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An Assembly of Demigods

“An Assembly of Demigods”

Any honest student of the United States Constitution must stand in amazement at the incredible accomplishment that took place in Philadelphia 223 years ago. It was eleven years after declaring our independence from England and only four years after the Treaty of Paris that officially ended the War for Independence. America was in turmoil because, as Thomas Jefferson had predicted, if people or states do not know what to do with freedom, it can be worse than under tyranny. So the calling of a Constitutional Convention was itself an incredible happening, or as Jefferson called it, “an assembly of demigods.”

Delegates Miraculously Gather

Although previous attempts to get the states together had failed, it was fortunate indeed that each of the states sent some of its most outstanding leaders to the convention. Only Rhode Island failed to send any delegates. One of the surprising things connected with the convention was the fact that George Washington, who had pleaded for a convention so long, almost did not attend himself. His brother had just died, his mother and sister were seriously ill, and he was in such pain from rheumatism that he could scarcely sleep at night. Nevertheless, the general decided to go. James Madison and others pointed out that because of his position in the public mind as the most trusted leader in the nation, it would appear that he had lost confidence in the Congress and perhaps in republican principles if he did not attend. Although he had been carrying one arm in a sling because of rheumatic pain, he left Mount Vernon at sunrise on May 9 and arrived in Philadelphia the day before the delegates were to convene on May 14.

Altogether 73 delegates had been appointed by the states, but in the end only 55 actually participated. Many of the states had not provided for any travel or expense money, and this accounted for most of the absenteeism. In fact, many of those who did come, including James Madison, had to borrow money for living expenses before the convention was over.

Adams and Jefferson Tutor Delegates before the Convention

Two men who made some of the greatest contributions to the constitutional precepts of the day were unable to attend. One of them was John Adams, who was serving as the American minister to England. Nevertheless, he had written a treatise entitled A Defense of the Constitutions of Government of the United States , and that document had been widely read by delegates to the Constitutional Convention.

The other intellectual leader was Thomas Jefferson. He was absent serving as the American minister to France. However, he had sent over a hundred carefully selected books to James Madison and George Wythe, the best reference works available. Madison made himself a walking encyclopedia on the history and political philosophy of governments of the past, and Jefferson corresponded with him on what he considered to be the essential elements of a good constitution.

A month before the Convention, Madison wrote a summary of the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation entitled The Vices of the Political System of the United States . He then outlined the kind of constitution which he thought would remedy the situation. No one came to the Convention better prepared for the task at hand than James Madison.

The Nation’s Best

In terms of experience and professional training, the 55 delegates represented a cross-section of the most capable men in the country.

  • Two were college presidents (William S. Johnson and Abraham Baldwin).
  • Three were or had been college professors (George Wythe, James Wilson, and William C. Houston).
  • Four had studied law in England.
  • Thirty-one were members of the legal profession, several of them being judges.
  • Nine had been born in foreign countries and knew the oppressions of Europe from firsthand experience.
  • Twenty-eight had served in Congress, and most of the rest had served in state legislatures.
  • Nineteen or more had served in the army, 17 as officers, and 4 on Washington’s staff.

Dr. Samuel Eliot Morison of Harvard writes:

“Practically every American who had useful ideas on political science was there except John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, on foreign missions, and John Jay, busy with the foreign relations of the Confederation. Jefferson contributed indirectly by shipping to Madison and Wythe from Paris sets of Polybius and other ancient publicists who discoursed on the theory of ‘mixed government’ on which the Constitution was based. The political literature of Greece and Rome was a positive and quickening influence on the Convention debates.”

  • A distinctive quality of this convention was the youthfulness of most of its participants. The average age was about 41.
  • Five (including Charles Pinckney) were under 30.
  • One (Alexander Hamilton) was 32. Three (James Madison, Gouverneur Morris, and Edmund Randolph) were within a year of being 35.
  • Three (Washington, John Dickinson, and George Wythe) were 55.
  • Only four members had passed 60, and Benjamin Franklin, at 81, was the oldest member by a gap of 15 years.

Major William Pierce Describes Characters at the Convention

The following are comments about some of the principal personalities at the Convention as observed by another of the delegates, Major William Pierce of Georgia. For those who believe the Founders represent a very special group of people, perhaps even raised up for the very purpose of founding America, here is just a little more evidence for that belief.

Dickinson, John , delegate from Delaware.

“Famed through all America, for his Farmers Letters ; he is a scholar, and said to be a man of very extensive information…. He is … a good writer and will be ever considered one of the most important characters in the United States.”

Franklin, Benjamin , delegate from Pennsylvania.

“Well known to be the greatest philosopher of the present age; all the operations of nature he seems to understand, the very heavens obey him, and the clouds yield up the lightning to be imprisoned in his rod…. He is … a most extraordinary man…. He is 82 years old, and possesses an activity of mind equal to a youth of 25 years of age.”

 

Hamilton, Alexander, delegate from New York.

“Colonel Hamilton is deservedly celebrated for his talents. He is a practitioner of the law, and reputed to be a finished scholar. To a clear and strong judgment he unites the ornaments of fancy, and whilst he is able, convincing, and engaging in his eloquence the heart and head sympathize in approving him…. Colonel Hamilton requires time to think; he inquires into every part of his subject with the searchings of philosophy, and when he comes forward he comes highly charged with interesting matter; there is no skimming over the surface of a subject, he must sink to the bottom to see what foundation it rests on.”

Madison, James, delegate from Virginia.

“A character who has long been in public life; and what is very remarkable, every person seems to acknowledge his greatness. He blends together the profound politician, with the scholar. In the management of every great question he evidently took the lead in the Convention, and though he cannot be called an orator, he is a most agreeable, eloquent, and convincing speaker. From a spirit of industry and application which he possesses in a most eminent degree, he always comes forward the best informed man of any point in debate. The affairs of the United States, he perhaps, has the most correct knowledge of any man in the Union. He has been twice a member of Congress, and was always thought one of the ablest members that ever sat in that council.”

Mason, George , delegate from Virginia.

“A gentleman of remarkable strong powers, and possesses a clear and copious understanding. He is able and convincing in debate, steady and firm in his principles, and undoubtedly one of the best politicians in America.”

Morris, Gouverneur , delegate from Pennsylvania.

“One of the geniuses in whom every species of talents combine to render him conspicuous and flourishing in public debate. He winds through all the mazes of rhetoric and throws around him such a glare, that he charms, captivates, and leads away the senses of all who hear him. With an infinite streak of fancy, he brings to view things, when he is engaged in deep argumentation, that render all the labor of reasoning easy and pleasing…. He has gone through a very extensive course of reading, and is acquainted with all the sciences. No man has more wit … than Mr. Morris. He was bred to the law, but I am told he disliked the profession and turned merchant.”

Morris, Robert , delegate from Pennsylvania.

“A merchant of great eminence and wealth; an able financier and a worthy patriot. He has an understanding equal to any public object, and possesses an energy of mind that few men can boast of. Although he is not learned, yet he is as great as those who are. I am told that when he speaks in the Assembly of Pennsylvania, that he bears down all before him.”

Pinckney, Charles , delegate from South Carolina.

“A young gentleman of the most promising talents. He is, although only 24 years of age [actually he was 30], in possession of a very great variety of knowledge. Government, law, history and philosophy are his favorite studies, but he is intimately acquainted with every species of polite learning, and has a spirit of application and industry beyond most men. He speaks with great neatness and perspicuity, and treats every subject as fully, without running into prolixity, as it requires. He has been a member of Congress, and served in that body with ability and eclat.”

Randolph, Edmund , delegate from Virginia.

“Is governor of Virginia, a young gentleman in whom unite all the accomplishments of the scholar and the statesman. He came forward with the postulata, or first principles, on which the Convention acted, and he supported them with a force of eloquence and reasoning that did him great honor.”

Rutledge, John , delegate from South Carolina.

“His reputation in the first Congress gave him a distinguished rank among the American worthies. He was bred to the law, and now acts as one of the chancellors of South Carolina. This gentleman is much famed in his own State as an orator…. He is undoubtedly a man of abilities, and a gentleman of distinction and fortune. Mr. Rutledge was once governor of South Carolina.”

Sherman, Roger , delegate from Connecticut.

“In his train of thinking there is something regular, deep, and comprehensive. He … deserves infinite praise. No man has a better heart or a clearer head…. He can furnish thoughts that are wise and useful. He is an able politician, and extremely artful in accomplishing any particular object; it is remarked that he seldom fails…. He sits on the bench in Connecticut and is very correct in the discharge of his judicial functions…. He has been several years a member of Congress and discharged the duties of his office with honor and credit to himself, an advantage to the State he represented.”

Washington, George , delegate from Virginia.

“Well known as the commander in chief of the late American Army. Having conducted these States to independence and peace, he now appears to assist in framing a government to make the people happy. Like Gustavus Vasa, he may be said to be the deliverer of his country; like Peter the Great, he appears as the politician and the statesman, and like Cincinnatus he returned to his farm perfectly contented with being only a plain citizen, after enjoying the highest honor of the Confederacy, and now only seeks for the approbation of his countrymen by being virtuous and useful. The General was conducted to the Chair as president of the Convention by the unanimous voice of its members.”

Wilson, James , delegate from Pennsylvania.

“Ranks among the foremost in legal and political knowledge…. He is well acquainted with man, and understands all the passions that influence him. Government seems to have been his peculiar study, all the political institutions of the world he knows in detail, and can trace the causes and effects of every revolution from the earliest stages of the Grecian commonwealth down to the present time. No man is more clear, copious, and comprehensive than Mr. Wilson, yet he is no great orator. He draws the attention, not by the charm of his eloquence, but by the force of his reasoning.”

Wythe, George , delegate from Virginia.

“One of the most learned legal characters of the present age…. He is remarked for his exemplary life and universally esteemed for his good principles. No man, it is said, understands the history of government better than Mr. Wythe — nor anyone who understands the fluctuating conditions to which all societies are liable better than he does…. He is a neat and pleasing speaker, and a most correct and able writer.”

It has often been wondered, with doubt, if such an assembly could ever be brought together again today.

This September will be the 223 rd anniversary of their writing of the Constitution. Hopefully, we will honor them by honoring the document they gave us.

Sincerely,

Earl Taylor, Jr.

Note: For a more complete discussion of the accomplishments and lives of these Founders, see W. Cleon Skousen, The Making of America, pages xv-xxix, and 138-153, available from NCCS.

George Washington’s Wisdom

George Washington’s Indispensable Wisdom for Today

April is an historic month for the office of President of the United States . On April 6, 1789, Congress met for the first time and proclaimed George Washington had been elected President unanimously. On April 30th , he was inaugurated. During the next eight years he was to gain priceless insights concerning the government of a free people. By the time he left office in 1797, he had become a treasure of political wisdom.

If anyone ever wants to know how the Founders would address the problems of today, which are not much different than the ones Washington faced, he just needs to consult Washington ‘s Farewell Address, delivered on Constitution Day, September 17, 1796, as he was preparing to leave office. No political document gives such clear direction to a nation in trouble, than does this message.

We ask the questions and President Washington gives the answers in these excerpts from his Farewell Address. (punctuation is updated)

Question: Of all the labels used in the country to magnify people’s differences in politics, religion, ethnicity, life styles, occupations, etc., what should be the most important unifying factor of all?

