Virtue: An Essential Feature of Democracy; Part I of a Series

The 2016 election presents tough choices for Catholic voters. In considering candidates, voters will want to ask a number of questions. Here is one question that should not be overlooked: Does a candidate possess the virtues necessary to hold public office?

The founders of the American Republic believed that democracy could not survive without virtue, including the virtue of both citizens and leaders. They came to this conclusion based on their experience in governing local colonial assemblies, the study of ancient and modern political philosophers, and their religious faith.

John Adams’ father was a minister of a Congregational Church in Braintree, Massachusetts. The Family sought to live by the Puritan tenets of their forbearers. Adams, as he moved into the world of politics and became an advocate of American Independence, gave considerable thought to the fragility of democracy and insisted that such a government required a strong religious and moral foundation.  Without such a foundation, the new republic would collapse.

Adams declared that: “Our Constitution was made for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” Being at times impetuous and hotheaded himself, Adams knew that human passion and selfishness could override any laws: “Human passions unbridled by morality and religion…would break through the strongest cords of the Constitution as a Whale breaks through a net.”