Monday, October 16, 2017

The Founding Fathers and the Classics

I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. --Patrick Henry. March 23, 1775

"Patrick Henry’s view of the value of history was not unique. The men who framed our constitutional republic agreed with French author Charles Pinot Duclos, who observed:
We see on the theater of the world a certain number of scenes which succeed each other in endless repetitionwhere we see the same faults followed regularly by the same misfortunes, we may reasonably think that if we could have known the first we might have avoided the others.The past should enlighten us on the futureknowledge of history is no more than an anticipated experience.
All our Founding Fathers believed that history was a precursor of the future. In the annals of history — particularly that of the Greek and Roman republics of antiquity — they believed they could find the key to inoculating America against the diseases that infected and destroyed past societies. Indeed, it has been said that the Founders were coroners examining the lifeless bodies of the republics and democracies of the past, in order to avoid succumbing to the maladies that shortened their lives.

The Founders learned very early in life to venerate the illuminating stories of ancient Greece and Rome. They learned these stories, not from secondary sources, but from the classics themselves. And from these stories they drew knowledge and inspiration that helped them found a republic far greater than anything created in antiquity.

Early Education
Classical training usually began at age eight, whether in a school or at home under the guidance of a private tutor. One remarkable teacher who inculcated his students with a love of the classics was Scotsman Donald RobertsonMany future luminaries were enrolled in his school: James Madison, John Taylor of Caroline, John Tyler and George Rogers Clark, among others. Robertson and teachers like him nourished their charges with a healthy diet of Greek and Latin, and required that they learn to master Virgil, Horace, Justinian, Tacitus, Herodotus, Plutarch, Lucretius and ThucydidesFurther along in their education, students were required to translate Cicero’s Orations and Virgil’s Aeneid. They were expected to translate Greek and Latin passages aloud, write out the translations in English, and then re-translate the passages back into the original language using a different tense.

The standards were no less rigorous for those taught at homeGeorge Wythe, the renowned Virginian who would come to be known as the “Teacher of Liberty,” was himself taught to appreciate the writings of the ancients at home by his motherTragically, Wythe’s mother died when he was very young, but she lived long enough to anchor her son’s education on very firm moorings. Before she died she taught Wythe to read and translate both the fundamental languages of antiquity, Greek and Latin. According to one early biographer, Wythe “had a perfect knowledge of the Greek language taught to him by his mother in the backwoods.”

Whether at home or in a schoolhouse, the goal of education in the early days of our nation was to instill virtue in the students. The Founders were taught that free societies were sustained by a virtuous populace, and that, if a society were to abandon a study of the classics, that same society would eventually abandon the virtues championed by the classical authors.

There was a more pragmatic side to the Founders’ classical education as wellTwenty-seven of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were college educated. Moreover, of the 55 delegates who attended the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787, 30 were college graduates. That is an impressive feat given the challenging entrance requirements of 18th-century universities. Fortunately for the young Founding Fathers, the teachers of the day exercised their students in Greek and Latin, so that their pupils could meet the rigorous entrance requirements of colonial collegesThose colleges stipulated that entering freshmen be able to read, translate and expound the Greco-Roman classical works.

Such requirements were nearly universal in America and remained unchanged for generations. Teachers concentrated their lessons on the works of those classical authors on which students would be tested prior to admission to college. A brief survey of the entrance requirements for colonial colleges will testify to the enlightenment of our Founding Fathers — as well as to the astounding decline in the educational standards of our day.

In 1750, Harvard demanded that applicants be able to extemporaneously “read, construe, and parse Cicero, Virgil, or such like classical authors and to write Latin in prose, and to be skilled in making Latin verse, or at least to know the rules of Prosodia, and to read, construe, and parse ordinary Greek as in the New testament, Isocrates, or such like and decline the paradigms of Greek nouns and verbs.” Of note is the fact that John Trumball, the illustrious artist, passed Harvard’s exacting entrance exam at only 12 years of age.

Alexander Hamilton’s alma mater, King’s College (now Columbia), had similarly stringent prerequisites for prospective students. Applicants were required to “give a rational account of the Greek and Latin grammars, read three orations of Cicero and three books of Virgil’s Aeneid, and translate the first 10 chapters of John from Greek into Latin.”

James Madison had it no easier when he applied for entrance to the College of New Jersey (now Princeton) in 1769. Madison and his fellow applicants were obliged to demonstrate “the ability to write Latin prose, translate Virgil, Cicero, and the Greek gospels and a commensurate knowledge of Latin and Greek grammar.”

College lessons were as demanding as the entrance exams. American colonial curricula were based on the Latin “trivium” of rhetoric, logic, and grammar, as well as the “quadrivium” of arithmetic, music, geometry, and astronomy. Unlike modern universities, where elective courses are innumerable and often inane, the colleges attended by our Founding Fathers offered very few elective courses and coursework focused chiefly on the study of classical worksAnd those works were in the languages in which they were originally written! Students were taught lessons in virtue and liberty from the works of Herodotus, Xenophon, Plutarch, Livy, Sallust, Tacitus and PolybiusThomas Jefferson’s classmates recalled that he studied at least 15 hours a day and carried his Greek grammar book with him wherever he went.

