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Part I Famous Quotes on Freedom and Liberty

A Grand Design of Providence

            "I always consider the settlement of America with reverence and wonder, as the opening of a grand scene and design in Providence for the illumination of the slavish part of mankind all over the earth." --John Adams

Providence Has Given America to One United People

            "With equal pleasure I have as often taken notice, that Providence has been pleased to give this one connected country to one united people--a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs, and who, by their joint counsels, arms, and efforts, fighting side by side throughout a long and bloody war, have nobly established general liberty and independence." --John Jay

The Invisible Hand of Providence Upon the People of the United States

            "No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand which conducts the affairs of men more than the people of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of Providential agency.... We ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of heaven cannot be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which heaven itself has ordained." --George Washington

An Asylum for Liberty in the New World

            "We have had a hard struggle, but the Almighty has favored the just cause; and I join most heartily with you in your prayers that he may perfect his work, and establish freedom in the new world as an asylum for those of the old, who deserve it." --Benjamin Franklin

America--A Grand Experiment in Self-Government

            "It has been frequently remarked that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident or force." --Alexander Hamilton

Private Property Rights Are a Key to the Survival of Liberty

            "The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God ... anarchy and tyranny commence. Property must be secured or Liberty cannot exist." --John Adams

Separation of Powers Is Crucial to Avoid the Establishment of a Tyranny

            "The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many ... may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny." --James Madison

Strong Local and State Governments Are Needed to Prevent Tyranny in America

            "When all government ... shall be drawn to Washington as the center of all power, it will render powerless the checks provided of one government on another, and will become as ... oppressive as the government from which we separated.

            "What has destroyed liberty and the rights of man in every government which has ever existed under the sun? The generalizing and concentrating of all cares and powers into one body.... The way to have sage governments is not to trust it all to one, but to divide it among the many.... It is by dividing and sub-dividing these republics, from the great national one down ... that all will be done for the best." --Thomas Jefferson

Debt is Destructive of Liberty

            ". . . We must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. We must make our election between economy and liberty, or profusion and servitude." --Thomas Jefferson

The Doctrine of Federalism

            "In the compound republic of America, the power surrendered by the people is first divided between two distinct governments, and then the portion allotted to each subdivided among distinct and separate departments. Hence a double security arises to the rights of the people. The different governments will control each other, at the same time that each will be controlled by itself." --James Madison

The Federal Government Should Confine
Itself to Its Constitutional Powers

            "It is important, likewise, that the habits of thinking in a free country should inspire caution to those entrusted with its administration, to confine themselves within their respective constitutional spheres; avoiding in the exercise of the powers of one department to encroach upon another.--The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create, whatever the form of government, a real despotism.--A just estimate of that love of power, and proneness to abuse it, which predominates in the human heart, is sufficient to satisfy us of the truth of this position." --George Washington

The Federalist

            "The best commentary on the principles of government which has ever been written." --Thomas Jefferson

            "The Federalist ... is a complete commentary on our Constitution, and is appealed by all parties in the question to which that instrument has given birth. Its intrinsic value entitles it to the highest rank, and the part two of its authors performed in framing the Constitution put it very much in their power to explain the views with which it was framed."--Chief Justice John Marshall

            "The Federalist may fairly enough be regarded as the most authentic exposition of the text of the federal constitution, as under stood by the body which prepared and the Authority which accepted it." --James Madison

            "I know not, indeed, of any work on the principles of free government that is to be compared, in instruction and in intrinsic value, to this small and unpretending volume of The Federalist; not even if we resort to Aristotle, Cicero, Machiavelli, Montesquieu, Milton, Locke, or Burke. It is equally admirable in the depths of its wisdom, the comprehensiveness of its views, the sagacity of its reflections, and the fearlessness, candor, simplicity, and elegance with which its truths are uttered and recommended." --Chancellor James Kent

            The Federalist is "the most instructive work on political science ever written in the United States.... It ranks first in the world's literature of political science." --Charles Beard

Religion and Morality Are Indispensable Ingredients of Republican Government

            "Of all the dispositions and habits, which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports.--In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labour 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 connexions 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." --George Washington

The Framers of Republican Government in America

            "Whatever may be the judgment pronounced on the competency of the architects of the Constitution, or whatever may be the destiny of the edifice prepared by them, I feel it is a duty to express my profound and solemn conviction, derived from my intimate opportunity of observing and appreciating the views of the Convention, collectively and individually, that there never was an assembly of men more pure in their motives, or more exclusively or anxiously devoted to the object committed to them, than were the members of the Federal Convention of 1787, to the object of devising and proposing a constitutional system which should best supply the defects of that which it was to replace, and best secure the permanent liberty and happiness of their country." --James Madison

An Enlightened and Committed People Are the Most Effective Way of Preserving Liberty

            "Although all men are born free, slavery has been the general lot of the human race. Ignorant--they have been cheated; asleep--they have been surprised; divided--the yoke has been forced upon them. But what is the lesson...? The people ought to be enlightened, to be awakened, to be united, that after establishing a government they should watch over it.... It is universally admitted that a well-instructed people alone can be permanently free." --James Madison

Americans Are the Guardians of Liberty for Mankind

            "We have now lived almost fifty years under the Constitution framed by the sages and patriots of the Revolution.... Our Constitution is no longer a doubtful experiment; and, at the end of nearly a half century, we find that it has preserved unimpaired the liberties of the people, secured the rights of property, and that our country has improved and is flourishing beyond any former example in the history of nations....