  • “The name of American which belongs to you in your national capacity must always exalt the just pride of patriotism, more than any appellation …. With slight shades of difference, you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles. You have in a common cause fought and triumphed together; the independence and liberty you possess are the work of joint councils and joint efforts, of common dangers, sufferings, and successes… Here every portion of our country finds the most commanding motives for carefully guarding and preserving the Union of the whole.”
  • “One of the expedients of party to acquire influence, within particular districts, is to misrepresent the opinions and aims of other districts. You cannot shield yourselves too much against the jealousies and heartburnings which spring from these misrepresentations. They tend to render alien to each other those who ought to be bound together by fraternal affections.”
  • “To the efficacy and permanency of your Union , a government for the whole is indispensable. No alliance, however strict between the p,arts, can be an adequate substitute.”

Question: What is the problem of giving political and legal power to political parties, unions, and other combinations of people?

  • “…all combinations and associations… with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive… and of fatal tendency.”
  • “They serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force, to put in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community… [and] to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common councils and modified by mutual interests.”
  • “However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely… to become potent engines by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government….”
  • “Let me now… warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party…. This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists… in all governments… but in those of the popular form it is seen in its greatest rankness and is truly their worst enemy.”
  • “The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge natural to party dissension… is itself a frightening despotism.”
  • “But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result [from wars between parties] gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation on the ruins of public liberty.”

Question: What actually will happen to our government if run by competing parties?

  • “…the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.”
  • “It [party spirit] serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration.”
  • “It [party spirit] agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection.”
  • “It [party spirit] opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which find a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.”
  • “There is an opinion that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the government and serve to keep alive the spirit of liberty. This within certain limits is probably true…. But… it is a spirit not to be encouraged… there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be, by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it.”

Question: If changes need to be made in the government, how should it be done?

  • “If, in the opinion of the people, the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates. But let there be no change by usurpation; for… it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed.”
  • “It is important likewise that the habits of thinking in a free country should inspire caution in those entrusted with its administration to confine themselves within their respective constitutional spheres, avoiding in the exercise of the powers of one department to encroach upon another.”
  • “The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the power of all the departments in one and thus to create…a real despotism.”

Question: What will be the result if basic constitutional principles are changed or rejected in the future?

  • “…the preservation of your government and the permanency of your present happy state… [makes it] requisite… that you resist with care the spirit of innovation upon its principles…. One method of assault may be to effect, in the forms of the Constitution, alterations which will impair the energy of the system and thus to undermine what cannot be directly overthrown.”
  • “in all the changes to which you may be invited, remember… that experience is the surest standard by which to test the real tendency of the existing constitution… [and] that facility in changes upon the credit of mere hypotheses and opinion exposes [you] to perpetual change….”

Question: Is Civil Disobedience a method to be used by freedom-loving people to bring about change?

  • “The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government. But the constitution which… exists–till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people is sacredly.obligatory upon all. The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government.”

Question: Above all else, what would you consider the absolute foundation of liberty?

  • “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens.”
  • “Let it simply be asked where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths, which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice?”

Question: Can morality be maintained without religion? Or by those of refined education?

  • “And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever… the influence of refined education… reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”
  • “It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule indeed extends… to every species of free government. Who that is a sincere friend to it can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?”
  • “Promote, then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.”

Question: How does public debt effect liberty and freedom?

  • “As a very important source of strength and security, cherish public credit. One method of preserving it is to use it as sparingly as possible, avoiding occasions of expense by cultivating peace….”
  • “But remembering also that timely disbursements to prepare for danger frequently prevent much greater disbursement to repel it.”
  • “Avoiding likewise the accumulation of debt, not only by shunning occasions of expense but by vigorous exertions in time of peace to discharge the debts which unavoidable wars may have occasioned, not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burden which we ourselves ought to bear.”

Question: Our foreign relations are a mess. What shall we do now?

  • “Observe good faith and justice toward all nations. Cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and morality enjoin this conduct.”
  • “It will be worthy of a free, enlightened and… great nation to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence…. Can it be that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a nation with its virtue?”
  • “Europe has a set of primary interests, which to us have none, or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves, by artificial ties, in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.”
  • “Likewise a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concession to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others, which is apt … to injure the nation making the concessions by …exciting jealousy, ill will and [a] disposition to retaliate in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld.”
  • “The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is in 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.”

Question: Should Americans seek commercial relations with other nations?

  • “Harmony, liberal intercourse with all nations are recommended by policy, humanity, and interest. But even our commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand, neither seeking nor granting exclusive favors or preferences; consulting the natural course of things; diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the streams of commerce but forcing nothing; establishing with powers so disposed, in order to give to trade a stable course, to define the rights of our merchants, and to enable the government to support… conventional rules of intercourse, the best that present circumstances… will permit, but temporary and liable to be… abandoned or varied, as experience and circumstances shall dictate.”
  • “…it is folly in one nation to look for disinterested favors from another; that it must pay with a portion of its independence for whatever it may accept… that by such acceptance, it may place itself in the condition of… being reproached with ingratitude for not giving more.”
  • “There can be no greater error than to expect, or calculate, upon real favors from nation to nation. It is an illusion which experience must cure [and] which a just pride ought to discard.”

Perhaps this speech should be the next document read in the halls of Congress.

Sincerely,

 

Earl Taylor, Jr.

Educate the People…

Jefferson ‘s Solution to Today’s Runaway Government:
Educate the People and Restore Original Principles

Many students of American History stand in awe at the careful wording of the Declaration of Independence which incorporates eight magnificent principles necessary for freedom to exist in America . What some do not fully understand is that Jefferson spent the rest of his life, exactly fifty years to the day, trying to defend those principles and holding the line against an increasingly powerful federal government which seemed to want to break out from the cherished confines and principles of the Declaration.

During the difficult years of the nation’s second president, John Adams, the federal authorities assumed powers that alarmed many of the Founders who thought they had gone well beyond Constitutional limits, especially with the passage of the Alien and Sedition Act. This led Jefferson to help draft the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions of 1798 which were formal protests against such federal acts and declared the states’ rights to not obey such unjust laws

“…we have nothing scarcely to propose.”

When Thomas Jefferson became the third President of the United States in 1801, he was so determined that the federal government, by strictly following the Constitution, would work quietly in carrying out its few and defined powers that he eventually said:

“The path we have to pursue is so quiet that we have nothing scarcely to propose [to Congress]. A noiseless course, not meddling with the affairs of others, unattractive of notice, is a mark that society is going on in happiness.”

Imagine Congress convening in Washington and the President telling them that he doesn’t know of a single new law needed to make the system run more smoothly!

But it wasn’t long before succeeding administrations and Congressmen yielded to the urge to let the federal government assume more and more power than the Constitution gave them.

Jefferson’s Final Declaration and Protest

After watching federal power accumulate over a period of nearly two more decades, Thomas Jefferson had to speak again. It was as though he was giving his final warning to the people. It was in 1825, less than one year before he died. He drafted a document entitled, The solemn Declaration and Protest of the Commonwealth of Virginia on the principles of the constitution of the United States and on the violations of them .

In this Declaration, Jefferson once again reiterated the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. These included:

  1. The people and the states have agreed to form a single federal government with respect to relations with each other and with foreign countries.
  2. The people and the states retain the rights to independent government in relation to domestic affairs.
  3. Each government has a distinct and separate set of functionaries to carry out its duties.
  4. The commonwealth of Virginia religiously adheres to this distribution of powers and opposes with firmness the usurpation of either set over the other.
  5. The greatest calamity to befall the people and the states is submission to a federal government of unlimited, usurped powers, the dissolution of the Union , and living under a government of unlimited powers.
  6. “We know and value too highly the blessings of our Union ,” he said, so we will stay with our union, be patient and suffer much with the hope that time will bring consequences to the usurpers.

“We owe…the world at large to pursue with temper and perseverance…”

The great Jefferson then spelled out a formula that should be followed when and if the federal government degenerates from its original brilliance. He said that when things really deteriorate, rather than admit that this great experiment has failed, we must show the world that we can endure and recover. Said he:

“We owe every other sacrifice to ourselves, to our federal brethren, and to the world at large to pursue with temper and perseverance the great experiment which shall prove that man is capable of living in [a] society governing itself by laws self-imposed, and securing to its members the enjoyment of life, liberty, property, and peace;…”

Jefferson continues his counsel by telling us what our frame of mind must be as we see the union crumbling around us:

“and further, to show that even when the government of its choice shall manifest a tendency to degeneracy, we are not at once to despair , but that the will and the watchfulness of its sounder parts will reform its aberrations, recall it to original and legitimate principles, and restrain it within the rightful limits of self-government.”

His four-step solution is:

  1. Do not have the negative spirit of despair
  2. Join with the nation’s sounder parts
  3. Recall original and legitimate principles
  4. Restrain the runaway government within its proper limits

The Nation’s Sounder Parts are Awakening

Millions of citizens across this country are alarmed at the progress of the destructive forces and are awaking to a realization of our awful situation. They do not have a spirit of despair but one of hope and faith in the eventual victory of good and right. They know that things are terribly wrong and that there must be some better answers. They see hypocrisy and deception and they are determined that there are better solutions. They are realizing the only real answer to this deteriorating dilemma is found in the words of Thomas Jefferson when he said:

“I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.”

These sounder parts are those who have the spirit of freedom and liberty. They are members of churches, political parties, tea parties, and citizens who don’t belong to any organization. They are Americans concerned for their country. They are turning to The National Center for Constitutional Studies (NCCS) for help in understanding the original and legitimate principles of the Founders, for in them they hope they will finally find answers that will work.

The Making of America Seminar:
Thrilling audiences across the nation with the
True Story of America can be had in several formats

One-Day Live Seminar:

The all-day live seminar will hold you in your seats as you marvel at the wisdom of the Founders. It generally follows this format:

Developing America ‘s Great Success Formula – 8:30am-12:00pm
This is the exciting exploration which Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, Washington and others made in order to rediscover the key to the creation of the first free nation in modern times. We trace their adventure from 1400 B.C. to A.D. 1787

Lunch Break- 12:00-12:45pm

The Perfect Plan of Liberty – 12:45pm-4:30pm
A refreshing look at the solid political and economic principles from the preamble through the amendments to the Constitution. You learn perhaps for the first time, how nearly every problem in America today can be solved by restoring these successful concepts.

Steps for a successful live seminar:

  1. Organizing Committee- Form an organizing committee of dedicated people to plan and commit to bring people to the seminar.
  2. Select a Date- Select a Saturday, usually 2-4 months out, when you can assemble 50 or more people. (50 person minimum and no limit)
  3. Venue- Identify a facility that will meet the projected attendance, financial, & scheduling needs. It is preferable to have everyone seated at tables.
  4. Schedule Date- Secure the date with the NCCS seminar coordinator atseminars@nccs.net
  5. Marketing- Personal, face to face contact and commitments from like-minded groups and organizations provide the highest success.
  6. Refer to www.nccs.net/seminars for full details.

DVD Seminar:

Last summer, the Hughes Brothers, of Branson , Missouri , donated their entire theater for a whole day for The Making of America Seminar . A professional DVD was made and is available from NCCS. Obtaining our Study Guide and the DVDfrom NCCS makes it possible to experience the The Making of America anytime you wish. Families are purchasing this set for each of their extended families to be viewed a lesson at a time. It is a great family activity for each family member to have a Study Guide and to fill in the blanks during the telling of America ‘s story.Click here for more details and for ordering.

