The Mount Vernon Statement vs. The Manhattan Statement

Have you read the Mount Vernon Statement?

It is meant to remind one of the Declaration of Independence or the Preamble to the Constitution. It is supposed to be a stirring, rousing call to action. A beacon which prodigal sons can use to find their way home.

A lot of big names signed it. A random cut and paste from the interior of the list: “Brent Bozell, president of the Media Research Center; Alfred Regnery, publisher of the American Spectator; David Keene, president of the American Conservative Union; David McIntosh, co-founder of the Federalist Society; T. Kenneth Cribb, former domestic policy adviser to President Reagan; Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform.”

The American Spectator tells us that “Edwin Feulner of the Heritage Foundation read the entire Mount Vernon Statement aloud before inviting the crowd to sign the document as a George Washington impersonator stood guard. ‘We must print out the statement’s text on our journals, our magazines and our blog posts,’ said Fuelner. ‘We must distribute the video of today’s ceremony. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a country to save!'”

To oblige Fuelner, here’s a link to the statement.

While I am in agreement with the sentiments of the Mount Vernon Statement, I cannot help but feel that it was written by a graduate of Political Science with a minor in Communications. Either that, or it has suffered the slings and arrows of Input By Committee.

Who else but a publication relations person would write, “A Constitutional conservatism unites all conservatives through the natural fusion provided by American principles.” Conservatism unites conservatives? Natural fusion!? That had to have been penned by somebody—and whoever you are, I love you, brother—made ill by excessive contact with press releases.

And how about, “A Constitutional conservatism based on first principles provides the framework for a consistent and meaningful policy agenda.” Or, “It supports America’s national interest in advancing freedom
and opposing tyranny in the world and prudently considers what we can and should do to that

Meaningful policy agendas? What we can and should do to that end? Lord help us.

I can’t get excited about these words, yet I am passionate about the ideas behind them (others take it to task for what it ignored). Surely, it must be possible to retell our founding principles without strangled or purple prose. Let’s try.

Whoever wrote the Mt V. statement opted for long and dry. I’ll go for short and wet. Here’s my stab at what we can call the Manhattan Statement.

Draft #1; I stole freely from Jefferson; please suggest modifications, or pass it on (I’ll periodically change the language until it sings; perhaps this will put into separate post).

The Manhattan Statement

A truth once known does not become false due to the passage of time. An agreement is not made null because it has been neglected. A promise once made cannot be broken by arrogance.

We have not forgotten the self-evident truths and unalienable rights upon which this country was founded. No one is above the law. All have the right to life, liberty, and the unfettered pursuit of happiness.

We remember that Government derives its consent from the governed, that when Government turns inward and self-serving, we have the right to alter or abolish it.

We retain the agreement that Congress has the power of legislation, not the Judiciary, whose mandate is to uphold the law; and that the President is sworn to protect the Constitution.

We believe that Government should be limited and that its unchecked growth is a cancer and a path to tyranny.

We know that the rule of law is an unshakable foundation, but that rule by regulation is groundless and breeds corruption.

We know that life is not fair. Yet we trust each person to know his own business within the law.

We believe that no right is more important than freedom.

Most of all, We Remember.

I’d sign that. You?


  1. Jan M. Jacobson

    Short, concise, more than sufficient for the purpose thereof.

    Given the deliberately degraded writing and reading skills of that part of the electorate which needs such statements most, I like your Manhattan Statement more than the Mount Vernon Statement.

    However, Manhattan is premanently smeared with the odor of Liberalism – rename it and say why.

    Just a suggestion. 😉


  2. A different name might be good. But I’d sign up to it under any name.

  3. Briggs

    Jan & Jim,

    I’m up for ideas on the name change.


  4. SteveBrooklineMA

    Your statement is better than the Mt Vernon.

    What does “It reminds economic conservatives that morality is essential to limited government” mean in the Vernon? Does it mean that if we are not moral in our business dealings the government will step in and regulate those dealings? That’s probably true, but I’m not sure how that relates to “Constitutional conservatism.” Where does the constitution address morality in business dealings?

  5. Nice try. Not so easy to emulate Jefferson, is it? He took some major leaps forward.

    What is a self-evident truth anyway? That’s a pretty bold conjecture. Do rights really come from God? It is clear that rights are agreements made by men, and do not appear on golden tablets fetched by angels.

    To emulate Jefferson one needs big ideas and bold statements that test our shared understandin of reality — and in a good way, a way that drives society forward and improves the human condition.

    Try it again, only this time, pull out all the stops. Use both sides of your brain.

  6. I’d probably sign if you edited:

    We retain the agreement that Congress has the power of legislation, Judiciary, has the mandate to interpret the constitution and uphold the law; and that the President is sworn to protect the Constitution.

  7. Earle Williams


    Name it after the building you live in. They’re usually pretty flowery.

  8. Briggs


    Hmm. Somehow “The 300 E. 71st Corporation Statement” doesn’t sing.

