The American Founding as the Best Regime

The Claremont Institute, July 4, 2007.


The Preamble of the Constitution crowns its enumeration of the ends of the Constitution by declaring its purpose to “secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” No words of the Constitution reveal the intention of the Constitution more profoundly than these. The Preamble is the statement of the Constitution’s purposes, and this culminating purpose embraces and transcends those that have gone before. Alone among the ends of the Constitution, to secure liberty is called a securing of “blessings.” What is a blessing is what is good in the eyes of God. It is a good whose possession—by the common understanding of mankind—belongs properly only to those who deserve it. We remember that the final paragraph of the Declaration of Independence appeals to “the Supreme Judge of the World for the rectitude of our intentions.” It is by “the authority of the good people of these colonies” that independence is declared. It is because of this assurance of their rectitude that this good people, and their representatives, placed “a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence.” We commonly call blessed those who enjoy in great measure wealth and health and freedom. And so it is that men pray for these things. Yet the sufferings of the innocent and the flourishing of the wicked—especially the great tyrants—teach us that to be blessed is not the same thing as to be in the enjoyment of worldly goods, of what Aristotle calls external goods. It is an element of the natural theology of mankind—that is partly implicit and partly explicit in the Declaration of Independence—that the compensations, both of evil and of good, are not altogether those visible in the natural order. Hence Aristotle says that what men should pray for is that these external goods be good for them. When men are poor, they seem to wish only for wealth. When they are ill, for health. When they are enslaved, they long only for freedom. This is altogether understandable.

The Claremont Institute