Thursday, May 30, 2013

Jefferson & Madison's Guide to the Constitution

Get a FREE copy of “Jefferson and Madison’s Guide to Understanding and Teaching the Constitution” by J. David Gowdy
This publication is intended to assist teachers, students, parents, and citizens in understanding and appreciating the Constitution of the United States of America. It is designed as a handbook for studying the Constitution in the tradition of the founders, using the source documents and writings identified by them as the “best guides” to its principles and meaning. These sources include the writings of Locke and Sidney, the Declaration of Independence, the Federalist Papers, and Washington’s Farewell Address.
A main purpose of this book is to serve as a teacher and student manual for use in secondary schools, but is also for use by parents in the home, as well as by individual citizens. It is intended to organize and summarize in a clear and usable fashion, all of the sources identified by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison as those required to teach and understand our constitutional liberties and unalienable rights.
It is incumbent upon each of us to study and ponder the heritage of liberty, and to assist in fulfilling the intent of our Founding Fathers to “advance and diffuse” this essential knowledge concerning human rights, equality, and the Constitution into our nation’s schools and homes, which in the past have stood on the front line as guardians of the “sacred fire of liberty.”
To download “Jefferson and Madison’s Guide to Understanding and Teaching the Constitution” by J. David Gowdy for future reading please right mouse click, then click save to download – Jefferson-And-Madisons-Guide-To-Understanding-and-Teaching-The Constitution
Click to learn more about the Washington, Jefferson & Madison Institute

Monday, May 27, 2013

Honoring Our Veterans

By: Tony Williams

Americans honor those who have served every Memorial Day and acknowledge the sacrifice that untold thousands have made, and are making, in the service of their country by attending parades, thanking a veteran, wearing a poppy, or posting on their social media pages.  We thank the veterans for serving their country and those who gave “their last full measure of devotion” dying for their country and for the principles of liberty and republican self-government as enshrined in the Declaration of Independence. 

Annually on Veteran's Day, we naturally think of those who have fought abroad in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other armed conflicts since September 11, 2001.  We also think much of our fathers who fought in Korea or Vietnam during the Cold War, or our grandfathers who struggled against the forces of darkness in Iwo Jima or Normandy during World War II when “uncommon valor was a common virtue.”  But, when Americans commemorate the sacrifice of their soldiers and the principles for which they fought, they also reach back into the distant past. 

The tradition of fighting for American principles of liberty and self-government was seen in the horrendous battles of Antietam and Gettysburg when brother fought against brother for a “new birth of freedom.”  They fought for those principles at Fort McHenry and in New Orleans against the British in the War of 1812, what many historians have called the “second war for independence.” 

But, we reach even farther into the past to honor who defended freedom and democracy in ancient Greece against the Persian Empire who offered submission, slavery, and tyranny.  On the plains of Marathon in 490 B.C., a mostly Athenian army stood against King Darius and slaughtered over 6,400 of the enemy while suffering only 192 losses, soon revered as the “Marathon Men.”  At the Hot Gates of Thermoplyae in 480 B.C., Spartan King Leonidas and his band of 300 (and several hundred allies) slew as many as 20,000 Persians, delaying King Xerxes’ invasion and teaching him about the power of armies defending their lands, their families, their freedom, and their consensual governments.  While Xerxes burned a deserted Athens later that year, free men sailed out at Salamis and handed the Persians a decisive defeat that caused the king to flee home.  On the fields of Plataea in 479 B.C., the Greeks pledged an oath before their victory that, “I will fight as long as I am alive, and I shall not value living above my being free . . . And I shall bury in the same spot the dead of those who have fought as my allies, and shall leave behind none of them unburied.” 

For me, Memorial Day weekend has always been a time of reflective reading in the history of soldiers and their wars.  I have spent time over the years reading books from Stephen Ambrose’s epic histories of D-Day and World War II to David McCullough’s 1776 narrating the dramatic events of Washington’s heroic Crossing of the Delaware. 

Here are some recently published books this spring that will help citizens reflect on the soldiers throughout history that have contributed to the legacy of liberty and free government.

Victor Davis Hanson, The Savior Generals: How Five Great Commanders Saved Wars that were Lost – From Ancient Greece to Iraq (New York: Bloomsbury).  Hanson, one of our greatest classicists, military historians, and writers has penned a series of portraits of important generals including Themistocles, Belisarius, William T. Sherman, Matthew Ridgway, and David Petreus, who have snatched victory from desperate moments of seemingly lost wars.  Hanson tells us that he chose generals from consensual societies because “the very notion of ‘savior’ is embedded within some sense of a moral universe that should be saved.”  Hitler’s generals often won against great odds, but “their causes ultimately were better lost than won.” 

Paul Cartledge, After Thermoplyae: The Oath of Plataea and the End of the Greco-Persian Wars (New York: Oxford University Press).  Cartledge is one of the best academic popularizers of ancient Greek history.  He debunks the origins of the Oath of Plataea but provides a nice study of the Greek world and the wars with the Persians.  He argues that Plataea “was one of those historic rarities, a truly decisive battle.  Moreover, its result brought a surprisingly positive outcome not just for the Greeks but arguably for the entire future of western civilization as a whole.” 

Nathaniel Philbrick, Bunker Hill: A City, A Siege, A Revolution (New York: Viking).  Philbrick is a popular historian and non-fiction writer who has produced a solid narrative history of Bunker Hill, seeing it as a result of a decade of British tyranny.  He writes of the importance of the battle: “The Battle of Bunker Hill is the critical turning point in the story of how a rebellion born in the streets of Boston became a countrywide war for independence.”

Allen C. Guelzo, Gettysburg: The Last Invasion (New York: Knopf).  Guelzo, arguably the finest living scholar on Abraham Lincoln, has produced an outstanding military history of the Battle of Gettysburg.  Guelzo rejects his fellow academic historians who scoff at the writing of military history and notes its significance: “We cannot talk about the American nineteenth century without talking about the Civil War, and we cannot talk about the Civil War without acknowledging, even grudgingly, that the Civil War’s singular event was a war,” and the singular battle in Guelzo’s eyes was Gettysburg. 

Rick Atkinson, The Guns at Last Night: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945 (New York: Henry Holt).  Military historian Rick Atkinson ends his epic trilogy of Americans liberating Europe from the iron grip of Nazi tyranny in North Africa, Sicily and Italy, and now Northern France.  His massive achievement is the crowning story of the courageous men who stormed the beaches. 

Finally, two recent books, Richard Beeman’s Our Lives, Our Fortunes & Our Sacred Honor, as well as Joseph Ellis’ Revolutionary Summer, promise to be excellent books on the creation of the Declaration of Independence and the principles for which soldiers fought and died for.  We at the WJMI honor the sacrifice of those who fought for Western and American freedom from the plains of Marathon to the mountains of Afghanistan. 

Tony Williams is Program Director of the Washington, Jefferson & Madison Institute, is a teacher and an author of four books on the Founding period, and lives with his family in Williamsburg, Virginia.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Quotes Concerning the Federalist Papers

“[The Federalist Papers] have thrown new light upon the science of government; they have given the rights of man a full and fair discussion, and explained them in so clear and forcible a manner as cannot fail to make a lasting impression.” --George Washington

“[The Federalist Papers] will merit the Notice of Posterity; because in it are candidly and ably discussed the principles of freedom and the topics of government, which will be always interesting to mankind so long as they shall be connected in Civil Society.” --George Washington                                
“[The Federalist Papers are] the best commentary on the principles of government which ever was written.”  --Thomas Jefferson

“For all posterity the "Federalist" must remain the most authoritative commentary upon the Constitution that can be found; for it is the joint work of the principal author of that Constitution and of its most brilliant advocate.” --John Fiske (American author and historian)
“These essays have been appraised as 'the greatest treatise on government that has ever been written,' and its writers have been ranked as of the same order with Aristotle, Montesquieu, and Locke." –J. Reuben Clark, Jr. (Solicitor and Undersecretary of the U.S. State Department, U.S. Ambassador to Mexico).
“The Federalist letters are among the classics of American literature. Their practical wisdom stands pre-eminent amid the stream of controversial writing at the time.” --Winston Churchill
“[The Federalist Papers are] the most important work of political science ever written in the United States.” --Clinton Rossiter (Professor and historian, Cornell University)
“The Ideas of The Federalist should be essential elements of civic education, because they are core values and principles of the American heritage and foundations of national unity in a pluralistic society.” --John J. Patrick (Professor and author, Indiana University)

It would be difficult to overstate the significance of The Federalist for understanding the principles of American government and the challenges that liberal democracies confront early in the second decade of the 21st century.” --Peter Berkowitz (senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution)
“We must learn the principles of the Constitution in the tradition of the Founding Fathers.  Have we read the Federalist papers?” --Ezra Taft Benson (former Secretary of Agriculture under President Dwight D. Eisenhower)

If you have not read the Federalist Papers, you simply cannot fully understand the Constitution, its principles and purposes. Available free online at the Library of Congress (among other sites): or order in paperback from  I invite you to start today...

