THE FOUNDERS STUDIED THESE WRITINGS
In very general terms, the Founders studied ancient Israel and Anglo-Saxon governing principles and systems that are similar in precept and operational structure. They studied the histories of the Greeks, Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Europeans and the English. They studied the Bible, especially the Old Testament, and the teachings of Jesus.
There also were significant books that they obtained and studied. Not every one of the Founders read them all, but among the Founders some Founders who applied them to their task of writing the Constitution read all of these. Here are a few of the authors and what the Founders learned from them in a capsule form.
Polybius – 204 to 122 BC. Next to Herodotus and Thucydides, Polybius was the greatest Greek historian. He began writing about the separation of powers doctrine among monarchs, aristocracies, and democracies. He proposed a mixed constitution. He was aware that each of these forms of government carried the seeds of degeneration if they were operated without checks and balances.
Cicero -- 106 to 43 BC. A great political thinker who discovered the Great Commandment of the Jews and Christians that said we should love, respect and obey the all-wise Creator. And Cicero taught that the second greatest commandment was that because justice is impossible except under the principles of God’s law, that the love of fellow man provides the desire to promote true justice.
Sir Edward Coke – 1552 to 1634. An English lawyer who was appointed Attorney General by Queen Elizabeth over the desires of Francis Bacon who wanted the job. Coke prosecuted Sir Walter Raleigh for treason among other high profile cases. Later he was appointed Lord Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas in 1613, a high paying job for the Crown. But he was removed in 1616 and made Lord Chief Justice of the King’s Bench, a low paying job, by John I. The reason for the demotion was his unwillingness to compromise in the face of challenges to the supremacy of the common law over the King. In 1628 he was a Member of Parliament and helped write the Petition of Right that granted habeas corpus and other personal rights that later found their way into the U.S. Constitution and its amendments.
Rev. Thomas Hooker – 1586 to 1647. A non-conformist minister who was silenced by a bishop in England, whereupon he fled to Holland and later to New England. Hooker was one of the writers of Fundamental Orders adopted by Connecticut in 1639 as the first written constitution in modern times. Rhode Island adopted this same document as well and the other original colonies reviewed this when it came time for them to write a constitution. Hooker based the document on the principles recorded in the first book of Deuteronomy and began to use the phrase We the People.
Baron Charles de Montesquieu – 1689 to 1755. Wrote The Spirit of Laws after 20 years of research. The writing took two whole years. His writing was greatly admired by the Founders. He refined the separate but coordinated powers of elements in a constitution and recommended an Executive, Senate, and Peoples Assembly and an Independent Judiciary.
Sir William Blackstone –1723 to 1780. He began the Oxford law school classes in 1753 and his lectures were published in 1765. These were read in America as much or more than in England. Blackstone confirmed the Founders’ wisdom by stating that the Natural Law is the only reliable basis for a stable society and a system of justice. He wrote there are laws for human nature just as there are laws for the orderly arrangement of the universe. Laws for human nature were revealed by God; whereas laws of the universe must be learned by scientific investigation.
John Locke -- 1632 to 1704. A physician who wrote an Essay on Human Understanding and insisted that one could know there is a divine Creator by simply thinking about it. He taught that each person knows he exists and each person knows that he is “something.” A “something” cannot be produced by a “nothing.” It follows that this “something” which arranged and organized everything would be all-knowing to the extent required.
Adam Smith – 1723 to 1790. A college professor in Scotland wrote Wealth of Nations, the first college textbook in economics. This was the watershed between mercantilism and free-market economics. Jefferson said this was an excellent book while many considered it too complex to read.
The idea for this article comes from a book titled The 5000 Year Leap. A basic theme of The 5000 Year Leap is that the current generation is ignoring what the Founders learned and knew as they wrote the Constitution that allowed the United States to be the greatest defender of freedom and the most economically developed country in history. This came about because the citizens were educated to be a part of a manifest destiny to expand these principles by example throughout the world. For the first 125 years, The Founders, ideas of fostering virtue (doing something for the good of the country, instead of always having to have a bigger and bigger salary or more personal power), having citizens educated in the reading writing and arithmetic, plus the basic principles of religion (not denominational creeds), was the way that government would continue to work for the betterment of mankind.
Author Cleon Skousen describes 28 Principles the Founders relied upon that changed the world in his book. A quote is provided from each of these descriptions in the book.
1st Principle – The Genius of Natural Law. Quoting Cicero, Skousen writes: “The Law of Nature or Nature’s God is eternal in its basis goodness; it is universal in its application. It is a code of “right reason’ from the Creator himself. It cannot be altered. It cannot be repealed. It cannot be abandoned by legislators or the people themselves, even though they may pretend to do so. In Natural Law we are dealing with factors of absolute reality. It is basic in its principles, comprehensive to the human mind, and totally correct and morally right in its general operation.”
