Liberty, Virtue, Happiness, and Elections

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I don’t think we’re in danger of getting a philosopher-king this fall, but the discussion regarding liberty and virtue is always timely. It goes way back, far beyond Frank Meyer’s attempt at “Fusionism” some fifty years ago and more, and always caused an uproar at the ISI summer schools I attended. Here are some ancient observations I ran across while teaching a colonial history course last year:

John Adams, in a letter to his friend Benjamin Rush:

“The Bible contains the most profound philosophy, the most perfect morality, and the most refined policy, that was ever conceived upon the earth. It is the most Republican book in the world, and therefore I will still revere it. The curses against fornication and adultery, and the prohibition of fornication or libidinous ogle at a woman, I believe to be the only system that did or ever will preserve a Republic in the world.”

George Washington, in his Farewell Address:

“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens.”

Thomas Jefferson (who cited “The Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” in the Declaration), in a letter to Correa de Serra in 1814:

“The order of nature is that individual happiness shall be inseparable from the practice of virtue…”

12:44 pm on January 20, 2012