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Abraham Lincoln’s “House Divided” Speech

On June 16, 1858, Abraham Lincoln won the Republican nomination for the vacant U.S. Senate seat from Illinois.  His opponent in the election would be Stephen Douglas.  Upon his nomination, Lincoln delivered the “House Divided” speech in the war of words of what would culminate in the Lincoln-Douglas debates later that year.

Lincoln’s law partner, William Herndon, reports that Lincoln composed the speech by writing out drafts on small scraps of paper which he numbered.  He then put the pieces of paper in his tall hat for safekeeping.  When he thought he had completed the speech, Lincoln assembled the pieces into their proper order and wrote out the entire speech.

The humble beginnings of the speech from a couple of scraps of paper to Lincoln’s masterpiece started with a well-known biblical quote (for a biblically literate audience) from the Gospel of Matthew 12:25: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.”

The topics he addressed would be the “popular sovereignty” doctrine enunciated by Douglas in the Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854) and the more recent Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857) decision by the Supreme Court.  Kansas-Nebraska allowed for popular sovereignty, or the principle that the territories could decide whether to allow slavery.  The Dred Scott decision declared the Missouri Compromise unconstitutional because the Court decided that Congress could not regulate slavery in the new territories.  These would be the object of Lincoln’s attack on the morality of slavery and its spread in the new territories.

Lincoln opens the speech by declaring that Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act with the intention of quelling the agitation of the slavery question.  That object was a fool’s hope and the act augmented rather than soothed the sectional tensions.  Lincoln therefore predicted that, “In my opinion, it will not cease, until a crisis shall have been reached, and passed.”

After quoting Matthew, he then predicted that, “This government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free . . . . It will become all one thing, or all the other.”  Lincoln had a moral vision of self-government and slavery.  He understood that logically slavery must eventually exist everywhere or nowhere according to the popular sovereignty doctrine.  If slavery were right, then “its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new – North as well as South.”  If it were wrong, however, then, “The opponents of slavery, will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction.”

Lincoln believed that the Founding Fathers compromised temporarily with slavery to create the Union, but they thought it wrong and put it on the path to gradual extinction.  He and the Republicans wanted to restrict slavery to where it already existed and yet halt the expansion of the institution into the territories.  The Congress had the plain power to regulate the territories in Article IV, but the Kansas-Nebraska Act and Dred Scott reversed the constitutional authority to ban slavery in the territories.

Lincoln lambasted popular sovereignty as “squatter sovereignty” and nothing more than moral relativism.  He embraced the right of self-government but thought that Douglas’ version was “so perverted” that it reduced self-government to the idea that, “If any one man, choose to enslave another, no third man shall be allowed to object.”  Lincoln, like Thomas Jefferson, did not believe that one had a natural or constitutional right to do a wrong.  The foundation for republican government was rooted in natural law.  As Jefferson stated in his First Inaugural Address: “All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression.”  Therefore, if popular sovereignty included the right to enslave another, the system would eventually spread throughout the Union.

Finally, Lincoln detected a conspiracy to expand slavery among Douglas, former President Franklin Pierce, Chief Justice Roger Taney, and current President James Buchanan.  Lincoln charged that they were erecting a framework and scaffolding to promote the acceptance of Dred Scott and popular sovereignty among the American people.  Buchanan, Lincoln said, “fervently exhorted the people to abide by the forthcoming decision, whatever it might be.”  Meanwhile, Douglas’ popular sovereignty doctrine worked to “educate and mold public opinion, at least Northern public opinion, not to care whether slavery is voted down or voted up.”  In other words, they plotted to erect a morally relativist republic where slavery could be decided on by a democratic vote and spread all over the Union.

Lincoln lost the election to Douglas, but the two would square off again for the presidency in 1860.  Throughout these campaigns, Lincoln consistently maintained that slavery was an evil that should be restricted to where it already existed.  Thus, his ideas accorded with those of the Founders and the natural law ideals of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, the “apple of gold” in the “picture of silver” as he would put it.

