The following article, Celebrating Independence Day and the Genius of America’s Founding, was first published on Flag And Cross.
As we gather across the nation to celebrate our Declaration of Independence and the founding of our country on Independence Day, it is right that we take stock of the great genius of our nation’s founding.
There has never, ever been a nation like the United States because the United States was the first country actually invented on a specific set of ideals.
The US didn’t just evolve by happenstance, by dint of geography, or centuries of bloodlines. The U.S. was actually a crafted ideal based first on the English Constitution and English Common law as written by Jurists such as Sir Edward Cooke and William Blackstone. But the genius of those great jurists was supplemented with the classic Roman and Greek philosophers along with more recent works by philosophers such as Montesquieu, Adam Smith, John Locke, and others of the French and Scottish Enlightenment.
America was based on the idea that the whole of the people would be educated and enlightened on the principles of the founding and would put their mind to the improvement of the country. Not just for selfish needs but for virtuous ones.
And virtue was the key principle.
The founders expected all Americans, from the lowest stable boy to the richest merchant, to carry on his daily duties with the needs of the community and the nation in mind at a level just as important as personal need.
The idea of serving the country virtuously is why the founders used pen names to write their famous tracts illuminating the world on American principals. It was because it was considered gauche to seek fame and power for personal aggrandizement. One was supposed to serve at the will of his fellows, not seek it in order to lord over everyone else.
This is also why few candidates straight up campaigned for office in the USA all the way until McKinley in 1900. It was considered a breach of good taste to go about forcing oneself on the voters.
But the founders didn’t just assume everyone would be the best they can be at all times. Our founders understood that we are all sinners and we will often fail to reach our lofty goals. That is why they created a government that had its powers divided up among several competing branches and hammered out the world’s first fully written Constitution that placed limits on power to keep flawed men from abusing their positions.
This was also why it was assumed that leaders would rise from the bulk of the people for a time then retire back to their lives and not make a career out of politics. These were the ideals Americans strove to live. Service, not naked ambition and a government that checked that power ti keep it from being abused.
Sadly we’ve lost this nod to public virtue and this understanding that our government is one of limited, enumerated powers. We now have office seekers that self-enrichment not public service first in their minds. We now have politicians who imagine that government should lead the people, not the other way around.
So, on this Independence Day (and it isn’t “July Fourth.” We don’t celebrate a number we celebrate an action; Independence) let us redouble our efforts to bring back public virtue, not just in public office, but throughout the land.
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