2nd Principle – A Free People Cannot Survive Under a Republican Constitution Unless They Remain Virtuous and Morally Strong. Morality was a big issue in 1775-1776. Whether the people were sufficiently virtuous and moral to govern themselves was the single question leading to the final decision to become independent. Franklin said: “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.” Washington pointed out that the Constitution could survive only “so long as there shall remain any virtue in the body of the people.”
Skousen quotes Gordon S. Wood in The Creation of the American Republic to explain: “In a Republic, however, each man must somehow be persuaded to submerge his personal wants into the greater good of the whole. This willingness of the individual to sacrifice his private interest for the good of the community – such patriotism or love of country – the eighteenth century termed public virtue… The eighteenth century mind was thoroughly convinced that a popularly based government “cannot be supported without virtue’.”
3rd Principle – The Most Promising Method of Securing a Virtuous and Morally Stable People it to Elect Virtuous Leaders. Sam Adams said we should not elect public officials if they lack experience, training, proven virtue, and demonstrated wisdom. Madison wrote: “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external or internal controls on government would be necessary.” Fed. Papers, No. 51, p.322 Jefferson believed that the best citizens should accept major roles in public life. Jefferson felt it should be the goal of the whole nation to use education and every other means to stimulate and encourage citizens who clearly exhibited a special talent for public service. Samuel Adams and his younger cousin sacrificed their fortunes to serve in politics, which they considered to be the “divine science.” In the early history of the United States public stations were looked upon as an honor rather than a position of profit. Example, for eight years Washington managed to do without the $25,000 annual salary as President as he had done as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces in the Revolutionary War. Franklin saw the possibility of profit from public office as the means of an American monarchy coming about. A provision in the Pennsylvania Constitution said that every freeman should have an independent source of income so that there is no necessity to establish offices of profit. Believing these things, the Founders rejected some fads prevalent in Europe at that time.
4th Principle – Without Religion the Government of a Free People Cannot be Maintained. Many Americans fail to realize the importance the Founders attached to religion and that the Founders also felt religion would be more important in our day as well. In the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 they emphasized the need to teach “Religion, morality, and knowledge…”. Religion was defined as a “fundamental system of beliefs concerning man’s origin and relationship to the cosmic universe as well as his relationship with his fellow man.” Morality may be described as “a standard of behavior distinguishing right from wrong.” Knowledge is “an intellectual awareness and understanding of established facts relating to any field of human experience or inquiry (i.e., history, geography, science, etc.).” Washington commented in his Farewell Address “It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government.” The Founders were not favoring a particular religion, but were encouraging the teaching of universal fundamentals that Franklin described as five points of sound religion. De Tocqueville wrote that religion takes no direct part in government of society, but it must be regarded as the first of their political institutions … but I am certain that they hold it to be indispensable to the maintenance of republican institutions. This opinion is not peculiar to a class of citizens or to a party, but it belongs to the whole nation and to every rank of society.” De Tocqueville also noted that the clergy seemed anxious to maintain “separation of church and state,” but they had a great influence on public life. He did not find any clergy in public administration as there were in Europe. The Founders were strong on religious equality – both Christian and non-Christian. Justice Storey wrote later that the Founders left the power over religion to the state governments. This is why the First Amendment says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
The “wall of separation” that Jefferson wrote about was intended only for the Federal government. Jefferson so stated in his second Inaugural Address.
5th Principle – All Things Were Created by God, Therefore Upon Him All Mankind are Equally Dependent, and to Him They Are Equally Responsible. The Founders were of the same mind as John Locke in his writing that the human mind by itself could not produce a time piece or a lead pencil, as all of these are the product of intelligent design and precision engineering. Locke wrote there are many things we can know about the Creator by thinking about it. An atheist, Locke felt, has failed to apply his divine capacity for reason and observation. Skousen says the Founders considered the whole foundation of a just society to be structured on the basis of God’s revealed law. These laws constituted a moral code clearly distinguishing right from wrong. All religious cultures in the world agreed. Blackstone wrote about it extensively and the Founders read Blackstone. Washington counted 67 incidents during the War where disaster could have occurred but for the intervention of the hand of God. Madison was also emphatic about God’s intervention in the War. This was not an idle gesture as the Founders at the time of the war adopted the motto “In God We Trust.”
