Influences On the Constitution via The Judeo-Christian Worldview

(This was originally posted June of 2016) This is a good small introduction of the influences from the Judeo-Christian faith on the Founding Documents and ethos of our Nation. (Another good read is my letter comparing Locke to Rousseau)

(Video Description) What did the Founding Fathers believe about religion? Were they Christians, or just deists? Did they believe in secularism, or did they want Americans to be religious? Joshua Charles, New York Times bestselling author and researcher at the Museum of the Bible, explains.

  • we have no government, armed with power, capable of contending with human passions, unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge and licentiousness would break the strongest cords of our Constitution, as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

John Adams, first (1789–1797) Vice President of the United States, and the second (1797–1801) President of the United States. Letter to the Officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia of Massachusetts, 11 October 1798, in Revolutionary Services and Civil Life of General William Hull (New York, 1848), pp 265-6.

And this great quote and commentary:

And Montesquieu got even more specific when he broke down which Christian religions he believed were better fit for certain governments:

When a religion is introduced and fixed in a state, it is commonly such as is most suitable to the plan of government there established; for those who receive it, and those who are the cause of its being received, have scarcely any other idea of policy than that of the state in which they were born.

When the Christian religion, two centuries ago, became unhappily divided into Catholic and Protestant, the people of the north embraced the Protestant, and those of the south adhered still to the Catholic. The reason is plain: the people of the north have, and will for ever have, a spirit of liberty and independence, which the people of the south have not; and therefore a religion which has no visible head is more agreeable to the independence of the climate than that which has one. In the countries themselves where the Protestant religion became established, the revolutions were made pursuant to the several plans of political government. Luther having great princes on his side would never have been able to make them relish an ecclesiastical authority that had no exterior pre-eminence; while Calvin, having to do with people who lived under republican governments, or with obscure citizens in monarchies, might very well avoid establishing dignities and preferments.

In other words, the Catholic version of Christianity is best for monarchies, while Protestant/Calvin faiths are suited to republics…or so says Montesquieu.

(AMERICAN CREATION)

The below if an extended quote from a book that I highly recommend for the beginner if you are truly interested in this endeavor. A list of other resources can be found in my BIBLIOGRAPHY section of a paper for school. I will also include MLA and APA for helping the student to quote. from Joshua Charles book, LIBERTY’S SECRET. Enjoy:


  • John Eidsmoe, Christianity and the Constitution (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book, 1987), 54-61.
  • [APA] Eidsmoe, J. (1987). Christianity and the Constitution. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
  • [MLA] Eidsmoe, John. Christianity and the Constitution. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1987. Print.

[p.54>] Montesquieu

Charles Louis Joseph de Secondat, the Baron Montesquieu of France (1689-1755), was cited by the founders of this nation more frequently than any other source except the Bible. His best-known work, The Spirit of Laws, distinguished four forms of government: monarchy in which the guiding principle is honor, aristocracy in which the guiding principle is moderation, republican democracy in which the guiding principle is virtue, and despotism in which the guiding principle is fear. His main contribution to the thinking of the founders of this nation was the concept of separation of powers between legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government. This concept is so vital to the American constitutional system.

Because he lived in France and taught in French universities during the time of the philosophes, Montesquieu is sometimes identified as a deist. But he was born a Catholic, and remained a Catholic to his death. He did have some private questions concern­ing Catholic dogma. Stark suggests that Montesquieu moved closer and closer to Christian orthodoxy as he grew older, noting Montesquieu comment that the establishment of Christianity among the Romans would be an absurdity if it were merely a natural historical event.2 In any event, he received Communion shortly before he died, and he emphatically declared his belief that the elements were the true Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.3

Montesquieu believed all law has its source in God. As he says in the opening of The Spirit of Laws: “God is related to the universe, as Creator and Preserver; the laws by which He created all things are those by which He preserves them.”4 These laws apply to the physical world and human beings. Men make their own laws, but these laws must conform to the eternal laws of God.

Particular intelligent beings may have laws of their own making, but they likewise have some which they never made…. Before laws were made, there were relations of possible justice. To say that there is nothing just or unjust but what is commanded or forbidden by positive laws, is the same as saying that before the describing of a circle all the radii were not equal.5

[p.55>] Montesquieu believed man was basically evil and self-centered. His pessimism was due to the fact that he felt intelligent beings do not choose to follow God’s laws:

But the intelligent world is far from being so well governed as the physical. For though the former has also its laws, which of their own nature are invariable, it does not conform to them so exactly as the physical world. This is because, on the one hand, particular intelli­gent beings are of a finite nature, and consequently liable to error; and on the other, their nature requires them to be free agents. Hence they do not steadily conform to their primitive laws; and even those of their own instituting they frequently infringe….

Man, as a physical being, is like other bodies governed by invariable laws. As an intelligent being, he incessantly transgresses the laws established by God, and changes those of his own instituting. He is left to his private direction, though a limited being, and subject, like all finite intelligences, to ignorance and error: even his imperfect knowledge he loses; and as a sensible creature, he is hurried away by a thousand impetuous passions. Such a being might every instant forget his Creator; God has therefore reminded him of his duty by the laws of religion. Such a being is liable every moment to forget himself; philosophy has provided against this by the laws of morality. Formed to live in society, he might forget his fellow-creatures; legislators have, therefore, by political and civil laws, confined him to his duty.6

He compared Christianity to Islam and declared Christianity superior partly because of the better government it promotes, “a moderate Government is most agreeable to the Christian Religion, and a despotic Government to the Mahommedan”:

The Christian religion, which ordains that men should love each other, would, without doubt, have every nation blest with the best civil, the best political laws; because these, next to this religion, are the greatest good that men can give and receive….

The Christian religion is a stranger to mere despotic power. The mildness so frequently recommended in the gospel is incompatible with the despotic rage with which a prince punishes his subjects, and exercises himself in cruelty….

While the Mahommedan princes incessantly give or receive death, the religion of the Christians renders their princes less timid, and consequently less cruel. The prince confides in his subjects, and the subjects in the prince. How admirable the religion which, while it [p.56>] only seems to have in view the felicity of the other life, continues the happiness of this!7

In addition he explained that “the Catholic Religion is most agreeable to a Monarchy, and the Protestant to a Republic,” because “the people of the north have, and will forever have, a spirit of liberty and independence, which the people of the south have not; and, therefore, a religion which has no visible head is more agreeable to the independence of the climate than that which has one….” This was more true of Calvinist societies than Lutheran societies.8

In his writings, Montesquieu explained the role of religion in fostering values which find expression in civil laws. He pointed out that this is also true in non-Christian societies. He expressed the orthodox conviction that Christianity is a religion revealed by God himself. “In a country so unfortunate as to have a religion that God has not revealed, it is necessary for it to be agreeable to morality; because even a false religion is the best security we can have of the probity of men.“9 Thus, even a false religion can positively affect society if it fosters values which find expression in good laws.

While Montesquieu’s countrymen followed the way of the radical philosophes which ultimately led to destruction, the American founding fathers were receptive to his views. He recognized the value of religion, Christianity in particular, in fostering good laws and good government. Knowing the sinful nature of man, he advocated separation of powers by which power checks power. That was Montesquieu’s main contribution to the thinking of the founders of this nation: the separation of powers between the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government.

Blackstone

Noted for literary quality and readability as well as for legal and historical scholarship, Sir William Blackstone’s famous Commen­taries on the Laws of England are rated as the most famous treatise on common law.

Blackstone (1723-1780) was an English barrister whose talents and inclinations were more suited to teaching law than to practicing law. Harvard Law Professor Duncan Kennedy describes Black- [p.57>] stone’s Commentaries as “an important 18th-century treatise that all legal scholars have heard of but practically no one knows anything about.”10 One reason may be that Blackstone’s God-centered view of law is out of fashion in today’s legal community.