            "But the Constitution cannot be maintained nor the Union preserved in opposition to public feeling by the mere exertion of the coercive powers confided to the General Government. The foundations must be laid in the affections of the people; in the security it gives to life, liberty, character and property....

            "It is well known that there have always been those amongst us who wish to enlarge the powers of the General Government; and experience would seem to indicate that there is a tendency on the part of this Government to overstep the boundaries marked out for it by the Constitution. Every attempt to exercise power beyond these limits should be promptly and firmly opposed....

            "Knowing that the path of freedom is continually beset by enemies who often assume the disguise of friends, I have devoted the last hour of my public life to warn you of the danger. The progress of the United States under our free and happy institutions has surpassed the most sanguine hopes of the founders of the Republic. Our growth has been rapid beyond all former example, in numbers, in wealth, in knowledge, and all the useful arts ... and from the earliest age of history to the present day, there never have been thirteen millions of people associated together in one political body who enjoyed so much freedom and happiness as the people of the United States.... It is from within, among yourselves, from cupidity, from corruption, from disappointed ambition, and inordinate thirst for power, that factions will be formed and liberty endangered. It is against such designs, whatever disguise the actors may assume, that you have especially to guard yourselves. You have the highest of human trusts committed to your care. Providence has showered on this favored land blessings without number and has chosen you as the guardians of freedom to preserve it for the benefit of the human race. May He ... enable you, with pure hearts and pure hands and sleepless vigilance, to guard and defend to the end of time the great charge he has committed to your keeping.... I thank God that my life has been spent in a land of liberty...." --Andrew Jackson

Power Is Divided Among Two Distinct Governments

– The States and the National Government

            "In the compound republic of America, the power surrendered by the people is first divided between two distinct governments, and then the portion allotted to each subdivided among distinct and separate governments. Hence a double security arises to the rights of the people. The different governments will control each other, at the same time that each will be controlled by itself." --James Madison

            "The Founding Fathers' vision of a limited national government of enumerated powers has gradually given way to an expansive, intrusive, and virtually omnipotent national government. States, once the hub of political activity and the very source of our political tradition, have been reduced--in a significant part--to administrative units of the national government, their independent political power usurped by almost two centuries of centralization....

            "Federalism, as understood by the Framers of the Constitution, requires a recognition that the authority of the national government extends to a few enumerated powers only and that all powers not delegated by the States to the national government, nor denied to the States by the Constitution, are reserved to the States." –Report of the Working Group on Federalism, Domestic Policy Council, White House, November 1986

The Principles of Federalism and State Sovereignty

            The term federalism connotates a league of States which are free, sovereign and independent. In the United States federalism refers to a constitutional division of powers between the states and the national government.

            "... [T]he federal legislature will not only be restrained by its dependence on the people, as other legislative bodies are, but that it will be, moreover, watched and controlled by the several collateral legislatures, which other legislative bodies are not." --James Madison, The Federalist 52:14

             "These United Colonies are, and of right ought to be Free and Independent States...." --Declaration of Independence, 1776

            "The people of this commonwealth have the sole and exclusive right of governing themselves as a free, sovereign and independent State, and do, and forever hereafter shall, exercise and enjoy every power, jurisdiction, and right which is not, or may not hereafter be, by them expressly delegated to the United States of America in Congress assembled." --Article IV, Massachusetts Constitution of 1780

            "Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom and independence, and every Power, Jurisdiction and right, which is not by this confederation expressly delegated to the United States." --Article II, Articles of Confederation

            "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." --Tenth Amendment, U. S. Constitution

            "The State governments, by their original Constitutions, are invested with complete sovereignty." --James Madison, The Federalist 31:14

            "Each state, in ratifying the Constitution, is considered as a sovereign body, independent of all others, and only to be bound by its own voluntary act." --James Madison, The Federalist 39: 13

            "The proposed government cannot be deemed a national one; since its jurisdiction extends to certain enumerated objects only, and leaves to the several States a residuary and inviolate sovereignty over all other objects." James Madison, The Federalist, 39:16

            "The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State Governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs; concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State." --James Madison, The Federalist 45:12

            "It may safely be received as an axiom in our political system that the State governments will, in all possible contingencies, afford complete security against invasion of the public liberty by the national authority." --Alexander Hamilton, Quoted in David Stedman, Our Ageless Constitution, p. 82

