As regular readers of my blogging will know, I have developed a great deal of respect for Glenn Beck. I didn’t always like him. At first, I thought he was a clown and I set out to prove I was correct. However, because I took the time to read the things Beck was talking about – and more – I eventually had to change my opinion about him. Not only has he been honest with his audience about the things he has tried to teach them, he has been very judicious in holding back on what he hasn’t told them (yes, he has kept the ugliest stuff from his audience). Still, today, Beck asserted that it is the Constitution that makes America different – not her people. This is one of the most ignorant statements I have ever heard Beck make, but, rather than explain why it is ignorant, I think I will let the founders box Beck about the ears for me. After all, who better to correct his ignorance than the men who wrote the Constitution?
While relaying details about his recent vacation in Mexico, Beck asserted that the key to what makes America different from Mexico is not the people, but the Constitution. According to Beck, the Constitution is what allows people to be who they want to be; to do what they want to do. He could not be more wrong. In fact, this is the most ignorant statement I have ever heard Beck make. I have already attacked Beck for his claim that our rights come from the Constitution in a previous post. But, this time, I am not going to explain why Beck is wrong about the people and the Constitution. Instead, I will let the founders explain it first and then sum up the issue with a brief comment at the end of this post. So, without further delay, I give you the founders’ thoughts on the role of the people in the maintenance of liberty:
“The only foundation of a free Constitution, is pure Virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our People, in a great Measure, than they have it now. They may change their Rulers, and the forms of Government, but they will not obtain a lasting Liberty.”
–John Adams, letter to Zabdiel Adams, June 21, 1776
“Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
–John Adams, October 11, 1798
“Public virtue cannot exist in a nation without private, and public virtue is the only foundation of republics. There must be a positive passion for the public good, the public interest, honour, power and glory, established in the minds of the people, or there can be no republican government, nor any real liberty: and this public passion must be superior to all private passions”.
–John Adams, letter to Mercy Warren, April 16, 1776
“The foundation of national morality must be laid in private families…. How is it possible that Children can have any just Sense of the sacred Obligations of Morality or Religion if, from their earliest Infancy, they learn their Mothers live in habitual Infidelity to their fathers, and their fathers in as constant Infidelity to their Mothers?”
–John Adams, Diary, June 2, 1778
“Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.”
–John Quincy Adams
“A general dissolution of the principles and manners will more surely overthrow the liberties of America than the whole force of the common enemy…. While the people are virtuous they cannot be subdued; but once they lose their virtue, they will be ready to surrender their liberties to the first external or internal invader…. If virtue and knowledge are diffused among the people, they will never be enslaved. This will be their great security.”
“A Bible and a newspaper in every house, a good school in every district – all studied and appreciated as they merit – are the principal support of virtue, morality, and civil liberty.”
–Benjamin Franklin, in a letter dated March 1778 to the Ministry of France
Providence has given our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty, as well as privilege and interest, of a Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.
–John Jay, first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court
“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, letter to Colonel Charles Yancey, January 6, 1816
“It is the manners and spirit of a people which preserve a republic in vigor. A degeneracy in these is a canker which soon eats to the heart of its laws and constitution.”
–Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia Query 19, 1781
“Give up money, give up fame, give up science, give the earth itself and all it contains rather than do an immoral act. And never suppose that in any possible situation, or under any circumstances, it is best for you to do a dishonorable thing, however slightly so it may appear to you… From the practice of the purest virtue, you may be assured you will derive the most sublime comforts in every moment of life, and in the moment of death.”
–Thomas Jefferson, letter to Peter Carr, August 19, 1785
“It behooves you, therefore, to think and act for yourself and your people. The great principles of right and wrong are legible to every reader; to pursue them requires not the aid of many counselors. The whole art of government consists in the art of being honest. Only aim to do your duty, and mankind will give you credit where you fail.”
–Thomas Jefferson, A Summary View of the Rights of British America, 1775
“I never … believed there was one code of morality for a public and another for a private man.”
–Thomas Jefferson, In a letter to Don Valentine de Feronda, 1809
“The strongest passions and most dangerous weaknesses of the human breast; ambition, avarice, vanity, the honorable or venal love of fame, are all in conspiracy against the desire and duty of peace.”
