Monday, December 05, 2016

Democratic Principle

I cannot conceive a more profoundly philosophic, or more admirably devised constitution, than that of our own government, as I have endeavored truthfully to present it in my American Republic. Yet, for the lack of the moral element in the American people, for the lack of a recognition of the law of nations emanating from an authority above the people, and binding the consciences of the nation, it is practically disregarded, and its wisest and most vital provisions are treated by the ruling people as non avenues. The people have forgotten its providential origin, treat it as their own creature, as a thing they have made, and may alter or unmake at their pleasure. It is not a law enjoined on them, and has no hold on their conscience. They give it a purely democratic interpretation. Men talk of loyalty, but men cannot be loyal to what is below them and dependent on their breath; and, therefore, they violate it without compunction, as often as prompted to do so by their interests or their passions.

[Orestes Brownson, "Democratic Principle", Brownson's Quarterly Review, April 1873.]

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