“The 'Unwritten Constitution' refers to the ideas and processes that are accepted as a needed part of American government, regardless of the fact that they are not actually in the Constitution. These ideas and processes came about through the custom and precedent. Many aspects of the unwritten Constitution are so ingrained into our system that many do not even realize that they are not laws or provisions of the Constitution.” -- RegentsPrep.org.
I am a Christian. The fact that I am not the best representative of that manner of man should not obscure that my critique of the present state of mundane affairs proceeds from that basis. From time to time, I am accused of seeking to impose a theocratic state upon my fellow citizens, mostly because I have the temerity to mention God and the Founders' Republic in the same sentence.
As a Christian, some of my fellow Three Percenters who are agnostic libertarians suspect my motives and constantly question me as to what sort of "restoration end game" I see at the end of our struggle. Some fear, as with most revolutions, that the victors will fall to fighting amongst themselves over the character of the Restoration. This is possible, I suppose, but it need not be. In the unlikely event that I survive to see it, this is the Restoration I would battle toward:
I think we can agree that the natural rights of all men and women and which are merely codified in the Constitution extend to all regardless of race, creed, color or religion, even if that religion is no religion at all. The original sin of the Founders, slavery, has been expiated over the past two-plus centuries. As George Mason predicted, God does not judge nations in Heaven, but on earth, and we have been fully disciplined by the iron rod of history for the Founders' error.
In addition, we must agree that free men cannot remain free without free markets, which includes property rights protected by the rule of law. I happen to believe that Christianity is the philosophical basis of free market capitalism, an argument which I will not spend time on here but which is made by the Acton Institute here.
These rights extend to our philosophical enemies and unlike them, we should be worthy of the Founders' trust that we can be counted upon to stand by their design without monkeying with it to achieve a desired result. I would be happy if the last bastion of collectivism is represented by one bitter old professor flogging Marxian doctrine in some musty university classroom, but if that is so, he must have the liberty to be wrong. It is the bitter experience of the past century that teaches us that such collectivists cannot be trusted with power themselves. That they would be fully discredited in the marketplace of ideas and the arena of politics after having made the grab for ultimate power and by doing so sparked a bloody but (to them) failed civil war is, I think, a given. Perhaps I am an optimist.
But that is what comes from being a Christian. We are the eternal optimists even when the Romans are shoveling us into the lion's mouth. We know, because Christ told us so, that our side wins in the end. We also know that we will be around to see it, if we remain faithful to our beliefs. And it is these beliefs which are the foundation upon which Western Civilization was constructed and upon which it must always rest if it is to survive.
M. Stanton Evans makes this point powerfully in his book The Theme is Freedom: Religion, Politics, and the American Tradition found here.
Two other works which have influenced me greatly (and thus I recommend highly) are:
Lex, Rex, or The Law and the Prince by the Reverend Samuel Rutherford, 1644 here. (Subsequent Editorial Note: Just received this note from a long-time GOA member -- "Mike, the GOA bookstore offers Lex Rex for $11.50. I love it when we can beat out Amazon - in this case by a whopping percentage." The GOA bookstore is here.)
From Tyndale to Madison: How the Death of an English Martyr Led to the American Bill of Rights by Michael Farris here.
But it is not necessary to spend one's ammunition money for the next month to acquaint yourself with this point of view. I have recently been directed by my best friend to the website of Thomas Brewton, The View From 1776. As Brewton writes:
The View from 1776 presents a framework to understand present-day issues from the viewpoint of the colonists who fought for American independence in 1776 and wrote the Constitution in 1787. Knowing and preserving those understandings, what might be called the unwritten constitution of our nation, is vital to preserving constitutional government. Without them, the bare words of the Constitution are just a Rorschach ink-blot that politicians, educators, and judges can interpret to mean anything they wish.