Because of the formidable classical curricula at colonial colleges, the classics became a well from which the Founders drank deeply. In the classics, the Founding Fathers found their heroes and villains, and they also detected warning signs along the road of statecraft on which they would tread.

Heroes and Villains
Ancient history provided the Founders with examples of behavior and circumstances that they could apply to their own circumstancesTheir heroes were Roman and Greek republicans and defenders of liberty. All of the Founders’ Roman heroes lived at a time when the Roman republic was being threatened by power-hungry demagogues, bloodthirsty dictators and shadowy conspirators. The Founders’ principal Greco-Roman heroes were Roman statesmenCato the Younger, Brutus, Cassius and Cicero — all of whom sacrificed their lives in unsuccessful attempts to save the republic — as well as the celebrated Greek lawgivers Lycurgus and Solon.

Cato the Younger was a Roman of sterling reputation who lived from approximately 95 B.C. to 46 B.C. He is described as being “unmoved by passion and firm in everything,” even from his youth. He was renowned for finishing whatever he started and for hating flattery. He embraced every Roman virtue, and he was especially appreciated for his sense of justice and his even temperament. As a senator, Cato was always in attendance when the Senate was in session. A no-nonsense legislator, Cato was hated by Pompey and Caesar for his integrity and for his refusal to aid them in their corrupt plans to usurp power. Although they imprisoned him, the public clamored for his release and Caesar reluctantly complied.

Unable to squelch Cato’s attacks on their corrupt policies, Caesar and Pompey sent him to Cyprus. Finally, Cato aligned himself with Brutus against Caesar, a decision that would eventually cost him his life. George Washington admired Cato so greatly that he had Joseph Addison’s play about Cato performed in Valley Forge to boost the troops’ morale.

Roman heroes very dear to the hearts of the Founders also included Brutus and Cassius. Brutus was admired by his contemporaries for his pleasant disposition and virtuous temper. Even those who opposed his attack on Caesar believed that Brutus was motivated by a genuine concern for the republic and not by personal animosity toward CaesarMarc Antony himself said that Brutus was “the only man that conspired against Caesar out of a sense of the glory and justice of the action; but all the rest rose up against the man, and not the tyrant …” America’s Founders looked to Brutus and Cassius as role models because their only aim in overthrowing Caesar was to restore the constitutional Roman government and republican liberties.

The most popular Roman hero of the Founding Fathers was Cicero, the silver-tongued Roman orator. Cicero lived from approximately 106 B.C. to 43 B.C. John Adams, in his Defense of the Constitution, said of Cicero: “All of the ages of the world have not produced a greater statesman and philosopher united than Cicero…” First as a lawyer, then as a consul and senator, Cicero boldly defended the republic against the rise of dictators. Cicero delivered his greatest speeches in defense of the republic against the Catilinarian Conspiracy.

The Catilinarian Conspiracy was a plot to overthrow the republic, hatched by aristocrat Lucius Sergius Catiline with the help of a cabal of aristocrats and disaffected veterans. In 63 B.C., Cicero exposed and thwarted the plot, and Catiline was forced to flee from Rome. For his service in saving Rome, Cicero was given the title “Father of his Country” [Pater Patriae] by his countrymen. Like Brutus and Cassius, Cicero’s courageous defense of republican liberty in the face of designing conspirators made him a logical model for emulation by our Founding Fathers.

Regarding the Greek classics, the American Founding Fathers greatly admired Lycurgus, the lawgiver of Sparta. Lycurgus lived in the 9th century B.C. and reformed the entire Spartan commonwealth. His most important reform was the establishment of a senate equal in authority with the monarchy in matters of great importance. Prior to Lycurgus’ innovation, the Spartan government swayed between monarchy and democracy, depending on whether the king or the people had the upper hand. The senate served as a check on the excesses of both king and subjects. The biographer Plutarch called Lycurgus’ institutions “one of the greatest blessings which heaven can send down.”

Another Greek famed for his reform of the law was Solon. Born in Athens about 638 B.C., Solon achieved glory as one of the “Seven Sages of Greece.” Around 590 B.C., he was given the task of reforming the Athenian constitution. Solon’s improvements included the right of trial by jury and the division of society into several bodies that would balance and check each other in governing Athens. After finishing his constitutional reforms, Solon left Athens for 10 years. While he was away, Pisistratus, his former friend, usurped control of the government and fastened tyrannical controls on Athens. Both Lycurgus and Solon appreciated the need for incorporating checks and balances into government, a need that the American Founders understood just as acutely.

