Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The Federalist Papers & Publius: Architects of the Republic

“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 Washington, Jefferson & Madison Institute's is pleased to announce its next teacher education workshop on the topic of “The Federalist Papers: Architects of the Republic.” This event will honor the 230th anniversary of the publication of the Federalist (1788-2018) and is being co-sponsored by the George Washington Center for Constitutional Studies. The program will include 3 x 1.0 hour class sessions. Along with presentations, the format will include a “roundtable” discussion using original source documents with participation by all. 

The outline of the sessions and agenda are as follows: 

8:30–9:00 a.m. Registration and Continental Breakfast

9:00–10:00 a.m. First Classroom Session -- "The Federalist and Human Nature." Presentation by Dr. Jeffry Morrison, Ph.D. (30-40 minutes): the role of human nature in the establishment and maintenance of a republic, representative government, separation of powers, federalism and the structure of the Constitution.  Followed by Q&A and discussion (20-30 minutes) 

10:15–11:15 a.m. Second Classroom Session -- “The best commentary on Government ever written” (Thomas Jefferson) Roundtable Discussion: Review of the historical background of the Federalist Papers, their authors, their general purpose, and their significance to the American Founding and to classical political science. Discussion Chair: Dr. Jeffry Morrison, Ph.D. 

11:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m. Third Classroom Session -- "Teaching the Federalist Papers"  Lessons by John J. Patrick and Clair W. Keller (ERIC and OAH) [11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.] Presentation by J. David Gowdy (30 minutes) on Civic Education in the U.S. and the importance of teaching selections from the Federalist Papers in secondary schools, review of ERIC lessons. Followed by Roundtable Discussion (30 minutes)

12:30 - 1:30 p.m. Luncheon    

WJMI welcomes Dr. Jeffry H. Morrison, Ph.D., Director of Academics at the James Madison Memorial Fellowship Foundation and Professor in Leadership and American Studies at Christopher Newport University as Presenter and Discussion Chair.

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 class materials all complimentary (no cost) to teachers. 

The event will be held from 9:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Friday, October 19th, 2018 at to be held at Prospect Hill Plantation Inn. 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 October 5th.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

A More Pefect Union

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union…”

In the preamble, or the reason for its existence, the founders stated that the Constitution was designed and intended to form “a more perfect Union.”

What is the meaning of the word “Union” in this first phrase of the preamble?

How is the Union so formed “more perfect”?

With it as our guide, can we yet bring about an even “more perfect Union”?

Reflecting back, no doubt, the Constitution formed a better union than the Articles of Confederation. It also represented a better union than that offered to the American colonies by the King and Parliament of Great Britain. But, unlike any government ever before formed in history, the Constitution established a republic - based on liberty, equality, and natural rights.

As Lady Margaret Thatcher said when she spoke at Brigham Young University, “America, my friends, is the only country in the world actually founded on liberty— the only one. People went to America to be free. The Founding Fathers journeyed to this country across the perilous seas … to perpetuate freedom and justice more widely…. They believed, each and every one of them, in the sanctity of the individual … Those Pilgrim fathers came with the faith that infused the whole nation. Yours is the only nation founded on liberty.”[1]

When George Washington decided to step down from the Presidency near the end of his second term in office, he wrote his Farewell Address (1796). In this timeless Address to the American People – intended as his parting counsel to all citizens, both of his time, and future generations – Washington said, “Your union ought to be considered as a main prop of your liberty, and that the love of the one ought to endear to you the preservation of the other.” In other words, if we love liberty, we must also love and preserve the Union.