6th Principle – All Men Are Created Equal. How can this be true? Only in three ways, says Skousen. They can be treated equal in the sight of God, in the sight of the law, and in the protection of those rights. Jean Jacques Rousseau was teaching that men were designed to be equal in every way. John Adams, while in France, wrote that all men were born to equal rights, but not with equal powers and faculties, equal influence in society, to equal property and advantages through life, is a gross fraud, and a glaring an imposition that was ever imposed on the credulity of people by the monks, by Brahmins, by priests of the immortal Lama, or by the self-styles philosophers of the French Revolution.
Equal rights are to protect the rights of the people equally: at the ballot box; at the public school; at the employment office; at the real estate agency; at the pulpit; at the podium; at the microphone or before the camera; at the meeting hall; at the print shop; at the store; at the bank; at the tax collector’s office; and at the probate court. The United States is a nation of minorities. Many minorities have assimilated before the Japanese, Chinese and blacks had problems. The blacks asked for equal rights at the employment office and things began to change for the better over asking for rights to gratuities. Throughout the struggle to assure equal rights, the Constitution has been amended with the 13th, 14th, 15th and 19th amendments. Inequality is a product of liberty.
7th Principle – The Proper Role of Government is to Protect Equal Rights, Not to Provide Equal Things. The Founders discovered the fallacy of taking from the “haves” to give to the “have nots,” a role of government in Europe. The Founders therefore restricted the role of government to those things that they individually have the right to do. As an example, everyone has the right to the protection of life and property, so it is legitimate to delegate to government the task of setting up a police department. But the government’s job is not to take a car from a man that has two cars and give it to someone without a car. A government that takes from one to give to another is a government that can take anything it wants. The Founders took the view that government could protect the rights of people and ensure that have the right to prosper. Based on their education and the protection of rights, America became the most prosperous country in the world and then became the most generous country. The Founders also had a deep concern for the poor and needy. But Franklin found that some compassion by government made things worse instead of better. By excluding the national government from intervening in the local affairs of the people, the Founders felt they were protecting the unalienable rights of the people from abuse by an over aggressive government. This is why no constitutional authority exists in the Constitution for the Federal government to participate in charity or welfare.
8th Principle – Men Are Endowed by Their Creator with Certain Unalienable Rights. The Founders believed that those rights came directly from God. Therefore they were to remain sacred and inviolate. These rights also are called natural rights. Skousen says, “we may do something ourselves to forfeit the unalienable rights endowed by the Creator, but no one else can take those rights from us without being subject to God’s justice. This is what makes certain rights unalienable. They are inherent rights given to us by the Creator. That is why they are called natural rights.” The Founders did not list all of the Unalienable Rights. The Founders knew a great many natural rights existed, such as the right to self-government, the right to bear arms for self-defense, the right to own, develop, and dispose of property, the right to make personal choices, the right to choose a profession, the right to choose a mate, the right of free conscious. The right to begat one’s kind, the right to assemble, the right to petition, the right to free speech and free press, the right to enjoy the fruits of one’s labors, the right to improve one’s position through barter and sale, the right to contrive and invent, the right to explore the natural resources of the Earth, the right to privacy, the right to provide personal security, the right to provide nature’s necessities – air, food, water, clothing and shelter, the right to a fair trial, the right of association, and the right to contract.
This concept of natural rights was well understood before Blackstone wrote about them eleven years before the writing of the Constitution. . There were three basis natural rights – the right of personal security, the right of personal liberty, and the right of private property.
9th Principle – To Protect Man’s Rights, God Has Revealed Certain Principles of Divine Law. These laws are revealed in Holy Scripture. An analysis of the essential elements of God’s code of laws reveals it is designed to promote, preserve, and protect man’s unalienable rights. And divine laws also impose unalienable duties – both public and private. The public duties relate to public morality and are usually supported by local or state laws. Private duties are those that exist between the Creator and the individual.
Skousen lists 20 public and private duties, including the duty to honor the supremacy of the Creator and his laws, and the duty to follow rules of morale rectitude. The Israelites and the Anglo-Saxons practiced reparations to restore victims requiring the violator to make victims whole.
10th Principle – The God-given Right to Govern is Vested in the Sovereign Authority of the Whole People. Royal families did all that they could to establish they governed by the “divine right of Kings” as a grant from God. King Charles II beheaded Algernon Sidney in 1683 for saying there was no divine right of kings to govern. That very year John Locke fled England for Holland where he could say the same thing Sidney said without fear. In 1690 Locke published his two essays on The Original Extend and End of Civil Government. The Founders agreed there was no divine right of Kings to govern. The Founders believed rulers were servants of the people. Anglos-Saxons believed the king was one among equals who could be replaced in any monthly meeting of the tribe. Hamilton extolled the “divine right of the people” and the consent of the people. Madison learned, when the Constitution was sent for ratification, that the people felt the Federal government was being given autocratic authority and he wrote in Federalist Papers, No46, p. 294 that the people must be told that the ultimate authority resides in the people.
