For Memorial Day, Some Common Sense About Our Common Purpose

“Will our Republic survive?”

It is a fitting question for Memorial Day. For, as Abraham Lincoln noted in his Gettysburg Address, “It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.” The work of preserving our freedom is never over and the best respect we can offer to those who “gave the last full measure of devotion” to preserve it is to dedicate ourselves to the task of making their sacrifice meaningful.

So, “Will our Republic survive?”

I’m guessing that when you read those words you did not think of the threat of Islamic jihad, or of Russia, or of China. I’m guessing that you, like Abraham Lincoln, thought first of the danger that we pose to ourselves. “If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher,” said Lincoln, and he was right. When thinking of the terrible disorder within our borders and amongst ourselves today, I reflect that not since the days leading up to the Civil War has America been so divided. A great many Americans and many of the leaders of the Democratic Party utterly rejected the election of America’s first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln. And today, it seems, they utterly reject the election of this Republican President.  There has again been talk of secession, long considered a matter settled by the Union victory. It seems we are no longer “one Nation under God, indivisible.”

The 19th century secessionists openly rejected the Founders’ vision. The Declaration, they said and wrote, was simply wrong about equality. In contrast, our fellow Americans who reject the outcome of our recent election seem more unhappy with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Among other things, they reject the Electoral College and the 1st and 2nd Amendments.

Those who reject the Founders’ vision today are mounting a spirited challenge. Consequently, those who do not want to lose our Republic need to mount a spirited defense. But to do that successfully, a strong grasp of the Founders’ vision will be needed. To that end, I recommend three books which, taken together, will ground the patriotic citizen in the understanding they will need to defend the Founders’ gift to us. All three consider the same cast of characters, examining them from three different perspectives. The result is a remarkably robust, almost holographic, presentation of the Founders and of how their new thinking transformed the world in so many ways.

The Society of Useful Knowledge

Benjamin Franklin, of course, plays a central role in all three books. The Franklin we come to know in this one is the man who initiated an American project of harnessing mankind’s intellectual and creative powers for the common good. The author, Jonathan Lyons, tells the story of the birth of the American way of doing science. It turns out that the Founders, who originated a new way of thinking about political liberty, also originated a new way of thinking about the study of nature.

The book is replete with references to common sense, as well as to those other intriguing terms—“the common good,” “the commonwealth,” “the common people,” “common purposes,” “common interests”—that cluster around and help define common sense. If your interests run to science and technology, this might be the book for you to begin your exploration of the American Founding.

On Two Wings

Here are the first words of the Preface: “Most of us grow up remarkably ignorant of the hundred men most responsible for leading this country into a War for Independence and writing our nation’s Constitution…This is a scandal.” But the good news is that you can easily remedy this.

If you want to learn more about the importance of religious faith and religious learning to the American Founding, then this is the book for you. In the brilliant image offered by the author, Michael Novak, the American eagle took flight on two wings, religious faith and common sense. And both those wings were uniquely American. As Paul Johnson wrote in A History of the American People, “In the America of the Enlightenment . . . the specifically American form of Christianity—undogmatic, moralistic rather than creedal, tolerant but strong, and all-pervasive of society—was born.”

The religious wing of the American eagle gets the lion’s share of Novak’s attention. Despite the book’s acknowledgement of the importance of common sense and the reference to common sense in the subtitle, common sense does not get equal attention. Consequently, Common Sense Nation makes the perfect companion to On Two Wings.

Common Sense Nation

Will you kindly forgive me for recommending the third book? Although it is true that I wrote it, it is also true that its fit with the other two is remarkable, and that I hope justifies including it.

This is from Scott Segrest’s review in National Review: “Common Sense Nation makes the case that recovering the Founders’ American idea is vital to reestablishing political order…[The author] is concerned most directly, as the book’s subtitle indicates, with an “idea” that once inspired, and he hopes will inspire again, the American nation. In his careful treatment of the U.S. Constitution, his intent is to recover the understanding and logic underlying the system, to get at the reason for our constitutional arrangements. The “American idea” is both the source of American identity and the standard for what America should be…[the book] tells the forgotten story of the philosophy of common sense that the Founders embraced, a philosophy that in fact was central to their purpose…Curry’s ultimate mission is to reawaken the American citizenry to their heritage and identity and to show them the rational principles by which they can reestablish a sound political order. His book could not be more timely at a moment of massive public disorientation and discontent with our public institutions…”

Because we live in the country the Founders made and in the world they transformed, it is all too easy for us to overlook what an astonishing break they made with all that went before and how great were their achievements. If America had never happened, you and I would almost certainly share the fate of our remote ancestors; we would be living poor, hungry, and oppressed. The Founders’ gift of liberty made possible the abundant and expansive lives we lead, and which we sometimes thoughtlessly take for granted.

