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The Relevance of the Preamble to Constitutional Interpretation

The preamble to the United States Constitution is something that is widely employed within political and theoretical arguments but is virtually never relied upon in court cases interpreting the Constitution. Is this treatment correct under the Constitution’s original meaning?

The preamble provides that “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

This stirring language is well known by the public but has rarely been used in constitutional argument. Its main use is to support popular sovereignty (“We the People”) and to support the claim that the people of the nation rather than the states are sovereign (“We the People of the United States”). Some people challenge this practice, while others defend it. I defend something of a middle position.

There are three main positions one can have about the preamble:

  1. The preamble is a source of power for the national government. Under this view, Congress has the power to, for example, promote the general welfare and to insure domestic tranquility. The enumerated powers are thus supplemented by the preamble.
  1. The preamble is simply symbolic language that has no function. It is philosophical language that states the purpose of the Constitution, but it should not be used when interpreting the Constitution. This position seems in practice to be the one that the courts employ since they almost never refer to the preamble when interpreting the Constitution.
  1. The preamble has a significant, but limited function. It states the purposes of the Constitution and therefore should be used to resolve ambiguity in constitutional provisions, but not as an independent source of power.

In my view, this last position is the correct one. At the time of the Constitution, preambles to statutes were understood to have this function. They were not independent sources of power but could be employed to resolve ambiguity. They have the same function within the Constitution and should be employed in that manner.

My position suggests that Congress is limited to the enumerated powers. But that when we interpret those powers, we can use the preamble to discover the purposes of the Constitution and therefore to resolve ambiguities within the constitutional language by reference to those purposes.

Under this view, then, one might expect frequent reference to the preamble in constitutional interpretation. Yet, one rarely sees this, even in originalist writings. This might seem to be problematic, but there is a possible justification for this failure to reference the preamble. It is not often that the preamble will actually help resolve an interpretive uncertainty. For example, the purpose of promoting a more perfect union does not tell us how far towards union one ought to move. It is simply a more secure and greater union than the Articles of Confederation provided.  Similarly, the term “general welfare” is often unhelpful, because it too requires interpretation to know what the general welfare is.

One can imagine situations where the preamble helps. For example, one might argue that state sovereign immunity would work an injustice to someone who is owed money by the state. Thus, Justice Wilson in Chisholm v. Georgia properly invoked the establish justice language when interpreting Article III in a case involving a contract claim against Georgia. So sometimes the preamble is applicable, even though it is rarely invoked.

Reader Discussion

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on March 01, 2019 at 07:05:49 am

Interesting piece.

If Marshall had employed it in Marbury, might he have derived, "the People" say what the law is, vs. "SCOTUS"?

And, Chevron, Auer, et all, would they have ever abused if the Preamble were instead referred, deferred to?

Courts, especially SCOTUS do not like ambiguity, so they decide to either make up what it means or defer to what another (unelected) agency says they mean. If they (SCOTUS) were to refer ambiguities to the Preamble, they would logically:

1) hold in favor (by a Rule of Lenity), of the party that has their "Blessings of Liberty" most threatened
2) send the law back to its originator (Congress acting as the agent of the people, not the agency acting as the agent of Congress), to clarify the law.

Of course, this would bring the wheels of justice to a halt, and the wheels of legislature; but it would only happen once or twice before Congress got the message, and thereby, be truly checked by the Judiciary. In addition, the Judiciary would likely become a lot less oligarchical.

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Paul Binotto
on March 01, 2019 at 11:00:53 am

Lately I've been quoting the preamble to help define the meaning of the word "liberty" in the Fifth Amendment. To "secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity" suggests the word "Liberty" means more than imprisonment.

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Devin Watkins
on March 01, 2019 at 11:58:34 am

Indeed, it may even explain the rationale behind prisoner conjugal visits...

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Paul Binotto
on March 01, 2019 at 13:07:26 pm

In a number of cases concerning the limits of STATE power / sovereignty, Marshall DID reference the Preamble and made plain his belief that the "sovereign" of the American Regime was, "We the People" taken directly from the preamble.

Right or wrong, Marshall did make such a claim and used this as a basis for denying certain powers claimed by the States.

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gabe
on March 01, 2019 at 13:29:08 pm

I hope Rappaport and others consider a fourth possible interpretation: The U.S. preamble is this nation’s June 21, 1788 civic, civil, and legal agreement by which individual citizens either collaborate for statutory justice or dissent. Let me unpack that statement.

About 2,500 years ago Pericles suggested, in my paraphrase, that humans may collaborate for equity under statutory justice. Collaborate means work responsibly. Equity means earn a lifestyle according to personal contributions. Statutory justice means fidelity to the-objective-truth. The-objective-truth is discovered, actual reality, the standard by which truth is judged. For example, civic people do not lie so as to lessen human misery and loss rather than to follow some divine law. Statutory justice is perfection, a perhaps impossible result, but a worthy pursuit. The people act for the result by establishing and maintaining statutory law and its enforcement, always alert to injustice as the motivation to amend the law or its institutions of enforcement.

With that explanation, I now suggest that the debates by the 55 framers in the 1787 constitutional convention in Philadelphia produced concerns and propositions that the committee of forms, chaired by Gouverneur Morris, expressed in the U.S. preamble as intended results and actions to achieve the results. The articles that follow the U.S. preamble either conform to those results or may be amended by the people. Only 39 of the delegates were not dissident to the document so signed it. The 1787 U.S. Constitution, objectionably to some delegates, offered the basis for a nation (a people in their states) who may choose to pursue statutory justice by developing the rule of law and its institutions.

The wonder of the U.S. preamble is that it grants individual fellow citizens the opportunity to choose between either joining civic citizens as defined in the agreement or joining dissidents who behave as they do. Dissidents are hypocrites to the agreement, but non-citizens are merely aliens to the agreement. Elected officials who do not collaborate for the results enumerated in the U.S. preamble are hypocrites. My personal interpretation of the six intentions of the 1787 U.S. preamble’s essence include: civic integrity, justice, goodwill, self-defense, prosperity, and responsible freedom with the two beneficiaries citizens and future citizens. I collaborate at local libraries and elsewhere for my ideas as a means of comprehending the 1787 intentions but not to revise them.

Of my claims that the U.S. preamble is a civic, civil, and legal agreement the evidence for legal seems clear. Before June 21, 1788, the USA was represented by the 1774 confederation of 13 eastern seaboard states. On September 17, 1787, 39 delegates from 12 states signed the document, the Continental Congress endorsed it, and on June 21, 1788, nine states established the USA, leaving four states the opportunity to join or remain free and independent according to the 1783 Treaty of Paris. Two states joined before operations began on March 4, 1789. I stop there, because the 1789-1793 Congress erroneously weakened the U.S. preamble, and subsequent generations have left us the privilege of enacting reform by practicing and promoting the U.S. preamble’s existing propositions.

“Civil” is complicated by two applications: legal and social. The U.S. preamble appeals to fellow citizens to publicly observe the law and manage their societies accordingly. In other words, private associations nonetheless observe the law. Anyone’s efforts to impose social morality as legality opposes the US. preamble. Thus, the First Amendment’s religion clauses are unconstitutional according to the fact that the U.S. preamble leaves the decision to develop spiritual pursuits to the individual citizen. In fact, promoting religion opposes civic integrity, since no one’s spirituality or none has been disproven. No one enters a civic forum to debate the character of their personal God or none.

There remains the question of whether or not the U.S. preamble is a civic agreement. Civic citizens voluntarily collaborate for individual happiness with civic integrity rather than compete for dominant opinion. This concept might be expressed as (responsibly) live and let live. Thus, both theists and non-theists mutually appreciate civic citizens under the motivations and inspirations expressed by the U.S. preamble. Every law abiding religion flourishes because its believers want it without attempting to impose it on the public.

The 1787 Constitution promises the people in their states a representative republic. Fellow citizens who propose alternatives are obliged to first present the evidence that the existing system is unjust. Merely proposing one of constitutional church-state partnership as in England, or social democracy, or collective-minority chaos, or a majority opposing the U.S. preamble’s agreement, or a Marxism or other government is insufficient. Any change must conform to the six results that are stated in the U.S. preamble. Proposing the UN’s 30 human rights opposes the U.S. preamble. Further, benefits from the U.S. preamble’s results cannot be confined to extant citizens: Current citizens must provide an achievable better future for Posterity---the citizens in the future. Thus, the national debt is hypocrisy by the current citizens.

There’s a lot to say about how the proposition of the U.S. preamble has been obfuscated, but that is a topic for another time. Just now, I’d like to draw this forum’s attention to an achievable better future. Fellow citizens may choose to vote for candidates for office who have demonstrated two practices: first, ordering public issues according to the six intended results and the two beneficiaries stated in the U.S. preamble and second, collaborating to discover and benefit from the-objective-truth.

Not appreciating fellow citizens who trust-in and commit-to the U.S. preamble’s agreement to work for equity under statutory justice is a dissident’s activity.

I have written before and write it again: Writers in this forum are qualified and have the opportunity to develop these ideas into an achievable better future in the USA. I trust that thoughts and work is underway without constraint.

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PHILLIP BEAVER
on March 01, 2019 at 14:08:15 pm

Interesting perspective, Mr. Beaver.

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Paul Binotto
on March 01, 2019 at 14:14:59 pm

Very interesting observation, Mr. Gabe, one that I was not aware of; was this before or after he reserved sole interpretive power in Marbury? Or, more accurately to say, created a standard that successors would unabashedly misrepresent and misapprehend to their individual and collective advantages?

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Paul Binotto
on March 01, 2019 at 14:25:33 pm

Doubtful.

Of course, it would have the same positive effect on the law faculty-industrial complex that the discovery of the Permian Basin had on the oil industry. Imagine the possibilities for "scholarship" (i.e., profligate publication): new law journals devoted entirely to the "insure domestic Tranquility" clause or the "more perfect Union" clause. O frabjous day! I can see it even now: in a L&L post 50 years hence, Prof. X will decline comment as he is not an "expert" in "more perfect Union" clause jurisprudence.

The words and phrases in the Preamble are no less elastic in the hands of willful academics and judges than are any other words and phrases in the Constitution, and likely more so. I find it highly improbable that Rappaport's idea would be realized in any other fashion than as means to further enlarge federal power and authority, not contain it.

What is needed is not a new source of text, but the installation of judges with the conviction necessary to stand athwart legislative and executive history yelling Stop!

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QET
on March 01, 2019 at 15:52:36 pm

"Liberty," according to Burlamaqui, the leading author on natural law at the time of the Founding, was one of the three attributes of the human soul, the others being the understanding ("perfected" as wisdom) and the will ("perfected" as virtue -- per the first chapter of the first book in Burlamaqui's "Principles of Natural and Politic Law," online at https://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/burlamaqui-the-principles-of-natural-and-politic-law ). Wherever you see the paired phrase "wisdom and virtue" (such as a few early state constitutions), you see the "fingerprints" of Burlamaqui's influence on the Founders. It was Burlamaqui who wrote (as copied into the Declaration of Independence) that governments exist to secure natural rights, with natural right understood in terms of the pursuit of happiness.

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John Schmeeckle
on March 01, 2019 at 16:17:08 pm

According to the "original contract" theory at the heart of the "unwritten" English/British constitution (with Coke as its expositor in Calvin's Case), the people make a contract with a sovereign, pledging allegiance in exchange for protection. In the case of the USA, "the people" (represented by their delegates in the Continental Congress), instead of making such a contract, authorized and urged the several colonies to formally break with England and write the initial state constitutions (referring here to the Congressional independence resolution of May 10 and 15, 1776).. The origin of the thirteen States comes from the overarching collective body.

Marshall clearly had this May 1776 independence resolution in mind at the very beginning of his argument in Marbury v. Madison, when he paraphrases this document by saying that the right of "the people" to establish such government that "shall most conduce to their own happiness, is the basis on which the whole American fabric has been erected."

And to quote James Madison, in Federalist #43: "The safety and happiness of society are the objects at which all political institutions aim, and to which all such institutions must be sacrificed." This phrase "safety and happiness" encapsulates the purpose of government, going back to Cicero's De legibus, and reappearing in Hutcheson, Burlamaqui, Vattel, and pre-revolutionary colonial argumentation over and over again. See: "Safety and Happiness: The American Revolutionary Standard for Governmental Legitimacy" at https://www.academia.edu/1479704/Safety_and_Happiness_The_American_Revolutionary_Standard_for_Governmental_Legitimacy (just scroll down a bit for the online version).

The above-mentioned independence resolution of May 10 and 15, 1776 DEFINED the terms "safety" and "happiness." See "The May Resolution and the Declaration of Independence" at https://startingpointsjournal.com/the-may-resolution-and-the-declaration-of-independence/

Getting back to the Preamble of the Constitution, it is a clear expression of the Ciceronian "natural law" principles of government found in both the May Resolution and the Declaration of Independence. "More perfect union" bows in the direction of Aristotle's concept of government as the "perfection" of (collective or social) human nature. Cicero goes beyond Aristotle by saying that the "perfection" of human nature lies in habitual virtue, with benevolence at the heart of the preeminent virtue of justice, and of course the importance of justice is emphasized by both Aristotle and the Preamble of the Constitution.

Providing for the common defense and ensuring domestic tranquility both correlate with the "safety" of the people, and promoting the general welfare clearly correlates with the public "happiness." John Adams conflated public and private happiness in both his influential "Thoughts on Government" (APRIL 1776, just before he defined "happiness" in the May Resolution) and in the May Resolution itself, using terms ("internal peace, virtue and good order" -- the definition of happiness) that apply both to private and public happiness.

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John Schmeeckle
on March 01, 2019 at 16:34:25 pm

Another excellent piece by Rappaport who once again hits the nail on the head. I've spent the past twenty years immersed in 18th Century American Political Philosophy so his subject is familiar territory for me. There are a few points I would like to make in response to some things he mentions and some of the comments above.

Obviously, the question of how to define "Liberty" must be answered correctly before it is possible to make sense of our nation's founding documents. It was the second problem I had to solve when I began my research in earnest. The first was "What is the purpose of government?" The answer to that is found in the Declaration of Independence: to protect the Liberty of the People.

Most people would say it is a right to do what you want without interference from God, government or the neighbors, or Freedom from any kind of control, which would mean no limits on government power or individual behavior. Anarchy and Tyranny. Which makes no logical sense.

The Founders did not define freedom that way. To them, Freedom is the absence of external control. But, they also did not think of Liberty as a more eloquent term for Liberty. Liberty is bigger than that. They defined it as "Freedom and Independence," and they defined independence as "self-control, self-government, and/or self-reliance & self-restraint. Now, if you think you are looking at the Golden Rule, a.k.a. the principle of reciprocity, you are correct.

John Adams defined Liberty as "a power to do as we would be done by." In political terms, it means there are limits to the freedom and independence of individuals, societies and nations. We are free to exercise our independence as long as we cause no harm to others.

That is why they worried so much about what Prosperity would do to their Posterity.

It means that the definition of Liberty is also the formula for getting and keeping it, and getting it back once lost. In Western Tradition, the Golden Rule is considered to be the summation of the laws of God and Nature--an idea which germinated at the very beginning of western civilization with the ancient Sumerians who believed that humans are endowed with certain rights that come from a higher power, even though they were pagans who followed a multitude of capricious gods and goddesses. They called liberty Amagi, which literally means "freedom from tax-slavery".

The Sumerian symbol for Liberty is the same as their symbol for "mother", except it has a box around it indicating the meaning is not literal. Elsewhere in the world, the term for Mother can refer to the women who gave you birth, or the Earth, or Peace and Plenty, itself a metaphor for Paradise or Heaven. It was first written 4,300 years ago. But the idea must have been around much longer than that. When Abraham left Ur of the Chaldees one of the things he probably brought with him would have been the Sumerian definition of liberty.

In the early 18th Century, John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon, two members of the British Parliament who are famous for producing a series of essays under the title "Cato's Letters", wrote an essay for "The Independent Whig" that contained this statement"

"The Decalogue, or the Law of the Ten Commandments, given by God Himself from Mt. Sinai with great Glory and astonishing Circumstances, was little else than the Law of Nature reduced into Tables and expressed in words of God's own chusing."

Trenchard and Gordon were not talking religion. They were talking politics. They were not trying to convert anyone to a particular religion, but only to remember who governs the Universe and where our Liberty comes from. And these two gentlemen are considered to be the Fathers of modern Libertarian thought. Four generations of American colonists devoured their writings.

The Founders' definition of Liberty gives us the formula for getting and keeping it in this way:

Freedom and Independence means "freedom from external control and the exercise of self-control, self-government, and/or self-reliance & self-restraint."

Self-reliance develops Common Sense which in time becomes Wisdom.

Self-restraint develops Common Decency & Common Courtesy which in time become Virtue.

The Founders believed that God gave us Liberty so we could pursue Happiness, meaning "well-being, contentment, prosperity, and joy", and that He gave us the Law so we could develop the Wisdom and Virtue to find it. The biblical definition of Wisdom is Knowledge and Understanding of God and His laws. The biblical definition of Virtue is Righteousness, or the perfection of obedience to His laws, the greatest of which is the Golden Rule.

The Golden Rule goes back so far in human history that there is some form of the Principle of Reciprocity in every ancient religion that still exists in the world today. The idea of Karma is one of them. It would be what early hunter-gatherers would have to apply to their neighbors, what every child would have to learn in order to survive.

With every stage of development of human society, small bands becoming clans, clans becoming tribes, tribes becoming nations, nations becoming states, states becoming empires, empires becoming a civilization, Golden Rule had to be be applied to a larger and larger group of neighbors. Jesus didn't say the right question to ask was "Who is my neighbor?" He said the right question to ask is "Am I the good neighbor?"

It means Liberty cannot exist in the absence of Virtue, and Virtue cannot exist in the absence of Wisdom, and Wisdom cannot exist unless we recognize that the physical and metaphysical Universe are governed by Laws of Cause and Effect to which we are all held accountable. George Mason argued in a Virginia courthouse that "the laws of nature are identical to the laws of God, whose authority can be superseded by no power on earth."

Until Americans can wrap their heads around these ideas without beating others senseless, we will continue to let our God-given Liberty slip away from us. It will be for our posterity to get it back.

For those who think I am advocating the use of force or coercion to make people live in harmony with the laws of God and Nature, nothing could be further from the Truth. Obedience to the Law of God must be voluntary or it isn't Virtue. And all that anybody needs to get started is to recognize that these laws apply to them, too.

Think what would happen if everybody did it. Think what happens when we don't. Case closed.

The Preamble to the U.S. Constitution cannot be properly understood without reference to the Declaration of Independence which contains three things that must be taken together:

1. The reference to "the Laws of Nature, and of Nature's God";
2. The reference to the Self-Evident Truths;
3. The reference to "free and independent" States.

From these three concepts, we learn how to discover the meanings of the words in the Preamble: Union, Justice, Domestic Tranquility (i.e.: Peace), Defense, General Welfare, Blessings of Liberty.

Liberty cannot exist in the absence of society. Our God-given rights come to us in the context of society, they are protected by God-given obligations we have to one another. The better we are at fulfilling our duties and obligations to those whom we depend on, and to those who depend upon us, the greater our well-being, contentment, prosperity, and joy.

"Duty is ours, the results are God's."
John Quincy Adams

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Karen Renfro
on March 01, 2019 at 16:36:42 pm

I ponder the subordinate clause with its purpose for six results, by six specific actions, for two parties according to the intentions: “Union . . . Justice . . . domestic Tranquility . . . common defence . . . general Welfare, and Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.” I perceive five freedoms from oppressions---disunity, injustice, strife, attack, and poverty---so as to serve the human status: liberty. Thus, five freedoms-from oppression provide the human’s liberty-to responsibly pursue individual happiness.

That liberty-to pursue happiness is a blessing seems more a claim than an imposition. That is, neither God nor government impose on the human being the liberty-to responsibly pursue individual happiness. Again, the human being already has that prerogative. The aware human being discovers that he or she has the individual power, the individual energy, and the individual authority (IPEA) to develop either integrity or infidelity to the-objective-truth. If the former, individual happiness is possible and if the latter, woe may be ineluctable.

Thus, the civic citizen, defined as the fellow citizen who trusts-in and commits-to the agreement that is offered in the U.S. preamble, collaborates for freedom-from five stated oppressions so that he or she may take the human liberty-to pursue individual happiness with civic integrity. That is, so as not to prevent a fellow citizen’s pursuit of individual happiness.

I do not perceive that extant citizens can discover the wonder of the U.S. preamble by trying to understand the minds of the citizens who ratified the U.S. Constitution on June 21, 1788, establishing the USA.

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PHILLIP BEAVER
on March 01, 2019 at 16:55:40 pm

Excellent discussion!

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Paul Binotto
on March 01, 2019 at 16:59:00 pm

Thank you, Mr. Binotto.

Please help develop that perspective.

In fact, my comments reflect the collaboration of over seventy people who attended public library meetings to promote the widespread practice of the U.S. preamble. A recent articulation is that the U.S. preamble promotes individual happiness with civic integrity, and the wonderful thoughts continue to come.

I doubt the congressional purpetrators of the Michael Cohen spectacle ever considered the U.S. preamble, and civic citizens may vote them out of office and have the duty to do so.

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PHILLIP BEAVER
on March 01, 2019 at 21:29:07 pm

Marshal doesn't "reserved sole interpretive power," merely that judges have a duty to obey their oath and defense the Constitution rather than a mere statute. Same oath taken by the President and members of Congress.

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Devin Watkins
on March 01, 2019 at 22:14:54 pm

Sorry: that's perpetrators.

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PHILLIP BEAVER
on March 02, 2019 at 04:28:54 am

Quite so, hence: "Or, more accurately to say, created a standard that successors would unabashedly misrepresent and misapprehend to their individual and collective advantages".

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Paul Binotto
on March 02, 2019 at 10:54:28 am

"More perfect union” bows in the direction of Aristotle’s concept of government as the “perfection” of (collective or social) human nature. Cicero goes beyond Aristotle by saying that the “perfection” of human nature lies in habitual virtue, with benevolence at the heart of the preeminent virtue of justice, and of course the importance of justice is emphasized by both Aristotle and the Preamble of the Constitution." --

I am sure you are correct, although it seems to stretch the framers conscious motivations; to "form a more perfect union", surely is little more than stating the painfully obvious, (at least to those who had enough leisure to notice); that the Confederacy, was a most(ly) imperfect (although preferred by most) union - in short, it looked like a beauty on the lot, but once driven a mile down the road, it became immediately apparent that its performance and handling, well, sucked.

The eloquent turn of phrase (although in keeping with the manner and style of the period), likely was a PC way of admitting to the people, "Sorry, we messed up and need a do-over."

Without a doubt, the framers were deeply influenced, and their political sensibilities likely were formed nearly as much by a classic education and philosophy, as they were by their personal and direct experiences with the tyranny of the crown and the tribulations of the Confederacy.

