Tag: Founding Fathers

Questions about the nature of the American founding undergird our fraught political discourse: was the American Revolution justified? How religious were the Founding Fathers? How should we deal with the fact that they owned slaves? What is Christian Nationalism? Mark David Hall, current Garwood Visiting Fellow with us at the James Madison Program and Herbert Hoover Distinguished Professor of Politics at George Fox University, addresses these questions and more in his latest book, Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land: How Christianity Has Advanced Freedom and Equality for All Americans (Fidelis Books, 2023). In this conversation, Mark and Annika have a lively back and forth about the debates surrounding the American founding and its repercussions today.

In addition to his book, you can find more on Mark’s views on Christian Nationalism in this essay for Providence Magazine.

Israeli political philosopher Yoram Hazony (’86) discusses the Enlightenment, the American Founding, his latest book: Conservatism: A Rediscovery, and Conservatism’s past and future.

Dr. Hazony is the the President of the Herzl Institute, based in Jerusalem, and the chairman of the Edmund Burke Foundation, a public affairs institute based in Washington D.C., which recently hosted the popular National Conservatism Conference in Miami, FL.

This week on “The Learning Curve,” co-hosts Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Alan Taylor, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation Professor of History at the University of Virginia, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, and author of the book, Thomas Jefferson’s Education. Professor Taylor shares some highlights of Jefferson’s career, his views on the importance of primary and higher public education in serving the political aspirations of his state and region, and Jefferson’s role as the architect of the University of Virginia, whose buildings embody his Neoclassical outlook. Professor Taylor reviews Virginia’s complex, 18th-century history as the most politically influential, populous, and wealthiest state, but one that was heavily dependent on agriculture and slavery. The interview concludes with Professor Taylor reading from his book on Jefferson.

Stories of the Week: A Washington Post column raises concerns about data showing that we are under-educating our children through low academic expectations, especially those from low-income and minority backgrounds. In Wisconsin, Act 31 requires that K-12 public schools instruct students in the history of the state’s Native Americans – but some estimate that less than half of the schools are implementing it.

Reading, Listening, and Watching


Here I’m providing snapshots of media I’ve consumed lately since there’s too much material for discrete reviews. Note: The Kindle and audiobooks were deals I acquired on the cheap.

Signing Their Rights Away – This book provides absorbing bios for the thirty-nine signers of the Constitution. (A similar work on the Declaration is entitled Signing Their Lives Away.)  Each piece gives background on the signer’s family life, his career, his part in the Constitutional Convention, and key life events after the signing. I got this as a Kindle deal for under two dollars, and it has been worth it to awaken my mind to facts surrounding this era. For example, I was under the impression that there were just a handful of upstanding “founding fathers” at the birth of our country. This book corrects that assumption, revealing that there were other astute men on hand helping to hammer out an agreement and promote the Constitution to their home states.  I also realize that there was an astonishing amount of wealth in our land even back then; that many of the signers, if not lawyers, were surveyors or merchants; that coming to agreement on the Constitution took weeks of summer meetings in a stifling room; that there were sharp disagreements, especially on how representation in Congress could be fair to both large and small states; and that a number of the wealthy participants also speculated (foolishly) on tracts of land to the west.

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Nothing clarifies a man’s thoughts like staking his life on them. When what you believe threatens to deliver death and danger to your door, you think again – hard – about those beliefs. This is the moment of truth, when casual opinions dissolve and only convictions backed with soul-searching can stand. It’s what made the […]

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When I realized it was my turn for the November Group Writing Series and the theme was elimination, I started to fret a little. Elimination is a challenging word, turning it over and over in my mind. It became complicated – talk about the all consuming Mid-terms? The Caravan? Did the Founders stress out this […]

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For this week’s Big Ideas with Ben Weingarten podcast, my guest was Rich Higgins. Higgins, an expert in unconventional warfare and combatting terrorism with over 20 years experience at senior levels of the Defense Department, and early supporter of President Trump, served as director for strategic planning in President Trump’s National Security Council (NSC). Preview Open

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Dennis Prager on the Self-Righteously Suicidal West and False Morality


For this week’s Big Ideas with Ben Weingarten podcast, I had nationally syndicated radio host, columnist, author of numerous books, teacher, film producer and co-founder of PragerU, Dennis Prager, on the podcast to discuss among other things:

  • How Dennis Prager ended up a conservative as an Ivy League-educated Jewish intellectual from Brooklyn, New York — contrary to so many of his peers
  • How perceptions of human nature divide Left and Right
  • Whether government has filled the void of religion for the increasingly secular and progressive American coasts
  • How the good intentions that underlie Leftist policy prescriptions lead to horrendous outcomes — and emotion versus reason on the Left and Right
  • The false morality underlying European immigration policy with respect to the Muslim world, and Prager’s criticism of Jewish support of mass immigration consisting disproportionately of Jew-haters
  • The self-righteous suicidalism of the West
  • The Leftist bias of social media platforms and PragerU’s legal battle with YouTube/Google

You can find the episode on iTunes, everywhere else podcasts are found, download the episode directly here or read the transcript here.