Wherever you start, please consider diving in. After all, the Founding was one of the most remarkable and interesting events in the history of the world, and learning about it is its own reward.


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13 responses to “For Memorial Day, Some Common Sense About Our Common Purpose”

  1. Happy Memorial Day. I am spending it thinking about what it means that for the first time since Adolf Hitler, a German Chancellor spoke with hostility about the President of the United States in what the Germans are calling the Beer Tent Speech. This I did not expect.

      • No, just in the German dominated European Union which is now making threats against America and against the eastern half of the continent where Germans undertook the Holocaust and led to the death of 52 million people on a global scale.

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  2. Cosmic justice by Thomas Sewell says it all. Are we a nation of laws or interpretations of them. I an a constitutionalist. I say we are a nation of laws. I will wear my trump t shirt and stand up for he m for as long as it takes. Liberals have no idea how crushing the Romney defeat was for conservatives, but we didn’t abandon american like they are now. Shame on them. They should be drafted into our military if they profess what they are of ng now is pro american. Not that I want to make the military job harder. Let them show their true colors. Shame on them all. They are just a bunch of treasonists babies living in a progressive bubble. It is time to take america back and shut the resistance down.

  3. First, we no longer have a republic and haven’t had since Lincoln’s war. A republic isn’t coerced by the threat of armies. The woman chained in the basement might technically still be your wife, but only because she is a prisoner and can’t seek divorce.

    The Founders, including Jefferson did not consider the races equal or capable of coexistence. The experiment ended in the 1960’s with the great society where instead of prospering by conforming to the white, christian social norms “the content of our character”, women were paid to have babies out of wedlock, the sons grew up without a father so ended up dead or in prison mostly, with junk schools – thank you cross town busing that caused white flight – and enshrined it as an ethos.

    Equality is now at best a theoretical construct. Detroit has 80% of babies born out of wedlock, and probably similar without fathers. Look there, or baltimore, or Selma (baby!), or south central LA or Chicago. If you judge based on the content of character you will be called a Nazi. If you don’t, your idea of equality is stupid and insane. A feral young boy who has never known a father in a city with uncaring schools, equal to a boy with two parents that discipline him and insure the schools teach instead of drug him?

    As to “on two wings”, we are importing people who are Islamic, secular, don’t hold to the same biblical interpretation, and worse a heretical feel good, sin all you want interpretation. Is heresy equal to orthodoxy? Sharaia equal to traditional Christian Natural Law?

    The equality you state is from the rule of law and justice under equal application – justice is to treat unequal things unequally.

    There is no rule of law, or Bill Clinton would be in prison in 1999, or Hillary now, or the myriad others where the small fish are convicted of serious felonies for trivia like digging a pond on your own property, but someone like Weiner or Hastert only gets a few months, and most get nothing. What equality?

    I don’t need books. We are in a corrupt post-republic. You don’t admit even that so there is no help for you.

    • “The Founders, including Jefferson did not consider the races equal or capable of coexistence.”

      Then they were wrong. There is no question that both Thomas Sowell and Ben Carson tower over you, and me, intellectually. Indeed, their very existence is a refutation of your claims of “not equal”, at least in the way that you claim it.

      “Christian natural law”?! A small and meaningless word salad.

      “I don’t need books”. This belief is evident in the strength of your arguments here which basically amount to “melanin content is indicative of intellect and character”.

      Your belief that you can judge a human book by it’s cover is spectacularly stupid. Attempting to pretend otherwise is simply pathetic.

      • First, you don’t know my IQ, or my knowledge, but I would admit both Carson (Whom I supported originally) and Sowell (who is one of my icons and econo-social favorites) are minimally my peers if not my superiors. You forgot Walter Williams. What of the other 10s of millions of blacks, including the women who have multiple children out of wedlock each by a different man?
        Natural Law has a specific definition, and the analysis of the CHRISTIAN scholastics and protestant thinkers including the black robe regiment that formed the philosophical basis of the USA’s revoluton isn’t word salad, it is a specific worldview that gave use the greatest liberty in history.

        I cannot judge books properly by their cover, but can note those with white covers contain rational philosophy, moral encouragement, science, engineering, while those with yellow covers are more insular and cover different topics, while interesting resulted in the Tokagowa Shogunate and the various Chinese dynasties that saw gunpowder as something to use for fireworks. And those with black covers usually open to Lewis Farrakan, Jesse Jackson, or Al Sharpton’s dyscivic philosophy. There are a few bad white covered books – Abbie Hoffman’s steal this book, Mein Kampf, but those with black covers contain at best nonsense, at worst barbarity on average. After a strong correlation, and absent a recommendation that “this is the 1% different”, I’ll stick with what works

      • I don’t have to know you to know that there is a good chance that Sowell and Carson are your intellectual superiors because they are to 99%+ of the population, of which I included myself. it is a safe, but not sure, bet.

