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About American civilization

“America is great because America is good. When she ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.”

Those words are attributed to Alexis De Tocqueville, a French political scientist and historian who came to America in 1831 to study prisons, but became fascinated by the goodness of the American people.

So, he began research to determine the source of this goodness and the factor that made America exceptional among all nations.

The Declaration of Independence and the Northwest Ordinance must have been among the sources considered.

The Declaration declared that this nation was founded upon “The laws of Nature and Nature’s God.” These laws define the moral system upon which the American political system rests.

From these laws Jefferson concluded: “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 — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed …”

God, government and the governed were united.

The Northwest Ordinance was passed July 13, 1781 and signed into law by President George Washington in 1789.

The purpose of the Ordinance was to ban slavery North and West of the Ohio River. It also granted basic rights to all settlers and granted freedom of religion to all. Article 3 of the Ordinance stated the purpose of the public school. It reads:

“Religion, morality and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”

Clearly, God, government and the public schools were united. The aim of each was to produce good people who could be good citizens.

Apparently by the 1830s the public schools had achieved this objective with the aid of religion and the government.

This was achieved by teaching the intellectual, moral and spiritual virtues.

In 1835 and again in 1840, De Tocqueville’s book “Democracy in America” was published.

The main idea of the book was “That the singular combination of the spirit of religion and the spirit of liberty constitutes the ‘American Civilizations.'”

Now that God has been removed from the functions of government and the public school, we no longer understand the “laws of Nature and Nature’s God,” from which the concepts of equality, justice and rights come.

What constitutes American civilization today?

Lewis Rutherford

Parkersburg

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