Bill Federer ponders here what happens to democracy without morals by reviewing the history of an early American patriot who was pessimistic about the experiment.
He sat next to George Washington in the pew at St. Paul’s Chapel in New York during the religious service following Washington’s presidential inauguration. He helped ratify the U.S. Constitution. His name was Fisher Ames.
Fisher Ames was a congressman from Massachusetts where, on Aug. 20, 1789, he proposed as the wording of the First Amendment (Annals of Congress, 1:766): “Congress shall make no law establishing religion, or to prevent the free exercise thereof, or to infringe the rights of conscience.”
At the Massachusetts convention, Jan. 15, 1788, Fisher Ames warned that democracy without morals would eventually reduce the nation to the basest of human passions, swallowing freedom: “A democracy is a volcano which conceals the fiery materials of its own destruction.”
Fisher Ames commented in “The Dangers of American Liberty,” 1805 (published in “Works of Fisher Ames: with a selection from his speeches and correspondence,” Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1854, pp. 349): “The known propensity of a democracy is to licentiousness, which the ambitious call, and the ignorant believe to be, liberty.”
“Licentiousness” is defined as: sexually unrestrained; lascivious; libertine; lewd; unrestrained by law or general morality; lawless; immoral. … Synonyms: abandoned, profligate.
... Aaron McLeod (writing about Ames) continued: “To Ames, what doomed the American experiment was the democratic destruction of morals. … Ames believed that justice and morality in America would fail, and popular rule cannot support justice, without which moral habits fall away. Neither the free press nor paper constitutions could safe-guard order from these excesses, for the first is merely a stimulus to popular passion and imagination, while the other is a thin bulwark against corruption. When old prescription and tradition are dismissed, only naked force matters.”
... Fisher Ames wrote in the Mercury and New-England Palladium of Boston (Vol. XVII, No. 2,8, Tuesday, January 27, 1801, p. 1): “It has been the custom of late years to put a number of little books into the hands of children, containing fables and moral lessons. … Many books for children are … injudiciously compiled … the moral is drawn from the fable they know not why. … Some of the most admired works of this kind abound with a frothy sort of sentiment … the chief merit of which consists in shedding tears and giving away money. … Why then, if these books for children must be retained … should not the Bible regain the place it once held as a school book? Its morals are pure, its examples captivating and noble. The reverence for the Sacred Book, that is thus early impressed, lasts long – and probably, if not impressed in infancy never takes firm hold of the mind. One consideration more is important: In no book is there so good English, so pure and so elegant – and by teaching all the same book they will speak alike, and the Bible will justly remain the standard of language as well as of faith."
As I've written before, I believe that democracy bears within it, the seeds of its own destruction. It naively assume the majority will choose wisely, when in fact, Scripture affirms the opposite in this fallen world,
And as I wrote here, we are wise to be wary of all earthly forms of government. All those who foolishly place their hope and trust ultimately in an earthly form of government are doomed to disappointment and despair. Only the KING of Kings can bring everlasting peace and joy.