America has truly been blessed—blessed in ways not experienced by either our closest allies or our fiercest enemies. What should be our response? Previous generations understood that every blessing carried a parallel responsibility. As signer James Wilson acknowledged:
To each class of rights, a class of
duties is correspondent.
DANIEL WEBSTER agreed:
[L]et us remember that we have
duties and obligations to perform
corresponding to the blessings
which we enjoy.
So what duties and obligations do citizens owe today? There are four: (1) Accept the blame; (2) Learn the documents;
(3) Take action and choose well; (4) Preserve their legacy.
Accept the Blame
America is in the condition she is because of “We the People,” not because of the leaders that we ourselves chose. No leader at any level has any power that we did not first give them (or at least allow them to take). As Daniel Webster explained:
I apprehend no danger to our country from a foreign foe… Our destruction, should it come at all, will be from another quarter: [From] the inattention of the people to the concerns of their government — from their carelessness and negligence.
Regrettably, carelessness, negligence and lack of awareness have characterized American citizenship over the past several decades. We must change that, but how?
Learn the Documents
Declaration signer Samuel Huntington correctly observed:
While the great body of [citizens] are acquainted with the duties which they owe to their God, to themselves, and to men, they will remain free. But if ignorance and depravity should prevail, they will inevitably lead to slavery and ruin.
For this reason, Founder JOHN JAY wisely advised:
Every member of the State ought diligently to read and to study the Constitution of his country… By knowing their rights, they will sooner perceive when they are violated and be the better prepared to defend and assert them.
Take Action — Choose Well
Once we accept responsibility and become familiar with our founding documents, it becomes incumbent on us to thoroughly investigate our leaders and then elect only those who intimately know and will vigorously uphold the philosophy set forth in those documents. As Founder Noah Webster warned:
[I]f the citizens neglect their duty and place unprincipled men in office, the government will soon be corrupted; laws will be made not for the public good so much as for selfish or local purposes; corrupt or incompetent men will be appointed to execute the laws; the public revenues will be squandered on unworthy men; and the rights of the citizens will be violated or disregarded.
Signer John Witherspoon agreed:
Those who wish well to the state ought to choose to places of trust men of inward principle, justified by exemplary conversation. Is it reasonable to expect wisdom from the ignorant? Fidelity from the profligate? Assiduity and application to public business from men of a dissipated life? Is it reasonable to commit the management of public revenue to one who hath wasted his own patrimony? Those therefore who pay no regard to religion and sobriety in the persons whom they send to the legislature of any state are guilty of the greatest absurdity and will soon pay dear for their folly.
Preserving Their Legacy
The best way we can preserve the legacy given us by our Founders is by securing the freedoms and form of government
they gave to us. As Samuel Adams acknowledged:
The liberties of our country — the freedom of our civil constitutions — are worth defending at all hazards and it is our duty to defend them against all attacks… It will bring an everlasting mark of infamy on the present generation, enlightened as it is, if we should suffer them to be wrested from us… or to be cheated out of them.
George Washington always believed we would do whatever was necessary to preserve what they had delivered to us at such a high cost to themselves. As he expressed:
No country upon Earth ever had it more in its power to attain these blessings than United America. Wondrously strange, then, and much to be regretted indeed would it be, were we to neglect the means and to stray from the road to which the finger of Providence has so manifestly pointed; I cannot believe it will ever come to pass!
Let’s fulfill their optimism and preserve unimpaired the remarkable blessings that we have been given.
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