Thank you for opening this newsletter and returning to learn about the foundations of our government. I’m always glad to have you here.
It’s not America’s first rodeo with alternative philosophies of government like socialism, communism, and progressivism. Every generation tends to think that their generation is the one to experience the best or worst of times. So it is with us. I’ve heard it said that America is on the brink of demise. I’ve also heard from others who think we are on the verge of heaven on earth, i.e., “This time, we will get it right” (whatever “it” is).
I’ve been taught that James Madison and other contributors to the U.S. Constitution quoted Montesquieu (he had a long name, so history generally refers to him by his last name) more than any other source except the Bible.
Montesquieu believed that there were basically three forms of government:
Just as a person is spirit, mind, and body, so do governments have motivators:
Monarchy—Honor/Shame or Reward/Punishment (mind)Despotism—Pleasure/Fear (body)
Montesquieu wrote that humans have a sinful (or selfish) nature, and they are prone to collect as much power as possible for themselves. He believed that a Republic would cease to exist once humans lost the desire to live and be virtuous. At that point, their Republic becomes lawless and eventually falls to despots. Our Founding Fathers keyed into this thought, having lived in a monarchy and having faced despotism as an enemy. A Republic was the best choice, but it was only fit for a moral and religious people, as our second president, John Adams, said.
Our Founders’ goal was to create a Constitutional Republic for this new nation, the United States. After all, Montesquieu warned that a monarch is a king with strings attached; and a despot, just the opposite-a ruler with no strings attached who operated at his own whim and will.
Our Founders wanted all of us to be free, as we were created to be. But, you can’t be a truly free people unless you have a virtuous nation, with the understanding that each person is accountable to a Higher Power (God) for their own behavior. They must be willing to be a virtuous, intentional, teachable population. And that, we were, until about 1870, when progressive, socialist, and other philosophies arrived little by little onto the American political landscape.
Americans, from the beginning, believed in individual and natural, God-given rights, like life, liberty, and property. Alternative philosophies believe in collective rights granted to people by the government (aka the State). If you have anything, it is because the State gives it to you. If the State gives it to you, the State can take it away from you. You never truly own anything.
Americans, from the beginning, believed in limited and clearly defined government (aka the Constitution), with the power being in the hands of moral people who are ultimately ruled not by the State but by their Creator. Alternative philosophies believe that the people need to be led by those who gain power by whatever means they can obtain and keep it. These “leaders” clearly control their populations and are not bound by a separation of powers or constitutional limitations on their authority. There is either honor or shame, reward or punishment, pleasure or pain.
We, as a nation, have always returned to our roots by standing strong against alternative philosophies that promise everything and deliver nothing. We have always found our way back to the firm foundation of our Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and our Creator.
This is Common Sense Civics and Citizenship.🇺🇸
You can read more about Montesquieu at https://bit.ly/3vPCoC6