            "Each state in the Union shall respectively retain every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Constitution delegated to the Congress of the United States, or to the departments of the general government; nor shall the said Congress, nor any department of the said government, exercise any act of authority over any individual in any of the said states, but such as can be justified under some power particularly given in this Constitution; but the said Constitution shall be considered at all times a solemn instrument, defining the extent of their authority, and the limits of which they cannot rightfully in any instance exceed." --James Iradall, North Carolina Ratifying Convention, Elliot's Debates 4: 248

            "I consider this a declaration, not that the united colonies jointly, in a collective capacity, were independent states, & c. but that each of them was a sovereign and independent state, that is, that each of them had a right to govern itself by its own authority and its laws, without any control from any other power upon earth." --Justice Samuel Chase, 3 U. S. (3 Dall.) 199, 244 (1796)

            "... We may safely rely on the disposition of the State legislatures to erect barriers against the encroachments of the national authority." --Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist 85: 15

The Williamsburg Resolve – Statement on Federalism

            "We gather at an historic moment at an historic place.

            "Here and in other colonial capitals, the nation's founders first debated the idea of independence and the fundamental principles of freedom. Then, the challenge to the liberties of the people came from an arrogant, overbearing monarchy across the sea.

            "Today, that challenge comes from our own Federal government--a government that has defied, and that now ignores, virtually every constitutional limit fashioned by the framers to confine its reach and thus to guard the freedoms of the people.

            "In our day, the threat to self-determination posed by the centralization of power in the nation's capital has been dramatically demonstrated. The effects of intrusive Federal government authority have been felt so widely and so profoundly that a united chorus of opposition has risen from town halls and State capitols, from community organizations and private associations, from enterprises and individuals, across America.

            "The founders of our Republic and the framers of our Constitution well understood the ultimate incompatibility of centralized power and republican ideals. They did not pledge their lives, fortune and sacred honor to achieve independence from an oppressive monarchy in England only to surrender their liberties to an all-powerful central government on these shores. Rather, they devoted their considerable energies and insights to erecting an array of checks and balances that promised to prevent the emergence of an unresponsive and unaccountable national government.

            "Chief among these checks were to be the State governments, whose co-equal role was expressly acknowledged in the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution, and whose sweeping jurisdiction and popular support were presumed sufficient to resist Federal encroachment. The Federal government, by contrast, was given certain expressly enumerated powers and denied all others. From this balanced federal-state relationship, predicated on dual sovereignty, there was to come a healthy tension that would serve as a bulwark against any concentration of power that threatened the freedoms of the people.

            "Two centuries later, it is clear that these checks and balances have been dangerously undermined. The States have witnessed the steady erosion--sometimes gradual, sometimes accelerated--of their sphere of responsibility. Today, there is virtually no area of public responsibility or private activity in which Federal authorities do not assert the power to override the will of the people in the States through Federal rules, rulings, and enactments.

            "Our freedoms are no longer safe when they exist only at the sufferance of Federal legislators, Federal Courts, and Federal bureaucrats...." --Republican Governors Conference, 1994, Williamsburg, Virginia

The Constitution Is a Structure of Consummate Skill

            The structure has been erected by architects of consummate skill and fidelity; its foundations are solid; its components are beautiful, as well as useful; its arrangements are full of wisdom and order, and its defenses are impregnable from without. It has been reared for immortality, if the work of man may justly aspire to such a title. It may, nevertheless, perish in an hour by the folly, or corruption, or negligence of its only Keepers, The People." --Justice Joseph Story

A Plan to Decide the Fate of Republican Government

            "As it was more probable we were now [in the Constitutional Convention of 1787] digesting a plan which in its operation would decide forever the fate of Republican Government, we ought not only to provide every guard to liberty that its preservation could require, but be equally careful to supply the defects which our own experience had particularly pointed out." --James Madison

The Founding Fathers Were Committed to Establishing a Free Government in America

            "Whatever may be the judgment pronounced on the competency of the architects of the Constitution, or whatever may be the destiny of the edifice prepared by them, I feel it is a duty to express my profound and solemn conviction, derived from my intimate opportunity of observing and appreciating the views of the Convention, collectively and individually, that there never was an assembly of men more pure in their motives, or more exclusively or anxiously devoted to the object committed to them, than were the members of the Federal Convention of 1787, to the object of devising and proposing a constitutional system which should best supply the defects of that which it was to replace, and best secure the permanent liberty and happiness of their country." --James Madison

A Galaxy of Leaders Unmatched in American History

             "The situation is too familiar to rehearse. In the last quarter of the century the new United States--a nation with a white population of less than three million, with a single major city, and wholly lacking in those institutions of organized society or civilization so familiar in Europe--boasted a galaxy of leaders who were literally incomparable: Franklin, Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, John Adams, Samuel Adams, John Jay, James Wilson, George Mason, Benjamin Rush, James Madison, and a dozen others scarcely less distinguished....This remarkable outpouring of political leadership, this fertility in the production of statesmen [has been] unmatched since that day.... The eighteenth century ... vouchsafed us the most distinguished leadership that any has enjoyed in modern times." --Henry Steele Commanager

An Explosion of Political Genius in Early America

            "In retrospect, Americans now see the year 1787 as an explosion of political genius. One scholar has called it 'a classic perhaps even unparalleled example of the power of political leadership by intellectuals in a situation, where their understanding of human nature was firm and realistic, their grasp of earlier thinking broad and acute, their capacity to learn from their own and others' experiences discriminating,' and the time ripe for resolution of 'the problem of curbing power and protecting people's liberties.'

