I am sure we are all aware of the spectrum of views we find in American politics today. There are demonstrations, name calling and etc. I believe there always have been conflicting views about government.
With the differing views, it is appropriate to look at how our forefathers viewed government. It can't hurt to compare.
In 1854, following the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, Abraham Lincoln sensed the nation was sliding toward civil war. He said, "Our Republican robe is soiled and trailed in the dust. Let us repurify it. Let us turn and wash it white, in the spirit, if not the blood of the Revolution. Let us readopt the Declaration of Independence, and with it, the practices and policy, which harmonize with it. If we do this, we shall not only have saved the Union; but we shall have saved it, as to make and to keep it, forever worthy of the saving."
George Washington concluded his first inaugural address by saying, "No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand which conducts the affairs of men more than the people of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency. We ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which heaven itself has ordained."
In 1776, John Adams wrote, "Statesmen, my dear sir, may plan and speculate for liberty, but it is religion and morality alone, which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand. The only foundation of a free Constitution is pure virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our people in a greater measure than they have it now, they may change their rulers and the forms of government, but they will not obtain a lasting liberty."
Daniel Webster, who was champion of the Union, said, "I shall stand by the Union, and by all who stand by it. I shall do justice to the whole country in all I say and act for the good of the whole country in all I do. I mean to stand upon the Constitution. I need no other platform. I shall know but one country. The ends I aim at shall be my country's, my God's and truth's. I was born an American, I will live an American, I shall die an American and I intend to perform the duties incumbent upon me in that character to the end of my career."
When George Washington gave his farewell address to Congress, he said, "Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle."
Samuel Adams felt citizens should take an active role in the governance of our nation: "He therefore is the truest friend to the liberty of his country who tries most to promote its virtue, and who, so far as his power and influence extend, will not suffer a man to be chosen into any office of power and trust who is not a wise and virtuous man. The sum of all is, if we would most truly enjoy this gift of heaven, let us become a virtuous people."
John Kennedy said in his inaugural address, "The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it. And the glow from that fire can truly light the world. And so, my fellow Americans -- ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country. Let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking his blessing and his help, but knowing that here on earth, God's work must truly be our own."
Concerning the importance of family, Ronald Reagan wrote, "The family has always been the cornerstone of American society. Our families nurture, preserve and pass on to each succeeding generation the values we share and cherish -- values that are the foundation for our freedoms. In the family, we learn our first lessons of God and man, love and discipline, rights and responsibilities. Families maintain the spiritual strength of religions commitment among our people. It is essential that each of us remember that the strength of our families is vital to the strength of our nation."
On Feb. 23, 1861, in answering a question from William Dodge in reference to his duty as president, Lincoln replied, "With the support of the people and the assistance of the almighty, I shall undertake to perform it." A bit later, Lincoln said, "Freedom is the natural condition of the human race, in which the almighty intended men to live. Those who fight the purpose of the almighty will not succeed. They always have been; they always will be beaten."
In a memorial address concerning Abraham Lincoln, Schuyler Colfax, Speaker of the House of Representatives, said, "Nor should I forget to mention here that the last act of Congress ever signed by him was one requiring that the motto, in which he sincerely believed, 'In God We Trust' should hereafter be inscribed upon our national coin.''
Regarding the Constitution, Webster said, "I regard it as the work of the purest patriots and wisest statesmen that ever existed, aided by the similes of a benignant providence; for when we regard it as a system of government growing out of the discordant opinions and conflicting interests of thirteen independent states, it almost appears a divine interposition in our behalf. The hand that destroys the Constitution rends our Union asunder forever."
I have taken the above quotations from a book entitled "The Glory of America," by Peter Marshall and David Manuel. To me, each of the quotations speak to issues which we face today and are worthy of our consideration.
Arris Johnson is a member of the Generations Advisory Group.