Throughout the latter half of the 1700s and the first half of the 1800s Blackstone’s popularity in America was uneclipsed. It is said that more copies of Blackstone’s Commentaries were sold in America than in England, that his Commentaries were in the offices of every lawyer in the land, that candidates for the bar were routinely examined on Blackstone, that he was cited authoritatively in the courts, and that a quotation from Blackstone settled many a legal argument.11

The founders of the nation read Blackstone with great interest. At least one delegate to the Constitutional Convention, Charles Cotes-worth Pinckney of South Carolina, had been Blackstone’s student at Oxford and was Blackstone’s firm disciple. James Madison wrote in 1821, “I very cheerfully express my approbation of the proposed edition of Blackstone’s Commentaries…12

The founding fathers drew three major points from Blackstone. The first was his conviction that all law has its source in God. Blackstone wrote about various categories of law, one of which is the law of nature:

Law of Nature. This will of his Maker is called the law of nature. For as God, when He created matter, and endued it with a principle of mobility, established certain rules for the perpetual direction of that motion; so, when He created man, and endued him with free will to conduct himself in all parts of life, He laid down certain immutable laws of human nature, whereby that free will is in some degree regulated and restrained, and gave him also the faculty of reason to discover the purport of those laws.

Considering the Creator only a Being of infinite power, He was able unquestionably to have prescribed whatever laws He pleased to His creature, man, however unjust or severe. But as he is also a Being of infinite wisdom, He has laid down only such laws as were founded in those relations of justice, that existed in the nature of things antecedent to any positive precept. These are the eternal, immutable laws of good and evil, to which the Creator Himself in all his [p.58>] Dispensations conforms; and which He has enabled human reason to discover, so far as they are necessary for the conduct of human actions. Such, among others, are these principles: that we should live honestly, should hurt nobody, and should render to everyone his due; to which three general precepts Justinian has reduced the whole doctrine of law….

This law of nature, being coeval with mankind and dictated by God Himself, is of course superior in obligation to any other. It is binding over all the globe in all countries, and at all times: no human laws are of any validity, if contrary to this…

Blackstone then described revealed law, the law of God as found in the Bible.

Revealed Law. This has given manifold occasion for the interpo­sition of divine providence; which in compassion to the frailty, the imperfection, and the blindness of human reason, hath been pleased, at sundry times and in divers manners, to discover and enforce its laws by an immediate and direct revelation. The doctrines thus delivered we call the revealed or divine law, and they are to be found only in the Holy Scriptures. These precepts, when revealed, are found upon comparison to be really a part of the original law of nature as they tend in all their consequences to man’s felicity. But we are not from thence to conclude that the knowledge of these truths was attainable by reason, in its present corrupted state; since we find that, until they were revealed, they were hid from the wisdom of the ages. As then the moral precepts of this law are indeed of the same original with those of the law of nature, so their intrinsic obligation is of equal strength and perpetuity. Yet undoubtedly the revealed law is of infinitely more authenticity than that moral system, which is framed by ethical writers, and denominated the natural law. Because one is the law of nature, expressly declared so to be by God Himself; the other is only what, by the assistance of human reason, we imagine to be that law. If we could be as certain of the latter as we are of the former, both would have an equal authority; but, till then, they can never be put in any competition together.

Upon these two foundations, the law of nature and the law of revelation, depend all human laws; that is to say, no human law should be suffered to contradict these.13

For the founding fathers, a second significant point in Black-stone’s writings was the role of judges. In Blackstone’s view, judges discover and apply law; they do not “make” law. This closely [p.59>] follows from Blackstone’s underlying view of law as part of the revealed law of God or the law of nature. Judges were not a source of law. There are only three sources of law—general custom, the court precedents which present-day judges are not free to alter; special custom, rights of private parties that had ripened into rights by prescription; and statute law, that which was passed by Parlia­ment. In respect to the latter, the role of the judge is to interpret the will of the legislature, not to substitute his own ideas in their place.14 Blackstone, like Montesquieu, saw three branches of government, but envisioned the legislative as superior to the judiciary.

A third significant point in Blackstone’s Commentaries was his expert systematizing of the common law of England. While this systematizing was needed in England, it was even more necessary in America because America was a new nation that did not have England’s long traditions.

The common law of England is generally founded on biblical principles. The Anglo-Saxon Alfred the Great, for example, started his legal code with a recitation of the Ten Commandments and excerpts from the Mosaic law. There were additions to the Anglo-Saxon law. In the eleventh century Henricus Bracton systematized the common law according to Roman law as revised by the Justinian Code. The result was a Christianized version of the Roman law.

The Jewish interpretation of the Old Testament influenced the commercial law of England and the rest of Europe. Throughout much of the Middle Ages the church prohibited money-lending at interest, based on the interpretation of certain passages of Scrip­ture. The Jews interpreted these Scriptures differently and were willing to lend money at interest. Often the only place one could borrow money was in the Jewish community. Jewish scholars such as Rabbi Moses Ben Maimon (Maimondes) codified the Jewish law and it formed the basis for much of English commercial law.

The canon law of the church and the emphasis on individual rights found in the Viking [p.60>] law from portions of England controlled by Norwegians and Danes also influenced English common law.15 The noblemen who forced King John to sign the Magna Carta in A.D. 1215 came mostly from areas which had been under Viking control. While the Vikings were not Christians until about A.D. 1000, their emphasis on individual rights was consistent with biblical principles.

Although for a time it was popular to belittle Blackstone and his beliefs,16 his views are becoming increasingly valued by legal scholars. One of Blackstone’s former students, Jeremy Bentham, charged that Blackstone was an arch-conservative and an “enemy of reformation.” But, fortunately, Bentham never gained the fol­lowing in America that he had in England.

The 1986 edition of Encyclopedia Britannica puts it well: “Blackstone’s description of the law as it existed was accurate and comprehensive, and was of great use to those who wished to reform it.”17 The author adds that it is “amusing” (the 1911 edition changes this word to “curious”) that even today Blackstone’s Commentaries “probably express the most profound political con­victions of the majority of the English people.”

The common law of England is part of the Christian heritage of America. That so much of it survived the migration to America is due in large part to Sir William Blackstone.

Locke

John Locke (1632-1704) was the British philosopher and political theorist who inspired a generation of Americans to thoughts of independence and the rights of man. His best-known works are his “Essay Concerning Human Understanding” and his two treatises “On Civil Government.”

John Locke was born into a Puritan family, the son of a rural Calvinist lawyer who fought on the side of the Puritans in the English civil war. He was educated at Calvinist institutions and emerged with a Calvinistic world view although he was a bit more moderate than some Calvinists.

Locke, sometimes identified as a deist and freethinker, was actually a staunch and fervent Christian. He placed a higher value [p.61>] on human reason than most orthodox Christians; but he used his powers of reason to arrive at Christian truths. According to his understanding of original sin, children are born neither good nor bad, but rather with a “tabula rosa” or “blank slate” upon which good or bad can be written during life. He wrote a treatise titled “The Reasonableness of Christianity,” in which he attempted to prove the truth of Christianity. Locke believed that if he showed people how logical and reasonable Christianity was, everyone would accept it. He did not realize that most objections to Christianity come from the heart and not the mind.

He was a pious man,18 and always held a high view of Scripture. Locke studied the Bible extensively and wrote paraphrases of St. Paul’s Epistles to the Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, and Ephesians, as well as “An Essay for the Understanding of St. Paul’s Epistles, by consulting St. Paul himself.” These were published after his death. He derived his view of Scripture largely from Richard Hooker’s “On the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity.” Hooker, an Anglican theologian, took a middle-ground position between the Catholics who placed church tradition on a par with Scripture, and the Puritans who stood for Scripture alone. Hooker argued that where the Scripture is clear, Scripture alone must govern. Where Scripture is unclear, church tradition may be employed to help interpret it; and where both Scripture and church tradition are unclear, or where new circumstances arise, reason may also be employed to apprehend God’s truth.19

Locke frequently cited the Bible in his political writings. In his first treatise on government he cited the Bible eighty times. Forty-two of these citations are from Genesis, mostly chapters 1 and 3. Twenty-two biblical citations appear in his second treatise in which he argued that parents have authority over their children based upon the creation of Adam and Eve and their offspring. He also argued that man has the right to possess property since God gave the earth to Adam and later to Noah. He based the social compact which government is established upon “that Paction which God made with Noah after the Deluge. “(4)20 His basic doctrines of parental authority, private property, and social compact were based on the historical existence of Adam and Noah.

