The Pillars of Our Republic

As I was going through and doing some of my daily reading yesterday, I came across an article that sparked some thought and reflection. The article was written as a tribute to Rush Limbaugh on his twentieth anniversary of broadcasting by former NRA president Sandy Froman. What caught my attention was the opening remark which stated, “The First and Second Amendments of the Constitution are twin pillars of America’s unique form of self-government.” (Click here for article)

This statement stood out to me because I believe this is a common belief among conservatives. And it is true indeed that these two amendments provide an important and vital safeguard to our form of government (Mr. Froman focused on the freedom of speech element of the First Amendment rather than the freedom of religion element). But I do not believe that the Founders would have fully embraced Mr. Froman’s assessment. If we were to ask the Founding Fathers what they believed were the foundations of our Republic, I believe they would have stated it was Religion (Christianity) and Morality. John Adams stated once in an address:

“We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion….Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

Inside of the Jefferson memorial, the following words of Thomas Jefferson can be found:

“Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever.”

George Washington himself in his farewell address stated:

“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.”

Washington could have ended here, but he continued:

“In vain would that man 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. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. 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 be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”

Though freedom of speech and freedom of arms does indeed protect against and help deter government’s natural progression towards tyranny, what if the character of the people who possess these rights becomes corrupt? What safeguard will prevent tyranny by the people? The American people are I believe some of the greatest people on earth, but it is not because of the rights protected in the First and Second Amendment. Rather, their greatness proceeds from their character rooted in their Christian-Judeo heritage. In the hands of a people of character, and only in the hands of people of character, these rights numerated in the Constitution do serve as important safeguards to liberty and freedom.

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