            "'If all the delegates named for this Convention [of 1787] at Philadelphia are present,' commented the French charge d' affairs, 'we will never have seen, even in Europe, an assembly more respectable for the talents, knowledge, disinterestedness, and patriotism of those who compose it.' On the whole these men were not neophytes as the political leaders. Three had been in the Stamp Act Congress, seven in the First Continental Congress. Eight had signed the Declaration of Independence, and two the Articles [of Confederation]. Two would become President, one Vice President, and two Chief Justices of the Supreme Court. Sixteen had been or would later hold state governorships. Forty-two at one time or another had sat in one or another of the Continental Congresses, while at least thirty were Revolutionary War veterans. Many had served their states with distinction, drafting constitutions and codifying their laws." --Richard B. Morris

The Greatest Assemblage of Men in the History of World

            For solidity of reason, force of sagacity, and wisdom of conclusion under a combination of difficult circumstances, no nation or body of men can stand in preference to the General Congress at Philadelphia. The histories of Greece and Rome give us nothing equal to it..." --Prime Minister William Pitt

Appreciation and Reverence for the U. S. Constitution

            "The Constitution is unquestionably, the wisest ever presented to men." --Thomas Jefferson

            "If [the Constitution is] not the greatest exertion of human understanding, [it is] the greatest single effort of national deliberation that the world has ever seen." --John Adams

            "The real wonder is that so many difficulties should have been surmounted , and surmounted with a unanimity almost as unprecedented as it must have been unexpected. It is impossible to any man of pious reflection not to perceive in it [Federal Convention of 1787 which formed the U. S. Constitution] a finger of that Almighty hand which has been so frequently and signally extended to our relief in the critical stages of the revolution." --James Madison, The Federalist 37: 16

            "I cannot but impute it to a signal intervention of divine providence, that a convention of States differing in circumstances, interests, and manners, should be so harmonious in adopting one grand system." --William Samuel Johnson, Connecticut Delegate to Federal Convention of 1787

            "For my own part, I sincerely esteem it a system, which without the finger of God, never could have been suggested and agreed upon by such a diversity of interest." --Alexander Hamilton

            "When the great work was done and published, I was struck with amazement. Nothing less than the super-intending Hand of Providence, that so miraculously carried us through the war ... could have brought it about so complete, upon the whole." --Charles Pinckney

            "No People can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men, more that the people of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency." --President George Washington

            "As to my sentiments with respect to the merits of the new Constitution, I will disclose them without reserve.... It appears to me ... little short of a miracle, that the Delegates from so many different States (which States you know are also different from each other in their manners, circumstances and prejudices) should unite in forming a system of national Government, so little liable to well founded objections." --George Washington

            "To conclude, I beg I may not be understood to infer, that our general Convention was divinely inspired when it form'd the new federal Constitution, merely because that Constitution has been unreasonably and vehemently opposed; yet I must own I have so much Faith in the general Government of the World by PROVIDENCE, that I can hardly conceive a Transaction of such momentous Importance to the Welfare of Millions now existing and to exist in the Posterity of a great Nation, should be suffered to pass without being in some degree influenc'd, guided and governed by that omnipotent, omnipresent & beneficent Ruler, in whom all inferior Spirits live & move and have their Being." --Benjamin Franklin

            "The hand of Divine Providence was never more plainly visible in the affairs of men that in the framing and adopting of the Constitution." --Andrew Johnson

            "Miracles do not cluster. Hold on to the Constitution of the United States of America and the republic for which it stands. What happened once in six thousand years may never happen again. Hold on to your Constitution, for if the American Constitution shall fail there will be anarchy throughout the world." --Daniel Webster

Miracle at Philadelphia

            "It appears to me, then, little short of a miracle, that the Delegates from so many different States (which States you know are also different from each other), in their manners, circumstances, and prejudices, should unite in forming a system of national Government, so little liable to well founded objectives."--George Washington, 1787, Letter to Lafayette.

The Constitution Was Dictated by Heaven Itself

            ". . . This ideal also I should think would fire your soul, to exert every nerve to adopt a Constitution, which if every circumstance is taken into view, appears to be dictated by Heaven itself."--Joseph Barrell to Nathaniel Barrell. Boston. December 20, 1787

The New Constitution Was an Act of Divine Providence

            "I cannot but impute it to a signal intervention of divine Providence, that a convention of states differing in circumstances, interests, and manners should be so harmonious in adopting one grand system." --William Samuel Johnson, Convention Delegate, First President of Columbia University.

