Tuesday, July 14, 2020

A Sure Foundation: Maintaining our Free Republic

Principle #6: Free Republics are Maintained Upon Principles of Righteousness

"Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." This is an oft repeated quote from John Adams that expresses the key role of righteousness in the maintenance of free republics. In John Adam's day this truth needed little explanation, but in our times when the pervading philosophies are redefining morality and turning causing people to turn away from religion, it is not so evident to our citizens just how the principles of freedom operate.

Over this past school year, I have attempted to outline "Six Foundational Principles of Free Republics." These are not essays discussing the Constitutional Construction of our Republic, but rather they are the foundational principles which support the framework we recognize as Constitutional law. I like to think of the constitution as the frame of our national house, but a house frame without a sure foundation is no house at all. Only when a frame is built and maintained upon a sure foundation will it be able to be maintained for hundreds of years. The Constitution, which is the frame for our national life, will sink and crack if the foundation fails. The frame will no longer be useful in preserving the freedoms it was designed to secure.

Free governments are maintained on principles of righteousness.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” ― Thomas Jefferson

“What is liberty without wisdom and without virtue? It is the greatest of all possible evils; for it is folly, vice, and madness, without tuition or restraint.” ― Edmund Burke

The ignorance Jefferson is speaking of is not mere illiteracy, he speaks of that ignorance that afflicts a civilization when principled intelligence is absent. Principled intelligence will ever be illusive in a society where the principles of freedom are thoroughly misunderstand. For this reason John Adams believed it imperative to the survival of our Free Republic that children "be educated and instructed in the principles of freedom." The philosophies of our time are antithetical to freedom because they have untethered the immutable relationship between virtue and liberty, and as Edmund Burke explains, this self-indulgent detachment makes freedom the greatest of all evils because it inevitably leads a people into bondage both spiritual and physical.

Freedom ED:

What are the righteous foundational principles of freedom as John Adams and our other esteemed founders, saw them? What are these principles of freedom that have provided a sure and lasting foundation for the freest and most prosperous republic the world has ever known? What are the principles we must understand and defend if we want our Republic to long endure?

The answers to these searching questions are far more involved then I can get into in one essay, and it is one reason I created my Freedom ED blog, but to pursue the answers we must at least start our journey on the right footing. Thomas Jefferson attempted to outline the principles of freedom, in the most concise description he could construct, in his first inaugural address. I recommend a thorough reading of it, but here is an excerpt to begin our education in these principles of freedom:

“Our own Federal and Republican principles and representative government [will endure upon our] due sense of our equal right to the use of our own faculties, to the acquisitions of our own industry, to honor and confidence from our fellow-citizens, resulting not from birth, but from our actions and their sense of them; enlightened by a benign religion, professed, indeed, and practiced in various forms, yet all of them inculcating honesty, truth, temperance, gratitude, and the love of man; acknowledging and adoring an overruling Providence, which by all its dispensations proves that it delights in the happiness of man here and his greater happiness hereafter—with all these blessings, what more is necessary to make us a happy and a prosperous people…” (“Thomas Jefferson’s First Inaugural Address,” Thomas Jefferson, March 4, 1801)

Thomas Jefferson and our other esteemed founders understood that education was not the "the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire," (William Butler Yeats) and they desired to light the flame of liberty in the hearts of every American child and keep the flame abright in the instruction of liberty in perpetuity. Jefferson defined the object of a primary education this way:

"The objects of this primary education are to give to every citizen the information he needs... to improve by reading, his morals and faculties; To understand his duties to his neighbors and country... And, in general, to observe with intelligence and faithfulness all the social relations under which he shall be placed. ~ Thomas Jefferson (August 4, 1818)

David Fouse recently writing in The National Review, analyzed the consequences that will come as a result of our neglect of principle based learning, Fouse explains:

"At its core, true education is more than facts and figures. It engages and enriches the soul. It rightly orients one to understand his or her place in the world, to pursue truth and beauty, and, perhaps most important, to understand why the pursuit of these things matters — not just for occupational production, but to know how to live... It is this knowledge that makes self-governance possible. It is this knowledge that made us the freest nation in the world. It is this knowledge that will maintain our freedoms... [Our Founders] viewed education as vital to forming the kind of virtuous and active citizens who could successfully govern themselves."(A Republic, If You Can Keep It: The Education Every Student Really Needs, by DAVID FOUSE March 21, 2017)

Thus the primary purpose of education is the education of the human character, without it light an liberty are lost. Any study of our free republic must begin with the study of those foundational principles upon which our individual freedom and national house depends. The first of which is the principle that God is the author of Liberty and only upon his laws is it able to be maintained. Liberty will not long endure among a people unresolved to govern their own appetites and place checks upon their own behavior for the good of society. Natural rights are protected by the will of a people well informed and dedicated to the principles upon which Liberty rests.

