Freedom Watch

The Mount Vernon Statement

By From the May 2010 issue

Conservative leaders from throughout the country gathered on Wednesday, February 17, at the Collingwood Library and Museum in Alexandria, Virginia, which is located on what was once a portion of George Washington's Mount Vernon estate. They had come to learn about a document entitled "Constitutional Conservatism: A Statement for the 21st Century." This "Mount Vernon Statement" reaffirms the founding principles of this country, as contained in the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution, and focuses on the principle that legitimate government authority must respond to "the consent of the governed."

The Mount Vernon Statement is the product of the Conservative Action Project, an effort to facilitate conservative leaders working together on behalf of common goals. The statement was drafted by a working group headed by Edwin J. Feulner, president of the Heritage Foundation.

A half-century ago, another group of conservatives gathered at the home of William F. Buckley Jr. in Sharon, Connecticut, and established the "Sharon Statement," which was the manifesto of the modern conservative movement in America. At its beginning, this was an intellectual movement, led by such luminaries as Bill Buckley, Milton Friedman, Russell Kirk, and many others. Then conservatism became a political movement with the presidential campaign of Barry Goldwater, which inspired thousands of citizens to become involved in the political process. Finally, with the elections of Ronald Reagan, first as governor of California and then as president of the United States, conservatism became a governing movement.

But in recent years, with conflicting claims to the conservative mantle and diverse theories on how to recover from electoral setbacks, there has been much confusion over the future of the conservative movement. That is why the Mount Vernon Statement was developed, in the words of Ed Feulner, "to return to the wisdom and philosophy of the Founders and to recommit to the ideals and principles that have made America a just, prosperous, and free nation like no other in the world."

By signing the Mount Vernon Statement, these leaders recommitted themselves to the ideas of the American founding and to the recognition that through the Constitution, the Founders created an enduring framework of limited government based on the rule of law.

But the statement is not merely an expression of political philosophy. It is also a call to action that "unites all conservatives through the natural fusion provided by American principles. It reminds economic conservatives that morality is essential to limited government, social conservatives that unlimited government is a threat to moral self-government, and national security conservatives that energetic but responsible government is the key to America's safety and leadership role in the world."

This event was the beginning of an effort to promulgate this statement among the numerous organizations within the conservative movement and to obtain additional signatures throughout the country as a tangible expression of the unity and philosophical commitment that will be necessary to restore constitutional government to this nation.

(Readers can find and endorse the Mount Vernon Statement at 

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About the Author

Edwin Meese III, the Ronald Reagan Chair in Public Policy at the Heritage Foundation, was attorney general of the United States during the Reagan administration.