Providence Has Done so Much for America

            "You see I am not less enthusiastic that ever I have been, if a belief that peculiar scenes of felicity are reserved for this country, is to be denominated enthusiasm. Indeed, I do not believe, that Providence has done so much for nothing. It has always been my creed that we should not be left as an awful monument to prove, 'that mankind, under the most favourable circumstances for civil liberty and happiness, are unequal to the task of Governing themselves, and therefore made for a Master.'"--George Washington, June 19, 1788. Letter to LaFayette.

The Finger of God Led to the Drafting and Adoption of the U. S. Constitution

            Your friend Colo. Humphreys informs me, from the wonderful revolution of sentiment in favor of federal measures, and the marvelous change for the better in the elections of your state, that he shall begin to suspect that miracles have not ceased; indeed, for myself, since so much liberality has been displayed in the construction and adoption of the proposed General Government, I am almost disposed to be of the same opinion. Or at least we may, with a kind of grateful and pious exultation, trace the finger of Providence through those dark and mysterious events, which first induced the states to appoint a general convention and then led them one after another by such steps as were best calculated to effect the object) into an adoption of the system recommended by that general Convention; thereby in all human probability, laying a lasting foundation for tranquility and happiness; when we had but too much reason to fear that confusion and misery were coming rapidly upon us. That the same good Providence may still continue to protect us and prevent us from dashing the cup of national felicity just as it has been lifted to our lips, is the earnest prayer of, my dear sir, your faithful friend. etc."--George Washington. July 20, 1788. Letter to Jonathan Trumbull.

Divine Blessings Bestowed Upon America Throughout Its History

            "It would be peculiarly improper to omit, in this first official act my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect.... No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency....We ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained."--George Washington, April 30, 1789.

The Republican Form of Government

            "The Republican is the only form of government which is not eternally at open or secret war with the rights of mankind, my prayers and efforts shall be cordially distributed to the support of that we have so deeply established. It is indeed an animating thought, that while we are securing the rights of ourselves and our posterity, we are pointing out the way to struggling nations, who wish like us to emerge from their tyrannies too. Heaven help their struggles, and lead them, as it has done us, triumphantly through them." --Thomas Jefferson

             "The free system of government we have established is so congenial with reason, with common sense, and with a universal feeling, that it must produce approbation and a desire of imitation, as avenues may be found for truth to the knowledge of nations. Our Country, if it does justice to itself, will be the workshop of liberty to the Civilized World, and do more than any other for the uncivilized." --James Madison 

The Unique Stature of the Founding Fathers

            "It has often been asked how it was that within a short span of time on the east coast of the North American continent there should have sprung up such a rare array of genius--men who seemed in virtual command of historical experience and who combined moral imagination with a flair for leadership."--Norman Cousins

            "Surely the appearance at the birth of the nation of a constellation of statesmen of first-rate abilities prompts the query as to why such a cluster of leadership talents has never appeared again in the American skies."–Richard B. Morris

            "Yet who can doubt that in the last quarter of the eighteenth century it was the New World ... that provided the most impressive spectacle of leadership, rather than the nations of the Old World? Who can doubt, for example in the crisis of 1774-1783, the American colonies and states enjoyed far more competent leadership than the British Empire?

            "The situation is too familiar to rehearse. In the last quarter of the century the new United States--a nation with a white population of less than three million, with a single major city, and wholly lacking in the institutions of organized society or civilization so familiar in Europe--boasted a galaxy of leaders who were quite literally incomparable: Franklin, Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, John Adams, Samuel Adams, John Jay, James Wilson, George Mason, Benjamin Rush, James Madison, and a dozen others scarcely less distinguished.

            "What explains this remarkable outpouring of political leadership, this fertility in the production of statesmen--a fertility unmatched since that day?"--Henry Steele Commanager

              ... The principles of the American Revolution are well worth studying, whether by men who enjoy freedom or men who aspire to it. The Revolution was, after all, one of the longest and surest strides the world has ever taken toward the grand goal of "liberty for all mankind," and no men of good will, even those men who define liberty almost exclusively in terms of economic development and national independence, can afford to be ignorant of the faith that animated Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, Hamilton, Dickenson, Wilson, the Lees, and the Adames. As aspiration, if not as description or prescription, the political thought of the Revolution has the ring both of eternity and universality."--Clinton Rossiter

            "You and I, my dear friend have been sent into life at a time when the greatest lawgivers of antiquity would have wished to live. How few of the human race have ever enjoyed an opportunity of making an election of government.... When, before the present epoch, had three million people, full of power, had a fair opportunity to form and establish the wisest and happiest government that human wisdom can contrive?"--John Adams

            "In no age before, and in no other country, did man ever possess an election of the kind of government under which he would choose to live. The constituent parts of the ancient free governments were thrown together by accident. The freedom of modern European governments was, for the most part, obtained by concessions or liberality of monarchs or military leaders. In America, alone, reason and liberty concurred in the formation of constitutions."--John Adams

