“A Republic, Madam, If You Can Keep It.”
by Olivia Pierson
This was the reply of Benjamin Franklin when he was leaving the Constitutional Convention of 1787, where a woman asked him, “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?”
If there was one thing that the Founding Fathers knew was sure to represent a great challenge to the existence of America’s new Republic, both at the time of its creation and in its distant future, it was the quality of education among its citizens.
Being well versed in history, they understood that direct democracy had been practised by the ancient Greeks, but that it didn’t successfully last due to common mob-rule becoming a tyranny of the least educated and the least able.
It is useful to remember that the Framers of the Constitution were well educated in Renaissance Humanism, if not Enlightenment Humanism as it spectacularly unfolded during their life-time. Central subjects to the quality of their knowledge were: history, law, philosophy, political philosophy, logic, theology, economics, literature, geography, geometry, science, mathematics, rhetoric, Latin and Greek. (Not bad considering some of them, such as Franklin and Washington, did not even attend college.)
The word “democracy” does not appear in America’s Declaration of Independence, nor is it used in her Constitution. In fact, the Framers took steady pains to protect the Republic from democracy, and the term “democratical” was used pejoratively.
A republic is a political system based on representative government subject to the laws of a constitution. Because representation is drawn from the citizens themselves, it is imperative that the public understand not only the laws, but the significance and origins of those laws. That requires knowing a thing or two about history.
The American system with its separation of powers was designed to protect individual citizens from mob-rule, and also to protect the individual from the government.
While Thomas Jefferson was serving as Ambassador to France, his friend and fellow-revolutionary, John Adams, wrote him in alarming tones about an armed rebellion in his state of Massachusetts, Shay's Rebellion. Jefferson responded to him by letter:
“God forbid we should ever be 20 years without such a rebellion... What country ever existed a century and a half without a rebellion? And what country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance?... Let them take arms. The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants, it is its natural manure.”
In Jefferson’s mind, the far worse crime lay not in an armed citizen uprising, but in citizens becoming ignorantly complacent. He wrote; “An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people."
True to his convictions, he founded the University of Virginia, the country’s first public university, an achievement he regarded more highly than his twice being elected President.
If only the Founding Fathers could see the state of education in their country now!
Do you think they would be able to believe the all time low of today’s university students aggressively demanding “safe spaces” – that is, their campuses requiring no First Amendment to be in play, in order to protect them from events as deeply scarring as a difference of opinion being aired?
Do you think they would be able to believe that spoiled and mollycoddled kids would demand that the government abolish all tuition fees so that they can study subjects as dubious (and irrelevant) as “String Theory” and “Sustainability Studies” on the back of taxpayer efforts?
Ask said students if they know who their current Vice President is and you will evince nothing but a blank stare. Ask them who their current Secretary of State is and their response will be; “What’s a Secretary of State?”
Jesse Watters on Fox News’ “Watters World” recently asked a young man, with high-tech earphones in his ears and designer clothes on his body, did he know where Vermont was? His response was (I kid you not), “What’s Vermont?” Jesse replied, “It is one of our 50 States.” To which the young man mumbled, “I’ve never heard of that.”
Ask any random Democratic students why they voted for Barack Obama, and their answers will barely stray from; “Because he’s cool” to “Because he’s black,” (this, from a nation which headed a civil rights movement).
These are the publicly “educated” dummies that today’s politicians take pains to court in order to win their votes, yet they are staggeringly incapable of entering an argument, even just for the purpose of being able to refute it (that would actually require critical thought). They do not know how to meet with disagreement of any kind, but they are supremely gifted at knowing how to hysterically screech that their infantile emotional needs be met, by your dime.
Ronald Reagan once warned us in a speech:
“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. The only way they can inherit the freedom we have known is if we fight for it, protect it, defend it and then hand it on to them with the well -taught lessons of how they in their lifetimes must do the same. And if you and I don't do this, then you and I might well spend our sunset years telling our children, and our children's children, what it was once like in the United States where men were free.
I believe that time is now bearing down upon us.
If you enjoyed this article, please buy my book "Western Values Defended: A Primer"