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Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Public Virtue

David French at The Dispatch:
Now let’s move to the two sentences from Adams—two sentences that help explain our broken nation and our broken politics. We’ve weathered many of the challenges that Jefferson worried about, including the threat of tyranny. And now we’re facing the crisis that concerned Adams.

Writing eleven years after the ratification of the Constitution, Adams wrote to the officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia of Massachusetts to outline the responsibilities of the citizens of the new republic. The letter contains the famous declaration that “our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” But I’m more interested in the two preceding sentences:
Because We have no Government armed with Power capable of contending with human Passions unbridled by morality and Religion. Avarice, Ambition, Revenge or Galantry, would break the strongest Cords of our Constitution as a Whale goes through a Net.
Put in plain English, this means that when public virtue fails, our constitutional government does not possess the power to preserve itself. Thus, the American experiment depends upon both the government upholding its obligation to preserve liberty and the American people upholding theirs to exercise that liberty towards virtuous purposes.