Today’s Top Stories | 28 Principle Series with Paul Skousen: Principles 21-25 explained (0:15)
Welcome back to the #GreatMinds/LessonsfromHistory series as we continue to explore all of the 28 principles that W. C. Skousen came up with that our founding fathers used to create the American Constitution.
We also got to speak to W.C. Skousen’s son, Paul Skousen on how his father came up with these exact principles and today we explore principles 21 -25 found in this book review of the 5,000 Year Leap!
Principle 1: Strong local self-government is the keystone to preserving human freedom (1:29)
“Thomas Jefferson saw the advantages of the close-knit New England town over the aristocratic rural life of Virginia. Said he: “These wards, called townships in New England, are the vital principle of their governments, and have proved themselves the wisest invention ever devised by the wit of man for the perfect exercise of self-government, and for its preservation.” (Bergh, Writings of Thomas Jefferson, 15:38.)
Jefferson was anxious to have all the English colonists in America revive the customs of their Anglo-Saxon ancestors, including strong local self-government.”
“As historian Richard Frothingham points out: “In ancient England, local self-government is found in connection with the political and territorial divisions of tythings, hundreds, burghs, counties, and shires, in which the body of inhabitants had a voice in managing their own affairs. Hence it was the germinal idea of the Anglo-Saxon polity.
“In the course of events, the Crown deprived the body of the people of this power of local rule, and vested it in a small number of persons in each locality, who were called municipal councils, were clothed with the power of filling vacancies in their number, and were thus self-perpetuating bodies. In this way, the ancient freedom of the municipalities was undermined, and the power of the ruling classes was installed in its place. Such was the nature of the local self-government in England, not merely during the period of the planting of her American colonies (1607 to 1732), but for a century later… It was a noble form robbed of its life-giving spirit.”
(Richard Frothingham, The Rise of the Republic of the United States, Little, Brown, and Company, Boston, 1873)”
Principle 22: A free people should be governed by law and not by the whims of men. (7:09)
“To be governed by the whims of men is to be subject to the everchanging capriciousness of those in power. This is the ruler’s law at its worst. In such a society nothing is dependable. No rights are secure. Things established in the present are in a constant state of flux. Nothing becomes fixed and predictable for the future.
“The American Founders and their Anglo-Saxon forebears had an entirely different point of view. They defined law as a “rule of action” which was intended to be as binding on the ruler as it was upon the people. It was designed to give society a stable frame of reference so the people could feel secure in making plans for the future.”
As John Locke said: “Freedom of men under government is to have a standing rule to live by, common to every one of that society, and made by the legislative power erected in it.”
(Second Essay Concerning Civil Government, p. 29, par. 21.)
Under established law, every person’s rights and duties are defined. Anglo-Saxon common law provided a framework of relative security and a sense of well-being for people and things, both present, and future. This is the security which is designed to provide a high degree of freedom from fear and therefore freedom to act. Such a society gives its people a sense of liberty — liberty under law. The American Founders believed that without the protection of law there can be no liberty.”
Human experience has taught mankind this same principle down through the ages.
Here are the words of Aristotle in his Politics:
“Even the best of men in authority are liable to be corrupted by passion. We may conclude then that the law is reason without passion, and it is therefore preferable to any individual.” (Quoted by Edwin S. Corwin in “The Higher Law — Background of American Constitutional Law,” Harvard Law Review, 1928, 42:155.)
Principle 23: A free society cannot survive as a republic without a broad program of general education. (11:11)
“The English colonists in America undertook something which no nation had ever attempted before — the educating of the whole people. The colonists had a sense of “manifest destiny” which led them to believe that they must prepare themselves for a most unique and important role in the unfolding of modern world history. Universal education was therefore considered an indispensable ingredient in this preparation.
John Adams Describes Beginning of Public Education The movement for universal education began in New England. Clear back in 1647 the legislature of Massachusetts passed a law requiring every community of fifty families or householders to set up a free public grammar school to teach the fundamentals of reading, writing, ciphering, history, geography, and Bible study. In addition, every township containing 100 families or more was required to set up a secondary school in advanced studies to prepare boys for attendance at Harvard.
John Adams stated that this whole program was designed to have “knowledge diffused generally through the whole body of the people.” He said: “They made an early provision by law that every town consisting of so many families should be always furnished with a grammar school. They made it a crime for such a town to be substitute of a grammar schoolmaster for a few months and subjected it to a heavy penalty. So that the education of all ranks of people was made the care and expense of the public, in a manner that I believe has been unknown to any other people, ancient or modern.
