My Halloween Tradition: Candy and (Pocket) Constitutions

 

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Every year on Halloween I hand out pocket Constitutions (usually with a small sweet treat attached) to trick-or-treaters who visit my home.

Inevitably, some of these youngsters ask me: “What is this?” My reply is always the same, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

This year, pocket Constitutions were, for a time, the number two bestseller on Amazon.

So why do I engage in this tradition?

Because in my world every day is Constitution Day! Through my work as Executive Director of ConSource, I have the opportunity to connect citizens of all ages to our nation’s rich constitutional history.

Plus, I’d ask – is there really any treat sweeter than freedom? I think not! Why not use Halloween as an opportunity to demonstrate this to our nation’s young people?

Happy Birthday John Adams!

John Adams was born on October, 30, 1735.  Adams enrolled in Harvard University at age 16 and went on to teach school children and study law. Adams was instrumental in laying the foundation for the American Revolution. In 1783, he brokered the peace treaty between America and Britain that ended the American Revolution. Adams served as the nation’s first Vice President and second President.

Benjamin Rush wrote of Adams in 1776: “This illustrious patriot has not his superior, scarcely his equal for abilities and virtue on the whole of the continent of America.”

Sadly, Adams many accomplishments during the Revolutionary period are clouded by his signing of the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798.

In honor of his birthday and contributions to the United States, I thought I’d spotlight some of my favorite quotes from Adams –

(1) “The Science of Government it is my Duty to study, more than all other Studies Sciences: the Art of Legislation and Administration and Negotiation, ought to take Place, indeed to exclude in a manner all other Arts. I must study Politicks and War that my sons may have liberty to study Painting and Poetry Mathematicks and Philosophy. My sons ought to study Mathematicks and Philosophy, Geography, natural History, Naval Architecture, navigation, Commerce and Agriculture, in order to give their Children a right to study Painting, Poetry, Musick, Architecture, Statuary, Tapestry and Porcelaine.”

(2) “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

(3) “Thirteen governments thus founded on the natural authority of people alone, without a pretence of miracle or mystery, and which are destined to spread over the northern part of that whole quarter of the globe, are a great point gained in favor of the rights of mankind.”

(4) “But a Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty once lost is lost forever.”

(5) “Posterity, you will never know how much it cost the present Generation to preserve your Freedom. I hope you will make good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven, that I ever took half the Pains to preserve it.”

(6) “The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.

You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. — I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. — Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.”

(7) “It should be your care, therefore, and mine, to elevate the minds of our children and exalt their courage; to accelerate and animate their industry and activity; to excite in them an habitual contempt of meanness, abhorrence of injustice and inhumanity, and an ambition to excel in every capacity, faculty, and virtue. If we suffer their minds to grovel and creep in infancy, they will grovel all their lives.”

(8) “The preservation of the means of knowledge among the lowest ranks is of more importance to the public than all the property of all the rich men in the country.”

(9) “Children should be educated and instructed in the principles of freedom.”

(10) “The die was now cast; I had passed the Rubicon. Sink or swim, live or die, survive or perish with my country, was my unalterable determination.”

(11) “[L]iberty must at all hazards be supported. We have a right to it, derived from our Marker. But if we had not, our fathers have earned and bought it for us, at the expense of their estates, their pleasure, and their blood.”

(12) “There must be a positive Passion for the public good, the public Interest, Honour, Power and Glory, established in the Minds of the People, or there can be no Republican Government, nor any real Liberty: and this public Passion must be Superiour to all private Passions. Men must be ready, they must pride themselves, and be happy to sacrifice their private Pleasures, Passions and Interests, nay, their private Friendships and dearest Connections, when they stand in Competition with the Rights of Society.”

Book Spotlight: Alexander Hamilton: From Obscurity to Greatness

John Kaminski, founder and director of The Center for the Study of the American Constitution at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and director and co-editor of The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution series, has a new book out on Alexander Hamilton.

In “Alexander Hamilton: From Obscurity to Greatness,” Kaminski brings Hamilton to life by publishing the words of not only Alexander Hamilton but also his contemporaries. The quotations in this volume were taken from the letters of the Founder, journals, diaries, newspaper essays, and speeches.

A few quotes I’d like to spotlight from the book –

(1) President George Washington to Alexander Hamilton, 2 February 1795 – “In every relation, which you have borne to me, I have found that my confidence in your talents, exertions and integrity, has been well placed. I the more freely render this testimony of my approbation, because I speak from opportunities of information which cannot deceive me, and which furnish satisfactory proof of your title to public regard.”

(2) John Adams to Abigail Adams, 9 January 1797 – “Hamilton I know to be a proud Spirited, conceited, aspiring Mortal always pretending to Morality, with as debauched Morals as old Franklin who is more his Model than any one I know. As great an Hypocrite as nay in the U.S. His Intrigues in the Election I despise. That he has Talents I admit. But I dread none of them. I shall take no notice of his Puppyhood but retain the same Opinion of him I always had and maintain the Same Conduct towards him I always did, that is keep him at a distance.”