We might all agree that at no time in the history of our nation was the Union and the Constitution ever subjected to a greater test than during the Civil War. Our country was divided – literally, both ideologically and politically: North and South; States’ rights versus national unity; and human equality versus human subjection and slavery. Before the secession of South Carolina from the Union, before the guns were fired at Fort Sumter, before the first Battle of Manassas, a young man, born in Kentucky and raised in Indiana and Illinois, quietly read, studied and improved his knowledge of the American founding, growing both in his admiration for Washington and Jefferson, and for the Union and the Constitution. As he rose to prominence, first in his community, then in his home state of Illinois, this country lawyer and “rail splitter,” Abraham Lincoln, soon entered the national stage. Winning an unpredictable victory as the Republican Party’s candidate for the office of President of the United States, Lincoln was elected in November of 1860 with a nation already deeply fractured. Southern secession began the next month, and the War between the States commenced within six months. Scholars may debate the causes of the war, analyze its battles, and examine its effects, but one thing is clear – the Union once divided was restored, the Constitution was preserved, and the equality of all men was enshrined in the 13th Amendment. What motivated Lincoln to persevere and lead our nation through this tremendous ordeal?

He said: “I have never had a feeling politically that did not spring from the sentiments embodied in the Declaration of Independence.”[2]  Lincoln felt deeply that in the Declaration, Jefferson introduced “an abstract truth, applicable to all men and all times …”[3]   I submit that it is the Declaration of Independence – and specifically its principles – that enabled Lincoln and our Union to withstand this great test. It is the foundation upon which the Constitution was built, and the only foundation upon which it will survive.

Concerning the relationship of the Declaration of Independence to the Constitution, Lincoln wrote the following meditation on Proverbs 25:11 (which was discovered in his personal papers after his death) – “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.”

“[The prosperity of the United States] is not the result of accident. It has a philosophic cause. Without the Constitution and the Union, we could not have attained the result; but even these are not the primary cause of our great prosperity. There is something back of these, entwining itself more closely about the human heart. That something, is the principle of "Liberty to all" -- the principle that clears the path for all -- gives hope to all -- and, by consequence, enterprise and industry to all.

The expression of that principle, in our Declaration of Independence, was most happy, and fortunate. Without this, as well as with it, we could have declared our independence of Great Britain; but without it, we could not, I think, have secured our free government and consequent prosperity. The assertion of that principle, at that time, was the word "fitly spoken" which has proven an "apple of gold" to us. The Union, and the Constitution, are the picture of silver, subsequently framed around it. The picture was made, not to conceal, or destroy the apple; but to adorn and preserve it. The picture was made for the apple -- not the apple for the picture. [4]

Simply restated, “the Constitution was made, not to conceal, or destroy the Declaration; but to adorn and preserve it. The Constitution was made for the Declaration -- not the Declaration for the Constitution.”

The basic principles of the Declaration of Independence are not law, but they are America’s soul. Without these principles the Constitution has no lasting meaning -- and devoid of such principles, the Constitution and the Union will eventually fail in their grand purposes – the preservation of liberty and the equal rights of man.

Reflect and ponder for a moment on these self-evident truths of the Declaration, which begin with these words, “When in the Course of Human Events”...

The Laws of Nature and of Nature's God  -- are the foundation of the political principles of American independence. As set forth in the writings of Locke & Sidney, it means that nature has inherent laws by which each individual has a conscience, accountability for one’s actions, and a duty to not harm others or their property.

“We hold these truths to be self evident” -- confirms that there are certain truths that all people are bound to acknowledge, such as the equality of the rights of man, including the right to govern his life and property. “…that all men are created equal" -- As Locke wrote, “…all men by Nature are equal… being that equal Right that every Man hath, to his natural Freedom, without being subjected to the Will or Authority of any other Man.[5]  We are all equal in the eyes of our Creator, equal in our natural rights, and equal before the law.

“…that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” -- A religious people rose in rebellion against Great Britain in 1776, and the vast majority of American colonists believed in God, the Bible, and in the creation of man. Two years before drafting the Declaration, Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1774: “The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time; the hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them.”[6] 

And finally, “…the consent of the governed” -- Governments are properly the result of the choice of the governed. As John Jay wrote in Federalist No. 2, “Nothing is more certain than the indispensable necessity of government; and it is equally undeniable that whenever and however it is instituted, the people must cede [or delegate] to it some of their natural rights, in order to vest it with requisite powers.” “We the people” are sovereign and all proper governmental power is delegated power.