John Locke made two major contributions to the thinking of America’s founding fathers. The first was his doctrine of natural law [p.62>] and natural rights which the founding fathers were acquainted with from other sources but found most clearly expressed in Locke’s writings. He based both of these concepts on Scripture:

Human Laws are measures in respect of Men whose Actions they must direct, albeit such measures they are as have also their higher Rules to be measured by, which Rules are two, the Law of God, and the Law of Nature; so that Laws Human must be made according to the general Laws of Nature, and without contradiction to any positive Law of Scripture, otherwise they are ill made.21

Locke identified the basic natural rights of man as “life, liberty, and property.” This phrase is part of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution as well as the Declaration of Independence, where Jefferson expanded “property” to “pursuit of happiness.”

Second, Locke contributed the theory of social compact: the idea that men in a state of nature realize their rights are insecure, and compact together to establish a government and cede to that government certain power so that government may use that power to secure the rest of their rights. The social compact theory is similar to the Calvinist idea of covenant. The social compact theory, like the covenant, allows the government only the power God and/or people delegate. This is the cornerstone of limited government. It finds expression in the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution and in the Declaration of Independence which states that governments exist to secure human rights and “derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.”


References


2) Werner Stark, Montesquieu, Pioneer of the Sociology of Knowledge (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1961), pp. 14-16.

3) Robert Shackleton, Montesquieu: A Critical Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1961), pp. 395-96.

4) Montesquieu, The Spirit of Laws (New York: Hafner, 1949, 1962), 1:1.

5) Ibid., 1:2.

6) Ibid., 1:2-3.

7) Ibid., 24:27-29.

8) Ibid., 26:30-31.

9) Ibid., 24:32.

10) Duncan Kennedy, “The Structure of Blackstone’s Commentaries,” Buffalo Law Review (1979), 28:203-375, 209.

11) Lutz, “Relative Influence of European Writers,” pp. 195-96.

12) Madison, quoted by Verna M. Hall, The Christian History of the Constitution of the United States of America: Christian Self-Government with Union (San Francisco: Founda­tion for American Christian Education, 1962, 1979), p. 130A.

13) Sir William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England, quoted by Hall, Christian History of the Constitution, pp. 140-46.

14) Kennedy, “Structure of Blackstone’s Commentaries,” p. 250.

15) Thamar E. Dufwa, The Viking Laws and the Magna Carta: A Study of the Northmen’s Cultural Influence on England and France (New York: Exposition Press, 1963), pp. 32-92. For a general discussion and detailed documentation of the Christian and Jewish influence on the development of English common law, see John Eidsmoe, The Christian Legal Advisor (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984, 1987), pp. 26-29.

16) “[Blackstone] had only the vaguest possible grasp on the elementary conceptions of law. He evidently regards the law of gravitation, the law of nations, and the law of England, as different examples of the same principle—as rules of action or conduct imposed by a superior power on its subjects. He propounds in terms a fallacy which is perhaps not quite yet expelled from courts of law, viz., that municipal or positive laws derive their validity from their conformity to the so-called law of nature or law of God. ‘No human laws,’ he says, ‘are of any validity or contrary to this”’ (Encyclopedia Britannica, 1896, s.v. “Blackstone, Sir William”; cf. 1911 ed.).

17) Encyclopedia Britannica: Micropedia, 1986, s.v. “Blackstone, Sir William.”

18) Encyclopedia Britannica: Macropaedia: Knowledge in Depth, 1986, s.v. “Locke.”

19) Encyclopedia Britannica: Micropedia, 1986, s.v. “Hooker, Richard.”

20) John Locke, Of Civil Government, Book Two, II:11, 111:56; V:25, 55; XVIII:200.

21) Locke, ibid., XI:136n.

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Locke vs Rousseau (PragerU Update)

Most of us learned the key ideas of the Declaration of Independence in school: that “all men are created equal,” “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,” that government’s job is “to secure these rights.” This was a radical departure from the way things had always been. Where did these revolutionary ideas come from? Ben Shapiro explains in this illuminating video.

INTRO

When I read the title of this FEDERALIST article, it made me think back to an introduction letter to a co-worker who had left to go to San Francisco State University. The title is, “Seattle Anarchists Holding Capitol Hostage Demand Complete Return To State Of Nature.” You see, years ago I worked as the Special Order Clerk at Borders Books and Music. If there were harder to find books, I was the man to track them down for the customer. (This was around 1999 to 2001’ish.)

I had a co-worker that leaned Left and we set up a correspondence to exchange ideas about the roots or differences of Left and Right philosophies in the political parties. When I mentioned, for instance Rousseau being in a sense the philosophical founder for Western Leftism, he disagreed, but agreed that this should be our first subject. And Rousseau thought man should return to a state of nature, which is why thee FEDERALIST article rang a bell with me. At any rate, my co-worker…

…went away to school.

I mailed him the intro topic.

Never heard a peep.

I always wondered what happen to that [then] kid. Was the letter too long? Was he already partying and not caring a wit about the topic? Was his mailing address changed? Did he die? Whatever the case was, this was the first and only interaction I had with him when he left for college. So I figured I would put the paper here as an ode to the headline above and to save publicly some of my mediocre writing.

Enjoy. BTW, this section allows you to JUMP to a section or appendix of your choice. Just hit the back arrow on your browser to return.

Rousseau’s Philosophy Of “Nothing”
In Retrospect To Locke’s Philosophy
Of “Ordered Statesmanship.”

SECTION ONE — deals with Rousseau and his social contract.

SECTION TWO — touches on the topic of Locke’s work, second treatise of civil government and more.

CONCLUSION— I will reference the self refuting nature of Rousseau’s philosophy when put into a logical framework, it is un-workable!

APPENDIX A — discusses what was meant by the “general will” in Rousseau’s work and what Locke was referring to when mentioning “natural law.”

APPENDIX B — is a “investigation” into who Rousseau was, the inner man.

APPENDIX C — uses two examples of social compacts years before Lockean principles were formed.

APPENDIX D — is the journey of a French statesman hired by his government to find the key to the American Revolution.

BIBLIOGRAPHY


LOCKE vs. ROUSSEAU


SECTION ONE

“I have received your new book against the human race, and I thank you for it. Never was such cleverness used in the design of making us all stupid. One longs, in reading your book, to walk on all fours. But as I have lost that habit more than sixty years ago, I feel unhappily the impossibility of resuming it.” — Voltaire on Rousseau’s Social Contract

“Everything I have said and done in these last years is relativism by intuition…. If relativism signifies contempt for fixed categories and men who claim to be bearers of an objective, immortal truth then there is nothing more relativistic than fascistic attitudes and activity…. From the fact that all ideologies are of equal value, that all ideologies are mere fictions, the modern relativist infers that everybody has the right to create for himself his own ideology and to attempt to enforce it with all the energy of which he is capable.” — Mussolini

“The most horrid and cruel blow that can be offered to civil society is through atheism,” — Edmund Burke, British Statesman


According to Locke, people are better off in the properly constituted state than they are or were in the “state of nature.” Quite a different point of view was expressed by Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1721-1778). In the state of nature, in which there was neither state nor civilization, people were essentially innocent, good, happy, and healthy, maintained Rousseau in his Discourse on the Origin and Foundation of the Inequality among Men (1754). Further, in the state of nature, he said, people enjoyed perfect freedom. But with the advent of private property, this all changed. “The first man who, having enclosed a piece of ground, bethought himself of saying ‘This is mine,’ and found people simple enough to believe him, was the real founder of civil society,” which brought with it the destruction of natural liberty and which, “for the advantage of a few ambitious individuals, subjected all mankind to perpetual labor, slavery and wretchedness.”