(3) The Federalist No. 34, 5 January 1788 – “We must bear in mind, that we are not to confine our view to the present period, but to look forward to remote futurity. Constitutions of civil Government are not to be framed upon a calculation of exigencies; but upon a combination of these, with the probable exigencies of ages, according to the natural and tried course of human affairs. Nothing therefore can be more fallacious, than to infer the extent of any power, property to be lodged in the National Government, from an estimate of its immediate necessities. There ought to be a capacity to provide for future contingencies, as they may happen; and, as these are illimitable in their nature, it is impossible safely to limit that capacity.”

(4) Caesar No. II, 17 October 1787 – “There are always men in society of some talents, but more ambition, in quest of that which it would be impossible for them to obtain in any other way than by working on the passions and prejudices of the less discerning classes of citizens and yeomanry. — It is the plan of men of this stamp to frighten the people with ideal bugbears, in order to mould them to their own purposes. The unceasing cry of these designing croakers is, my friends, your liberty is invaded! Have you thrown off the yoke of one tyrant, to invest yourselves with that of another! Have you fought, bled, and conquered, for such a change! If you have – go – retire into silent obscurity, and kiss the rod that scourges you.”

(5) The Federalist No. 15, 1 December 1787 – “The best oracle of wisdom, experience.”

(6) The Federalist No. 30, 1 January 1788 – “In disquisition of every kind there are certain primary truths or first principles upon which all subsequent reasonings must depend. These contain an internal evidence, which antecedent to all reflection or combination commands the assent of the mind.”

I highly recommend that any fans of Hamilton, his eponymous Broadway show, or the Founders generally pick up this book! It’s available for purchase via Amazon.com here.

 

 

 

The Statue of Liberty Was Dedicated 130 Years Ago Today

President Grover Cleveland dedicated the Statue of Liberty, a gift of friendship from the people of France to the people of the United States, on October 28, 1886.

The statue was proposed by French historian Edouard de Laboulaye to commemorate the Franco-American alliance during the American Revolution. The statute, designed by French sculptor Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, was originally known as “Liberty Enlightening the World.”

Congress approved the use of New York Bedloe’s Island as the site for the statue. The statue was sent to the U.S. dismantled. Its copper sheets had to be reassembled in New York.

The pedestal of the statue is inscribed with a sonnet titled “The New Colossus” by American poet Emma Lazarus. The poem reads:

“Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Lazarus’s famous poem has always reminded me of a less well known quote from George Washington where he says : “I had always hoped that this land might become a safe and agreeable asylum to the virtuous and persecuted part of mankind, to whatever nation they might belong.”

The Federalist No. 1 is Published 229 Years Ago Today, on October 27, 1787

Cross-posted on the ConSource blog

The Federalist No. 1 was published 229 years ago today, on October 27, 1787. The Federalist, or Federalist Papers as they have come to be known, are a collection of 85 essays on the origins, purpose, and design of the United States Constitution. The authors and collaborators behind these essays were Alexander Hamilton writing 51 papers, James Madison writing 29 papers, and John Jay writing five papers. At the time of their publication, Hamilton, Madison and Jay did not sign their names to the essays. Instead, they wrote all of the essays under the pseudonym Publius.

James Madison in an 1818 letter explained that “[t]he immediate object of [The Federalist Papers] was to vindicate & recommend the new Constitution to the State of [New York], whose ratification of the instrument was doubtful, as well as important.”

The essays were designed to help solidify support amongst existing proponents of the Constitution, and to persuade undecided and unsympathetic citizens to support ratification.

Overview of the Essays

In The Federalist No. 1, Alexander Hamilton outlined the topics addressed by each of the essays. He wrote,

“I propose in a series of papers to discuss the following interesting particulars: – The utility of the UNION to your political prosperity– The insufficiency of the present Confederation to preserve that Union– The necessity of a government at least equally energetic with the one proposed to the attainment of this object– The conformity of the proposed Constitution to the true principles of republican government– Its analogy to your own state constitution– and lastly, The additional security, which its adoption will afford to the preservation of that species of government, to liberty and to property. In the progress of this discussion I shall endeavour to give a satisfactory answer to all the objections which shall have made their appearance that may seem to have any claim to your attention.”

Essays 1 – 14 discuss the necessity of a strong union.

Essay 15 – 22 primarily address issues with the Articles of Confederation.

Essays 23 – 35 discuss how the powers enumerated in the Constitution provide for an “energetic” federal government.

Essays 36 – 50 focus on the structure of the proposed government and the principles of Republican government.

Essays 51 – 66 provide a detailed discussion of the House of Representatives and Senate.

Essays 67 – 77 discuss the design and powers of the executive branch.

Essays 78 – 83 cover the federal judiciary.

