When asked by a woman what kind of government the Constitutional Convention had given the people, Benjamin Franklin famously quipped, “A republic, madam, if you can keep it.” The warning was meant seriously, because like all the Founders, Franklin was well aware of the dangers that faced republics.
Virtue is an old-fashioned and misunderstood word today. The Latin word virtus comes from the word vir, “man.” Virtue was thus literally manliness, the qualities that men should strive to achieve, such as valor, courage, temperance, prudence, loyalty, faithfulness, self-sacrifice, etc. Significantly, these “masculine” traits could only be exhibited in the service of the republic; they were not private but public qualities.
These ideas were well known among the Founding Fathers. They all recognized the importance of virtue for the survival of the republic. To cite just a few examples from John Adams:
Unfortunately, this is the state of the United States today.
The only solution is to recover our virtue and reject the nonsense about cultural and moral relativism that has eaten away at the foundations of our society. Without that, as everyone from Aristotle to the Founders to Michael Novak has argued, the republic is doomed.