The Williamsburg Charter
Renewal of first Principles
We who live in the third century of the American republic can
learn well from the past as we look to the future. Our Founders
were both idealists and realists. Their confidence in human
abilities was tempered by their skepticism about human nature.
Aware of what was new in their times, they also knew the need
for renewal in times after theirs. "No free government, or the
blessings of liberty," wrote George Mason in 1776, "can be
preserved to any people, but by a firm adherence to justice,
moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue, and by frequent
recurrence to fundamental principles."
True to the ideals and realism of that vision, we who sign this
Charter, people of many and various beliefs, pledge ourselves
to the enduring precepts of the First Amendment as the
cornerstone of the American experiment in liberty under law.
We address ourselves to our fellow citizens, daring to hope
that the strongest desire of the greatest number is for the
common good. We are firmly persuaded that the principles
asserted here require a fresh consideration, and that the
renewal of religious liberty is crucial to sustain a free
people that would remain free. We therefore commit ourselves to
speak, write and act according to this vision and these
principles. We urge our fellow citizens to do the same.
To agree on such guiding principles and to achieve such a
compact will not be easy. Whereas a law is a command directed
to us, a compact is a promise that must proceed freely from us.
To achieve it demands a measure of the vision, sacrifice and
perseverance shown by our Founders. Their task was to defy the
past, seeing and securing religious liberty against the
terrible precedents of history. Ours is to challenge the
future, sustaining vigilance and broadening protections against
every new menace, including that of our own complacency.
Knowing the unquenchable desire for freedom, they lit a beacon.
It is for us who know its blessings to keep it burning
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