Online Seminar:

The Making of America Seminar can also be experienced merely by downloading the Study Guide from www.nccs.net/seminars, printing the pages, and then watching each lesson on your computer from the NCCS website. (The online video is currently only available in Flash but will be available in other formats soon.) Can you imagine how many thousands of people can now enjoy this most exciting story of America who may never be able to attend a live seminar? Not only Americans, but now many around the world can hear the wonderful story of America . There is no charge for any of these downloads.

Truly, as Jefferson hoped would happen, the sounder parts of America are rising to the occasion to learn about and restore America to its sacred roots. We invite all to help to do the same. We encourage you to share this resource with as many people as you can.

Sincerely,

 

Earl Taylor, Jr.

The Urgent Need for…

The Urgent Need for More George Washingtons

As we move into a New Year there seems to be some similarities between our situation today and that of the transition from 1776 into 1777.

Near the end of the year 1776, the thirteen colonies had begun to form a very loose confederation. The war against the tyrannical King George III was not going very well. The disastrous defeat at New York had forced Washington and his army to retreat into a position that the British generals had all but declared victory. It looked rather hopeless to many people that real freedom would ever be possible.

“I Will Not Despair”

In addition to the tragic loss of New York which forced the American army to retreat down the full length of New Jersey, there was the fall of Fort Washington and Fort Lee, the fearsome advances of the British, the plotting of Washington’s Generals Lee and Reed against him and the overwhelming reality that the enlistments were up for more than two thousand of his fifty-four hundred troops. Still Washington wrote, “I will not despair.”

Amidst all this discouragement, one of the men present during the New Jersey retreat, a fiery young patriot named Thomas Paine, sat by the campfire for light and using a drumhead for support, penned the familiar passage that Washington later used to try to energize his troops:

“These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph….Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.”

Washington knew that freedom-loving Americans needed a victory, even a small victory, to prove that, in spite of all the defeats, it is still possible to win against overwhelming odds.

A Much-Needed Victory at Trenton

As small as it was, Washington ‘s victory over the British-hired Hessian troops at Trenton had a much greater meaning. It showed that, indeed, the forces of freedom can win, and little by little, begin to chip away at the powerful forces of soul-destroying tyranny. Of the Trenton battle Parry and Allison wrote:

“It was a glorious and almost unbelievable victory for the beleaguered American commander and his troops. Nearly 1,000 Hessians were taken captive; another 115 were killed or wounded. Four Americans had been wounded, but not a single one was lost in battle-although in the fierce night before, two had tragically frozen to death.

“‘The enemy have fled before us in the greatest panic that ever was known,’ one of the patriot soldiers wrote after the victory. ‘Never were men in higher spirits than our whole army is.'”

Could it be compared to the small but significant victories in our day seen at the November 2, 2010 elections?

Washington Not Lulled into False Sense of Security

In the wake of the Trenton and Princeton victories, many Americans began to proclaim high praise for General Washington. His brother-in-law, Bartholomew Dandridge, seemed to echo the feelings of many when he wrote to Washington saying: “It is plain [that] Providence designed you as the favorite instrument in working out the salvation of America . It is you alone that can defend us….I am sure you have no idea of your real value to us.”

An article in the Pennsylvania Journal, published about six weeks after the victory at Princeton, described Washington in glowing terms:

“In his public character he commands universal respect and admiration. Conscious that the principles on which he acts are indeed founded on virtue, he steadily and coolly pursues those principles, with a mind neither depressed by disappointments nor elated by success, giving full exercise to that discretion and wisdom which he so eminently possesses. He retreats like a general and acts like a hero. If there are spots in his character, they are like the spots in the sun, only discernible by the magnifying powers of a telescope.”

Washington was indeed beginning to be viewed as a hero in the eyes of many. His countrymen had been given a closer look at the capabilities of their commanding general, and they liked what they saw.

Surprisingly, Washington did not react favorably to this rising tide of popularity and praise. “Everybody seems to be lulled into ease and security,” he wrote. They needed to be shocked into the possibility of a potential disaster: “I think we are now in one of the most critical periods which America ever saw.”

Washington Foresees Need for Spiritual Preparation for Coming Battles

As the American army was emerging from the difficult winter encampment at Morristown , and in preparation for the coming battles of the New Year 1777, General Washington issued strict orders to ensure that his troops were preparing themselves spiritually for the coming difficulties. “All chaplains are to perform divine service…every…Sunday,” he declared, and he ordered “officers of all ranks” to set an example by attending. “The commander in chief expects an exact compliance with this order, and that it be observed in the future as an invariable rule of practice. And every neglect will be considered not only as a breach of orders, but a disregard to decency, virtue, and religion.”

He had already issued a general order stating. “The General hopes and trusts that every officer and man will endeavor so to live and act as becomes a Christian soldier defending the dearest rights and liberties of his country.”

Washington Not Deterred by “Ignominious Epithets”

Washington ‘s stirring challenge in his day is ever so applicable in our own day as we face criticism and derision from similar foes. Said he:

“Let it never be said that in a day of action you turned your backs on the foe. Let the enemy no longer triumph. They brand you with ignominious epithets. Will you patiently endure that reproach? Will you suffer the wounds given to your country to go unrevenged? Will you resign your parents, wives, children, and friends to be the wretched vassals of a proud, insulting foe? And your own necks to the halter?…Nothing, then, remains but nobly to contend for all that is dear to us. Every motive that can touch the human breast calls us to the most vigorous exertions. Our dearest rights, our dearest friends, and our own lives, honor, glory, and even shame urge us to fight. And my fellow soldiers, when an opportunity presents, be firm, be brave. Show yourselves men, and the victory is yours.”

Washington had a strong conviction of the
influence of God in guiding America ‘s destiny

It is, no doubt, the desire of freedom-loving Americans today to have national leaders that could bear the same testimony about America that Washington did:

“We may, with a kind of pious and grateful exultation, trace the fingers of Providence through those dark and mysterious events which first induced the states to appoint a general convention, and then led them one after another…into an adoption of the system recommended by that general convention, thereby, in all human probability, laying a lasting foundation for tranquility and happiness, when we had but too much reason to fear that confusion and misery were coming rapidly upon us. That the same good Providence may still continue to protect us, and prevent us from dashing the cup of national felicity just as it has been lifted to our lips, is [my] earnest prayer.”

Washington had an intense desire to teach the science of government to our youth and to not dilute America ‘s greatness in their minds with teachings from foreign lands

Multiculturalism in education and the thought that America is just one of many good systems from which one may choose to live under, had no place in Washington’s philosophy:

“A primary object…should be the education of our youth in the science of government. In a republic, what species of knowledge can be equally important? and what duty more pressing on its legislature than to patronize a plan for communicating it to those who are to be the future guardians of the liberties of the country?”

“It has always been a source of serious regret with me to see the youth of these United States sent to foreign countries for the purpose of education, often before their minds were formed or they had imbibed any adequate ideas of the happiness of their own, contracting, too frequently, not only habits of dissipation and extravagance, but principles unfriendly to republican government and to the true and genuine liberties of mankind, which thereafter are rarely overcome.”

Washington felt America must remain the great neutral nation of the earth

“I hope the United States of America will be able to keep disengaged from the labyrinth of European politics and wars….It should be the policy of united America to administer to [other nations’] wants without being engaged in their quarrels.

“My ardent desire is, and my aim has been (as far as depended upon the executive department), to comply strictly with all our engagements, foreign and domestic, but to keep the United States free from political connections with every other country; to see that they may be independent of all and under the influence of none

“I have always given it as my decided opinion that no nation had a right to intermeddle in the internal concerns of another;. and that if this country could, consistently with its engagements, maintain a strict neutrality and thereby preserve peace, it was bound to do so by motives of policy.

Washington felt that morality and religion were
inseparable and indispensable supports to our Republic.

Our first president dispels the modern myth that one can be a moral person without religion. Religion is necessary to give morality a standard. And be careful, he said, when someone with advanced educational degrees claims that religion is not necessary for morality or freedom. He would label such modern philosophies as deceptive and false:

“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens…. Let it simply be asked, where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education … reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”

Upon hearing of the death of Washington , Thomas Jefferson quoted the scripture, “verily, a great man hath fallen this day in Israel .” But Jefferson was not without hope that the Creator would provide others to come to maintain what his friend George Washington was so instrumental in starting. Said he: “And indeed, it would have been inconsistent in creation to have formed man for the social state, and not to have provided virtue and wisdom enough to manage the concerns of the society.”

Should we not this New Year resolve to make an intensive effort to teach, identify and support those who have the same values and character as our great Founding Father, George Washington?

Happy New Year,

 

Earl Taylor, Jr.

The “Change” We Really Need

The “Change” We Really Need

One of the last Making of America seminars we taught before the holidays was hosted by our good friend Stanley El in Woodbury, New Jersey, just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia. Joining us were a number of citizens from the area including a city councilwoman and other community leaders.

As the seminar progressed throughout the day, we noticed that our message was enthusiastically received by this group who were especially excited about learning the Founding Fathers’ story and the principles of freedom they incorporated into our Constitution. Of particular interest to them was how the Founders seemed to have answers to nearly every problem we have in America today.

What was even more interesting was the fact that several of the people at the seminar came up to us at various times during the breaks and energetically proclaimed, “Obama has got to hear this message!” Several others at our book table picked up copies of The Five Thousand Year Leap and said, “I’m sending this to Obama. He must read this.” Another said, “We have got to get these teachings to Obama. This will help him.”

I came away from the seminar with several distinct impressions.

First, these people recognized that we have big problems in America today and the direction this nation has been going for the last many years will eventually lead to the destruction of our liberties and the complete decay of morality and virtue.

Second, these people were feeling, as most Americans do, that a change desperately needs to happen, but due perhaps to a lack of knowledge, weren’t sure of the details of the change they wanted.

Third, when a person with a lot of energy and charisma comes along and promises change, it is very easy for those desiring change to follow, even when there are few solid explanations of the coming change.

Fourth, those who are sincerely looking for change or something better will quickly relate to correct principles when they hear them and will become advocates for them to an exciting degree.

Fifth, I have since had the impression that now is the time to capitalize on the feeling of most Americans that change is needed. Americans are hungry for change. But it must be an informed change. The change must be based on solid, correct, and proven principles and not just on emotion.

That, of course, is the mission of NCCS–To reacquaint Americans with the message of our Founding Fathers. Our Founders definitely knew about the change we need today because they painstakingly made it happen in their day and their teachings can show us the way again.

The Positiveness and Excitement of the Founders’ Message

The year 2008 has been a year of teaching seminars around the nation. We have been invited from coast to coast and from north to south, almost every weekend to teach the Founders’ message. We have had every kind of audience one can imagine -from those who have their own theories and explanations about things to those who are almost innocently caught up in the emotion of the election year.

It would otherwise be easy, during a seminar, to get distracted and go off onto one or more of the many tangents or theories that exist in political circles, but I am so grateful to Dr. Skousen for teaching us to follow the Founders’ story which gives a solid, balanced agenda for our seminars. I believe, and have said so several times to those who seem to have their own agenda, that we are staying in the mainstream of the freedom effort. I believe the Founders’ message is so positive and motivating that good people who are sincerely looking for answers will respond to it. Getting into other side issues is not the way to teach people who are looking for answers, so without making a judgment about them, we do not address those issues in our seminars.

