Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Response to Tucker and Masugi on the Declaration

In response to the blogs of Drs. Tucker and Masugi , I would say the following: Tucker argues that the God of the Declaration and the God of special revelation are different Gods, perhaps not incompatible but different. I don’t think this is correct. Certainly John Locke in the 2nd Treatise sees the laws of nature as the laws of God. (See Tom West’s recent writings on this, e.g., the lecture he gave on Locke to the Family Research Council). As Masugi points out, Jefferson said that the Declaration was an expression of the American Mind not necessarily simply a reflection of Jefferson’s understanding. As an expression of the American mind, the Declaration reflects the opinion at the time of the Founding that the political and moral teaching of the Bible (Old and New Testaments) and the political and moral teachings of the natural rights doctrine are one and the same. On this point, see the sermon of Samuel West, ‘On the Right to Rebel against Governors’ (found in Charles Hyneman and Donald Lutz, eds., American Political Writings during the Founding Era: 1706-1805, Volume I) and the sermon of John Witherspoon, ‘The Dominion of Providence over the Passions of Men’ (found in Ellis Sandoz, ed., Political Sermons of the American Founding Era: 1730-1805). True religion is reasonable and true reason is moral.

In all of his speeches but especially since 9/11/01, Bush’s policies and statements emerge from the idea that ‘our deepest national conviction is that all of us are equally creatures of God.’ (That conviction is also what Bush follows regarding abortion, judicial appointments, and other domestic or social issues.) This was stated most explicitly in the Ellis Island Speech of 9/11/02. The ‘Axis of Evil’ is evil precisely because it rejects the central idea of the Declaration of Independence. Their actions, like the merciless Indian savages mentioned in the Declaration, e.g., the intentional killing of innocent men, women, and children, show their barbarism. Their barbarism is manifiest in the intentional killing of innocents. Their rejection of morality is unreasonable and their unreasonableness or fanaticism leads them to hijack religion. So, unlike Mausgi, I believe that Bush and Rice, (and one expects their speech-writers) are well versed in the Declaration as interpreted by Thomas Jefferson and Harry Jaffa. Bush, like Jaffa, sees no conflict between the ideas of equality and liberty as articulated in the Declaration. Tocqueville and most Eastern Straussians make that mistake because they interpret equality as radically individualistic (i.e., following Rousseau, they see man as perfectible and thus not only as pre-political but also pre-social, pre-rational, and ultimately pre-human.) Fortunately, Bush is from West Texas and apparently knew what to ignore when at Yale and Harvard. It is true that Bush’s courage and prudence seems to follow from his deep religious conviction. Tucker asks; ‘How can Bush know that liberty is a gift of God.’ He can know it by revelation but he can also know it by reasonable observation: No man is a god and no man is a beast and no man is ruled (or ought to be ruled) by another without his voluntary consent. The enemy we face is animated by a fanaticism which is not informed by reason or revelation (unless we say that a willful God can will evil). Jefferson put it most eloquently in the Notes on the State of Virginia when he wrote: “And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God?”

I don’t mean to dismiss the important theological and philosophical arguments which Tucker raises. Whether God is willful or nor or bound by intelligible necessity or not are important questions. Indeed, Jefferson believed that God created the mind free and thus imperfect men would disagree about these question of conscience. Is there one God, two Gods, no God, 20 gods? Is it good because God wills it or does God will it because it is good? These are questions of conscience but not questions of policy.

Regarding Condoleezza Rice for higher office, I had expressed doubt about that when Dr. Schramm first suggested it. (My greatest doubt was: how could a Stanford Provost possibly have the convictions I think an important office holder should have?) I don’t make the recommendation based simply on her comments at the Prayer Breakfast. Following what has happened since 9/11, I have been most impressed by her words and deeds. Based on articles in the national press and various books, e.g., Bob Woodards’ Bush at War, she strikes me as the right stuff. I would have her run for the U.S. Senate in California, Maryland or Alabama first but the Vice Presidency may be ok as well. What struck me most about the comments at the National Prayer Breakfast was the reasonableness of her deep moral convictions. In this, she is like Bush.

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