Recently posted to the Madison Forum, by M.G. Anderson
Will Liberty remain with a nation without virtue among its people? No, answered the Patriots who founded our nation. When asked his opinion on our new constitutional government Ben Franklin cautioned “It is A Republic … If you can keep it.”
When reading the words of the other Colonial Patriots one asks “How did they define virtue?” In their day they drew from commonly familiar Biblical accounts for defining terms such as virtue. For example, the Colonial would have been mindful how an ancient Hebrew people governed themselves by written laws as recorded in their books. From such, Devarim:15 (Deuteronomy), described the ancient Hebrew’s civil duties. It instructed that their duty toward others was greater than merely avoiding vice. Their law asked for personal acts of kindness and generously toward the widows, orphans, the weak, and poor. That this civility held an ancient people together would not have escaped the Colonial’s attention.
In this context the Patriots defined and wrote that the virtue of our citizens protects our individual liberty:
” …. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” …. Liberty can no more exist without virtue than the body can live and move without a soul.”
Patrick Henry (1736 – 1799) – 1st Elected Governor of Virginia
“No free government can stand without virtue in the people …..”
Andrew Jackson (1767 – 1845 ) 7th US President
“When virtue is banished, ambition invades the minds of those who are disposed to receive it, and avarice possesses the whole community.” …. “The order of nature [is] that individual happiness shall be inseparable from the practice of virtue.”
Thomas Jefferson (1743 – 1826 ) 3nd US President
“The life of the nation is secure only while the nation is honest, truthful and virtuous.”
Fredrick Douglas (1818 – 1895 ) from Slave to US Ambassador
” Is there no virtue among us? If there be not, we are in a wretched situation. No theoretical checks — no form of government can render us secure. To suppose liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people, is a chimerical idea.”
James Madison (1751-1836) 4th US President
“To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society.”
Theodore Roosevelt (1858 -1919) 26th US President
“[V]irtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government.” …. “[T]here is no truth more thoroughly established, than that there exists . . . an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness.” …”Human rights can only be assured among a virtuous people. The general government . . . can never be in danger of degenerating into a monarchy, an oligarchy, an aristocracy, or any despotic or oppressive form so long as there is any virtue in the body of the people.”
George Washington (1732 – 1799) General, Revolutionary War and 1st US President
Read how Franklin expressed that a virtuous people will not need masters in authority to maintain order. Without virtue among the people there will be those suffering from violence, guile and greed. These suffering will be the ones to welcome even rigid authority with open arms. Liberty weeps when the people lack virtue toward each other; and sobs bitterly when a Connecticut mad-man gunned-down innocent kindergarteners. As the Patriots understood, unless peace and justice flow steadily from the well-spring of virtue the tares of tyranny will have been sown in our children’s wheat fields. Then the discarded virtues of our churches, parishes, synagogues, traditions, and families will have been swept aside to clear a path for a progressive government – because too few of us acted today with enough of those gentile virtues necessary to keep Liberty safe.
Listen to Liberty calling. Take action to revive virtue into our public discourses and deeds. Then She will stay for our children and give them freedom as a legacy.