Question #4: What other characteristics of a nation did our Founders understand and build within the framework of our constitution?
“…A nation has got to be founded on common beliefs, common purposes. That’s why Washington talked about what it was to be an American and then in his farewell address, he listed about a dozen different philosophical ideas that made America unique from other locations. He specifically pointed to Europe and said, ‘Do not let that philosophy come here because we’ll no longer be Americans’. One of the things he pointed to specifically was, in Europe, they think that you can be moral without religion. They think that education is capable of teaching morality. In America, we know that’s not true. We know that you will not separate morality or religion from government or from public affairs and maintain a strong nation.
It’s those kinds of beliefs that made us different. He was watching the French revolution, all the other revolutions that were happening at the time, it was called the Age of Revolution. They were all so enlightened that if you just teach the right thing, they will do the right thing. He said that’s not true. We know that it takes faith in God to do the right thing.
We also specifically taught the Declaration of Independence. We don’t teach that today, we don’t even teach the Constitution. But the founders believed you would never understand the Constitution if you didn’t master the Declaration.
If you look at early law books, for the first eight years of school in America, you were required to take a written exam… on four separate documents. You had the Constitution, you had the Declaration, you had the State Constitution, Washington’s farewell address. If you mastered that, you had the American philosophy.
If you look at the Declaration, it starts with a 155 words that set forth the entire philosophy of American government in six principles. Of those six principles, four of the six are absolutely God centered. If you don’t get that right, you don’t get the philosophy of the government right. That’s what made us distinct is unlike being a Jew or being a German or whatever, you’re born there, therefore you are. In America, you’re an American because you adopt a certain philosophy. You can come from any country to be an American if you’ll become part of that philosophy.
Even back then we recognized the distinctness that we were. We encouraged immigration as long as you came, wanting to be part of this philosophy, wanting to fit in and contribute. We were open on immigration to those people.”