11th Principle – The Majority of the People may Alter or Abolish a Government Which Has Become Tyrannical. Locke put the theory in writing and Jefferson incorporated it into the Declaration. The power resides in the majority and the minority has no right to revolt. The Virginia Assembly passed its Declaration of Rights a month before the Declaration of Independence was signed. Section 3 of the Virginia Declaration supports the majority right to rule doctrine.
12th Principle – The United States Shall be a Republic. The founders wanted a Republic because a democracy had never worked for a number of reasons. The Federalist Papers Nos. 10 and 14 argued it was better than a democracy and Madison explained it in No, 39, p. 241 as: “… a government which derives all of its powers from the great body of the people, and is administered by persons hold their offices during pleasure for a limited period, or during good behavior. It is essential to such a government that it be derived from the great body of the society, not from an inconsiderable proportion of a favored class of it; otherwise a handful of tyrannical nobles, exercising their oppressions by a delegation of their powers might aspire to the rank of republicans and claim for their government the honorable title of republic.”
Skousen points out that “democracy” has been a causality of debates in the early 1900s. One hundred people, including Norman Thomas, established the Intercollegiate Socialists Society on more than 60 campuses in 1905. This organization was to throw the light on socialism. ISS established a snappy slogan, “Production for use, not for profit.” By 1921 the violence in the Soviet Union had given the term “socialism” a repugnant name, so the organization changed its name to “The League for Industrial Democracy.” The propaganda was that all production and resources would become the property of all the people. People learned this meaning of “democracy.” The Federal government defined “Democracy” and “Republic” in the U.S. Army Training Manual No. 2000-25. Despite this effort, the schoolbooks and press identified the United States as a democracy and the country lost its identity with the public. Socialism became “democracy” in the minds of the world and this persists until today in most minds. People think the U.S. is a democracy and call it that.
Many people think the introduction of the word “democracy” to describe the U.S. was an attack on the Constitution.
13th Principle --- A Constitution Should Be Structured to Permanently Protect the People from the Human Frailties of Their Rulers. The question at the Constitutional Convention was how to have an efficient government and still protect the freedom and unalienable rights of the people. The Founders thought that leaders needed to be watched, even themselves. Rights are injured when there is the least suspicion. By 1798 Jefferson was writing his lines about the confidence placed in man, saying, “but bind him down by the chains of the Constitution. (Kentucky Resolutions of 1798). Madison saw that human leaders are complex and all have good and evil components. The Constitution was designed to control something that has not changed and will never change – namely, human nature. The Founders also knew that the erosion of Constitutional principles was often so slow the people would not detect it. Madison issued a warning to his state of Virginia when he detected erosion when he wrote his Memorial and Remonstrance in response to Patrick Henry’s ideas that government should support the churches.
14th Principle – Life and Liberty are Secure Only So Long as the Right to Property is Secure. John Locke pointed out that the Earth was given to mankind in common and mankind was given the responsibility to improve it “and use it to the best advantage of life and convenience.” If there were no ownership in property, there would be no subduing the Earth or extensive development of it. Without property rights, the lazy neighbor could move in as soon as the improvements were completed. And a stronger person could take it from that neighbor. Without property rights marauding bands would be running around taking what they want and the remainder of people would be living hand-to-mouth waiting on the next marauders. Property is a projection of life itself. Property rights are acquired when labor adds something to the property. A law of reason makes the deer that the Indian killed as the Indian’s property since he bestowed his labor on it, taking it out of the common right of every one. Redistribution of wealth was unconstitutional until 1936 when the Butler case in the Supreme Court allowed helping the poor and needy under the “General Welfare” clause. Ludwig Von Mises wrote that private ownership of the means of production is a necessary requisite of civilization and material well-being. Only nations committed to the principle of private property have arisen above penury and produced science, art and literature. Who then will take care of the poor? The Founders said in the Constitution that anybody but the Federal government has that responsibility. President Grover Cleveland vetoed legislation to spend Federal money on welfare. Instead he said to rely on the friendliness of our countrymen to take care of the poor.
15th Principle – The Highest Level of Prosperity Occurs When There is a Free-Market Economy and a Minimum of Government Regulation. The Founders were also concerned about economics. The Wealth of Nations came out in 1776 in five volumes. Adam Smith’s ideas about free-markets were first tried in the United States. There were four economic freedoms described: freedom to try; freedom to buy; freedom to sell; and the freedom to fail. The greatest threat to economic prosperity is the arbitrary intervention of government into the economic affairs of private business and the buying public. The government has only four policing responsibilities: to prevent illegal force in the market place to compel purchase or sale of products; to prevent fraud in misrepresenting the quality, location, or ownership of items being sold or bought; to prevent monopoly which eliminates competition and results in restraint of trade; and to prevent debauchery of the cultural standards and moral fiber of society by commercial exploitation of vice -- pornography, obscenity, drugs, liquor, prostitution, or commercial gambling.