Detecting Conspiracy
As the Founders read the histories of the rise and fall of the Greek and Roman republics recorded by Herodotus, Livy, Tacitus, Sallust, Plutarch Polybius and others, they learned that the liberties enjoyed by the citizens of those commonwealths were quite often targeted by conspiracies of men determined to enslave the people and establish themselves as tyrants. The founders recognized that the conspiratorial view of history was not a theory — it was a fact.

Ancient historians were straightforward in their reports of the secret plots. Surveying the litany of British monarchical abuses, our Founders rightly perceived that the shrouded hand of an evil conspiracy was at work in America and England, just as it had been in the Roman republic they so admired. Famed patriot Charles Carroll of Carrollton invoked the record of Roman historian Tacitus when he wrote that the conspiracy of his own time had led America and England to “that degree of liberty and servitude which [Servius Sulpicius] Galba ascribes to the Roman people in the speech to [Gaius Calpurnius] Piso: those same Romans, a few years after that period, deified the horse of Caligula.”

The equally eminent and historically minded John Adams also applied analogies from the Roman republic to the increasingly open threat to the foundations of English liberty by corrupt legislators. The government of England, he said (quoting Roman historian Sallust), had descended to the level where “the Roman republic was when Jugurtha left it, having pronounced it a ‘venal city, ripe for destruction if it can only find a purchaser.‘ ”  Sallust was a valuable and oft-cited source of warnings as to the consequences of government corruption and intrigue.

Our Founders heeded these warnings about power elites who used corruption, intrigue, and personal immorality to neutralize public concern and dampen zeal for the protection of liberty. From the 18th to the 21st century, it would seem times have changed very little.

James Madison insightfully noted that most of the tyrants of history masqueraded as democrats, and over time revealed themselves to be power hungry dictators and shameless demagogues. Alexander Hamilton, an astute student of classical history, devoted his first contribution to The Federalist Papers to a warning against tyrants or “men who have over-turned the liberties of republics, commencing as demagogues and ending as tyrants.”

From such statements, it is evident that Adams, Madison, Hamilton and other Founders understood that, throughout the history of the Greek and Roman republics, tyrants were more likely than not to begin their political careers as populists and democrats and to end them as despots. Such demagogues were men of prominence who used their popular support to force their will upon an unsuspecting and trusting populace. As Greek historian Thucydides remarked, “You may rule over anyone whom you can dominate.”

Madison’s study of the ancient Greek confederacies revealed to him that almost every one of these republics came to an end as a result of conspiracy among domestic demagogues and foreign allies. Hamilton called these insidious cabals the “Grecian Horse to a republic.” Both men worried that the same scheme would eventually destroy the American union. This fear, coupled with a thorough understanding of history, made the Founders vigilant guardians against the rise of such combinations in their own nascent republic.

Madison, James Wilson and others who systematically studied the ancient republics and confederacies noted that conspiracies were rampant among them. Those who were successful in carrying out such evil designs would expose and vehemently rail against similar acts on the part of others, thus painting themselves as guardians of liberty. The source of all this evil was an unquenchable thirst for powerPower was the end, and conspiracy was the means commonly used to satisfy the rapacious appetite for dominion.

From Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War, Jefferson, Adams, Dickinson, Madison, Hamilton and other diligent patriot-scholars learned of a particularly pernicious deception practiced by tyrannically minded conspirators. These instigators would place their fellow conspirators in leadership positions on both sides of a controversy, constantly inciting the “opposing” factions against one another until the innocent citizens didn’t know what to believe. Our American republic in the 21st century is little different, as Democrats and Republicans adamantly “oppose” one another, while between their rival policies lurks not a dime’s worth of difference.

A companion evil to the conspiracies that contaminated and eventually annihilated the ancient commonwealths was the gradual erosion of liberty by seemingly harmless and legal acts. In Demosthenes’ writings, the Founders read of how Philip of Macedon — by slow and nearly imperceptible means — dismantled Athenian freedom. Philip was an enemy even to those who fancied themselves his allies. He used “legal” means to subvert the constitution and rob Athens of her liberty. His favorite tactic was to create frivolous diversions and provide luxuries to lull the Athenians into a false sense of security and distract them from noticing Philip’s usurpations.

Unfortunately, Philip succeeded in gaining control of Athens and in making her formerly freedom-loving citizens slaves to his will. Jefferson described such gradual and planned usurpations this way:  “Single acts of tyranny may be ascribed to the accidental opinion of a day, but a series of oppressions, begun at a distinguished period and pursued unalterably through every change of ministers, too plainly prove a deliberate and systematical plan of reducing us to slavery.” Will we prove wiser and more zealous protectors of our sacred liberties?

One of the best ways of demonstrating our respect for our Founding Fathers, and our dedication to the principles of liberty they bequeathed to us, is to study the books they studied. By so doing, we will come to appreciate, as they did, that republics are as fragile as they are glorious. We will also more fully recognize that unassailable personal virtue and vigilant loyalty to constitutional principals are the only hope for perpetuation of the freedom that our forebears bought with their blood. May we learn from the successes and failures of the ancients and not allow the “lamp of experience” to be extinguished in our lives."

