Winston Elliott, not atypically, has asked a profound if somewhat inconvenient question (When Is a Change in Government a Duty?) regarding the right to revolution. Inconvenient, that is, given the current disarray of our society and the sloppiness of most political, philosophical, and cultural discourse on such outlets as Fox “News.”
For what it’s worth, I offer two points.
First, I think it’s very important to remember Russell Kirk’s understanding that every right comes with a duty. If we have a “right” to revolution, we must have a corresponding duty.
As I think about the Founders—and I doubt if too many among the readers of The Imaginative Conservative will disagree—I see a group of men without compare in history. I don’t think this is hyperbole. Exclude Jesus and the 12 for a moment in your own thoughts and historical remembrances. Where do we see a collection of men such as those who led the American founding (whether at the Second Continental Congress or at the Constitutional Convention)? These were, as Jefferson said of those at the Constitutional Convention, an Assembly of Demigods. They were literate, intelligent, articulate, liberal (in the best sense), and humane.
In other words, they were that very, very rare thing in history—not only true men, but true men who knew who they were and how they fit into the larger scheme of history and justice.
Could we find a comparable group of men and women in this day and age? We can find those who profess something—usually subjectivism or insane objectivism. We can find those who will do the right thing because it’s the right thing. We can find those who lead. But, can we find someone or some ones who can do all three, properly and combined in some kind of meaningful unity?
The only folks in any large numbers who know who they are seem rather bent on the inhumane and upon the destruction of western, post-Christian civilization. Outside of the Islamic world, we westerners seem to want to avoid serious intellectual and inconvenient discussion, ignore the faith of our fathers, and condemn to Hell any and all who want to state an opinion beyond the tapioca platitudes expressed in sound bites here and there.
The founders were worthy of revolution. I’m not sure that we are.
Second, if there is a failure of constitutional government, we have no one to blame but ourselves. We—the body of Americans, past, present, and future—make up the Constitution. If we have no soul or a poorly ordered soul, we have no right to expect the republic to have a coherent soul.
Books by Dr. Birzer and others on this topic are available from The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore.