It’s wonderful to have your post here–thanks very much for joining in the discussion. And, not surprisingly, you ask a vital question. There are certainly parallels between today and the time period immediately preceding the American Revolution, to be sure. Unfortunately, our own populist revolt at the moment is decentralized, leaderless, and, seemingly, without a philosophical backing. Lots of anger and criticism, but not many solutions being offered. There are not persons–at least as far as I know–such as a Charles Carroll, a George Washington, or a John Adams waiting to emerge and claim republican leadership.
In large part, I believe (somewhat over the top), this is due to the very poor and corrupt leadership of those in the baby-boom generation.
Regardless. . . .
The issue of virtue, as you well know, has become a tricky one in our post-modern era, and I’m not convinced Carroll (if alive today) would respond to the present crisis of culture, morality, economics, etc., as he did in the 1770s and 1780s. Of course, we have no way of knowing for sure what he would do.
This is a convoluted way of stating, Gerald, I’m not sure there is a Carrollian answer to the problems of today.
Most Americans–even conservatives–rarely employ the language of virtue, a term so comfortable to the founding generation. Americans of today almost always speak of “values.” A huge gulf separates the two terms. A virtue, of course, represents/manifests an objective truth; a value represents only the beliefs–right or wrong, good or ill–of a community or a society. Consequently, American society would need to travel a significant and profound path to return or rediscover the language and meaning of virtue.
The founders had no such divide, for the most part. With the exception of Franklin’s homemade hierarchy of virtues and a few others who embraced “enlightened” ideas, the vast majority of the founders accepted the seven classical and Christian virtues as truths. A full understanding any one of the seven virtues would be problematic because a finite man can only dimly and partially understand an infinite thing–but an infinite thing a virtue remains.
So, our language matters. Until we have the courage to admit to higher truths, dimly understood, we cannot embrace or expect full reform or purification of our society.
Carroll wrote brilliantly of the providential and organic reform necessary for a society to rebuild. In this, he followed the teachings of Polybius, Livy, and St. Augustine. Each of these men, of course, observed and recorded the death of their own societies while witnessing–however partially–the birth of something new.
We might very well be in the same situation.
On that bleak note, I’m off to a dinner party with that “egg head” who regularly appears on the Glenn Beck Show–R.J. Pestritto.