Wolverton, The New American. 20 September 2004. pp. 35 – 39.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

James Madison Roundtable at Montpelier

“The "Federalist" may fairly enough be regarded as the most authentic exposition of the text of the federal Constitution as understood by the Body [Constitutional Convention] which prepared & and the Authorities [state ratifying conventions] which accepted it.” --James Madison, Letter to Thomas Jefferson, February 8, 1825 (Peterson, 1974, 2. page 383).

“The aim of every political constitution is, or ought to be, first to obtain for rulers men who possess most wisdom to discern, and most virtue to pursue, the common good of the society; and in the next place, to take the most effectual precautions for keeping them virtuous whilst they continue to hold their public trust.” -- James Madison, Federalist No. 57.

“A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy; or, perhaps, both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.” -- James Madison, Letter to W. T. Barry, August 4, 1822 (Madison, 1865, III, page 276). _______________________________

 The Washington, Jefferson & Madison Institute's is pleased to announce a special, 10th anniversary teacher education workshop on the topic of “The Statesmanship and Constitutionalism of James Madison.”  This event will honor the 230th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution (1787-2017) and is being co-sponsored by the Center for American Studies at Christopher Newport University and the George Washington Center for Constitutional Studies -- to be held at James & Dolley Madison’s estate at Montpelier.

The program will include 2 x 1.5 hour class sessions, each led by moderators with an open discussion focused on original source documents. A luncheon and tour of Montpelier will follow the program. Along with short presentations, the format will include a “roundtable” discussion using original source documents with participation by all. If you would like to participate in this workshop, we ask teachers to prepare by doing the document readings (about 40-50 pages) and coming ready to discuss with your fellow teachers. After registration, we will email particpants the Reader in PDF (or by mail if you prefer a printed hard copy).

The outline of the sessions and agenda are as follows:

8:00–9:00 a.m.     Registration and Continental Breakfast Lewis Hall

9:00–9:15 a.m.     Welcome and Introductions

9:15–10:45 a.m.    First Classroom Session -- James Madison: The Constitution, the Federalist and the Bill of Rights 

10:45–11:00 a.m.   Break

11:00–12:30 p.m.   Second Classroom Session -- James Madison: 1790’s, Presidency and Retirement 

12:30–1:15 p.m.    Lunch

1:30–2:30 p.m.      James Madison and the Constitution Tour of Montpelier

WJMI welcomes the following panel of moderators to this conference:

Elizabeth Kaufer Busch, Associate Professor and Co-Director of the Center for American Studies at Christopher Newport University
and/or Jeffry H. Morrison, Director of Academics at the James Madison Memorial Fellowship Foundation and Professor in Leadership and American Studies at Christopher Newport University
Tony Williams, WJMI Program Director and Senior Fellow at the Bill of Rights Institute
J. David Gowdy, WJMI Founder & President

The workshop is designed primarily for public and private Virginia secondary school teachers who teach Social Studies, U.S. Government, Virginia Government, or U. S. History. The workshop, meals and tour are all complimentary (no cost) to teachers. The event will be held from 9:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Friday, September 29th, 2017 at Lewis Hall, Montpelier https://www.montpelier.org/ 11350 Constitution Hwy., Montpelier Station, VA 22957

Registration will begin at 8:00 a.m. with a continental breakfast. The Seminar qualifies for four Virginia recertification points or 4 hours. Seating is limited. Teachers wishing to attend should pre-register. All registrations are requested by September 15th.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Civic Education in America

George Washington firmly believed in the importance of civic education.

“[T]he best means of forming a manly, virtuous and happy people, will be found in the right education of youth. Without this foundation, every other means, in my opinion, must fail…”
Letter to George Chapman, December 15, 1784

“…Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of public happiness.”
First Annual Address, Friday, January 8, 1790

“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.”  Farewell Address, September 17, 1796

“[A] primary object of such a national institution 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?”
Eighth Annual Message, December 7, 1796

In a Republic, civic education is the sine qua non, or indispensable ingredient to perpetuating our Constitutional form of government, the fruits of which are ordered liberty and felicity. Yet, it goes without saying that civic education is on the decline in America. Numerous studies and articles have focused on this deterioration in basic knowledge of the history and roots of our nation’s founding and source documents among students and citizens alike.  Most would agree that if we are to remain as a free society and continue to govern ourselves as an enlightened and responsible citizenry, we must devote greater resources and efforts to educating the rising generation.  There are many opportunities to become involved in this cause, extending from our own communities and local schools to higher education. Nowhere is this need more evident than at the college and university level, where in many circles American founding principles are often ignored, discarded, and even disdained in the curriculum and in public discourse. And, in places where there does exist a certain level of such education and acceptance in traditional American Heritage courses, frequently the offerings are limited and lack depth and substance in the areas of natural law principles (such as the writings of Locke & Sidney), the Declaration of Independence, the Federalist Papers, and Washington’s Farewell Address, along with principles of the U. S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.

