Our prosperity begins and ends with our people. A people free to exercise their ingenuity and free to keep the fruits of their labor will thrive. Biblical leaders knew this and worked in service of it, and the Founders who studied them knew it as well. Our modern leaders would do well to take a page out of their Good Book.
The special challenges of Early Americans hold many lessons relevant to today's leaders. Those Americans had, in a sense, overlapping sets of leaders: they were Americans, but also English subjects, and so operated with a form of dual citizenship. This same phenomenon of dual citizenship also existed under the new federal republican Union. Donald S. Lutz, in The Origins of American Constitutionalism said that “Dual citizenship and popular sovereignty in turn are logical extensions of the habits, institutions, and theories Americans developed during the colonial era.”
These views, behaviors, and beliefs were the result and impact of the Founders specifically (and the Colonists generally). It derived from their understanding of both Scripture—preached and driven from the pulpit by Colonial clergy—and many of the Enlightenment writers like Locke, Montesquieu, and Sidney (who had the most influence on American colonial thinking).
The Enlightenment writers, such as the three aforementioned, were the ones who most strongly influenced the founding. They themselves were also wholly influenced by and immersed in Scripture, which is directly revealed in their writing. The core of the literature of the Enlightenment rationalist writers, which directly influenced the Founders and Clergy of the Founding era and prior, was bathed in the Light of Scripture. Alexis de Tocqueville acknowledged this in Democracy in America, writing, “[I]n America religion is the road to knowledge, and the observance of the divine laws leads man to civil freedom.”
The system of governance established in 1776 (the social compact) and 1787 (the structural compact) was bilateral: an old and known system, and a new and utterly unique system of covenantal-compact. The old system was a dual form compact of both social and constitutional form. It was well-known and had been used in Colonial American since November 11, 1620 in Massachusetts, with the Mayflower Compact. Constitutions had been used in the colonies for many years and were already in use at the time of 1776 and 1787. What was new was the separation of documents between the social and constitutional compacts, since they had previously been a single document.
But what was entirely unique came in September 1787, and was brought into force in 1789. The Federal Constitution of the United States exceptionally removed any single person from serving as the entire government, which had been the practice of most civilizations. Certainly legislations of a variety of forms were in existence, and had been in existence, for several thousands of years, but uniting a collection of sovereign States under a government of multiple branches without a central earthly power, using the general population as both masters and servants on such a large scale, was novel to the world and history. It also established God as the absolute King, where the people served as both masters (the public under republicanism) and servants (elected officials elected by either the public or representatives of the public). That is, a person only serves in service by consent of the people; the government in proxy to God, but under God.
How our leaders in government—that is, our civil servants—are to behave when they serve as proxies is explained by Josephus when he articulated Moses’ behavior as the civil leader of the government God had established with the Ancient Hebrews.
“But Moses refused all that honor which he saw the multitudes ready to bestow upon him,” Josephus explains, “and attended to nothing else but the service of God.” The ancient historian continues, “He went up no more to Mount Sinai…His habit was also that of a private man, and in all other circumstances be behaved himself like one of the common people, and was desirous to appear without distinguishing himself from the multitude.”
Following Moses' footsteps. Such is the behavior we must expect and demand of our civil servants today.
Jim Huntzinger is the President and Founder of Lean Frontiers, Inc., which develops knowledge and learning communities on the Lean Enterprise for business and industry. With a background and experience in manufacturing and operations, he has also extensively researched the history and development of American manufacturing and also published several books on the lean business model, manufacturing history, and economics.