And, certainly, they may, must have, consulted these classic sources in their search for a badly needed fix, but respectfully, the connections (as fascinating and truly convincing as they are), you draw seem to unduly over-shadow, or rather, under-state, the extent to which the framers were very much living in their present, and reacting in a rational manner more practical than theoretical, to their present crisis of government.

I think the more interesting observation - if rational, sane people never begin by adopting a second-most perfect form of government - then a Confederation was considered (at the time) the most perfect form of government, at least by most folks, or they wouldn’t have chosen it first. But, people being the imperfect (albeit enlightened), creatures that they are, could not sustain that perfection, or if you (I do) prefer, ideal – a less centralized; more subsidiary, solidarity.

Notwithstanding, of course, the converse argument that the Confederation was chosen because most couldn’t perceive the perfection of the Democratic Republic, only obvious to, and preferred by, a minority of elites, (today an argument Progressives seem to happily to embrace, and are beginning to publicly proclaim, for their preferred socialistic form).

So, in a sense, might it be logically argued that, in forming a more perfect union, the framers were actually choosing a less perfect form?

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Paul Binotto
on March 02, 2019 at 12:51:24 pm

The founder's ideas we should consider about all this, by the way, is Gouverneur Morris. He personally wrote the preamble in the Committee of Style!

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CJ Wolfe
on March 02, 2019 at 14:28:26 pm

This is true, and Morris is too much overlooked as one of the most influential of his colleagues. I suggest that anyone who wishes to study the Preamble to the Constitution go to Liberty Fund, Inc. at www.libertyfund.org and order the five-volume set of "The Founders' Constitution", originally published by University of Chicago.

It is an annotated version, with commentary from the founders, the political philosophers they cited in their works, and the great contributors to the tradition that inspired the American Revolution--going back a very long ways. What I like about it is that you can study anything about the Constitution that interests you within the context of the whole. What I don't like is the original index, which is difficult to use unless you have time to figure out how. But, if you mark the passages and flag the pages that interest you, you'll get by alright.

While you are at it, you might order up Liberty Fund's wonderful Gideon Edition of "The Federalist" to go with the Founders' Constitution.

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Karen Renfro
on March 02, 2019 at 17:01:57 pm

Karen Renfro wrote, “'What is the purpose of government?' The answer to that is found in the Declaration of Independence: to protect the Liberty of the People."

Um, according to the Declaration of Independence, echoing the May 1776 congressional independence resolution (as well as echoing Cicero and Hutcheson, etc.), the "safety and happiness" of the people is the purpose of government, with "safety" defined (by John Adams in the May 1776 congressional resolution) as "defence of lives, liberties and properties" (echoing Magna Carta) -- so liberty is a part of the picture, but only a part. Promoting the happiness of the people (as John Adams and Congress stated) goes farbeyond personal autonomy and public safety.

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John Schmeeckle
on March 02, 2019 at 17:15:56 pm

Paul Binatto, thank you for engaging with my thoughts on the natural law foundation of the preamble of the Constitution. I think it is fair to say that It was second nature for the founders to use language that resonated with the natural law tradition that they were all schooled in, especially regarding the fundamental purpose of government: to promote/protect/encourage/facilitate (verb choice here?) the safety and happiness of the people.

Regarding the difference between a confederation and a federation, the obvious place to look is the Founders' handbook for international relations: Vattel's "The Law of Nations," which was "constantly in the hands of our congress now sitting" according to Benjamin Franklin in 1775.

According to Vattel, the fundamental difference between a confederation and a federation is that a federation (but not a confederation) is a PERPETUAL union -- it is BY DEFINITION unbreakable. This in itself was the essential justification for the Union effort in the Civil War (although the suspicion of British meddling behind the actions of leading southern traitors was definitely a complementary issue).

I suspect that, in the minds of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention, the question of whether a federation was more "perfect" than a confederation was not a point at issue. The issue was what would or could suitably address the needs of the confederated "united" States. And of course, remembering the anti-Federalists, there were a lot of people who, rightly or wrongly, thought that moving from a confederation to a federation was a bad idea.

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John Schmeeckle
on March 02, 2019 at 17:41:26 pm

I respectfully disagree. Young Governeur Morris was to the Constitution as young Thomas Jefferson was to the Declaration of Independence: Their function was to give good phrasing to ideas and commitments that had already been agreed upon by their more influential elders. (As Jefferson himself said, there were no new ideas in the Declaration of Independence.) The foundation of the political philosophy of Jefferson in 1776 coincided with that of his principal editors: John Adams and Benjamin Franklin. Of course this was part of the "common sense of the matter" among the congressional delegates, to use Jefferson's phrase. This natural-law foundation eloquently reappeared in the preamble of the Constitution, and clearly Governeur Morris was at one with this Ciceronian orientation toward promoting the "safety and happiness" of the people as the essential purpose of government.

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John Schmeeckle
on March 02, 2019 at 18:41:05 pm

Although you are correct about Morris' role in drafting the Preamble, he did write a considerable number of letters and essays and give speeches about government which will enlighten those who want to know what he thought.

Liberty Fund has a long list of primary sources from the American Revolution. Anyone who wants to know what it was all about should acquire them all and read them. Buy two copies so you can donate one to your local library.

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Karen Renfro
on March 02, 2019 at 18:48:19 pm

"We hold these truths to be self-evident,
1. that all men are created equal,
2. that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,
3. that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.
4. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men..."

In this passage, we are told that governments are insituted to secure our right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Happiness is what God gave us Liberty for.

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Karen Renfro
on March 02, 2019 at 20:05:16 pm

" And of course, remembering the anti-Federalists, there were a lot of people who, rightly or wrongly, thought that moving from a confederation to a federation was a bad idea."

Without a doubt, there was a certain level of prescience among the anti-Federalists. funny just finished a work on Chief Marshall - OMG, did he rile the anti-Feds up.

Also, agree on difference between "CON-federation and Federation as the former is a more loosely organized association while the later is indeed intended to be permanent. If not, then why not stay with the Articles of Confederation.

Oops, I almost abbreviated that to AOC - but the Confederation was not so vacuous or "airheaded" as is the present darling of the looney left, AOC, Alexandria Occasionally [Functioning] Corte[x].

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gabe
on March 02, 2019 at 20:13:17 pm

Dear John Schmeeckle,

Thank you for your thoughtful and well-considered response. I agree with your suspicions; this was my primary point - they were bowing, not to Cicero, but to the pressure of needing to expediently repair what was flawed in their original political arrangement.

Still, (for me) the question remains unanswered - why did an otherwise rational and sane, (and highly motivated) group of men begin with a confederation unless the majority preferred it, demanded it, as the ideal form? I suppose, that the answer may lie, as you emphasize, in that most states did not desire or contemplate the union to be perpetual.

My understanding is that the Constitution does provide an escape from the perpetual Federation to any state(s) for bonafide (contractual) malfeasance by the Federal government, against state(s) sovereignty; and that this was essentially what the southern states invoked as justification for their secession. And, Lincoln, in turn, (rightly in my view) maintained no such violation transpired, therefore, the union's justification for waging war to restore its illegal rupture. Lincoln didn't maintain the states can never be justified in their succession, rather that they weren't in that instance.

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Paul Binotto
on March 02, 2019 at 20:19:47 pm

To Follow-up:

And, if they didn't intend a permanent union, what did they intend, (I'm more than a few did), an eventual 13 independent countries - whoa - can't you just imagine how complicated that NAFTA deal would be!

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Paul Binotto
on March 02, 2019 at 20:31:21 pm

And, of course, the Electoral College further demonstrates the Anti-Federalist distrust, not only of centralized gov't, but of pure democracy...they must've been formattable buggers.

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Paul Binotto
on March 02, 2019 at 23:04:11 pm

I doubt any sentence in history has been so miss-read or misrepresented as the U.S. preamble.

Consider the grammar. The main thought is: we willing people establish laws and institutions for the USA. A subordinate clause expresses the intentions. That clause has five actions to effect five results: Union, Justice, Tranquility, defense, and Welfare. The five actions---form, establish, insure, provide, and promote---would secure inalienable opportunities. The opportunities are liberty to us and Posterity. While the five results can be managed by either coercion or force, responsible liberty is an existing opportunity only the individual can exercise.

Contrast the 263 words of the preamble to the Massachusetts Constitution. The 52 words of the U.S. preamble leave it to posterity to establish statutory justice according to ultimate human authenticity, which is individual happiness with civic integrity. Humankind has not yet discovered the standards for civic integrity. Therefore, civic dialogue errs to presume to represent all of the-objective-truth. Fellow citizens cannot expect to develop public wisdom without individual collaboration, and they need not ponder opportunity for people in the past. Those people died.

In other words, it is not necessary to evaluate why people thought as they did on June 21, 1788, when nine states established the USA. The U.S. preamble challenges each fellow citizen to choose: either trust-in and commit-to the civic, civil, and legal agreement that is offered in the U.S. preamble or behave as the dissidents do. Neither elected nor appointed officials are exempt from fellow citizenship and their opportunity to develop their person to their individual perfection---to collaborate for statutory justice during their lifetime. I do all I can to keep dissidents out of office.

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PHILLIP BEAVER
on March 03, 2019 at 04:52:55 am

Profoundly interesting and insightful commentary, Mr. Beaver.

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Paul Binotto
on March 03, 2019 at 10:43:58 am

Karen Renfro wrote:
“'We hold these truths to be self-evident,
1. that all men are created equal,
2. that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,
3. that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.
4. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men…'”
In this passage, we are told that governments are insituted to secure our right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Happiness is what God gave us Liberty for."

My reply:

1. It is important to consider what "happiness" and "liberty" meant to the Founders. Liberty meant the ability to act in conformity to the law of nature. This included freedom from internal compulsions (such as lust and fear -- two of the "four disorders of the soul") as well as freedom from external oppression.

2. The Founders prominently included VIRTUE in their May 1776 definition of happiness, and according to the Ciceronian natural law tradition, happiness is the byproduct of the individual's cultivation of habitual virtue, with benevolence at the heart of the preeminent virtue of justice.

3. In the thinking of the time (see, for example, Chapter 5, Section 2 of the Massachusetts Constitution, which was essentially an extension of a passage in Vattel's "The Law of Nations"), it was a basic duty of government to cultivate virtue among the people.

Unfortunately, over the past century or so, an Orwellian fraud has been perpetrated by academic scholars on the American people, associating the Declaration of Independence with the philosophy of John Locke (with occasional lip service to the likes of Hutcheson and Burlamaqui). Here is a historiographical overview:

The heart of this perverse Lockean interpretation is the groundless assumption that the Declaration’s reference to the "unalienable rights" of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" refers to either the Lockean doctrine of property rights in a state of nature, and/or a reflection of Locke’s egoistic discussion of the pursuit of happiness. This two-headed Lockean interpretation ignores the fact that Locke’s "Second Treatise on Government" never associated natural right with happiness; and Locke’s definition of happiness in terms of pleasure (in his "Essay Concerning the Human Understanding") simply doesn’t match the Continental Congress’s actual May 1776 definition of happiness: “internal peace, virtue and good order.” The Lockean interpretation ignores the fact that Francis Hutcheson, not John Locke, gave meaning to the phrase “unalienable rights” in the 1720s and again in the 1740s – in both cases associating violation of unalienable rights with the further right of resistance. (Hutcheson 2004, 186-87, 192) (Hutcheson 2007, 114-15, 231) Hutcheson defined individual right in terms of promoting the public good, without reference to property or a state of nature; and presented happiness as the byproduct of habitually virtuous (especially benevolent) behavior, in keeping with not Locke but rather with Cicero, Burlamaqu and Vattel, not to mention Cumberland, Leibniz and Shaftesbury.

Furthermore, the Lockean interpretation flies in the face of the fact that not Locke but rather Jean-Jacques Burlamaqui—the leading eighteenth-century authority on natural law—wrote of the purpose of government being to secure natural rights, with natural right being understood in terms of reason applied to the pursuit of happiness, which was in turn understood in terms of “perfection” (habitual virtue). Locke’s discussion of the pursuit of happiness is inconsistent with the actual May 1776 congressional definition of happiness (drafted by John Adams), but the three elements of the congressional definition (“internal peace, virtue and good order”) are found in Burlamaqui’s work, as well as in Cumberland and in Cicero, who 2000 years ago articulated the founding precept that the “safety and happiness” of the people was the purpose of government. The 1776 congressional definition of happiness in terms of virtue is the key to unlocking the meaning of the Declaration of Independence, releasing discussion of our nation’s founding document from the straitjacket of “modern liberal” Lockean scholarship.

The essence of the Lockean argument is the following false syllogism: The Declaration of Independence refers to natural rights. Locke discusses natural rights. Therefore, the Declaration of Independence is Lockean. This argument ignores the non-Lockean discussions of the origin of natural rights by Hutcheson, Burlamaqui and Vattel. Furthermore, contemporary scholars read Locke as a prophet of modern liberalism, which allows them to pretend that modern liberal values were present in the founding documents of the United States of America.

For over a century, scholars have generally accorded to John Locke a preeminent influence on the philosophical content of the Declaration of Independence. It is routinely claimed that Locke’s philosophy of enlightened self-interest was fundamental to the thinking of the American founders. To give a typical example, Joyce Appleby has declared that the United States was “born liberal as a nation,” summarizing liberalism as “the idea that society was an aggregation of self-interested individuals tied to one another by the tenuous bonds of envy, exploitation, and competition.” For Appleby, “personal ambition was elevated to a fundamental right in Jefferson’s tellingly modern phrase “the pursuit of happiness.” (Appleby 1992, 31, 49, 160) This reflects the philosophy of John Locke, who rejected the long-standing view of personal happiness as a byproduct of virtue and benevolence.

Locke’s philosophy is one of calculated self-interest, denying the existence of innate principles of just or moral behavior. As Heinrich Rommen (a German legal scholar who fled Nazi persecution) has summed up, Locke understands natural rights as being the “innate and indefeasible rights of individuals,” including “the rights to life, liberty, and estate or property”; but Locke discards “the traditional understanding of natural law as an order of human affairs, as a moral reflex of the metaphysical order of the universe revealed to human reason in the creation as God’s will.” (Rommen 1998, 79) Instead, Locke’s conception of natural law is “a rather nominalistic symbol for a catalogue or bundle of individual rights that stem from individual self-interest. Any order of law is accordingly the product of the contractual will of the individuals concerned, and it has for its object the protection and promotion of individual self-interest.” (Rommen 1998, 79, emphasis added) Jerome Huyler summarizes the Lockean individualist creed as “let every individual live for his own sake” in a society where self-interest is tempered by respect for the law. Huyler articulates the dominant view that the Declaration of Independence is “an invocation of Lockean natural right,” with its emphasis on individual autonomy and the protection of property. (Huyler 1995, 148, 3)

The Lockean interpretation of the Declaration of Independence has maintained an unstable hegemony in American scholarship for over a century. In 1904, Herbert Friedenwald wrote: “A reading of Locke’s Second Treatise will show how thoroughly every sentence and expression in it were graven on Jefferson’s mind.” (Friedenwald 1974/1904, 201) In 1922, Carl Becker wrote: “The lineage is direct: Jefferson copied Locke and Locke quoted Hooker.” (Becker 1958/1922, 79) However, in 1939, Ray Forrest Harvey proclaimed that Jefferson and Locke were at “two opposite poles” in their political philosophy, as evidenced by the Declaration of Independence’s phrase “pursuit of happiness” instead of “property.” Harvey concludes that Burlamaqui was the source for this concept of the pursuit of happiness as an unalienable right. (Harvey 1939, 120, 123-24) Perhaps in response to Harvey, Ursula M. Von Eckardt’s 1959 "The Pursuit of Happiness in the Democratic Creed" sets out to situate Burlamaqui’s thought side by side with that of Locke in a wider intellectual universe of empiricist liberalism. Von Eckardt maintains that Jefferson’s “inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness” was “the core of Jefferson’s political philosophy, like Burlamaqui’s.” According to Von Eckardt, Burlamaqui and Jefferson “worked out a system of ethics and politics” that was “constructed on the ground of Locke’s psychology and epistemology.” (Von Eckadt 1959, vii, 5, 6, 225)

Bernard Bailyn, in his 1967 "The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution" condones the dominant Lockean argument by downplaying the influence on the American revolutionaries of Burlamaqui and his student Emer de Vattel (author of the era’s preeminent treatise on international law). Bailyn obliquely includes Vattel and Burlamaqui as among “the most respected authorities on questions of government.” However, Bailyn concludes that none of the various Enlightenment philosophers, except for Locke, were “clearly dominant” or “wholly determinative” of the American revolutionaries’ political thinking. (Bailyn 1967, 210, 30)

(will continue)

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John Schmeeckle
on March 03, 2019 at 10:49:29 am

Morton White, in his 1978 "The Philosophy of the American Revolution," cautiously argues that Locke and Burlamaqui were “two of the more important influences on the revolutionaries.” (White 1978, 5) White follows Harvey’s conclusion that the Declaration’s unalienable right to the pursuit of happiness is derived from Burlamaqui. (White 1978, 38, note 39; and 219-20) White states that “it is not surprising” that the American revolutionaries did not turn to Locke for “a straightforward exposition of the doctrine of natural law,” and concludes that “Burlamaqui reveals more explicitly than any other writer read by Jefferson the logical substructure” of Jefferson’s exposition of natural rights in the rough draft of the Declaration. (White 1978, 178 and 163) However, White assumes that Burlamaqui and Jefferson embraced a Lockean definition of happiness, referring to Burlamaqui as “one of the more effective transmitters of Locke’s ideas.” (White 1978, 37, 166-67) In doing so, White simply ignores Burlamaqui’s actual definition of happiness, and he ignores Congress’s May 1776 definition of happiness as well.

Also in 1978, Garry Wills discussed the Declaration of Independence in relation to the thought of Francis Hutcheson, who saw Locke’s doctrine as “a threat to the very possibility of virtue,” because it ruled out the possibility that man can “act for nonhedonistic or altruistic motives.” (Wills 1978, 193) [Locke even rules out an innate principle motivating parents to preserve their children. (Locke 1801; "Essay Concerning the Human Understanding," 1:42)] In "Inventing America," Garry Wills assaults the dominant Lockean reading of the Declaration of Independence, arguing that the intellectual world of the young Thomas Jefferson was that of the eighteenth-century “Scottish Enlightenment,” with particular reference to Hutcheson, its seminal figure. (Wills 1978, 180) For Hutcheson, “’the general happiness is the supreme end of all political union.’” (Wills 1978, 252) Wills situates Hutcheson’s notion of happiness within Hutcheson’s concept of the “moral sense,” borrowed from Shaftesbury:

"Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau, despite their various differences, all assume an original “sovereignty” over oneself. But this approach made no sense to the Scottish school of politics and economics. These writers did not, and could not, begin (like Locke) with an idea of right as rule over oneself. Ruler and ruled must be different in order to create a mutuality of obligation….Right was the exercise of moral sense in some way that affected the lives of others for the general good. The basic notion of right was, for Hutcheson, the power “to direct our own actions either for public or innocent private good before we have submitted them to the direction of others.” Burlamaqui argued that one can never alien one’s power to act morally, since that would give one’s master the ability to deny response to human duty. One’s ability to affect the welfare of others cannot be given over to others." (Wills, 215-16)

While initially well-received, Wills’s book suffered a scathing Lockean rebuttal from Ronald Hamowy. Hamowy refutes Wills’ ill-considered argument that Locke did not influence Jefferson’s phrasing of the right to revolution, as the phrase “long train of abuses” appears both in Locke and in the Declaration of Independence. But it is equally clear from Hamowy’s side-by-side quotations that Jefferson used Hutcheson’s phrase “safety and happiness” to indicate the legitimate ends of government, and that Locke’s “safety and security” as the purpose of society makes no mention of happiness. (Hamowy 1979, 506-507) Ignoring the actual 1776 congressional definition of happiness as “internal peace, virtue and good order,” Hamowy proposes his own Lockean interpretation of the pursuit of happiness as used in the Declaration of Independence:

"There is a more sensible explanation, although it is admittedly conjectural. When Jefferson spoke of an inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness, he meant that men may act as they choose in their search for ease, comfort, felicity, and grace, either by owning property or not, by accumulating wealth or distributing it, by opting for material success or asceticism, in a word, by determining the path to their own earthly and heavenly salvation as they alone see fit. Governments may infringe this right only at the peril of violating the social contract on which their legitimacy ultimately rests." (Hamowy 1979, 519, emphasis added)

Hamowy’s conjectural interpretation of the Declaration’s “pursuit of happiness” was embraced by Pauline Maier and by Michael Zuckert, both of whom also ignored Congress’s actual 1776 definition of happiness. (Maier 1997, 270-71, note 79) (Zuckert 1996, 83-4)

In "The Natural Rights Republic" (1996), Michael Zuckert claims that “it is altogether implausible that Burlamaqui could affirm that the end of government is the securing of rights in general, and in particular the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” (Zuckert 2006, 39) Here Zuckert dismisses the thought that Burlamaqui could have said something that Burlamaqui actually said. Burlamaqui defined law as “a rule prescribed by the sovereign of a society to his subjects, either in order to lay an obligation upon them of doing or omitting certain things, under the commination of punishment; or to leave them at liberty to act or not in other things just as they think proper, and to secure to them, in this respect, the full enjoyment of their rights.” (Burlamaqui 2006, 89, emphasis added) Burlamaqui goes on to define right as “nothing else but whatever reason certainly acknowledges as a sure and concise means of attaining happiness, and approves as such.” (Burlamaqui 2006, 69) Not only does Burlamaqui say what Zuckert assumes Burlamaqui didn’t say, but the language of the Declaration of Independence at this point clearly echoes Burlamaqui, associating natural right with happiness (which Locke never did).

Zuckert’s summary dismissal of Burlamaqui allows him to assert that that the pursuit of happiness “is a Lockean idea,” as he expounds on Locke’s egoistic moral psychology:

"According to Locke, all animals seek pleasure and attempt to avoid pain, but human beings alone develop a notion of happiness as such that goes beyond the mere satisfaction of individual desires. The idea of happiness ‘consists in the idea of the enjoyment of pleasure without any considerable mixture of uneasiness.’ The idea of happiness frees human beings from subjugation to individual desires, but they remain emphatically subject to the desire for happiness itself….All pursue happiness but the specific objects they pursue necessarily and legitimately vary. Happiness, or its pursuit, stands as the comprehensive object of action within a human life; human beings are unalterably or necessarily directed to this pursuit by their nature. Even though human beings are doomed to frustration in their pursuit of the ever-elusive happiness, freedom or toleration necessarily characterizes a society that attempts to live according to the guidance of nature as Locke described it in his doctrine of happiness." (Zuckert 1996, 83-84, emphasis added)

In Zuckert’s view, the language of the Declaration of Independence indicates that the Founders believed that happiness CANNOT BE OBTAINED IN THIS LIFETIME, as opposed to Burlamaqui ("true and solid happiness") and both the Virginia and Massachusetts declarations of rights ("pursue and OBTAIN happiness").

