The Founders & Our Future

In his foreword to The Revolutionary Writings of John Adams, Bradley Thompson wrote, “If Samuel Adams and Patrick Henry represent the spirit of the independence movement, John Adams exemplifies the mind of the American Revolution.” He goes on to say:

“A great many books have been published in this century on the causes of the American Revolution. The important question that most attempt to address is why the colonists acted as they did. What drove this remarkably free and prosperous people to react so passionately and violently to the seemingly benign if not well-intended actions of English imperial officials? One obvious place to look for answers to these questions is in the major speeches and pamphlets of the Revolutionary era. But abstruse arguments derived from natural and constitutional law are no longer thought to have determined the outcome of the Revolution one way or the other. John Adams thought otherwise. During his retirement years, he was fond of saying that the War for Independence was a consequence of the American Revolution. The real revolution, he declared, had taken place in the minds and hearts of the colonists in the fifteen years prior to 1776. According to Adams, the American Revolution was first and foremost an intellectual revolution.

On February 8, 2012 Robert Reilly said this about the fatal tendency to see Washington as a management problem:

“The Great Communicator Ronald Reagan, who spoke mostly in moral terms, was the magnificent exception. He understood that Washington is not a management problem; it is a political problem. Everything the government does is necessarily political, because governments decide not only who gets what, but why. These choices define a candidate’s politics, but they must be conceived and expressed in terms of moral priorities.

Political language is inherently moral, not managerial. It must convey visions, not just plans. It must explain why some things are good and others bad. Instincts are never enough. You need to have thought about politics in the philosophical sense to know what is going on….

“If you cannot articulate the cause for which you are fighting in moral terms, you will lose.”


The political arena is in the ring of ideas and vision. Principles always form the basis for policies. Morally right principles always lead to the most beneficial results. In his Thoughts on Government, in April 1776 John Adams wrote:

“The foundation of every government is some principle or passion in the minds of the people. The noblest principles and most generous affections in our nature then, have the fairest chance to support the noblest and most generous models of government.”

Because we as a nation have refused to admit our country has a crisis of character and faith in God in which all of our other crises are rooted, we have taken to viewing political solutions in terms of self-interest and pragmatism. Thomas Sowell wrote, “. . . someone once said that it is amazing how long the rotten can hold together, if you don’t handle it roughly.” Policies based on principles of self-indulgence are rotten to the core. They held together this year—barely, I think—because they were not confronted with the rigorous challenge of a clear explanation as to why they are wrong and bad for each of us and the nation at large. Now those policies will be met with the rough handling of the consequences that eventually and inevitably come of them, and the façade that self-indulgence is beneficial will be stripped away.

For Christians our allegiance is first to our Lord, and confessing Him before men will ensure that our nation will not be without light for the days ahead. We must gain and keep the understanding, the will, and the words to meet the challenge of explaining that the fruit of each individual and of a nation always matches the tree. Our nation is not a theocracy, but it is an historical fact that the vast majority of the Founders were Christians, and those who were not, did live in the context of a society with a Christian understanding of the nature of man and of right and wrong. They understood the intrinsic grasping for power within each of us, and that the principles of government they advocated would only stand according to the character of our citizenry.

Aftershock Analyses

We have been awash with pundits and bloggers giving us their opinion as to what happened during last Tuesday’s election earthquake and why. Some have been a rush to judgment, but others have offered helpful analysis on what happened and on the way forward. Here are links to a few that I think are worth reading:

A Proverbs 29:2b Culture by Fred Butler, director and coordinator of the volunteer ministries at Grace to You.

Post-election 2012 Debriefing by Dan Phillips, pastor and author.

And a pair of posts by J. E. Dyer, a retired US Naval intelligence officer:

2012 election: Time-out from history definitively over

2012 Election: After a bad outcome, a downpayment on hope

Nothing bad that America has gone through has lacked a precedent in history. People keep doing the same old things, no matter what we call them or how many times they end in sorrow. History never did end; history’s father is the human heart. . . .

We must learn from the past, because each one of us, when he is born, is the finger of the past pointed at the world we happen to be alive in. We are no better today, and no worse, than our most distant ancestors were. We behave with exactly the same motivations and fears, aspirations and evil. History was there all along, and it has settled on us with a vengeance.

I’ve seen a cartoon making the rounds with a caption that reads, “Those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it. Yet those who do study history are doomed to stand by helplessly while everyone else repeats it.” That’s only too true! But history is something we live in, and something that we create ourselves day by day. Last week was a part of history, and we need to understand its causes and consequences. Not so we can stand by helplessly, but so we can better grasp what those warning signals are saying and get a few others to understand it as well!

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Image from The Federalist Papers on Facebook.