As an LDS child, I remember a Mormon pioneer story often told about the Prophet Joseph Smith, the founder of our church, when he was asked how he led such a large church and society which operated with a surprising level of order and peace, his reply: “I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves.” This quip became a present part of the civic education of my youth. I understood that a society could remain ordered and peaceful if each individual would govern themselves.

Even the concept of self-governance has lost the substance of its meaning in our self-indulgent society that views freedom as the throwing off of restraint and moral precept. When young people today hear the term "self-governance" in the context of American civic life, their understanding of the term (if they have any) is a shell of the concept. They relate self-governance to the false promise of liberty through pure democracy. It's a collective sense of "self-governance" that our nation's youth are embarrassing. Not only are they loosing the "self" in "self-government" and "self-determination," they are loosing the "individual" in the "individual rights." American youth are being taught to divorce private morality from the stability of family life and public institutions. Even more dangerous is the way in which our youth are beguiled by the philosophy that there are no universally "correct" principles meant to govern the whole of the human family.

Of course these are dangerous fallacies that will not only lead to private misery but social disintegration. Early American governance embraced the imperative of a righteous people in the maintenance of public order and liberty. The Massachusetts Constitution of 1780 upheld that since public order and happiness ‘essentially depend upon piety, religion, and morality,’ local governments are obliged to support religion.

Our youth today are being taught that the public and institutional support for religious and moral precepts is of itself unconstitutional, which thing would have been disturbing to our founders who clearly understood the difference between the establishment of a national religion and the public support of moral instruction. George Washington called religion and morality "indispensable supports" of our national house.

Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great Pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and Citizens. The mere Politician, equally with the pious man ought to respect and to cherish them.” (Washington’s Farewell Address, 1792)

Thus we see that for children to be instructed in the principles of freedom they must begin with the foundational principles of liberty, of which religion and morality are indispensable supports. Of all the great challenges we see in our society and government today, those that should be of greatest concern to us are those which lead to a growing acceptance of false philosophies that promote the weakening of religious and family life, and promote moral relativism and a rejection of divine providence.

It is a certainty that Abraham Lincoln was right, “the philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next," and if our nation adopts philosophies that are antithetical to the maintenance of freedom, then our society will not long remain free.

Let's us “attend to those principles, upon which all republican governments, who boast any degree of political liberty, are founded... For all republics are not FREE.” (The Essex Result, April 29, 1778)

Below are the six foundational principles of my "Foundations of the Constitution" Study:

Six Foundational Principles of Free Republics

1. God is the author of free government: Liberty and natural rights have a divine origin, as such God given Liberty and natural rights are maintained upon principles of truth given through the “Supreme Governor of the World.” Thus, it follows, that for a free republic to function properly and endure the people and their leaders must be moral.

2. Natural rights are bestowed by God: Natural rights, both alienable and unalienable are bestowed on all men and women by God and cannot in justice be forcibly taken from any person. Natural rights cannot and should not be controlled by any power so far as these rights are exercised without injury to the natural rights of others, said rights are only curtailed for the good of the whole and only by the consent of the majority when that majority judge that the general welfare requires it.

3. Legitimate governments derive their powers from the consent of the governed: The only form of just and legitimate government is one which receives it’s power from the consent of the governed, and maintains those liberties that will secure such rights in perpetuity. That a government by the people and for the people be maintained for future generations it is necessary that free republican government is constructed with those mechanisms most apt to protect those forms of administration able to secure the natural rights of all men from the usurpation of an overarching central authority.

4. Government is instituted for the purpose of securing to the individual their natural rights: The legitimate purpose of government is for the securing of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness through the protection of Natural Rights. “Happiness of society is the end of government -- the happiness of individuals is the end of man” (John Adams, “Thoughts on Government”) and that happiness is best achieved for the whole of society by securing to them their natural rights.

5. The interests of the majority and the rights of the minority are protected when government acts within its legitimate charter: Being that the proper role of government is to secure those natural rights to all individuals in perpetuity, a government so committed will always function to protect the Minority.

6. Free governments are maintained upon principles of righteousness: Liberty will not long endure among a people unresolved to govern their own appetites and place checks upon their own behavior for the good of society. Natural rights are protected by the will of a people well informed and dedicated to the principles upon which Liberty rests.

No comments:

Post a Comment