Liberty A Foundational Idea of American Political Order

The first paragraph of the US Constitution. (Archive)





The prosperity and strength of the American political system do not stem from the speed of its economic or the stability of the currency. They are results of that unique social order, not the causes of it. In this series The Secrets of American Prosperity, we intend to introduce our Readers to a fundamental historical truth about the origins and political philosophy of the people who initiated a unique historic experiment called the United States of America.



badge-series-we-the-people




The Liberty of every person is an indispensable test against which America's Founding Founders assessed their new political ideas.

 

In the 1700s, the American colonies, after the French and Indian war, realised that the reason for British presence disappeared. For decades, they were told that the French are needed to defend them against the Crown. It was at that moment that Americans decided that they want to manage their affairs independently of the British.

A doctrine of natural law and natural rights became widely known and discussed in the American colonies. These ideas became the source of inspiration for their independence.

American Founding Fathers who shaped the country’s political system
viewed human nature through the prism of liberty.



The natural law and natural rights doctrine consisted of the basic truths about human nature and the circumstances of man created by God. At the moment of creation, God endows the human person with certain unalienable rights, which no other person can overrule or take. At the core of these rights is liberty. 



American Founding Fathers who shaped the country’s political system viewed human nature through the prism of liberty. The Liberty of every person is an indispensable test against which they assessed new ideas.

American Founding Fathers: Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay. Authors of Federalist Papers using collective pseudonym Publius. (National Museum of American History)

 

Unlike some past philosophers and policy-makers, the Founding Fathers, namely John Jay, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, had no illusions about human nature. They were fully aware that the double side of it with its industrious and creative part as well as the decisive and the damaging must be utilised if one wanted to preserve freedom.

Unlike under the tyrannies, the new American political system did not limit the causes of negative sides of human nature but rather the effects of its actions. Such an approach allowed the architects of America to preserve liberty that is a condition for creativity and industriousness of every individual. 


Therefore new institutions had to be a framework for the preservation of natural law and the natural rights of every person.

The new political institutions had to be a framework
for the preservation of natural law and the natural rights of every person.


The justice understood as protection against overruling one’s right by other person or group of persons was the original goal of the American government. It was the content of the founder’s doctrine of human equality.

The view of human nature by US Founders closely corresponds with the Biblical truths. The approach of the founders is based on the Second Tablet of Decalogue that broadly defines the natural law and natural rights of every person.

Therefore the basic precondition of the existence of any power was the consent of the governed to delegate some necessary rights for the fulfillment of the defined goals. Therefore the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitutions of the states, emphasised this fact in the famous phrase: "We, the people". It was not we, the government or we, the authorities but we, the people understood as a group of free individuals who are willfully un-coerced delegating certain powers to the individuals they elected who will govern with the goal of protecting their liberty.

This precondition once again reflects the founder’s intent for the preservation of the liberty of the human person.


The view of human nature by US Founders closely corresponds with the Biblical truths.



A photo of a fragment of the Declaration of Independence in which the phrase "unalienable rights" appears. (National Museum of American History)



As a logical consequence, the function of the government was limited to law enforcement defined by two notions: equal protection and due process. The due process emphasised the fact that no-one can be deprived of its liberty by limiting independence, taking off some or all of property without the right process of the explanation of his or her position. The one who would claim the other person had to have sufficient and confirming evidence. 



In the view of American founders, the liberty of the human person is sacred and untouchable by any other person.


The American political idea allowed
for establishment of good government from reflection and choice.



Such political idea allowed for the establishment of good government from reflection and choice to avoid the fate of the majority of people destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force, as founders observed.

It was indeed a contrast to the political systems known and practiced by the rulers contemporary to the American Founding Fathers.

A scene from the life of American colony of site of Jamestown, Virginia, the first permanent English settlement in America. (MPI)



The royal tyrannies offered the subjects with some “guaranteed” human rights. Until today, after the founding of the United States, for centuries, the despots, including governments, defined what is good and have lured the people with the vision of heavenly societies that, in their words, were within reach if only individuals surrendered more of its liberties. But those who refused the paradise designed by the despotic governments would be tormented and ultimately coerced to compliance. 



The architects of such a utopian vision had to violate a doctrine of natural law and natural rights, stripping individuals of his or her uniqueness, making human person indistinguishable from the multitudes, turning to what is commonly known as “masses”. But simultaneously, they have assigned him or her a group identity based on race, gender, ethnicity, or income to emphasise the difference within the masses. They have exacerbated old disputes and incited new ones creating conflicts and wars in the society. This way, whoever acquires power over such society can speak to the well-being of “the people” as a whole while dividing them against themselves. As one contemporary author observed that by, “stampeding them in one direction or another as necessary to collapse the existent society or rule over the new one”.

It is against such utopia Founding Fathers laid down a foundation under the new political system, which is a sine qua non of the prosperity and reliability of the United States.



The next article of this series will discuss the important details of the doctrine of natural law and natural rights. It will be published in the same place on Sunday, November 1st .

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