Principle # 3 : “ … elect virtuous leaders.”

Published 11:45 pm Saturday, November 6, 2010

Principle # 3 : “ … elect virtuous leaders.”

Dr. Stanley Watson, Syndicated columnist

Dr. Cleon Skousen focuses on 28 principles in his book, The Five Thousand Year Leap: Fundamental beliefs by which the Founding Fathers set about to build a society based on morality, faith and ethics. Principle #3 reads: To secure a virtuous and morally stable people elect virtuous leaders.

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Here’s an important caution from one of the Founding Fathers, Samuel Adams: “But neither the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt.. He therefore is the truest friend to the liberty of his country who tries most to promote its virtue. Who will not suffer a man to be chosen into any office of power and trust who is not a wise and virtuous man?”

Samuel Adams went on to declare that public officials should not be chosen if they are lacking in experience, training, proven virtue, and demonstrated wisdom”. A favorite scripture of the day was, “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.”

Thomas Jefferson opined, “It would have been inconsistent in creation to have formed man for the social state, and not to have provided virtue and wisdom enough to manage the concerns of society.” He went on to point out that the best form of  government would offer a way for selecting the best persons to run the government.

(Our country could use a movement to improve the current election process- Right?”)

Benjamin Franklin expressed the view of the Founding Fathers concerning salaries for politicians. He contrasted the pay for public officers in Europe who received extravagant pay for their services to the pay in America in which the office holders served for extremely low compensation or gratis. John Adams described public service as the “Divine Science of Politics”.

At the Constitutional Convention, Ben Franklin expressed the need to set pay for public service so low that it would attract men of virtue and repel those who were seeking money and power: “Sir, there are two passions which have powerful influence on the affairs of men. These are ambition and avarice, the love of power and money … Place before such men a place of honor that shall be, at the same time, a place of profit, and they will move heaven and earth to obtain it.

The men at the Convention were there at great personal sacrifice; some, like Madison, on borrowed money. Franklin declared that “High salaries for government offices are the best way to attract scoundrels and drive from the halls of public service those men who possess true merit and virtue.”

Although our nation pays well for public service from local officials to the President, the warning from the Founding Fathers still applies:

In the early days of the nation public offices were seen as a positions of honor to be granted to persons of morality and virtue. These offices were filled by those who performed with little or no compensation. President Washington is a good example of what was a common practice. Although he was provided an annual $25,000 salary, he managed without it. True, he had a large plantation but Mt. Vernon had been almost ruined during the war and was barely able to survive. When Washington was called as President, he again declined his salary.

A modern reader wonders at the morality and virtue of such men as Adams, Jefferson, Washington, Madison. How did they come together to produce the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution? Where did the concept of a Noble Experiment come from— a nation in which the government was based on the will of the people?”

When we read the personal letters and official documents that laid the foundation of America we discover that the founders were familiar with the best resources available in the fields of theology, philosophy, and law. They had been nurtured by their churches, families and schools in a common system of basic beliefs: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness …

Next week’s column focuses on the whole-hearted belief of the Founders that the special ingredient which secured the nations quality of life to preserve it was religious faith: “Without religion the government of a free people cannot be maintained.” Principle #4 of the 28 ideas that changed the world.