By John Andrews
"We recommit ourselves to the ideas of the American Founding. Through the Constitution, the Founders created an enduring framework of limited government based on the rule of law." So begins the Mount Vernon Statement, an important and timely declaration of principles issued on Feb. 17 by the heads of 16 major conservative organizations. Originating with intellectual leaders on the Right, rather than elected officials and candidates, the statement sets a baseline for thinking patriots in weighing the claims we'll hear from politicians as this 2010 year of decision moves toward election day. If Republicans bring out a new version of the 1994 Contract with America in their hopes for a November sweep against Obama and the Democrats, its worthiness can be measured against this declaration.
The full text is below, taken from their website at TheMountVernonDeclaration.com. By clicking to that site you can also add your name as a signer of the declaration, which I have proudly done.
This manifesto is a worthy descendant from Bill Buckley's famous Sharon Statement of half a century ago, as Greg Schaller points out at '76 Blog. The Sharon Statement and YAF, the Young Americans for Freedom movement which it launched, were formative for me and so many other young conservatives in the turbulent 1960s. Let's hope for an equally profound, powerful, and positive impact from the Mount Vernon Declaration. Here it is...
Constitutional Conservatism: A Statement for the 21st Century
We recommit ourselves to the ideas of the American Founding. Through the Constitution, the Founders created an enduring framework of limited government based on the rule of law. They sought to secure national independence, provide for economic opportunity, establish true religious liberty and maintain a flourishing society of republican self-government.
These principles define us as a country and inspire us as a people. They are responsible for a prosperous, just nation unlike any other in the world. They are our highest achievements, serving not only as powerful beacons to all who strive for freedom and seek self-government, but as warnings to tyrants and despots everywhere.
Each one of these founding ideas is presently under sustained attack. In recent decades, America’s principles have been undermined and redefined in our culture, our universities and our politics. The selfevident truths of 1776 have been supplanted by the notion that no such truths exist. The federal government today ignores the limits of the Constitution, which is increasingly dismissed as obsolete and irrelevant.
Some insist that America must change, cast off the old and put on the new. But where would this lead — forward or backward, up or down? Isn’t this idea of change an empty promise or even a dangerous deception?
The change we urgently need, a change consistent with the American ideal, is not movement away from but toward our founding principles. At this important time, we need a restatement of Constitutional conservatism grounded in the priceless principle of ordered liberty articulated in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
The conservatism of the Declaration asserts self-evident truths based on the laws of nature and nature’s God. It defends life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It traces authority to the consent of the governed. It recognizes man’s self-interest but also his capacity for virtue.
The conservatism of the Constitution limits government’s powers but ensures that government performs its proper job effectively. It refines popular will through the filter of representation. It provides checks and balances through the several branches of government and a federal republic.
A Constitutional conservatism unites all conservatives through the natural fusion provided by American principles. It reminds economic conservatives that morality is essential to limited government, social conservatives that unlimited government is a threat to moral self-government, and national security conservatives that energetic but responsible government is the key to America’s safety and leadership role in the world.
A Constitutional conservatism based on first principles provides the framework for a consistent and meaningful policy agenda.
It applies the principle of limited government based on the
rule of law to every proposal.
It honors the central place of individual liberty in American
politics and life.
It encourages free enterprise, the individual entrepreneur, and
economic reforms grounded in market solutions.
It supports America’s national interest in advancing freedom
and opposing tyranny in the world and prudently considers what we can and should do to that
It informs conservatism’s firm defense of family, neighborhood,
community, and faith.
If we are to succeed in the critical political and policy battles ahead, we must be certain of our purpose.
We must begin by retaking and resolutely defending the high ground of America’s founding principles.
February 17, 2010
Edwin Meese, former U.S. Attorney General under President Reagan
Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America
Edwin Feulner, Jr., president of the Heritage Foundation
Lee Edwards, Distinguished Fellow in Conservative Thought at the Heritage Foundation, was present at the Sharon Statement signing.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council
Becky Norton Dunlop, president of the Council for National Policy
Brent Bozell, president of the Media Research Center
Alfred Regnery, publisher of the American Spectator
David Keene, president of the American Conservative Union
David McIntosh, co-founder of the Federalist Society
T. Kenneth Cribb, former domestic policy adviser to President Reagan
Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform
William Wilson, President, Americans for Limited Government
Elaine Donnelly, Center for Military Readiness
Richard Viguerie, Chairman, ConservativeHQ.com
Kenneth Blackwell, Coalition for a Conservative Majority
Colin Hanna, President, Let Freedom Ring
Kathryn J. Lopez, National Review