The Foundation of the American Republic

            "The foundation of our Empire was not laid in the gloomy age of ignorance and superstition, but at an Epoch when the rights of mankind were better understood and more clearly defined, than at any former period; the researches of the human mind after social happiness, have been carried to a great extent, the treasures of knowledge, acquired by the labours of Philosophers, Sages, and Legislators, through a long succession of years, are laid open for our use, and their collected wisdom may be happily applied in the establishment of our forms of government.... At this auspicious period, the United States came into existence as a Nation, and if their Citizens should not be completely free and happy, the fault will be entirely their own."--George Washington

The Sacred Rights of Mankind

            "The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for among old parchments and musty records. They are written as with a sunbeam in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of the Divinity itself, and can never be erased by mortal power....Upon this law depend the natural rights of man: the Supreme Being gave existence to man, together with the means of preserving and beautifying that existence. He endowed him with rational faculties, by the help of which to discern and pursue such things as were consistent with his duty and interest; and invested him with an inviolate right to personal liberty and personal safety."--Alexander Hamilton

The King of America

            "But where says some is the King of America? I'll tell you Friend, he reigns above, and doth make havoc of mankind like the Royal--of Britain. Yet that we may not appear to be defective even in earthly honors, let a day be solemnly set apart for proclaiming the charter; let it be brought forth placed on the divine law, the world of God; let a crown be placed thereon, by which the world may know, that so far as we approve of monarchy, that in America THE LAW IS KING.--Thomas Paine

A Noble Zeal for the Sacred Cause of Liberty

            "It is an indispensable duty, my brethren, which we owe to God and our country, to rouse up and bestir ourselves, and, being animated with a noble zeal for the sacred cause of liberty, to defend our lives and fortunes, even to the shedding of the last drop of blood.... To save our country from the hands of oppressors ought to be dearer to us even that our own lives, and next [to] the eternal salvation of our own souls, [it] is the thing of greatest importance,--a duty so sacred that it cannot justly be dispensed with for the sake of our secular concerns."--Samuel West

Nations Are Rewarded or Punished According to Their General Character

            "'Revelation assures us that 'righteousness exalteth a nation.' Communities are dealt with in this world by the wise and just Ruler of the Universe. He rewards or punishes them according to their general character. The diminution of public virtue is usually attended with that of public happiness, and the public liberty will not long survive the total extinction of morals."--Samuel Adams

Ignorance Breeds Tyranny

            "A nation of well informed men who have been taught to know and prize the rights which God has given them cannot be enslaved. It is in the region of ignorance that tyranny begins."--Benjamin Franklin

Liberty Cannot Exist Without Virtue

            "Liberty can no more exist without virtue and independence than the body can live and move without a soul."--John Adams

Religion Is the Source of Morals

            "Religion is the only solid basis of good morals; therefore education should teach the precepts of religion, and the duties of man toward God."--Gouverneur Morris

The Love of God and the Virtues of Christianity

            "Let divines and philosophers, statesmen and patriots, unite their endeavors to renovate the age, by impressing the minds of men with the importance of educating their little boys and girls, of inculcating in the minds of the youth the fear and love of the Deity and universal philanthropy, and, in subordination to these great principles, the love of their country; of instructing them in heart of self-government, without which they never can act a wise part in the government of societies, great or small; in short, of leading them in the study and practice of the exalted virtues of the Christian system...."--Samuel Adams


Part II – Providence Has Chosen America To Be
 a New Jerusalem

              In the American colonies, the idea of historical progress was very much alive as they moved toward independence. There was strong religious sentiments that America has been set apart in history and preserved for a chosen people who would bring about great things for the glory of God. Not a few believed that Providence had guarded America and had selected it to be a "new Jerusalem." They believed, writes Robert Nisbet, "that America was not only a destined nation, but a redeeming nation." Many would have agreed with de Tocqueville's vision that North America had been discovered "as if it had been kept in reserve by the Deity, and had just risen from beneath the waters of the Deluge," and that the colonists were "not a mere party of adventurers gone forth to seek their fortune beyond [the] seas, but the germ of a great nation wafted by Providence to a predestined shore." "I think I see,” he continued, "the destiny of America embodied in the first Puritan who landed on those shores, just as the whole human race was represented by the first man." To Tocqueville, the "newness" of America, the isolation from other powers, the heritage the colonists had brought with them, combined with "[a] thousand circumstances independent of the will of man [to] facilitate the maintenance of a democratic republic in the United States."

