Monday, March 31, 2014

Cicero on Natural Rights

Natural rights did not originate with the Founders, or with the Enlightenment for that matter. Both were highly influenced by Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 BC–46 BC).  Cicero was the philosophic father of natural rights.

Friday, March 28, 2014

John Adams, Philosopher Rebel

John Adams was the leading expert on government in the colonies … at least until James Madison stepped to the forefront. Harvard educated, Adams was a champion of the Founding Principles, a firm proponent of Enlightenment teachings, and a constitutional scholar. Granted, he could be argumentative and self-righteous, but he was also a pious man of honor and character.

Tempest at dawn

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Founders—A Mixed Lot

People frequently refer to the Founders as if they were a homogenous group. They did share a belief in key principles, but they were very different in other respects. For example, George Washington was a wealthy plantation owner, but his top officers in the Revolution included Major General Nathanael Greene, who entered the war as a militia private and was the son of a small farmer; Major General Henry Knox, a Boston bookstore owner who later became President Washington’s Secretary of War; and Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Hamilton, born illegitimate in the West Indies to a struggling mother who died when Hamilton was thirteen. Hamilton went on to become the first Secretary of the Treasury.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Thomas Jefferson, Rebel with a Cause

Thomas Jefferson was a planter, architect, revolutionary, author, agricultural scientist, inventor, and politician. He did other things in his spare time. His tombstone is inscribed, “Here was buried Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, and father of the University of Virginia.”  The inscription says nothing about a presidency where he reduced spending, cut taxes, kept us out of war, and doubled the land mass of the country. He wrote the epitaph himself and included the accomplishments that he took the most pride in. 

Jefferson was in France during the Constitutional Convention, but the Declaration of Independence is possibly the most hopeful and eloquent statement of the Founding Principles. On June 11, 1776, the second Continental Congress appointed a committee to write a declaration of independence. Besides Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Robert R. Livingston, and Roger Sherman were selected. One of these five was a renowned author. Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanac and his newspaper articles in the Pennsylvania Gazette had made him the best-known writer in North America. But Franklin declined to draft the declaration, supposedly due to poor health, so the committee asked the thirty-three-year-old Thomas Jefferson to draft the document.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Happy Birthday, Mr. Madison

March 16, 2014 marks the 263rd birthday of James Madison. 

In his later years, James Madison protested being referred to as the Father of the Constitution. He said the document was not “the off-spring of a single brain.” Our Constitution was actually the off-spring of fifty-five brains, although none were as potent as Madison’s. James Madison was arguably the most important Framerbefore, during, and after the Constitutional Convention of 1787.

political science
James Madison
Before the Constitutional Convention

In 1786, the country was at peace, but struggling. Congress called for a convention at Annapolis to offer amendments to the Articles of Confederation, but the meeting never convened due to the lack of a quorum. James Madison and Alexander Hamilton made a pact to promote another convention for the following year in Philadelphia.

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Happiness or Misery of Millions Yet Unborn

 (Excerpt from Principled Action)
The truly exceptional work in the founding began after the war for independence was won. During the Constitutional Convention , George Mason wrote, “The revolt from Great Britain and the formations of our new governments at that time, were nothing compared to the great business now before us; there was then a certain degree of enthusiasm, which inspired and supported the mind; but to view, through the calm, sedate medium of reason the influence which the establishment now proposed may have upon the happiness or misery of millions yet unborn, is the object of such magnitude, as absorbs, and in a manner suspends the operation of the human understanding.”

The writing and ratification of the Constitution made the United States of America unique. The origins of our republic were not by the sword, but through the calm, sedate medium of reason. There was a long and bloody revolution, but four years of peace had calmed the infant nation before the Founders collectively sat down to debate the design of a republic for millions yet unborn.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Voting rights in the Constitution

Some accuse Constitutional Conservatives of wanting to return our country to slavery and restricted voting rights. This is deflection. Constitutional conservatives want the government to adhere to the Constitution, including amendments, so this argument is specious. Amendments have solidified American positions on these issues and these amendments are part of the supreme law of the land.

Many also harbor misunderstandings about how the main body of the Constitution addressed slavery and voting rights. Despite obvious shortcomings, by 1775, the American colonies were the most democratic places on earth. In Britain, voting rights were far more limited than in the colonies. Less than ten percent of men could vote in Britain, and those who could vote were selected by local nobility. A far larger segment of men voted in the colonies and the requirements were set by law, not officials. Voting rights traced back to the earliest history of the colonies. Within days of landing in Jamestown, for instance, the first colonists elected an executive officer. Only six men were allowed to vote in this embryonic colony, but from that moment forward, colonists expanded the right to vote to broader segments of the population.