The Founders believed that virtue was necessary to sustaining a democratic society

From “The Seven Democratic Virtues: What You Can Do to Overcome Tribalism and Save Our Democracy” by Christopher Beem

Madison’s influence on the new nation was vast, but he was not the only one who thought this way. In fact, almost without exception, all the Founders believed that virtue was necessary to sustaining a democratic society. It is worth highlighting how universal this belief was.

  • George Mason: “No free government, or the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people, but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality and virtue, and by frequent recurrence to fundamental principles.”
  • Benjamin Franklin: “ Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.”
  • Patrick Henry: “Virtue, morality, and religion. This is the armor, my friend, and this alone that renders us invincible. These are the tactics we should study. If we lose these, we are conquered, fallen indeed.”
  • Thomas Paine:” The sovereignty is a republic [that is, the people] is exercised to keep right and wrong in their proper and distinct places, and never suffer the one to usurp the place of the other.”
  • Gouverneur Morris: “I believe that Religion is the only solid Base of Morals and that Morals are the only possible Support of free governments.”
  • Benjamin Rush: “Without [education grounded in religion], there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty.”
  • Thomas Jefferson: “It is the manners and spirit of a people which preserve a republic in vigour. A degeneracy in these is a canker which soon eats to the heart of its laws and constitution.”
  • John Adams: “Liberty can no more exist without virtue and independence than the body can live and move without a soul.”
  • Adams again: “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.”
  • George Washington: “It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a main and necessary spring of popular or republican governments.”