Archive for March, 2013

Original Documents

Marbury vs. Madison by John Marshall (1755-1835) – Reprinted from The U.S. Constitution, A Reader, Published by Hillsdale College

Thomas Jefferson’s election as president is often called the “Revolution of 1800,” because it marked the first peaceful transfer of power from one political party to another. Despite its uniquely pacific character, the election’s aftermath was marked by partisan rancor. The day before Jefferson took office, President John Adams commissioned fifty-eight Federalist judges.

Fragment on the Constitution and the Union by Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) – Reprinted from The U.S. Constitution, A Reader, Published by Hillsdale College

This never appeared in Lincoln’s public speeches, but it is possible that he composed it while writing his First Inaugural Address. It draws upon the King James translation of Proverbs 25:11–”A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver”–to describe the relationship between the principles of the Declaration and the purpose […]

Rights of the British Colonies Asserted and Proved by James Otis (1725-1783) – Reprinted from The U.S. Constitution, A Reader, Published by Hillsdale College

Otis rose to prominence in 1761, after he gave a courtroom speech opposing the Writs of Assistance–blanket warrants issued by the British for searching suspect property. He edited that speech into this essay three years later, after the passage of the Sugar Act. Its arguments contain the seed of the American Revolution–an appeal to natural […]

A Summary View of the Rights of British America by Thomas Jefferson – Reprinted from The U.S. Constitution, A Reader, Published by Hillsdale College

Jefferson began his public career in 1769 in the Virginia House of Burgesses, the colonial legislature. British implementation of the Coercive Acts of 1774 (also known as the Intolerable Acts)–passed in response to the Boston Tea Party–prompted the “Summary View,” Jefferson’s first publication. Written for Virginians who were choosing delegates to the First Continental Congress, […]

An Election Sermon by Gad Hitchcock (1718-1803) – Reprinted from The U.S. Constitution, A Reader, Published by Hillsdale College

Pastors and ministers were among the highest educated citizens in the American colonies, and often addressed politics from the pulpit. This sermon by Hitchcock was delivered on election day in 1774, in the presence of General Thomas Gage, the British military governor of the Province of Massachusetts Bay. It decries British monarchical rule and celebrates […]

The Farmer Refuted by Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804) – Reprinted from The U.S. Constitution, A Reader, Published by Hillsdale College

When Loyalist writings began to appear in New York newspapers in 1775, nineteen-year-old Hamilton responded with an essay defending the colonists’ right of revolution. Still a student at King’s College, he followed up with this second pamphlet, expanding his argument on the purpose of legitimate government. February 23, 1775 I shall, for the present, pass […]

Common Sense by Thomas Paine (1737-1809) – Reprinted from The U.S. Constitution, A Reader, Published by Hillsdale College

Published anonymously in January 1776 by an Englishman who had come to Philadelphia two years before, Common Sense became the most published work of the founding era. Printed over half a million times in a nation of three million people, it made a passionate case for liberty and against monarchy. Unpopular in later life for […]

Letter to Roger Weightman by Thomas Jefferson – Reprinted from The U.S. Constitution, A Reader, Published by Hillsdale College

Written just days before his death on July 4, 1826, this letter to the mayor of Washington, D.C., encapsulates the great cause of Jefferson’s life. June 24, 1826 Respected Sir: The kind invitation I receive from you, on the part of the citizens of the city of Washington, to be present with them at their […]

Virginia Declaration of Rights by George Mason (1725-1792) – Reprinted from The U.S. Constitution, A Reader, Published by Hillsdale College

The Virginia Declaration of Rights, drafted by George Mason as a preamble to the Virginia Constitution, is–along with the Declaration of Independence that followed a month later–the clearest statement of the social contract theory of government found in major early American documents. June 12, 1776 A declaration of rights made by the Representatives of the […]

Fast Day Proclamation of the Continental Congress – Reprinted from The U.S. Constitution, A Reader, Published by Hillsdale College

The petition of this Fast Day Proclamation was echoed repeatedly by Congresses in early American history. December 11, 1776 Whereas, the war in which the United States are engaged with Great Britain, has not only been prolonged, but is likely to be carried to the greatest extremity; and whereas, it becomes all public bodies, as […]

