of a Democratic-Republic
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
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
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.
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
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
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.