VIRTUE Among The People
The Soul Of America's Constitution
America's Founders knew that it takes more than a perfect plan of government to preserve liberty. Something else is needed - some moral principle diffused among the people to unite and strengthen the urge to peaceful observance of law. They recognized that the raw materials of a free government are people who can act morally without compulsion, who do not willfully violate the rights of others, and who love liberty enough to demand that government's power is very limited. They used the word "virtuous" to describe such people. Defined by Webster, "virtue" is "a conformity to a standard of right," but whatever word is used to describe it, such a moral standard is the necessary fountainhead of a free society.
The Declaration of Independence referred to "Nature's God," the "Creator," the "Supreme judge of the World," and "Divine Providence" Our nation's founders came together, voluntarily, to create a limited government to secure for them and posterity their God-given rights to life, liberty, and property. Such liberty, they believed, rested on three great supports:
- Natural law and unalienable natural rights granted by the Creator,
- A written constitution to assure a government of laws, not of rulers, and
- VIRTUE among the people - the best defense against tyranny.
Their own words are eloquent reminders of their devotion to this belief:
"Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.... It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government." - George Washington's Farewell Address
"We may look up to Armies for our defense, but virtue is our best security. It is not possible that any state should long remain free, where virtue is not supremely honored." - Samuel Adams
"Virtue must underlay all institutional arrangements if they are to be healthy and strong. The principles of democracy are as easily destroyed as human nature is corrupted!' - John Adams
And Alexis de Tocqueville, the French statesman who traveled across America in the 1830's and wrote a two-volume study entitled "Democracy In America," is widely quoted as observing:
"America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great."