"We have no government armed with the power capable of contending with human passions, unbridled by morality and true religion. Our constitution is made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." John Adams, to the Officers of the First Brigade, Third Division, Massachusetts Militia, October 11, 1798.
From that web site comes this discussion of "The Unwritten Constitution." I present it here for your consideration.
The Unwritten Constitution
The United States was founded on the Judeo-Christian ethic that historically was the substance of Western civilization. Ours was a specifically English conception of individual morality and individual responsibility that, only in England and its North American colonies, had produced a government of laws, not men, a government in which even the king is subject to the statutes of the land and to a higher moral law.
This conception of government necessitates a citizenry self-regulated by moral precepts that are preserved and taught by religion. The government must similarly be restrained by the limits of natural law, which say that no legitimate government may infringe any individual's rights to life, liberty, and private property.
No society can survive without a consensus about right and wrong, about what constitutes moral conduct. That consensus is the unwritten constitution of society, the content that gives meaning to a written constitution, the meat on the bones of the structure of government.
Opposing our original conception of government is the liberal jihad, driven by the ideology of socialism, sometimes called The Religion of Humanity. This religion was formalized in the 1789 French Revolution, the same year that our Constitution was ratified and became the law of the land.
Socialism is a secular religion. Like Islamic suicide bombers, liberals are so firmly persuaded that their cause is right, good, and just that they are prepared to go to any lengths necessary to destroy the Judeo-Christian ethic of individual morality and replace it with a rigidly regulated National-State collectivism, of which Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia were extreme examples.
The religion of socialism is being taught unconstitutionally, at your expense, in public schools and colleges receiving Federal aid. Teaching the religious doctrine of socialism as scientific fact amounts to making liberal-socialism the officially established religion of the United States.
The only constitutional way to stop the liberal jihad is to force schools to present both sides of the story, traditionalist, as well as liberal. Publicly funded schools now teach only the amoral, secular materialism of the socialist religion. Schools no longer present true versions of American history and of our original ideas of civic virtue and personal morality that are historically the substance of Western civilization. Penetrating the shield of socialist teachers' unions and the politicians whom they help elect is a very long-term project, but a vital one.
The largest volume of immigration in the nation's history, both legal and illegal, coupled with liberals' relentless efforts to destroy America's original traditions of individual morality, leaves us with no core values and a diminishing will to defend ourselves against foreign enemies.
The unwritten constitution of 1776 expressly or implicitly comprehended the following elements:
-- A philosophical view, reaching back to Plato and Aristotle, that humans, indeed all creatures and things, had inherent natures that implied certain ends or goals, a highest and best role in life. There was consequently a natural law based on an understanding of human nature, from which flowed precepts of civic virtue, morality, and ethics. In the pursuit of these truths lay humanity's greatest happiness and highest good.
-- Acceptance of personal responsibility for one's actions and belief that each individual was to be guided by his own conscience.
-- Belief in inalienable natural law rights of human beings, summed up as life, liberty, and property. The key concept was inviolability of personal property rights, without which individuals could not survive nor maintain their individuality and personal liberties against an arbitrary and abusive political power. If people cannot control the purse-strings and deny money to the king, they cannot protect their individual rights. Money-power is their only leverage, short of armed rebellion. That is what Magna Carta was all about. Forty-seven of its sixty-three articles are concerned with private property rights against the crown. A socialist government like our New Deal upends this by taking a large portion of people’s disposable income as taxes and making them dependent upon the National State for their needs.
-- A preference for government motivated by aspiration towards civic virtue and morality; a government of limited powers curbed by a higher law, the natural law rights of mankind.
-- An expectation that government would be essentially a protective shell against foreign aggressors, especially to prevent interference with ocean commerce or invasion from foreign countries. Within that shell, little was expected from the government, with hardly any day-to-day impact on the lives of ordinary Americans. More than anything else, domestically, citizens wanted to be free from arbitrary interference with their individual rights and their private property.
