Have you ever wondered why the U.S. Constitution still holds a semblance of power in the hearts and minds of the citizenry when more well written Constitutions around the world have gone up in flames within ten years?
It’s critical that the citizenry know and understand the theoretical roots behind what empowers the Constitution, especially in today‘s political environment. A reverence for the law, all law, is key to maintaining a stable and free society. This idea of reverence for the law is rooted in political theory, specifically the theory of Baron de Montesquieu.
Montesquieu and The Spirit of the Laws
Montesquieu was a French political philosopher who lived during the 1700s. His seminal work, a philosophical analysis of government, was called The Spirit of the Laws. In it, he explored and explained different modes of government and what worked best for each government.
Montesquieu believed every country had a prevailing and necessary SPIRIT that allowed that country to succeed (or fail).
For instance, Montesquieu believed that, for a monarchy to succeed, there must be a prevailing spirit of honor among both the citizenry and the government itself. The entire system of a monarchy is built upon honor and without it, the government degrades into tyranny. He then said that fear was necessary for a despotic government to find success. Naturally, the people must fear the despot (dictator) for him to maintain his power, but the despot must also fear the people. Why? Because if he doesn’t fear the people (or fear losing his power), he will get sloppy and the people will no longer fear him and will rise up and cast him out.
But what spirit must be present in a country like the U.S.? While the U.S. is not a pure “democracy” per se, it does operate of off democratic principles and is therefore applicable to Montesquieu’s final spirit, the spirit that he claims must be present for a democracy to survive and thrive.
Montesquieu says that virtue is the necessary condition for a democracy to work. Now, you may automatically think of virtue as a “moral standing” or “relating to morality”. I don’t blame you. I initially thought the same thing. However, for Montesquieu, virtue simply meant a “love of the law”. In other words, for a democracy to work, the people must love and reverence all law and especially the supreme law of the land.
How well do most democratically run countries run if the citizenry and those in power (police, politicians and the like) have no respect for the law whatsoever? Corruption runs rampant and chaos ensues. Further, if the citizenry and politicians don’t respect the Constitution, the law that confines government, then that Constitution is destined to fail in due time. The goes for the laws that apply to and confine the citizenry, if the citizenry and politicians don’t respect the law, these laws are destined to fail in due time.
Montesquieu was well aware of human nature. He said, “But constant experience shows us that every man invested with power is apt to abuse it, and to carry his authority as far as it will go” . In fact, it is Montesquieu who gave us the idea of the separation of powers. He says, “when the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person, or in the same body of magistrates, there can be no liberty; because apprehensions may arise; lest the same monarch or senate should enact tyrannical laws, to execute them in a tyrannical manner”.
Montesquieu had a keen understanding of human nature and how that affected government. He, therefore, deeply understood that for a country with democratic principals to work, the people—and those that represent them—-must, under all circumstances, love the law. Otherwise, in no time, such a country will degenerate into anarchy.
The U.S. and The Love of the Law
This explanation should help you put your finger on the intangible element making America so great…and the intangible element that many today are actively trying to destroy. The U.S. Constitution is the oldest living written Constitution in the world, which, given its brevity, is remarkable. It’s a brief document and yet it’s persisted in its power and influence for over 200 years.
If you are Conservative or Libertarian, you might be thinking “Well, the Constitution has no power now, given how the government tramples it everyday by passing laws that are nowhere mentioned in the Constitution!”. You’re correct, but it’s the Constitution and the respect for the Constitution that has severely slowly this abuse of power and allowed the U.S. to last as long as it has, while maintaining the freedom that the U.S. does still enjoy.
There are many countries that have written constitutions modeled after the U.S. Constitution; however, within twenty years or so the constitutions and the ruling governments have been overthrown. This means that, obviously, the success of the U.S. Constitution cannot be attributed to its “genius” writing or “exceptional detail”.
No, rather, its success must be attributed to the fact that the U.S. has, for most of its history, had virtue. Citizens and those in government love the law, or at least legitimize it and believe that it should be followed. This means, that if it is not followed, whoever is not following it, should be punished.
Think About It
How powerful would a Supreme Court ruling be if no one, including the other branches of government, respected the Constitution?
What makes the “gun rights” argument so hard for the left to fight? (The fact that the U.S. population still, even if they don’t realize it, respect and reverence the Constitution.)
What about the idea of “free speech”? What about what all the liberals are crying about while trying to impeach Trump? They say that he’s acting “unconstitutionally”.
Really, think about it. All someone has to do, whether on the left or the right, is say that something is unconstitutional and suddenly its as if the alleged “Constitution violator” is the potential next Hitler.
I’m simply trying to clue you into the “spirit of the laws” in this country—something that I believe you likely already understand and deep down already know. Perhaps this article has helped you put you finger on the intangible element that makes this country so unique and so great. We — whether we realize it or not —- respect the law.
Why This is So Important
This idea of virtue, first introduced by Montesquieu, is so important, because without it, the Constitution of the United States really has no power. And if the Constitution has no power, there truly is no saving the U.S. If the Constitution has no power, that means that the fallible humans in government are now the final court of review and there is nothing to control or curb their power. And this is why many are pushing and manipulating our youth into thinking that law or rules or the idea of right or wrong is in itself, well, wrong (ironic, right?). This is the current agenda: slowly tear down the virtue of this country so that, eventually, there is no gasping at the thought of throwing out the Constitution. Referring to the Constitution as an old and outdated document is just a manipulative way of saying that we should no longer respect it. It is no longer the supreme law of the land.
This concept of virtue is so important. It’s critical that you know and understand what’s actually being attacked and what is at stake. I hope you’ll join me as I work to help educate the American public so that the love of the law is not lost forever.
The Liberty Belle
Montesquieu, Charles de Secondat, baron de, 1689-1755. (1823). The Spirit of Laws. London :Printed for J. Collingwood,