A Republic, Madam, If You Can Keep It…


By Tony Perkins

Ben Franklin was approached by a grand Philadelphia lady as the Constitutional Convention ended this day in 1787. Have you given us a monarchy or a republic, she asked the oldest of the Founding Fathers. “A republic, Madam, if you can keep it,” he said. And we can see a twinkle in his eye. Wise old Ben Franklin knew that republics were not easy to keep. But he also knew that Americans had sacrificed greatly to achieve their Independence.

Some 25,000 Americans died in the Revolutionary War. We tend to think of it today as all fife and drums playing “Yankee Doodle,” a powdered wig and white stocking affair. It was a bloody and brutal contest. British troops and Hessian mercenaries raped their way across New Jersey. They stabbed a Continental Army chaplain thirteen times and left him dying in the road. General Washington led us in war and he led us in peace. Washington presided over the Constitutional Convention for five long, hot months in that spring and summer of 1787. The debates on the floor grew testy, but never violent. Several times, it seemed the convention would break up. Big states and little states clashed. The delegates wrangled over slavery. It was not a friendly affair.

When the great George Mason of Virginia, Gen. Washington’s neighbor and fellow Episcopal vestryman at Pohick Church, refused to sign the Constitution, Washington ended a friendship of thirty years. Ronald Reagan revered the U.S. Constitution. He quoted the Founding Fathers more than any of his four predecessors in the White House (and more than any of his four successors, too.) Reagan often said: Ours is the only Constitution in the world that begins with “We the People.”

President Obama almost never quotes the Founding Fathers. He seems annoyed that anything would question his authority. Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi reacted with amazed incredulity when someone asked if the Obama administration bill to seize control of one-sixth of the U.S. economy was constitutional. It was as if the Constitution was the last thing she thought of. (That may be one reason why she is former Speaker of the House.) The Constitution requires that the President “shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed.

Many have argued this president has completely ignored the Constitution and the limits it places on him. Remember it was President Obama who openly declared he would not enforce the Defense of Marriage Act because he disagreed with it. He is threatening to nullify our immigration laws. He has even unilaterally and materially altered his own “signature” achievement: The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. By some counts, forty-two times! Ronald Reagan also said that freedom is ever only one generation away from being lost. It is our duty to share with young Americans our deep belief in our U.S. Constitution.

It is only by abiding by the Constitution and by teaching the rising generation to cherish our liberties as we do that we can hope to survive these tumultuous times. As Founder Thomas Jefferson put it: “It is in the manners and spirit of the people that a republic is preserved in vigor.” Let us preserve, protect, and defend our Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic.

Tony Perkins is president of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council. He is a former member of the Louisiana legislature where he served for eight years, and he is recognized as a legislative pioneer for authoring measures like the nation’s first Covenant Marriage law.

(Via FRC’s Washington Update. Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.)

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