In conclusion, Lincoln ended his meditation with this admonition, “So let us act, that neither picture, or apple shall ever be blurred, bruised or broken. That we may so act, we must study, and understand the points of danger.”[7]  May we all be vigilant in our love of, and loyalty to, the Union and to the Constitution, the picture of silver, and to the Declaration of Independence and its principles, the apple of gold; and may we study, act, and understand the points of danger. In so doing, I am confident that we will yet forge a “more perfect Union.”

1. “The Moral Challenges for the Next Century” BYU, March 5, 1996.
2. Speech at Independence Hall, February 21, 1860, American Patriotism, S. Hobart Peabody, ed. (American Book 3. Exchange, New York, 1880), p. 507.
3. Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, New Jersey, 1953), 3:375-76 (“Works”)
4. Id., 4:168 [Italics in orginial].
5. Second Treatise on Government (Chapter 6, sec. 54)
6. Rights of British America, 1774. ME 1:211.
7. Works, 4:168.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

The Remarkable Dream of Benjamin Rush

Benjamin Rush (January 4, 1746– April 19, 1813) was a Founding Father of the United States who signed the United States Declaration of Independence, and a civic leader in Philadelphia, where he was a physician, politician, social reformer, humanitarian, educator, and the founder of Dickinson College. Rush was a Pennsylvania delegate to the Continental Congress. He served as surgeon general of the Continental Army and became a professor of chemistry, medical theory, and clinical practice at the University of Pennsylvania. Rush was a leader of the American Enlightenment and an enthusiastic supporter of the American Revolution. He was a leader in Pennsylvania's ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1788. He was prominent in many reforms, especially in the areas of medicine and education. He opposed slavery, advocated free public schools, and sought improved education for women and a more enlightened penal system.

Although Thomas Jefferson had served closely with John Adams during the Revolution, he later became one of his chief political rivals during the first administration of President George Washington. Accumulated political quarrels and disputes between them had eventually embittered Adams and alienated Jefferson, resulting in a lengthy estrangement of over ten years with no contact or communication. This lingering chasm troubled their mutual friend Benjamin Rush, who had labored with them during the Revolution and had remained close to both men. In the midst of his deep concerns over the fractured relationship between Adams and Jefferson, one night several months after Jefferson’s retirement from the Presidency in 1809, Dr. Rush had a dream about the two which he felt contained a prophetic message. On October 17, 1809, he wrote down an account of that dream and sent it to John Adams. In describing that dream, he related what he had seen:

To John Adams from Benjamin Rush, 17 October 1809

My dear friend

…What book is that in your hands said I to my son Richard a few nights ago in a dream? “It is the history of the United States sir said he. Shall I read a page of it to you”—? “no, no said I—I believe in the truth of no history but in that which is contained in the old & new testaments.” “But Sir—said my Son, this page relates to your friend Mr. Adams.” “Let me see it then said I.” I read it with great pleasure, and herewith send you a copy of it.