The George Washington Center for Constitutional Studies (GWCCS) will be located in the heart of central Virginia, adjacent to the campus of an established, religious-oriented, liberal arts college located in Buena Vista, just hours from the homes of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison — Southern Virginia University (SVU).  The Center will focus its efforts in three areas: Teacher Education, Citizen Education, and Student Education.

The Mission of the Center and its primary objectives are as follows:

“The George Washington Center for Constitutional Studies is a nonpartisan academic institute that promotes Civic Education, and the instruction, study, and ideological defense of the Constitution of the United States of America, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence, using primary sources.”

“The Center offers classes and instruction on the Constitution, America’s founding documents, the lives and writings of the Founders, the Revolution and Founding of the American Republic, and will hold, sponsor or participate in events, conferences, seminars, workshops, symposia and related activities. It brings together students, teachers, scholars and citizens for consideration of constitutional principles, and issues relating to history, politics, and religion.”

The Washington, Jefferson & Madison Institute (WJMI) has been engaged in teacher education in Virginia for the past ten years (since 2007).  WJMI is pleased to announce that it will be affiliated with the George Washington Center for Constitutional Studies, primarily for purposes of co-sponsoring continuing education courses and workshops for secondary school teachers that teach Social Studies, Civics, U.S. Government and U.S. History.  

We invite you to visit the Center’s new website at: georgewashingtoncenter.org, and to support our efforts to promote and strengthen “Civic Education in America.” 

LEVELS OF GIVING
You are also invited to generously give and make a lasting donation to the founding of the George Washington Center for Constitutional Studies (GWCCS).  The Center is a 501(c)3 tax-exempt educational, literary and civic organization. Donations to the Center are tax deductible.

Member        $ 100.00+
Franklin        $ 500.00+
Hamilton       $ 1,000.00+
Madison        $ 5,000.00+
Washington   $ 10,000.00+
Benefactor     $ 50,000.00+
Founder         $ 100,000.00+

Founders, Benefactors, and Washington level donors (including groups) will be recognized on a plaque in the Center and will be invited to attend the dedication. 

Methods of giving/donations:


PayPal: gwccs.us@gmail.com

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Thomas Jefferson Quotes on Religion

“Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of people that their liberties are a gift from God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever.” --Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, 1794

“One of the amendments to the Constitution... expressly declares that 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press,' thereby guarding in the same sentence and under the same words, the freedom of religion, of speech, and of the press; insomuch that whatever violates either throws down the sanctuary which covers the others.” --Thomas Jefferson: Draft Kentucky Resolutions, 1798.

“We are all created by the same Great Spirit; children of the same family. Why should we not live then as brothers ought to do?”  -- Thomas Jefferson to the Delaware & Shawanee Nations, February 10, 1802

“He who steadily observes the moral precepts in which all religions concur, will never be questioned at the gates of heaven as to the dogmas in which they all differ.” --Thomas Jefferson to William Canby, April 12, 1803

“I am a Christian, in the only sense in which he wished anyone to be: sincerely attached to his doctrines in preference to all others, ascribing to himself every human excellence, and believing he never claimed any other.” – Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Rush, April 21, 1803

“Among the most inestimable of our blessings, also, is that... of liberty to worship our Creator in the way we think most agreeable to His will; a liberty deemed in other countries incompatible with good government and yet proved by our experience to be its best support.”
--Thomas Jefferson to John Thomas et al., 1807

“To the corruptions of Christianity I am indeed opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself.”  --Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Rush, September 18, 1813

“It is in our lives, and not from our words, that our religion must be read.”
--Thomas Jefferson to Mrs. Harrison Smith, August 6, 1816

“The constitutional freedom of religion [is] the most inalienable and sacred of all human rights.” --Thomas Jefferson: University of Virginia Board of Visitors Minutes, 1819

“I hold the precepts of Jesus, as delivered by himself, to be the most pure, benevolent, and sublime which have ever been preached to man. I adhere to the principles of the first age; and consider all subsequent innovations as corruptions of his religion, having no foundation in what came from him. . . . If the freedom of religion, guaranteed to us by law in theory, can ever rise in practice under the overbearing inquisition of public opinion, truth will prevail over fanaticism, and the genuine doctrines of Jesus, so long perverted by his pseudo-priests, will again be restored to their original purity. This reformation will advance with the other improvements of the human mind but too late for me to witness it.” --Thomas Jefferson to Jared Sparks, 4 November 1820

“The genuine and simple religion of Jesus will one day be restored: such as it was preached and practised by himself.” --Thomas Jefferson to Van der Kemp, 1820

“But we may hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with all this artificial scaffolding, and restore us to the primitive and genuine doctrines of [Jesus] this the most venerated reformer of human errors.” --Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, April 11, 1823

“Adore God. Reverence and cherish your parents. Love your neighbor as yourself, and your country more than yourself. Be just. Be true. Murmur not at the ways of Providence. So shall the life into which you have entered, be the portal to one of eternal and ineffable bliss.” -- Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Jefferson Smith, 1825