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John Schmeeckle
on March 03, 2019 at 11:10:05 am

John:

agreed! Happiness (and liberty) in the minds of the Founders clearly implicated virtue and SELF-restraint. A concise and excellent summary of this position may be found in Thomas West's recent book, "The Political Theory of the American founding.

They understood that, absent virtue, republican self-rule would devolve into anarchy or tyranny - much as we observe today.

Also agree that the Founders DID NOT believe that Happiness was either immanent nor even attainable as a result of their new regime. It matter only that one may properly PURSUE such a state. Consequently, powers were to be limited, both of the government and of the people, via a religious sensibility. How else were restrictions upon aberrant behavior to be enforced? The founders chose to not empower the government to effect this; rather, the values imbued by a religious education were to be the moderating mechanism.

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gabe
on March 03, 2019 at 20:21:43 pm

Civic fellow citizens appreciate "the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity" as the extant opportunity by which each human being may (responsibly) pursue individual happiness with civic morality without renting the opportunities of their children, grandchildren and beyond. It matters not if the individual considers liberty to be granted by God or inherent to the psychological powers of the human being. The principle remains true from generation to future generation.

The scholars and officials who repress human liberty or its representation can be and should be removed from their public offices.

The sooner We the People of the United States exercise the civic, civil, and legal power of the U.S. preamble the better. It is a matter of reform rather than revolution, but some inhabitants have not the propriety to think as fellow citizens, let alone civic fellow citizens.

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PHILLIP BEAVER
on March 04, 2019 at 00:33:58 am

Perhaps the Confederation was more an expedient than a rationality. There were eight slave colonies and five others, so forming a nation may not have seemed feasible. Also, Massachusetts farmers liberated Worcester MA on September 6, 1774, putting pressure on colonial statesmen to organize for continental political power. The first continental congress met from September 5 to October 26, 1774. Shots at Concord, MA occurred on April 19, 1775.

France made America’s war for independence part of their second hundred years’ war with England, and led in strategy and military power in the deciding battle at Yorktown, VA, 1781. The states ratified their free and independent status on January 4, 1784. Shays’ rebellion, August 31, 1786 – June 1787, made it evident that the Confederation of states must yield to a Union of states.

What justifies “Democratic Republic”? Article IV, Section 4 states, “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government” and the mixtures of non-democratic election rules plus appointed judges assures representative rule under statutory law with the amendment provision empowering the march toward statutory justice. What’s evident is that statutory justice is grounded in the-objective-truth rather than dominant opinion.

The outcome of democracy, even democracy by collective minorities is chaos.

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Phillip Beaver
on March 04, 2019 at 07:41:32 am

Interestingly enough, the AOC was actually (at least initially) entitled the "Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union" (https://guides.loc.gov/articles-of-confederation) - I think this qualification demonstrates that the framers were keenly aware what differentiates Federation and Confederation, as John rightly points out; and, it also gives a glimpse into the framer's preference, rationality, and as Mr. Beaver asserts, (calculated) expediency.

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Paul Binotto
on March 04, 2019 at 09:27:40 am

I appreciate your response to Binotto’s comments on Confederation.

Merriam Webster (MW) has “confederation” as alliance or league and “federation” as “an encompassing political or societal entity formed by uniting smaller or more localized entities.” It seems to me, either federation or confederation could be perpetual, and MW does not indicate modern support for Vattel’s opinion. In other words, Vattel might not influence collaboration by a civic people.

Fellow citizens who trust-in and dedicate-to the civic, civil, and legal power of the U.S. preamble are aware when elected officials try to create a dominant opinion rather than collaborate to discover and codify statutory justice. For example, if the people of South Carolina had been, say 2/3 majority civic citizens or civically bound by the U.S. preamble more than religiously enslaved by local ministers of the Holy Bible, they would have demanded of John C. Calhoun, “Not on our watch will you secede from our nation.”

What’s missing in over 800 years of scholarly writing is acceptance that “natural law” is a lame obfuscation of the-objective-truth. The-objective-truth exists and evolves and humans can only discover using reason to confirm rather than create the evidence. For example, that lies lessen loss and misery is unproven. The-objective-truth or discovery of the evidence judges truth, and scholars so far have tried to deny this actual reality.

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Phillip Beaver
on March 04, 2019 at 11:29:27 am

I think you are misreading Trenchard and Gordon. They were clearly low church Reformed Independents, as opposed to partially Reformed high church Anglicans. I read the Independent Whig essays as chiefly arguments by English non-conformists for relief from the Test Acts, specifically the requirement of communion with the CoE. While the Independents had no trouble denying transubstantiation they did not consider the CoE a "true church" (a term of art amongst the Independents) and would not join in communion with the CoE. The Independents could tolerate an established church but they would not tolerate being forced to conform to the practices of an established church, particularly a high church like the CoE.

Trenchard and Gordon weren't saying anything 1720 that John Robinson, Richard Baxter, Hugh Peter, John Cotton, William Brewster and many others hadn't been saying between 1610 and 1660. They were also political because since the 1640s the Independent faction had been the home of constitutional democratic republicanism in England.

The Independents in Parliament had allied with the Presbyterians in Parliament to defeated the monarchists between 1642- 46. The Independents, who dominated the New Model Army, went on to defeat the Presbyterians and resurgent monarchists in 1648-49. They executed Charles I and abolished the House of Lords but they failed to form a stable republic. They were rigorously suppressed during the Restoration and remained on uncomfortable terms with both Parliament and the CoE after 1688.

While Independents made up only about 10% of the population in England in 1650, New England was settled by Independents after 1620 and more than 90% of the population remained Independents of one kind or another (Congregationalists, Baptists, Quakers or Unitarians) in 1770. The Independent Whig and the Cato Letters were speaking only God's long established and recognized Truth to most Americans in the first quarter of the 18th C.

All Independents recognized two kinds of liberty; soul liberty (liberty of conscience) in the context of independent self-governing congregations and the "ancient rights and liberties of Englishmen" that had been guaranteed them in their founding charters. Between 1620-50, Independents had come to the agreement that the ancient rights and liberties of Englishmen were in complete accord with the Bible and so were in complete accord with natural law. They were synonyms.

The Anglophile gentlemen of trade and the professions who drafted our founding documents might have been thinking of liberty and freedom in terms derived from post-1688 English Whiggism but the vast majority of the population in the American Colonies defined liberty and freedom the same way Trenchard and Gordon did; with reference to the Bible, long established tradition and the English common law. For them, there was no other natural law.

Here's a link to the Massachusetts Body of Liberties of 1641. It was written by Independents as a governing document to be read in conjunction with Colony's Charter of 1628. It is an excellent reflection what Independents thought liberty of conscience and civil liberty meant.

https://history.hanover.edu/texts/masslib.html#ms

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EK
on March 04, 2019 at 11:31:45 am

“I find it highly improbable that Rappaport’s idea would be realized in any other fashion than as means to further enlarge federal power and authority, not contain it.”

It seems Rappaport and others are part of 231 years’ obfuscation of the U.S. preamble’s civic, civil, and legal power, which puts him in a class with the likes of James Madison.

It’s seems evident from the Federalist Papers that the framers of the 1787 U.S. Constitution were informed by Machiavelli, including “The Prince,” Chapter XI, which ironically asserts that believers maintain a church-legislature-partnership even though the clergymen and legislators wantonly pick the people’s pockets. However, by their own human power, energy, and authority, a civic individual knows that if a fellow citizen approaches representing a god, he or she is only speaking beliefs, and it is urgent to defend and secure the wallet.

Perhaps he denied it, but James Madison is reportedly the chief author of the Memorial & Remonstrance statement, “Before any man can be considered as a member of Civil Society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governour of the Universe: And if a member of Civil Society, who enters into any subordinate Association, must always do it with a reservation of his duty to the General Authority; much more must every man who becomes a member of any particular Civil Society, do it with a saving of his allegiance to the Universal Sovereign.”

No human has the authority to consider let alone evaluate a human being’s responsible pursuit of individual happiness, so Madison was way out of line in his bold claim. Yet it is the kind of reasoning on which the first Congress advanced the colonial tradition of freedom of theism, in particular Christian sects, and exclusively Protestant sects---a tradition erroneously codified as constitutional in the First Amendment. I doubt any error by the 1789-1793 Congress---indeed offense against the U.S. preamble---is as costly as the oppression of the human, individual power, energy, and authority (IPEA) to pursue integrity, in particular civic integrity, rather than conflict for a dominant mystery such as a religious doctrine. An individual’s hopes for any afterdeath, that vast time during which his or her body, mind, and person have stopped functioning are private. No one brings those hopes to a public forum for collaboration.

The readers and writers in this forum may look in their mirrors and ask, “Am I a civic citizen as defined in the U.S. preamble, or am I a dissident who advocates a theism in order to compete with the human quest for statutory justice?” Amendment of the First Amendment so as to support each individual’s lifetime pursuit of civic integrity could happen fast. It should happen fast.

A better future is achievable if a majority of fellow citizens use two political tools: the U.S. preamble and fidelity to the-objective-truth. I think the readers and writers in this forum are the best candidates to develop a civic people in the USA, beginning with collaboration for civic integrity rather than dominant religious opinion. What’s necessary is a reform of conservatism so as to focus on civic integrity rather than 800 years of colonial British tradition.

The-objective-truth may be discovered and cannot be overturned by reason.

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Phillip Beaver
on March 04, 2019 at 11:45:32 am

I wanted to respond but could not read beyond “Most people would say it is a right to do what you want without interference from God, government or the neighbors.”

Anyone who speaks of God is starting another attempt to impose beliefs on me, and I will not again in my lifetime turn my back on the-objective-truth.

I believe such people are serious and that they may reform toward civic integrity.

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Phillip Beaver
on March 04, 2019 at 12:01:20 pm

Respectfully, Mr. Beaver, I reject the notion that Natural Law obfuscates (lamely or otherwise) the objective truth. Also, that objective truth evolves - maybe, MAYBE, (that's a big maybe) comprehension of it evolves, (which mostly just translates to a denial that it exists or that it can ever be known), but Truth is by its very nature, singular and eternal; even while it is constituted by a plurality of personalities, (i.e. "We hold these "truths"...").

This may sound like a public proclamation of my religious beliefs, and admittedly, it is. But, again respectfully, if you will permit me an observation - your assertions of "responsible civic liberty" (a quite interesting philosophy, but an inferior one, if it relies on an evolutional truth), is no less, or seems have become, for you a religion.

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Paul Binotto
on March 04, 2019 at 12:25:32 pm

“Most people would say it is a right to do what you want without interference from God, government or the neighbors.”

Anyone who speaks of God offers another attempt to impose their beliefs on me. I will not again turn my back on humility toward the-objective-truth.

I believe believers are serious and may reform toward civic integrity.

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Phillip Beaver
on March 04, 2019 at 13:14:34 pm

I appreciate Schmeeckle’s response and think there is more opportunity for collaboration in the text:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”

The passage is grounded in a mysterious entity: Creator, capitalized perhaps as worthy of worship, followed by controversial claims to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness without stipulation of enforcement of the claims except by the circularity of consent. Following the claim of governance for “Safety and Happiness,” there’s a provision to suffer tradition rather than reform to civic integrity for example! "Created equal" is refuted from the viewpoint of the human ovum, which is unlikely to survive and by no means destined for equality.

None of these claims would be vaunted as they are by some people without the 1778 military prowess, might, and contributions of France, who dominated both strategically and militarily at Yorktown, VA in September 1781. The 1783 Treaty of Paris, negotiated after England submitted to France, named thirteen free and independent states on the eastern seaboard of this country.

In 1787, the world’s most innovative political sentence emerged from a convention of 12 of those states. The U.S. preamble’s proposition is responsible, individual, human liberty without strife over mysteries like “Creator.” The generations before ours left us the privilege of reforming to the U.S. preamble’s civic, civil, and legal intentions for the USA.

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Phillip Beaver
on March 04, 2019 at 13:41:03 pm

"This natural-law foundation eloquently reappeared in the preamble of the Constitution."

What words or word supports this statement.

If, "Blessings," I agree with your statement, but consider it a spurious modifier of Liberty. In other words, "secure Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity," is more effective and inclusive---more collaborative and faithful to actual reality or the-objective-truth. Yet, I am satisfied with "Blessings" to us and future citizens as encouragement and coaching to individually develop responsible liberty.

I do not want to modify the U.S. preamble but collaborate for accommodation of my practice. For example, I regard "Union" as "integrity," both wholeness and comprehension.

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Phillip Beaver
on March 04, 2019 at 14:12:45 pm

"Jean-Jacques Burlamaqui—the leading eighteenth-century authority on natural law—wrote of the purpose of government being to secure natural rights, with natural right being understood in terms of reason applied to the pursuit of happiness, which was in turn understood in terms of “perfection” (habitual virtue). "

I appreciate your knowledge of opinions about happiness and want to introduce an idea: "reason applied to the pursuit of happiness," modified by replacing "reason" with "discovery" is synonymous with "responsible happiness."

In other words, happiness comes from fidelity to the-objective-truth.

On "personal happiness as a byproduct of virtue and benevolence" and ". . . Ray Forrest Harvey proclaimed that Jefferson and Locke were at “two opposite poles” in their political philosophy, as evidenced by the Declaration of Independence’s phrase “pursuit of happiness” instead of “property,” reform is possible by pursuing fidelity to the-objective-truth. For example, an authentic man is aware that a woman, together with her viable ova, is a group; an authentic man does not abuse them, even if the woman is willing.

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Phillip Beaver
on March 04, 2019 at 14:43:16 pm

"Ruler and ruled must be different in order to create a mutuality of obligation….Right was the exercise of moral sense in some way that affected the lives of others for the general good."

Fidelity to the-objective-truth is the standard by which human individuals may develop statutory justice. Competition for dominant opinion begs loss, misery, and perhaps war.

"Burlamaqui argued that one can never alien one’s power to act morally, since that would give one’s master the ability to deny response to human duty. One’s ability to affect the welfare of others cannot be given over to others.” (Wills, 215-16)"

I assert that every human being has the individual power, the individual energy, and the individual authority (IPEA) to develop either integrity or infidelity to the-objective-truth. IPEA cannot be alienated or consigned. The hints that led to my thinking came from Albert Einstein, "The Laws of Science and the Laws of Ethics," a 1941 obfuscation of physics and its progeny (the objects of discovery).

From the Zuchert quotes, "Happiness, or its pursuit, stands as the comprehensive object of action within a human life; human beings are unalterably or necessarily directed to this pursuit by their nature. "

It takes at least three decades for a human to develop the wisdom to embark on a path toward happiness. By correction of error and prevention of banal habit, he or she perceives that happiness requires fidelity to the-objective-truth and continuous practice brings him or her to individual perfection no matter how morally low he or she may be. Civic integrity informs him or her to appreciate fellow citizens as they are where they are and to encourage reform where it is needed.

Psychological maturity is freedom from internal and external constraints against civic integrity and comes in the late decades, perhaps the seventh decade or beyond, if at all.

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Phillip Beaver
on March 04, 2019 at 15:37:32 pm

Lots of interesting replies to my comment, appreciate the care taken to explain your views. One thing that hasn't been explored much on is the influence of the Judeo-Christian moral, legal and religious tradition on American government. It was probably the Number One influence on the Founders' idea of the relationship of individuals, society and government to one another. The role of the church was to prepare men and women for the responsibility of liberty. Without a high standard of wisdom and virtue, liberty is impossible. True Liberty, as has been mentioned above, is freedom to live by God's commandments. Happiness is not the pursuit of material pleasures or self-destruction. And it was a major topic for many a sermon preached from 16th, 17th and 18th Century Reformed pulpits.

18th Century Americans were very religious compared to our generation, and most were adherents to the Protestant Reformed branches of the Christian Church--Congregationalist, Presbyterian, Episcopal, Lutheran, Dutch Reformed, Mennonite, Baptist--which teaches that Nature being God's Creation is a proper study for a Christian. This is where the high literacy rate for American colonists came from, and most learned to read from the King James Bible. If you take the King James Bible of the 1760s, you will find much to read on liberty, God's commandments and their relationship to the happiness of the people. "Happy are the people whose God is the Lord."--Proverbs. If you read Exodus Six you will discover that God told His people that he was going to liberate them from slavery and take them out of Egypt to a promised land. The Ten Commandments show the high moral standard required to get and keep Liberty. Galatians 5:1 says "Stand fast in the Liberty wherewith Christ hath set us free..." This last verse was actually a popular slogan of the American Revolution.

It was not necessary to mention God in the text of the Constitution, but He is there. He is properly identified as the Author of Liberty in the Declaration of Independence, the document that spells out the fundamentals of American government. The happiness referred to in the self-evident Truths comes from the Judeo-Christian Natural law tradition, not a European philosophy. This tradition brought with it the Rule of Law, informed Radical Whig political thinking, and gave life to Anglo-American Common Law. This is where the principles of American government come from.

Americans were highly literate, and they read widely, but French and German philosophers were not what they were reading. They read the Bible, Poor Richard's Alamanac & The Way to Wealth, Trenchard & Gordon, Common Sense, Cato: A Tragedy by Joseph Addison, Foxe's Book of Martyrs, The New England Primer, John Adams' Thoughts on Government, Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, and Shakespeare. They read writers who mentioned John Locke, Sir Edward Coke, Cicero, Hobbes, and the great Protestant Reformers like Calvin, John Knox, John Rogers, John Wycliffe "This Bible is for the government of the people, by the people, and for the people", and so forth.

It is out of print now, but I recommend William Bennett's "Our Sacred Honor: Words of Advice from the Founders" and Benson Bobrick's "Angel in the Whirlwind." Recommend Myron Magnet's "The Founders at Home" and David McCullough's "John Adams".

There is no one source for 18th Century American political philosophy. To ascribe the sentiments expressed in the Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights as the work of one man does injustice to the men whose contributions to the multi-faceted Judeo-Christian Natural Law tradition are the inspiration for the American Revolution.

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Karen Renfro
on March 04, 2019 at 15:55:45 pm

Well, I'm afraid that the Founding Generation would be disappointed to find that our generation has attempted to throw God out of the equation.

Their view of Him was that as the Almighty Creator of the Universe, He is Author of our Liberty and the Blessings that come if we live our lives as if we deserved to be free. They believed that we could do this if we followed the Ten Commandments, Golden Rule and Sermon on the Mount. They could not imagine any way to secure the People's Liberty but by adherence to those commandments.

God made the Universe and governs it by His laws, which you may know as the Laws of Cause and Effect. Moral Law is the metaphysical counterpart to the physical laws of the Universe. Liberty is a consequence of living in harmony with those laws. It doesn't matter whether you believe in God or not, nobody is exempt from the laws that govern the Universe. And those laws are evidence that Reality isn't Relative.

I am not trying to force my views on anyone. This is a public forum and I have a Constitutional right to speak my mind here as long as I observe the rules of engagement.

You might find John Barry's biography of the man who brought Separation of Church and State to America, "Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul" (Penguin). He didn't do it to get God out of government, but to get government out of the Church. Back then you will remember it was still the Reformation. The American Revolution helped bring that movement to a close in the New World.

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Karen Renfro
on March 04, 2019 at 15:57:20 pm

On the contrary, Mr. Beaver, it takes the greater humility to accept the existence of God - most especially the God of Revelation.

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Paul Binotto
on March 04, 2019 at 16:09:39 pm

Thank you, Mr. Binotto.

I would like to add that anyone who wants to know the meaning of the Ten Commandments & Sermon on the Mount (Jesus' commentary on Torah), you will discover that it doesn't matter what religion you follow, or even if you follow no particular religion, it is still possible to abide by them. The first Table of the Law protects our Liberty of Conscience, so if you don't believe in God that is your business. But, the question to ask is, how is God going to bless a society where people are dishonoring their parents, murdering and stealing and breaking up families and lying under oath and committing fraud all over the place?

I have a friend who is a Libertarian and atheist who says he would like people to follow the commandments because then his rights would be safe. He even told me that a Jewish friend of his told him about a Rabbi who liked to point out that even atheists can follow the commandments because, as they do not believe in God, they would not be placing any other God before the Lord, or worshipping idols.

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Karen Renfro
on March 04, 2019 at 17:00:09 pm

Some non-believers read the Holy Bible with open minds and cannot brook the imposition of hate by believers, for example by John in John 15:18-25.

It seems to me that civic integrity requires fellow citizens to keep collaboration about the characters and powers of their personal gods out of the public forum. That is, fellow citizens need not evaluate other citizens' motivations and inspirations, whether theism is involved or not, and civic citizens trust-in and commit to the U.S. preamble while pursuing their personal hopes whether their afterdeath is involved or not.

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PHILLIP BEAVER
on March 04, 2019 at 17:08:42 pm

I quite agree with you, Ms. Renfro, however, the Rabbi's teaching, though a very interesting perspective, seems suspect to me because it has been my experience, that everyone worships some god, whether that would be the One True God or not, or whether they realize or admit it; most usually, in the case of atheists, that god is self.

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Paul Binotto
on March 04, 2019 at 17:39:54 pm

EK: Lots of good commentary there!

The English Civil War is too often overlooked by historians as Cromwell is a challenge even to his admirers. However, no one can understand the American Revolution without studying the Protestant Reformation and Resistance Movement. Have you read "The Cousins' Wars" by Kevin Phillips?

I actually have a 1998 Huntington Library reprint of the 1928 facsimile edition of "The Lawes and Liberties of the Massachusetts" in my personal library. Glad to have an online link so I can share it with others. Also, Liberty Fund has a wonderful collection entitled "Colonial Origins of the American Constitution" which is also helpful.

Regarding 18th Century Protestant religious sects and their respective views on various matters, I like Iain Murray's "Revival and Revivalism: The Making and Marring of American Evangelism 1750-1858".

Also, the fact that proponents of the Ten Commandments, Golden Rule and Sermon on the Mount fail to follow them perfectly is not evidence that they are not worth following. The tradition that teaches them also teaches that man is inherently flawed, one reason for the Christian Gospel. The Gospel does not teach us to persecute anybody, and it teaches us to love our enemies, do good to those who hate us, and bear whatever trials we face patience, trusting God for the outcomes.

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Karen Renfro
on March 04, 2019 at 17:44:17 pm

I appreciate your conviction for your religion, Mr. Binotto and think you can be as committed-to and trusting-in the civic integrity that is offered by the U.S. preamble and the-objective-truth. A couple responses to your posts this afternoon follow.