The Puritans Come to America to Complete the Reformation

            From the 1520s onward, the Puritans had been characterized by a more radical break with the Holy Roman Empire than most other "reformed" churches and even Luther were willing to go, and by their decidedly British experience. The Puritans were also attached to the concept of the covenant to a great degree than the other Bible-reading Christian communities. The Christianity that emerged from the Reformation had carried with it a sense of mission, which prostituted by fanatical zeal, led to wars and crusades. On the other hand, this same sense of participation in the unfolding of momentous historical events for the glory of God contributed to the founding of nations and the emergence of modern self-government. The British Puritans, having arisen out of the Church of England, sought to carry the Reformation to its logical conclusion, that is, to return the mother church to the purity of sacred scripture. Thus, as Perry Miller writes, the Puritan immigrants came to America with the belief that "their errand was not a mere scouting expedition: it was an essential maneuver in the drama of Christendom.... These Puritans did not flee to America; they went in order to work out that complete reformation which was not yet accomplished in England and Europe."

The Colonial Puritans Were Driven by a Sense of Mission

            The colonial Puritans had a sense of mission that emerged naturally with the integrating of their religious philosophy with the new land of America; and in the wilderness of America it was not difficult for them to find a striking resemblance between themselves and ancient Israel. According to Sydney Ahlstrom, "That many Puritan Christians would consider themselves a 'people of the Covenant' was almost inevitable. Persecuted, ridiculed, and abused during their formative period, and driven to the Old Testament by their need for historical precedents and specific legal guidance, they ineluctably came to identify their situation and their goals with those of the Chosen People, God's Israel.... In the American wilderness, the Puritan's situation and its parallel with Israel's role in history became even more striking.... And finally, given their concern for moral order, civic duty, and the general welfare, they sometimes envisioned the body politic or commonwealth as being collectively in covenant with the Lord for a special corporate task in the world."

The Miracles Performed for Israel of Old Were Repeated Anew for the American Israel

            They came to see America as a new Promised land set apart by Providence for a new people, a new church, a new state, a new Jerusalem, in the vision of John Winthrop writing in 1630, "We must consider that we shall be as a City upon a Hill, the eyes of all people are upon us." "God sifted a Whole Nation," cried William Stoughton, "that he might send Choice grain over into this Wilderness." It was the first-generation Puritan layman Edward Johnson who praised the colonial adventure as the settlement of a new Mt. Zion in the American wilderness, and as the Revolution began, many of the clergy used the pulpit openly and brazenly for a call to arms, typically referring to the revolutionary troops as the "Armies of Israel." "The finger of God," spoke clergyman Phillip Payson in 1782, "has indeed been so conspicuous in every stage of our glorious struggle, that it seems as if the wonders and miracles performed for Israel of old were repeated over anew for the American Israel, in our day."

 The American People Were Instruments of God in Establishing a New Nation 

            This idea of a special people in a special land remained part of the American religious philosophy down through the Revolution and the Founding, and saturated the election sermons, which were delivered by the New England clergy. Throughout these incredible years, countless referrals to "Providence" and the "Finger of God" merged with the sense of mission and national deliverance. The great American adventure not only carried with it the blessings of God, the whole affair, it was reasoned, had been directed by God as a vital historical sequence in the last days. And if Providence had placed such great opportunities and blessings at their disposal, then the Americans also faced an ominous responsibility as instruments in the hand of God. Provost Smith, among others, called upon his countrymen to think solemnly of the future: "Look forward also to distant posterity. Figure to yourselves millions and millions to spring from your loins, who may be born freemen or slaves, as Heaven shall now approve or reject your councils. Think, that on you it may depend, whether this great country, in ages hence, shall be filled and adorned with a virtuous and enlightened people; enjoying Liberty and all its concomitant blessings, together with the Religion of Jesus, as it flows uncorrupted from his holy oracles; or covered with a race of men more contemptible than the savages that roam the wilderness."

 Providence Has Designed America to be an Asylum of Liberty

             Samuel West's acknowledgment in 1776 of "the dispensations of Providence toward this land ever since our fathers first settled in Plymouth," and his insistence that "Providence has designed this continent for to be the asylum of liberty and true religion," were certainly not uncommon texts for the speeches and sermons of the day. In that year, Charles Chauncey preached that it was under God's "all-wise overruling influence that a spirit was raised up in all the colonies nobly to assert their freedom as men and English-born subjects." "In the rise and in the whole progress of the unnatural controversy between Great Britain and the now United Independent American States," spoke the Reverend Chauncey Whittelsey in 1778, "the hand of God has been, I must think, very conspicuous." To the New England ministry, Providence had been manifest throughout not only the colonization efforts, and the Revolution, but the coming forth of the Constitution as well. Clergyman William Rodgers was far from alone among his colleagues, nor was he speaking to uninitiated ears when he preached that the Constitution had emerged under the guidance of Providence. And when, on the fourth of July 1789, the Reverend Ashbel Green publicly gave thanks to God for the divine guidance to those who founded the Republic and sealed its glory with the Constitution, his declaration was not a revelation to his audience, but another confirmation of consensus. "All the forms of civil polity have been tried by mankind except one," offered the celebrated Ezra Stiles in his Election Sermon of 1783, "and that seems to have been reserved in Providence to be realized in America.... How wonderful the ... events of Providence! We live in an age of wonders; we have lived an age in a few years; we have seen more wonders accomplished in eight years that are usually unfolded in a century."