        If you concede the superiority of these men, like I do, how can you then collectivize similar people? “Blacks” include Sowell and Carson, just like “whites” include Hitler and Stalin and Charles Manson and Hillary Clinton. Let me count. 10M for Hitler and another 40M for Stalin. Which black was responsible for this level of mass murder? You mention the Tokagowa Shogunate and don’t mention how Japan has a larger economy than Germany? You should have mentioned Americas dependence on human slavery back in the 1800’s to round out your centuries old history.

        “What of the other 10s of millions of blacks”?! I am pretty sure the number of “blacks” in America is around 13 million.

        Thomas Sowell has an excellent book “Race and Culture”. He is pretty convincing in his arguments that race does not matter, but culture does. He gives the example of blacks who have immigrated from the west Indies. They actually score higher in a number of demographics including education, employment, legitimate birth, welfare, etc, etc. than whites. Just as Germans are not Italians or Greeks.

        I have to wonder. You do not think that you get to hand Norman Borlaug around your neck as “white” and not Stalin, right?

      • Black is both a race and a culture.
        Can you judge by the content of their character, and then tell me what the 80% out of wedlock births in Detroit and the violence in Chicago means.
        If we wish a free, just, and peaceful society, we must banish or at least quarantine those who refuse to do the things to produce and maintain it.
        The problem is that the demographics aren’t proportional.
        If you are willing to do something that on the basis of actual harm or behavior will label 10% of whites, 2% of asians, and 90% of blacks as incapable if that is what the evidence shows, I will cede the point (I won’t comment on the next generation, in 1960 it is likely there would have been natural integration before the civil rights movement, cross town busing, and the assassination of MLKjr).
        Stalin. But also Idi Amin. And the various leaders of Zimbabwe. None were Christian or part of western civilization.
        It may be inconvenient that Christendom and Western Civilization was created by whites, but blacks and Asians can accept it and follow it as better, or reject it and try to do their alternate cultures in the midst and cause perennial conflict.
        Americans have the Anglo-saxon protestant traditon of industry, thrift, etc. So welfare should be an abomination. Lets end it tomorrow (let churches do it and figure how to handle multiple children by different men of single mothers). Is that racist? It shouldn’t be. But not all cultures are equal, and a parasitic culture has no right to bleed a thrifty one.

      • “Black is both a race and a culture.”

        I am attempting to engage your points intellectually but this is in direct opposition to Dr. Sowell’s book and observations about people from the West Indies. Why do you not address that? Because your whole bullshit theory comes crashing down? You don’t care about actual statistics or anything because you just hate niggers? That culture produces better results than “whites”, so calling black both a race and a culture makes no sense. If your mind is closed then there really is no point in discussion. I
        would hope, as a supposed fan of Dr Sowell that is not the case but you seem to have ignored these very obvious differences in cultures of the same color.

        Germans and Italians, both “Christian” and both ‘white’. Their cultures, and resultant productivity, are hugely different. So “white” doesn’t work as a culture either, of course.

        “10% of whites, 2% of asians, and 90% of blacks as incapable if that is what the evidence shows” Since you produced no evidence then it must be assumed that you pulled these numbers out of your ass.

        You still did not respond to the fact that whites are among the biggest mass murderers in history. Stalin, white guy. Hitler, white guy. Charles Manson white guy. What were you saying about white culture again? What color were the people who passed the greatest wealth transfer in the history of Mankind? Oh, yeah, white people passing social security.

        You mention “natural law” and then collectivize individuals. Bizarre. I apologize for taking your seriously. You are nothing but a piece of shit racist.

      • Does white include jewish or not? Mao, Pol Pot, The Hutus in Rawanda, not white. And whites fought both Hitler and Stalin. Where were the African and Asian masses?
        Stalin and Hitler were also socialists which they have in common so that is the most likely cause. You also point out whites differ. So can I just say Russians and Germans are bad, English are good?
        Hatians are perhaps – on average – even less capable. When you say those who come from the West Indies, they are not a statistically representative group. They are the high-achievers, the most intelligent, and the most literate.
        I don’t collectivise individuals, but I do make correct observations about statistical correlations of groups. Individuals who merit it are welcome, but they should also heal their fellows, or at least try to. Thomas Sowell from his ivory tower has prevented how many black women from having children out of wedlock? Does he write his books for whites or blacks?

  4. “Will our Republic survive?”

    That it has since the last civil war says that it will after the next civil war.