Regarding humility, greater appreciation has no person that this: to discover his or her person while accommodating another person's religious beliefs. However, the-objective-truth is observed and discovered, not believed.

The-objective-truth cannot be appreciated as the objective truth and does not yield to divinity such as "Truth", both of which are fungible according to opinion.

The-objective-truth evolves. For example, 4.6 billion years ago, the earth was a collection of gasses. What is unchanging is the laws of physics that control the consequences of evolution.

The-objective-truth accommodates bad decisions. For example, President Bush invaded Iraq on false reports. The world would be different if he had not invaded Iraq, but the consequeces of the invasion are controlled by physics and it progeny including human psychology. This is an observation rather than a belief and therefore is not a religion, as you assess.

The-objective-truth does not accommodate perception or convention. For example, people say the sun'll come out tomorrow. However, this evening the earth's rotation on its axis will hide the sun in the west and unhide it next morning in the east. As the day passes, I relate to the earth's rotation rather than the sun traversing the sky. There's no religion in my viewpoint, but it refutes the Holy Bible's account of the-objective-truth. People more informed than me can navigate during both night and day using the actual reality rather than perception.

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PHILLIP BEAVER
on March 04, 2019 at 17:46:03 pm

And ONLY the "Beaver" KNOWS the "objective truth."

I, for one, am not prepared to "leave it to Beaver":

turns out now to presage a great reduction in tariffs between the two trading blocs.

It becomes clear the Beaver has more fun pretending to know the objective truth than in demonstrating, not unlike Beaver in the attached episode.

BTW: There is nothing inherent in religion that "compels" any *other* to comply with its mandates (Islam excepted). Then again, the Beavers DEMAND that everyone strive for and adhere to the OBJECTIVE TRUTH, as divined by the Beaver, would appear to be a more *compelling* act than any evangelical I have ever encountered.

And Karen is ABSOTIVELY correct. The founders not only believed that religious sensibilities were essential to the proper functioning of the American regime, they anticipated that it would be an integral element of such a regime. Moreover, they actually provided financial support to Christian churches.
I would suggest that either a) you find a NEW "objective Truth" or b) you change the name from "objective" to "maybe, possibly, The Beavers OWN truth.

enough of this, silliness. You display the character traits of the newly converted anti-religious zealot.

One does grow weary of it.

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gabe
on March 04, 2019 at 17:55:25 pm

Roger Williams is problematic. He was very young, very smart, very opinionated and very naïve when he landed in the Bay and began playing the bull in the china shop.

I found Barry to be too much of a Williams partisan but chapter 4 on the "Bloudy Tenent" was very good. A better treatment of Independency in the context of the separation of church and state is Michael P. Winship's "Godly Republicanism" (2012). If you're up to speed on the English Reformation and know how and why to distinguish an Independent from a Presbyterian, and know what the the business of separatism was all about, you'll enjoy it; Barry misses all of that.

In a nut shell, Winship argues that William Brewster and the Plymouth Plantation literally captured the Winthrop Fleet as soon as they arrive and brought them into communion with John Robinson's overtly separatist Leyden Congregation. That was something that the magistrates in the Bay did not want to flaunt in the face of the Crown, Parliament or their non-separatist Independent sponsors back in England.

Eric Nelson's recent "The Hebrew Republic" (2010) explores the influence of the rabbinic glossed on the historic books of the Old Testament (Samuel, Judges, etc.) on the English and Dutch Reformations and English republicanism.

Never forget, Winthrop, Hooker, Cotton, Brewster, Dudley and the most of the rest of first generation of magistrates in the Bay were every bit as good Independents as were both Williams and Anne Hutchinson. Francis J. Bremer's recent "John Winthrop" (2003) is a good read after Barry. Bremer presents the magistrates point of view on Williams and Hutchinson but his understanding of the associated theology seemed weak to me.

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EK
on March 04, 2019 at 18:01:22 pm

". . . most usually, in the case of atheists, that god is self."

Mr. Binotto, how can a fellow citizen establish civic integrity with such convictions against non-believers? Again, I am reminded of John's bad leadership in John 15:18-25.

Also, it is important to recall that you are writing in a forum attempting to address the U.S. preamble, a civic, civil, and legal contract on which this country is founded. There is no chance for statutory justice when individuals cannot look in the mirror and admit: "I believe in my personal god, but admit I am not ominiscient and will never try to impose my choice on other citizens."

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PHILLIP BEAVER
on March 04, 2019 at 18:06:36 pm

Poor gabe: always resorting to Alinsky Rule # 5: ridicule. Seems like you'd rather have a beer after all this time.

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PHILLIP BEAVER
on March 04, 2019 at 18:09:21 pm

I was responding to John Schmeeckle.

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PHILLIP BEAVER
on March 04, 2019 at 18:17:09 pm

Mr. Binotto, I thought as you do for five decades of organized Bible study and then encountered the recognition that I had made a choice that could exclude God, whatever that may be. It was a humbling experience. I began to feel more comfortable pursuing the-objective-truth, which can only be discovered rather than constructed by reason or revelation.

I do not want you to adopt my beliefs but do want you to help establish civic integrity in the USA, a practice that is ineluctably coming because of the U.S. preamble.

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PHILLIP BEAVER
on March 04, 2019 at 18:31:02 pm

A major error is to refer to the founding fathers in order to justify focus on 800 years of British thought imposed on the USA. The Declaration of Independence was a statement of war against England 33 months after the liberation of Worcester, MA.

Eleven years later, delegates from 12 of the 13 free and independent states met to strengthen the confederation but instead framed a nation predicated on those citizens who would discipline themselves according to the U.S. preamble. Only 39 of the 55 framers were willing to be signers.

The framers endured the arguments that distilled 800 years of political theory to the 51 words in the U.S. preamble. We look to the signers as the authors of this country's hope and to the nine states that ratified the 1787 Constitution.

Founding fathers? Name them.

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PHILLIP BEAVER
on March 04, 2019 at 19:39:17 pm

I trust you are more informed about such things, Mr. Beaver, but I strongly suspect that, "4.6 billion years ago, the earth was a collection of gasses", may well be fact, or at least highly possible, even probable, but that the science that asserts it depends on a certain amount of faith in its predictive accuracy than on its proven observational certainty.

But, even if it is a proven certainty, (I accept that it may be) it proves nothing about the Bible other than that you employ, at the expense of all others, only a literal interpretive method to your reading and understanding of it.

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Paul Binotto
on March 04, 2019 at 21:43:32 pm

To situate my observation that the preamble of the Constitution articulates the natural-law “safety and happiness” doctrine found in the Declaration of Independence and the earlier May 1776 independence resolution, here is a little self-study quiz, regarding the identity of the “grandfather” of the Constitution.

1. Who wrote the phrase (in the original May 1776 independence resolution) that Chief Justice Marshall paraphrased (“conducive to the happiness of the people”) at the very beginning of his argument in Marbury v. Madison?
ANSWER: John Adams

2. Who, in April 1776, wrote down his "thoughts on government" for his fellow congressional delegates who were perplexed about how to go about writing a constitution, while simultaneously insisting that happiness is intimately connected with virtue?
ANSWER: John Adams

3. Who, after enshrining the “safety and happiness” doctrine in the May 1776 independence resolution, ensured that a young Virginian would function essentially as a “scribe” and write good natural law theory (paraphrasing Hutcheson and Burlamaqui, both “approved writers” in Massachusetts) into the preamble of the Declaration of Independence?
ANSWER: John Adams

4. Who wrote what is widely regarded as the most successful of the initial state constitutions, which today is the oldest functioning written constitution in the world?
ANSWER: John Adams

5. Who wrote a rambling three-volume study of European constitutions, a book that arrived in America just before the 1787 Constitutional Convention?
ANSWER: John Adams

6. Who was chosen to be President of the United States above all others with the sole exception of George Washington?
ANSWER: John Adams

7. Which president appointed John Marshall first as Secretary of State and then as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court?
ANSWER: John Adams

BONUS QUESTION: Who wrote of “the transcendent law of nature and of nature’s God, which declares that the safety and happiness of society are the objects at which all political institutions aim, and to which all such institutions must be sacrificed”?
ANSWER: James Madison, in Federalist #43

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John Schmeeckle
on March 04, 2019 at 23:22:21 pm

Mr. Binotto, you choose to write mysteries, perhaps in self defense. I claim no ignorance about the Holy Bible, and don't ask you to read it my way. One practice I have that I feel is worth sharing: When I cannot learn of discovery, I admit to myself that I do not know the-objective-truth regarding the concern at hand. For example, is there an entity that is controlling the unfolding of the universe? I do not know.

However, to harbor ignorance about evolution that began 13.7 billion years ago is a practice that denies civic integrity. The first step in civic integrity is to understand what humankind has discovered about actual reality. Maybe visit the American Museum of Natural History in NYC and view their cosmic show or just read about it online.

If you have not, consider reading Michael Polanyi's "Personal Knowledge," 1958. The entire book belittles physics (the object rather than its study), and in the last paragraph claims his Christianity is a parallel pursuit. I would not dispute his claim for him yet would have appealed to him to remain English. But if he had became American I would want him to trust-in and commit to the U.S. preamble so as to collaborate for statutory justice in the USA.

I appreciate the depth of understanding you and I touched, and hope for more collaboration toward mutual appreciation of the U.S. preamble.

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PHILLIP BEAVER
on March 05, 2019 at 06:05:27 am

I have written no mysteries, Mr. Beaver, nor am I going to take up the precious space here, or more precious, my time, in schooling you on the various methods of reading and interpreting the Bible - there is ample resources online should you care to take up that study yourself. Additionally, based on the exhaustive (and exhausting) explanations (mostly repetitive and redundant) you expound here, it should be obvious who has become self-defensive.

But, just so we are perfectly clear, I will take the mystery out of it:

You write here, "Mr. Binotto, I thought as you do for five decades of organized Bible study and then encountered the recognition that I had made a choice that could exclude God, whatever that may be."

In your Bio (link embedded in your name), you write:

"Maybe at age ten, I read the last page of the Bible, seeking personal authenticity (even though I could not have said so then). The threats in Rev. 22:18-19 inspired the conviction, "No entity I'd follow is so weak as to threaten me." I learned enough to write these thoughts."

Clearly, Sir, based on these seemingly self-contradicting statements, one may be apt to form an opinion about your concept of "the-objective-truth". Instead, I will give you the benefit of the doubt; but you will forgive me if I don't feel confident that your movement (noble as it is, civility is badly needed in every age) is constructed on solid ground.

Peace, brother.

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Paul Binotto
on March 05, 2019 at 10:40:05 am

Phil"

Let us set the record straight.

I was tempted earlier to comment upon your posts and to do so in a positive manner. I thought that your understanding of such things as "happiness, virtue, etc" were well thought out and expressed.
However, as is so often the case with your posts, you appear to be unable or unwilling to refrain from slandering those people with a certain religious sensibility. I grow weary of this. It is excessive and tiresome.

MOREOVER, it DETRACTS from your commentary, some of which evidences a measure of scholarship and fair analysis. I would add that it lessens both the import and the impact of your commentary.

Please try to refrain from such slanders.
It would appear to be UN-civic, in your terminology.

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gabe
on March 05, 2019 at 11:43:05 am

Speaking of setting the record straight, I often state on my blog and elsewhere that this East-Tennessee Southern Baptist boy discovered his real person only because of the good fortune that all the Protestant women I dated and learned I could be faithful to rejected me. One tried to call me back, but it was too late.

When my job choice in chemical engineering brought me to Louisiana, I separated from a Protestant woman I thought I would marry. She visited me for a week and I concluded she was too sky diving for me. I concluded I would be a bachelor and started into the AIChE's list of 100 books a ChE graduate should read. A couple years later, I met a woman whose serene confidence amazed me. At a concert by the Dave Bruebeck Quartet, I felt the serenity directed toward me. Later, I felt the confidence. I overcame my fear of being an authentic man and proposed to her, becoming her groom for life.

She is Louisiana French-Catholic and never shied from serious civic collaboration but never imagines religious compromise. I call her MWWW, my wonderful, witty wife.
About a quarter century into our marriage, I was defending her faith and that of our three children in Sunday school at one of the most liberal Baptist churches in the South. (The ignorant college professor Bible teacher had claimed that Confirmation is not a Sacrament to justify that Catholics will go to hell because the infant baptism did not include Jesus by a cognitive route.)

One Sunday, we had studied the difference between God and Jesus, discussing John 6:37-41. Back home, I asked Cynthia, "What is the difference between God and Jesus?" She responded, "There is no difference." I read the John opinion to her and asked, "How can Jesus say he does the will of his father when he is the father?" She immediately responded, "It's a mystery, and I do not have to explain the mysteries." My knees buckled to the floor, and I begged her forgiveness for the fact that I had not really, actually listened to her religious views. When she forgave me I then thanked her for not divorcing me. She responded, "You are my husband." Writing this makes me happily tearful.

Soon, I withdrew from both my church and the Baptist Brotherhood, not realizing I was withdrawing from Christianity, theism, and religion. Through MWWW and my open-mindedness to the-objective-truth I discovered Phil Beaver and am still developing civic integrity.

What I recall about you is your invitation to Coventry (and later wondering why you hide behind a fake name---asking if you were an algorithm). MWWW and I had recently spent a month in Paris, and I was trying to convince her to go with me to London for a month. I quite seriously responded to you that I love to travel and escort my wife and asked you for your address in Coventry. Later, I did a little research and discovered you had ostracized me.
You must admit to your mirror that setting the record straight requires collaboration. You need not admit that that is the point of my work: civic integrity requires collaboration and no one brings the character and power of their personal god to the public table. You can continue to demand that other people evaluate, adopt, and worship your god, whatever it is.

The U.S. preamble is a civic, civil, and legal contract that in the USA provides an outstanding fulfillment of an idea expressed by Pericles some 2,500 years ago. In my paraphrase, people can pursue human equity by collaborating to discover statutory justice; on the journey, they employ statutory law and its enforcement.

As an aside, I once exchanged pleasantries (so I thought) about treating you to my favorite beer. If you ever decide to be a civic fellow citizen (of the world), that vision will not come to be. I began to feel that alcohol was killing me, discussed it with MWWW and then my internist. My doctor said, "I have your physical data and agree fully. So quit for life." I said, OK and now do not drink alcohol at all.

Lastly, my opinion is that you are not upset with me at all. What weighs on you and others is the actual reality of the-objective-truth.

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PHILLIP BEAVER
on March 05, 2019 at 14:01:11 pm

Excellent list of Adams' major achievements in the history of Liberty. Glad you brought this up! John Adams is my favorite founding father because of his knowledge and understanding of liberty, law, government, and rights. He was a brilliant lawyer and one of the best political philosophers who ever lived.

I have a question for you: Do you know anything about the Genet affair? I ran across a detailed account of Edmond Genet's career as a French Republican, which is not to say he had a clue what just government was--he was responsible for the deaths of many innocent people, in Myron Magnet's book on "The Founders at Home". Genet was founder of the Democratic-Republican societies that became popular in the new United States of America. These societies opposed the new Constitution and wanted to overthrow it. Jefferson was a friend of Genet and member of the society.

Genet came to America to foment a rebellion against the Federal Government, assassinate Washington and later Adams, and incite riots against the government everywhere he went. Eventually he was recalled to France and beheaded by the French government. Jefferson was involved with the formation of the Democratic-Republican Party, which carried on the cause and elected him President. Not much is written about this, but it explains a lot of things about the Alien & Sedition Acts that used to make no sense to me.

The reason I bring this up is that the French Enlightenment philosophers were anti-God and hostile to religion of any kind. Many were not even Deists or Agnostics. They apparently could not separate eternal truths from the flawed mortals who made up the visible church. I fear this is Mr. Beaver's problem.

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Karen Renfro
on March 05, 2019 at 14:33:52 pm

Your experiences in the Southern Baptist and Roman Catholic folds, while fascinating as conversation fodder, are not equivalent to a sober-minded study of Jewish and Christian theological traditions. Also, it is a common misconception that membership in a visible church confers salvation on adherents to a particular congregation and denomination.

The major difference between Roman Catholics and Protestants is that the former places the authority of the Pope above the authority of Scripture. Until the Reformation, when the Holy Bible was translated into English, German, French and other languages and sold as contraband by dedicated Protestants to a spiritually-starved populace, God's Word was the province of scholars in the Church. John Wycliffe, Jan Hus and Martin Luther blazed the trail that put the Bible in the hands of the people.

Back then, the Church was an institution of government, and vice versa. Civil and Ecclesiastical authorities Church exercised the power of the sword over men's Consciences and membership in the Church. People believed ex-communication by the Church meant they were damned to hell. But, the Holy Bible, the word of God, says no such thing.

Protestant Reformers held that God's commandments show God's will for all people: the First Table teaches us our Duty to God, which is to love and obey Him, and the Second Table teaches us our Duty to Man, which is to love our neighbor. Since faith in God is a matter of conscience between our own self and our Maker, no power on Earth has authority from God to force or coerce anyone into a profession of faith. This is where the principle for the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution came from, and it was brought to America in the 17th Century by the great Protestant Reformer Roger Williams, founder of Rhode Island.

If it had not been for the Protestant Reformation, America would never have become a Land of Liberty.

The fact that the modern church is almost as mixed-up as its earlier counterparts does not change the facts of history or the truths that have been passed down to us by men and women who were martyred for their efforts.

"Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is Liberty."
II Corinthians 3:16

The Liberty Americans fought for in the War for Independence is the one referred to in this verse from the New Testament. It is consistent with the teachings of Torah.

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Karen Renfro
on March 05, 2019 at 16:31:00 pm

I pretty much confine myself to England and New England the 17th C. and the first half of the 18th C. but "The Cousin's War" looks interesting.

As foundational survey texts, I like Diarmaid MacCulloch's magisterial "The Reformation" and Philip Benedict's "Christ's Churches Purely Reformed." MacCulloch is an Anglican priest from a long line of Anglican priests and his knowledge of the theology and politics of the English Reformation is unmatched. His very recent "Thomas Cromwell" adds even more depth to the Reformation in England. Benedict' s topic is the Continental Reformation and I found it to be very useful and very accessible.

On the English Civil Wars, Michael Braddick's "God's Fury, England's Fire"(2008) is the best one volume survey of the period 1637-1660 I've come across but Braddick is not particularly sympathetic to the Independent faction in Parliament. ASP Woodhouse's 100 page introduction to his classic "Puritanism and Liberty" (1938) fills in many of Braddick's omissions but he assumes the reader is a reasonably well catechized in the Reformed tradition. The body of "Puritanism and Liberty" is an anthology of 17th C. English Presbyterian and Independent writings organized around the Putney and Whitehall Debates of 1648. His introduction nicely outlines the issues and the factions.

All that aside, what is most important is how both British and American historians have ignored how deep and fundamental the connections were between the Parliamentarians of 1620-50 and the settlers of New England. The only source I've found that makes any consistent attempt to connect the two is John Gordon Palfrey's five volume "History of New England," which was published in the 1850s-60s. It's available on line and only the first three volumes are really good. Of course, Christopher Hill's "Puritanism and Revolution," "The World Turned Upside Down" and "The Century of Revolution" are all very good and very interesting as Hill is a marxist historian and very alert to the economic and cultural aspects of the English Reformation and Revolution.

But the British historians assume the reader has been catechized in English history. And both American and British historians consistently have trouble with, and so routinely ignore, the theology of the Parliamentarians in the context of the English Revolution. That is a mistake. In those days, one's religious preferences pretty much determined one's politics. It often seems to me that we are living in similar times.

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EK
on March 05, 2019 at 17:45:30 pm

Fun to converse with someone who is familiar with the 17th Century connections between England and New England! My husband and I have both read Diarmid McCullough's history of the Reformation. It is in my personal library of books from and about the Judeo-Christian Natural Law Tradition. I think his book is very good for the most part, but we both found his comprehension of the theological and doctrinal issues involved in the conflicts a little weak at times.

I am not familiar with any of the other books, but some seem really interesting to me, I will have to check them out. To be honest, I am more interested in primary sources so can look up just about anything other writers refer to. This includes facsimiles and reprints of bibles in church history, which is an exciting adventure to me. They were almost all banned at one time or another. One of my favorite bibles is the 1599 edition of the Geneva Bible--the one with notes from the great leaders of the Reformation, the Bible that was outlawed and brought over on the Mayflower as contraband.

Have you read John Calvin's "Institutes of the Christian Church"? It is THE book to read for an understanding of the connection between the Reformed Protestant Christian faith and the role of civil government in society. Anyone who thinks Calvin had no influence on England's Civil War and Glorious Revolution or the American Revolution or that it was not a positive influence, is sadly mistaken.

There are three translations, each of a different edition. I like Henry Beveridge's version of the 1559 edition because it includes Calvin's comments on the duties of the magistrate, the clergy and the people. He says it is the duty of the magistrates to protect the liberty of the people (page 689). I also have other books by Calvin, Knox and other reformers, and professions of faith from the various denominations and periods. In addition, we attended and belonged to a conservative Reformed church for a few years, and found ourselves somewhat in the same position as Roger Williams for a few of the same reasons. We did walk out of there, however, with an intimate knowledge of the Calvinist view and the nature of the errors about it from his critics. And Williams' trouble with he errors of church doctrine.

The Confessions of Faith for the Lutherans, Anglicans (at different periods), Congregationalist, Presbyterian, Dutch Reformed, German Reformed, Mennonite, Baptist, Methodist, Roman Catholic, Quaker and others are eye-opening. They are essential for understanding the founders' writings, whether public or private.

Agree with you 100% about the widespread ignorance of the religious beliefs of the Parliamentarians. Do you have "The Crisis of the Seventeenth Century: Religion, the Reformation & Social Change" by Trevor Roper, "The Struggle for Sovereignty: Seventheenth Century English Political Tracts" ed. by Joyce Lee Malcolm, "The Eighteenth-Century Commonwealthman" by Caroline Robbins--all from Liberty Fund.

Have you seen the BBC historical drama series "The First Churchills"? It is fun to watch if you are familiar with 17th Century English history. Picks up after the Restoration.

Anyway, thank you for sharing. God speed.

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Karen Renfro
on March 05, 2019 at 21:39:35 pm

Karen Renfro wrote: "Americans were highly literate, and they read widely, but French and German philosophers were not what they were reading."

I am reminded of William Bradford's 1774 letter to his classmate James Madison, reporting on the doings of the Continental Congress:

"The Congress sits in the Carpenter’s Hall in one room of which the City Library is kept & of which the Librarian tells me the Gentlemen make great & constant use. By which we may conjecture that their measures will be wisely plan’d since they debate on them like philosophers; for by what I was told Vattel, Burlemaqui Locke & Montesquieu seem to be the standards to which they refer either when settling the rights of the Colonies or when a dispute arises on the Justice or propriety of a measure."

