Thursday, April 29, 2010

Principle 2: Only a Virtuous and Moral People are Capable of Freedom

"Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters." 
-Benjamin Franklin

Thomas Paine, author of Common Sense, sincerely believed that Americans got away from the European mindset, where all they wanted was luxury, indolence, amusement, and pleasure.  He believed American's were mostly ready for freedom, being industrious, frugal, and honest.  Tom believed this to be a result partially due to the fact that the people in America owned property (a discussion for another time).

John Page wrote to Jefferson, "a spirit of public virtue may transcend every private consideration."

I really had a problem with this when I was first learning about the spirit of public virtue.  It reminded me of socialists today, who put the so-called good of the whole before the individual.  But, here is the difference, public virtue is motivated by the individual, who continues to maintain their personal rights; whereas, socialism gives government the control to dictate to the people what is virtuous and moral.  It is the difference between charity and legal plunder.

James Madison said:
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 that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people, is a chimerical idea.  If there be sufficient virtue and intelligence in the community, it will be exercised in the selection of these men; so that we do not depend upon their virtue, or put confidence in our rulers, but in the people who are to choose them. (The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution, 5 vols.)

It's easy to see today that the people are looking to the government to impose their virtue upon us through all the government sponsored programs and government controlled foreign aid.

Virtue is defined by moral excellence, goodness, and righteousness.  What is the standard for these qualities?  The Founders believed they were the Ten Commandments and the Bible.  If not these standards, then which?  There must be a standard to base everything upon, else all is up for debate.  What is righteous to me, may not be to you; but if we acknowledged a standard, then there is no room for argument unless otherwise due to interpretation.

George Washington declared in his farewell address:
Of all dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.  In vain would that men 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... Let it simply be asked, where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice?  And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can maintained without religion.  Whatever may be conceded  to the influence of refined education...reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle. (Padover, The Washington Papers, pp. 318-19.)
In our day, virtue is generally taught only in the home and at church.  Do you imagine your kids learning virtue in public school from their teachers?  I doubt it.  How about on the playground from the other kids.  Unlikely.

Benjamin Franklin said:
I think with you, that nothing is of more importance for the public weal, than to form and train up youth in wisdom and virtue.  Wise and good men are, in my opinion, the strength of the state; more so than riches or arms...
I think also, that general virtue is more probably to be expected and obtained from the education of  youth, than from the exhortations of adult persons; bad habits and vices of the mind being, like diseases of the body, more easily prevented [in youth] than cured [in adults].  I think, moreover, that talents for the education of youth are the gift of God; and that he on whom they are bestowed, whenever a way is opened for the use of them, is as strongly called as if he heard a voice from heaven... (The American Enlightenment p. 77.)
The schoolroom may have once been a place where virtue and morality were taught and expected, but today it is certainly not (at least in traditional public schooling).  We've got to take responsibility in our homes and be the example our children need for any hope of their own virtue and morality.  Many homeschooling families have taken such measures because they see the lack-of in the world.  Unfortunately, not all parents can or want to afford the luxury of homeschooling, and I believe there is otherwise hope if children are taught principle-based living and the standards from which those principles come.

As adults, it's even hard for us to be the disciplined people we need to be to be a good example for our kids.  Are we making exceptions for ourselves that we wouldn't allow for our children?  I know I am guilty and I strive to make better choices all the time.  Like Benjamin Franklin said, it's a lot easier to 'train up a child in the way he should go' than it is to change as an adult.  If our children grew up knowing correct principles they would be much ahead in life, as all that is left is for them to come to their own testimony of their correctness.

Our Founders believed wholeheartedly that our Constitution was made only for a moral and righteous people and wholly inadequate to govern any other.  As righteousness is down in the world today, it is no wonder our Constitution is hanging by a thread.

But alas, there is hope for us yet.  As more virtuous and moral people rise up and gain the courage to vote their conscience, instead of the lesser of two evils, we can elect virtuous and moral leaders, which leads us to Principle number three...

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