Deep Dive on the Declaration of Independence and Its Relevance Today


In honor of Independence Day, for this week’s Big Ideas with Ben Weingarten podcast I take a deep dive into the Declaration of Independence, discussing:

  • Its unique place in human history and the cause of freedom
  • The link between natural law and natural rights, faith and freedom
  • The Founders’ emphasis on virtue and morality to sustain a free system of limited government
  • Parallels between the charges laid out against King George III in the Declaration and modern America from the administrative state to sanctuary cities
  • The Founders’ views on slavery, Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass and failing to live up to the values and principles of the Declaration
  • The imperative to defend liberty against tyranny
  • And much more

You can find the episode on iTunes, everywhere else podcasts are found or download the episode directly here.

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During the 2016 election, my conservative county and specifically, my neighborhood, sported a few Hillary signs, but more noticeably were the Bernie Sanders signs. One neighbor is a young couple with little children, self-employed, successful and Bernie was gracing their driveway. That gave me pause. At one point, he was almost neck and neck with […]

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Make a Good Use of It


“No, posterity, you will never know how much it cost us to preserve your freedom. I hope that you will make a good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in heaven that I ever took half the pains to preserve it.”

“You could not be, nor did I wish to see you, an inactive spectator.”

Lionized in print and on theater stages, Alexander Hamilton is a curious bookend for a new president who likewise calls Manhattan home, is steeped in capitalism, and uses the media to joust with his rivals. Elizabeth Cobbs, a Hoover Institution senior fellow and author of The Hamilton Affair: A Novel, separates fact from fiction regarding the famed Founding Father.

EU Wargames


Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 07.30.51I recently participated in a symposium at Mosaic magazine about the future of Europe. You can read my advice to Europe here. As I put it, Europe’s now facing history’s biggest constitutional crisis.

With that in mind, I just watched OpenEurope’s simulation of the negotiations that will determine Britain’s place in Europe with particular interest.

Yesterday, they simulated EU Reform and Brexit negotiations, with the key roles played by real, top-level British and European politicians. The former British Foreign Secretary and former Chancellor of the Exchequer played Britain; the former Deputy Prime Minister and Governor of the Bank of Poland played Poland, France’s former Minister for Europe played France, Germany’s former Ambassador to the UK played Germany, and so forth.

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I’ve been reading the original debate over the Constitution in 1787, and came across this brilliant gem of a quote, from “Federal Farmer” – what Hamilton called the most plausible [series of] arguments against the new government: “It is natural for men, who wish to hasten the adoption of a measure, to tell us, now […]

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4 Things You Didn’t Know About Alexander Hamilton


405px-Alexander_Hamilton_portrait_by_John_Trumbull_1806As you’ve likely heard — including on our own Member Feed — the Department of the Treasury is planning to replace the portrait of Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill, very likely with Harriet Tubman’s. All due respect to Mrs. Tubman — who deserves it greatly — but this is an incredible travesty. For all his many faults, Hamilton is one of the most extraordinary members of one of the most extraordinary generations in world history — and a handsome devil at that.

It’s difficult to decide which is more amazing: that Hamilton accomplished so much during his 51 years of life, or that he managed to make it that long before getting himself killed. While many of the incidents of his life are extremely well known — his work as Washington’s aide and spymaster, his contributions to the Constitution, the Federalist Papers, his remarkable and controversial tenure at Treasury, his affair with Maria Reynolds, his battles with Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr — his life also has a lot of chapters that are more obscure. Here are four of them:

Opposition to Slavery

Have Our Founding Fathers Failed Us?


imageIf the Founding Fathers failed in any regard, they failed to make governance sufficiently horrible, thankless, difficult, rancorous, disagreeable, and ineffective. No doubt once they found themselves in it, they discovered just how awful it really was, but they failed to keep it that way.

Little by little, steps have been taken, salaries increased, perks added, trappings acknowledged, and holding office has morphed into the insular, protected, self-congratulatory, celebrity, investment club that it now is. To paraphrase Mel Brooks: it’s good to be the government.

Our government used to be the place where only prominent, wealthy, self-less men took on the thankless tasks of self-governance. Now it’s the place where the politically ambitious rise to gain wealth and prominence. It’s full of carpet baggers and grifters on all sides of the aisle. They aspire to Washington as that’s the place where the real money and power is. Forget that the real work of government should be a tedious grind of difficult choices. “Go along, get along” is the motto; that and “You’ll get yours.”

American Conservatives Are Radical Liberals


Scene_at_the_Signing_of_the_Constitution_of_the_United_States2Americans — both Republicans and Democrats — often miss a key aspect of American conservatism: that it stems from classical liberalism, not European conservatism. Therefore, when we debate policies today, we should acknowledge that America’s classically liberal tradition is the basis of our founding and that America’s conservatives want to preserve that tradition.

American conservatism is a unique political philosophy. It is a strange synthesis of philosophies respecting God, human dignity, liberty, the rule of law, order, individual freedom and equality. It is, in short, a radically liberal philosophy.

No other country in the world has combined the political beliefs of men as diverse in political thought as Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington. Only in America have we had the ingredients to combine these all up to create American conservatism.

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Try and get through this smug codswallop; it’s interesting. To wit (follow the link to compare the pictures): It’s like rain on your wedding day. It’s a free ride when you’ve already paid. It’s a strongly conservative news network blatantly copying the logo of video game in which the villain is a strongly conservative evil […]

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