Note that Bradford placed Vattel at the head of his list. The following year Benjamin Franklin wrote that Vattel's treatise on the the law of nations “has been continually in the hands of the members of our Congress now sitting. Vattel was Burlamaqui's student at the University of Geneva (one of the "two eyes of Europe," according to Jefferson), and through the 19th century in the USA both Vattel and Burlamaqui were repeatedly republished.

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John Schmeeckle
on March 05, 2019 at 21:51:36 pm

There has been some tangential distemper regarding religion on this sub-thread. I will make a single post on this subject here and invite discussion at the "Debating Christianity and Religion" forum --https://debatingchristianity.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=35263&start=40
-- where I posted the following:

Things that Jesus (as recorded in the Bible) never said:

1. Jesus never said that we were all condemned to eternal damnation because of our participation in original sin.

2. Jesus never said that he was God, born of a virgin who was impregnated by the Holy Spirit.

3. Jesus never said that his divine (see #2 above) sacrifice on the cross served as atonement for the sins of those who believed in him, offering escape from eternal damnation (see #1 above).

These three interlocking and mutually supporting doctrines were added by Paul and others after Jesus Christ came and went, creating a new religion that was well-fitted to the larger Greco-Roman world, but sacrilege within Jewish religious thought. (Hence the Dead Sea Scrolls' condemnation of Paul as the "Splutterer of Lies.")

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John Schmeeckle
on March 06, 2019 at 06:06:19 am

John 14: 16-17, 25-27:

16 "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, 17 the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you."

25 “I have told you this while I am with you. 26 The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name—he will teach you everything and remind you of all that [I] told you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid."

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Paul Binotto
on March 06, 2019 at 15:54:11 pm

'@ Karen

I don't think you'll have any trouble with Woodhouse or any of the other authors I've mentioned. I've seen Trevor-Roper's name mentioned by Christopher Hill, who didn't like him at all, so I haven't read him.

I spent most of my life unchurched after some indifferent and irregular catechizing as child; the Heidelberg catechism one year, the Baltimore catechism the next, generally irregular church attendance in between and nothing at all after age 12.

I haven't read the Institutes much beyond church organization and governance because I find I'm an Independent and Independency is not simply Geneva Calvinism. I think the Synod of Dort and John Robinson is where I begin. In general, English Independents were as much influenced by Wycliff, Luther, Familists and Zwingli with a bit of Polish socinianism and Italian anabaptism that bubbled up from the Rheinland on the side.

A many years ago, I decided I was a small "r" republican who could not accept the Hobbes and Locke based canon as the ur-source for the ratification the Constitution by the governed. So, reading backwards from 1789 brought me to the Bay Colony, where I happen to live anyway, and Puritans. That led to the Petition of Right Parliament (1628), Sir Edward Coke, the Civil Wars and, naturally, the Levellers, Diggers and New Model Army. I fell in love with them so I became one of them.

For me, Reformed Christianity is the natural religion of revolutionary constitutional democratic republicanism. That turns out to be based on Calvin's model of church governance extended to secular world. But Independency is terribly unstable and exhibits a marked tendency to degenerate into completely idiosyncratic "Ranting" (all is pure to the sanctified), Fifth Monarchism (the dictatorship of the saints) and finally our contemporary Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (the religion of the social justice warriors).

Winthrop and the first generation of Bay Colony magistrates seem to have recognized this 10 years before the problem became obvious in England in the 1640s and fatal to the Commonwealth in the 1650s. Their remedy seems to have been to catechize everyone in the public schools as a theological Presbyterian and then let them join what ever independent self-governing congregation that best suits their light. This was certain the education given to Franklin, Adams, Jefferson and Madison.

I've seen the First Churchills but but didn't notice much about religion in the series. In general, the British seem to wish that the Interregnum had never happened and so series like "By the Sword Divided" always seem dismissive of the low church republicans. I do enjoy sharp shooting "The Tudors" and "Wolf Hall" and am a big fan of the Levellers, Cromwell and the New Model Army. Christopher Hill describes the Army Council of NMA in 1647-48 as the wold's first workers and soldiers soviet and pointedly observes that it was the first time in English history that the non-titled and non-propertied citizens had an effective voice in English government.

Did you know that John Winthrop was forging deep and personal connections with radical republican Independents in England in the two or three years before he died in 1648? It's true. Winthrop's last wife was Martha Rainborowe Coytmore, the widowed sister of Col. Thomas Rainborowe (the voice of the Levellers at Putney) and Maj. William Rainborowe (a Ranter, they say) both of Wapping in the Tower Hamlets and of Charlestown in the Bay Colony. Winthrop's son, Stephen, married Judith Rainborowe, another sister of Thomas and William. Stephe was in the New Model Army from 1646 until his death in 1652 when he was the lieutenant colonel of Sheffield's old regiment of horse occupying Scotland serving underGeneral Monk. Before that, John Winthrop was already related by marriage to both Hugh Peter (chaplain at large to the NMA and a regicide) and Sir George Downing (as in "Downing Street"). I often wonder what what might have happened had death not claimed both John Winthrop and Col. Rainborowe in 1648 and 1649. It is entirely possible the Commonwealth could have been led by Henry Vane, the Younger, Thomas Rainborowe, George Downing and John Winthrop.

Anyways, God bless, it's been a pleasure.

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EK
on March 06, 2019 at 17:30:05 pm

Wow, it is a rare treat to find someone who knows and understands this arcane stuff! How did you get so deep into it? Are you a historian or minister or something? Thank you for the encouragement, I need to get back into this stuff again. I'm reading Jon Kukla's biography of "Patrick Henry: Champion of Liberty" right now. The best of all I've read. Neither a denunciation nor a hagiography, and it has lots of quotes.

Your comments about 17th Century British politics are interesting. My husband and I both like Cromwell, and his New Model Army, but kind of cringe when confronted with his zealotry for cleansing the Anglican Church. Cromwell was a hero to many Americans. Not many people know that George Washington's mother was a Presbyterian and he was brought up in the Reformed religion. I think I read somewhere that he admired Cromwell who was great military leader. However, as Virginia society was High Church Anglican and later Episcopalian and he wanted to move up in the world, he attended the local church regularly. As far as I have been able to discover, he never joined, and there is an argument about whether he ever took communion.

Now some historians insist this means he was not religious or a believing Christian. But I know that is not necessarily the case, as membership in a church congregation is not required for entrance into heaven (though I have had ministers of Reformed congregations insist that failure to join is a sign of rebellion against God, so I am in danger of hellfire). But, just supposing Washington went further than that, and differed on certain points of theology or doctrine, like the Baptists opposed infant baptism and church teachings on the Lord's Supper.

It would have been unthinkable to join a Baptist or Presbyterian church for social reasons, and he would have been unable to join the Episcopalians for conscience. However, the local Episcopal church needed deacons, and they were not required to be a member to serve. The debate about whether he ever took communion or not is also intriguing, because the Anglican Church requires members to profess the 39 Articles and take communion once a year and some contemporaries say they saw him take communion. The evidence is contradictory about his membership status, but his actual personal beliefs are not known. However, being familiar with the way Orthodox Jews, Reformed Protestants, Radical Whigs nd Freemasons talked about God, I can say his view of God is consistent with theirs in some way.

Some historians think that because Washington was a Freemason he could not have been a Christian. If we were talking about European Freemasonry, I would say they were probably correct. But, in America the Masons were more of a social custom, especially for those seeking a career in the military, and if his conscience didn't bother him then you can't say he wasn't. What I have established for myself is the view that with Washington, you can't say he wasn't religious and you can't prove he was a professing Christian.

Well, carry on! Best wishes and many blessings.

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Karen Renfro
on March 06, 2019 at 17:37:27 pm

Your statements support religious opinion by compromising the capital “U”. The Confederacy, with a capital “C” was supposed to be by 13 colonies self-titled “states” in perpetuity. However, one state was a rebel to the constitutional convention in Philadelphia. The framers arranged and the signers facilitated the establishment of the USA by only nine states. And Shays’ rebellion threatened a return to war Western-European style war between free and independent states.

Also, Aristotle (d. 322 BC) and Cicero (d. 43 BC) may have been students of Agathon (d. 400 BC). Agathon suggested that a civic human’s greatest appreciation for his or her life is that he or she neither imposes nor tolerates force/coercion---neither with other humans nor with gods (my paraphrase from his speech in Symposium, by Plato). Agathon suggested that freedom-from oppression facilitates the liberty-to pursue individual happiness, a condition that only the human species may responsibly accept. Most don’t, but that seems the proposition expressed in the U.S. preamble’s subordinate intentions-clause, “in order to . . .” Like Binotto says in other words, free and independent states was not promising.]

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PHILLIP BEAVER
on March 06, 2019 at 17:40:05 pm

Sorry. I posted this as a reply to John Schmeeckle says
March 1, 2019 at 4:17 pm.

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PHILLIP BEAVER
on March 06, 2019 at 18:14:10 pm

Yes, it is interesting how the ancient Greeks and Romans influenced the Founders. It is not either one or the other, it is both, but the Judeo-Christian traditions were the stronger. The examples you gave are good ones, especially as they shows a consistency of classical philosophy with principles from the Old and New Testaments concerning the duties of citizens and the duties of the magistrates.

Also, because 18th Century Americans in the 13 colonies and early United States were about 90% Protestant Christians, the theology and doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church did not really inform the population in their religious views. Protestants at that time based their views on the authority of the Holy Bible, not the church. Jesus set down only two sacraments: baptism and the Lord's Supper. Catholics may consider this to be heresy and they are entitled to their views, but their views were not mainstream in the Christian Church then or now. One of the things I like about Trenchard & Gordon is that in one of their essays, they wrote that Scripture is clear about what is necessary for our salvation, and what is not clear is not necessary for our salvation. I think they made an important point.

Oh, and I've been thinking about what you said regarding Trenchard and Gordon. Do I understand correctly that you think their ideas are off-base because they were Low-Church Anglicans? Are you aware that their ideas helped inspire several generations of Americans to fight for their rights as Englishmen, and their ideas can be seen in our Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights? Thomas Paine was an admirer of theirs.

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Karen Renfro
on March 07, 2019 at 00:20:08 am

“Your experiences in the Southern Baptist and Roman Catholic folds, while fascinating as conversation fodder, are not equivalent to a sober-minded study of Jewish and Christian theological traditions.”

Judeo-Christian traditions were erroneously worked out from older traditions. Moreover, they are distractions from both civic integrity and the-objective-truth. That is why the U.S. preamble states that its intentions are to provide civil order so as to encourage each citizen to practice responsible liberty.

Also, Ms. Renfro, it’s self-evident you do not have the human propriety to comprehend my post to the entity titled “gabe.” Phil Beaver, half way into his marriage now approaching its sixth decade discovered an actual reality. Tragically, you are blind to the fact that your religion is every bit as important to me for you as my wife, Cynthia’s religion is important to me for her. I appreciate every person’s responsible religion or spirituality in the same way. I include the characterization “responsible” to exclude believers who kill infidels and priests who abuse humans “in moderation.” (The entity “gabe” is excluded from my sentiment as perhaps an AI programmed to apply Alinsky Rule #5 on perceiving blind triggers.)

From my view, my decision to stop collaborating about Cynthia’s god rests in the realization that Mom and Dad’s religion did not position me with the omniscience and omnipotence to choose a god much less defend in Baptist Sunday school the god Cynthia’s mom and dad had influenced her to develop. On her own account, Cynthia has faith in her god, and I have never known her to collaborate about it. Yet everyone knows she has outstanding civic integrity. Moreover, her hope and comfort may be eternal life in heaven as a soul; I do not know. If that is so, and it is possible, I do not want to interfere. In other words, at the moment I apologized to Cynthia I had realized that my influence could terminate her hopes, and that would devastate my person. I want responsibility for only one life, and that is my life. That applies to you as well. Whatever your hopes and dreams from religion are yours and I want you to experience them. However, in civic life, I encourage you to develop responsible liberty according to the U.S. preamble, not in John Adams’ view, but in collaboration with living citizens.

“. . . the French Enlightenment philosophers were anti-God and hostile to religion of any kind. Many were not even Deists or Agnostics. They apparently could not separate eternal truths from the flawed mortals who made up the visible church. I fear this is Mr. Beaver’s problem.”
Phil Beaver is committed to neither initiate nor tolerate lies so as to lessen human misery and loss.

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PHILLIP BEAVER
on March 07, 2019 at 00:37:17 am

I appreciate this wonderful thread and it's opportunities to learn about the U.S. preamble.

It seems to be a civic, civil, and legal contract that is offered to the individual citizen. It's principle thought is that willing people in their states agree to form a nation by which fellow citizens maintain laws and institutions to provide five civil orders: Union, justice, Tranquility, defense, and Welfare so as to encourage responsible individual liberty both to living citizens and to future citizens.

The 51-word brevity of the original leaves it to the individual citizen to establish an interpretation that accommodates his or her pursuit of happiness so as to also encourage liberty by other citizens and not rent the liberty of future citizens.

I thank Rappaport and everyone who collaborated. I hope to learn more about the U.S. preamble and how fellow citizens may use it for an achievable better future.

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PHILLIP BEAVER
on March 07, 2019 at 05:47:10 am

[…] L&L colleague Mike Rappaport mused last week “On the Relevance of the Preamble to Constitutional Interpretation.” I have a couple of thoughts in […]

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Thinking About “General Welfare” in the Preamble
on March 07, 2019 at 10:18:37 am

'@ EK, Winship’s “Godly Republicanism” is out of print, but hopefully his just-released “Hot Protestants” (which I just ordered) will cover the influence of Plymouth Colony separatism on the arriving Massachusetts leadership in sufficient detail for a non-specialist. If Winship is indeed correct here, then hopefully that will play a role in next year’s public narrative of the 400th Anniversary of the Mayflower voyage. (My interest in history began in 1975 at the age of 10, amid the hoopla surrounding the approaching U.S. bicentennial, when I came across a family Bible record of a revolutionary soldier with a supposed Mayflower ancestry.)

@Karen Renfro, here’s another one for John Adams: Who was placed right smack in the middle of John Trumbull’s famous painting of the Declaration of Independence? See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Declaration_of_Independence_(Trumbull)

I have just ordered Myron Magnet’s “The Founders at Home.” I notice that none of his chosen Founders comes from New England, which perhaps explains EK’s reference to “anglophile gentlemen” as opposed to the “independent” Puritan tradition that he emphasizes. I suspect that, when analyzing the sources of our nation’s traditions and institutions of government, both sides of the coin can be profitably examined.

I have not looked under the surface of the Genet affair, and will take a careful look at Magnet’s presentation and its sources. I know that Genet’s procession through the young USA was part of a paroxysm in American politics coinciding with the depths of the French Revolution, and coinciding with the Uranus/Pluto opposition of 1792-95. (As an aside, it would appear that astrologers struggling with the imprecision of the various proposed U.S. horoscopes for July 4, 1776 have been barking up the wrong tree. On the other hand, a horoscope set for May 15, 1776 at 5:00 pm in Philadelphia, when the Continental Congress severed ties with the British Crown, yields consistent correlations with outer-planet transits to the four angles of the chart. See “A U.S. horoscope that really works?” at the Organization of Professional Astrologers’ forum: http://www.opaastrology.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=233&sid=475971f216c1910de1bff3878d3e343e )
@ Philip Beaver: Your incessant repetition of your talking points would appear to reflect an egoistic zealotry that is antithetical to expressions of love for our fellow humans, and your tendency to overdo it serves to alienate others and stir up discord. I hope you will agree that acting out of love for our fellow humans (promoting the general welfare) is part of the bedrock of the shared Founders’ view (rooted both in Christianity and in the Ciceronian natural law tradition at the heart of traditional English/British jurisprudence) that underlay the preambles to both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. I suspect that a comparison of what you mean by "individual happiness,” as opposed to the May 1776 congressional definition reflecting Cicero, Cumberland and Burlamaqui, would be helpful, and might disclose a basic error in your thinking.

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John Schmeeckle
on March 07, 2019 at 12:22:46 pm

Mr. Schmeeckle what you don't see in your mirror is your repeating repetition of obsolete thinking. Perhaps you thought I should have addressed your post dated March 3, 2019 at 10:43 am or the cut-and-pasty of March 3, 2019 at 10:49 am.

What galls you is not Phil Beaver, but the collaboration of over seventy people Mr. Beaver LISTENED to produce affirmation of, for example, Albert Einstein's 1941 claim that civic people do not lie so as to lessen human misery and loss. And its not the library meetings but the thoughts it produced like this: Every human being has the individual power, the individual energy, and the individual authority (IPEA) to develop either integrity or infidelity to the-objective-truth. That proposition threatens your desire to impose Western European tradition, specifically British Chapter XI Machiavellianism on the American people. You cannot see that the-objective-truth does not threaten your religious or spiritual beliefs even though it requires you to avoid sending other people to the destiny your god holds for you. In other words, for your own hopes, you cannot afford to take responsibilities for other people’s ultimate destinies. Since I do not know the-objective-truth, I do not wish you to stop doing what you want about religion, but I think the U.S. preamble leaves religion and spirituality as private, individual choices and will not yield my opportunity for human liberty.

You, sir, are not innocent in your refusal to admit to your individual opportunity to take Pericles' suggestion and collaborate for equity under statutory justice. In the USA, that civic, civil, and legal agreement is offered in the U.S. preamble.

Through this forum including your posts, I gained the awareness to write for the first time in my 75 years an assertion and concise interpretation of the U.S. preamble. The U.S. preamble's proposition is: Disciplined people of the united states encourage human liberty. My lower case should not be altered, and I think my statement will change, since it is a first draft. I will add to my acknowledgement “Mike Rappaport 1/3/19” to my acknowledgements page to represent this teaching thread. If he objects, I will delete “Rappaport” and maintain the appreciation, as is my practice.

I have benefited from your posts, and find it unfortunate that you have not experienced Agathon’s suggestion that real humans neither initiate nor tolerate psychological offenses to or from humans or gods. Perhaps you are influenced by John 15’s suggestion that Phil Beaver hates or perhaps that possible AI-programmed agitator labeled “gabe” inspired you to join the Alinsky censorship crowd. Nevertheless, your opposition to my individual happiness with civic integrity does not impress me. I hope you reform, but you have your IPEA.

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PHILLIP BEAVER
on March 07, 2019 at 12:40:47 pm

My last paragraph was clumsy and I revise it: Phil Beaver, so as to lessen human misery and loss, is committed to neither initiate nor tolerate lies.

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PHILLIP BEAVER
on March 07, 2019 at 13:01:51 pm

I re-read your attempted impositions and consider the most egregious your misuse of the word "love." Again, you seem to have missed Agathon's principle message: love's greatest power is that love can do no harm. Religions routinely harm fellow citizens. For example, current managements of the Church, the Baptists, and the Methodists are routinely in the news for abuse of children and adults as well as erroneous opinion about the physics and psychology of same-sex monogamy and personal opinion about gender.

Furthermore, consider that fact that individual liberty involves the opportunity to reject love. Therefore, a more civic policy is to promote appreciation. Appreciation is always welcomed and is invoked by civic integrity.

Your appeals to me to love others fails because I appreciate fellow citizens whether they develop civic integrity or not. When a citizen is dissident rather than civic, I hope for and encourage reform.

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PHILLIP BEAVER
on March 07, 2019 at 16:02:56 pm

I see that once again I have not made myself understood.

When I refer to the Judeo-Christian Tradition, I am not talking about church practices, doctrine or theology. I am talking about principles of morality and philosophy that were developed over thousands of years within the religious teachings of Jews and Christians to the betterment of all who subscribe to them.

There is nothing in the teachings of Jesus Christ that endorses persecuting or abusing anybody. Those who do so in His name do not represent God or the true Christian faith because their actions are contrary to Mosaic Law, the Golden Rule and Sermon on the Mount. Churches and denominations that fail to protect and defend their members from predatory behavior of church leaders are violating the laws of God and Man. By continuing to insist Judeo-Christian morality endorses such behavior, you do your audience a disservice because it is the Law of God that shows us our duty to our fellow Man.

This teaching is a central part of the confessions of faith in the Protestant Church, including the Church of England's 39 Articles (1549), the Westminster Confession (1649), and many other denominations to this day. The fact that it is not followed by all church members is not the fault of the confession.

The reason there is so much confusion about the history of the Christian Church is that once the Roman Empire adopted Christianity as the only religion, bishops were appointed by the Emperor, not churchmen. In this way, many men who were ignorant of teachings and religious practices of the Early Church were also under the command of the civil government which used the Church for political purposes. This lead to the terrible abuses Martin Luther and other leaders of the Reformation fought to rid the church of.

It took the American Revolution for the various denominations of the Church to stop persecuting one another for their differences. We have our First Amendment to show that our nation is founded on the principle of Liberty of Conscience, the freedom that becomes possible when people recognize that our Duty to God is a matter of Conscience. The Blessings of Liberty include this freedom to worship God according to our own beliefs, without interference from anyone. It was Christians who fought for this right, nd worked hard to see it adopted into the Constitution of the United States.

And it has never been considered an abstract Truth even in law. It is considered in relation to precedent. That traces it back through the history of the Western world all the way through the Christian Church where it splits into two streams: Judaism and ancient Greco-Roman law, and from there eventually to ancient Sumer, where Abraham left Ur of the Chaldees about 4200 years ago and King Urukagina of Lagash issued his famous Decree of Amagi about a hundred years before.

If you try to take out the Judeo-Christian Natural Law tradition from 18th-Century American political philosophy, you will end up eliminating the source of Burlamaqui's ideas about Liberty, Safety and Happiness of the People. There is no other.

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Karen Renfro
on March 07, 2019 at 16:04:52 pm

No, it’s not the same. “Godly Republicanism” is copyrighted 2012. I think I’ll order “Hot Protestants” myself. N.b.; back in the 17th C. “hot” was the term actually used to describe them.

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EK
on March 07, 2019 at 16:47:31 pm

Mr. Schmeekle:

Thank you for reminding me of Bradford's comments, I had forgotten that. However, he is not my only source for information about the most popular writers in 18th Century America, and Burlamaqui's name does not come up often--not as often as many others.

We should differentiate, also, between the leaders of the American Revolution whose names are well-known to us and the people they represented whose names are rarely remembered now. Thanks for reminding me to make this clearer, it is not my wish to mislead anybody.

Throughout the 18th Century, Americans experienced several religious movements, sometimes referrred to as the Great Awakening which Benjamin Franklin estimated directly touched about half the population of the colonies by 1776. This was a Protestant Evangelical phenomenon that reintroduced the Reformed teachings of John Calvin, including the duties of the magistrate and the duties of the church and the duties of civilians--all of which instructed people to exercise Christian virtue to create an orderly society.

The common view of Christian virtue in their time was that serving God meant doing good to man. And it brought citizens from all the colonies together as one people. Some historians think that the Great Awakening inspired the American Revolution and separation from Great Britain.