Read Abraham Lincoln’s “A House Divided Speech” here:

Tony Williams is the Program Director for the Washington-Jefferson-Madison Institute, which teaches teachers American Founding principles and documents, in Charlottesville, VA.  He is also the author of four books, including America’s Beginnings: The Dramatic Events that Shaped a Nation’s Character.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Algernon Sidney's Discourses: Virtue and Liberty

Written in argument against Filmer's Patriarcha (which argued for the divine right of kings to rule, without popular consent), Algernon Sidney's Discourses Concerning Government reviews the history, strengths and weaknesses of governments from Biblical through Greek and Roman times, to the European and English eras.   A contemporary of Sidney, Bishop Burnett, stated that Sidney "studied the history of government in all its branches, beyond any man I ever knew." [1]  Sidney's primary arguments in Discourses are: (1) political power is different from paternal power, and kings do not have an inherited or divine right to rule; (2) people have the divine (natural) right of liberty which includes the right to choose their governors; (3) a popular, republican form of government is best; (4) virtue is necessary for rulers and the populace to maintain a prosperous and free society; and (5) kings and magistrates are subject to the common law. [2] A thoughtful reading and consideration of Sidney’s writings should restore him to his rightful position alongside John Locke in the study of the principles of the American republic. The following are quotes from Sidney's Discourses on the relationship of virtue, power, and liberty.

"Machiavel, discoursing on these matters, finds virtue to be so essentially necessary to the establishment and preservation of liberty, that he thinks it impossible for a corrupted people to set up a good government, or for a tyranny to be introduced if they be virtuous; and makes this conclusion, 'That where the matter (that is, the body of the people) is not corrupted, tumults and disorders do not hurt; and where it is corrupted, good laws do no good:' which being confirmed by reason and experience, I think no wise man has ever contradicted him." II:11:104-05.

"[Rome] that city which had overthrown the greatest powers of the world must, in all appearance, have lasted for ever, if their virtue and discipline had not decayed, or their forces been turned against themselves." II:15:128.

"All things in nature have their continuance from a principle in nature suitable to their original: all tyrannies have had their beginnings from corruption. …The contrary is seen in all popular and well-mixed governments: they are ever established by wise and good men, and can never be upheld otherwise than by virtue: the worst men always conspiring against them, they must fall, if the best have not power to preserve them." II:19:146-47.

"Corruption will always reign most, where those who have the power do most favour it, where the rewards of such crimes are greatest, easiest, and most valued, and where the punishment of them is least feared. …liberty cannot be preserved, if the manners of the people are corrupted …" II:25:201.

"Like effects will ever proceed from the like causes. When vanity, luxury, and prodigality are in fashion, the desire for riches must necessarily increase in proportion to them: and when the power is in the hands of base mercenary persons, they will always (to use the courtiers phrase) make as much profit of their places as they can. Not only matters of favour, but of justice too, will be exposed to sale; and no way will be open to honors or magistracies, but by paying largely for them. He that gets an office by these means, will not execute it gratis: he thinks he may sell what he has bought: and would not have entered by corrupt ways, if he had not intended to deal corruptly." II:25:203.

"Virtue is the dictate of reason, or the remains of divine light, by which men are made beneficent and beneficial to each other. Religion proceeds from the same spring; and tends to the same end; and the good of mankind so entirely depends upon the two, that no people ever enjoyed anything worth desiring that was not the product of them; and whatsoever any have suffered that [which] deserves to be abhorred and feared, has proceeded either from the defect of these, or the wrath of God against them. If any [leader] therefore has been an enemy to virtue and religion, he must also have been an enemy to mankind, and most especially to the people under him." II:27:212.

"If vice and corruption prevail, liberty cannot subsist; but if virtue have the advantage, arbitrary power cannot be established." II:30:241-242. [Copied by Thomas Jefferson into his Commonplace Book]

[1] Algernon Sidney, Discourses Concerning Government (London: A. Millar, London, 1751),  "Memoirs of Algernon Sidney, Esq.", xxviii (Sidney's father was a scholar in his own right, and maintained an extraordinary library containing several thousand volumes, including philosophical, political, historical and religious writings, ancient access from his early years.  West, xxviii (cited below)
[2]  Algernon Sidney, Discourses Concerning Government, Thomas G. West, ed. (Liberty Fund, Inc., Indianapolis, 1996), Introduction xix.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Law and Freedom

The following quotes are from: John Locke, “Essay Concerning the True Original, Extent, and End of Civil-Government,” Two Treatises of Government (Awnsham & John Churchill, London, 1698).

