The Magazine

Founders’ Keepers

The modern application of the principles of government.

Feb 8, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 20 • By JOHN B. KIENKER
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Then why, if the Founders did so much to perpetuate the moral character and devotion that constitutional government needs to sustain itself, do we find ourselves, as Spalding laments, “on a course of self-destruction”? In a chapter entitled “A New Republic,” he details how Woodrow Wilson, Herbert Croly, John Dewey, and other progressives of their day drove modern liberalism’s rejection of natural rights and constitutionalism, and its subtle redefinition of freedom and equality to feign some continuity with the American creed. One is left to wonder why the Founders’ ideas didn’t prove harder to dislodge than the progressives’ today.

Of course, Spalding’s title sounds a more defiant note, proclaiming not that we once held these truths but that we still hold them. And paraphrasing Abraham Lincoln, he concludes that

It is not the affirmation of a peculiar set of antiquated claims that tie us to America as much as it is our common recognition of transcendent truths that bind us all together and across time to the patriots of 1776. Only with this sure foundation can we go forward as a nation, addressing the great policy questions before us and continuing to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. 

Spalding has not penned a manifesto simply to rally the right. He has reclaimed the best of the American political tradition for all Americans, as their birthright and sacred obligation, and as a rebuke to the enervating tendencies of the past century. He reminds us of the civic duty our forefathers bequeathed to us to educate each generation in this rich tradition, and provides a shining example of how it ought to be done. 

 

 

John B. Kienker is managing editor of the Claremont Review of Books.

 

 

 

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