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Karen Renfro
on March 07, 2019 at 16:56:58 pm

Schmeekle:

That painting by Trumbull is a favorite of mine, but you know if you hadn't pointed Adams out as the center of the composition I wouldn't have noticed! If you haven't published your list of questions about John Adams, I think you should, excellent lesson in American government.

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Karen Renfro
on March 07, 2019 at 17:07:12 pm

Ms. Renfro, once again you demonstrate that you have not the propriety to collaborate for statutory justice under the civic, civil, and legal opportunity that is offered in the U.S. preamble.

The preamble offers individual happiness with civic integrity. That means you can happily celebrate "the Judeo-Christian Natural Law tradition from 18th-Century American political philosophy [and] Burlamaqui’s ideas about Liberty, Safety and Happiness of the People" while I happily follow my particular civic readings (currently a biography of Billy Joel) and you and I can collaborate for responsible liberty in the USA.

As a child, I thought everyone should be a Christian like Mom and Dad. In college I read about Hinduism and thought recycling for the chance to learn civic integrity might be more promising than consigning my integrity to Jesus. In mid life, I read Agathon and thought a couple possibilities: either Jesus had introduced himself to Agathon (as in before Agathon I AM) or Mark, in Mark 4:39 mimicked Agathon's speech in Plato's "Symposium." Preferring Agathon's older message, I turned my back on young Mark and have no reason to go back to before.

Can you imagine how I felt at age 50 writing to a religious newspaper with copy to my church minister to announce my withdrawal from the Baptist brotherhood? (Do you understand that there is no Baptist hierarchy?) I had to write back to them 5 years later to say: Take my name off your list of backsliders or "once saved always saved" group. No: You cannot imagine it. Nor can you imagine that it took me another decade to realize I had withdrawn from both Christianity and theism. I did this because I realized in that wonderful discovery with Cynthia that by pursuing my interpretation of the Holy Bible I was turning my back on whatever controls actual reality: never again would I propose my god as a replacement for another human’s god. That is my commitment to you as well, and this thread is about civic integrity as represented by the U.S. preamble. I doubt you even wonder what "civic integrity" means.

I have no desire to change your comforts and hopes in your religion. As I have said before I want responsibility for only one lifetime: mine. However, I encourage you to consider my view that the U.S. preamble proposes responsible, human liberty. In a culture that is developing civic, civil, and legal order using the U.S. preamble, fellow citizens do not seek collaboration concerning religion or spiritual pursuits. If you are an American citizen, you live where there is a commitment to equity under statutory law and collaboration for statutory justice. You are, in my opinion, a dissident to the U.S. preamble's proposition.

One other point: I often write that conservative law professors are the best candidates to develop an achievable better future. I think so because the necessity of individual responsibility for liberty is plain to them. I also think aware conservatives can easily interpret some key words in the U.S. preamble so as to enhance the five provisions for justice (by coercion or force) so that the provisions indeed encourage human liberty.

My suggestions are: "Union" does not exclude integrity both as wholeness and as understanding, "Posterity" includes grandchildren and beyond as well as legal immigrants, and "Blessings" are for us and our Posterity where the meaning of blessing is encouragement to develop civic integrity rather than infidelity to the-objective-truth, whatever the-objective-truth is.

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PHILLIP BEAVER
on March 07, 2019 at 17:10:08 pm

Mr. Schmeeckle:

Please forgive the misspelling of your name in my follow-up comments to your post--it was not intentional.

Not sure why Magnet chose the particular founders he wrote about in his book, but the section on George Washington was the one that grabbed my attention. It answered so many questions about the administrations of the first two presidents, and about where America's educators got the idea that the Founders got their ideas from the French Revolution. All goes back to Genet, who was not a champion of Liberty in any sense of the word.

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Karen Renfro
on March 08, 2019 at 09:59:49 am

To EK, thank you for the comment, ". . . routinely ignore, the theology of the Parliamentarians in the context of the English Revolution. That is a mistake. In those days, one’s religious preferences pretty much determined one’s politics. It often seems to me that we are living in similar times."

I annoy some participants when I express appreciation for this forum. In this particular thread, I have learned many detailed opinions about the U.S. preamble. Often people don't understand that my joy comes from strengthening my understanding and thereby earning my preferences. My first preference (I don't know the-objective-truth, and my preferences are more precious to me than other people's preferences are precious to me) is to interpret the U.S. preamble as pertinent "to ourselves and our posterity" rather than to our ancestors and others. They are dead and therefore cannot collaborate.

Thus, civic fellow citizens care more about my opinions than, for example, Frederick Douglass's opinion in his 1852 speech from which I learned to think of all of us as fellow citizens. Or Abraham Lincoln's 1863 error about governance of by and for the people rather than civic self-discipline by the individual (and hopefully most fellow citizens). Or perhaps James Madison's many impositions such as the 1785 tyranny “Before any man can be considered as a member of Civil Society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governour of the Universe." There's nothing wrong with humility like "every human is subject to whatever controls actual reality," and Madison's capitalizations are religious opinion that have no relevance in collaboration for civic integrity. Who would bring their god to a public form for evaluation by fellow citizens? James Madison? Thomas Jefferson in his famous "sworn on the altar" contradiction?

In this thread, my opinions about the U.S. preamble have been strengthened as follows. First, not one word of the U.S. preamble need be changed for fellow citizens to perpetually collaborate for a better future, and each individual may contemplate the words so as to use them for his or her lifestyle. This is true for civic citizens (who trust-in and commit-to the U.S. preamble in order to develop equity under statutory justice) and dissidents to responsible liberty.

I think "Union" needs interpretation and take it to mean "integrity" both as wholeness and as comprehending the-objective-truth. "Welfare" means prosperity. "Justice" means continually discovering injustice and amending statutory law and its institutions so as to comport to the-objective-truth. "Posterity" includes children, grandchildren and beyond, as well as legal immigrants under statutory law (statutory justice is perfection, a worthy goal). "Blessings" applies to both us and posterity and means "encouragement."

The exceptionality of the U.S. preamble is that it admits to the individual power, energy and authority (IPEA) that characterizes the mature human being and no other living species. Under the U.S. preamble, an individual may believe that crime pays, ignoring the five provisions that define the responsibilities that approve and encourage human liberty. However, when criminal behavior becomes known, the criminal may face constraints, even loss of life, according to statutory law. Civic citizens approve responsible liberty and therefore encourage criminals to reform before statutory law enforcement constrains them.

When We the People of the United States fail to provide union, justice, tranquility, defense, and welfare, we arbitrarily lessen individual human liberty.

Only a civic people can collaborate for statutory justice, and the U.S. preamble offers a sufficient civic, civil and legal agreement for the development. Let's get motivated to practice and promote the agreement that is offered fellow citizens in the U.S. preamble.

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PHILLIP BEAVER
on March 08, 2019 at 13:40:06 pm

Mr. Binotto, re your March 5, 2019 at 6:05 am post. Forgive me, but my modem died and my ISP replaced it yesterday 3/8 afternoon, so I am catching up.

Thank you for such warm interest in my work and my person; reading my bio. I appreciate the approval in “forgive me if I don’t feel confident that your movement (noble as it is, civility is badly needed in every age) is constructed on solid ground.”

Each time I consider the chasm between current conflict for dominant opinion and the achievable responsible liberty proposed by the U.S. preamble I am more inspired to live another 46 years beyond may age, 75. I mildly exercise for that purpose. You and I are in agreement that my quest is not likely to succeed. I’m not the first to try to promote the U.S. preamble, and the forces against it are strong. My appreciation for people and the power of the U.S. preamble (and my wonderful, witty wife and daughters not unlike MWWW) as well as fellow citizens sustain my passion.

Regarding movement, while it is true that I co-founded a Louisiana education corporation, A Civic People of the United States, it intends neither a movement nor a revenue generating non-profit. It is a codification on which I apply for authority to borrow public library meeting rooms. Steve Crump kindly suggested the appropriateness of library meetings to discuss the U.S. preamble. The co-founders happen to be a devout Louisiana-French Catholic, Dennis Eilers and a Unitarian, Hugh Finklea. I am directly advised by three interested women and acknowledge more on my blog. I have always hoped for a board, who would guide my work. Yet I accelerate my quest in open forums such as this one. I listen to convincing considerations more than people realize or admit.
The public aspects of my work began on June 21, 2014, with an eight-hour conference on the U.S. preamble, no public invitations accepted. In 2014, I called it “Ratification Day” but later learned that some scholars cite June 14, 1784, the day 13 free and independent states ratified the 1783 Treaty of Paris. Therefore, I changed the label to Personal Independence Day, then reformed to Dona Bean’s better preference, “Individual Independence Day” upon her death on September 20, 2017. On what I have learned in this thread, I am considering changing it to Responsible Liberty Day; I see it directly referencing the U.S. preamble’s proposition. Your suggestion or a suggestion from other readers would be welcomed.

Most importantly, let me explain my view about what seemed to you a contradiction. When I resigned from the Baptist brotherhood, I had eight jobs in my liberal Baptist church, including chairman of the family enrichment committee. I sang in the choir, for example with tears streaming down my cheeks to “Give me Jesus.” When MWWW said to me, “I do not have to explain the mystery that God and Jesus are the same.” Coming from the most serenely civic person I have ever known, MWWW, the idea of faith in the unseen became clearer and more positive to me than ever before.

With that light, I realized that my faith had always been in the truth, unseen as it may be. I developed a talk “Faith in the Truth,” and presented it at both LSU, sponsored by Birj Mohan, and at the Unitarian Church of Baton Rouge in 2006, sponsored by Finklea. There, wonderful Harold Weingarten asked me. “Phil, is your faith in God’s truth, ultimate truth, absolute truth, or Phil’s truth?” I answered, “None of those, and I will have to get back to you with an answer.” Harold knows my answer is “The-objective-truth, which can only be discovered and cannot be constructed on imagination, reason, revelation or any other human work.” Of course, my phrase is controversial, but I prefer it to, for example “The Truth,” which implies divinity that my not conform to the-objective-truth.

I have no objections to human beings pursuing religion, spirituality, philosophy, pseudo-science, and other scholarly efforts. However, I am a person who some time ago accepted my individual power, my individual energy, and my individual authority (IPEA) to develop either integrity or infidelity to the-objective-truth. My informed ignorance compels me to admit to myself that I have neither the omniscience nor the omnipotence to complete the work to select a god, even though I stubbornly spent five decades in Bible study for that purpose. I chose to trust my destiny to the same powers that produced what I know: my existence. I have no desire for anyone to do as I do about gods, because I want reasonability for only one body, mind, and person: me. Nevertheless, I want to encourage responsible liberty among human beings.

You closed your message with “Peace, brother,” and I think it means you and I seek the same ends by different means. I think the proposition of the U.S. preamble is: fellow citizens may establish responsible liberty and thereby encourage peace for now and in the future. It seems to me you and I are equitably active for those achievements. Often people write “peace” as a dismissal, but I took yours as an invitation.

I hope so.

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PHILLIP BEAVER
on March 08, 2019 at 14:43:35 pm

While it is true that each of us has a God-given right to our own opinions about interpreting our nation's founding documents, this does not mean all opinions are equally valid. We may indeed have our own idea about what the Pursuit of Happiness means, but to interpret the Preamble correctly it is absolutely necessary that we refer to the Founders' themselves before coming to a conclusion.

I can tell you that they did not think "happiness" is the outcome of self-destructive pursuits, or that material blessings were the most important thing. They would not agree that happiness could be found by abandoning God or the Judeo-Christian moral code or This is the code that sets limits on personal freedom and government power so that society doesn't dissolve into Anarchy or government into Tyranny.

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Karen Renfro
on March 08, 2019 at 15:49:00 pm

Ms. Renfroe, once again, you present the evidence that you do not have the human propriety to understand the U.S. preamble. Only you have the IPEA to stop your self-embarrassment. Give yourself a couple decades to develop psychological maturity---freedom from both external and internal constraints. (During my eighth decade I am hoping for another four to five decades for my development, if my body and mind do not yield earlier.)

I encourage you to consider responsible liberty, the object of the U.S. preamble, written by men who during the week before September 17, 1787 admitted to themselves that they did not know, in your language, God's will and in my language the-objective-truth. (Otherwise their writing would more closely limit Massachusetts’ current declaration of rights.)

Also, give your person time to realize that your god is circular. That is, it is the god of your psychology, psychology being the combination of cognizance and passion. Your psychological development is for you and you alone and cannot be imposed on another person, let alone a member of We the People of the United States whether a civic person or a dissident to justice.

Consider this challenge: present your god to me so as to attract me to its character, power, and promises such that I would forego my status as a person who is developing civic integrity among fellow citizens. I do not encourage you to take the challenge, because I once tried merely to define the god and had a psychosomatic experience that may have been close to a heart attack.

Before you embark on that impossible task, consider one other experience in my life. On studying John’s opinion in John 6:37-39, I opined that if John knew something, it is evident I am not elect. That is, because Agathon appeals to me more than John appeals to me, I was not intended to be “raised up in the last day.” My opinion is valid if one considers Jesus to be as reliable as Agathon, which I consider to be true. Thus, the only risk I am taking to follow Agathon’s advice is John’s promise of being “raised up in the last day.” I see no attraction in John’s construct but plenty in Agathon’s: neither initiate nor tolerate harm.

I have the opinion that you do not read very far into my posts. You may have missed my speculation that if it is so that before Abraham Jesus was, then it is also true that before Agthon Jesus was. He may have talked with Agathon but not John. Anyway, I am prepared, in my afterdeath that vast time after my body, mind and person have stopped functioning, to be judged by Jesus and am prepared for it, even though I do not expect it.

Let’s converse more, but do not change your psychology on mine. You cannot consign your IPEA, in my opinion.

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PHILLIP BEAVER
on March 08, 2019 at 16:35:57 pm

Mr. Beaver,

I am at a loss to understand your reaction to my opinions as the definition of Liberty that has informed me for the past twenty years comes from the Founders themselves: "Freedom and Independence", Freedom meaning the absence of external control and Independence meaning Self-Control and/or Self-Government and/or Self-Reliance & Self-Restraint.

This makes it all about responsibility--for individuals, societies and nations. It also ties it directly the Golden Rule, and to the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount. As well as to the Laws of Nature John Locke and others like to talk about.

I am not an advocate of the definition of Liberty in use nowadays which is Freedom from any kind of control, as that would be a synonym for irresponsibility. Please make a note of this so we don't have to repeat this little lesson again. Also, I long ago gave up worrying about what other people think of me so your ungentlemanly barbs offer me a great deal of amusement.

And I apologize again for all my shortcomings.

Pace.

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Karen Renfro
on March 08, 2019 at 16:45:59 pm

Dear Mr. Beaver,

Thank you for the responding so thoughtfully to my earlier post.

I do offer peace as an invitation; although implore is the better word. I honestly can't tell with certainty from your words, but it seems they are saying you have made a decision to reject, after 50-years, your, our, Christian God.

If I am correct, then it's my duty to invite, implore you, to retreat from the path you're taken if it has taken you off the path of God, for it will lead you neither to peace in society nor in self; and no truth other than certain torment; you have left the better one, even if it is the harder.

Peace Brother

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Paul Binotto
on March 08, 2019 at 18:07:34 pm

Thank you again, Mr. Binotto, for your warmth, especially the greeting, "Dear Mr. Beaver."

Trust me, my torments came a quarter century ago, and I am now in the happiness of my life, even though MWWW has Parkinson’s disease and we fight daily for our life. Fortunately, her personality has not lessened with the disease, even though her awareness is wounded. MWWW is well.

In terms of Phil Beaver’s motivation and inspiration to appreciate the-objective-truth, I have given up nothing except my young aspiration to master Bible interpretation. My confidence in my afterdeath and appreciation of all fellow citizens has not been lessened by my commitment to civic integrity.

Peace, brother, to Peace Brother Binotto

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PHILLIP BEAVER
on March 08, 2019 at 18:58:53 pm

Mrs. Renfro,

I appreciate your post. A little rest from Founders' erroneous opinions might aid our dialogue.

I have opinions about “founders” yet am not well read. Machiavelli's "The Prince," with a bias toward irony helps. Especially instructive is Chapter XI; http://www.constitution.org/mac/prince11.htm, a few seconds read without the Italian example. I accuse James Madison of reading and not sharing Chapter XI in the Federalist papers.

I think my convictions were similar to yours 4.5 decades ago. Then MWWW, our first two children, and I lived in Greece for fifteen months. This East-Tennessee Southern Baptist walked where Paul walked (lived in Thessaloniki), listened to my Greek peers, and somewhat reduced my ignorance and hubris. (I also saw the American flag dragged in flames, but that is an aside.) Greece is by no means my ideal, but Agathon is important and not the flowery poet scholars claim.

Peace to you, too.

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PHILLIP BEAVER
on March 13, 2019 at 05:42:13 am

[…] some prior posts, I have been discussing both the Preamble to the Constitution and the effect on the Constitution of Gouverneur Morris revising it for the Committee on Style. In […]

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Gouverneur Morris on the Preamble to the Constitution
on April 27, 2019 at 12:16:35 pm

I wrote before that this forum is the optimal place for reform, and Rappaport’s essay and the comments inspired a clear statement: America’s outstanding opportunity is to revolt from English influence by adopting the U.S. preamble. We the People of the United States may reform American conservatism so that its English influences are put to rest.

Andy Hamilton* surveys today’s Western competitors---conservatism, liberalism, and socialism. “Conservatism’s “organic” [English] social vision is inherently [skeptical] of the state and puts faith instead in the family, private property and religion.” According to the U.S. preamble, American conservatism privatizes religion and encourages the people to self-discipline: to discover and use the-objective-truth.

It seems delegates to the 1787 constitutional convention in Philadelphia ineluctably discussed the world’s political evidence that self-discipline of by and for the people was politically promising. Articulating the consequences of the convention was nearly impossible, yet the committee of forms expressed it in the 51-word U.S. preamble. Only 2/3 of delegates signed the document, so dissidence has always existed.

The U.S. preamble civically, civilly, and legally proposes that willing fellow citizens, “We the People of the United States,” collaborate for Union, Justice, Tranquility, defense, and Welfare, so as to secure “the blessings of liberty.” Civic citizens collaborate on five public provisions so as to secure a human condition: liberty. In other words, a civic people approve and encourage human liberty. Since dead people cannot collaborate, the liberty accrues to both living and future citizens as they are and where they are. Dissidents are encouraged to either do-no-harm or reform if they suffer legal constraints.

It seems clear that religion as a civic or civil rather than private practice is divisive if not ruinous. Within religion there’s a major divider: theism. Theism is at best a belief in Whatever-God-Is, which everyone knows no one knows. The individual theist merely wants comfort and hope against the unknown and appreciates Whatever-God-Is. Yet theist associations require their subscribers to claim that they know what they know they do not know, pitting believers against each other and against non-theists in a competition everyone doubts! Religion is a good practice only if it helps the human practice responsible liberty. It seems that responsible liberty requires each human to admit to himself or herself that he or she would not willingly rebuke Whatever-God-Is and therefore would not rebuke a fellow citizen’s religion or none, even if the fellow citizen suffers the law’s constraints.

It seems individual tranquility in the appreciation for Whatever-God-Is offers civic peace, and that assertion can be discovered in the U.S. preamble’s silence on religion and spirituality.

I cannot imagine a group of fellow citizens who could develop these ideas faster than the writers in this forum. The question is: Do they consider themselves fellow citizens and therefore persons with interest in mutual, comprehensive safety and security so as to encourage human liberty now and tomorrow?

*Hamilton, Andy, "Conservatism", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2016 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = .

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Phillip Beaver
on April 28, 2019 at 14:53:02 pm

"Wisdom and virtue" is a concept that goes back before Burlamaqui. I find references to it in the Old and New Testaments, and in a long chain of writers in the Judeo-Christian tradition.

The biblical definition of wisdom is "knowledge and understanding". The classical definition of virtue is "moral strength, moral excellence, moral courage". The morality that would be referred to here is the one that comes from the Ten Commandments, Golden Rule and Sermon on the Mount. They contain no requirement for adherence to a particular religion, but do contain a requirement not to worship false gods or use the Lord's name in vain (probably meaning don't use God's name to mislead people).

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Standing Fast
on April 28, 2019 at 15:11:43 pm

The Preamble of the Constitution is a good place to start looking for the Founders' definition of Liberty, but it only gives clues. I've found that the best definition of Liberty as defined by the Founding Fathers is in the Declaration of Independence. It appears in two places as a working definition , twice in one sentence,, where it says "free and independent". Since I discovered this, I've come across numerous references to "freedom and independence" in the founders' writings, including in some of the founding documents.

But, the real trick is to define freedom and independence correctly. Otherwise we will all end up in a ditch.

Most writers say Liberty is a more eloquent term for "freedom", which they usually define as something like "the absence of any kind of control". Which would mean lack of self-control in individuals and no limits on government power, or Anarchy and Tyranny, which explains what came before, during and after the French Revolution, but is obviously not the right meaning when it comes to the American Revolution. And, in fact, the Founders and their generation defined freedom as "the absence of external control".

But, they believed Liberty is more than simple freedom. They thought of it as Freedom AND Independence. And they defined Independence as "self-control, self-government, and/or self-reliance & self-restraint". If you think you are looking at the Golden Rule, you are correct. That is why John Adams defined Liberty as "a power to do as we would be done by." If we practice Self-Reliance and Self-Restraint, we will develop Common Sense and Common Courtesy which in time will become Wisdom and Virtue.

Now you can look at the Preamble to the Constitution, the Fifth Amendment, and anything else the Founders wrote and understand what they are talking about.

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Standing Fast
on April 28, 2019 at 15:35:53 pm

The Declaration says, in reference to Life Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness: "And to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men..." Or, in other words, the purpose of government is to protect the Liberty of the People.

At the end of this same passage, the Declaration says "to effect their Safety and Happiness". Which means that the Founders believed government's fundamental purpose is to protect the liberty of the people, as the right to life, freedom and independence, property and pursuit of happiness are inherent in Liberty.

Blessings and Happiness come from the wise and virtuous exercise of those rights. Liberty is impossible without wisdom and virtue. And blessings and happiness are the predictable consequence of doing so. Cause and Effect. The Laws of God and Nature.

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Standing Fast
on April 28, 2019 at 16:22:26 pm

After struggling with the question of how to correctly identify just who the Founding Fathers were, reading all kinds of opinions from various historians and commenters, I came to the conclusion that their number was not limited to the five most famous leaders of the American Revolution--which no two could agree on, or the top twenty, or even the top one hundred.

