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Do We Make Too Much of Our Presidents?

By R. J. Rushdoony
January 01, 2015

(Reprinted from Our Threatened Freedom: A Christian View on the Menace of American Statism [Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 2014] 57)

When Thomas Jefferson was inaugurated as president, it was a simple and brief act before a few people. When it was over, Jefferson walked back to his boarding house. Dinner was already served, every seat was taken, and the newly inaugurated president had to wait for a place at the table. The same thing happened to President John Quincy Adams some years later. On a coastal sailing vessel, Adams was slightly late and had to wait his turn to eat.

In those days, a president was “no big deal.” The federal government was small and insignificant, and the same was true of state, country, and city levels of civil government. Being president was not too important a position, nor was holding congressional office.

In fact, the last thing Americans wanted in those days was an important and powerful federal government. Even as late as the early 1900s, when the federal government was much larger than in Jefferson’s day, it was still a minor factor in American life. During William Howard Taft’s presidency, Washington, D.C., was still a small community with a handful of big buildings. In fact, the Tafts kept the family cow staked out in what is now the White House grounds but was then an open pasture.

What was important in those days was the American people. The people were the powers in the United States, and their faith and freedom made America great.

I submit that what you and I do, and other men like us do, is more important to the future of this country than what the White House and Congress do.

In the days of Jefferson and Adams, the people were not controlled, but the federal government was. The whole point of the Constitution was to handcuff the federal government and keep the people free. Today, the courts have reversed that. They have re-interpreted the Constitution to handcuff the people and to free the federal government from controls.

It is a serious mistake to look to the federal or state governments for our freedom. After all, if we gain power and freedom, they lose it. Many of our presidents, senators, and congressmen have been—and are—fine men. It is more important, however, for people to be godly and of a strong, sound character. We cannot vote in men and expect them to make this country strong when we ourselves refuse to be strong and self-reliant.

Thus, we do have a problem today: a much too strong federal government and an all too weak a people. If this continues, we will be a slave people at home and an oppressed people abroad.

Freedom begins in your life and mine, in our faith and character. We make too much of our presidents and far too little of ourselves. Most of all, we make too little of our sovereign Lord and God, and the result is that He is making little of us.


Topics: Statism, American History, Government

R. J. Rushdoony

Rev. R.J. Rushdoony (1916–2001), was a leading theologian, church/state expert, and author of numerous works on the application of Biblical law to society. He started the Chalcedon Foundation in 1965.  His Institutes of Biblical Law (1973) began the contemporary theonomy movement which posits the validity of Biblical law as God’s standard of obedience for all. He therefore saw God’s law as the basis of the modern Christian response to the cultural decline, one he attributed to the church’s false view of God’s law being opposed to His grace. This broad Christian response he described as “Christian Reconstruction.”  He is credited with igniting the modern Christian school and homeschooling movements in the mid to late 20th century. He also traveled extensively lecturing and serving as an expert witness in numerous court cases regarding religious liberty. Many ministry and educational efforts that continue today, took their philosophical and Biblical roots from his lectures and books.

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