The Cornerstone & The Keystone

I wrote this on the APN over 2yrs ago


 It was Reinhold Niebuhr who once said “Man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary” (The Children of Light and the Children of Darkness, 1944).  In this light, democracy is still on trial.  True protection of democracy and it’s fundamental appeal stems from everyday folks enabled to participate in civic duties.  Democracy only works if you do.

George Washington & The U.S. Constitution

I am grateful for those who support the Constitution through their involvement in local city government.  William Gladstone described the Constitution as “the most wonderful work ever struck off at a given time by the brain and purpose of man”  (“Kin Beyond Sea,” North American Review 127 [Sept./Oct. 1878], p. 185).  The intelligent men, whom I believe must have been, had to have been divinely inspired to found this nation and establish our constitutional government as real history teaches.  George Washington is the man that seems to standout foremost when I review the founding of our nation.  I adore that Washington was so unassuming in his role, yet his impact on the new republic and on the framing of its government seems greater than that of any other living man – A victorious colonial general offered prestige and an immense respect, his character, his presence, instilled confidence. 

   A journalist from the Connecticut Courant wrote about Washington’s arrival for the first inauguration.

It is impossible to do justice…to… the Scene exhibited on his Excellency’s approach to the city. Innumerable multitudes thronged the shores, the wharves and the shipping – waiting with…anticipation his arrival…

This great occasion arrested the public attention beyond all powers of description… All ranks and professions expressed their feelings, in loud acclamations, and with rapture hailed the arrival of the FATHER OF HIS COUNTRY…

How universal… the sentiments of respect and veneration!- All ranks [exclaimed,] “WELL, HE DESERVES IT ALL.”

The spontaneous [expressions] of gratitude… are the highest reward that virtue enjoys,… Many persons… were heard to say, that they should now die contented – nothing being wanted to their happiness… but the sight of the Savior of their new nation.
— From the Connecticut Courant of 4, May 1789, in Everett Carll Ladd, The American Polity (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1987), pp.72-73]

That was written 224 years ago. Today, G. Washington is still spoken of with deep respect. On the 200th anniversary of Washington’s birthday the then President of the United States read a resolution passed by Congress.

   James Madison stated George Washington “decided forever the fate of Republican Government.”(Ladd, The American Polity, p.73). 

We Deserve Our Leaders

Gary Willis, political pundit and journalistic gadfly spoke sincerely and well when he stated:

[In an election year] we get the presidents we deserve. A great people is what you need for a great president. Washington was the greatest president, because the people were at their most enlightened and alert. [America] right now is escapist. It wants to be soothed, and told it doesn’t have to pay or sacrifice or learn. [“Things That Matter,” Vis a Vis, July 1988, p.70; emphasis added]

Willis made that statement 25 years ago, yet I feel that it is only more relevant today. Is Willis correct? Is it possible, that it was the people that made Washington great? That such greatness and accomplishments came because the people and Washington were both at their “most enlightened and alert”?

Knowledge & Virtue

 Study diligently the history of our nations founding. Study the books our founding fathers studied, study to become like them, study to learn from them. The wisdom of our founding fathers is the foundation that our lives were established upon and it is the foundation that our children with establish their lives upon.

Thomas Jefferson in a letter to Colonel Charles Yancey wrote “if a nation expects to be ignorant and free… it expects what never was to be” (6 January 1816) Learn everything that the founding fathers knew, and do it as fast as possible with the highest of priorities – it will enlighten your intelligence; your children with thank you and it will better influence your judgements and calm your anxieties when portent storms arrive.

All great leaders of our nation, churches, societies and school systems share the understanding that ignorance is the enemy. To be great, we must first be intelligent. Information unbridled and loaded with zeal by the principles of justice, duty and even kindness will most likely lead a person to become nothing more than a sophisticated barbarian mumbling about great things. Virtue must espouse Knowledge!

Our Great & Glorious Masterpiece

“To compose our character is our duty, not to compose books, and to win battles and provinces, but order and tranquility in our conduct. Our great and glorious masterpiece is to live appropriately” (Donald M. Frame, trans., The Complete Essays of Montaigne [Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1958], pp.850-51; bold added)

Edmund Burke, in his brillance teaches us that “men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains on their own appetites… Society cannot exist unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters. [The Works of the Right Honorable Edmund Burke, vol.4 (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1889), pp.51-52]

Burke said that at the very time this great nation was being birthed to the world.

On one hand “ignorant, intemperate minds and behavior are the enemies to all true possibility – social, intellectual and theological. On the other hand, educated, disciplined, virtuous lives are the mark and hope of true godliness, true strength, and freedom” (J.R.Holland, 1988, BYU Student Devotional)

Our Founding Fathers knew that Liber and Public Virtue were prerequisite and fundamental to freedom. Knowledge is the cornerstone, while Virtue is the keystone to sustaining the American Republic as intended by the wise men whom laid the foundation.