To put this in some sort of perspective, Rousseau wrote this indictment of civilization in 1754. This was fully sixty-seven years after Newton had published his Principia. It was two years after Benjamin Franklin, with key and kite, had proved that lightning is electricity. Thirty years earlier, Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit had devised his thermometer. Bach had been dead four years, and it had been twenty-three years since he had completed the Brandenburg Concertos, a masterpiece of mathematical reasoning expressed in music. This, in short, was the eighteenth century, the Enlightenment, the age of light, the Age of Reason. Civilization was stuffed with benefits. Philosophers were (as always) critical, but this critical? Civilization a step in retrograde?

But Rousseau later came to think that, in proper society, people would surrender their individual liberty for a different and more important collective liberty. Through a social compact a people may agree, in effect, to unite into a collective whole, called “the state” or “the sovereign,” and through the state sovereign enact laws reflective of the general will. An important point to be aware of here is that, for Rousseau, the state or sovereign is an entity in its own right, a “moral person” (as Rousseau says), a nonbiological organism that has its own life and its own will. Rousseau’s concept of the general will – that is, the will of a politically united people, the will of the state – is his most important contribution to political philosophy (see appendix A for a further discussion on the general will).

Plato viewed the state as a person or organic entity as well, a sort of organism. Alternatively, think of a football team, which can easily be regarded as something “over and beyond” the individual players that make it up, or a corporation, which the law regards as a person.

The general will, according to Rousseau, defines what is to common good, and thus determines what is right and wrong and should not be done. And the state or sovereign (i.e., the people as a collective agent) expresses this general will by passing laws. Further, the general will, the will of the people taken collectively, represents the true will of each person. Thus, insofar as the individuals actions coincide with the common will, he is acting as he really wants to act – and to act as you really want to act is to be free, said Rousseau. “Compelling (*by force?) a person to accept the general will by obeying the laws of the state is forcing him to be free,” Rousseau wrote in a famous passage. So we may lose individual or “natural” liberty when we unite to form a collective whole, but we gain this new type of “civil” liberty, “the freedom to obey a law which we prescribe for ourselves.” Thus, Rousseau wrote, “it is to law alone that men owe justice and [civil] liberty.”

The question arises, of course, just how do we know what the general will is? Rousseau’s answer: If we, the citizens, are enlightened and are not allowed to influence one another, then a majority determines what the general will is: “The general will is found by counting votes. When, therefore, the opinion which is contrary to my own prevails, this proves neither more nor less than that I was mistaken, and that what I thought to be the general will was not so.”

Rousseau, however, distinguishes between the “will of all” and “the general will.” On the former of the two, Rousseau wrote, “is indeed but a sum of private wills: but remove from these same wills the pluses and minuses that cancel each other, and then the general will remains as the sum of the differences.”

According to Rousseau, it makes no sense to think of either delegating or dividing the general will. Therefore, he calculated, in the state, there cannot validly be a division of powers (in contrast to what Locke thought), and, though we may commission some person or persons to administer or enforce the law, these individuals act only as our deputies, not as our representatives. Rousseau maintained that the citizens of the state have the right at any time to terminate the social contract (explained more in the conclusion). He also held that they have the right at any time to depose the officials of the state. The implication of the right of the citizenry to terminate the social contract at any time and of their to remove officials of the state at any time is that the citizenry have a right of revolution and a right to resume anarchy at any time. Thus Rousseau is thought to have provided a philosophical justification for anarchy and revolution.

Did Rousseau also unwittingly establish a philosophical basis for totalitarianism? Some think that is the case because he said that “the articles of the social contract [reduce] to this single point: the total alienation of each associate, and all his rights, to the whole community.” If the community is regarded not just as the sum total of its members but as an entity somehow over and above the individuals in it, an entity with its own life and will that can itself do no wrong and must always be obeyed, then Rousseau’s words do have an ominous ring and invoke concepts that are incorporated wholesale in the philosophy of fascism. – (Hitler’s claim that the Fuhrer instinctively knows the desires of the Volk and is therefore due absolute obedience is an appeal to the general will.)

Also ominous is what Rousseau wrote near the end of The Social Contract (1792): “If any one, after he has publicly subscribed to these dogmas [which dispose a person to love his duties and be a good citizen], shall conduct himself as if he did not believe them, he is to be punished by death.” (*ahh, …by force!)

[Editor’s Note: before heading into section two, years after this I read a book by the son of famous atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair, William J. Murray. In his book, Utopian Road to Hell: Enslaving America and the World with Central Planning (KINDLE), he discusses the origins of Communism in Plato and the Spartan’s. That was an interesting addition to this thinking. But here I am speaking to a more modern Leftism found in the West]

SECTION TWO

“I do not know whether all Americans have a sincere faith in their religion [Christianity] – for who can know the human heart? – but I am certain that they hold it to be indispensable for the maintenance of republican institutions. This opinion is not peculiar to a class or to a party, but it belongs to the whole rank of society.” America, Tocqueville added, is “the place where the Christian religion has kept the greatest power over men’s souls; And nothing better demonstrates how useful and natural it is to man, Since the country where it now has the widest sway is both the most Enlightened and the freest.” — Alex de Tocqueville, French Statesman.

“[A] true patriot must be a religious man[H]e who neglects his duty to his Maker, may well be expected to be deficient and insincere in his duty towards the public.” — Abigail Adams agreeing with John Witherspoon

we have no government, armed with power, capable of contending with human passions, unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge and licentiousness would break the strongest cords of our Constitution, as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” — John Adams, first (1789–1797) Vice President of the United States, and the second (1797–1801) President of the United States.


In this section on the musings of John Locke, I must confess that I have to break the mold in which I was told I must write this paper. Some of the reasons being that a proper understanding of the “law of nature” or “natural law” is foundational to Locke’s writings and political philosophy. So I turn our attention first towards the French Revolution and it’s Constitution, whose announced aim was to duplicate the American Revolution, which had been such an obvious success. In fact, Thomas Jefferson traveled to Paris in order to assist Lafayette and his associates to draft their own Declaration of Rights.

“Everyone here is trying their hands at forming a declaration of rights,” Jefferson wrote in a letter to Madison, and included in his correspondence several drafts. “As you will see,” Jefferson observed, “it contains the essential principles of ours accommodated as much as could be to the actual state of things here.” Article Four of the French Declaration of the Rights of Man, drafted in August of 1789, for example, states that “liberty consists in the ability to do whatever does not harm another.” France’s Declaration abolished slavery, titles of nobility, and the remnants of feudalism and serfdom. In many respects, the French Declaration appeared superior to Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence. But whereas the American Revolution ended in the establishment of a constitutional democracy, a government under law, the French Revolution ended in tyranny and government by the guillotine, followed by the rise of Napoleon.

~ The obvious question is what went wrong in France? ~

The French Declaration did not acknowledge that the source of man’s rights is man’s “Creator,” as Jefferson had affirmed in America’s Declaration of Independence. The French Declaration did not even mention that rights are inherent, inalienable, or derived from any transcendent authority. This is why in China today the communist government persecutes the followers of the Christian faith. Not because communism is atheistic in it’s philosophy, but because Christians believe that earthly kings are answerable to the “King of the Earth.” A transcendent right giver, so to speak. Rights, for the Frenchman, were granted by an enlightened government. George Washington inadvertently commented on such an enlightened government: “[L]et us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be concede to the influence of refined education on minds… reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”

Locke’s two Treatise of Civil Government contained 102 Biblical citations. Locke even began his argument with the proposition that God intended man to own private property, and referred the reader to Genesis: “God gave the world to Adam and his posterity in common,” He then went on cite Paul’s first letter Timothy: “God… richly supplies us all things….” But, Locke added hastily, this was by no means a prescription for socialism, as man also possesses property in the form of his own exertions. Thus, any individual who takes what God has provided equally to all and tailors it to his purposes becomes sole owner of that property. A farmer, for example, who builds a fence and cultivates the land for the production of food, becomes the legitimate owner of the land.