The Northwest Ordinance – Reprinted from The U.S. Constitution, A Reader, Published by Hillsdale College

Adopted by the Congress of the Confederation in 1787, the Northwest Ordinance set forth a model for the expansion of the American republic. Providing a governing structure for the territory that would later become Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin, it prohibited slavery, protected religious liberty, and encouraged education. Following the adoption of the Constitution, […]

Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessment by James Madison (1751-1836) – Reprinted from The U.S. Constitution, A Reader, Published by Hillsdale College

Madison circulated the Memorial and Remonstrance anonymously in 1785 as part of the effort to pass the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. It appeals to Christian citizens by emphasizing that Christianity’s own teachings preclude politically coerced support for particular sects, and to all citizens based on reason.

Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom By Thomas Jefferson -Reprinted from The U.S. Constitution, A Reader, Published by Hillsdale College

Jefferson asked to be remembered on his tombstone as author of the Declaration of Independence, father of the University of Virginia, and author of this law. Long delayed because of the contentiousness of the subject and the powerful interests arrayed against it, the Virginia Statute was drafted in 1777, introduced as a bill in the […]

George Washington’s Letter to the Hebrew Congregation – Reprinted from The U.S. Constitution, A Reader, Published by Hillsdale College

The Constitution of 1787 said little directly about religion, with the notable exception of a ban on religious tests as a requirement for federal office. When Washington was elected president, the Bill of Rights had not yet been adopted. Despite this, in his response to a congratulatory note sent to him by a group of […]

George Washington’s Farewell Address – Reprinted from The U.S. Constitution, A Reader, Published by Hillsdale College

Washington had first prepared a farewell address to be delivered in 1792, upon the conclusion of his first term as president. Having been convinced to stand for a second term, he was unanimously re-elected. When he finally issued this address in 1796, it was his last public work. After nearly forty-five years of service, he […]

Letter to the Danbury Baptist Association by Thomas Jefferson – Reprinted from The U.S. Constitution, A Reader, Published by Hillsdale College

The Danbury Baptist Association, aware of Jefferson’s earlier role in overturning the Anglican establishment in Virginia, expressed hope that as president he might help liberate them from the religious constraints in Connecticut. Jefferson’s response, in which he employs the famous “wall of separation between church and state” metaphor, is not a demand for the separation […]

On Property by James Madison – Reprinted from The U.S. Constitution, A Reader, Published by Hillsdale College

Madison, known as the “Father of the Constitution,” was elected from Virginia to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1788, where he served four terms. This essay, which then-Congressman Madison wrote for a New York newspaper, connects the idea of property rights as commonly understood to man’s natural rights, culminating in the right of conscience. […]

The Articles of Confederation – Reprinted from The U.S. Constitution, A Reader, Published by Hillsdale College

Pennsylvanian John Dickinson–who declined to sign the Declaration of Independence because he believed that the states should be organized politically before declaring independence–wrote the first draft of the Articles of Confederation in 1777. Signed into effect that year and ratified in 1781, the Articles provided the structure of government for the states until the Constitution […]

Circular Letter to the States by George Washington – Reprinted from The U.S. Constitution, A Reader, Published by Hillsdale College

As Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, overseen by a national legislature that struggled to fund the War for Independence, General Washington was as familiar as anyone with the defects of the Articles of Confederation. In this, his last circular letter to the states, which he sent to the thirteen governors, Washington emphasizes the need for […]

Letter to John Jay by George Washington – Reprinted from The U.S. Constitution, A Reader, Published by Hillsdale College

Washington writes here as a private citizen to Jay, who as Secretary of Foreign Affairs under the Articles of Confederation witnessed firsthand the Articles’ shortcomings, as each state pursued a different foreign policy. August 15, 1786 Dear Sir: I have to thank you very sincerely for your interesting letter of the twenty-seventh of June, as […]

Essays on Founding Documents/Readings

Friday, March 1, 2013 – Essay #10 – Marbury vs. Madison by John Marshall – Guest Essayist: Steven H. Aden, Senior Counsel and Vice President of the Center for Life at Alliance Defending Freedom

