He warned of "democracy" without "morals & religion"

Fisher Ames: He warned of “democracy” without “morals & religion”

American Minute with Bill Federer

He sat in the pew next to George Washington in New York’s St. Paul’s Chapel during the religious service following Washington’s Presidential Inauguration. He helped ratify the U.S. Constitution and was a Congressman from Massachusetts. On August 20, 1789, he proposed as the wording of the First Amendment:

“Congress shall make no law establishing religion, or to prevent the free exercise thereof, or to infringe the rights of conscience.”

His name was Fisher Ames. Fisher Ames compared monarchy to a republic, as recorded by Ralph Waldo Emerson in Politics (1844):

“Monarchy is a merchantman, which sails well, but will sometimes strike on a rock, and go to the bottom; whilst a republic is a raft, which would never sink, but then your feet are always in water.”

Of the American Republic, Fisher Ames wrote in 1804:

“We now set out with our experimental project, exactly where Rome failed with hers. We now begin, where she ended.”

Warning against the temptation to increase government regulations, Fisher Ames stated:

“To control trade by law, instead of leaving it to the better management of the merchants…(is) to play the tyrant in the counting house, and in directing the private expenses of our citizens, are employments equally unworthy of discussion.”

In Dangers of American Liberty, February 1805, Fisher Ames warned that democracy without morals would eventually reduce the nation to the basest of human passions, swallowing freedom:

“A democracy is a volcano which conceals the fiery materials of its own destruction.”

Fisher Ames commented, January 1788:

“The known propensity of a democracy is to licentiousness, which the ambitious call, and the ignorant believe to be, liberty.”

When George Washington died in December of 1799, Fisher Ames delivered a eulogy titled “An Oration on the Sublime Virtues of General George Washington,” February 8, 1800, at Boston’s Old South Meeting-House, before the Lieutenant Governor, the Council, and the two branches of the Massachusetts Legislature (Boston: Young & Minns, 1800). In the eulogy, Fisher Ames stated:

“Our liberty depends on our education, our laws, and habits…It is founded on morals and religion, whose authority reigns in the heart, and on the influence all these produce on public opinion before that opinion governs rulers.”

One of the most famous orators in Congress, Fisher Ames stated that no one could be eloquent “…without being a constant reader of the Bible and an admirer of the purity and sublimity of its language.”

In Palladium Magazine, SEPTEMBER 20, 1789, Fisher Ames wrote:

“We have a dangerous trend beginning to take place in our education. We’re starting to put more textbooks into our schools…containing fables and moral lessons . . . We are spending less time in the classroom on the Bible, which should be the principal text in our schools . . . The Bible states these great moral lessons better than any other manmade book.”

At age 46, Fisher Ames was elected as Harvard’s president, but declined due to an illness which eventually led to his death. On July 4, 1808, exactly 32 years to the day after America declared its Independence, Fisher Ames died at the age of 50.


The Moral Liberal contributing editor, William J. Federer, is the bestselling author of “Backfired: A Nation Born for Religious Tolerance no Longer Tolerates Religion,” and numerous other books. A frequent radio and television guest, his daily American Minute is broadcast nationally via radio, television, and Internet. Check out all of Bill’s books here.


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