According to Locke’s view: “God, when He gave the World in common to all mankind, commanded man also to labor… God in His reason commanded him to subdue the earth, subdue it for the benefit of life, and therein lay out something upon it that was his own, his labor. He that in obedience to this command of God subdued, tilled and sowed any part of it, thereby annexed to it something that was his property, which another had no title to, and could not without injury take it from him.” Moreover, “thou shalt not steal” and “thou shalt not covet” are commandments (unchanging moral law that is Locke’s [God’s] general will) of God designed to protect private property, which includes labor and the fruits thereof.

Another vast difference between Rousseaulean doctrine and that of Locke’s is Original Sin. From his reading of Genesis, Locke noted that man at one time existed outside the bounds of civil government, was in a “state of nature” and completely free. But once sin entered into the world through Adam’s indiscretion, the safety of men and their property became tenuous. Man’s fallen state required that he give up some of his freedom and prudently subject himself to civil government, without which his ability to enjoy the fruits of his labor and defend his rights “is very uncertain and constantly exposed to invasion of others.”

Locke adds, “For all men being kings such as he, every man his equal and the greater part no strict observers of equity and justice, the enjoyment of the property he has in this state [of nature] is very unsafe, very insecure. This makes him willing to quite this condition, which however free, is full of fears and continual dangers.”

Frail and defenseless individuals, in Locke’s view, were forced by the brutish circumstances (i.e., original sin = man inherently evil; no original sin = man inherently good) of existence (which man creates) to band together for their own mutual protection to form civil societies, entrusting to some sovereign agent the power to wield the sword against bandits and foreign invaders. But Locke, wanting to confine the duties of government to a narrow compass, was quick to add that the power of government is by no means absolute; the people had entered into a mutual and binding trust with each other and had established a regime with precisely defined obligations. If this trust or “compact” – precisely defined obligations – is at any time broken, the people have the right to withdraw their allegiance… even to rebel and depose their ruler, an astonishing notion to those who believe the monarch’s authority flowed from divine right.

To the question: Who shall judge the king? Locke replied,

“The people shall be the judge,” though in the end, said Locke, “God in Heaven is Judge. He alone, ‘tis true, is Judge of the right. But every man is judge for himself… whether he should appeal to the Supreme Judge, as Jephthah did” and wage war (Judges 11:27-33). “I will not dispute now whether princes are exempt from the laws of their country,” wrote Locke, “but this I am sure, they owe subjection to the laws of God,” and added: “No body, no power, can exempt them from the obligations of that Eternal Law [caps in the original]Whatever some flatterers say to princes of the world, who all together, with their people joined to them, are, in comparison to the Great God, but a drop of a bucket, or a dust on the balance, inconsiderable, nothing” (Isaiah 40:15).

Locke’s argument for disobeying a king was actually a conservative one. While Royalists believed rejection of the monarch’s authority was the same as disobeying God. Locke thought little harm would come from acknowledging the people’s prerogative to exercise their ultimate right to reject the civil authority, because “people are not so easily got out of old forms as some are apt to suggest.” “Great mistakes,” said Locke, “will be born by people without mutiny or murmur” (see conclusion). Only “a long train of abuses, prevarications and artifices, all tending the same way,” that is towards subverting the people’s God-given liberties, could make people “rouse themselves.”

Locke was merely applying Protestant religious principles to the world of politics (see appendix C). If the individual has the authority to interpret Scripture for himself, without a human agent acting as intermediary, isn’t it also up to the individual to determine his own relationship to the government and indeed to the rest of society? Under extreme circumstances, thought Locke, the conscience of the individual, informed by scripture, and right reason, can supersede the government and even the collective judgment of the group because society is a voluntary union, from which anyone can exit if he so chooses. Unlike Rousseau who said, “Further, the general will, the will of the people taken collectively, represents the true will of each person. Thus, insofar as the individuals actions coincide with the common will, he is acting as he really wants to act – and to act as you really want to act is to be free.” Neither are you free to exit at any time according to Rousseaulean philosophy: “If any one, after he has publicly subscribed to these dogmas [which dispose a person to love his duties and be a good citizen], shall conduct himself as if he did not believe them, he is to be punished by death.”

CONCLUSION

Society As the “Whole”

(Excerpted from the book, Relativism: Feet Planted Firmly In Mid-Air)

If Society, the will of all or the will of the majority [society says], is the final measure of morality, then all its judgements are moral by definition. Such a concept is an oxymoron – a contradiction in terms. An attorney once called a radio talk show with a challenge. “When are you going to accept the fact that abortion is the law of the land?” she asked. “You may not like it, but it’s the law.” Her point was simple. The Supreme Court has spoken, so there is nothing left to discuss. Since there is no higher law, there are no further grounds for rebuttal. This lawyer’s tacit acceptance of conventionalism suffers because it confuses what is right with what is legal.

When reflecting on any law, it seems sensible to ask, “it’s legal, but is it moral? It’s law , but is the law good; is it just?” There appears to be a difference between what a person has the liberty to do under the law and what a person should do. Conventionalism renders this distinction meaningless. There is no “majority of one” to take the higher moral ground. As Pojman puts it, “Truth is with the crowd and error with the individual” (much like Rousseau). This is tyranny of the majority.

When any human court is the highest authority, then morality is reduced to mere power – either power of the government or power of the majority. If the courts and laws define what is moral, then neither laws nor governments can ever be immoral, even in principle.

Another absurd consequence follows from the society says line of thought. This view makes it impossible to reform the morals of a society. There are actually two problems here; the first is called the reformer’s dilemma. Moral reformers typically judge society from the inside. They challenge their culture’s standard of behavior and then campaign for change. But when morality is defined by the present society’s standard, then challenging the standard would be an act of immorality. Social reformers would be made moral outcasts precisely because they oppose the status quo.

Corrie ten Boom and other “righteous gentiles” risked their own lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. William Wilberforce sought the abolition of slavery in the late eighteenth century in the United Kingdom. Martin Luther King Jr. fought for civil rights in the United States in the 50’s and 60’s. in Germany during World War II, Martin Niemoller and Dietrich Bonhoeffer challenged Christians to oppose Hitler.

We count these people as moral heroes precisely because they had the courage to fight for freedom. According to Society Says thought, however, they are the worst kind of moral criminals because they challenged the moral consensus of their own society. This view faces another difficulty with moral improvement of society. If society’s laws and cultural values are the ultimate standards of behavior, then the notion of moral improvement on a legal or cultural level is nonsense. A social code can never be improved; it can only be changed.

Think of what it means to improve something. Improvement means an increase in excellence by raising to a better quality or condition. How do we know if we have increased the quality of something? Only by noting that some change has brought it closer to an external standard of improvement. A bowler improves when she raises her average closer to 300, the perfect game. A baseball pitcher increases his skill by decreasing the number of batters he allows on base. If he strikes out every batter, he’s attained perfection. In either case, an outside standard is used as the measure of improvement.

To improve a society’s moral code means that the society changes its laws and values to more closely approximate an external moral ideal. If no such standard exists, if cultural values are the highest possible law, then there is no way for those standards to be better than what they are at any given moment. They can only be different. A society can abolish apartheid in favor of equality. It can adopt policies of habeas corpus protecting citizens against unjustified imprisonment; it can guarantee freedom of speech and the press. But according to this view, no one could ever claim that these are moral improvements but only that society changed its tastes. There is no moral ideal to emulate. Moral change is possible, but not moral improvement. Improvement means getting better, and there’s nothing better – in this view – than any society’s current assessment of morality. And moral reformers actually turn out to be unethical.