Despite free-market economics giving American a boost in prosperity, by the 1900s some lost confidence in it. The populist movement started and big labor unions and agriculture interests advocated that government distributed the wealth. Extensive regulation was sought along with collectivism, socialism, government ownership of industry, and subsidy of farmers. Adam Smith became lost in colleges and was no longer read. Karl Marx became favored until 1929 through 1933 when Roosevelt began the interventionist controls of industry. No one read the Founders books until they went for a graduate degree. Eventually Adam Smith was rediscovered when Ivor Thomas wrote The Socialist Tragedy in 1951 about what socialism has done in Europe and Max Eastman wrote Reflections on the Failure of Socialism in 1962 about what socialism had done to America. Adam Smith was gradually rediscovered to have written about the lost jewels of the Founders’ plan. The Founders had determined to make the dollar completely independent of any power or combination of powers, and gave the powers concerning money to the Congress. But the Founders were coming out of a depression as they wrote the Constitution and a whole series of policy blunders were adopted. The Bank of the United States was set up similar to the Federal Reserve System of today. Jefferson protested. The Bank was allowed three or four times more paper notes than it had assets. Loaning out this money would “boom” the economy, but after loaning the money financiers would call for a “bust” and call in the loans. This pattern has continued for 200 years and sound money policy still has not had a hearing. Financiers built the economy on debt. Jefferson, Jackson and Lincoln tried to turn the money system around so that Congress would issue money. When this ideas started to catch on, the London Times complained that the North American “government must be destroyed or it will destroy every monarchy on the globe.”
16th Principle –The Government Should be Separated into Three Branches –Legislative, Executive, and Judicial. Polybius and Montesquieu’s writing helped the Founders realize that there should be a three-headed Eagle with one neck, or a coordinated government. John Adams, relying on his study of politics, the “divine science,” and Montesquieu’s ideas, pushed for separated powers in the Massachusetts Constitution during 1779 upon returning from France. Adams was also successful in getting acceptance of the separations of powers in the U. S. Constitution, but Skousen says he was never able to get acceptance of himself.
17th Principle – A System of Checks and Balances Should be Adopted to Prevent the Abuse of Power. Some members of the Convention wanted the separation of powers so complete that it would not have been workable. And this became grounds for opposing the Constitution. These Founders missed or did not understand the Montesquieu factor to have each department subject to the checks of the other two departments. Madison wrote five Federalist Papers, Nos. 47 to 51 to explain the separation of powers. The checks were designed to protect the will of the people. Pennsylvania tried a Council of Censors who could affix the blame for the problems, but was powerless to fix them. Others suggested that the people be allowed to vote on controversies.
In the end the Constitution made the departments separate to their assigned function, but made them dependent upon one another to be fully operative. The system turned out to be more complex than that envisioned by Montesquieu. Read The 5000 Year Leap for 18 separate checks and balances. Washington in his Farewell Address said these checks and balances were the genius of the American system of government.
Scores of nations have copied the U.S. Constitution, but left out the checks and balances. In those cases the president suspends the constitution and the machine guns come out. The U.S. Constitution still resolves problems peacefully.
18th Principle –The Unalienable Rights of the People Are Most Likely to be Preserved if the Principles of Government are Set Forth in a Written Constitution. Anglos-Saxon Common Law remained unwritten until they converted to Christianity. The Norman Conquest took away English rights and they got them back very slowly until their rights were written down. When the sword was put to King John in 1215, a writing, the Magna Carta, was signed to protect those rights. In 1628 Charles I, under pressure from the people, signed the Petition of Rights. William and Mary signed the English Bill of Rights in 1689.
Such writings in America began with the Mayflower Compact signed in 1620, followed by Rev. Hooker’s Constitution for Connecticut in 1639. There is no mention of the king or soverighn, only “We the People.” Montesquieu had another final word when he recommended that constitutions be written by the many, rather than the few. History demonstrates the final product was stronger than any constitution that might have been written by a single person. And the written document was available for reference rather than a whole bunch of scattered statutes as relied upon in Europe.
