Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Founding Principles


The late W. Cleon Skousen celebrates, of all things, the Constitution of the United States of America. He believed it was an extraordinary work, and wrote a book (available in paperback) to that effect: “The Five Thousand Year Leap: A Miracle that Changed the World.”

The book was written over a quarter-century ago (copyrighted in 1981), but has gained notoriety over the last few years as a result of Glenn Beck recommending it. Mr. Skousen died in 2006, but the visibility brought through Mr. Beck’s promotion now finds the book being disparaged, with Mr. Skousen characterized as a “right-wing crank.”

The reason for the attack? Mr. Skousen had the temerity to list 28 principles contained in our Constitution that form the basis for the “American Exceptionalism” described by Alexis de Tocqueville. He illustrates how our Constitution strikes the “sweet spot” between tyranny and anarchy in human governance. He lays out the thinking of the Founding Fathers in such a way that it gives people the inclination to say, “I believe in the principles of our Founding Fathers!” He also provides references to the writings of John Locke, Adam Smith, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, Cicero, Plato and Aristotle to back up his point of view.

His work gives a practical basis to an argument that has been too abstract over the last decade. When Republicans are accused of being Racists, they counter with facts related to which political party seceded from the Union and started the Civil War. Now, when confronted with the theme of “Republicans shredding the Constitution,” they can refer to the writings of the Founding Fathers and describe their support for those principles.

We’ve had that traditional political promise: “I can get you more than the other guy!” There is now a more Republican position that can be supported and celebrated: “I promise to defend the principles of our Founding Fathers!”

To make it easier to become acquainted with the content of the Skousen book, I’m listing each of his 28 principles as hotlinks to HTML pages. These pages will have remarks on the principles and allow for comments. Please feel free to contribute to the discussion!

From the Table of Contents, here are Skousen’s 28 principles:
1. The Genius of Natural Law.
2. A Virtuous and Moral People.
3. Virtuous and Moral Leaders.
4. The Role of Religion.
5. The Role of the Creator.
6. All Men are Created Equal.
7. Equal Rights, Not Equal Things.
8. Man’s Unalienable Rights.
9. The Role of Revealed Law.
10. Sovereignty of the People.
11. Who Can Alter the Government?
12. Advantages of a Republic.
13. Protection Against Human Frailty.
14. Property Rights Essential to Liberty.
15. Free-market Economics.
16. The Separation of Powers.
17. Checks and Balances.
18. Importance of a Written Constitution.
19. Limiting and Defining the Powers of Government.
20. Majority Rule, Minority Rights.
21. Strong Local Self-government.
22. Government by Law, Not by Men.
23. Importance of an Educated Electorate.
24. Peace Through Strength.
25. Avoid Entangling Alliances.
26. Protecting the Role of the Family.
27. Avoiding the Burden of Debt.
28. The Founders’ Sense of Manifest Destiny.

I hope this post is thought-provoking. It summarizes Mr. Skousen’s work, but the book itself is filled with references and citations that bring the thoughts and feelings of our Founders to life. If you happen to want to know how George Washington felt about some aspect of the Constitution, you can see what he actually wrote. If you question the reference, you can check out the citation for yourself. That’s a welcome contribution to Constitutional scholarship!

And here’s a final note…

If you want to compare our Constitution with similar efforts in the area, here’s a link to the work on the constitution of the European Union. Compare the fundamental principles of this document with those in our Constitution. I’m hoping you will agree there was something exceptional in what our Founders accomplished over two hundred years ago.


  1. This is very interesting - well done! I'll carry the initial segment, (or a portion of it)at LCR to send readers here. I'll read it several times myself.

    You obviously put a lot of work into this and it shows.

  2. 4. The Role of Religion.
    I have so much to say about this, but I will keep it short.
    First of all, the intention of our forefathers was to retain a concept that is the "entire foundation of all religious cultures world-wide" (pg 98). They believed in freedom for each individual to choose his own "sect" of religion but knew that "Without Religion the Government of a Free People Cannot be Maintained" (pg 75).
    By "Religion" I believe they meant a concept such as "universe logic", "natural law", "do unto others" and should not be pigeonholed by the contemporary misnomers such as "God" and "Religion" -- because, let's face it, the American government has succeeded in educating its people to hate those words. Perhaps our foundersm knew this is a threat because there are zero references to God in our constitution.
    Our forefathers recognized that it is an "essential need to teach religion and morality in the schools" (pg 75) and unfortunately this is not happening in our current culture. I write "unfortunately" not because I am religious or have any affiliation or love for organized religions, but because when a person does not believe there is any reality greater than oneself, then this person's ego will grow exponentially. I believe that government is the collective ego. I believe that the miseducation of America to be offended by God opens the door for tyranny. A Godless society promotes materialism; ie, outward learning. This is why Ghandi's philosophy of Swaraj promoted living inwardly and self governance.
    People do not understand that a "reality greater than oneself" can apply to things other than "faith" in an organized religion. There are many, many people with supernatural personal experiences with ghosts, aliens ... even scientists cannot explain "gforce" or "Godforce" defined in Aether Physics as an unknown "God-like source that created the physical Universe." That link even goes on to state, "The discovery of the Gforce is certain to become one of the important arguments for Intelligent Design as it provides solid evidence for God."
    So, evidence suggests that it is ignorant to discard "Deism" such as our forefather's subscribed. Not just ignorant, but destructive because denying it only feeds a person's ego and selfishness because it negates any reality greater than one's self.
    Another note, is that the forefather's intention to separate church and state is misunderstood. On page 90-91 it is explained that the forefathers were referring to FEDERAL state and church separation. This is a HUGE misunderstanding today. The intention of our founders is "to keep the power base close to the people. The emphasis was on strong local self-government" (pg 23). For example the hierarchy listed on page 24 that should fall under Federal Government; State Government, County Government, Township, Family.
    The structure of that hierarchy has long been disintegrating.
    The above mentioned topics are not understood by contemporary Americans and I believe it is because our public schools and media are Government controlled and I think our government is seeking to promote itself and grow at the expense of personal freedom. It is sad that people do not inquire into these things because there is brilliance in the foundation of America and our constitution. If more people understood this, then they would comprehend opposition to many of the laws created in the past 50+ years. On the surface, the opposition to such laws as Row vs. Wade and Universal Healthcare is perceived as evil, mean or selfish. However, the true arguments to these laws is that they go against the freedom of self-government and instead create a blanket law forced upon the masses.

  3. Journalizer:

    I copied your comment over to the "Fourth Principle" comment section. Thanks for the detail and citations from Mr. Skousen's book.