APPENDIX A

“By offering evolution in place of God as a cause of history, Darwin removed the theological basis of the moral code of Christendom. And the moral code that has no fear of God is very shaky. That’s the condition we are in.” — Will Durant, the preeminent historian and author of The Story of Civilization

Speaking of his native born Russia, “But if I were asked today to formulate as possible the main cause of the ruinous revolution that swallowed some 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: ‘Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.’“ — Nobel Prize winner, Alexander Solzhenitsyn

“I have been alternately called an aristocrat and a democrat. I am neither. I am a Christocrat…. I believe all power will always fail of producing order and happiness in the hands of man. He alone who created and redeemed man is qualified to govern him.” — Founding Father Benjamin Rush


A Critique of the “General Will”

Rousseau’s concept of the general will is essentially the same as such familiar concepts as the “sentiment of a nation” and the “aspirations of a people.” The idea is that a group of people may collectively or as a group desire or wish or want something, and that this collective desire, though it may coincide with the desires of the individuals in the group, is a metaphysically distinct entity.

Two questions about the general will, and all similar notion of a collective sentiment, are controversial to this day. First, what is it? Let’s suppose, for example, that every member of a group of people believes that the federal deficit should be reduced. We may say, then, that the federal deficit should be reduced. But can saying this possibly mean otherwise than simply that every individual in the group believes that it should be reduced? In this instance, that is, the general will seems no different from the wills of all individuals.

Let’s suppose now that 60 percent of the group believes that the deficit should be reduced. If we now say that the general will is that the federal deficit should be reduced, can we mean anything other than that 60 percent believes that way? In this instance, then, the general will seems no different from the individual wills of the 60 percent.

Suppose, finally, that 50 percent believes in raising taxes to reduce the federal deficit and 50 percent believes in cutting taxes to reduce the federal deficit. If we ignore the differences about how the deficit should be reduced (these, Rousseau might say, are “pluses and minuses that cancel each other”) and say that the general will is that the deficit should be reduced, do we mean anything other than what we did in the first instance, namely, that everyone believes that it should be reduced?

Thus, if the general will is supposedly something other than the will of all or the will of the majority – which clearly is Rousseau’s view because he envisions circumstances in which the majority will and the will of all may actually run counter to the general will – the question is: What is it?

And the second question is: Even granting that a group may have a general will that is distinct from the will of the majority, how is one to determine the specific propositions it endorses? Polls and elections disclose the will of all and the will of the majority; what discloses the general will? Through the will of all the general will could feasibly be changed since “the freedom to obey a law which we prescribe for ourselves.” Thus, Rousseau wrote, “it is to law alone that men owe justice and [civil] liberty.” Man is the end to a means, this general will then is subjected to his will as opposed to His Will!

This is why an unconstitutional democracy will never work. Founding Father Fisher Ames said, “A democracy is a volcano which conceals the fiery materials of its own destruction. These will produce an eruption, and carry desolation in their way,” (legally, I might add). Founding Father Benjamin Rush was equally pointed when he noted, “A simple democracy is the devil’s own government.” Founding Father and President John Adams stated that, “Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There has never been a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.”

So strongly did the Founders oppose democracy that when they created the Constitution, they included a provision to keep America from becoming a democracy. Article 4, Section 4 of the Constitution requires that “each State maintain a republican form of government” – a republican form as opposed to a democratic one. One of our most thoroughly educated Founding Fathers was Noah Webster, who illuminated us as to what a “republican form of government was,” keeping in mind that Webster was the author of Article 1, Section 8, of the Constitution:

“[O]ur citizens should early understand that the genuine source of correct republican principles is the Bible, particularly the New Testament, or the Christian religion.”

The Judeo-Christian moral standard will never change because the basis for it is Divine in nature. This is the general will that a properly constituted government can refer to in order to stay within the lane lines of freedom and liberty. This is something that Rousseau’s general will cannot, and will never be able to, accomplish!

APPENDIX B

“As a man thinkith in his heart, so he is” — Proverbs 23:7

“If the moral character of a people once degenerate, their political character must soon follow…. These considerations should lead to an attentive solicitude… to be religiously careful in our choice of all public officers… and judge of the tree by its fruit.” — Founding Father Elias Boudinot


As the quotes above give a clue as to what this appendix is, I would want to first say that a man can change, but Rousseau never showed that change that can so inspire men to renounce their past beliefs, like Abraham Maslow. So lets delve into the mind of Rousseau with a conglomeration of quotes by him from various sources. This is done in order that we may see who the real Rousseau is.

Rousseau actually enjoyed the lavish lifestyle and considerable success even in his lifetime. To the unprejudiced modern eye he does not seem to have had much to grumble about. Yet Rousseau was one of the greatest grumblers in the history of literature. He insisted that his life had been one of misery and persecution. He reiterates the complaint so often and in such harrowing terms, that one feels obligated to believe him. On one point he was adamant: he suffered from chronic ill health. He was “an unfortunate wretch worn out by illness… struggling every day of my life between pain and death.” He had “not been able to sleep for thirty years.”

“Nature,” he added, “which has shaped me for suffering, has given me a constitution proof against pain in order that, unable to exhaust my forces, it may always make itself felt with the same intensity.”

It is true that he always had trouble with his penis. In a letter to his friend Dr. Tronchin, written in 1755, he refers to “the malformation of an organ, with which I was born.” His biographer Lester Crocker, after careful diagnoses, writes: “I am convinced that Jean-Jacques was born a victim of hypospadias, a deformity of the penis in which the urethra opens somewhere on the ventral surface.” In adult life this became a stricture, necessitating painful use of a catheter, which aggravated the problem both psychologically and physically. He constantly felt the urge to urinate and this raised difficulties when he was living in high society: “I still shudder to think of myself, in a circle of women, compelled to wait until some fine talk had finished… When at last I find a well-lit staircase there are other ladies who delay me, then a courtyard full of constantly moving carriages ready to crush me, ladies’ maids who are looking at me, lackeys who line the walls and laugh at me. I do not find a single wall or wretched little corner that is suitable for my purpose. In short I can urinate only in full view of everybody and on some noble white-stockinged leg.”

The passage is self-pitying and suggests, along with much other evidence, that Rousseau’s health was not as bad as he makes out. At times, when it suites his argument, he points to his good health. His insomnia was partly fantasy, since various people testify to his snoring. David Hume, who was with him on the voyage to England, wrote, “He is one of the most robust men I have ever known. He passes ten hours in the night-time above deck in the most severe weather, where all the seamen were almost frozen to death, and he took no harm.”

Rousseau called himself the “unhappiest of mortals,” spoke of the “grim fate which dogs my footsteps,” claimed “few men have shed so many tears” and insisted: “my destiny is such that no one would dare describe it, and no one would believe it.” In fact he described it often and many did believe, that is until they learned more about his character. Even then some sympathy remained. Madame d’Epinay, a patroness whom he treated abominably, remarked, even after her eyes were opened: “I still feel moved by the simple and original way in which he recounted his misfortunes.” He was what armies call an Old Soldier, a practiced psychological con-man. One is not surprised to find that, as a young man, he wrote begging letters, one of which has survived. It was written to the Governor of Savoy and demands a pension on the grounds that he suffers from a dreadful disfiguring disease and will soon be dead.

But behind all this self-pity lay an overpowering egoism, a feeling that he was quite unlike other men, both in his sufferings and his qualities. He wrote: “What could your miseries have in common with mine? My situation is unique, unheard of since the beginning of time.…” Equally, “The person who can love me as I can love is still to be born.” “No one ever had more talent for loving.” “I was born to be the best friend that ever existed.” “I would leave this life with apprehension if I knew a better man than me.” “show me a better man than me, a heart more loving, more tender, more sensitive…” “Posterity will honor me… because it is my due.” “I rejoice in myself.” “…my consolation lies in my self-esteem.” “…if there were a single enlightened government in Europe, it would have erected statues of me.”

