The Public Interest

The Constitution’s human vision

Thomas L. Pangle

Winter 1987

WHAT WERE the ultimate moral aims of the Founders? Which way of life, which sorts of men and women, was the new regime meant to foster? And equally if not more important: What ways of life and sorts of character was it meant to discourage? What was to be the nature, and the relative status or rank, of religion, economics, politics, the family in the society the Founders envisaged? What were the justifications, explicitly advanced or implicitly accepted, for these most grave and fundamental moral choices? In asking these questions, we are not merely asking about the Founders; we are at the same time asking about ourselves. For each of us is born into and molded by a specific, and distinctive, American political culture. We cannot reasonably hope to escape this matrix any more than we can hope to escape our parents and the teachers of our youth. We can try, however, to understand the historical roots of the civic culture that encompasses us; and in making this effort—an effort, be it observed, involving the heart as well as the mind—we may liberate ourselves as much as is humanly possible.

Download a PDF of the full article.


to your National Affairs subscriber account.

Already a subscriber? Activate your account.


Unlimited access to intelligent essays on the nation’s affairs.

Subscribe to National Affairs.