19th Principle –Only Limited and Carefully Defined Powers Should be Delegated to Government, All Others Being Retained by the People. Limiting the authority of the government was emphasized at the Convention. One reason the states would not adopt the original constitution was they feared federal encroachment on the rights of states and the people. The first ten amendments were added to place the Anglos-Saxon unalienable rights in the document. Then the Ninth and Tenth Amendments were added to make certain of the limitations they were placing on the Federal government. The Foudners’ experience with corrupt and abusive governments in the past made this essential. The Federal government was supreme in matters where it was given authority, but it was forbidden to invade the independence and sovereignty of the states. Skousan says the Founders felt if the Federal government became dominant that would end local self-government and the security of the individual.
The Founders would have frowned on the 17th Amendment, adopted in 1913, because this took away the right of the states to protect themselves from the Federal government. Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson began the progressive movement and the Federal government has gone downhill away from the designs of the Founders since then.
20th Principle – Efficiency and Dispatch Require Government to Operate According to the Will of the Majority, but Constitutional Provisions Must be Made to Protect the Rights of the Minority. The Founders learned that under the Articles of Confederation it was difficult to operate with the requirement that all states approve. Majority rule became a necessity and they studied what John Locke said about that and adopted this kind of voting. The Founders were also concerned about the minority. It always is the newest minority that feels left out. Jefferson wrote that the “minority possess their equal rights, which equal laws must protect, and to violate would oppression.” Skousen adds, “It is the responsibilities of the minorities themselves to learn the language, seek needed education, become self-sustaining, and make themselves recognized as a genuine asset to the community. Meanwhile, those who are already well established can help. The United States has built a reputation of being more generous and helpful to newcomers than any other nation. It has a reputation worth preserving. Once upon a time, we were all minorities.
21st Principle – Strong Local Self-Government is the Keystone to Preserving Human Freedom. “Political power automatically gravitates toward the center, and the purpose of the Constitution is to prevent that from happening,” Skousen explains. The centralization of power destroys liberty and removes decision-making power from the local government to the central. Gradually this numbs the spirit of voluntarism,” Skousen says. Jefferson saw the advantages of the New England wards or townships as the wisest invention by man for self-government. This was based on the Anglo-Saxon and Israeli method of organization. The old English assemblies reappeared in North America as the people remembered how well they worked. Madison continually emphasized the need to keep the Federal government small and to reserve all possible authority to the state or the people. Therefore, the Constitution delegates to the Federal government only the power to deal with issues that affect the whole people of the nation. Jefferson expected the Federal government to be small and inexpensive. The historian John Fiske in his The Critical Period of American History says, “If the day should ever arrive (which God forbid) when the people of the different parts of our country shall allow their local affairs to be administered by prefects sent from Washington, and when the government of the states shall have been so far lost as that the departments of France, or even so closely limited as that of the counties of England – on that day the political career of the American people will have been robbed of its most interesting and valuable features, and the usefulness of this nation will be lamentably impaired.”
22nd Principle – A Free People Should be Governed by Law and Not by the Whims of Men. No rights are secure when men are governed by the whims of men. The Founders believed the law was a rule of action binding on the rulers as well as the people. Locke pointed out that the people have a duty to establish laws. John Adams wanted fixed laws. Aristotle argued for the same and said his teacher, Plato, was wrong to want the people governed by the few. The Founders believed that law would help preserve liberty, but that the law should be understandable and stable. Jefferson felt so strong about this that he resigned from Congress in 1776 to go back to Virginia to rewrite state laws, so that when Independence was won, the people would have a model system of legal principles they could understand and warmly support, Skousen says.
23rd Principle – A Free Society Cannot Survive as a Republic Without a Broad Program of General Education. The colonists in America took on the task of educating the whole population partly because they believed in a “manifest destiny” that was theirs to prepare themselves for an important role in unfolding modern world history. Public education started in Massachusetts in 1647 when the people passed a law that every 50 families must set up a free grammar school. These schools taught reading, writing, ciphering, history, geography and the Bible. The law also required every township with 100 families to set up a secondary school to prepare boys to attend Harvard. John Adams said these programs were to have “knowledge diffused generally through the whole body of the people.” Educational success was due to good school boards.
John Adams, who spent many years in France, said that of 24 million Frenchmen, only 500,000 could read and write. The Founders’ goal was to have all Americans educated. In 1831 De Tocqueville wrote, “In New England every citizen receives the elementary notions of human knowledge; he is taught, moreover, the doctrines and evidences of his religion, the history of his country, and the leading features of its Constitution. In the states of Connecticut and Massachusetts, it is extremely rare to find a man imperfectly acquainted with all these things, and a person wholly ignorant of them is sort of a phenomenon.” (Democracy in America, 1:326-327)
As the pioneers went west, they established mores schools. Education always included morality and politics. De Tocqueville said “The American learns to know the laws by participating in the act of legislation; and he takes a lesson in the forms of government by governing. … in the United States, politics are the end and aim of education …. (Ibid. pp. 329-330)
By 1843, Daniel Webster said, “…whatever may be said to the contrary, a correct use of the English language is, at this day, more general throughout the United States than it is throughout England herself.”(The Works of Daniel Webster, 1:102) Skousen says that Americans spoke with genuine eloquence. Sermons and orations by men of limited education reflected a flourish and style of expression that few Americans could duplicate today. Many attributed these abilities to extensive reading of the Bible, which Webster said was a book of faith, a book of doctrine, a book of morals, a book of religion, q book that teaches man his own individual responsibility, his dignity and his equality with his fellow-man.
