The Quiet Revolution: A Religious Revival in America

I have often mentioned the special role that religion, in the form of Biblical morality, plays in the history of the American political experiment. The Founding Fathers, under the influence of the British Enlightenment of the 18th century, understood the state and its nature to be the natural outgrowth of the nation as a whole. A generation or so before the climactic events of the last quarter of the 18th century, a Protestant religious revival, the Great Awakening, had swept through the 13 British colonies, and had a profound effect on the thinking of the people who confronted the tyranny which King George III and his officials sought to impose on them.

No less a constitutional authority than John Adams, first vice president and second president of the United States, put it this way: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” The reason should be obvious: only a self-disciplined, self-restrained, self-reliant people can function with the relatively minimalist government, one whose processes are deliberately slowed and frustrated by checks and balances to maximize personal liberty, as the United States Constitution seeks to do.

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