Civic virtue implies a series of obligations shouldered by the citizenry, which can be appreciated as analogous to our rights. Just as we have the right to speak freely, we should not speak dishonestly. Just as we have the right to peacefully petition our representatives for the redress of grievances, we should not be uncivil toward them. Just as we have the right to vote, we should endeavor to educate ourselves so we make an informed vote. Just as we have the right to enjoy a government of laws and not of men, we should not be disdainful of the lawmaking process, at least so long as there are ways to reform it. Just as we have freedom of conscience, so we should respect that the consciences of others may lead them to divergent conclusions. Just as Congress is not allowed to single out individuals or groups with bills of attainder or ex post facto laws, so we should try to think beyond our own personal tribe and contemplate the good of the whole nation.

Our rights are essential to a republican form of government, because they enable “we the people” to deliberate. This is how public opinion, as expressed through the medium of representative government, becomes a benevolent sovereign of the nation. The same is true of civic virtue, for it implies not only a careful use of our rights but also a respect for — and deference to — the rights of others.