-- Readiness to fight for their legal and political rights as Englishmen, which were embodied in the unwritten British constitution that included the common law, Magna Carta, the 1628 Petition of Right, and the 1689 English Bill of Rights, as well as in their colonial charters.
-- A perspective of justice in the classical Greek model of proportionality, in keeping with the nature of human beings and human society. People were to be rewarded in ratio to the competence and importance of their work and to the effort and skill it required. Justice was a fair price for a good product. Justice was also viewed as adherence to laws of society that accorded with natural law.
Americans in 1776 would have rejected the opposing theory of liberal social-justice under which everyone, without regard to his personal contribution to society, is entitled to equal access to all of the goods and services produced by people who work for a living.
-- Aversion to hereditary class privilege and a preference for reward based on personal merit and hard work; tenacious awareness of equality before the law and of their rights, as Englishmen, under the common law and all Parliamentary statutes that protected individuals and their property from arbitrary exercise of authority.
-- Strong self-reliance and individualism; pioneering spirit; opportunity to do one's best and to go as high as one's talents and luck would carry.
-- Openness to science, inventiveness, and readiness to experiment with new methods. Newton's laws of motion that made the universe seem like a great clockwork devised by God had a clear influence upon the conception of internal structures and balances in the organs of government set forth in the Constitution.
-- A Judeo-Christian, predominantly Protestant, belief that the world was a divine creation in which man was subject to the God-given laws of nature. Legitimacy of statute laws enacted by the people's representatives depended upon their conforming to principles of human nature created by God. Religion was seen as the safekeeper of ethical values and as the teacher of those values to society.
-- A clear awareness that a government of powers limited by inalienable individual rights could not survive unless the people were equally self-restrained by fidelity to principles of individual morality, responsibility, and civic virtue.
-- A strong commitment to the Moral Sense theory of ethics taught by English and Scottish philosophers like the Earl of Shaftesbury, Francis Hutcheson, and Adam Smith (yes, the same Adam Smith who wrote the celebrated "Wealth of Nations"). These thinkers had somewhat different ideas about the origin of moral sentiments, but the common denominator was that benevolence was the most important characteristic to be fostered by society. John Witherspoon, a Scotsman who had studied under Francis Hutcheson, became President of Princeton, where he taught the theory of moral sentiments to James Madison. Madison was arguably the most important single contributor to the writing of the Constitution, and later was President of the United States.
-- Religious toleration, which was, by 1776, perceived as an essential policy if the colonists were to live together. America had more Protestant religious sects than anywhere else in the world. This tremendous diversity of doctrinal belief was itself one of the most powerful forces for individualism and democratic liberty.
-- Piety, not in the sense of religious ritual, but in the original Roman sense of reverence and respect for the traditions of the past and a feeling of responsibility to preserve those traditions for future generations.
-- A belief, based on religion, natural law, and moral philosophy, that all humans are equal in the sight of God, regardless of race, nationality, or station in life.
Slavery clearly violated this precept, and many people said so. As early as 1724 the Quakers formally denounced slavery, and Rhode Island outlawed it in 1774, followed by many other states in the north. In the 1787 Constitutional Convention there was lengthy debate in which most delegates favored outlawing slavery. Only the necessity of political compromise to retain the support of all thirteen states preventing the outlawing of slavery. The Constitution did, however, establish a date beyond which the slave trade would be forbidden, the only measure upon which all states could agree. Ultimately the Civil War, the bloodiest war in history at that date, abolished the practice altogether.
-- A view of humanity and the universe as a series of dualities: soul and body, heaven and earth, good and evil. Humans had the potential for being the best or the worst of creatures. Desires of the flesh produced undesirable qualities like laziness, selfishness, sexual promiscuity, and indulgence in drugs or alcohol.
Aspirations of the soul produced the moral virtues. Religion, morality, and civic virtue were counterpoised against tendencies of the body to amoral evil. Civilization depended upon the triumph of the former.