After much thought, and reading John Marshall, I suddenly realized that their number must have been in the thousands, because the American Revolution began at least as early as 1760 and lasted at least until the Battle of New Orleans in 1815--three generations. It would have included all of the following:

1. All the men who argued for their liberties in the colonial assemblies;

2. All the delegates from those assemblies who signed the Declaration of Independence;

3. All the representatives who served in the U.S. Congress;

4. All the representatives who signed the Articles of Confederation;

5. All the representatives who worked on their state's constitutions;

6. All the delegates to the Constitutional Convention who signed the U.S. Constitution;

7. All the delegates to the State conventions who voted for ratification of the Constitution;

8. All the representatives in Congress and State legislatures who argued for a Bill of Rights;

9. All the delegates to the State conventions who voted for ratification of the Bill of Rights;

10. All the men who were elected or appointed to high office in the Federal or State governments (Supreme courts, the Cabinet, etc.).

I did my best to make a list, one name at a time, but I could not get very far because I do not have access to the records required to do a complete listing. But, I did come up with about 250 names, the same number as David Barton who is probably the foremost authority on the Founders. In the past twenty years this number is cited more and more often by scholars who do not agree with Barton on other points.

In the end, the correct number is probably impossible to reckon, because it was the people who voted for the delegates to the Ratification conventions who had the last word. The People of the United States of America.

The reason I wanted to know is so I would know whose works I needed to read.

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Standing Fast
on April 28, 2019 at 17:27:58 pm

Interesting and informative list and reference.

Struggling with "the founders" seems futile to me, so I narrow the field to the framers--those delegates who debated in the 1787 Philadelphia convention, then further narrow to the signers, then exclude them in favor of fellow citizens, the only people who can offer mutual, comprehensive safety and security.

Perhaps the five-member committee of forms expressed the consequences of the 1787 convention in the U.S. preamble's proposition. I perceive it records my opportunity to collaborate for civic integrity with no regard for "founding fathers," including the framers and signers, since they are in no position to collaborate for civic integrity. It's not as much the fact that they are dead as much as woefully uninformed. For example, they don't have the benefit of Albert Einstein's opinion that we don't lie so as to lessen human misery and loss rather than to follow some rule.

I would exclude your Items 8 and 9, since those politicians opposed the U.S. preamble's proposition so as to partially re-establish English tradition. For example, legislative prayer, about which the U.S. Supreme Court considers my opposition to be niggling. See Greece v Galloway, 2014. Justices are as privileged as the rest of us to consider themselves fellow citizens under the U.S. preamble's proposition. It is up to us to inform them of an opportunity some of them neglect.

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Phillip Beaver
on April 28, 2019 at 17:46:13 pm

The Declaration of Independence was about war against England to effect political separation. France was already at war with England and created the strategy for one of their battles at Yorktown, VA. Consequently, after France and England negotiated a treaty in Paris, the 13 free and independent states on the eastern seaboard of N. America negotiated their 13 independences and ratified the treaty on January 14, 1784.

All of that was terminated by the U.S. preamble's proposition, established by nine states on June 21, 1788. The preamble's proposition, discipline of by and for the people, is the civic, civil, and legal authority for the articles and body of law that serve it.

The first Congress, 1789-1793 substantially re-established colonial-English tradition that opposes the U.S. preamble's proposition. It is our generation's privilege to reform to American psychological independence from English tradition.

For example, U.S. Amendment VI, 1791, requires states to provide impartial juries in criminal trials, breaking the English tradition of jury unanimity. Only one biased jury member can ruin justice. England reformed to 10:2 majority verdicts in 1967 to lessen organized crime's influence on juries. Nevertheless, 49 of 50 U.S. states maintain the obsolete 12:0 rule.

Are U.S. fellow citizens who want criminals to have the advantage in jury trials dissidents to statutory justice?

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Phillip Beaver
on April 29, 2019 at 09:27:06 am

Actually, "wisdom and virtue" are Burlamaqui's take on the "four cardinal virtues" of ancient Greco-Roman philosophy. Cicero's De officiis, studied by every colonial American schoolboy who thought of going to college, was ordered around the four cardinal virtues.

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John Schmeeckle
on April 29, 2019 at 10:04:23 am

Cicero (d. 43 BC) may have been influenced by Agathon (d. 400 BC), who said that a civic citizen's greatest power is that he neither initiates nor tolerates harm to or from any human or god (my paraphrase).

However, the U.S. preamble's proposition is: willing fellow citizens collaborate to provide integrity, justice, peace, defense, and prosperity so as to encourage responsible human liberty (my paraphrase for 2019 living which I offer for improvement by fellow citizens).

Neither Cicero nor Agathon (nor Pericles, d. 429 BC) knew enough to collaborate with living or future fellow citizens under the U.S. preamble's proposition. For example, they knew not Albert Einstein's 1941 suggestion that civic citizens do not lie in order to lessen human misery and loss more than to follow some rule of virtue (my paraphrase).

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Phillip Beaver
on April 30, 2019 at 13:16:48 pm

Here's a short list of required reading (from shortest to longest):

1. "Thoughts on Government" by John Adams, who was "Mr. Independence." Adams wrote "Thoughts on Government in April 1776, giving instructions to his fellow congressional delegates on how to write a Constitution. He got overwhelmed by requests for yet another hand-written copy, so Richard Henry Lee had it printed at his own expense.

2. John Witherspoon's published lecture notes, for his class on moral philosophy (required for all seniors) at Princeton. This was standard fare at the pre-revolutionary colleges. Witherspoon's most famous student was James Madison, who returned after graduating for a special one-year reading class under Witherspoon.

3. James Wilson's law lectures, which include a lot of material on moral and political philosophy. Wilson was self-consciously (and was seen as) providing a comprehensive summary of the collective political and legal thought of the Founders. Wilson studied law under John Dickinson (the most influential voice in the pre-revolutionary era up to about 1773). Unlike Dickinson, Wilson was one of the earliest advocates of colonial independence from parliamentary regulation. Wilson, one of the first Supreme Court justices, signed the Declaration of Independence and paired with John Rutledge of South Carolina to move the Constitutional Convention through some very tricky waters.

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John Schmeeckle
on May 06, 2019 at 19:28:12 pm

Mr. Beaver: You confuse church practice with theology and doctrine. Christianity does not endorse rape, child abuse, domestic violence, or other crimes of this nature. Christianity endorses obedience to the Ten Commandents, Golden Rule and Sermon on the Mount. These are not about worship, rituals or any particular religion.

Only God knows who has truly come to the faith. But, we know that True Christians take seriously the teaching that faith without obedience to God's commandments is not faith. Once someone grasps the message of the Gospel and endeavors to live by the commandments, they will often learn the hard way, as I did, that there are undesirable consequences for failing to observe them.

Because not everyone who calls himself a Christian is one, the visible church is full of people who either don't understand what it means to be one or don't really want to comply although they may make a big pretense of it. They do not represent Christianity.

And, because some people don't come to the faith until they are well into adulthood, the likelihood that they have made mistakes is very great. The thing to look for in such cases is their attitude NOW, something that will be evident in their speech and actions. God knows our hearts. If we love Him, we will want to follow His commandments. We will be alert to our own shortcomings and seek to overcome them. Not all at once, but one by one, sometimes through painful lessons. We are taught that if we repent, God will forgive us. But, we are also taught that this is not an excuse to presume forgiveness when we keep repeating our offenses knowingly. For this reason, I believe that criminals who come to the faith while in prison will not seek to be released into society, but remain behind bars to serve out their terms and be a good example to others.

Nowhere in the New Testament is there an endorsement for any kind of abuse of other people. In fact, the Ten Commandments, Golden Rule and Sermon on the Mount pretty much cover every kind of violation of individual rights. Jesus himself preached the broad interpretation of the Law to his audiences, and he made clear the consequences for failure to follow the Laws of God.

Church teaching and the British Enlightenment thinkers said that the Golden Rule is the summation of the Laws of God and Naure, which are identical. The Founders thought so. That is why John Adams defined Liberty as a "power to do as we would be done by."

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Standing Fast
on May 06, 2019 at 21:03:58 pm

Standing Fast, perhaps you don’t realize your post is civically, civilly, and legally dismissive.

And your last paragraph cites, “Church teaching and the British Enlightenment thinkers . . . The Founders . . . John Adams . . .” Those human beings are all dead and cannot negotiate theism let alone Christianity into the U.S. preamble’s proposition.

The U.S. preamble, with what we know in 2019, proposes that citizens collaborate for five public provisions---integrity, justice, peace, defense, and prosperity---so as to encourage liberty to this and to subsequent generations. Liberty is a human characteristic which the individual may either accept or reject but cannot consign.
I do not wish to debate the Bible, but feel compelled to respond to “Nowhere in the New Testament is there an endorsement for any kind of abuse of other people.” As we are learning from altar boys, abuse is in the opinion of the abused, even though the abuser may have acted in moderation. I want to address a public abuse.
I think Christian apologists abuse the public by obfuscating John the Apostle’s hate in John 15:18-23. (Google “hate in the New Testament” to see if anyone lists John 15:18-23).

I quote: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father as well.”

I earned the opinion that whatever-God-is would not accuse non-believers of hate. It’s John and people who subscribe to John’s hate who claim non-believers hate. Long ago, I chose to appreciate rather than hate. I neither initiate nor tolerate hate. My intolerance is written and spoken and never acts with coercion or force. For example, you may continue to support John 15:18-23, even though I expressed the opinion that it is an abuse of humankind.

For all I know, when my body, mind, and person stop functioning, I will face judgement by Jesus. I doubt it, but am prepared for it. I do not want another person to practice my preparation: let each person decide for themselves. The message in that last phrase comes not from me but from the collaborators who created the U.S. preamble’s proposition. They intended a psychological break from colonial-English traditions.

Under the U.S. preamble’s proposition, every religion that encourages responsible human liberty flourishes, including your Christianity. Doctrine that encourages hate may be accepted as erroneous.

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Phillip Beaver
on May 07, 2019 at 15:25:03 pm

Mr. Beaver: In response to your last comment, a reply to my previous one, shows that you are making no attempt to understand my points.

First, there is a vast difference between the things that Jesus taught (outlined sometimes verbatim in the four gospels) and the things that the human institutions of the Christian church which are subject to the frailties of its members. People who are doing what he taught do not engage in such outrageous behavior. Having said this, I am forced to add that you cannot justly accuse me of making excuses for church leaders or members who sexually abuse children or commit other crimes that the Bible expressly forbids.

Second, I do not understand why you think what the Founders, including John Adams, said is not relevant to a discussion on the meaning of the Preamble to the Constitution. They wrote it. Their understanding of the words and the terms are what we need to know to interpret it properly. Church teaching and the British Enlightenment were among the many streams of thought--almost all directly related to one another--that informed them. That means we need to study the writings of many people and public documents that contributed to the Judeo-Christian Natural Law tradition. If we fail to do this, then we are doomed to misinterpretation and will end up making many often very bad mistakes that render the Constitution incapable of protecting the People's Liberty. Which is what I think has happened down through the years and where I think we are now.

Third, I disagree with you about the meaning of John's passage about Jesus' teaching on the hatred of the world toward him and his followers. It must be understood in light of what he said elsewhere, that we are to love our neighbor (this teaching comes from Moses and relates to the Second Table of the Law)--which means everyone--and to do good to those who hate us. And there were in Jesus' own time people who hated him and his followers. That was how he ended up dying on a cross between two criminals, and why his followers died martyrs' deaths. Those that escaped that end had to go into hiding until Christianity was made a legal religion by the Roman Emperor. I'm sure this was on John's mind when he wrote the passage you refer to. We cannot blame him if he was emotional about it, because those martyrs were not just his friends, they were his brothers in Christ.

Jesus' followers did not practice violence against anyone or advocate hating or persecuting anyone. When they spoke of hating this world, they meant as Jesus taught, that by comparison to their love for God, the things of this world--a place where many evil things take place because of man's flawed (sinful) nature--are hated. It is a way of saying that God comes first in one's list of priorities and the things of this world come last. It does not mean you treat people or the world badly. On the contrary. We are commanded to bring God's love to our fellow man. To do this, you must obey His commandments, which are summed up as love of God and doing good to our neighbor. And everyone we encounter is our neighbor.

It was only after the Christian Church, which after legalization had become a going concern in a few hundred years, was decreed to be the only legal religion by a subsequent Emperor, that tjhings went down the wrong road. The Emperor appointed men who were not true believers as bishops, and they appointed others who were also not followers of Christ. But the Church was now a power unto itself and appointments were prized by families as a way of securing livings for theis sons and influence in society. That was how the Church got involved persecuting nonbelievers. I say this not as an excuse, but as an explanation for those who do not know why this happened.

Even so, the Judeo-Christian moral and legal tradition is responsible for the end of infanticide, human sacrifice, animal sacrifice, slavery, abuse of animals (Judaism and Christianity teach humane treatment of animals--the Sabbath Day even applies to them), class distinctions in law, and cruel and unusual punishment. The publication of the Holy Bible in the lingua franca of Christendom--first in Greek, then Latin, then the various lanuages of the Mediterranean world--set off a movement for universal literacy which was greatest in English-speaking countries. Separation of Church and State was a principle that became popular during the Reformation, and it is based on principles of law taught in the Old and New Testaments. Jesus' teaching on taxes is one of them. Liberty as the Founders' understood it came out of the Judeo-Christian Natural law tradition, which absorbed the Greco-Roman legal tradition in the time of the Early Church.

Having said this, I do not deny, nor desire to, that many crimes have been committed in the name of God and Jesus Christ. These I know are contrary to the Judeo-Christian moral and legal code. I believe that the people who commit such crimes will be held accountable by God, either here or in the hereafter, or both.

Jesus taught we are not to harbor hatred in our hearts toward our brother, or our neighbor. Meaning, anyone. We might be angry temporarily, as a normal reaction to injustice, but we are not to nurse grudges or seethe with hatred. Jesus said it is the same as murder. And, it is true that people who seethe with anger or hatred are toxic to everyone around them. Including themselves.

The historical record speaks for itself.

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Standing Fast
on May 07, 2019 at 18:06:43 pm

I respectfully disagree with your folding the "pursuit of happiness" into the word "liberty." For the Founders, as with the natural law tradition that informed their legal and moral thought, the pursuit of happiness meant the pursuit of virtue. Government's responsibility to secure this natural right included (in the minds of the Founders and their legal sources like Burlamaqui and Vattel) the responsibility to restrict vice and frivolous waste.

This is clearly different from the British liberalism implied in Philip Beaver's point of view.

Virtue, in the writers that the Founders routinely read, prominently included benevolence -- active concern for the well-being of our fellow humans. It is the responsibility of government (corresponding to the people's right to the pursuit of happiness) to safeguard the path toward virtue.

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John Schmeeckle
on May 07, 2019 at 18:25:33 pm

Standing Fast, perhaps we can reach a path to collaboration from your statement, “Having said this, I do not deny, nor desire to, that many crimes have been committed in the name of God and Jesus Christ. These I know are contrary to the Judeo-Christian moral and legal code."

The "Judeo-Christian" moral code has been developing for over 4,000 years and is currently in a state of chaos, with anti-Semitism live and well in the west’s Judeo-Christian politics.

Both in 1787 and in 2019, We the People of the United States are offered a proposition that is silent on both spiritual and religious debates. Every U.S. citizen has the prerogative to either adopt the proposition or oppose it. The individual who would impose a religion on We the People of the United States is in opposition to the agreement for human justice under the U.S. preamble’s proposition.

The proposition is a consequence of the 4 months debates behind closed doors in Philadelphia by representatives from 12 of 13 free and independent states on the globe and on this continent. They had won a war of political independence from England and were then negotiating to establish psychological independence from their origins as English colonies.

Perhaps you confuse the 1776 committee of five who drafted the Declaration of Independence. John Adams did not contribute to the U.S. preamble’s proposition. The U.S. preamble’s authors included Alexander Hamilton, William Johnson, Rufus King, James Madison, and Gouverneur Morris. They wrote the world’s perhaps greatest political sentence of 52 words in only four days. See http://www.shestokas.com/constitution-and-its-people/we-the-people-gouverneur-morris-the-us-constitutions-preamble/.

What is obvious in 2019 is this: the human individual does not have the lifetime within which to benefit from resolution of Judeo-Christianity’s internal conflicts much less its conflicts with whatever-God-is. The U.S. preamble’s words attest to the acceptance of responsible liberty in civic, civil, and legal self-discipline within a human lifetime. The authors challenged fellow citizens to collaborate to provide Unity, Justice, Tranquility, defense, and welfare so that living and future generations may either accept human liberty or pursue another happiness they perceive within statutory law. How to accommodate the U.S. preamble's proposition among fellow citizens is up to the individual. Dissidents to the proposition are secure as long as they do not break statutory law.

What John Locke, John Adams, or John the Apostle thought about civic, civil, and legal morality have only incidental bearing on the 52-word U.S. preamble’s proposition.

I spend time and thought to offer collaboration with you but not the references you cite.

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Phillip Beaver
on May 08, 2019 at 10:16:29 am

John Schmeeckle, I appreciate your assessment of my viewpoint. I recall someone in the past asserted that my view is libertarian. I reacted by introducing myself to Jeremy Bentham (d. 1832) already having met John Stuart Mill (d. 1873).

Today, I consulted https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberalism_in_the_United_Kingdom#Liberal_thinkers and recall reading some part of records from perhaps 10 of 24 thinkers listed.

The Phillip Beaver I see in the mirror seems influenced more by American or in-America writers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, Kahlil Gibran, Flannery O’Connor, William Faulkner, James Baldwin, John Rawls, Leonard Levy, H.L. Mencken, Robert Nozick, Pauline Maier, Albert Einstein, and their biographers. Plato, Euripides, and Chekhov influence me. Byron York seems reliable. This is not to mention the many books on physics and its progeny and studies thereof such as chemical engineering as well as a mountain of religious apology such as Josh McDowell’s “Evidence that Demands a Verdict” (perhaps 1st edition). But that is only a sampling that does include, as I said perhaps 8 from the referenced list.

My view of Phillip Beaver is that he thinks he can learn more by focusing on documents than by reading what scholars write or say about the documents. That is “learn more” but not without the scholarship. The amount of time I spend toward understanding the U.S. preamble is staggering for one life. Sometimes I read an entire book to make certain I am not repeating someone else’s ideas. For example, Sam Harris’s “The Moral Landscape” (2010) or Michael Polyani’s “Personal Knowledge” (1958).

The U.S. preamble’s proposition is expressed in 52 words. I think the message to the reader is: a civic people collaborate for integrity, justice, peace, defense, and prosperity in order to approve and encourage responsible human liberty. Every human being, particularly every U.S. citizen may read the 52 words, do the work to form an individual interpretation, and either act on his or her personal opinion or not.

As far as I can tell, 800 years of English scholarship delivers unlimited confusion about the meanings of “freedom” and “liberty.” However, the 52-word U.S. preamble expresses the human opportunity to collaborate for freedom-from constructed oppression in order to approve-of and encourage existing human liberty-to responsibly pursue individual happiness with civic integrity rather than attempt to conform to someone’s idea of virtue.

I doubt I express English liberalism from any era. I am certain I want fellow citizens---We the People of the United States who accept responsible liberty---to reform from 231 years' colonial-English classicism to human equity under the U.S. preamble’s proposition: a worthy march toward statutory justice.

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Phillip Beaver
on August 30, 2019 at 00:44:42 am

The Founders gave the Constitution to their Posterity. The President must be the same natural kind and kindred and Congress only citizenship and immigration power is keeping USA citizens the same kindred and natural kind.

Why all the confusion... it’s in Federalist #2...#14....

James Madison...”the same kindred blood flows in the veins of American citizens”.

“Our common kindred” is penned in the Declaration of Independence.

Natural is a Kind. The clue is in the Book of Common Prayer.

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Logic Wings
on August 30, 2019 at 13:38:24 pm

So much human injustice springs from "the Founders," a scholarly technique for asserting a personal opinion by attributing it to others. The person who quotes James Madison may lessen himself or herself, much as an individual does by saying u huh to a lie.

Perhaps Madison's most egregious act was drafting what became the First Amendment. It protects religion, an institutional business, rather than integrity, a human duty. Further it extends to the press immunity from justice that neither the Congress, nor the administration, nor the Court, nor the states, nor the people enjoys.

Madison was one of the five on the Committee of Style, who converted the erroneous preamble drafted by the 55 delegates to the 1787 convention to the controversial yet excellent preamble the 39 delegates signed. Regardless of my interpretation, the U.S. preamble uses Unity, Justice, Tranquility, defense, Welfare, and Liberty to prevent civic, civil, and legal imposition of religion as a public goal. So, in my view, Madison is a tyrant who, so far, has gotten away with his tyranny. Other "the Founders" were tyrants.

Among Madison's erroneous claims is in Memorial & Remonstrance (1785), which may not be all his. "Before any man can be considerd as a member of Civil Society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governour of the Universe: And if a member of Civil Society, do it with a saving of his allegiance to the Universal Sovereign."

I wonder if "whatever-God-is" is aware of "the Governour of the Universe" and "the Universal Sovereign." I doubt it, and opine that whatever-God-is finds them and their author wanting. Regardless, based on the proposition that is offered to fellow citizens in the U.S. preamble, I find Madison a dissident if not alien to We the People of the United States as defined therein.

I recommend that fellow citizens who want to impose their religion on others consider 2500 year-old Greek thought, in my interpretation: Humans may communicate, collaborate, and connect for equity under statutory justice. For civic, civil, and legal justice, no one brings their god to the public debate, because everyone may know that whatever-God-is leaves human justice to humans.

As for the Declaration of Independence, since establishment on June 21, 1788, the USA has demonstrated that "Life . . . and the pursuit of Happiness" are often sacrificed for Liberty to the continuum of living citizens. The USA's actual reality is a reflection of the U.S. preamble. I don't think Madison understood.

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Phillip Beaver
on August 30, 2019 at 15:37:15 pm

Mr. Beaver:

Your replies to my comment, while interesting, are so off-base I am stunned. The Self--Evident Truths of the Declaration of Independence are the foundation for the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution. The First Amendment passage on religion addressed the centuries-old problem of State religion and religious institutions which had the authority to condemn people to death for the crime of heresy. By expressly forbidding the establishment of a State religious institution, the Founders prevented the abuses that plagued their forebears.

"Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness" never implied freedom from any kind of control, or anarchy in individuals and tyranny in government. The Golden Rule is the ancient standard that made possible the existence of societies, from hunter-gatherer bands to civilizations. This code of morality and manners was always applied to one's own group. But, Jesus taught that it applied to everyone. This rule does not imply that we have no right to self-defense, a right that comes from the First Law of Nature: Self-Preservation.

The mistake that most scholars make on the Founders' views is to miss the all-important extence of the Judeo-Christian Natural Law philosophy that made it possible to discuss Liberty outside the usual confines of religious doctrine. The Founders were almost all Christians of one sort or another, and disagreed on theology, doctrine and church practices--which differed from one denomination to another, one sect to another, and even one church organization to another.