"Wherever Law ends, Tyranny begins." (Chapter 18, sec. 202)

“[The positive laws of commonwealths often are ...] the fancies and intricate contrivances of men, following contrary and hidden interests put into words; for so truly are a great part of the municipal laws of countries, which are only so far right, as they are founded on the law of nature.” (Chapter 2, sec. 12)

"And that all men may be restrained from invading others' rights, and from doing hurt to one another, and the law of nature be observed, which willeth the peace and preservation of all mankind, the execution of the law of nature is in that state, put into every man's hands, whereby everyone has a right to punish the transgressors of that law to such a degree, as may hinder its violation." (Chapter 2, sec. 7)

"Law, in its proper Notion, is the Direction of a free and intelligent Agent to his proper Interest." (Chapter 6, sec. 57)

“The end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom: For in all the states of created beings capable of laws, where there is no law, there is no freedom.” (Chapter 6, sec. 57)

"A man may owe honour and respect to an ancient or wise man; defence to his child or friend; relief and support to the distressed; and gratitude to a benefactor, to such a degree, that all he has, all he can do, cannot sufficiently pay it; but all these give no authority, no right to anyone of making laws over him from whom they are owing." (Chapter 6, sec. 70)

 "These are the bounds, which the trust that is put in them by the society, and the law of God and Nature, have set to the legislative power of every commonwealth. First, they are to govern by promulgated established laws, not to be varied in particular cases, but to have one rule for rich and poor, for the favourite at court, and the countryman at plough. Secondly, these laws also ought to be designed for no other end ultimately than the good of the people." (Chapter 11, sec. 142)

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Abigail to John Adams March 31, 1776

"I wish you would ever write me a Letter half as long as I write you; and tell me if you may where your Fleet are gone? What sort of Defence Virginia can make against our common Enemy? Whether it is so situated as to make an able Defence? Are not the Gentry Lords and the common people vassals, are they not like the uncivilized Natives Britain represents us to be? I hope their Rifle Men who have shown themselves very savage and even Blood thirsty; are not a specimen of the Generality of the people.

I am willing to allow the Colony great merit for having produced a Washington but they have been shamefully duped by a Dunmore.

I have sometimes been ready to think that the passion for Liberty cannot be Equally Strong in the Breasts of those who have been accustomed to deprive their fellow Creatures of theirs. Of this I am certain that it is not founded upon that generous and Christian principal of doing to others as we would that others should do unto us. Do not you want to see Boston; I am fearful of the small pox, or I should have been in before this time. I got Mr. Crane to go to our House and see what state it was in. I find it has been occupied by one of the Doctors of a Regiment, very dirty, but no other damage has been done to it. The few things which were left in it are all gone. Crane has the key which he never delivered up. I have wrote to him for it and am determined to get it cleaned as soon as possible and shut it up. I look upon it a new acquisition of property, a property which one month ago I did not value at a single Shilling, and could with pleasure have seen it in flames.

The Town in General is left in a better state than we expected, more owing to a precipitate flight than any Regard to the inhabitants, tho some individuals discovered a sense of honour and justice and have left the rent of the Houses in which they were, for the owners and the furniture unhurt, or if damaged sufficient to make it good. Others have committed abominable Ravages. The Mansion House of your President [John Hancock] is safe and the furniture unhurt whilst both the House and Furniture of the Solicitor General [Samuel Quincy] have fallen a prey to their own merciless party. Surely the very Fiends feel a Reverential awe for Virtue and patriotism, whilst they Detest the parricide and traitor.

I feel very differently at the approach of spring to what I did a month ago. We knew not then whether we could plant or sow with safety, whether when we had toiled we could reap the fruits of our own industry, whether we could rest in our own Cottages, or whether we should not be driven from the sea coasts to seek shelter in the wilderness, but now we feel as if we might sit under our own vine and eat the good of the land.

I feel a 'gaieti de Coar' to which before I was a stranger. I think the Sun looks brighter, the Birds sing more melodiously, and Nature puts on a more cheerful countenance. We feel a temporary peace, and the poor fugitives are returning to their deserted habitations.

Though we felicitate ourselves, we sympathize with those who are trembling least the Lot of Boston should be theirs. But they cannot be in similar circumstances unless pusillanimity and cowardice should take possession of them. They have time and warning given them to see the Evil and shun it.-I long to hear that you have declared an independency-and by the way in the new Code of Laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the Ladies we are determined to foment a Rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.

That your Sex are Naturally Tyrannical is a Truth so thoroughly established as to admit of no dispute, but such of you as wish to be happy willingly give up the harsh title of Master for the more tender and endearing one of Friend. Why then, not put it out of the power of the vicious and the Lawless to use us with cruelty and indignity with impunity. Men of Sense in all Ages abhor those customs which treat us only as the vassals of your Sex. Regard us then as Beings placed by providence under your protection and in imitation of the Supreme Being make use of that power only for our happiness."

[spelling modernized]