Saturday, December 01, 2007

On Virtue

I've been sitting on this quote for some time, as I tend to do, with the intention of posting something on the topic. Let's hear from Mr. Madison, courtesy of the Patriot Post:

"Is there no virtue among us? If there be not, we are in a wretched situation. No theoretical checks-no form of government can render us secure. To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people, is a chimerical idea, if there be sufficient virtue and intelligence in the community, it will be exercised in the selection of these men. So that we do not depend on their virtue, or put confidence in our rulers, but in the people who are to choose them."

-- James Madison (speech at the Virginia Ratifying Convention, 20 June 1788)

I find it natural that the Founding Generation was as concerned with virtue as they were; yet, sad that we seem to have departed so starkly from their example. Can you imagine a leading politician of our time exhorting the people on virtue? How soon would he or she be chastised? Or denounced as a "hypocrite" (one of the Left's favorite smears) because of something he or she had done in their life?

Another Founder famous for his opinion on the necessity of virtue is the second cousin of our second President. Says Samuel (from the FQD at the Patriot Post):

A general dissolution of principles and manners will more surely overthrow the liberties of America than the whole force of the common enemy. While the people are virtuous they cannot be subdued; but when once they lose their virtue then will be ready to surrender their liberties to the first external or internal invader.

Reference: The Writings of Samuel Adams, Cushing, ed., vol. 4 (124)

Note that he mentions "external or internal" threats. It is no secret to any of the regular readers here that I see the two biggest threats facing us to be the march of Liberalism and Islam; I wonder if we were as virtuous a society as the founding generation how we'd be handling these threats. Cowering in fear? Appeasing? Bowing before the commissars of political correctness?

Here's my take on that indispensable quality, virtue. We've discussed in prior posts what self-government is. I generally distill it to the dual virtues of self-restraint and self-sufficiency. Read the Founders and you'll realize that our form of government is created for a self-governing people. And that it's wholly inappropriate for a dependent people. Any wonder we're facing the problems governmental that we are?

But virtue isn't lost, and in fact, it may be making a comeback. Imagine my delight at this story from the Tribune about purity dances. Where families are strong and God is a part of the family, virtue seems to survive. Notwithstanding the usual sniping of the Left, such as this:

In this new counterculture, trouble-prone pop stars such as Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan are outcasts. In their place, 1 in 6 teens are signing virginity pledges, though 88 percent of them break that vow before they marry, according to a federally funded national longitudinal study of adolescent health.
(emphasis mine)

Well, why bother, goes the logic of the Left, if they're just going to fail? Here's why: maybe aiming for purity doesn't guarantee success, but maybe young girls will enter marriage with fewer partners.

"Girls are going into marriage with 12 sexual relationships. That brings so much baggage and regret that it breaks down the marriage," said Janet Hellige, a volunteer who organizes the biannual Father-Daughter Purity Ball sponsored by The Christian Center in Peoria. "Girls have a wonderful gift to give, and we don't want them to give all of themselves away. What we want them to do is present themselves as a rose to their husband with no blemishes."

Virtue is indeed indispensable for healthy families and a free Republic. But don't count on your children hearing that from anybody other than you, their parent (or Aunt, Uncle, or other relative). It's incumbent upon us to ensure that our children have a moral, as well as an intellectual foundation before they go out into the world. I would submit that a child with no moral foundation is at a greater risk than a child who cannot read, yet you'll never see a "program" designed to correct the former deficiency.


Call Me Mom said...

Mr. Tams,
Upon reading your comments on the Madison quote, I find myself wondering about the complementary question.

You asked: "Can you imagine a leading politician of our time exhorting the people on virtue?"

I have to ask myself: Would I rather be exhorted to virtue by a leader who believes me capable of it, or abandoned to the vices of which I am presumed guilty by my membership in so corrupt a society that to exhort it's people to virtue is regarded as laughable?

I hope that our nation is not yet so devoid of people of good character as to be in the latter category.

Michael Tams said...


Thanks for the comments. You know I'm of the same opinion.

Here's a neat trick - to really illustrate how this would be received if my rhetorical question were real, insert Rudy Giuliani. Or Newt Gingrich.

Or for that matter, President Bush, he of the "Bush lied, blah, blah, blah." Think that the Left wouldn't go absolutely berzerk in trashing him for that?


Call Me Mom said...

Now insert Ronald Reagan.

Which of our current crop of contenders could take that role without being laughed at and ridiculed?

There's a test of presidential caliber.

Sebosmile said...

Just gotta say, we're not all like that.

"V Club" member at 23 and still going strong- and I fully intend to until have I've gone in front of a priest to receive something big and sparkly on my ring finger (and, you know, exchange vows with my future-husband before God, etc).

Acutally, I should post on this. Had an interesting conversation with my best friend (guy, same age) the other day who fully intended to wait for marriage and then really regrets now that he did not.

...Just don't even get me started on Brit-Brit and Li-Lo, though. :gags:

Can you imagine the mainstream media if someone ran with this, though? They would be so confused, they might conbust.

You know, since they want kindergarteners to have sex ed and be taught to follow their "sexual urges" and grop each other. :vomits:

Michael Tams said...


Like I said on my personal blog, I'll be looking forward to that post. I think it's interesting that educators (I use that term loosely) encourage kids to become sexually aware earlier, and then charge kids as sexual offenders when they slap other kids on the behind in the hallway. Think that's confusing for pre-teens who are confused as hell to begin with, just given what's going on with their hormones?


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