Monday, April 3, 2017

The Adams-Jefferson Letters

“By the latter part of the 1790s Thomas Jefferson and John Adams had become bitter political opponents. The friendship they had forged as congressional and diplomatic colleagues, fellow revolutionaries, and members of George Washington’s administration did not survive the strain of Jefferson’s victory in the 1800 presidential election. Adams left the nation’s capital just before Jefferson’s inauguration in March 1801, and with the exception of brief notes they exchanged shortly thereafter, no letters passed between the two men for more than a decade. Jefferson tried to heal the breach after Abigail Adams wrote to console him for the loss of his daughter Maria in 1804, but to no avail. The eventual repair of their damaged relationship is attributable to the efforts of their mutual friend Benjamin Rush.

“On October 17, 1809, Rush wrote Adams that he had had a dream in which a “renewal of the friendship & intercourse” between the two ex-presidents took place [and “a correspondence of several years” ensued with “many precious aphorisms [truths], the result of observation, experience, and profound reflection” contained in their letters] -- a reconciliation to be prompted, Rush added, by a short letter from Adams to his former rival. Adams encouragingly replied that he had “no other objection to your Dream, but that it is not History. It may be Prophecy.” Early in 1811 Rush advised Jefferson of his ardent wish that “a friendly and epistolary intercourse might be revived” between the two men, expressing his firm belief that “an Advance on your Side will be a Cordial to the heart of Mr. Adams.” These initiatives bore no fruit at the time. 

"In the summer of 1811, however, Jefferson’s neighbors Edward Coles and John Coles visited Quincy, and Adams there told them that, “I always loved Jefferson, and still love him.” After these words reached Jefferson, he was moved on December 5, 1811 to write Rush about the continued warmth and depth of his feelings for his old friend. Sensing an opportunity, Rush soon passed the pertinent passages from Jefferson’s letter along to Adams. An olive branch having been extended, Rush implored Adams to write to Jefferson and for the two men to “embrace each other! Bedew your letters of reconciliation with tears of affection and joy. Bury in silence all the causes of your separation. Recollect that explanations may be proper between lovers but are never so between divided friends.” The first two letters [below] from January 1812 renewed direct contact between Adams and Jefferson and reestablished one of the most celebrated intellectual dialogues and literary conversations in American history, one that continued for 14 years until the last year of both men’s lives in 1826."[1]

January 1, 1812: Adams to Jefferson
As you are a Friend to American Manufactures under proper restrictions, especially Manufactures of the domestic kind, I take the Liberty of Sending you by the Post a Packet containing two Pieces of Homespun lately produced in this quarter by One who was honoured in his youth with Some of your Attention and much of your kindness. [John Quincy Adams’s Lectures on Rhetoric and Oratory, Delivered to the Classes of Senior and Junior Sophisters in Harvard University, 2 vols. (Cambridge, Mass., 1810)]

All of my Family whom you formerly knew are well. My Daughter Smith is here and has Successfully gone through a perilous and painful Operation*, which detains her here this Winter, from her Husband and her Family at Chenango: where one of the most gallant and Skilful Officers of our Revolution is probably destined to Spend the rest of his days, not in the Field of Glory, but in the hard Labours of Husbandry.

I wish you Sir many happy New years and that you may enter the next and many Succeeding years with as animating Prospects for the Public as those at present before us. I am Sir with a long and Sincere Esteem your Friend and Servant, 
J. Adams
*[Adams’s daughter Abigail Adams smith had recently undergone surgery for breast cancer. Her husband was Revolutionary War veteran William Stephens Smith]

January 21, 1812: Jefferson to Adams
I thank you before hand (for they are not yet arrived) for the specimens of homespun you have been so kind as to forward me by post. I doubt not their excellence, knowing how far you are advanced in these things in your quarter. Here we do little in the fine way, but in coarse & midling goods a great deal. Every family in the country is a manufactory within itself, and is very generally able to make within itself all the stouter and midling stuffs for it’s own clothing & household use. We consider a sheep for every person in the family as sufficient to clothe it, in addition to the cotton, hemp & flax which we raise ourselves. For fine stuff we shall depend on your Northern manufactures. Of these, that is to say, of company establishments, we have none. We use little machinery. The Spinning Jenny and loom with the flying shuttle can be managed in a family; but nothing more complicated. the economy and thriftiness resulting from our household manufactures are such that they will never again be laid aside; and nothing more salutary for us has ever happened than the British obstructions to our demands for their manufactures. Restore free intercourse when they will, their commerce with us will have totally changed it’s form, and the articles we shall in future want from them will not exceed their own consumption of our produce.