Essay 84 responds to the objections raised over the lack of a federal bill of rights.

Essay 85 concludes the essay series by stating: “A nation, without a national government, is, in my view, an awful spectacle. The establishment of a Constitution, in time of profound peace, by the voluntary consent of a whole people, is a prodigy, to the completion of which I look forward with trembling anxiety. I can reconcile it to no rules of prudence to let go the hold we now have, in so arduous an enterprise, upon seven out of the thirteen States, and after having passed over so considerable a part of the ground, to recommence the course. I dread the more the consequences of new attempts, because I know that powerful individuals, in this and in other States, are enemies to a general national government in every possible shape.”

Read The Federalist Papers

“The importance of The Federalist cannot be overstated. Throughout American history it has provided a pivot point of argument in great struggles over constitutional meaning. Hamilton and Madison themselves drew on The Federalist in debates over the constitutionality of the National Bank Act and other early assertions of federal authority. In the years leading up to the Civil War, Southern nullificationists and Northern unionists both invoked the essays, and modern-day proponents and opponents of sweeping executive powers have done so as well. In scores of cases, and with much-increased frequency in recent decades, the Supreme Court has drawn on The Federalist in resolving hard-fought battles over what the Constitution means for disputants in the context of federal litigation.”[i]

You can read all 85 essays in the ConSource Digital Library.

Secretary of Education John King Calls for More Civic Education

Last week, Education Secretary John King called for more civic education. He said promoting “democracy was one of the original goals of public education,” and K-12 schools and colleges and universities have an essential role to play in educating students to fully and meaningfully participate in the democratic process.

He went on to say

The strength of our democracy depends on all of us, as Americans, understanding our history and the Constitution and how the government works, at every level; becoming informed and thoughtful about local, state, and national issues; getting involved in solving problems in our schools, communities, states, and nationally; recognizing that the solutions to the complex issues our nation faces today all require compromise; being willing to think beyond our own needs and wants and to embrace our obligations to the greater good. Finally, I would argue that our democracy, our communities, and our nation would be stronger if all of us volunteered on behalf of others.

He went on to describe how little our nation’s young people know about our Constitution and system of government:

The Nation’s Report Card shows that only one in five eighth graders and 12th graders has a working knowledge of the Constitution, the presidency, Congress, the courts, and how laws are made. Not surprisingly, we’re failing even more of our children of color and children from low-income families. Only about one in 10, one in 10, African-American, Hispanic, and low-income students have a working knowledge of how government functions.

He called on our “nation’s schools and colleges to be bold and creative in educating for citizenship. Make preparing your students for their civic duties just as much a priority as preparing them to succeed in college and in their careers.”

In then went on to describe what he views as the foundational elements of an effective civics education:

(1) Students need to know the Constitution and legislative process.

(2) Students need to understand history and be familiar with the primary sources that have shaped our nation’s history.

(3) Students “need to be able to put themselves into others’ shoes, and to appreciate the different perspectives that have shaped our nation’s history.”

(4) “Civics shouldn’t be an add-on. It can be made a part of every class, not just social studies and history, but reading and writing, science and math.”

(5) Beyond knowledge, students also need to develop civic skills.

And on higher education, Secretary King said “Back in 1947, the Truman Commission on Higher Education for Democracy concluded that educating for democracy ‘should come first … among the principal goals for higher education.’ It should come first among the principal goals for higher education.”

 

 

Celebrating the 252nd Anniversary of John and Abigail Adams’ Marriage

On October 25, 1764, John Adams married Abigail Smith. Because they spent much of their marriage apart, we have access to a wealth of letters shared between the two. The couple exchanged more than 1,100 letters – ranging from the time of their courtship through John’s political service (which ended in 1801). He then returned to Massachusetts and Abigail. And while those of us today may be saddened that the letters then stopped, I am sure Abigail, who sacrificed a great deal for the sake of her husband’s political ambitions and for America, was glad to have John in close proximity.

The letters of John and Abigail are freely available online through the incredible work of the Adams Family Papers and Massachusetts Historical Society. I encourage you to check them out – you can learn a lot about not only their marriage, but also the early American Republic.

Here are a few of my favorite excerpts from their correspondence –

(1) March 31, 1776 – Remember the Ladies!

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 perticuliar care and attention is not paid to the Laidies we are determined to foment a Rebelion, 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 immitation of the Supreem Being make use of that power only for our happiness.

(2) August 11, 1763 – A threefold cord

And there is a tye more binding than Humanity, and stronger than Friendship, which makes us anxious for the happiness and welfare of those to whom it binds us. It makes their [Misfortunes], Sorrows and afflictions, our own. Unite these, and there is a threefold cord — by this cord I am not ashamed to own myself bound, nor do I [believe] that you are wholly free from it. [Judge you then] for your Diana has she not this day [had sufficient] cause for pain and anxiety of mind?

You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. — I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. — Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.