A Republic, If You Can Keep It

by Bill Boillot. January 14, 2017

patrick-henry-quoteThe importance of knowing history cannot be overstated.  History helps us to understand the present.

People have largely neglected the power of history.  Understanding history brings the basic knowledge of cause and effect, relationships, and human nature.  It clarifies how events are related to each other and the character of the actors.  Two things we can take as truth; human nature never changes and history will always repeat its mistakes.   Alexis de Tocqueville said, “History is a gallery of pictures in which there are few originals and many copies”.   History is not merely a summation of previous events, but instead its purpose is to show reasons for why and how these events happened and give perspective to pain or elation associated with them.   One of the greatest lessons we can learn from history is how to avoid the mistakes of the past.   Patrick Henry said;   “I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience.  I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past.”  History teaches us how to continue to approach things in manners that work and refrain from committing a mistake repeatedly.

We study the history of the founding to understand the exceptionalism of our country.  The Founding Documents tell us the nature of our Liberty, (natural rights and natural law), the nature of our Country (who we are as a people – our character), the principles for we believe, (what we stand for morally & ethically), and the way to preserve our Liberty.  We study the founding documents to understand how to preserve the Liberty inherited from our forefathers.   The founders had studied the history of both the Greek democracies and the Roman republic. They had a clear understanding of the relative freedom and stability that had characterized the latter, and of the strife and turmoil — quickly followed by despotism — that had characterized the former. Our founders studied their history resulting in the crafting of documents that reflected what they knew to be pitfalls of governance.  They knew that human nature is flawed by ambition and self-interests.  The creation of a system of checks and balances was designed to bridle the avarice of man   The ideals embodied in the documents they left us are the time tested, blood bought principles found in Judeo-Christian teachings.  Should these ideals be lost to us and our children, the next generation will be ruled entirely by popular culture and public opinion.

tocqueville-quoteThe deliberations of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 were held in strict secrecy.  Consequently, anxious citizens gathered outside in order to learn what had been produced behind closed doors. Notes of Dr. James McHenry, one of Maryland’s delegates to the Continental Convention chronicled an exchange as Benjamin Franklin emerged from the convention. He was stopped by a Mrs. Powell with a question; “Well, Doctor, what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy?”   Franklin replied “A Republic, madam, if you can keep it.”  Franklin knew self-governance was not an easy proposition requiring both an educated and engaged populace.  A Republic is not for the faint of heart, it requires the people to be vigilant and suspicious of those who power is given.  Daniel Webster said; “Miracles do not cluster and what has happened once in 6,000 years may never happen again.  Such a government once destroyed would leave a void to be filled, perhaps for centuries, with riot, tumult, despotism, and revolution.”

So let me ask you this…What legacy do you want to leave behind to your children?  Our ignorance will ensure that the liberty we’ve been given will end with our generation resulting in children or our children’s children having to buy back the liberty that should have been given to them.  The stark reality if that occurs would mean our posterity will labor to buy it back with their blood.  “To whom much is given, much will be required” (Luke 12:48).  It is for us to learn and pass on that liberty by reading and understanding the great gift we have been given.  It requires so little and means so much.