No wonder why Burke declared: “Vanity was the vice he possessed to a degree little short of madness.” It was part of Rousseau’s vanity that he believed himself incapable of base emotions. “I feel too superior to hate.” “I love myself too much to hate anybody.” “Never have I known the hateful passions, never did jealousy, wickedness, vengeance enter my heart… anger occasionally but I am never crafty and never bear a grudge.” In fact he frequently bore grudges and was crafty in pursuing them. Men noticed this. Rousseau was the first intellectual to proclaim himself, repeatedly, the friend of all mankind. But loving as he did humanity in general, he developed a strong propensity for quarreling with human beings in particular. One of his victims, his former friend Dr. Tronchin of Geneva, protested: “How is it possible that the friend of mankind is no longer the friend of men, or so scarcely so?”

In 1743 he was given what seemed to plush post of secretary to the French Ambassador in Venice, the Comte de Montaigu. This lasted eleven months and ended in his dismissal and flight to avoid arrest by the Venetian Senate. Montaigu stated (and his version is to be preferred to Rousseau’s own) that his secretary was doomed to poverty on account of his “vile disposition” and “unspeakable insolence,” the product of his “insanity” and “high opinion of himself.”

Rousseau was a madman impassioned only with his best interests in mind. Granted he did reapply some beliefs that had already existed, much like Locke, but the difference between the two men in lifestyle and philosophy shows, that in all, Locke was a man to be measured by his deeds and his words.

APPENDIX C

“Being a lover of freedom, when the [Nazi] revolution came, I looked to the universities to defend it, knowing that they had always boasted of their devotion to the cause of truth; but no, the universities were immediately silenced. Then I looked to the great editors of the newspapers, whose flaming editorials in days gone had proclaimed their love of freedom; but they, like the universities, were silenced in a few short weeks…” “Only the Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler’s campaign for suppressing the truth. I never had any special interest in the Church before, but now I feel a great affection and admiration for it because the Church alone has had the courage and persistence to stand for intellectual and moral freedom. I am forced to confess that what I once despised I now praise unreservedly.” — Albert Einstein


I wanted to quickly debunk the feeling that Locke and Rousseau were the originators of the social contract. Just a couple examples will suffice, but others throughout Christian history are available. The Mayflower Compact is a prime example of what a community with Godly principles and the welfare of all in mind can do.

“In the name of God, amen. We whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread Sovereign, Lord King James, by the grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, & c., having undertaken for the glory of our king and country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia; do by these presents, solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politick, for our better ordering and preservation, and furtherance of the ends aforesaid.”

This agreement was executed on November 11, 1620 – predating Locke’s Second Treatise by seven decades. It proved to be an accurate precursor of the Plymouth polity, which thereafter featured annual elections for governor, deputy governor, and legislature. As with the churches of that era, the pattern was repeated often in the experience of New England. Here, for example, are the words of the Fundamental Orders of Conneticut (1639), the colony established and led by Thomas Hooker:

well knowing where a people are gathered together the word of God requires that to maintain the peace and union of such people there should be an orderly and decent government established according to God, [we] do therefore associate and conjoin ourselves to be as one public state or commonwealth; and enter into combination and confederation together, to maintain and pursue the liberty and purity of the gospel of our Lord Jesus which we now profess

Appendix D

Alex de Tocqueville on the American Revolution

Alex de Tocqueville in the early 1800’s was commissioned to by the French government to travel throughout the United States in order to discover the secret of the astounding success of this experiment in democracy. The French were puzzled at the conditions of unparalleled freedom and social tranquility that prevailed in America. Previously, it was thought that where there was liberty, anarchy would inevitably follow because of the inability of the people to govern themselves. But in America people were free – and also well behaved. In fact, nowhere on earth was there so little social discord.

When the French jurist, Alexis de Tocqueville, visited the United States in 1831, he became so impressed with what he saw that he went home and wrote one of the best definitive studies on the American culture and Constitutional system that had been published up to that time. His book was called Democracy in America. Concerning religion in America, de Tocqueville said: “On my arrival in the United States the religious aspect of the country was the first thing that struck my attention; and the longer I stayed there, the more I perceived the great political consequences resulting from this new state of things” (emphasis added).

He described the situation as follows: “Religion in America takes no direct part in the government of society, but it must be regarded as the first of their political institutions … I do not know whether all Americans have a sincere faith in their religion – for who can search the human heart? – but I am certain that they hold it to be indispensable to the maintenance of republican institutions. This opinion is not peculiar to a class of citizens or to a party, but it belongs to the whole nation and to every rank of society.”

In Europe, it had been popular to teach that religion and liberty were enemies of each other. De Tocqueville saw the very opposite happening in America. He wrote: “The philosophers of the 18th century explained in a very simple manner the gradual decay of religious faith. Religious zeal, said they, must necessarily fail the more generally liberty is established and knowledge diffused. Unfortunately, the facts by no means accord with their theory. There are certain populations in Europe whose unbelief is only equaled by their ignorance and debasement; while in America, one of the freest and most enlightened nations in the world, the people fulfill with fervor all the outward duties of religion”….

The Greatest Influence [De Tocqueville] emphasized the fact that this religious undergirding of the political structure was a common denominator of moral teachings in different denominations and not the political pressure of some national church hierarchy. Said he: “The sects [different denominations] that exist in the United States are innumerable. They all differ in respect to the worship which is due to the Creator; but they all agree in respect to the duties which are due from man to man. Each sect adores the Deity in its own peculiar manner, but all sects preach the same moral law in the name of God…. All the sects of the United States are comprised within the great unity of Christianity, and Christian morality is everywhere the same … There is no country in the world where the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than in America.”

It was astonishing to de Tocqueville that liberty and religion could be combined in such a balanced structure of harmony and good order. He wrote: “The revolutionists of America are obliged to profess an ostensible respect for Christian morality and equity, which does not permit them to violate wantonly the laws that oppose their designs … Thus while the law permits the Americans to do what they please, religion prevents them from conceiving, and forbids them to commit, what is rash or unjust”….

In one of de Tocqueville’s most frequently quoted passages, he stated: “I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers, and it was not there; in her fertile fields and boundless prairies, and it was not there; in her rich mines and her vast world commerce, and it was not there. Not until I went to the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power.”

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  • The Oxford History of Western Philosophy, edited by Anthony Kenny.
  • The Concise Conservative Encyclopedia; 200 of the Most Important Ideas, Individuals, Incitements, &
    Institutions That Have Shaped the Movement, by Brad Miner.
  • The Character of Nations: How Politics Makes & Breaks Prosperity, Family & Civility, by Angelo M. Codevilla.

Are People Born Good? This View Animates Conservatism (PragerU)

This is one of two of the largest divides between the foundations of left/right philosophies.

(Video Description) In our universities, newspapers, and television shows, it is a given that external forces are the cause of crime. If not for poverty, murder and rape would be much lower. If not for racism, America’s inner cities would be far wealthier. So on and so on. At the core of this belief is that people are basically good, and it is society that makes them bad. This notion is simply not true. As Dennis Prager explains in this video, human nature is not basically good. It is not, though, basically bad. People are born more or less neutral. And it is incumbent upon parents, teachers, and yes, society, to turn children into good adults. It doesn’t happen on its own.

While Prager’s and my own theology differs a bit, ultimately the Judeo-Christian understanding of where we start is similar:

(4GospelTruth) ….We will examine several verses that prove that each and every human being born into this world has the same sinful nature, that we all inherited that sinful nature from Adam and Eve. We are also going to discover what it actually means to be a sinner and how God describes our sinfulness. This is VERY important because if we do not understand what God means when He tells us that we are sinners, we will not understand what God means when He tells us that we must repent of our sin.