24th Principle – A Free People Will Not Survive Unless They Stay Strong. Up until recent years, the United States has had super prosperity. Skousen says that only as the Federal government usurped authority (since the 1930s) and meddled in the free-market system economy has the surge of prosperity and high production of goods and services been inhibited. The Founders were convinced that prosperity and freedom would continue if the people remained virtuous and adequately armed. Franklin believed that we must be thoroughly armed and have a strong security before we could ask assistance from Heaven, (Smyth, Writing of Benjamin Franklin, 2:352) In Franklin’s time the people became apathetic and he was disgusted. No man wanted peace more than Washington and no man was willing to risk more in life and property to achieve it. Washington wanted us ready at all times with a plan. Washington did not want us dependent on the policies of other nations. By his fifth address to Congress, Washington has to press the Congress to provide for an adequate defense. His view was, “There is a rank due to the United States among nations, which will be withheld, if not absolutely lost, by the reputation of weakness….” (Fitzpatrick, Writing of George Washington, 33:165)
Samuel Adams emphasized the moral responsibility of Americans to preserve the heritage of freedom and unalienable rights that the Creator how endowed upon them. He felt it was wicked and unnatural to let the fruits of liberty anguish by neglect of apathy. (Wells, Life of Samuel Adams, 1:504) The Founders passed on a policy of peace through strength, but dependent on virtue.
25th Principle – “Peace, Commerce, and Honest Friendship with All Nations – Entangling Alliances with None.” Jefferson said this in his first inaugural address. The Founders had a doctrine of “separatism.” This is different from “isolationism” used in recent years. The Founders wanted wholesome relations with all nations, but they wanted no part of sectional quarrels and international disputes. They wanted to avoid alliances with one country that would make them enemies of another, much like modern Switzerland. Response would be made when the Founders were threatened. Washington felt that “The nation which indulges toward another an habitual hatred or an habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to is affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest.” (Farewell Address)
Washington pointed out that most-favor nation status would open the United States to strong foreign influences, which could subvert the security or best interests of the U.S. Washington laid down his famous policy of foreign relations: “The great rule of conduct of us, in regard to foreign nations, is extending our commercial relations to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop.” (Farewell Address)
Jefferson reiterated these principles after Washington was dead at age 68. The “manifest destiny” doctrine of the Founders made the American separatism different from Swiss neutrality. The American people were responsible for serving as the vanguard nation for the moral and political emancipation of all mankind. Adams said our success was due to Providence and we were to emancipate mankind all over the earth. (Tuveson, Redeemer Nation, p. 25) Madison wrote: “happily we trust for the whole human race, they [the Founders] pursued a new and more noble course.” (Federalist Papers, No. 14, p. 1-4) The Monroe Doctrine was designed to insulate the western hemisphere from the quarrels of European Monarchs.
But after the eruption of World War I, the United States was drawn into the conflict. The Congressman Charles A. Lindbergh (father of the flyer) said that this “internationalism” was a serious mistake. He pointed out we elected a president to a second term because he kept us out of the war. But no sooner was he elected than the propaganda began to get us into the war. “The greatest good we could do the world at that time was to stay out, and that would have been infinitely better for ourselves, for we could have helped the world had we conserved our resources.” (Lindbergh, The Economic Pinch, pp. 233-235)
When World War II broke out we hoped we could stay out of it, but we favored England and France. The Japanese attacked Hawaii. We were in. These veterans are now dying off in 2009.
26th Principle – The Core Unit Which Determine the Strength of any Society is the Family; Therefore, the Government Should Foster and Protect Its Integrity. Back in 1831De Tocqueville wrote: “There is certainly no country in the world when the tie of marriage is more respected than in America, or where conjugal happiness is more highly or worthily appreciated. The Founders felt the Bible established the legal, moral, and social relationships between man and woman. (Davis, The American Search for Woman, chap. 5.) God’s law, in theory, made man first in governing the family, Skousen says, but as between himself and his wife, he was merely first among equals. John Locke’s writings stressed equal responsibility of mother and father in rearing children. (Second Essay Concerning Civil Government, p. 36) Read more in The English People on the Eve
of the Colonization, 1603 – 1630, p. 168).