“The consequences of these establishments we see and feel every day [written in 1765]. A native of America who cannot read and write is as rare … as a comet or an earthquake. It has been observed that we are all of us lawyers, divines, politicians, and philosophers. And I have good authorities to say that all candid foreigners who have passed through this country and conversed freely with all sorts of people here will allow that they have never seen so much knowledge and civility among the common people in any part of the world…. liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people…. 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.”
(Koch, The American Enlightenment, p. 239.)”
Principle 24: A free people will not survive unless they stay strong (17:13)
“A free people in a civilized society always tend toward prosperity. In the case of the United States, the trend has been toward a super-abundant prosperity. Only as the federal government has usurped authority and inter-meddled with the free-market economy has this surge of prosperity and high production of goods and services been inhibited. But prosperity in the midst of thriving industry, fruitful farms, beautiful cities, and flourishing commerce always attracts the greedy aspirations of predatory nations. Singly, these covetous predators may not pose a threat, but federated together they may present a specter of total desolation to a free, prosperous people. Before the nation’s inhabitants are aware, their apocalypse of destruction is upon them. It was the philosophy of the Founders that the kind hand of Providence had been everywhere present in allowing the United States to come forth as the first free people in modern times. They further felt that they would forever be blessed with freedom and prosperity if they remained a virtuous and adequately armed nation.
Franklin’s Philosophy of Defense Clear back in 1747, Benjamin Franklin vividly comprehended the task ahead. Said he:
“Were this Union formed, were we once united, thoroughly armed and disciplined, were everything in our power done for our security, as far as human means and foresight could provide, we might then, with more propriety, humbly ask the assistance of heaven and a blessing on our lawful endeavors.”
(Smyth, Writings of Benjamin Franklin, 2:352.)
Peace was the goal, but strength was the means. Franklin envisioned the day when a prudent policy of national defense would provide the American people with the protection which their rise to greatness would require.
He wrote: “The very fame of our strength and readiness would be a means of discouraging our enemies; for ‘tis a wise and true saying, that ‘One sword often keeps another in the scabbard.’ The way to secure peace is to be prepared for war. They that are on their guard, and appear ready to receive their adversaries, are in much less danger of being attacked than the supine, secure and negligent.” (Ibid.)
Reagan reminds us of this principle in his now famous speech seen below: (19:20)
Principle 25: Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations — entangling alliances with none. (25:29)
“Friendship with all … alliances with none.” — Thomas Jefferson
These are the words of Thomas Jefferson, given in his first inaugural address.
(Bergh, Writings of Thomas Jefferson, 3:321.)
As the United States emerged on the world scene in the eighteenth century, American leaders took a united and fixed position against entangling alliances with any foreign powers unless an attack against the United States made such alliances temporarily necessary. This was the Founders’ doctrine of “separatism.” This was far different from the modern term of “isolationism.” The latter term implies a complete seclusion from other nations, as though the United States were to be detached and somehow incubated in isolation from other nations.
In point of fact, the policy of the Founders was just the opposite. They desired to cultivate a wholesome relationship with all nations, but they wished to remain aloof from sectional quarrels and international disputes. They wanted to avoid alliances of friendship with one nation which would make them enemies of another nation in a time of crisis. They wanted to keep American markets open to all countries unless certain countries engaged in hostilities toward the United States.
So this ends our episode on principles 21-25. We have one more episode on the 28 principles that will conclude this book summary and review on some of the guiding principles that made the American Constitution what it is today. Please join us again!
More on Paul Skousen: https://www.paulskousen.com/books/
THIS WORK IS DEDICATED TO that generation of resolute Americans whom we call the Founding Fathers. They created the first free people to survive as a nation in modern times. They wrote a new kind of Constitution which is now the oldest in existence. They built a new kind of commonwealth designed as a model for the whole human race. They believed it was thoroughly possible to create a new kind of civilization, giving freedom, equality, and justice to all.
Their first design for a free-people nation was to encompass all of North America, accommodating, as John Adams said, two to three hundred million freemen. They created a new cultural climate that gave wings to the human spirit. They encouraged exploration to reveal the scientific secrets of the universe. They built a free- enterprise culture to encourage industry and prosperity. They gave humanity the needed ingredients for a gigantic 5,000-year leap!
– W. Cleon Skousen
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Today’s quote is from Ernest Hemingway.
“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”