Psalm 51:5 Behold, I was shapen in iniquity and in sin did my mother conceive me. These are the words of David, who was a man “after God’s own heart”–this means that he was pleasing to God. Yet, David tells us, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that he was shapen (formed in the womb) in iniquity–already IN sin, and that he was a sinner from the moment he was first conceived. Surely, his fallen condition could NOT be worse than our own. Surely it could not be any different from our own. The fact is, the fallen, human nature of David is the same fallen nature of EVERY other fallen human being. This verse tells us WHEN we, as sinners, inherit the sin nature. We see from this verse that we inherit the sin nature from the MOMENT we are first conceived. This means that we never have even a moment of innocence in this life. All of the innocence of man passed from the scene the moment man fell in the garden, and EVERY sinner born into the world subsequent to that fateful event, inherits a fallen, sinful nature, from the moment of his conception. This verse tells us WHEN we inherit the sin nature, and the following Bible verses tell us that all human beings DO inherit the sin nature: “For as by one man’s [Adam’s] disobedience, many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous (Romans 5:19). This verse tells us that Adam’s sin was passed on to us. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive (I Corinthians 15:22). This verse tells us that our spiritual death, our fallen state of sinfulness, is the RESULT of Adam’s sin. We became sinners THROUGH Adam. …

Read more on this topic at Gospel for Life.

This idea under-girds the philosophy of conservatism. In a section I added to the first chapter of my book, I note the strong underlying commitment in conservative philosophy (dare I say theology) by quoting Thomas Sowell, as found on my QUOTES page:


Christianity is closely tied to the success of capitalism,[1] as it is the only possible ethic behind such an enterprise. How can such a thing be said? The famed economist/sociologist/historian of our day, Thomas Sowell, speaks to this in his book A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles. He whittles down the many economic views into just two categories, the constrained view and the unconstrained view.

The constrained vision is a tragic vision of the human condition. The unconstrained vision is a moral vision of human intentions, which are viewed as ultimately decisive. The unconstrained vision promotes pursuit of the highest ideals and the best solutions. By contrast, the constrained vision sees the best as the enemy of the good— a vain attempt to reach the unattainable being seen as not only futile but often counterproductive, while the same efforts could have produced a more viable and beneficial trade-off. Adam Smith applied this reasoning not only to economics but also to morality and politics: The prudent reformer, according to Smith, will respect “the confirmed habits and prejudices of the people,” and when he cannot establish what is right, “he will not disdain to ameliorate the wrong.” His goal is not to create the ideal but to “establish the best that the people can bear.”[2]

Dr. Sowell goes on to point out that while not “all social thinkers fit this schematic dichotomy…. the conflict of visions is no less real because everyone has not chosen sides or irrevocably committed themselves.” Continuing he points out:

Despite necessary caveats, it remains an important and remarkable phenomenon that how human nature is conceived at the outset is highly correlated with the whole conception of knowledge, morality, power, time, rationality, war, freedom, and law which defines a social vision…. The dichotomy between constrained and unconstrained visions is based on whether or not inherent limitations of man are among the key elements included in the vision.[3]

The contribution of the nature of man by the Judeo-Christian ethic is key in this respect. One can almost say, then, that the Christian worldview demands a particular position to be taken in the socio-economic realm.* You can almost liken the constrained view of man in economics and conservatism as the Calvinist position. Pulitzer prize winning political commentator, Walter Lippmann (1889-1974), makes the above point well:

At the core of every moral code there is a picture of human nature, a map of the universe, and a version of history. To human nature (of the sort conceived), in a universe (of the kind imagined), after a history (so understood), the rules of the code apply.[4]

A free market, then, is typically viewed through the lenses of the Christian worldview with its concrete view of the reality of man balanced with love for your neighbor;

Sean Giordano (AKA. Papa Giorgio), Worldviews: A Click Away from Binary Collisions (Religio-Political Apologetics), found in the introductive chapter, “Technology Junkies


[1] See for instance: R.H. Tawney, Religion and the Rise of Capitalism (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2000 [originally 1926]); Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2003 [originally 1904]); Rodney Stark, The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success (New York, NY: Random House, 2005); Thomas E. Woods, Jr., How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization (Washington, D.C.: Regnery, 2005).

[2] Thomas Sowell, A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles (New York, NY: basic Books, 2007), 27.

[3] Ibid., 33, 34.

[4] Walter lippmann, Public Opinion (New York, NY: Freee Press, 1965), 80.

The above drives or animates conservatives, and causes us to ask fundamental questions that those on the left may ask in their household — but not in society [writ large]. It is why conservatism, while not the Gospel, will always be closer to reality in it’s cures and responses to man’s societal ills than any other viewpoint:

1) compared to what?
2) at what cost?
3) what hard-evidence do you have?


Politics & The Modern Liberal Contradiction

Arbitrary Values / Relativism

In many cases, “modern liberal” positions are based on the idea of tolerance, the freedom of the individual to do as he or she pleases. This in turn is based on moral relativism, the idea that morality is relative to the individual and the situation (which distinguishes it from “classical liberalism”). Again, what is right or wrong for you may not be right or wrong for others. As a result, you cannot tell others not to have an abortion, not to look at or publish pornography, or not to live by an “alternative lifestyle.” Educational environments must be “value free,” there must be no restrictions on sexual and artistic freedom, and according to some, even activities such as recreational drug use should be decriminalized. Because there are no absolute values, each person must discover his own morality, a process taught in our schools as “values clarification.”

The liberal contradiction lies in the fact that every liberal position claims to be morally correct and objectively true. It is right to allow abortions and wrong to oppose them. Tolerance (in its modern definition) is good, intolerance is bad. Children should be allowed to grow up in a value-free environment; parents should not impose their own values. Modern liberalism takes a moral stance on every issue, but it undermines its own foundation by claiming that there is no moral absolute or guide to adhere to.

To put it into simple terms, yet once more, when a liberal tells you that you cannot tell other people what to do, he or she is contradicting himself by telling you what to do! And there is another side to the liberal contradiction. While many liberal positions are based on tolerance and complete individual freedom, other liberal positions are based on strict authoritarianism.

According to contemporary liberalism, the common good (what Rousseau called “the general will”) necessitates the suppression of individual rights when it comes to “saving” the environment, creating a more “equitable distribution” of wealth, achieving “equality” between races and sexes in all walks of life, and enforcing a strict separation of church and state. Paradoxically, that same common good” takes a back seat to individual freedoms when it comes to the detrimental effects of: pornography and sexual freedom, reduced police power and criminal punishment, or drug use, or firearm mandates, etc..

Let me hasten to add that I too am for tolerance, equal rights, and ending unjust discrimination. I too am for freedom of speech, artistic freedom, academic freedom, and the separation of church and state. I too am for protecting the environment and helping the underprivileged. But I am for these things because I believe in the tenants of the Judeo-Christian moral tradition, not because I reject these absolutes.

If I were to reject the idea of moral truths, what possible motivation (moral duty) could I have to champion these or any other causes? More important, on what basis could I hope to persuade others of the importance of these causes? It is inconsistent to claim to be concerned about rights while rejecting the moral foundation from which rights are derived.

The rejection of one’s own moral foundation leads one to be not only immoral, but also illogical. It leads to positions that are inconsistent with themselves and each other (self-deleting). It leads to outcomes that directly counter one’s original intention and that threaten one’s own goals. It is unfortunate for the liberal agenda, but the liberal contradiction poses just such a threat. And it is not a threat from “conservatives” or from any outside source – it is a threat from within. Because of the rejection of the moral foundation for liberalism, liberalism is failing to protect the rights it claims to cherish. “What is is?” Please Mr. President!

…read more…


A couple more recommended resources for a quick overview of this internal/foundational battle “for the soul” are as follows (the first being mine):

The Great Debate: Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, and the Birth of Right and Left (video below)