But although this attempt at applying Enlightenment philosophy to the government of a free people (meaning the Constitution) has problems, the ideals of the Enlightenment on which it was founded are still valid. Just as the Articles of Confederation were superseded by the Constitution, so will the Constitution and the republic which grew under it be superseded by something else. What will follow it, however, is not written yet. Who will do the writing? What will be said? Which ideas will be it's foundation?
How was all this done two and a quarter centuries ago? Understanding the motivations of the Federalists who wrote it allows a better understanding of how and why we got the Constitution we ended up with. It also shows how we can improve upon it.
Take some time, and study the history of the writing of the Constitution of the United States. A good start is Max Farrand's book, "The Framing of the Constitution of the United States." Written a hundred years ago, and still in print today, it is an excellent starting place to understand how and why the Constitution was created, and to understand the men who wrote it. Many of them were no smarter or wiser than many of us, although some were better read, and that it the point of this: each of us should aspire to building something better. And by this, I mean you. Yes, YOU! The individual reading this. YOU can make a difference.
Not long ago, in my wanderings about the blogosphere (I read many dozens every week, and I cannot recall at the moment which one it was...) I read an article which pointed out the importance of individual action. Talking about German reunification and the actions of Kohl, it made the point that the right person at the right time can make a huge difference in outcome. Nobody in 1989 would have given a nickel's worth of credence to the idea that Germany would reunify, yet here we are with the deed done, due in large part to an unremarkable politician named Helmut Kohl who saw the opportunity and took advantage of it.
In 1774, very few Americans were even discussing the possibility of an independent America. Yet two years later each of the thirteen colonies had revolted against the most powerful empire in the world, and ultimately beat the largest, most powerful military in the world. How? Ideas. Ideas inculcated in the body of the population, ideas expressed in pamphlets and leaflets, ideas which set the minds of individual people alight. We won the American Revolution because of ideas, embodied and defended by individuals who fought for them. (2 million pounds of French gunpowder combined with one of the only French defeats of the Royal Navy helped a lot, I must admit, but these events are further proof of the power of the individual. Would the French have intervened without Franklin?)
The philosophy of freedom, the ideals of the Enlightenment are so powerful that I believe it is a mistake to underestimate what can happen when they are employed. When those are combined with the power of the individual, they can shake the world. If each reader of this blog were to spread the ideas of the Enlightenment locally, and cultivate liberty in their neighborhood, the results would be out of all proportion to the effort involved. Philosophy, or the lack of it, is the reason that we are in the mess in which we find ourselves. Philosophy, and attention to the ideals of the Enlightenment, is the path out of the swamp of collectivism in which we are mired.
We have a demonstrably better set of ideas than our opponents, but we have done a terrible job of promoting these ideas. The collectivists and statists have entered the war of ideas and won by default, because the FreeFor wasn't on the field. That must change if we are to win, and each of you can be a part of it.
If Americans are to once again demonstrate to the world American exceptionalism we must win the war of ideas. Education is the key. We must teach people what freedom is, why liberty is important, what individual rights are and are not, and we must explain why these ideas are so vitally important. Each of us ought to dedicate ourselves to planting the seeds of Liberty.
It is true that history does not exactly repeat itself, and it is unlikely that we can recreate the united States of 1781, but an historical rhyme of liberty would be most pleasing, and is certain eventually. I am intent on hearing it in my lifetime. How about you? Plant the seeds of Liberty, the ideas of freedom, and you can enjoy the harvest of freedom.