The analysis of the civic virtues, as highlighted in “The Founding Fathers”, can be summed up using the Federalist 55 discourse. It is observed that the republican government assumed the existence of civic virtues. The founding fathers opined that political freedom presupposed a limited government. What this means is that the citizens should be left alone to engage in private associations.
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The founding fathers also knew that a limited government was a risky affair. For example, it was clear to them that when people are left to their own devices, they are likely to violate the liberties of other individuals. Consequently, a limited government needs civic virtues for it to operate effectively. On his part, in a book published in 2002, Ellis analyzes the founding brothers in the context of the events that took place during the early years of the constitution (123). The book also highlights the efforts made by these brothers to improve the constitution.
The Founding Fathers
Civic virtue can be described as the cultivation of behaviors that are important to the growth and success of the society (Bernstein 24). According to the founding fathers of the American government, civic virtue is the dedication of the citizenry to the welfare of the community. At times, the commitment may be at the expense of the interests of the individual.
In their discourse, the founding fathers agreed that the people who practice civic virtues ultimately enrich society. In most cases, the virtues are presented in three categories. The first entails active participation in civic activities and public life. The other two are trustworthiness and reciprocity (Ellis 59). When these behaviors and attributes are embraced, the practitioners benefit their nation and the community at large. Such individuals also play a significant role in the maintenance of a free society.
The founding fathers of the constitution of the United States of America were of the opinion that the destinies of the government and those of human actors were inextricably linked. In Federalist Paper 51, James Madison comments that the government is a reflection of the human nature prevailing in the society. As such, it can be assumed that man’s fallen nature necessitates the existence of government. At the same time, the situation makes it impossible to have a lasting democracy (Ellis 89).
It is important for citizens to cultivate civic knowledge and exercise self-restraint. At the same time, they should be self-assertive and self-reliant. The virtues were highly valued by the founding fathers. The reason is that they espouse the essential behaviors that would guarantee the liberties of the citizens without the creation of a police state (Bernstein 36).
As a result of their experiences during the American Revolution War, the founding fathers were aware of the fact that self-government was desirable. In spite of this, they observed that such a form of government can only be attained through a structured governing institution. In addition, it should be managed by virtuous individuals. The government should also be subjected to checks and balances (Ellis 39). Such monitoring can be achieved through the separation of powers. The structures are supported by the moral and civic virtues, such as self-restraint and public ‘spiritedness’ (Ellis 38). The central desire of the founding fathers was to protect the individual liberties and the freedom of the citizens to exercise their rights without an overbearing government.
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The Founding Brothers
The founding fathers were concerned with the development of a government-operated by individuals with demonstrable civic virtues and moral integrity. They engaged each other through articles that were published in the newspapers (Ellis 67). The founders expressed their considered philosophical opinions on the matters of constitutionality, which greatly influenced the constitution-making process.
In “Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation”, the author analyzes the interpretations related to the meaning and actions associated with the American Revolution (Ellis 67). The author primarily focuses on the thoughts and activities of the key figures associated with the revolution. The individuals include John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Aaron Burr. Other personalities were Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and George Washington (Ellis 34).
The book regards the founding fathers as members of the American revolutionary generation. They secured their legacies through the war but finally settled down to fight again through legislation. The individuals played a central role in the creation of the Constitution of the United States of America. The text is a reexamination of the founding fathers after a decade following the declaration of independence and the drafting of the country’s constitution (Ellis 14).
The author tries to show that the American Revolution was inevitably followed by the creation of a newly independent nation (Ellis 87). The book provides a brief description and outline of the ideology that underpins American history. For example, there is the Jeffersonian view of the libertarian political philosophy. The philosophy views the revolution as the activities of individual rebellion against a centralized government (Bernstein 71).
In essence, it is argued that there was no need to rebel against the British government only to create similar edifices. The Hamiltonian perspective, on its part, focuses on the sacrifices made by specific people to advance the revolutionary course of liberty. The author uses various episodes in the lives of the founding brothers to communicate their interpretation of history (Ellis 29). They also use the narrative to highlight the role played by these individuals in shaping the American model of governance and politics. The founding brothers are associated with the refinement of the constitution. The adjustments took place in 1787 in Philadelphia.
The narrative provided by Ellis is in line with my understanding of the historical events and the primary materials used in this course. For example, Ellis agrees with the civic virtues espoused by the founding fathers. The underpinning perspective is that the government should be led by people who exhibit civic virtues and integrity (Ellis 78). In addition, Ellis acknowledges the fact that the powers enjoyed by the government belong to the citizens.
The Movie 1776 (1972)
The movie “1776” was produced in 1972. It is a fictional representation of the events that took place during the initial stages of the founding of the United States of America. The director of the film makes efforts to retain the names of the prominent personalities associated with the ‘dramatic’ moments, which is a reflection of the past (1776). The depiction of the characters and the theme of the production delves into the issues of civic virtues.
The level of historical reality in the movie is important. The reality helps to bridge the gap between the past and the present. For example, the virtues underpinning the Constitution, and which are expounded on in the film, are still valid in the twenty-first century. More specifically, the issues of liberty, freedom, and the rule of law are in line with the virtues of integrity and trustworthiness as delineated by the founding fathers (1776).
The actions depicted in the movie are a reflection of historical reality. However, to some extent, the fictionalization of the film is not true to reality. For instance, the producer tends to exaggerate the issues that are depicted (1776). A historical movie may not always capture past activities accurately. The reason is that it has to take into consideration the ‘prevailing’ reality. In addition, a historical film, in most cases, reflects the director’s interpretation of the events.
Civic virtues have undergone tremendous changes in the recent past. The changes can be seen in the evolution of the American Constitution, the political landscape, and the values held by individuals in society. However, this notwithstanding, modern society can draw guidance and inspiration from past events. For instance, the civic behaviors of 21st century Americans are shaped by historical developments.
The virtues expressed in the historical documents still inform our modern understanding of what it entails to be an American. To this end, the constitution, which was crafted by the founding fathers, continues to guide our behaviors. I believe that civic virtues are relevant to my life as a modern American. The reason is that they still continue to define me as an American existing in a global village. The American Constitution is a reflection of the American spirit.
1776. Directed by Peter Hunt, Columbia Pictures, 1972.
Bernstein, Richard. The Founding Fathers Reconsidered, London: Oxford University Press, 2011. Print.
Ellis, Joseph. Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation, New York: Vintage, 2002. Print.