New studies and information indicate Franklin was not a woman chaser as some earlier authors claimed, Skousen says. He did have an illegitimate son, but raised him honorably and the son, William, became Governor of New Jersey. The stories about thirteen illegitimate children have come from myths. Franklin even tried to dissuade a young friend from taking a mistress in a letter. (Koch, The American Enlightenment, p. 70) Locke wrote about parents’ responsibilities and what a mature adult should know. Locke wrote about children’s responsibilities to parents. Locke wrote that the state should not interfere in legitimate family relations. The family is vitally important to the culture.
27th Principle – The Burden of Debt is as Destructive to Freedom as Subjugation by Conquest. Slavery is the result of debt as it is borrowing against the future. And the creditor must be paid as well. The Founders knew that borrowing in the time of crisis was necessary, but they felt it was a temporary situation that should be paid off as soon as possible. The Founders recognized debt for what it was, a necessary evil. Debts come from splurge spending. They felt debt should be avoided like the plague. Franklin wrote a lot about debt, saying, “Tis hard for any empty bag to stand upright” as Poor Richard.
The Founders’ policy on a national debt was that a debt shared by the whole people makes it no less ominous. They felt we must get out of debt in order to prosper.
Jefferson wrote: “I, however, place economy among the first and most important of republican virtues, and public debt as the greatest of dangers to be feared.” (Bergh, Writings of Thomas Jefferson, 15:47) Skousen says the Founders felt that wars, economic problems and debts of one generation should be paid for by the generation which incurred them. Jefferson believed that inherited debt was immoral. The Founders established a policy of paying debts promptly and this was followed until the present generation (2009 and back to the 1930s) when all three branches of the Federal government began overstepping their constitution boundaries. Milton Friedman, a Nobel prizewinner, has demonstrated that all of the unauthorized tasks undertaken by the Federal government proved counter-productive, some tragically so. Today we are spending the next generation’s inheritance. When the “fix” is more spending, the habit continues. Skousen says the problem is primarily a matter of will power – the determination to change.
28th Principle – The United States Has a Manifest Destiny to be an Example and a Blessing to the Entire Human Race. Historians agree that the single most important feature of the settlers in America was their over powering sense of mission – a conviction that they were taking part in the unfolding of a manifest destiny design which would shower its blessings on all mankind. John Adams felt if the American people failed the Constitution it would be treason. John Jay considered America to be a Providential blessing. In Federalist Papers, No. 2, p.38, Jay wrote: “This country and this people seem to have been made for each other, and it appears as if it was the design of Providence than an inheritance so proper and convenient for a band of brethren, united to each other by the strongest ties, should never be split into a number of unsocial, jealous, and alien sovereignties.” Madison concluded in Federalist Papers, No. 14, pp. 1-4-105 that: “Happily for America, happily we trust for the whole human race, they pursued a new and more noble course. They accomplished a resolution that has no parallel in the annuals of human society. They reared the fabrics of governments that have no model on the face of the globe. They formed the design of a great Confederacy, which it is incumbent on their successors to improve and perpetuate.”
This summary of The 5000 Year Leap was written to allow you to get a flavor for what is in the book. Reading the summary will give you a good idea why you should read the book. My hope is that this will encourage the reader to seek more information about the Constitution and work with others to reestablish the virtues that made the United States great in the early years.
If you read this book and make a list the things we do not do today as a people in the United States that the Founders did, you will get a good idea of the list of things we have to change to achieve the Founders’ dreams for us.
It easy to see that in this generation we have taken the easy way out. Divorce is common. One-parent families are common. Government spending for now to be paid later is common.
In the book, The 5000 Year Leap: A Miracle That Changed the World otherwise known as Principles of Freedom 101, W. Cleon Skousen has documented how the Founders wrote the Constitution, what they read and studied before writing it, and why it worked.
The result of what the Founders put in the Constitution was a 5000 year leap for mankind that the current generation is squandering. The book is published by the National Center for Constitution Studies, ISBN 0-88080-148-4. www.nccs.net or 208-645-2625. Originally published in 1981, the book was revised in 1991 and 2006 and is now in its 7th printing.
If you want to learn a great deal more than this summary contains, get the book so we can plan together to get out of the Constitutional and economic crisis and mess now enveloping the United States. This article boils down 337 pages to only 15 pages to save you time and wet your appetite for more.
William J. Skinner, B.S. Pharmacy, Butler University, 1960; Doctor of Jurisprudence, Indiana University Law School – Indianapolis, 1965.
Contacts: 561-433-1170. BillSkinnerLW@aol.com