1. Rights come from God, not government.
Right out of our “Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
2. Limited Government/States Rights
The Founders were very wary of big government. They also distrusted democracy which they referred to as mob rule. James Madison constantly preached against any system that allowed special interests (factions) to gain control of the government. He showed that throughout history, majority factions tyrannized minorities, whether the minorities are based on race, wealth, religion, or even geography. Oh how right he was.
They believed that three distinct branches of government should exist and that checks and balances should be in place to prevent abuse by ant one branch. They understood that the best form of government is a representative republic, and that the federal government’s powers should be limited. All powers not granted to the federal government should reside with the States or the people.
3. Individual Liberty.
Thomas Jefferson defined liberty this way: “Of liberty then I would say that in the whole plenitude of its extent, it is unobstructed action according to our will, but rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others”. Jefferson believed that government was the greatest, if not only, threat to individual liberty.
4. Personal Responsibility.
In a free society every citizen gains a sense of himself as an individual, rather than developing a group or victim mentality. This leads to a sense of individual responsibility and personal pride. Individual responsibility gives one dignity. Government welfare programs rob individuals of their dignity and liberty.
5. Private Property Rights.
The Founders were influenced by Adam Smith, and were firm believers in private property rights. In their minds, private property rights were intertwined with liberty. True liberty would never allow the government to come at any time and take a person’s property. That would be Divine Right, which they had fought eight bloody years to escape.
James Madison said, “As a man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in his rights.” He meant that even if a person owned nothing else, he still owned his rights, which were the most valuable property of all.
6. Free Market Economy
The Founders realized that a free market economy was essential to protect our freedom. They therefore believed that government has a responsibility to protect the rights of all to participate in the economy by upholding contracts, lifting artificial trade barriers, and protecting the right to acquire, possess, and freely use property. They also understand that the government had a limited role in regulating commerce.
7. National Sovereignty/ Government should provide for the Common Defense
The Founders understood that one of the few roles of the government is to protect the national sovereignty of the United States and provide for the common defense of all.
8. Constitutional Rule of Law.
The Founders believed in the rule of law. They were adamant that the Constitution be written and that laws should be derived from our Constitution. A free people should be governed by law and not by the whims of men. “The end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom. For in all the states of created beings, capable of laws, where there is no law there is no freedom. For liberty is to be free from restraint and violence of others, which cannot be where there is no law.” – John Locke
9. A free people cannot survive under a republican constitution unless they remain virtuous and morally strong.
“Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.” – Benjamin Franklin
Without religion the government of a free people cannot be maintained. “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports…. And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion.” – George Washington
10. The core unit which determines the strength of any society is the family.
They believed that the government should foster and protect the integrity of the family. “There is certainly no country in the world where the tie of marriage is more respected than in America, or where conjugal happiness is more highly or worthily appreciated.” Alexis de Tocqueville