George Washington-an example then, an example now

I have been preparing an in-depth study of George Washington for our students and have been impressed with how his actions and philosophy are just what we need today in our present crisis. Here are some examples from our classic bookThe Real George Washington :

On July 2, 1776, Washington, who had recently been appointed commanding General, sent a stirring communication to his men that the time for commitment had arrived, that Americans could no longer suffer complacently under Britain’s tyrannical rule. Unbeknown to the General, on that very day Congress had voted almost unanimously in favor of a resolution for independence. (Two days later, on July 4, Congress approved the actual Declaration of Independence, which had been drafted by Thomas Jefferson.) Acting on his own instincts, Washington issued orders that said:

The time is now near at hand which must probably determine whether Americans are to be freemen or slaves, whether they are to have any property they can call their own, whether their houses and farms are to be pillaged and destroyed, and they consigned to a state of wretchedness from which no human efforts will probably deliver them. The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army. Our cruel and unrelenting enemy leaves us no choice but a brave resistance or the most abject submission. This is all we can expect. We have therefore to resolve to conquer or die. Our own country’s honor [calls] upon us for a vigorous and manly exertion, and if we now shamefully fail we shall become infamous to the whole world. Let us therefore rely upon the goodness of the cause, and the aid of the Supreme Being in whose hands victory is, to animate and encourage us to great and noble actions. The eyes of all our countrymen are now upon us, and we shall have their blessings and praises if, happily, we are the instrument of saving them from the tyranny meditated against them. Let us therefore animate and encourage each other and show the whole world that a freeman contending for LIBERTY on his own ground is superior to any slavish mercenary on earth. (p.173)

“I will not…despair.”

Later that year, in November, 1776, after all that had happened in the previous weeks-the tragic loss of New York City, the fall of Fort Washington and Fort Lee, the fearsome advances of the British, the plotting of his Generals Lee and Reed against him-Washington nevertheless wrote, “I will not…despair.”

Still, he recognized the overwhelming realities of his situation. The next day the enlistments were up for more than two thousand of his fifty-four hundred troops. Unless there was a “speedy enlistment of a new army,” he said, “I think the game will be pretty well up.”

The diary of one of Washington’s men reveals the same troubling fears. Solomon Clift wrote, “We are in a terrible situation, with the enemy close upon us and whole regiments…leaving us.”

One of the men present during the retreat through New Jersey was a fiery young patriot named Thomas Paine. One night, sitting by the campfire for light and using a drumhead for support, he penned a passage that later became enshrined in America’s classics. He wrote:

These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph….Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated. (p.201)

We have little hope if we insult God

Washington also sought to prepare his men in ways other than fighting skills for the frightful impending contests. In August, 1776, in preparing for the battle for New York, he issued orders against “the foolish and wicked practice of profane swearing.” He shared his conviction that “we can have but little hopes of the blessing of heaven on our arms if we insult it by our impiety and folly.” He was to repeat his orders against profanity in his army many times in the long years of war that followed.

“.heaven will crown with success so just a cause.”

As humid days passed with no action from the British, tensions heightened. Washington buoyed up his men with repeated encouragements, seeking to get them mentally ready for the coming battle. “Remember that liberty, property, life, and honor are all at stake,” he wrote, reminding them that “the hopes of their bleeding and insulted country” rested upon their “courage and conduct. [Your] wives, children, and parents expect safety from [you],” he said, “and…we have every reason to expect heaven will crown with success so just a cause.” (p.179)

“All chaplains are to perform divine service…every…Sunday”

On another occasion, while keeping an eye on possible British movements, Washington issued strict orders to ensure that his troops were preparing themselves spiritually for the coming difficulties. “All chaplains are to perform divine service…every…Sunday,” he declared, and he ordered “officers of all ranks” to set an example by attending. “The commander in chief expects an exact compliance with this order, and that it be observed in the future as an invariable rule of practice. And every neglect will be considered not only as a breach of orders, but a disregard to decency, virtue, and religion.” (p.231)

“A superintending Providence is ordering everything”

In the latter part of 1777, Washington desperately tried to thwart the British attempt to occupy Philadelphia. He carefully planned attacks on British troops in neighboring Germantown. Several successful small skirmishes made him feel victory was at hand.

Suddenly, inexplicably, the tide turned. The front guard of American soldiers turned in frantic retreat, with eager British troops nipping at their heels. Then the main body of Americans heard the frightening sound of firing behind them. Were they being surrounded? Panic spread, and soon the entire American army was on the run. Washington, by now near the front, had no choice but to follow, trying vainly to put some semblance of order into their reckless flight. His momentary jubilation had turned to anger and frustration.

Afterward, Washington unraveled the tangled web of events that had so cruelly ruined their certain victory. The soldiers in the vanguard, who had been fighting the longest, had run out of ammunition. They had to withdraw or die defenseless. The troops behind them, unaware of the true reason for the withdrawal, assumed the worst and stampeded away from the British. Others heard the firing of General Greene’s troops-who had been delayed as they came in on another road-and the booming cannon shots at the stone house, and they falsely supposed they were being surrounded. Soon the entire American force, confused and frightened, was scrambling up the road in retreat.

“Upon the whole,” Washington later reported to Congress, “it may be said the day was rather unfortunate than injurious.” Yet later he learned it was a good deal more injurious than he had initially supposed: nearly eleven hundred Americans were killed, wounded, or captured in the Germantown battle.

Nevertheless, the near success of the day was ample cause for optimism. The Americans had learned, Washington told his careworn troops that “the enemy are not proof against a vigorous attack, and may be put to flight when boldly pushed.” And he expressed his abiding trust that “a superintending Providence is ordering everything for the best and that in due time all will end well.” (p.242)

Do you get the feeling that George Washington knew how to win a war against terrible odds? Is this not an example for us today? I am convinced if we do our part today, we can say with Washington that “a superintending Providence is ordering everything for the best and that in due time all will end well.” Is there not a better time to remember this than at Christmas?

Merry Christmas

 

Earl Taylor, Jr.

The Founders Example…

The Founders Example in Principle and Character

Nearly every month we have been discussing principles of good government laid out by our Founding Fathers for the solution of problems in our nation. But they also gave us examples of the kind of people we should be electing to public office. The very lives and characters of these Constitution signers set an example for us. Oh, that we could elect these kind of people today!

During September we celebrate Constitution Week. Could there be any greater honor we could pay to those who originally signed that document than to review the reasons why they were so honorable, in hopes of choosing the same kind of men in our day to maintain what they gave us?

Here are the names of most who signed the Constitution. The quoted extracts are from “Characters in the Convention of the States Held at Philadelphia, May 1787,” by Major William Pierce, delegate to the Convention from Georgia. Mr. Pierce did not write what they said, but he wrote what he knew about their character that made them so honorable and believable. He left the convention before it concluded, so he did not sign the Constitution himself, but he left us a wonderful legacy of the men who sat with him during the Convention of 1787. Included also are the three men who were present on September 17th but refused to sign the Constitution because it did not have a Bill of Rights. (see The Making of America , Pages xv-xxix)

Baldwin, Abraham (1754-1807), delegate from Georgia.

“A gentleman of superior abilities, and joins in a public debate with great art and eloquence. Having laid the foundation of a complete classical education at [Yale] College, he pursues every other study with ease. He is well acquainted with books and characters, and has an accommodating turn of mind, which enables him to gain the confidence of men, and to understand them. He is a practicing attorney in Georgia, and has been twice a member of Congress.”

Bassett, Richard (1745-1815), delegate from Delaware.

“A religious enthusiast, lately turned Methodist, and serves his country because it is the will of the people that he should do so. He is a man of plain sense, and has modesty enough to hold his tongue. He is a gentlemanly man, and is in high estimation among the Methodists.”

Blair, John (1732-1800), delegate from Virginia.

“One of the most respectable men in Virginia, both on account of his family, as well as fortune. He was one of the judges of the Supreme Court in Virginia, and acknowledged to have a very extensive knowledge of the laws…. No orator, but his good sense, and most excellent principles, compensate for other deficiencies.”

Butler, Pierce (1744-1822), delegate from South Carolina.

“A character much respected for the many excellent virtues which he possesses. He … is a gentleman of fortune, and takes rank among the first in South Carolina. He has been appointed to Congress, and is now a member of the Legislature of South Carolina.”

Carroll, Daniel (1730-1796), delegate from Maryland.

“A man of large fortune, and influence in his State. He possesses plain, good sense, and is in the full confidence of his countrymen.”

Dayton, Jonathan (1760-1824), delegate from New Jersey.

“A young gentleman of talents, with ambition to exert them. He possesses a good education and some reading; he speaks well…. There is an honest rectitude about him that makes him a valuable member of society, and secures to him the esteem of all good men.”

Dickinson, John (1733-1808), delegate from Delaware.

“Famed through all America, for his Farmers Letters ; he is a scholar, and said to be a man of very extensive information…. He is … a good writer and will be ever considered one of the most important characters in the United States.”

Few, William (1748-1828), delegate from Georgia.

“Possesses a strong natural genius, and from application has acquired some knowledge of legal matters; he practices at the Bar of Georgia, and speaks tolerably well in the legislature. He has been twice a member of Congress, and served in that capacity with fidelity to his State, and honor to himself.”

Franklin, Benjamin (1706-1790), delegate from Pennsylvania.

“Well known to be the greatest philosopher of the present age; all the operations of nature he seems to understand, the very heavens obey him, and the clouds yield up the lightning to be imprisoned in his rod…. He is … a most extraordinary man…. He is 82 years old, and possesses an activity of mind equal to a youth of 25 years of age.”

Gerry, Elbridge (1744-1814), delegate from Massachusetts.

“Mr. Gerry’s character is marked for integrity and perseverance. He is a hesitating and laborious speaker; possesses a great degree of confidence and goes extensively into all subjects that he speaks on, without respect to elegance or flower of diction. He is connected and clear in his arguments, conceives well, and cherishes as his first virtue, a love for his country. Mr. Gerry is very much of a gentleman in his principles and manners; he has been engaged in the mercantile line and is a man of property.”

Gorham, Nathaniel (1748-1796), delegate from Massachusetts.

“A merchant in Boston, high in reputation, and much in the esteem of his countrymen. He is a man of very good sense…. He has been president of Congress and three years a member of that body.”

Hamilton, Alexander (1757-1804), delegate from New York.

“Colonel Hamilton is deservedly celebrated for his talents. He is a practitioner of the law, and reputed to be a finished scholar. To a clear and strong judgment he unites the ornaments of fancy, and whilst he is able, convincing, and engaging in his eloquence the heart and head sympathize in approving him…. Colonel Hamilton requires time to think; he inquires into every part of his subject with the searchings of philosophy, and when he comes forward he comes highly charged with interesting matter; there is no skimming over the surface of a subject, he must sink to the bottom to see what foundation it rests on.”

Ingersoll, Jared (1749-1822), delegate from Pennsylvania.

“A very able attorney, and possesses a clear legal understanding. He is well educated in the classics and is a man of very extensive reading. Mr. Ingersoll speaks well and comprehends his subject fully.”

Johnson, William Samuel (1727-1819), delegate from Connecticut.

“A character much celebrated for his legal knowledge; he is said to be one of the first classics in America, and certainly possesses a very strong and enlightened understanding.
“He is eloquent and clear, always abounding with information and instruction.”