Monday, March 4, 2013 – Essay #11 – Fragment on the Constitution and the Union by Abraham Lincoln – Guest Essayist: Hadley Heath, Senior Policy Analyst at the Independent Women’s Forum

Tuesday, March 5, 2013 – Essay #12 – Rights of the British Colonies Asserted and Proved by James Otis – Guest Essayist: Professor Joerg Knipprath, Professor of Law at Southwestern Law School

Wednesday, March 6, 2013 – Essay #13 – A Summary View of the Rights of British America by Thomas Jefferson – Guest Essayist: Professor Joerg Knipprath, Professor of Law at Southwestern Law School

Thursday, March 7, 2013 – Essay #14 – An Election Sermon by Gad Hitchcock – Guest Essayist: James D. Best, author of Tempest at Dawn, a novel about the 1787 Constitutional Convention, and Principled Action, Lessons from the Origins of the American Republic

Friday, March 8, 2013 – Essay #15 – The Farmer Refuted by Alexander Hamilton – Guest Essayist: Professor Joerg Knipprath, Professor of Law at Southwestern Law School

Monday, March 11, 2013 – Essay #16 – Common Sense by Thomas Paine – Guest Essayist: Scot Faulkner, Co-Founder, George Washington Institute of Living Ethics, Shepherd University

Wednesday, March 13, 2013 – Essay #18 – Virginia Declaration of Rights by George Mason – Guest Essayist: Kevin R. C. Gutzman, J.D., Ph.D. Professor and Director of Graduate Studies Department of History, Western Connecticut State University and Author, James Madison and the Making of America

Thursday, March 14, 2013 – Essay #19 – Fast Day Proclamation of the Continental Congress – Guest Essayist: George Landrith, President, Frontiers of Freedom

Friday, March 15, 2013 – Essay #20 – The Northwest Ordinance – Guest Essayist: Allison R. Hayward, political and ethics attorney

Tuesday, March 12, 2013 – Essay #17 – Letter to Roger Weightman by Thomas Jefferson – Guest Essayist: Scot Faulkner, Co-Founder, George Washington Institute of Living Ethics, Shepherd University

Monday, March 18, 2013 – Essay #21 – Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments by James Madison – Guest Essayist: Justin Butterfield, Religious Liberty Attorney at the Liberty Institute

Tuesday, March 19, 2013 – Essay #22 – Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom by Thomas Jefferson – Guest Essayist: Gennie Westbrook, Director of Curriculum and Professional Development, The Bill of Rights Institute

Wednesday, March 20, 2013 – Essay #23 – Letter to the Hebrew Congregation by George Washington – Essayist: Robert Lowry Clinton, Professor and Chair Emeritus, Department of Political Science, Southern Illinois University Carbondale

Thursday, March 21, 2013 – Essay #24 – Farewell Address by George Washington – Guest Essayist: Justin Butterfield, Religious Liberty Attorney at the Liberty Institute

Friday, March 22, 2013 – Essay #25 – Letter to the Danbury Baptist Association by Thomas Jefferson – Guest Essayist: Tony Williams, Program Director, Washington-Jefferson-Madison Institute

Monday, March 25, 2013 – Essay #26 – On Property by James Madison – Guest Essayist: Tony Williams, Program Director, Washington-Jefferson-Madison Institute

Tuesday, March 26, 2013 – Essay #27 – The Articles of Confederation – Guest Essayist: Dr. Charles K. Rowley, General Director of The Locke Institute and Duncan Black Professor Emeritus of Economics at George Mason University

Wednesday, March 27, 2013 – Essay #28 – The Articles of Confederation – Guest Essayist: Brion McClanahan, Ph.D., Author of: The Founding Fathers Guide to the Constitution

Thursday, March 28, 2013 – Essay #29 – Circular Letter to the States by George Washington – Guest Essayist: Horace Cooper: Legal commentator and Fellow at the Center for Political and Constitutional Studies at Frontiers for Freedom

Friday, March 29, 2013 – Essay #30 – Letter to John Jay by George Washington – Guest Essayist: James Legee, Graduate Fellow at the Matthew J. Ryan Center for the study of Free Institutions and the Public Good, Villanova University