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Requirements of a Democratic-Republic

The founders of The United States were extraordinary people. Their original vision offers much for us to learn from - and not just for Americans. Their hopes, insights, trials and contentions influenced the formation of all modern democracies.
    Much of what made these imperfect men extraordinary was the unique times in which they lived. They were born in the latter part of Age of Enlightenment, during which the intellectual and social restrictions of the feudal past were being challenged by forces of reason, toleration, and free inquiry. It was a new awakening of human potential and dignity of the mind - a new perspective of the world and humanity's place in it. The Statue of Liberty, triumphantly raising her torch of enlightenment for the world to see, represents the inspiration of that age.
    The intent of the founders was to design a form of government that would provide maximum freedom for citizens under the protection of law. They wanted a world (not just a nation - they considered their ideals universal) that respected individuality, civil rights, and the virtuous ascendency of human potential. While not all their goals were achieved during their lifetimes, they believed that the momentum of their efforts would eventually complete the task.
    As the founders deliberated the structure of their new society, they confronted a problem that we need to reconsider from today's perspective.
    Having broken away from England's social hierarchy of station and patronage, they needed to replace it with a dynamic that would bind free people together as a single nation. This dynamic could not be imposed by government, since that would contradict the freedom they envisioned. If the solution were not derived from the workings of human nature, the whole experiment would fail.
    They concluded that a free society, unburdened by the fixed restraints of hierarchy, would find its cohesion in person-to-person relationships. Personal attachments would arise of their own accord from the interactions of commerce, filial love, courtesy, affection, toleration, and the shared benefits of community. They believed that people working and living harmoniously together would congeal as a united people and continue the advancement of Enlightenment ideals.
    The logic of their conclusion, however, depended upon a qualifier that they took for granted. They assumed that, once started, the momentum to elevate human virtue as a whole, which was the essence of Enlightenment thought, would naturally continue. After all, who would want to return to the previous "unenlightened" state? What they failed to realize was that the majority of working people were not philosophers or influenced by a sense of human destiny beyond their own personal ambitions. As the republic leaned more and more toward democracy, the original vision faded in to the background.
    The Enlightenment recognized that freedom provided the best soil for virtue to grow, but that was true only so long as virtue (serving the public good) retained a strong priority.
    Government could provide safeguards and promote "the general welfare," but the real success of a democratic-republic depended upon the enthusiasm of people at large, abiding by the virtues that carried humanity forward.
    This required electing quality leaders who would not be not swayed by self-interest, factions or party affiliations.
    Such leaders could only be bred in a culture of inspired, educated citizens dedicated to truth and virtue - people who transcended prejudice, and could think for themselves. Not party loyalists, ideological converts, or businesspeople representing their own monetary interests. In other words, the founders believed that they would be replaced by people like themselves.
    The form of government they had in mind was inspired by tales of the Roman republic that were popular at the time. They admired such figures as Cato and Cicero, who served their government without regard for personal profit. Indeed, George Washington was passionately driven to reflect that classical image. Not only did he refuse compensation for his wartime services, he retired to his farm while at his height of popularity. Such nobility was the republican ideal that the founders intended to cultivate. They envisioned proud leaders of the highest caliber - people of reason, integrity, compassion, strong intelligence and good will. The best of the best. Some early patriots, like John Hancock, actually discarded their inherited wealth that they might be seen as worthy to serve the public good.
Unfortunately, with notable exceptions, that succession of quality leaders failed to happen. Average people lost interest in leaders who reflected "noble republican virtues." They preferred representatives aligned with local factions. The idea of filling Congress with stoic representatives concerned with the public good quickly gave way to an assembly of competing interests. This led to the partisan intransigence we see today.
    To counteract this intransigence, is it possible to rescue a democratic-republic by reexamining its original vision? Can a nation derived from the ideals of an exceptional age, now removed from that age by two centuries, regain some of its insight and enthusiasm? This is the dilemma we must seriously confront.
    Experience and common sense tell us that the changes we need for "a more perfect union" will never happen through division, partisan bickering or social greed - or through ignorance, apathy, hatred or denying human rights. These are opposite to the Enlightenment ideals that the founders believed.
    The impetus can only be regained by an enthusiastic flow of conscience, a civilized code of ethics based on reason and good will, and a culture that extols all the virtues necessary to maintain it…

…brought about by a movement that makes it all possible.

    This brings us to Chivalry-Now, a movement dedicated to advancing the spirit of a new age, a New Enlightenment. We offer not only a code of ethics, rooted in all that is best in western thought, but a treasure-trove of illuminations meant to energize curious minds. We hold that the awakening of our highest nature is the most effective, proper and humane way to eliminate the social and political problems that hold us back. The personal fulfillment it fosters will lead to a better life for all.
    The challenges we face, however, are formidable.
    In a society where positive ideals have long been suppressed by cynicism and social despair, is it possible to generate the kind of enthusiasm that is capable of inspiring a New Enlightenment? Does truth retain enough priority in our personal lives to spur us into action? Or has comfort and complacency sapped us of our will? Can we regain the heroic impulse that once mobilized human advancement in leaps and bounds? Or has it withered on the vine of a commercialized culture that asks nothing from us but to spend money?
    The success of Chivalry-Now depends on the people who respond to it. It depends on us. It depends on our commitment, and on every person that we meet who listens to our message.
    The door is open. The code is ready for the taking. The deeper concepts lead to a understanding of our own legacy that we might better partake in it. The quest invites us all to participate, providing a path that, if faithfully traveled, leads to the formation of a better world.
    It is possible to save our western culture and democratic-republics by becoming the responsible citizens of the world that destiny calls us to become.


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