Skip to comments.Republican Virtue
Posted on 06/03/2012 5:32:34 AM PDT by Jacquerie
Perhaps everyone in the eighteenth century could have agreed that in theory no State was more beautiful than a republic, whose whole object by definition was the good of the people. Yet everyone knew it was a fragile beauty indeed. It was axiomatic that no society could hold together without the obedience of its members to the legally constituted authority. In a monarchy the complicated texture of the society, the magnificence, costly equipage and dazzling splendors lavished on the prince, the multitude of criminal laws, with severe penalties, the very rigor of the unitary authority often with the aid of a standing and an established religious hierarchy, all worked to maintain public order; an order derived only from the passion of fear.
But in a republic which possessed none of this complicated social texture, where the elected rulers were merely the servants of the public, and where the people themselves shared in a large measure of the governing - in such a State, order, if there was to be any, must come from below.
The very greatness of republicanism, its utter dependence on the people, was simultaneously its source of weakness. In a republic there was no place for fear, there could be no sustained coercion from above. The State, like no other, rested on the consent of the governed freely given and not compelled. In a free government the laws, as the American clergy never tired of repeating, had to be obeyed by the people for consciences sake, not for wrathss.
In a republic, each man must somehow be persuaded to submerge his personal wants into the greater good of the whole. This was termed public virtue. A republic was such a delicate polity precisely because it demanded an extraordinary moral character in the people. Every state in which the people participated needed a degree of virtue; but a republic which rested solely on the people absolutely required it.
Although a particular structural arrangement of the government in a republic might temper the necessity for public virtue, ultimately no model of government whatever can equal the importance of this principle, nor afford proper safety and security without it. Without some portion of this generous principle, anarchy and confusion would immediately ensue, the jarring interests of individuals, regarding themselves only, and indifferent to the welfare of others . . . would end in ruin and subversion of the State.
The eighteenth century mind was thoroughly convinced that a popularly based government cannot be supported without virtue. Only with a public-spirited, self sacrificing people could the authority of a popularly elected government be obeyed, but more by the virtue of the people, than by the terror of punishment. Because virtue was truly the lifeblood of the republic, the thoughts and hopes surrounding this concept of public spirit gave the American Revolution its socially radical character.
The Lincoln Administration started the process of killing the republic.
This is a wonderful summation. I thank you for posting it. I wish it could be pinned somewhere for easy reference to keep this vital basic in mind.
Socialists/criminals/totalitarians have no virtue. Plunder and death. That's how they roll...over all of us. Thanks for mentioning one.
Socialism is Legal Plunder...
But how is this legal plunder to be identified? Quite simply. See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime.
Then abolish this law without delay, for it is not only an evil itself, but also it is a fertile source for further evils because it invites reprisals. If such a law which may be an isolated case is not abolished immediately, it will spread, multiply, and develop into a system.
The person who profits from this law will complain bitterly, defending his acquired rights.
Do not listen to this sophistry by vested interests. The acceptance of these arguments will build legal plunder into a whole system. In fact, this has already occurred. The present-day delusion is an attempt to enrich everyone at the expense of everyone else; to make plunder universal under the pretense of organizing it.
Quotes/excerpts...Frederic Bastiat 1801-1850
Do you have linkage? I would like to see this reposted on a regular basis.
Nope. I’m reading the dead tree version.
This 43 year old book still commands a decent softcover price at Amazon. $24.33.
I have saved a link on my "FR reply" document and shall be posting it to refer back to these very cogent thoughts.
This is my second pass through the book. This time I’m taking notes.
Wood’s basic theme: there was a fundamental transformation of political thought between 1776 State constitution making and 1787. American Revolutionaries constructed new politics outside of ancient and medieval constructs.
I want to read this book.