 America Had Been Set Apart by God for the Edification of Mankind

             It was the New England ministry, not the Founders, who first announced that America had been set apart by God, and that this people had been chosen to create a new and higher community for the example and edification of mankind. This belief had become so established by the Revolution that it was in fact part of the existing political or civil orthodoxy. This sense of a "new way of life" was poignantly expressed by Crevecoeur's praise of This New Man, the American, which was written some time before the Revolution....

            Since the American Founders were products of the religious environment into which they were born, nurtured, and attained manhood, they were certainly not immune from the religious concepts of the Covenant, a Chosen People, and a New Israel; for these ideas permeated the thinking of the colonies. It appears that, as events transpired leading to the Revolution, the Declaration [of Independence], and the Constitution, the Founders spoke more and more in terms of a mission for the new land they occupied, and referral to an intervening Providence appeared increasingly in their writings and their spoken word. Their sense of history and belief in God combined to engender a cautious hypothesis that Providence had placed them in this place and at this time with opportunities that had great import for mankind.

            Robert A. Rutland, editor of The Papers of James Madison, insists that Madison's chief interest in life was to prove that America had been chosen by Providence for an experiment to test man's capacity for self-government. "The free system of government we have established," stated Madison, "is so congenial with reason, with common sense, and with a universal feeling, that it must produce appropriation and a desire of imitation, as avenues may be found for truth to the knowledge of nations. Our country, if it does justice to itself, will be the workshop of liberty to the Civilized World, and of more than any other for the uncivilized."

            . . . "The last hope of human liberty," confirmed Jefferson, "rests on us." And Paine wrote in Common Sense, "The cause of America is in great measure the cause of mankind." Both Jefferson and Adams had seen universal significance in the principles of the Declaration of Independence that went beyond the confines of the United States. "May it be to the world what I believe it will be (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all)," wrote Jefferson, "the signal of arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings of security and self-government." ... [Adams] ... warned that if America failed in her divinely appointed mission, it would be "treason against the hopes of the world."--Richard Vetterli & Gary Bryner, In Search of the American Republic. Totowa, New Jersey: Rowman & Littlefield. 1987, pp. 47-50, 66-67.

Part III – The Importance of Public Instruction in the Principles of the Constitution

             "America's Constitution is the means by which knowledgeable and free people, capable of self-government, can bind and control their elected representatives in government. In order to remain free, the Founders said, the people themselves must clearly understand the ideas and principles upon which their Constitutional government is based. Through such understanding, they will be able to prevent those in power from eroding their Constitutional protections.

            "The Founders established schools and seminaries for the distinct purpose of instilling in youth the lessons of history and the ideas of liberty. And, in their day, they were successful. Tocqueville, eminent French jurist, traveled America and in his 1830's work, DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA, wrote:

            '".. every citizen...is taught...the doctrines and the evidences of his religion, the history of his country, and the leading features of its Constitution....it is extremely rare to find a man imperfectly acquainted with all these things, and a person wholly ignorant of them is a sort of phenomenon."

            "On the frontier, he noted that "...no sort of comparison can be drawn between the pioneer and the dwelling that shelters him.... He wears the dress and speaks the language of the cities; he is acquainted with the past, curious about the future, and ready for argument about the present.... I do not think that so much intellectual activity exists in the most enlightened and populous districts of France" He continued, "It cannot be doubted that in the United States the instruction of the people powerfully contributes to the support of the democratic republic; and such must always be the case...where the instruction which enlightens the understanding is not separated from the moral education...."

            "Possessing a clear understanding of the failure of previous civilizations to achieve and sustain freedom for individuals, our forefathers discovered some timeless truths about human nature, the struggle for individual liberty, the human tendency toward abuse of power, and the means for curbing that tendency through Constitutional self-government. Jefferson's Bill For The More General Diffusion of Knowledge for Virginia declared:

            “‘.. experience hath strewn, that even under the best forms (of government), those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny; and it is believed that the most effectual means of preventing this would be, to illuminate ...the minds of the people...to give them knowledge of those facts, which history exhibiteth. History, by apprizing them of the past, will enable them to judge of the future...it will qualify them as judges of the actions and designs of men; it will enable them to know ambition under every disguise it may assume; and knowing it, to defeat its views...."

            "Education was not perceived by the Founders to be a mere process for teaching basic skills. It was much, much more. Education included the very process by which the people of America would understand and be able to preserve their liberty and secure their Creator’s endowed rights. Understanding the nature and origin of their rights and the means of preserving them, the people would be capable of self-government, for they would recognize any threats to liberty and "nip the shoots of arbitrary power in the bud" (Adams)"--David Stedman, Editor, Our Ageless Constitution, Asheboro, North Carolina, 1987, p. 31.

 

Promoting the Freedom, Sovereignty, & Independence of America