What Makes America Great?

Edward White
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Posted: Jul 03, 2015 12:01 AM
What Makes America Great?

With the July 4th holiday upon us, it is a good time to reflect on America’s founding principles and how we can ensure that our nation remains true to those principles, which made us the greatest country on Earth.

As President Calvin Coolidge explained in 1926 during his address on the 150th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, our nation was founded upon religious convictions and will only continue to remain a haven for the protection of liberty if Americans continue to have faith in those convictions.

In his address, President Coolidge spoke against Progressive ideas being advanced in the early 1900s that claimed that our founding principles were outmoded and in need of change.

These same Progressive ideas are being advanced by President Obama and others on the secular Left who seek to fundamentally transform this country into something other than what it was intended to be through an expansive federal government, overwhelming bureaucratic regulations, and government dependency.

President Coolidge’s words were as appropriate then as they are now. What follows are some of his comments made that day, formatted for easier reading:

In its main features the Declaration of Independence is a great spiritual document. It is a declaration not of material but of spiritual conceptions.

Equality, liberty, popular sovereignty, the rights of man -- these are not elements which we can see and touch. They are ideals. They have their source and their roots in the religious convictions. They belong to the unseen world.

Unless the faith of the American people in these religious convictions is to endure, the principles of our Declaration will perish. We can not continue to enjoy the result if we neglect and abandon the cause. . . .

Governments do not make ideals, but ideals make governments. This is both historically and logically true. Of course the government can help to sustain ideals and can create institutions through which they can be the better observed, but their source by their very nature is in the people.

The people have to bear their own responsibilities. There is no method by which that burden can be shifted to the government. It is not the enactment, but the observance of laws, that creates the character of a nation.

About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful. It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern.

But that reasoning can not be applied to this great charter. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions.

If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers. . . .

We live in an age of science and of abounding accumulation of material things. These did not create our Declaration. Our Declaration created them. The things of the spirit come first. Unless we cling to that, all our material prosperity, overwhelming though it may appear, will turn to a barren scepter in our grasp.

If we are to maintain the great heritage which has been bequeathed to us, we must be like-minded as the fathers who created it. We must not sink into a pagan materialism. We must cultivate the reverence which they had for the things that are holy. We must follow the spiritual and moral leadership which they showed. We must keep replenished, that they may glow with a more compelling flame, the altar fires before which they worshiped.

You can read President Coolidge’s full address here, which is something worth reading.

May you have a wonderful Independence Day.