To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people, is a chimerical idea.
~ James Madison
Though the idea has since escaped us in recent days, it was once widely recognized that people are corrupt. People are sinful, evil, desiring wrongdoing. It is only through careful instruction, typically from youth, that our debase nature is curved. It is for this reason we have government, laws, churches, the Bible. When we gain instruction in our youth, our adulthood choices are better-guided.
But what has this to do with liberty? This has to do with self-government, or responsibility. If people are able to govern themselves, they are able to govern their households. And if their households, then their community. If their community, then their country. This was the intent of our founders. They knew that men were inherently bad, thus they made it where tyrannical rule was most difficult to achieve. It was the people who had the power. But what does self-government look like? Self-government is living with good manners, putting others’ needs above your own, being courteous, civil, working to the betterment of yourself, virtuous. Self-government is recognizing the bad within oneself and striving to do what is right in spite of it, hopefully with the acknowledgement and help of the Lord.
When people are self-governed, the sanctity of life, the ownership of property, and the respecting of opinions reign in freedom and liberty, and then people are truly happy. But to say that this is possible without virtue is chimerical because it is
“incapable of realization” (“chimerical.”).
Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become more corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.
Human rights only exist so long as people are self-governed and virtuous. Without such a foundation in the hearts and minds of people, liberty and happiness dissolve. And it is only if we are a virtuous people that we will be able to deserve those things we cherish.
Blessings to you and yours,
“chimerical.” The Online Etymology Dictionary. 2017. Accessed 29 Apr 2018.
Skousen, Cleon. The 5000 Year Leap. National Center for Constitutional Studies. 2011. pp. 49-57.