History repeats itself. Those are not uncommon words, but rarely do we think about how true they actually are. The times always change, but human nature remains the same. Our Founding Fathers realized that very well. In light of their understanding of human nature and the tendencies for government to become oppressive over time, they set out on a course to devise a governing document that would later become the marvel of the world. It was not power they were after, but instead the security of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
For the most part, Americans today have lost touch with the words and wisdom of the drafters of the Constitution, but over the past couple of years there seems to be a revival of the appetite for knowledge of American history. Books such as The 5000 Year Leap, Atlas Shrugged, and Sacred Fire can be found in Amazon’s bestseller list. The radio and TV personality Glenn Beck, who devotes much of his airtime to history, has enjoyed impressive ratings, beating out the competition by huge margins. Current events over the past few years in the economy and actions by the federal government have no doubt fueled this revitalized desire for information about our history. Americans seem to be waking up from a dazed state, now searching for information on great men like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. When reading their own words and relating it to the problems we have in America today, it seems very obvious that the Founders knew exactly what they were doing.
God is Essential
Outside of church, the mentioning of God is almost taboo today. Some institutions like the government and public schools have banned God all together. Even as a devout Christian I have caught myself hesitating to mention God in certain places because someone around me might be offended. It was not always this way. Despite the attempts of progressives to paint our Founding Fathers as deists and pervert the meaning behind the phrase ‘separation of church and state’, they were very vocal about their faith in God and the importance of God in America. They knew that for a Republic to withstand time, we must be a moral people – and that in order to be a moral people we must have God in our lives.
“Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.” – Article 3 of the Northwest Ordinance, passed by Congress in 1787
“Of all the dispositions and habits, which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports…And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion…reason and experience both forbid us to expect, that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.” – George Washington’s Farewell Address in 1796
“You desire to know something of my religion. It is the first time I have been questioned upon it. But I cannot take your curiosity amiss, and shall endeavor in a few words to gratify it. Here is my creed. I believe in one God, the creator of the universe. That he governs by his providence. That he ought to be worshiped. That the most acceptable service we render to him is doing good to his other children. That the soul of man is immortal, and will be treated with justice in another life respecting its conduct in this. These I take to be the fundamental points in all sound religion…” – Benjamin Franklin in a letter to Ezra Stiles in 1790
Limited Federal Government
After coming from tyrannical rule of the British throne, the Founding Fathers wanted to make sure the government they set up could not end up in tyranny again. They believed in that so much that their first attempt (Articles of Confederation) was too close to anarchy. Eleven years later, George Washington again sacrificially rose to the challenge of uniting delegates together in order to draft a new document, the Constitution of the United States. They understood that some central control was needed, but the majority of the power must be held by the States and the People.
“The true theory of our Constitution is surely the wisest and best, that the states are independent as to everything within, themselves, and united as to everything respecting foreign nations. Let the general government be reduced to foreign concerns only…reduced to a very simple organization, and a very inexpensive one; a few plain duties to be performed by a few servants.” Thomas Jefferson
“The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government, are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.” – The Federalist #45 by James Madison in 1788
“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Constitution of the United States, 10th Amendment
It was also well understood by the Founders that liberty could not survive without an enlightened electorate. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were likely the most passionate about the subject, but all of the Founders believed that Americans should be well educated in reading and writing, history, geography, and Biblical studies. Children were taught to read and understand the Constitution as well as the unique principles of the Constitution.
“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” Thomas Jefferson
“No other sure foundation can be devised for the preservation of freedom and happiness… Preach a crusade against ignorance; establish and improve the law for educating the common people. Let our countrymen know that the people alone can protect us against the evils [of misgovernment].” –Thomas Jefferson to George Wythe in 1786.
“Wisdom and knowledge, as well as virtue, diffused generally among the body of the people, being necessary for the preservation of their rights and liberties, and as these depend on spreading the opportunities and advantages of education in the various parts of the country, and among the different orders of people, it shall be the duty of legislators and magistrates…to cherish the interest of literature and the sciences, and all seminaries of them” John Adams
“Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have a right, from the frame of their nature, to knowledge, as their great Creator, who does nothing in vain, has given them understandings, and a desire to know; but besides this, they have a right, an indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible, divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge, I mean, of the characters and conduct of their rulers.” John Adams in 1765
This is just a small snapshot into the great minds of men who sacrificed so much in the pursuit of liberty. The drafters knew that God was essential to a free nation, it was necessary to limited government to prevent tyranny, and an enlightened electorate would serve as the guardians of liberty. Do not take my word for it, or the word of your teacher, professor, or anyone else for that matter, but instead read it yourself. I strongly recommend starting with The 5000 Year Leap, as it does an excellent job of putting into perspective the principles our Founders used when drafting the Constitution. But wherever you start, understand that “knowledge is power and power quells the enemies of Liberty.” Arm yourself with the truth, because with it you will be set free.