In honor of President George Washington's birthday this week, I recommend reading a letter given by Washington to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island. The address highlights the preeminent place that the protection of religious liberty holds within the American Republic. There are many natural rights that occupy that broad space of individual liberty, but it was this first liberty for which peoples fled the old world. This first liberty motivated diverse peoples, of many faiths, to unite themselves together as "One Nation Under God."
“For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.” (“Letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island.” George Washington, August 18, 1790)
Why was the preservation of religious liberty so important to our founding fathers, why did they place this natural right first, as important as our very lives? This question is answered in the 6th and final foundational principles of free republics.
Foundational Principle #6: Free Republics 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.
The principles upon which liberty rests, are principles of righteousness. As John Adams so wisely stated, "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." (Message from John Adams to the Officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia of Massachusetts, John Adams, October 11, 1798)
In a state where so much individual liberty is the aim, where a great space has been placed between the governance of the state and the individual lives of its citizens, requires for its peaceable stability that the people govern themselves. This self-governance requires that the individual voluntarily submit to a law greater then themselves. If a people will not govern themselves morally they will soon loose the liberty of self-government.