King, Rufus (1755-1827), delegate from Massachusetts.

“A man much distinguished for his eloquence and great parliamentary talents. He was educated in Massachusetts, and is said to have good classical as well as legal knowledge. He has served for three years in the Congress of the United States with great and deserved applause, and is at this time high in the confidence and approbation of his countrymen…. He may, with propriety, be ranked among the luminaries of the present age.”

Livingston, William (1723-1790), delegate from New Jersey.

“A man of the first rate talents … equal to anything, from the extensiveness of his education and genius. His writings teem with satire and a neatness of style.”

Madison, James (1751-1836), delegate from Virginia.

“A character who has long been in public life; and what is very remarkable, every person seems to acknowledge his greatness. He blends together the profound politician, with the scholar. In the management of every great question he evidently took the lead in the Convention, and though he cannot be called an orator, he is a most agreeable, eloquent, and convincing speaker. From a spirit of industry and application which he possesses in a most eminent degree, he always comes forward the best informed man of any point in debate. The affairs of the United States, he perhaps, has the most correct knowledge of any man in the Union. He has been twice a member of Congress, and was always thought one of the ablest members that ever sat in that council.”

Mason, George (1725-1792), delegate from Virginia.

“A gentleman of remarkable strong powers, and possesses a clear and copious understanding. He is able and convincing in debate, steady and firm in his principles, and undoubtedly one of the best politicians in America.”

McHenry, James (1753-1816), delegate from Maryland.

“Was bred a physician, but he afterwards turned soldier and acted as aide to General Washington, and deserves the honor which his country has bestowed on him.”

Morris, Gouverneur (1752-1816), delegate from Pennsylvania.

“One of the geniuses in whom every species of talents combine to render him conspicuous and flourishing in public debate. He winds through all the mazes of rhetoric and throws around him such a glare, that he charms, captivates, and leads away the senses of all who hear him. With an infinite streak of fancy, he brings to view things, when he is engaged in deep argumentation, that render all the labor of reasoning easy and pleasing…. He has gone through a very extensive course of reading, and is acquainted with all the sciences. No man has more wit … than Mr. Morris. He was bred to the law, but I am told he disliked the profession and turned merchant.”

Paterson, William (1745-1806), delegate from New Jersey.

“One of those kind of men whose powers break in upon you and create wonder and astonishment. He is a man of great modesty with looks that bespeak talents of no great extent, but he is a classic, a lawyer, and an orator; and of a disposition so favorable to his advancement that every one seemed ready to exalt him with their praises. He is very happy in the choice of time and manner of engaging in a debate, and never speaks but when he understands his subject well.”

Pinckney, Charles (1757-1824), delegate from South Carolina.

“A young gentleman of the most promising talents. He is, although only 24 years of age [actually he was 30], in possession of a very great variety of knowledge. Government, law, history and philosophy are his favorite studies, but he is intimately acquainted with every species of polite learning, and has a spirit of application and industry beyond most men. He speaks with great neatness and perspicuity, and treats every subject as fully, without running into prolixity, as it requires. He has been a member of Congress, and served in that body with ability and eclat.”

Pinckney, Charles C. (1746-1825), delegate from South Carolina.

“A gentleman of family and fortune in his own state. He has received the advantage of a liberal education, and possesses a very extensive degree of legal knowledge…. Mr. Pinckney was an officer of high rank in the American army, and served with great reputation through the War.”

Randolph, Edmund (1753-1813), delegate from Virginia.

“Is governor of Virginia, a young gentleman in whom unite all the accomplishments of the scholar and the statesman. He came forward with the postulata, or first principles, on which the Convention acted, and he supported them with a force of eloquence and reasoning that did him great honor.”

Rutledge, John (1739-1800), delegate from South Carolina.

“His reputation in the first Congress gave him a distinguished rank among the American worthies. He was bred to the law, and now acts as one of the chancellors of South Carolina. This gentleman is much famed in his own State as an orator…. He is undoubtedly a man of abilities, and a gentleman of distinction and fortune. Mr. Rutledge was once governor of South Carolina.”

Sherman, Roger (1721-1793), delegate from Connecticut.

“In his train of thinking there is something regular, deep, and comprehensive. He … deserves infinite praise. No man has a better heart or a clearer head…. He can furnish thoughts that are wise and useful. He is an able politician, and extremely artful in accomplishing any particular object; it is remarked that he seldom fails…. He sits on the bench in Connecticut and is very correct in the discharge of his judicial functions…. He has been several years a member of Congress and discharged the duties of his office with honor and credit to himself, an advantage to the State he represented.”

Washington, George (1732-1799), delegate from Virginia.

“Well known as the commander in chief of the late American Army. Having conducted these States to independence and peace, he now appears to assist in framing a government to make the people happy. Like Gustavus Vasa, he may be said to be the deliverer of his country; like Peter the Great, he appears as the politician and the statesman, and like Cincinnatus he returned to his farm perfectly contented with being only a plain citizen, after enjoying the highest honor of the Confederacy, and now only seeks for the approbation of his countrymen by being virtuous and useful. The General was conducted to the Chair as president of the Convention by the unanimous voice of its members.”

Williamson, Dr. Hugh (1735-1819), delegate from North Carolina.

“Is a gentleman of education and talents. He enters freely into public debate from his close attention to most subjects…. There is a great degree of good humour and pleasantry in his character; and in his manners there is a strong trait of the gentleman.”

Wilson, James (1742-1798), delegate from Pennsylvania.

“Ranks among the foremost in legal and political knowledge…. He is well acquainted with man, and understands all the passions that influence him. Government seems to have been his peculiar study, all the political institutions of the world he knows in detail, and can trace the causes and effects of every revolution from the earliest stages of the Grecian commonwealth down to the present time. No man is more clear, copious, and comprehensive than Mr. Wilson, yet he is no great orator. He draws the attention, not by the charm of his eloquence, but by the force of his reasoning.”

Every two years Americans have an opportunity to perform a miracle at the ballot box. As President Washington said of Constitutional principles, “To preserve them must be as necessary as to institute them.” Surely, the Creator of all has not left us without great leaders to maintain what He originally gave us, if we but have the courage to install them.

Sincerely,

Earl Taylor, Jr.

The Making of America’s…

The Making of America’s Constitution
Exploring Its Substance and Meaning

Can we as a nation pay any greater tribute to America’s Founders than studying the inspired document they left us? In W. Cleon Skousen’s classic book, The Making of America , he pays tribute to the Founders as follows:

  • They created the first free people to survive as a nation in modern times.
  • They wrote a new kind of Constitution, which is now the oldest in existence.
  • They built a new kind of commonwealth designed as a model for the whole human race.
  • They believed it was thoroughly possible to create a new kind of civilization, providing freedom, equality, and justice for all.
  • They envisioned a vast commonwealth of freedom which would encompass all North America, and accommodate, as John Adams said, “two to three hundred million freemen.”
  • They created an expansive new cultural climate that gave eagle’s wings to the human spirit.
  • They encouraged exploration and technology to reveal the secrets of the universe.
  • They built a free-enterprise culture to promote millions of jobs and unprecedented prosperity.
  • They invented, for the world as well as themselves, a whole new formula for happiness and success.
  • They offered the human race a potential future filled with the ultimate hope of the human heart — a world of universal freedom, universal prosperity, and universal peace.

Our challenge is to correctly understand what the Founders gave us

The Founders left no doubt as to how this document should be implemented. When Thomas Jefferson became President he reminded us how we should interpret this wonderful charter of liberty:

“The Constitution on which our Union rests shall be administered by me according to the safe and honest meaning contemplated by the plain understanding of the people of the United States at the time of its adoption — a meaning to be found in the explanations of those who advocated, not those who opposed it…. These explanations are preserved in the publications of the time.”

Later, he emphasized the same views:

“On every question of construction, [let us] carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.”

Jefferson felt the Constitution should be interpreted strictly. He wrote: “When an instrument admits two constructions, the one safe, the other dangerous, the one precise, the other indefinite, I prefer that which is safe and precise. I had rather ask an enlargement of power from the nation, where it is found necessary, than to assume it by a construction which would make our powers boundless. Our peculiar security is in the possession of a written Constitution. Let us not make it a blank paper by construction.”

These comments are similar to those expressed by the other leaders in the early chapters of the country’s history. Chief Justice Taney expressed the traditional view of the Founders when he wrote:

“It [the Constitution] speaks not only in the same words, but with the same meaning and intent with which it spoke when it came from the hands of its framers, and was voted on and adopted by the people of the United States. Any other rule of construction would abrogate the judicial character of the Court and make it the mere reflect of the popular opinion or passion of the day.”

The Founders would hardly recognize their Constitution today

To appreciate how far we have strayed, let us examine the words of a notable constitutional authority, Edwin S. Corwin, who wrote The Constitution of the United States, Annotated , an official government publication. He points out that the Supreme Court has passed through four identifiable stages of development, which may be summarized as follows:

  1. There was the John Marshall period when the Constitution was used to establish “national supremacy.” The Federalist Papers and the words of the Founders were almost the exclusive guide to constitutional interpretations during this first period.
  2. The second period began with the appointment of Chief Justice Taney in 1835 and extended to approximately 1895. During this period the Supreme Court leaned heavily on various doctrines of constitutional theory and seldom quoted the Founders or the Federalist Papers. Nevertheless, the Court adhered rather strictly to the philosophy of the Founders, even though they seldom quoted them.
  3. Beginning around 1895, the Supreme Court moved into a third phase by gradually replacing constitutional supremacy with judicial supremacy. The Constitution was no longer what the Founders said it was, but rather what the Supreme Court said it was. To quote Dr. Corwin:”It was early in this period that Governor [Charles Evans] Hughes, soon to ascend the Bench [and later serve as Chief Justice from 1930 to 1941] said, without perhaps intending all that his words literally conveyed, ‘We are under a Constitution, but the Constitution is what the judges say it is.’ … Senator Borah, in the Senate debate on Mr. Hughes’ nomination for Chief Justice, in 1930, declared that the Supreme Court had become ‘economic dictator in the United States.’ Some of the Justices concurred in these observations, especially Justices Holmes and Brandeis. Asserted the latter, the Court had made itself ‘a super-legislature’ and Justice Holmes could discover ‘hardly any limit but the sky to the power claimed by the Court to disallow State acts’ which may happen to strike a majority [of its members] as for any reason undesirable.”
  4. The final period is one which is continuing today. It is the spectacle of a judiciary virtually out of control and seriously in need of repair by a constitutional amendment. As Edwin Corwin writes:”What was once vaunted as a Constitution of Rights, both State rights and private rights, has been replaced to a great extent by a Constitution of Powers. The Federal system has shifted base in the direction of a consolidated national power; within the National Government itself there has been an increased flow of power in the direction of the President; even judicial enforcement of the Bill of Rights has faltered at times, in the presence of national emergency.” (See The Making of America , pp. 575-578)

NCCS invites all Americans to study the Constitution in the Founders’ own words

May we suggest three ways to do this:

  1. Read and ponder the Constitution document itself. NCCS has distributed over one million pocket-size copies and has just printed another million copies of this inspired charter of liberty. Our goal is to flood the nation with its wisdom before the elections this year. As you have noticed from our last few letters, we have packaged 100 copies at such a low price that they can be obtained by nearly everyone to distribute to friends, schools, and businesses, especially during September’s Constitution Week.
  2. Sponsor or attend a Making of America one-day seminar. Let us know if you would like to host one in your area or check our website to see if a seminar is coming to a place near you. These events are very successful on building excitement for, and an understanding of, the Constitution.
  3. Study the Constitution in depth by taking our two-semester course online at www.halearn.com. These courses were developed and video recorded at Heritage Academy in Mesa, Arizona.American Government Part I is a study of The 5000 Year Leap and the Twenty-eight Principles of Liberty that form the basis of our constitution. It contains 27 lessons.American Government Part II is a study of The Making of America. Here you will read the words of the Founders themselves as they explain the substance and meaning of each individual item in the Constitution. As a successful student, you can say you have read Madison or Jefferson or Washington or any number of dozens of others who explain in unmistakable words the reason for including that provision in the Constitution and, more importantly, what it means. Part II contains 47 lessons.Each part contains lessons with video instruction recorded in the classroom and combined with PowerPoint presentations to ensure the student learns the main points. Quizzes and examinations, which are computer scored, are given throughout the courses. Other activities are uploaded directly to the instructor. If desired, an accredited transcript may be obtained giving one full high school credit for completing the course. Some high school students are taking this course to free up some time in their schedule during their senior year. The two parts of this course contain probably the most in-depth learning experience one can undertake in gaining an understanding of the Founders formula for freedom. It is our attempt to bring to people what Jefferson expressed as “.the safe and honest meaning contemplated by the plain understanding of the people of the United States at the time of its [the Constitution’s] adoption — a meaning to be found in the explanations of those who advocated.it.”