The only foundation for… a republic is to be laid in Religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments.
–Dr. Benjamin Rush, founder and father of American medicine
“[T]he primary objects of government are the peace, order, and prosperity of society. . . . To the promotion of these objects, particularly in a republican government, good morals are essential. Institutions for the promotion of good morals are therefore objects of legislative provision and support: and among these . . . religious institutions are eminently useful and important. . . . [T]he legislature, charged with the great interests of the community, may, and ought to countenance, aid and protect religious institutions—institutions wisely calculated to direct men to the performance of all the duties arising from their connection with each other, and to prevent or repress those evils which flow from unrestrained passion.”
–Oliver Ellsworth, Chief-Justice of the Supreme Court, (Source: Connecticut Courant, June 7, 1802, p. 3, Oliver Ellsworth, to the General Assembly of the State of Connecticut)
I apprehend no danger to our country from a foreign foe … Our destruction, should it come at all, will be from another quarter. — From the inattention of the people to the concerns of their government, from their carelessness and negligence, I must confess that I do apprehend some danger. I fear that they may place too implicit a confidence in their public servants, and fail properly to scrutinize their conduct; that in this way they may be made the dupes of designing men, and become the instruments of their own undoing. Make them intelligent, and they will be vigilant; give them the means of detecting the wrong, and they will apply the remedy.
–Daniel Webster, ‘The Great Defender of the Constitution’
Our ancestors established their system of government on morality and religious sentiment. Moral habits, they believed, cannot safely be trusted on any other foundation than religious principle, not any government secure which is not supported by moral habits…. Whatever makes men good Christians, makes them good citizens.
–Daniel Webster, ‘The Great Defender of the Constitution’
In selecting men for office, let principle be your guide. Regard not the particular sect or denomination of the candidate — look at his character. It is alleged by men of loose principles, or defective views of the subject, that religion and morality are not necessary or important qualifications for political stations. But the scriptures teach a different doctrine. They direct that rulers should be men who rule in the fear of God, men of truth, hating covetousness. It is to the neglect of this rule that we must ascribe the multiplied frauds, breaches of trust, speculations and embezzlements of public property which astonish even ourselves; which tarnish the character of our country and which disgrace our government. When a citizen gives his vote to a man of known immorality, he abuses his civic responsibility; he not only sacrifices his own responsibility; he sacrifices not only his own interest, but that of his neighbor; he betrays the interest of his country.
When you become entitled to exercise the right of voting for public officers, let it be impressed on your mind that God commands you to choose for rulers, ‘just men who will rule in the fear of God.’ The preservation of [our] government depends on the faithful discharge of this Duty; if the citizens neglect their Duty and place unprincipled men in office, the government will soon be corrupted; laws will be made, not for the public good so much as for selfish or local purposes; corrupt or incompetent men will be appointed to execute the Laws; the public revenues will be squandered on unworthy men; and the rights of the citizen will be violated or disregarded. If [our] government fails to secure public prosperity and happiness, it must be because the citizens neglect the Divine Commands, and elect bad men to make and administer the Laws.
I could go on, but – sadly – most Americans would not recognize the names of the other founders I would cite. But what matters, what should be self-evident, is that our founders believed that morality and virtue were essential elements for a free and self-governing society. With them, there is little need for voluminous laws. This is why the Constitution is only a few pages long. The self-governing Christian had little need of man-made laws because he/she was following God’s law, and our founders – contrary to all the claims by the enemies of God – were self-governing Christians. However, if a nation’s people are corrupt, then no written document will protect it from the result of corrupt and designing individuals. The current state of the rule of law under our Constitution is a glaring testimony to this fact. It is not that the Constitution has preserved what liberty remains in America; it is that the remnant of the self-governing Christians who built this nation have done so. And this is the difference between America and the rest of the world: we once tried to live by God’s law while they have not.
Remember this truth: the more corrupt the people; the more in need of rulers they become. And the more corrupt the State; the more numerous the laws will become. We have the Constitution, but we no longer follow it. So what has changed if not ‘We, the People?’ And that is why Beck is wrong!