At the close of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, it’s reported that a lady approached the venerable Benjamin Franklin and asked, “Well, Doctor, what have we got? A republic or a monarchy?”
And the grand old man responded gravely, “A republic – if you can keep it.”
You may have heard that quote before, but have you asked yourself just what Ben Franklin was getting at? Well, the long, tiresome and often contentious convention had almost ended with nothing, with members going back to their home states angry and bitter. In the midst of apparent breakdown and failure, it was Franklin himself who stood up and proposed that starting the next morning, the convention should open with prayer and a sermon, because it was obvious that their momentous objective could not be achieved without the direct intervention of God, the One all the attendees credited with their very existence.
And starting from the very next day, after the morning prayers and sermons, the Constitution was brought to final form and agreed to. It was unlike any document in history, purporting to guarantee every citizen equality, possibility, security and liberty. There would be no monarch, no despot, no ruling cabal; no segment of American society would be able to impose its will unchecked. The freedom to worship, to speak freely, to dissent or to promote would be available to all; the elected would govern with the consent of the governed. And this whole mighty enterprise would be held together by respect for, and obedience to, law – law based on the Constitution itself and managed by the collective will of the people.
The word for that fabulous concept is “republic.”
But Franklin had a sober regard for how fragile the concept could be. He said himself, “Only a moral and virtuous people are capable of freedom; the more corrupt and vicious a society becomes, the more it has need of masters.”
His dear friend and compatriot John Adams concurred. “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and a religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
Virtually all our Founding Fathers realized that the whole idea of liberty hinged on the personal morality and responsibility of all citizens, that devious and unscrupulous men could find ways to use freedoms for their own selfish purposes and undermine the concept of republic, eventually corrupting and destroying it.
George Washington had declared, “Religion and morality are the twin pillars of freedom.”
Not many years later, President Thomas Jefferson warned: “The Constitution is a mere thing of wax in the hands of the judiciary, which they may twist and shape into any form they please.” He came to regard judicial over-reach that way in his second term; even before then, he said: “God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever.”
Do you see what these men were getting at? Do you understand why Ben Franklin said, “A republic – if you can keep it”? They realized they were staking the whole future of this magnificent experiment on the supposition that Americans would demand, of themselves and their government, a continued reliance on the guidance of Bible-rooted principles and the very hand of God Himself. If the populace and their representatives forsook those specific guidelines, the structure would crumble and the house would fall.
Well, look around. If you haven’t noticed, the structure isn’t just crumbling – it’s being hacked to pieces, right before our eyes.
In state after state, the very hallowed institution of marriage is – at the hands of the judiciary Jefferson warned against – being polluted and redefined, robbing our children and future society of one of the organic cornerstones of civilization itself. Our founders – even Jefferson himself – could not have imagined such a travesty.
By sly and seditious attack, a befuddled Supreme Court was seduced into a decree that has directly caused the slaughter of some 50,000,000 unborn American citizens since 1973. For those who gave us our Constitution, another unthinkable nightmare.
The biggest teachers unions are relentlessly demanding that our children be taught the theory of evolution – without even a nod of possibility to creation – denying the most transformative words of our Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” And, right along with that, they increasingly decree that grade-school children, even pre-schoolers, be indoctrinated with an appreciation for homosexuality.
Incessant campaigns to remove “Under God” from our Pledge of Allegiance, to allow desecration of our flag, to forbid school children from praying voluntarily, and to scrub any mention of God or the Bible from public life (even from coins and currency) are gaining acceptance and momentum.
Our economy is near ruin, desecrated and exploited by the very corruption Franklin warned about. And the “masters” he said we would deserve are at the door.
More and more, the enemies of outspoken faith and biblical morality are assaulting the democratic process with unprecedented coordination and millions of dollars, and are implementing strategies to form a “new America,” free from old religious restraints and from any actual rules of righteous behavior.
These enemies have tremendous clout and influence, and the media seem to be buying into the whole “politically correct” idea. Hey, why not a one-world government and economy and social structure? Won’t that be great, and won’t that solve all our differences and all the world’s problems? And isn’t all this nationalistic, “America first” notion unnecessary in a Brave New World?
What do you suppose our Founding Fathers would think of all this? Any doubts at all? Well, Mr. Franklin, most of us really tried, for over 200 years, to keep the republic, the way you and the founders intended. While we were busy with our personal lives, it looks like we’ve lost it. Truly sorry.