  9. Earle Williams


    OK, that was a swing and a miss on my part. 🙂

  10. Doug M

    Mt Vernon is really horrible. We call on conservatives to conserve conservatism….

    The conservatism of the Declaration of Independence?… really? the Declaration of Indpendence is a document for radicals!

    As manifestos go, the Manhattan statement is still pretty bland. You really need that laundry list of atrocities of the crown that can no longer be tolerated. Or, at least as set of principles that are endagered.

    Choose any of the following:

    We shall not confiscate the wealth of our children to enhance our standard of living today. Growth of public debt shall be lower than the growth of productive resources.

    The State shall not consume more than X% of the resources of the country.

    All citizens bear responsibility to fund the State. The resources to run the government cannot be funded entirely by a minority.

    The tax code should be simple enough for the Secretary of the Treasury to understand.

    Taxation in excess of half a man’s income is confiscatory, and boarders on tyranny.

    As a man’s home is his castle, the State’s powers of eminent domain must be constrained.

    Informed adults have the right to negotiate transactions for goods or services.

    The State shall not nationalize nor socialize one firm or industry except on the grounds of national security. Conversely, the State shall not punish one firm or industry for “windfall profit.”

  11. Briggs:

    You may want to look for a different name; the Manhattan Declaration is already taken and shares too similar a name.

    For what its worth, I basically agree, but with this:

    We believe that no right is more important than freedom.

    I have to quibble. There are at least two rights that are universally and objectively more important than freedom: those 1) security of person and property; and 2) equal justice under the rule of law. Without those, freedom is mere anarchy; which is what most of the world gets when they try to install “democracy”.

  12. Agree the MV Statement is unmitigated blather. Or is it merely too pompous? Hmmmmm.

    Minor suggestion for yours: “We remember that Government derives its consent from the governed, that when Government turns inward and self-serving, we have the right duty to alter or abolish it.”

    Agree more work needs to be done on the name, but overall you are on the right [no pun intended] track.

    Is there any room for something about each citizen’s duty to vote/support/whatever intelligently without regard to personal profiteering? OK, I went too far, didn’t I. Mea culpa.

  13. Without getting too far afield is there any room in the MS for an affirmation of the principle that the best governance is local governance [ie: “all politics is local”]. I’m not a flaming states rightist, but I prefer the federal government concentrate more on beyond our borders issues first, but they seem more concerned with nitpicking library hour type issues than working on the hard stuff.

  14. “I’d sign that. You?”

    Without hesitation.

  15. * A truth need not be known and still be true: falling off cliffs proved fatal long before Newton
    * If neglect can kill love, it can certainly nullify a mere agreement
    * A promise in not a promise until it is made and can be broken at any time for any reason

    * does the UNFETTERED pursuit of happiness include my right to run naked down the street and frighten the horsed because I am better hung than they? If not, how is it unfettered?
    * like all sovereign powers government in general derives its consent from its exclusive right to judicially punish the obstreperous

    * Government is always self-serving as is every human enterprise; even Saint Francis was motivated by the promise of personal redemption and Eternal Life
    * our right to do anything is commensurate with our power to enforce our decisions
    * it is Congress itself through the exercise of its legislative powers that has done so much to bring about the situation which this Manifesto deplores
    * whatever the mandate of the Judiciary, judges will always interpret the law; this is intrinsic to their function even were the laws as brief as catcalls and as simple
    * whatever the President is sworn to do, he will always do precisely as he pleases unless limitations to his actions are vigorously imposed

    * tyranny is to Politics what sin is to Religion, each dispensation has its own particular definition
    * government, like all human actions whatever their reach, is of its nature limited; unchecked growth is always dangerous; cancer is a biological condition and not in and of itself evil or wicked in the way human acts so often are
    * no foundation is unshakeable because none is perfect
    * rule by regulation is politically and administratively convenient; when used to circumvent proper legislative processes it is in itself corrupt

    * The unfairness of life does not argue against procedures to make it less so, no more than the briefness of life is an argument against attempts to prolong it
    * freedom is not a right, important or otherwise, unless it is secured against attenuation
    * there are no rights absent the power to secure them
    * freedom as invoked here is not a state of being but rather a concept and derives its meaning only from the (unstated) terms which define it

  16. astonerii

    I really was underwhelmed by the Mount Vernon Statement. I refuse to sign it, because it feels like something written by the liberal progressive movement to mean all things to all people in reading, but nothing at all to each individual in practice.

  17. Thom Burke

    liamascorcaigh makes several philosophical mistakes, but one allows for all that follow: the nature of truth, stating that, “A truth need not be known and still be true: falling off cliffs proved fatal long before Newton.”

    Truth only exists when the mind of man agrees with reality, therefore, an “unknown truth” is not possible. Conversely, facts or reality if you will, can and do exist without man’s knowledge or agreement.

    Using liamascoraigh’s example, a man may indeed fall off a cliff and yet incorrectly deduce that he is flying. An abrupt end to his “flight” is no assurance that he would find enlightenment prior to the fatal landing.

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