My Father’s Day present from my wife was the book, If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty, by Eric Metaxas. In 1787, at the end of the last day of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Benjamin Franklin was asked by a certain Mrs. Powell, “Well, doctor, what have we got? A republic or a monarchy?”
Franklin shot back, “A republic, madam, if you can keep it.”
In all of world history, no nation had been founded on an idea. Nations had always been based around geography or ethnicity or tribal loyalty. But America was based on the idea that human beings were capable of governing themselves. That many nations have tried to imitate America in the years since should be a source of national pride.
Metaxas concisely describes the forces that came together on the North American continent that allowed America to come to be. He does this in a way that most readers have never considered before. The framers of the Constitution, though they came from different religious backgrounds, implicitly understood that the only way for self-rule to work was to have a population that regulated itself. Government could not possibly regulate private behavior without becoming authoritarian, and so freedom, virtue, and religion were inseparable. The framers believed that Americans were ready to give the experiment a try.
Everybody in the country should read it on this Independence Day weekend. In this season of unbelievably divisive political rhetoric, let’s reflect with Eric Metaxas on the wonder that is America.