The Mount Vernon Statement: Constitutional Conservatism: A Statement for the 21st Century

On February 17, 2010, at Collingwood mansion, near George Washington’s home at Mount Vernon, Virginia, some 80 conservative leaders gathered to sign the Mount Vernon Statement. Reproduced in full below, the Mount Vernon Statement is an affirmation of republican self-government based on the rule of law as expressed by the Founders in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. If you believe that recent expansions in the size and scope of government call for a revival of the principles of the Constitution, please consider joining the tens of thousands of other Americans who have signed the Mount Vernon Statement. You can sign your name by visiting —Editor


WE RECOMMIT OURSELVES to the ideas of the American Founding. Through the Constitution, the Founders created an enduring framework of limited government based on the rule of law. They sought to secure national independence, provide for economic opportunity, establish true religious liberty and maintain a flourishing society of republican self-government.

These principles define us as a country and inspire us as a people. They are responsible for a prosperous, just nation unlike any other in the world. They are our highest achievements, serving not only as powerful beacons to all who strive for freedom and seek self-government, but as warnings to tyrants and despots everywhere.

Each one of these founding ideas is presently under sustained attack. In recent decades, America’s principles have been undermined and redefined in our culture, our universities and our politics. The self-evident truths of 1776 have been supplanted by the notion that no such truths exist. The federal government today ignores the limits of the Constitution, which is increasingly dismissed as obsolete and irrelevant.

Some insist that America must change, cast off the old and put on the new. But where would this lead – forward or backward, up or down? Isn’t this idea of change an empty promise or even a dangerous deception?

The change we urgently need, a change consistent with the American ideal, is not movement away from but toward our founding principles. At this important time, we need a restatement of Constitutional conservatism grounded in the priceless principle of ordered liberty articulated in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

The conservatism of the Declaration asserts self-evident truths based on the laws of nature and nature’s God. It defends life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It traces authority to the consent of the governed. It recognizes man’s self-interest but also his capacity for virtue.

The conservatism of the Constitution limits government’s powers but ensures that government performs its proper job effectively. It refines popular will through the filter of representation. It provides checks and balances through the several branches of government and a federal republic.

A Constitutional conservatism 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.

A Constitutional conservatism based on first principles provides the framework for a consistent and meaningful policy agenda.

  • It applies the principle of limited government based on the rule of law to every proposal.
  • It honors the central place of individual liberty in American politics and life.
  • It encourages free enterprise, the individual entrepreneur, and economic reforms grounded in market solutions.
  • 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 end.
  • It informs conservatism’s firm defense of family, neighborhood, community, and faith.

If we are to succeed in the critical political and policy battles ahead, we must be certain of our purpose.

We must begin by retaking and resolutely defending the high ground of America’s founding principles.

Kenneth Blackwell, Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions
Morton Blackwell, The Leadership Institute
L. Brent Bozell III, Media Research Center
Herman Cain, Author and Commentator
Linda Chavez, Center for Equal Opportunity
Kellyanne Conway, the polling company
T. Kenneth Cribb Jr., Intercollegiate Studies Institute
Becky Norton Dunlop, Council for National Policy
Lee Edwards, The Heritage Foundation
Edwin J. Feulner, Jr., The Heritage Foundation
Colin Hanna, Let Freedom Ring
Kristan Hawkins, Students for Life
Terence Jeffrey, Human Events
David Keene, American Conservative Union
Curt Levey, Committee for Justice
Kathryn Jean Lopez, National Review
Jenny-Beth Martin, Tea Party Patriots
James L. Martin, 60 Plus Association
Clifford May, Foundation for Defense of Democracies
David McIntosh, Mayer, Brown, & Rowe, LLP
Mark Meckler, Tea Party Patriots
Edwin Meese III, The Heritage Foundation
Eugene B. Meyer, The Federalist Society
Tom Minnery, Focus on the Family
Grover Norquist, Americans for Tax Reform
John O’Hara, Illinois Policy Institute
Duane Parde, National Taxpayers Union
Tony Perkins, Family Research Council
Tim Phillips, Americans for Prosperity
Patrick Pizzella, Conservative Action Project
Roger Ream, Fund for American Studies
Alfred Regnery, American Spectator
Rev. Lou Sheldon, Traditional Values Coalition
Craig Shirley, Shirley and Banister Public Affairs
Mark Tapscott, The Washington Examiner
John Taylor, Virginia Institute for Public Policy
Grace-Marie Turner, Galen Institute
Ed Whelan, Ethics and Public Policy Center
Tom Winter, Human Events
Wendy Wright, Concerned Women for America
(Titles are for identification purposes only.)