Critique of the 1776 Commission Report/Original text/Page 6


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More fundamentally, by the time of the American founding, political life in the West had undergone two momentous changes. The first was the sundering of civil from religious law with the advent and widespread adoption of Christianity. The second momentous change was the emergence of multiple denominations within Christianity that undid Christian unity and in turn greatly undermined political unity. Religious differences became sources of political conflict and war. As discussed further in Appendix II, it was in response to these fundamentally new circumstances that the American founders developed the principle of religious liberty.

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While the founders' principles are both true and eternal, they cannot be understood without also understanding that they were formulated by practical men to solve real-world problems. For the founders' solution to these problems we must turn to the Constitution.


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It is one thing to discern and assert the true principles of political legitimacy and justice. It is quite another to establish those principles among an actual people, in an actual government, here on earth. As Winston Churchill put it in a not dissimilar context, even the best of men struggling in the most just of causes cannot guarantee victory; they can only deserve it.

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The founders of the United States, perhaps miraculously, achieved what they set out to achieve. They defeated the world's strongest military and financial power and won their independence. They then faced the task of forming a country that would honor and implement the principles upon which they had declared their independence.

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The bedrock upon which the American political system is built is the rule of law. The vast difference between tyranny and the rule of law is a central theme of political thinkers back to classical antiquity. The idea that the law is superior to rulers is the cornerstone of English constitutional thought as it developed over the centuries. The concept was transferred to the American colonies, and can be seen expressed throughout colonial pamphlets and political writings.

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"The safety of a republic depends essentially on the energy of a common national sentiment; on a uniformity of principles and habits; on the exemption of the citizens from foreign bias, and prejudice; and on that love of country which will almost invariably be found to be closely connected with birth, education and family." — Alexander Hamilton