A letter from you calls  up recollections very dear to my mind. It carries me back to the times when, beset with difficulties & dangers, we were fellow laborers in the same cause, struggling for what is most valuable to man, his right of self-government. Laboring always at the same oar, with some wave ever ahead threatening to overwhelm us & yet passing harmless under our bark we knew not how, we rode through the storm with heart & hand, and made a happy port. Still we did not expect to be without rubs and difficulties; and we have had them. First the detention of the Western posts: then the coalition of Pilnitz, outlawing our commerce with France, & the British enforcement of the outlawry. In your day French depredations: in mine English, & the Berlin and Milan decrees: now the English orders of council, & the piracies they authorize: when these shall be over, it will be the impressment of our seamen, or something else: and so we have gone on, & so we shall go on, puzzled & prospering beyond example in the history of man. And I do believe we shall continue to growl, to multiply & prosper until we exhibit an association, powerful, wise, and happy, beyond what has yet been seen by men. As for France & England, with all their preeminence in science, the one is a den of robbers, & the other of pirates. And if science produces no better fruits than tyranny, murder, rapine, and destitution of national morality, I would rather wish our country to be ignorant, honest & estimable as our neighboring savages are —but whither is senile garrulity leading me? Into politics, of which I have taken final leave. I think little of them, & say less. I have given up newspapers in exchange for Tacitus & Thucydides, for Newton & Euclid; & I find myself much the happier. Sometimes indeed I look back to former occurrences, in remembrance of our old friends and fellow laborers, who have fallen before us. Of the signers of the Declaration of Independence I see now living not more than half a dozen on your side of the Potomac, and, on this side, myself alone. You & I have been wonderfully spared, and myself with remarkable health, & a considerable activity of body & mind. I am on horseback 3 or 4 hours of every day; visit 3 or 4 times a year a possession I have 90 miles distant [Poplar Forest], performing the winter journey on horseback. I walk little however; a single mile being too much for me; and I live in the midst of my grandchildren, one of whom has lately promoted me to be a great grandfather.**  I have heard with pleasure that you also retain good health, and a greater power of exercise in walking than I do. But I would rather have heard this from yourself, & that, writing a letter, like mine, full of egotisms, & of details of your health, your habits, occupations & enjoyments, I should have the pleasure of knowing that, in the race of life, you do not keep, in it’s physical decline, the same distance ahead of me which you have done in political honors & achievements. No circumstances have lessened the interest I feel in these particulars respecting yourself; none have suspended for one moment my sincere esteem for you; and I now salute you with unchanged affections and respect, Th. Jefferson

**[TJ’s first great-grandchild was John Warner Bankhead (b. 1810), eldest child of Charles Lewis Bankhead and Mrs. Anne Cary Randolph Bankhead, first-born of Thomas Mann Randolph and Mrs. Martha Jefferson Randolph].

Note: By remarkable coincidence, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died on July 4th 1826 -- the 50th Anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. Adams' last words were, “Thomas Jefferson still survives,” though his old friend and political rival had died only a few hours before.
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[1] Lyman H. Butterfield, “The Dream of Benjamin Rush: The Reconciliation of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson,” Yale Review 40, 1950). [Quoted in the United States National Archives online: 

The Adams-Jefferson Letters: The Complete Correspondence, Lester J. Cappon, Editor (The University of North Carolina Press; September 30, 1988). https://www.amazon.com/Adams-Jefferson-Letters-Complete-Correspondence-Jefferson/dp/0807842303/

Sunday, March 5, 2017

"John Adams: Colossus of Independence" Teacher Workshop March 24th

Speaking of the debates for Independence in the Continental Congress in 1776, thirty-seven years afterwards, Thomas Jefferson declared that, "Mr. Adams was the pillar of its support on the floor of Congress, its ablest advocate and defender against the multifarious assaults it encountered." At another time, he said, "John Adams was our Colossus on the floor. Not graceful, not elegant, not always fluent in his public addresses, he yet came out with a power both of thought and of expression which moved us from our seats." (B. L. Rayner, “Life of Thomas Jefferson” Lilly, Wait, Colman, & Holden, Boston, 1834, p. 90).

The Washington, Jefferson & Madison Institute is pleased to announce that its next continuing education workshop will be on the topic of “John Adams: Colossus of Independence.” The program will include four, 50-minute sessions, each led by a moderator with an open discussion focused on original source documents. Instead of lectures or presentations, the format of the "roundtable" will be a civic conversation that draws deeply on the documents with participation by all. If you would like to participate in the roundtable, we ask you to prepare by doing the document readings (about 50 pages) and coming ready to discuss with your fellow teachers. After you register we will email you the Reader (or mail if you prefer a hard copy). Copies of the Reader will be provided at the conference as well.

WJMI welcomes the following panel of moderators to this conference:

Jeffry H. Morrison, Director of Academics at the James Madison Memorial Fellowship Foundation and Professor of Government at Regent University.

Tony Williams, WJMI Program Director and Senior Fellow at the Bill of Rights Institute.