Here is a sample of some of the Constitutional questions you will learn answers for in this course:

  • What is the best kind of tax for governments to levy?
    • Direct
    • Indirect
  • A tax on __________ goods, called a _______, would be sufficient to operate the federal government in peacetime according to the Founders. Is this a direct or an indirect tax?
  • For what two best reasons would this not be practical during an emergency such as war?
    • War necessitates a greater amount of money than tariffs would generate.
    • Citizens would be hurting for money and therefore not be buying goods.
    • During war there would be very little imported goods
    • Citizens would refuse to buy goods from foreign countries
  • During emergencies the Founders envisioned the federal government turning inward to the states and people, providing its taxes were based on _______________ and not on wealth or income.
  • Why is Article I, Section I known as the power plant of the constitution?
    • It is the section which gives the president power to officiate in his office
    • It is the section which empowers the federal courts to declare laws unconstitutional.
    • It is the section which conveys to congress power from the people to make laws
    • It is the section which protects people against unjust laws.
  • Give the order of the stages in which unconstitutional presidential power has evolved.
    • ____Strong president stage
    • ____Constitutional theory stage
    • ____Out of control stage
    • ____Constitutional stage
  • Which president said he could do anything unless forbidden in the Constitution?
  • What different kinds of temptations would members of the House yield to with respect to federal money that the Founders felt Senators elected by state legislatures would probably resist?
    • Federal welfare programs to individuals
    • Federal mandates on the states
    • Federal price supports for farmers
    • Federal subsidies to local cities
  • What did the Founders mean by “general welfare”?
    • Items that would benefit only the entire nation.
    • Welfare for everyone in the nation
    • Welfare in general
    • Welfare for the truly needy
  • How does the Supreme Court justify a graduated income tax in light of the constitutional uniformity requirement?
    • As long as the IRS officers are wearing uniforms, it meets the uniformity requirement.
    • The Founders could not have meant that all would be taxed the same because some people have more ability to pay than others.
    • If the graduation is the same in every location in the nation, it is considered geographically uniform.
    • All levels of government must use the same schedule of graduated taxes.

Thank you for helping us popularize the Constitution of the United States once again.

Sincerely,

Earl Taylor, Jr.

 

PS Answers to quiz: 1) b, 2) imported, tariff, indirect, 3) a,c, 4) population, 5) c, 6) 3,2,4,1, 7) Theodore Roosevelt, 8) a,b,c,d, 9) a, 10) c

Elections from the…

Elections from the Founders’ Perspective

For over 200 years since our nation’s founding, elections of public officials have occurred every two years and in some cases more often than that. Many Americans do not realize that elections are far different than envisioned by the Founders, both in the way we conduct them and in the kind of people we see on the ballots. Like most other things we do today, changes have taken place so gradually that we hardly notice, and unless we study the Founders’ ideas, we find ourselves saying, “Isn’t this the way we have always done it?”

Once again, as we have said so many times before, the problems and frustrations we feel today have occurred mostly because we have departed from the Founders’ counsel and wisdom. In this, as in many other issues of the day, we repeatedly remind Americans that the Founders had answers to nearly every problem we have in America today-if we would only listen.

Let’s listen to the Founders’ wisdom concerning some important election questions of the day:

Question: What kind of people should we be electing to public office?

Answer: In early America it was customary in some state legislatures to have powerful spokesmen of the day come before the representatives of the people at one of their early sessions and remind them of the importance of the lawmaking process. An eloquent example of this kind of dissertation is found in a speech by patriot Samuel Langdon before the Massachusetts legislature in 1788. He declared:

“On the people, therefore, of these United States, it depends whether wise men, or fools, good or bad men, shall govern…. Therefore, I will now lift up my voice and cry aloud to the people….

“From year to year be careful in the choice of your representatives and the higher powers [offices] of government. Fix your eyes upon men of good understanding and known honesty; men of knowledge, improved by experience; men who fear God and hate covetousness; who love truth and righteousness, and sincerely wish for the public welfare…. Let not men openly irreligious and immoral become your legislators…. If the legislative body are corrupt, you will soon have bad men for counselors, corrupt judges, unqualified justices, and officers in every department who will dishonor their stations…. Never give countenance to turbulent men, who wish to distinguish themselves and rise to power by forming combinations and exciting insurrections against government…. I call upon you also to support schools in your towns…. It is a debt you owe to your children.” (See The Making of America , page 10)

Question How can one distinguish between a true patriot and one who pretends to be patriotic in order to get elected?

Answer: Samuel Adams, the father of the American Revolution, gave the key to knowing who was a real patriot when he said:

“But neither the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt. He therefore is the truest friend to the liberty of his country who tries most to promote its virtue, and who, so far as his power and influence extend, will not suffer a man to be chosen into any office of power and trust who is not a wise and virtuous man.”

He then went on to say that public officials should not be chosen if they are lacking in experience, training, proven virtue, and demonstrated wisdom. He said the task of the electorate is to choose those whose “fidelity has been tried in the nicest and tenderest manner, and has been ever firm and unshaken.”

A favorite scripture of the day was Proverbs 29:2, which says: “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.” (See The 5000 Year Leap , page 59-60)

Question Did the Founders anticipate the rise of political parties?

Answer: Contrary to most history textbooks, the answer is yes. They called them factions. James Madison said they arise naturally among men because of the propensity of people who think alike to join together. He said:

“By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest..

“The latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man; and we see them everywhere brought into different degrees of activity, according to the different circumstances of civil society. A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good.” ( Federalist Papers No. 10)

Question How did the Founders feel the influence of political parties would be controlled so as not to have such an influence over the whole nation?

Answer: The Founders felt that a large and extended republic would provide enough variety of interests that one party or faction arising in one part would naturally be resisted by other factions in other parts of the nation. Here is the way Madison explained it:

“The influence of factious leaders may kindle a flame within their particular States, but will be unable to spread a general conflagration through the other States. A religious sect may degenerate into a political faction in a part of the Confederacy; but the variety of sects dispersed over the entire face of it must secure the national councils against any danger from that source. A rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal division of property, or for any other improper or wicked project, will be less apt to pervade the whole body of the Union than a particular member of it; in the same proportion as such a malady is more likely to taint a particular county or district, than an entire State.” ( Federalist Papers No. 10)

Question: Then why do political parties seem to have such a huge influence in our day over our political decisions?

Answer: Because states and the federal government have given political parties political power into the election process, contrary to the advice of the Founders. State and federal legislatures have passed laws which define the structure of a party, laws which give parties control over candidates on the ballot, laws which give parties the power to appoint presidential electors, laws which provide public money to finance campaigns and political party primary elections, and laws which dictate party activities in national elections. All of these laws have given political parties legal power and have brought into the political process all the passions and tumult that the Founders said naturally come with parties or factions.

In his famous Commentaries on the Constitution , in 1833, Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story explained that the Founders specifically designed the electoral system of electing a president so as to avoid the tumult and intrigue of both direct election by the people or national party politics, including national nominating conventions. He described why the Founders developed a system of electors from each state to choose the president:

“Assuming that the choice [or election] ought not to be confined to [or be done by] the national legislature, there remained various other modes, by which it might be effected; by the people directly; by the state legislatures; or by electors, chosen by the one, or the other. The latter mode was deemed most advisable; and the reasoning, by which it was supported, was to the following effect.” ( The Founders’ Constitution , Vol. 3, page 557)

Question In choosing a president, why did the Founders feel a small group of electors in each state would be much preferred over political parties in deciding who would best serve?

Answer: Justice Story continues:

“The immediate election should be made by men, the most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station, and acting under circumstances favourable to deliberation, and to judicious combination of all the inducements, which ought to govern their choice. A small number of persons, selected by their fellow citizens from the general mass for this special object, would be most likely to possess the information, and discernment, and independence, essential for the proper discharge of the duty. It is also highly important to afford as little opportunity, as possible, to tumult and disorder. These evils are not unlikely [meaning they are very likely] to occur in the election of a chief magistrate directly by the people, considering the strong excitements and interests, which such an occasion may naturally be presumed to produce. The choice of a number of persons, to form an intermediate body of electors, would be far less apt to convulse the community with any extraordinary or violent movements, than the choice of one, who was himself the final object of the public wishes.” (ibid.)

Question What advantage did the Founders see in requiring a system of a small group of independent electors to meet in their respective state capitals to elect the president as opposed to legally enabling political parties with campaigns, primary elections, multi-million dollar media events, and huge national nominating conventions?

Answer: Justice Story continues:

“And as the electors chosen in each state are to assemble, and vote in the state, in which they are chosen, this detached and divided situation would expose them much less to heats and ferments, which might be communicated from them to the people, than if they were all convened at one time in one place. The same circumstances would naturally lessen the dangers of cabal, intrigue, and corruption, especially, if congress should, as they undoubtedly would, prescribe the same day for the choice of the electors, and for giving their votes throughout the United States. The scheme, indeed, presents every reasonable guard against these fatal evils to republican governments. The appointment of the president is not made to depend upon any pre-existing body of men [such as political parties], who might be tampered with beforehand to prostitute their votes; but is delegated to persons chosen by the immediate act of the people, for that sole and temporary purpose.” (ibid.)

Question We find ourselves in a predicament today where some very powerful forces, whether they are political parties or other factions, seemed to have made our decisions for us concerning the electable choices we have on our ballots. Sometimes, neither of the electable choices is very appealing. Did the Founders have any advice for this kind of problem?

Answer: The Founders were very practical men who recognized a reality of our human society that no candidate is perfect. Recognizing that, it then becomes a matter of choosing the best candidate that can possibly be elected. Thomas Jefferson seemed to sense the reality that we are often presented with situations that we are uncomfortable with, when he observed:

“It is a melancholy law of human societies to be compelled sometimes to choose a great evil in order to ward off a greater.” ( The Real Thomas Jefferson , page 423)

Jefferson would also be the first to say that no matter who comes to power, the people and the states must hold his feet to the fire so as not to allow him to violate the Constitution. He said it forcefully this way:

“In questions of power, then, let no more be said of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.” ( The Five Thousand Year Leap , page 165)

If we do not feel comfortable with the choices we presently have, then we must make sure we choose Congressmen and others who will bind down runaway politicians with the check and balance provisions of the Constitution.

