. Truth penetrates everything that exists and gives it its nature; it light shines the human mind and gives it that brightness which we call “knowledge.”
This is a valid conclusion: The person who holds to the truth holds to God. He who lies rebels against God and betrays the rational basis of existence.
This is a valid question: Which of the two will you entrust with the vote to manage your true God given rights and dignity?