Too Short for a Blog Post, Too Long for a Tweet 117

Here's an excerpt from a book I recently read, "Rediscovering Americanism and the Tyranny of Progressivism," by Mark Levin:

Hence, for Jefferson, and most of the Founders, virtue was an essential element of liberty; if the people lack virtue, no form of government can rescue them from tyranny. Again, it must be remembered that the Founders relied on the wisdom of such thinkers as Aristotle, Cicero, and Locke and were influenced by such contemporaries as Edmund Burke and Adam Smith, among others, all of whom spent considerable time contemplating virtue. And the Founders returned repeatedly to the importance of natural law, eternal truths, and the transcendent moral order, including virtue.

Indeed, French philosopher Charles de Montesquieu (1689–1755) and his book The Spirit of the Laws (1748) were widely embraced by the Founders, especially during the constitutional period. Montesquieu explained: 

“There are three kinds of government: REPUBLICAN, MONARCHICAL, AND DESPOTIC. To discover the nature of each, the idea of them held by the least educated of men is sufficient. I assume three definitions, or rather, three facts: one, republican government is that in which the people as a body, or only a part of the people, have sovereign power; monarchical government is that in which one alone governs, but by fixed and established law; whereas, in despotic government, one alone, without law and without rule, draws everything along by his will and caprices. . . . There need not be much integrity for monarchical or despotic government to maintain or sustain itself. The force of the law in the one and the prince’s ever-raised arm in the other can rule or contain the whole. In a popular state there must be an additional spring, which is VIRTUE. What I say is confirmed by the entire body of history and is quite in conformity with the nature of things. For it is clear that less virtue is needed in a monarchy, where the one who sees to the execution of the laws judges himself above the laws, than in a popular government, where the one who sees to the execution of the laws feels that he is subject to them himself and that he will bear their weight. . . . But in a popular government when the laws have ceased to be executed, as this can come only from the corruption of the republic, the state is already lost.” In despotic government, “virtue is not at all necessary to it.”

Post a Comment