As we view the upcoming political party conventions, with all their machinations, let us remember that, as we have said so many times, the Founders really did have a better way to do it.

Sincerely,

Earl Taylor, Jr.

The Greatest Civil Rights…

The Greatest Civil Rights Document Ever Written by Man
The Declaration of Independence

 

Next month we will celebrate 232 years since the writing of The Declaration of Independence. Its history and its meaning must never be lost in the miasma of today’s political upheavals. In spite of the fact that powerful politicians and would-be king-makers of today trample on the precious doctrines found in this document, it is critical to keep these doctrines close to our hearts and memories. One day, when Americans are fed up with the false doctrines of freedom, these true doctrines of freedom and liberty contained in this document will be as welcome and as celebrated as it was in 1776.

Dr. Cleon Skousen has written a beautiful narrative of the writing, purpose, and meaning of the Declaration of Independence. Most of the following are the words of Dr. Skousen on this subject, taken from pages 420-425 of The Majesty of God’s Law.

How to Convert a Theocracy into a Democratic-Republic

Ever since 1639 when Connecticut first undertook to set up its government according to the first chapter of Deuteronomy, there had been an inclination to look to the Bible for political guidelines. But the principal roadblock was the fact that Moses had set up a theocracy — a government under the immediate direction of God and his prophets. How could the Founders take the principles of God’s law in the Bible and set them up without the divine guidance of either God or his prophets?

In a sense, they already had the needed guidance in the Bible itself. The scripture describes exactly how to set up God’s law. But could it be administered justly? Could its various powers be kept in balance? Charles de Montesquieu had already written about the genius of setting up the functions of government in three separate branches — the legislature, the executive and the judiciary — but who would keep these powerful departments separated? And who would prevent them from abusing one another or having one department usurping authority over the other departments?

It was John Adams who came to grips with these questions in January, 1776. He was an untiring advocate for the separation-of-powers with a strong system of checks and balances. This was the way that power could be safely delegated to man in a democratic republican government.

But for the work of John Adams to even be effective, the American colonies would have to gird up their loins and declared themselves completely separate from the king and Parliament of England.

It is interesting that no one deserves more credit for bringing this separation about than John Adams and his immediate Whig associates in the Congress. Beginning in 1776 they worked day and night and used every conceivable political strategy to get to the point where Richard Henry Lee of Virginia could introduce a resolution on June 7, 1776, calling for a declaration of independence.

There was an immediate uproar in the Congress with noisy delegates from several of the colonies claiming they had no authority to vote on such a radical proposal until they had the approval from their respective colonial assemblies back home. It was therefore agreed to postpone the vote until July 2nd.

Meanwhile, a committee was appointed to draft the Declaration of Independence and present it to the Congress on the same date as Richard Henry Lee’s resolution. The five members of the committee in order of their ages were Benjamin Franklin (70), Roger Sherman (55), John Adams (41), Thomas Jefferson (33) and Robert Livingston (30).

How Thomas Jefferson Happened to Write the Declaration

When the committee convened, Jefferson immediately proposed that John Adams be authorized to prepare the initial draft. John Adams describes what happened:

“Jefferson proposed to me to make the draft. I said: ‘I will not. You should do it.’

“Jefferson: ‘Oh no! Why will you not? You ought to do it.’

“Adams: ‘I will not!’

“Jefferson: ‘Why?’

“Adams: ‘Reasons enough.’

“Jefferson: ‘What can be your reasons?’

“Adams: ‘Reason first — You are a Virginian, and a Virginian ought to appear at the head of this business. Reason second — I am obnoxious, suspected, and unpopular. You are very much otherwise. Reason third — You can write ten times better than I can.’

“Jefferson: ‘Well, if you are decided, I will do as well as I can.'”

The Ancient Principles

Thomas Jefferson labored over the Declaration of Independence seventeen days. It is generally assumed he took most of that time writing out the long catalog of crimes by the king and the Parliament which justified the separation of the colonies from the mother country. However, this does not appear to have been the case. Here is the reason why.

Jefferson had already written three successive drafts for a proposed constitution for Virginia. He had planned to present the latest version to the Virginia legislature in Williamsburg; however, his trip was interrupted when a dispatch arrived instructing him to go to Philadelphia as Virginia’s delegate to Congress.

He obediently set out on his journey and arrived at his new post on May 14, 1776, with the third constitutional proposal in his pocket. This draft contained the lengthy list of offenses which he felt was a full justification for Virginia setting up a separate government.

In his new committee assignment at the Congress, it would have taken Jefferson only a day or two to copy this list of offenses into the Declaration of Independence and then use it as a full justification for all of the colonies to demand their independence.

Assuming this to be the case, we are led to conclude that Jefferson spent the rest of the fifteen or sixteen days poring over the ancient principles that he wanted incorporated in the first two paragraphs of the new Declaration of Independence.

These ancient principles constitute eight of the foundation stones of the newly contemplated American system of government and were carefully enunciated by Jefferson with classical brevity in these opening paragraphs. His views on each of these principles are rounded out in other writings, and from these various sources we are able to identify the following fundamental principles in the first two paragraphs of the Declaration of Independence:

  1. Sound government should be based on self-evident truths. These truths should be so obvious, so rational, and so morally sound that their authenticity is beyond reasonable dispute.
  2. The equal station of mankind here on earth is a cosmic reality, an obvious and inherent aspect of the law of nature and of nature’s God.
  3. This presupposes (as a self-evident truth) that the Creator made human beings equal in their rights, equal before the bar of justice, and equal in his sight. (Of course, individual attributes and personal circumstances in life vary widely.)
  4. These rights which have been bestowed by the Creator on each individual are unalienable; that is, they cannot be taken away or violated without the offender coming under the judgment and wrath of the Creator. A person may have other rights, such as those which have been created as a “vested” right by statute, but vested rights are not unalienable. They can be altered or eliminated at any time.
  5. Among the most important of the unalienable rights are the right to life, the right to liberty, and the right to pursue whatever course of life a person may desire in search of happiness, so long as it does not invade the inherent rights of others.
  6. The most basic reason for a community or a nation to set up a system of government is to assure its inhabitants that the rights of the people shall be protected and preserved.
  7. And because this is so, it follows that no office or agency of government has any right to exist except with the consent of the people or their representatives.
  8. It also follows that if a government, either by malfeasance or neglect, fails to protect those rights — or, even worse, if the government itself begins to violate those rights — then it is the right and duty of the people to regain control of their affairs and set up a form of government which will serve the people better.

Jefferson Offers His Draft to the Committee and the Congress

When Jefferson presented the draft of the Declaration to the whole committee they were very pleased with it and only minor suggestions were made by John Adams and Benjamin Franklin.

On July 2 when the draft was presented to the Congress there was a lively discussion for two days. Some of the delegates from Tory states — such as New York — felt the list of offenses were too harsh and needed to be toned down for diplomatic reasons. In the end over sixty changes were made in the document, but not one of the ancient principles was deleted.

Neither Jefferson nor the Congress called this document the “Declaration of Independence.” It was the people who later gave the Declaration its immortal name.

It was a glowing tribute to the skill of Thomas Jefferson as a writer and to the patient molding of the Congress by John Adams that finally brought this highly diversified body of delegates to the crowning summit of unity where each of the new United States of America finally ratified the Declaration of Independence. It was July 4, 1776, which John Adams said he hoped Americans would celebrate from generation to generation as the birth date of the nation.

The First Proposed Seal Gave Credit to
Ancient Israel for the Inspiration of the Founders

A short time after the Declaration of Independence was adopted, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin were the fore-most leaders assigned to formulate an official seal for the new nation.

As mentioned earlier, Jefferson — and several of the other Founders, including the Reverend Thomas Hooker, who wrote the constitution for Connecticut in 1649 — had discovered that the most substantive principles of representative government were those practiced by ancient Israel under the leadership of Moses. Jefferson had also studied the institutes of government of the Anglo-Saxons and had found that they were almost identical to those of the Israelites.

After a brief discussion it was decided that both of these ancient peoples should be represented on the great seal of the United States.

Here is Franklin’s description of the way he thought the Bible’s ancient Israel should be portrayed:

“Moses standing on the shore, and extending his hand over the sea, thereby causing the same to overwhelm Pharaoh who is sitting in an open chariot, a crown on his head and a sword in his hand. Rays from a pillar of fire in the clouds reaching to Moses, to express that he acts by command of the Deity. Motto: Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.”

John Adams described what Jefferson proposed:

“Mr. Jefferson proposed: The children of Israel in the wilderness, led by a cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night, and on the other side Hengist and Horsa, the Saxon chiefs, from whom we claim the honor of being descended and whose political principles and form of government we have assumed.”

Professor Gilbert Chinard, one of the distinguished biographers of Jefferson, states:

“Jefferson’s great ambition at that time was to promote a renaissance of Anglo-Saxon primitive institutions on the new continent. Thus presented, the American Revolution was nothing but the reclamation of the Anglo-Saxon birthright of which the colonists had been deprived by ‘a long train of abuses.’ Nor does it appear that there was anything in this theory which surprised or shocked his contemporaries; Adams apparently did not disapprove of it, and it would be easy to bring in many similar expressions of the same idea in documents of the time.”

As we mentioned earlier, on August 13, 1776 (about the time the committee was trying to design an official seal), Jefferson wrote to Edmund Pendleton to convince him that Virginia must abolish the remnants of feudalism and return to the “ancient principles.” He wrote:

“Are we not better for what we have hitherto abolished of the feudal system? Has not every restitution of the ancient Saxon laws had happy effects? Is it not better now that we return at once into that happy system of our ancestors, the wisest and most perfect ever yet devised by the wit of man, as it stood before the eighth century?”

Surely our system, as delivered to us by the Founders, was the wisest and most perfect.

Happy Fourth of July!

Sincerely,

 

Earl Taylor, Jr.

Advice from Benjamin Franklin

Advice from Benjamin Franklin

The New Year is so refreshing. We seem naturally to be optimistic about the future and have high hopes that things that didn’t work out so well in the past year will somehow work out better this year.

In previous newsletters, we have talked much about the wisdom of the Founders when it comes to current political issues. We have done our best to show how their wisdom is timeless and their advice to us, if we were to follow it, would have saved us so much grief and troubles in our country’s history. But their wisdom is broader than just politics. They were very practical people who had to live in society, raise children, get along with people, and contribute to the well-being of their communities.

In studying the political writings of the Founders, one cannot help but be impressed with their philosophy for everyday living, which most of them have woven in and around their political writings. Sometimes it is like reading a manual on family relationships. Over the years, when I have had occasion, either in school settings or in seminars, I have tried to impart this wisdom to young people and their parents. It is practical, it is sensible, and it is problem-solving. It is convincing to me that the Founders knew that anyone who builds his political beliefs upon correct principles must also build a foundation of personal and family values and beliefs on correct principles. It would be inconsistent to try to have a successfully correct philosophy of freedom and be a failure in one’s personal and family life, or vice versa.