J. David Gowdy, WJMI Founder & President.

The outline of the sessions are as follows:

 1. Legal and Religious Roots of Resistance to Great Britain 

 2. The Declaration of Independence and Political Philosophy 

 3. The Adams’ Presidency - Acts and Writings 

 4. The Adams-Jefferson Letters: An Intellectual Dialogue 

The Reader, a continental breakfast, as well as a luncheon, are all complimentary. The roundtable is primarily for public and private Virginia secondary school teachers who teach Social Studies, U.S. Government, Virginia Government, or U. S. History.

The workshop will be held from 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Friday morning, March 24th, 2017 at Prospect Hill Plantation Inn 2887 Poindexter Rd, Louisa, Virginia near Charlottesville. Registration will begin at 8:30 a.m. with a continental breakfast. The luncheon will be from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. The Seminar qualifies for four recertification points or 4 hours.

 If you wish to attend, please Contact Us.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Washington's Birthday - Quotes from His Farewell Address

Abraham Lincoln issued a Presidential Proclamation on February 19, 1862, requesting that all citizens gather on the 22nd and celebrate Washington’s Birthday by listening to the words of his Farewell Address:

“It is recommended to the people of the United States that they assemble in their customary places of meeting for public solemnities on the twenty-second day of February instant, and celebrate the anniversary of the birth of the Father of His Country by causing to be read to them his immortal Farewell address.”[1]

We hear much about "rights" in our time, but seemingly less of civic duty and individual responsibility.  Ironically, though neglected, Washington's Farewell Address not only sets forth true maxims of liberty, but it effectively constitutes a "handbook of an American citizen's responsibilities.”  He teaches the importance of union to our republic, loyalty to the Constitution, mutual respect among people and nations, and the value of honesty.   He confirms that morality and religion are indispensable to our individual and collective happiness and constitute the “twin pillars” of America's political prosperity.  All students and citizens should become familiar with our Founding Father's final counsel to each of us and to our nation.  In honor of Washington's 285th Birthday, following are a few of my favorite quotes and wisdom from his timeless Farewell Address (1789).  

UNION

The Unity of Government which constitutes you one people is also now dear to you. It is justly so, for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad, of your safety, of your prosperity, of that very Liberty which you so highly prize.

[I]t is of infinite moment that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national Union to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as the Palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety . . . .

AMERICANS FIRST

Citizens by birth or choice of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of AMERICAN, which belongs to you in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of patriotism more than any appellation derived from local discriminations.

LIBERTY HAS A PRICE

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.

RESPECT FOR AUTHORITY; OBEDIENCE TO LAWS

This government, the off‑spring of our own choice, uninfluenced and unawed, adopted upon full investigation and mature deliberation, completely free in its principles, in the distribution of its powers, uniting security with energy, and containing within itself a provision for its own amendment, has a just claim to your confidence and your support. Respect for its authority, compliance with its laws, acquiescence in its measures, are duties enjoined by the fundamental maxims of true Liberty.

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.

All obstructions to the execution of the Laws, all combinations and Associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the Constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle 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, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, 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 counsels and modified by mutual interests. 

SEPARATION OF POWERS

Liberty itself will find in such a Government, with powers properly distributed and adjusted, its surest guardian.

It is important, likewise, that the habits of thinking in a free Country should inspire caution in those entrusted with its administration to confirm themselves within their respective constitutional spheres, avoiding the exercise of the powers of one department to encroach upon another. The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create, whatever the form of Government, a real despotism. A just estimate of that love of power and proneness to abuse it which predominates in the human heart is sufficient to satisfy us of the truth of this position. The necessity of reciprocal checks in the exercise of political power, by dividing and distributing it into different depositories, and constituting each the Guardian of the Public Weal against invasions by others, has been evinced by experiments ancient and modern, some of them in our country and under our own eyes. To preserve them must be as necessary as to institute them.

DANGERS OF THE “SPRITY OF PARTY”

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result 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. . . .

It serves always to distract the Public Councils and enfeeble the Public administration. It agitates the Community with ill founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one part against another . . . .

RELIGION, MORALITY AND VIRTUE

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. The mere Politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. 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 on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that National morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

'Tis substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule indeed extends with more or less force 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? 

EDUCATION

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.

PUBLIC CREDIT

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 disbursements 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 have occasioned, not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burden which we ourselves ought to bear.  The execution of these maxims belongs to your Representatives; but it is necessary that public opinion should cooperate.

FOREIGN RELATIONS

Observe good faith and justice towards all Nations. Cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and morality enjoin this conduct, and can it be that good policy does not equally enjoin it? It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and at no distant period a great Nation to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence.

In the execution of such a plan nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular Nations and passionate attachments for others should be excluded, and that in place of them just and amicable feelings toward all should be cultivated. The Nation which indulges toward another an habitual hatred or an habitual fondness is in some degree a slave.

Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of Republican Government . . . .

HONESTY

I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs that honesty is always the best policy.
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[1] (Abraham Lincoln, Executive Letter dated February 19, 1862, James D. Richardson, ed., "Messages and Papers of the Presidents," (Government Printing Office, Washington D.C.,1902), 5:3289-90).