The Founders knew full well that the concept of liberty was fragile and could easily be undermined. They worried about the dangers that lay ahead. As we move into the new century, it is an appropriate time to rethink the principles upon which a free society rests.
Jefferson, concerned about the future, wrote: “Yes, we did produce a near-perfect republic. But will they keep it? Or will they, in the enjoyment of plenty, lose the memory of freedom? Material abundance without character is the path of destruction.” “They” that he refers to are ” we.” And the future is now. Freedom, Jefferson knew, would produce “plenty,” and with “material abundance” it’s easy to forget the responsibility the citizens of a free society must assume if freedom and prosperity are to continue. The key element for the Republic’s survival for Jefferson was the “character” of the people, something no set of laws can instill. The question today is not that of abundance, but of character, respect for others, their liberty and their property. It is the character of the people that determines the proper role for government in a free society.
Samuel Adams, likewise, warned future generations. He referred to “good manners” as the vital ingredient a free society needs to survive. Adams said: “Neither the wisest Constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt.”
The message is clear, if we lose our love of liberty and our manners become corrupt, character is lost and so is the Republic. But character is determined by free will and personal choice by each of us individually. Character can be restored or cast aside at a whim. The choice is ours alone and our leaders should show the way. [Ron Paul, US 2008 candidate president]