Two years ago, 30 teachers in our school of 7-12 grade students, taught daily lessons from the life and teachings of Benjamin Franklin. His advice and thinking is so powerful and so applicable to our day, I present selected items to you in a question and answer format in hopes of helping in your attempt at making this New Year the best one yet. This material is taken from The Real Benjamin Franklin , by Andrew Allison, W. Cleon Skousen, and Richard Maxfield, and published by NCCS. The questions are ours; the answers are Benjamin Franklin’s. Page references toThe Real Benjamin Franklin are in parenthesis.

  • Q. What can a parent do to help improve the minds of his children?
    A. Ben wrote of his father: “At his table he liked to have, as often as he could, some sensible friend or neighbor to converse with, and always took care to start some ingenious or useful topic for discourse which might tend to improve the minds of his children. By this means he turned our attention to what was good, just, and prudent in the conduct of life.” (7)
  • Q. What is the most effective activity for a young person for improving character?
    A. In giving advice to his daughter he said: “I shall therefore only say, that the more attentively dutiful and tender you are towards your good mama, the more you will recommend yourself to me.. Go constantly to church, whoever preaches. The act of devotion in the common prayer book is your principal business there, and if properly attended to, will do more towards amending the heart than sermons generally can do. For they were composed by men of much greater piety and wisdom, than our common composers of sermons can pretend to be.” (312)
  • Q. How can one relate simple math to human behavior?
    A. “Let me give you some fatherly advice. Kill no more pigeons than you can eat. Be a good girl and don’t forget your catechism. Go constantly to meeting-or church-till you get a good husband, then stay at home and nurse the children, and live like a Christian. Spend your spare hours, in sober whisk, prayers, or learning to cipher. You must practice addition to your husband’s estate, by industry and frugality; subtraction of all unnecessary expenses;multiplication (I would gladly have taught you that myself, but you thought it time enough, and wouldn’t learn) he will soon make you a mistress of it. As to division , I say with Brother Paul, Let there be no division among ye.” (313)
  • Q. What kind of reading and memorizing can best help young people?
    A. In writing his popular Almanac, Franklin knew the value of short maxims: “For besides the astronomical calculations, and other things usually contained in almanacks, which have their daily use indeed while the year continues, but then become of no value, I have constantly interspersed moral sentences, prudent maxims, and wise sayings, many of them containing much good sense in very few words, and therefore apt to leave strong and lasting impressions on the memory of young persons, whereby they may receive benefit as long as they live, when both almanack and almanack-maker have been long thrown by and forgotten.” (315)
  • Q. How should citizens express themselves concerning the trends of the day, including the trends in the modern education system?
    A. Andrew Allison writes: Thus was created “Silence Dogood,” a fictional widow who shared with the editor of the Courant her humorous and sometimes profound observations on the fashions and foibles of colonial life. Ben secretly wrote these letters every two weeks for a period of seven months.. Some of the Dogood letters advocated timely social improvements, such as greater educational opportunities for women and an “office of insurance for widows.” More commonly they expressed good-natured criticisms of various human vices which young Franklin had noticed among the Boston townspeople. “I have…a natural inclination to observe and reprove the faults of others, at which I have an excellent faculty,” wrote Mrs. Dogood. “I speak this by way of warning to all such whose offenses shall come under my cognizance, for I never intend to wrap my talent in a napkin..” The lively widow lashed out against drunkenness, hypocrisy, pride, “hoop petticoats” (“these monstrous topsy-turvy mortar pieces…look more like engines of war for bombarding the town than ornaments of the fair sex”), and the shallow curriculum at Harvard (“they [the students] return…as great blockheads as ever, only more proud and self-conceited”). (14)
  • Q. In Franklin’s day, and to a growing extent in our day, some people are desirous to have titles attached to their names, apparently to give them authority or “nobility.” How did Franklin feel about this?
    A. “In old times it was no disrespect for men and women to be called by their own names. Adam was never called Master Adam; we never read of Noah Esquire, Lot Knight and Baronet, nor the Right Honorable Abraham, Viscount Mesopotamia, Baron of Canaan. No, no, they were plain men, honest country graziers that took care of their families and their flocks.
    “Moses was a great prophet and Aaron a priest of the Lord; but we never read of the Reverend Moses nor the Right Reverend Father in God, Aaron, by Divine Providence Lord Archbishop of Israel. Thou never sawest Madam Rebecca in the Bible, my Lady Rachel, nor Mary, though a princess of the blood, after the death of Joseph called the Princess Dowager of Nazareth. No, plain Rebecca, Rachel, Mary, or the Widow Mary, or the like. It was no incivility then to mention their naked names as they were expressed.” (18)
  • Q. What is the point of keeping a personal journal of one’s life?
    A. “I am recovering from a long-continued gout, and am diligently employed in writing the history of my life…. I am now in the year 1756, just before I was sent to England. To shorten the work, as well as for other reasons, I omit all facts and transactions that may not have a tendency to benefit the young reader, by showing him from my example, and my success in emerging from poverty, and acquiring some degree of wealth, power, and reputation, the advantages of certain modes of conduct which I observed, and of avoiding the errors which were prejudicial to me. If a writer can judge properly of his own work, I fancy, on reading over what is already done, that the book will be found entertaining, interesting, and useful, more so than I expected when I began it.” (320)
  • Q. What did Franklin say about the growing tendency either to put off marriage or not to marry at all?
    A. “But take into your wise consideration the great and growing number of bachelors in the country, many of whom, from the mean fear of the expenses of a family, have never sincerely and honorably courted a woman in their lives; and by their manner of living leave unproduced (which is little better than murder) hundreds of their posterity to the thousandth generation.. What must poor young women do, whom customs and nature forbid to solicit the men, and who cannot force themselves upon husbands, when the laws take no care to provide them any, and yet severely punish them if they do their duty without them; the duty of the first and great command of nature and nature’s God, increase and multiply.” (320)
  • Q. What would Franklin say about the growing problem of beer consumption in our country today?
    A. “At my first admission into this printing house [in England], I took to working at press, imagining I felt a want of the bodily exercise I had been used to in America, where presswork is mixed with composing. I drank only water; the other workmen, near fifty in number, were great guzzlers of beer. On occasion I carried up and down stairs a large form of types in each hand, when others carried but one in both hands. They wondered to see from this and several instances that the Water American, as they called me, was stronger than themselves who drank strong beer.” (25-26)
  • Q. Why is caring for the little things in life so important? 
    A. “And again, he [Poor Richard] adviseth to circumspection and care, even in the smallest matters, because sometimes A little neglect may breed great mischief; adding, for want of a nail the shoe was lost; for want of a shoe the horse was lost; and for want of a horse the rider was lost, being overtaken and slain by the enemy; all for want of care about a horseshoe nail.” (325)
  • Q. What do you tell someone to do who owes you money and apparently has a difficult time repaying?
    A. “Some time or other you may have an opportunity of assisting with an equal sum a stranger who has equal need of it. Do so. By that means you will discharge any obligation you may suppose yourself under to me. Enjoin him to do the same on occasion. By pursuing such a practice, much good may be done with little money. Let kind offices go round. Mankind are all of a family.” (328)
  • Q. Is there an activity that will provide mental training for life’s tough situations?
    A. “The game of chess is not merely an idle amusement. Several very valuable qualities of the mind, useful in the course of human life, are to be acquired or strengthened by it, so as to become habits, ready on all occasions. For life is a kind of chess, in which we often have points to gain, and competitors or adversaries to contend with, and in which there is a vast variety of good and ill events, that are in some degree the effects of prudence or the want of it. By playing at chess, then, we may learn, I. Foresight , which looks a little into futurity, and considers the consequences that may attend an action; .II.Circumspection , which surveys the whole chessboard, or scene of action; the relations of the several pieces and situations, the dangers they are respectively exposed to….III. Caution , not to make our moves too hastily…. And lastly , we learn by chess the habit of not being discouraged by present appearances in the state of our affairs, the habit of hoping for a favorable change, and that of persevering in the search of resources.” (328)
  • Q. What great opportunities are parents missing when they overly employ television or other amusements to entertain their children?
    A. “You cannot be more pleased in talking about your children, your methods of instructing them, and the progress they make, than I am in hearing it, and in finding that, instead of following the idle amusements which both your fortune and the custom of the age might have led you into, your delight and your duty go together by employing your time in the education of your offspring. This is following nature and reason, instead of fashion; than which nothing is more becoming the character of a woman of sense and virtue.” (329)
  • Q. It is difficult for some worshipers to see friends split off into new congregations. Should congregations be large so all can worship together rather than divided up into smaller ones?
    A. “Your tenderness of the church’s peace is truly laudable; but, methinks, to build a new church in a growing place is not properly dividing but multiplying; and will really be the means of increasing the number of those who worship God in that way. Many who cannot now be accommodated in the church go to other places, or stay at home; and if we had another church, many who go to other places or stay at home, would go to church.” (330)
  • Q. How can one enlarge his circle of influence without the stain of argument or contention?
    A. Franklin formed a “club for mutual improvement, which we called the Junto. We met on Friday evenings. The rules I drew up required that every member in his turn should produce one or more queries on any point of morals, politics, or natural philosophy, to be discussed by the company, and once in three months produce and read an essay of his own writing on any subject he pleased. Our debates were to be under the direction of a president, and to be conducted in the sincere spirit of inquiry after truth, without fondness for dispute or desire of victory; and to prevent warmth, all expressions of positiveness in opinion, or of direct contradiction, were after some time made contraband and prohibited under small pecuniary penalties.” (35-36)
  • Q. What is a good way to set and keep New Year’s resolutions in order to improve myself?
    A. Franklin developed a program which he called “the bold and arduous project of arriving at moral perfection.” He said, “I wished to live without committing any fault at any time; I would conquer all that either natural inclination, custom, or company might lead me into. As I knew, or thought I knew, what was right and wrong, I did not see why I might not always do the one and avoid the other.”
    This plan involved faithful adherence to thirteen separate virtues: temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquility, chastity, and humility. He devised a little book and set it up in such a way that he could examine himself and mark his progress at the end of each day.
    He decided to focus on only one virtue at a time, “and when I should be master of that, then to proceed to another, and so on till I should have gone through the thirteen…. I determined to give a week’s strict attention to each of the virtues successively…. Proceeding thus to the last, I could go through a course complete in thirteen weeks, and four courses in a year.”
    How did his project turn out? At the advanced age of seventy-eight he wrote: “I entered upon the execution of this plan for self-examination and continued it, with occasional intermissions, for some time. I was surprised to find myself so much fuller of faults than I had imagined, but I had the satisfaction of seeing them diminish…. After a while I went through one course only in a year, and afterwards only one in several years, till at length I omitted them entirely, being employed in voyages and business abroad with a multiplicity of affairs that interfered; but I always carried my little book with me….
    In truth, I found myself incorrigible with respect to order; and now I am grown old, and my memory bad, I feel very sensibly the want of it. But on the whole, though I never arrived at the perfection I had been so ambitious of obtaining, but fell far short of it, yet I was by the endeavor a better and happier man than I otherwise should have been….
    And it may be well my posterity should be informed that to this little artifice, with the blessing of God, their ancestor owed the constant felicity of his life down to his seventy-ninth year in which this is written…. I hope, therefore, that some of my descendants may follow the example and reap the benefits.” (59-61)

Best wishes in setting and keeping your New Year’s resolutions,

 

Earl Taylor, Jr.