1809 “Among the most extraordinary events of this year was the renewal of the friendship & intercourse between Mr. John Adams and Mr. Jefferson, the two ex-presidents of the United States. They met for the first time in the Congress of 1775. Their principles of liberty, their Ardent Attachment to their Country and their views of the importance and probable issue of the struggle with Great Britain in which they were engaged being exactly the same, they were strongly attracted to each other, and became personal, as well as political friends. They met in England during the War while each of them held commissions of honor & trust at two of the first Courts of Europe, and spent many happy hours together in reviewing the difficulties & success of their respective negotiations. A difference of opinion upon the Objects and issue of the French Revolution separated them during the years in which that great event interested and divided the American people. The predominance of the party which favored the French cause, threw Mr. Adams out of the Chair of the United States in the year 1800, and placed Mr. Jefferson there in his Stead. The former retired with resignation and dignity to his Seat at Quincy where he spent the evening of his life in literary and philosophical pursuits surrounded by an amiable family and a few Old and Affectionate friends. The latter resigned the Chair of the United states in the year 1808 sick of the cares and disgusted with the intrigues of public life, and retired to his Seat at Monticello in Virginia where he spent the remainder of his days in the cultivation of a large farm agreeably to the new System of husbandry. In the month of November 1809 Mr. Adams addressed a short letter to his Old friend Mr. Jefferson in which he congratulated him upon his escape to the shades of retirement and domestic happiness, and concluded it with assurances of his regard and good wishes for his Welfare. This letter did great honor to Mr. Adams. It discovered a magnanimity known only to great minds. Mr. Jefferson replied to this letter, and reciprocated expressions of regard and esteem. These letters were followed by a correspondence of several years, in which they mutually reviewed the Scenes of business in which they had been engaged, and candidly acknowledged to each other all the errors of Opinion & conduct into which they had fallen during the time they filled the same stations in the Service of their country. Many precious aphorisms, the result of Observation, experience, & profound reflection it is said are contained in these letters. It is to be hoped, the World will be favored with a sight of them, when they can neither injure nor displease any persons or families whose ancestor’s follies or crimes were mentioned in them. These gentlemen sunk into the grave nearly at the same time, full of years, and rich in the gratitude and praises of their country (for they outlived the heterogeneous parties that were opposed to them) and to their numerous merits and honors posterity has added, that they were Rival friends.”

— With affectionate regard to your fire side in which all my family join I am Dr: Sir your / sincere Old friend
Benjamin Rush

Over a month passed, and Adams replied to Dr. Rush.

From John Adams to Benjamin Rush, 21 December 1809 

My dear Sir,—

I thank you for the pleasing account of your Family in your favor of the 5th. As I take a lively interest in their Prosperity and Felicity, your relation of it gave me great Pleasure. We have Letters from our Colony navigating the Baltic, dated at Christians and. They had been so far as prosperous, healthy and happy as such Traveler’s could expect to be… I really do not know whether I do not envy your City of Philadelphia for its Reputation for Science, Arts and Letters and especially its Medical Professor. I know not either whether I do not envy you your Genius and Imagination. Why have not I some Fancy? some Invention? some Ingenuity? some discursive Faculty? Why has all my Life been consumed in searching for Facts and Principles and Proofs and Reasons to support them? Your Dreams and Fables have more Genius in them than all my Life…

But my Friend there is something very serious in this Business. The Holy Ghost carries on the whole Christian system in this earth…There is no Authority civil or religious: there can be no legitimate Government but what is administered by this Holy Ghost. There can be no salvation without it… 

Your Prophecy my dear Friend has not become History as yet. I have no Resentment or Animosity against the Gentleman [Jefferson] and abhor the Idea of blackening his Character or transmitting him in odious Colors to Posterity. But I write with difficulty and am afraid of diffusing myself in too many Correspondences. If I should receive a Letter from him however I should not fail to acknowledge and answer it...

I am Dear Sir with every friendly sentiment yours
John Adams

More time passed. Early in 1811, Dr. 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.” Yet all of these initiatives bore no fruit.

In the summer of 1811, however, Jefferson’s neighbors Edward Coles and John Coles visited John Adams in Quincy, and Adams stated to them that, “I always loved Jefferson, and still love him.” After these words reached Jefferson, he was moved, and on December 5, 1811 he wrote to Rush about the continued warmth and depth of his feelings for his old friend Adams. Sensing an opportunity, Dr. 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.”

Adams took the first step and wrote to Jefferson on January 1, 1812, concluding "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." Jefferson replied with a gracious letter to Adams on January 21st, in which he wrote "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." Much to Dr. Rush's delight, thus began a cordial renewing of a warm and sincere friendship between his former friends. Jefferson and Adams' subsequent correspondence reestablished one of the most celebrated intellectual dialogues and literary conversations in American history. Their letters fill a volume and spanned fourteen years, embracing the subjects of government, liberty, religion, philosophy, agriculture, and family griefs and joys, etc. And, as described in Dr. Rush’s dream, Adams and Jefferson both “sunk into the grave nearly at the same time” -- on the exact same day – the 50th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1826.
See: "The Adams-Jefferson Letters"
Reference: 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:].