Christianity, with its grounding in the Jewish religion, was what drove that generation to form a more perfect union, write a framework for government that made room for the abolition of slavery, emancipation for women, and equal justice for all. Remember that I am talking about the ideals of Christianity, not the mistakes of individual churches or members of any churches or sect. These are two different things entirely, though they are related to one another of course.

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Standing Fast
on August 30, 2019 at 16:45:00 pm

Mr. Fast, you lived by your moniker. A little time to reflect on my phrases could serve you well.

For example, do you think whatever-God-is is impressed with Judeo-Christianity? Is Judeo-Christianity a conflict of ideologies? Do you really think freedom-of religion constrains human liberty-to develop integrity? Is freedom of religion a colonial-British pretense? Do your ideas promote equity under statutory justice? Is statutory justice attainable or merely a worthy pursuit? Do you really think 250 controversial founders ought to offset the laws attributed to 39 signers of the 1787 U.S. Constitution? Do you not appreciate the Americans who gave up life and property so that you may have the liberty-to pursue individual happiness? Do you want me enslaved to accept Standing Fast's happiness rather than Phil Beaver's happiness? Would you like to debate my happiness before your imposition?

Can you imagine that I wrote to invite you to think rather than to stun you? You could start the process of joining We the People of the United States by publishing your interpretation of the preamble to the U.S. Constitution with which you would be willing to communicate, collaborate, and connect with me, a fellow citizen, I assume, even though I have never met a Fast.

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Phillip Beaver
on August 30, 2019 at 17:05:47 pm

If you are defining "Happiness" as the pursuit of pleasure, including self-destructive activities and pursuits that cause harm to others either in the short run or the long run, then you can't understand either the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

The Judeo-Christian Natural Law tradition handed down an ideal of Happiness that can be, and is, defined as "well-being, contentment, prosperity, and joy." The great virtues of a good or righteous individual, as taught by ancient Jews, Christians , Romans (Cicero, Marcus Aurelius, et al), and even ancient Sumerians, meant the stability of individuals, families, and society. Self-destruction was, and is in this tradition, considered evidence of ignorance and stupidity, whereas Wisdom is defined as "Knowledge and Understanding of the Truth", i.e. the Laws of God and Nature. There is no room for drunken revelry and sloth in this definition of Happiness.

This subject was thoroughly plowed before, during and after the Revolution--covering at least five generations altogether before the War of 1812. The Founders did not make it up. They learned it from their parents, their teachers, their pastors, their countrymen. Read Benjamin Franklin's Poor Richard, the New England Primer, letters from the Founders to their children, the Wills of the Founders, speeches, poems, and so on. Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, Mercy Otis Warren and other leading women of the Revolution also wrote on this subject.

It is a mountain of works, still yet to be thoroughly discovered.

The Founding Generation believed in the idea that Happiness is the consequence of living by the Ten Commandments, Golden Rule and Sermon on the Mount. That is why so many of them wrote that America's Liberty depends upon the Wisdom and Virtue of the generations to come. They said in the absence of these teachings, Liberty would be lost by the Foolishness and Vice of those who did not know or did not care.

These values were often expressed in a rhetorical style, which makes it easy to remember.

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Standing Fast
on August 30, 2019 at 19:40:13 pm

You have referred to "wisdom and virtue," which is actually the Founders routinely following the language of Jean Jacques Burlamaqui, the foremost exponent of natural law for the Founding generation as well as for later American generations -- Burlamaqui's treatise was repeatedly reprinted in the 19th century. For Burlamaqui, "wisdom and virtue" were a summation of the four cardinal virtues, with wisdom being the "perfection" (mature development) of the understanding (one of the three faculties of the soul) and virtue being the perfection of the will. (The third faculty of the soul was liberty.) Burlamaqui's thought is of course rooted in Cicero, for whom benevolence or "love of our fellow men" was fundamental to the preeminent virtue of justice.

For Burlamaqui, as followed by the Declaration of Independence, governments exist to secure natural rights, with natural right understood in terms of reason applied to the pursuit of happiness. Burlamaqui defined happiness as "possession of the good," with "the good" defined as whatever contributes to our "preservation, PERFECTION, convenience or pleasure," and with a good conscience or "internal peace" to use the Founders'phrase) essential for happiness.

For Burlamaqui as well as the Rev. Francis Hutcheson, inalienable rights ("rights that cannot be renounced") corresponded to fundamental duties. For Hutcheson, these fundamental duties were piety and benevolence (corresponding to the two basic commandments of Jesus Christ), which were THE SOURCE OF HAPPINESS. (Sir Edward Coke, whose works instructed the lawyers among the Founding generation, wrote that piety was the great source of happiness.) For Hutcheson, followed by the Declaration of Independence, the collective right of revolution arose from government's violation of the people's "unalienable rights."

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John Schmeeckle
on August 30, 2019 at 19:46:47 pm

Mr. Fast, you write with alacrity to address what you dream about me despite what I write. You are clearly un-woke.

From Agathon (d. 400 BC) I learned to neither initiate harm to any person, or thing, or whatever-God-is nor to tolerate harm from any person. If I need defense I apply the required strength if I have it.

I think Agathon's speech was erroneously plagiarized by New Testament writers (70 AD)---about 500 years later. We're now 2400 years out and have more ineluctable evidence. Let's use it.

Again, please take some time to consider Agathon's message and share your interpretation. It will not be like mine, which is the result of two decades' reading and mimicking Agathon's speech.

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Phillip Beaver
on August 30, 2019 at 20:14:30 pm

"For Burlamaqui [d. 1748, Geneva] as well as the Rev. Francis Hutcheson [d. 1746, Dublin], inalienable rights (“rights that cannot be renounced”) corresponded to fundamental duties. For Hutcheson, followed by the Declaration of Independence, the collective right of revolution arose from government’s violation of the people’s “unalienable rights.”

The preamble to the 1787 U.S. Constitution, ratified June 21, 1788, proposes five public institutions (Unity, Justice, Tranquility, defense, and Welfare) to secure responsible human liberty. This is the civic, civil, and legal agreement that is offered fellow citizens on which to communicate, collaborate, and connect for equity under statutory law.

In 2019, fellow citizens may observe that the standard for justice is the ineluctable evidence. For example, the citizen who says u huh to a lie lessens himself or herself while whatever-God-is says nothing.

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Phillip Beaver
on August 31, 2019 at 13:49:08 pm

Yes, well, Burlamaqui was read by some of the Founders but he was not a household word. The Protestant Reformation and Resistance Movement was the source of the ideas about Wisdom & Virtue for most 18th Century Americans. They did not follow French philosophers as a rule but cut their teeth on the Holy Bible which mentions wisdom and virtue at least once.

Have you read Liberty Fund's "Political Sermons of the Founding Era, 1730-1805" ed. by Ellis Sandoz? Or "American Political Writing during the Founding Era. 1760-1805" ed. by Hyneman & Lutz?

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Standing Fast
on December 25, 2019 at 21:23:45 pm

At least one Founding Father, John Marshall, warned us to beware of "opinions which confound liberty with an exemption from legal control."

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Dan Schoonover
on December 26, 2019 at 12:22:10 pm

Schoonover’s comment in its thread invokes several thoughts.

First, Schoonover is kind to be specific in “Founding Father, John Marshall.” Referring to the Wikipedia article, “Marshall favored the ratification of the United States Constitution, and he played a major role in Virginia's” union with the USA, established June 21, 1788. He became the 4th Chief Justice, serving from 1801 until 1835. Respecting the literal U.S. Preamble, Marshall is just another opinionated scholar, complete with errors.

Five republican oligarchs, the Committee of Style, created the U.S. Preamble’s proposition during September 8-12, 1787, and 39 of 55 delegates to the Philadelphia constitutional convention signed the 1787 U.S. Constitution on September 17. Civic, civil, and legal opinions before and after 9 states ratified the U.S. Constitution (perhaps 4 of 9 on James Madison’s promise to run for Congress and negotiate a British-like Bill of Rights). Federalist 84 opposed the Bill of Rights as contrary to the U.S. Preamble.

In the instance of “beware of ‘opinions which confound liberty with an exemption from legal control’” Marshall did not specify the legal standard. Hopefully, he thought beyond the amendable Constitution. However, the U.S. Preamble infers that human liberty “to ourselves and our Posterity” is the standard of national achievement. In other words, the future width and depth of responsible human liberty judges the ultimate attainment of the U.S. Preamble. I can’t explain how they performed such a political feat, but I assert that the 5-member Committee of Style accomplished that amazing inference.

Most politicians, the Bill of Rights, and the clergy want us to think whatever-God-is provides legal control. However, it seems evident that whatever-God-is assigns to civic citizens the responsibility to develop statutory justice. The 5 republican oligarchs captured that possibility in the U.S. Preamble by leaving religion, gender, race, and ethnicity as private considerations rather than public standards.

Second, as presented by the U.S. Preamble, freedom rather than liberty is subject to legal control. The 5 republican oligarchs used grammar to specify 5 public disciplines for freedom to encourage 1 human acceptance: responsible liberty.

In my interpretation, We the People of the United States consider, communicate, collaborate, and connect to establish and maintain 5 public disciplines by which to encourage responsible human liberty to the continuum of living citizens. Since “founding fathers” are not living citizens, we owe them nothing beyond comprehending and avoiding their errors. However, responsible human liberty is my duty to We the People of the United States, the civic citizens who accept the U.S. Preamble’s proposition. Dissidents invite subjugation to the law or loss of freedom but do not forfeit the human liberty to reform.

The 5 public disciplines I try to live by are integrity, justice, peace, strength, and prosperity. If I am unfaithful to these disciplines, I expect subjugation to the law. Otherwise, I expect freedom from external oppression and work hard to develop and maintain freedom-from internal oppression, especially fear.

I write daily to share my interpretation of the U.S. Preamble’s proposition, not to express the opinions of the 5 republican oligarchs, but to encourage living citizens to interpret the U.S. Preamble and suggest ways I may improve my interpretation. It won’t be easy, because my interpretation already has the benefit of 6-years’ public library meetings with constructive comments from over 70 participants plus my 2-decade study of the 52 word sentence. Yet, I change often. I don’t know the 5 republican oligarchs’ thoughts, but their words, “ourselves and our Posterity” require me to pursue civic integrity.

Third, what kept the 5 republican oligarchs from specifying whatever-God-is as the source of standards for acceptance? I don’t know.

Perhaps one convinced the other 4 that the American experience taught the world that responsible human liberty requires freedom-from oppression so that the individual may accept and develop the liberty-to practice integrity. In other words, the 5 accepted that religious doctrine is developed by human culture and therefore not reliable as the basis of statutory justice. The American experience was that the few people who came here seeking freedom from religious oppression established repressive religions according to their preferences. Some people came here and accepted responsible human liberty.

Over 230 years later, living citizens may observe that physics and its progeny---cosmic chemistry, mathematics, organic chemistry, biology, psychology, fiction, speculation, beliefs, cultures---exist and may be discovered and developed by human individuals. Physics, the object rather than the study, seems to control the unfolding of the universe(s) and human events can only augment the direction of the mass and energy interchange. Physics does not respond to reason or any other human construct.

Discovery of the-objective-truth by studying the ineluctable facts with ever improving instruments gradually approaches the-literal-truth. The 5 republican oligarchs might have referred to this approach as “nature” and less powerful than reason. They cannot be held responsible for discovery after their time.

Fourth, why did people like John Marshall slight the civic, civil, and legal power of the U.S. Preamble? I assert that the 5 republican oligarchs did not persuade the people that the proposition was neutral to religion so as to encourage responsible human liberty. Moreover, the First Congress felt compelled to establish a church-state partnership and followed James Madison’s influence to codify “freedom of religion” instead of freedom to develop both individual integrity and corporate integrity. Furthermore, congressmen wanted to establish “divinity” on par with Parliament’s constitutional partnership with Canterbury. I speculate that Madison and others knew they were establishing Chapter XI Machiavellianism. John Marshall may have accepted the erroneous characterization of the U.S. Preamble as “secular” whereas it assigns religion to privacy as responsible human liberty.

Fifth, it does living citizens no good to debate the opinions of dead thinkers. They could not imagine living in the USA in 2020. And they have no stake in the 5 public disciplines to encourage responsible human liberty to living citizens. On the other hand, the abandoned duty of the press is to journal the mistakes of the past so that the living citizens do not repeat them.

For readers who prefer dead horses, let them continue the proprieties that pay their bills.

Meanwhile, let’s civic citizens bring into urgent public responsibility We the People of the United States as proposed in the U.S. Preamble. Unbelievable as the importance of We the People of the United States may be, public awareness and intentions could accelerate overnight. Progress could be observed as presidential politicians establish what they have done for responsible human liberty under the U.S. Preamble in the 2020 campaign.

For readers who prefer dead horses, let them continue the proprieties that pay their bills.

Meanwhile, let’s civic citizens bring into urgent public responsibility We the People of the United States as proposed in the U.S. Preamble. Unbelievable as the importance of We the People of the United States may be, public awareness and intentions could accelerate overnight. Progress could be observed as presidential politicians establish what they have done for responsible human liberty under the U.S. Preamble in the 2020 campaign.

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Phillip Beaver
on December 26, 2019 at 22:29:53 pm

Liberty, in the thinking of the time, included both freedom from external control and freedom from internal passions and compulsions, without which happiness was impossible.

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John Schmeeckle
on December 27, 2019 at 10:09:16 am

I like your assessment and wonder if it is earned opinion or scholarly citation.

I doubt your assessment can be supported by reference to either John Locke or James Madison. Maybe David Hume but not Adam Smith. Possibly George Washington, but I doubt it. Most Western thought is tethered to speculation about the mystery of whatever-God-is or may be and perhaps misguided objections to public imposition of the question. For example, Leibniz's "why" question---why isn't there nothing?---assumes there is a why, which may not be so. Three hundred years ago, they could not write plainly about physics (the object of study rather than the study) or evolution, and some speculated that reason was more powerful than "nature," their substitute for physics and its progeny.

I understand Thomas Paine could not accept his own integrity so wound up an alcoholically ruined man. I understand Albert Einstein did not accept his mathematical brilliance so introduced a fudge factor into his model of the universe. His math informed him the universe is dynamic and he insisted that it was static for a decade, calling dynamic theorists "religious." What if each human newborn was taught the he or she has the power, energy, and authority to develop integrity rather than drift into infidelity for the sake of human appetites and that it takes 2 to 3 decades of intentional acquisition of human knowledge for a human being to establish the intent and discipline to live a complete human life? How extensively and intensively might human achievement be amplified and accelerated?

Please tell us more about liberty meaning freedom from both internal constraints and external forces before the U.S. Preamble was written.

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Phillip Beaver
on December 27, 2019 at 16:11:11 pm

Like your definition of Liberty being freedom from passions and compulsions. But, zounds! That is the same Liberty referred to in II Corinthians 3:17 and Galatians 5:1.

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Standing Fast
on December 27, 2019 at 19:03:01 pm

Mr. Fast, was Paul arbitrary if he freed himself from Exodus 20:7? Was he mistaken to encourage others to take such liberty?

Here are Paul's statements followed by the Exodus quote, all CJB:

Now, "ADONAI" in this text means the Spirit. And where the Spirit of ADONAI is, there is freedom.

What the Messiah has freed us for is freedom! Therefore, stand firm, and don’t let yourselves be tied up again to a yoke of slavery.

You are not to use lightly the name of Adonai your God, because Adonai will not leave unpunished someone who uses his name lightly.

What civic integrity can be gained by imposing the mystery of Adonai onto political discourse? What's weak about human humility toward whatever-God-is? What's strong about trying to impose God on whatever-God-is?

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Phillip Beaver
on December 28, 2019 at 14:07:09 pm

Well, first of all, Gal. 5:1 does not say Jesus Christ did not liberate us from a requirement to obey to the Ten Commandments although many people think so. He liberated us from our sin nature so we could be free to obey them. His Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5, 6 & 7) is a wonderful commentary on the Ten Commandments.

As John Calvin pointed out, "Stand fast in the Liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be ye not entangled again within the yoke of bondage" means we are freed from the ritual law, not the moral law. Jesus was emphasizing that the ritual law does not cleanse us from sin. To be righteous, one must obey the moral law. Since even believers are fallen human beings it means righteousness can be achieved only by faith in Christ and repentance of sins.

Now, the key to understanding how that works, at least for me, is that the Old Testament tells us that God's Word has the power to give life to those who are dead in the Spirit. And the Old and New Testament make it clear that Jesus Christ is the Word made flesh. Jesus tells us that if we listen to what he says we can be born again.

"Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is Liberty" means that because those who believe are born of the Spirit, they are freed from the wages of sin, which is death, but they are still required to obey the moral law. If we do not repent of our errors, then we are not obeying those commandments. But, when we do obey, we are acting according to the Will of God and bringing the Light of His Word to the world. We are bringing Peace on Earth, good will toward all men.

By following the Ten Commandments & Sermon on the Mount, anyone and everyone will be making Liberty possible for all those around us. Americans used to understand that obedience to the Ten Commandments is what protects other people's God-given rights. Anyone can do this. These Commandments protect Conscience, religious faith, elders, life, family bonds, property, reputation & justice, and social stability.

Liberty is not freedom from the laws that govern the Universe. It is freedom to live in harmony with those laws.

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Standing Fast
on December 28, 2019 at 14:10:01 pm

Oops--my mistake. I meant to say Gal. 5:1 does NOT say Christ liberated us from the requirement to obey the moral law (Ten Commandments, Golden Rule, Sermon on the Mount).

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Standing Fast
on March 03, 2020 at 09:29:18 am

Someone who recognizes that living citizens are the “ourselves” in the preamble to the U.S. Constitution, may own a personal interpretation of its proposition and practice civic, civil, and legal living in conformance to the interpretation. Only such citizens can claim he or she is of We the People of the United States. Other fellow citizens are dissidents, intentionally or not.

The preamble lists six public disciplines of by and for the citizens---in our interpretation for today: integrity, justice, peace, strength, prosperity, and responsible human independence. (Notice that neither secularism nor religion nor spiritualism is listed as a public discipline.) The independently disciplined citizens avoid and discourage the antonymous list: deception, injustice, disturbance, weakness, poverty, and dependence. The six disciplines are my 2020 application of the 1787 goals: Unity, Justice, Tranquillity, defence, Welfare, and Liberty.

Liberty is dependent on freedom-form oppression, whereas independence is a property the human being cannot consign or deny, let alone lose. Every citizen may and can egocentrically develop either integrity or infidelity to self.

A personal interpretation of the 52-word U.S. Preamble is among the world’s most valuable properties, and every citizens should own one. Tragically, I doubt even five U.S. Congresspersons own an interpretation he or she would like to promote as his or her civic, civil, and legal commitment to fellow citizens. We work to reform Congress.

I hope one Senator, one judge, one constitutional law professor, or other reader will answer this challenge by promoting his or her interpretation of the preamble to the U.S. Constitution for personal practice.

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Phillip Beaver
on March 03, 2020 at 15:05:08 pm

Mr. Beaver:

Your commentary on the Preamble is not consistent with the writings of the Founding Fathers or the dominant opinion of their generation. The six items listed in the Preamble each have an application regarding religion, that is, to promote religion in American society by protecting practitioners from persecution or other forms of interference from government or the public.

"Form a more perfect Union" would remind them of the principles for which they fought, number one being self-government according to the Rule of Law which is derived from the Judeo-Christian moral and legal tradition. The founding generation believed that only a "moral and religious people" are capable of establishing a just society, and a government good enough to protect the people's Liberty. The most important freedom, to them, was Freedom of Conscience, which involves personal beliefs about God and religion.

"Establish Justice" would remind them that man's laws must be consistent with God's laws or they are ill-made. Every Sunday there would be at least one preacher expounding on this point from the pulpit somewhere in the colonies and later the U.S. Before, during and after the War for Independence, this was an urgent message from the people to their representatives in Congress and the State legislatures.

"Insure Domestic Tranquility" would remind them of the importance of observing God's Laws (Ten Commandments, Golden Rule, Sermon on the Munt) in the matter of good citizenship. "Liberty is a power to do as we would be done by" said John Adams, and he meant that in a sober-minded way that our generation misses because we are so far removed from the Founding Fathers' way of thinking. Man's laws mean nothing if people do not have a sense in a Higher Power capable of holding everyone accountable.

"Provide for the common defense" means preparing for war to keep the peace. And yet, John's cousin Sam Adams, who was totally in line with that view, warned his countrymen "We may look up to our Armies for Defence, but Virtue is our best Security." This is partly based on the lessons of history, which teach that amorally dissolute people are incapable of defending themselves against a tyrant or invader.

"Promote the General Welfare" was a reference to the People's Well-Being, not to any specific government program. This would be about NOT doing things for the people that they can do better for themselves, or making it difficult or impossible for them to take care of themselves and their families. In England, poor people starved in the streets because there were no jobs, and there were no jobs because government and guilds prevented free trade. It was a long and complicated mess which Dickens took on in the early 19th Century. Americans were used to taking care of themselves and weren't about to give up their freedoms to government meddling. Underlying all this, in the thinking of the Founding Generation, was a reliance on God for His Providence. God blessed industry (work at something productive) and reliability, and He did not bless sloth or idleness. It would be an act of ingratitude if we do not take advantage of the blessings He has given us to make our lives better, and by extension the lives of all those around us.

"Secure the blessings of Liberty" which are Security, Peace, Justice, Prosperity, Blessing and Happiness. God gives us the opportunities, we must get up every morning and avail ourselves of the opportunities we can. Our obedience to God's commandments is the Virtue that is the best security Sam Adams referred to. This is the underlying meaning to this item.

"To ourselves and our Posterity" meant that if we live by God's commandments and govern ourselves according to the terms of the U.S. Constitution (which should be perceived as a contract in which every word means something distinct and unmalleable).

For those who are interested in pursuing this question further, I recommend the following books, in no particular order but if you follow them in the order listed, it will be most illuminating. All are from Liberty Fund unless otherwise noted:

"The Founders' Constitution" ed. by Kurland and Lerner

"The American Republic: Primary Sources" ed. by Frohnen

"The Sacred Rights of Conscience" ed. by Dreisbach and Hall

"John Witherspoon and the Founding of the American Republic" by Jeffrey H. Morrison (Notre Dame Press)

"Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul" by John M. Barry (Penguin)

"The Political Writings of William Penn" ed. by Andrew Murphy

"The English Libertarian Heritage" ed. by Jacobson, foreword by Hamowy

"Our Sacred Honor: Words of Advice from the Founders" by Bennett (Broadman & Holman)

"Original Intent" by Barton (Wallbuilders)

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Standing Fast
on March 03, 2020 at 15:10:37 pm

I forgot to say that while individuals are free to think what they like about the Constitution and its meaning, those who do not know or understand that American government cannot function if everyone was to act on their own interpretations. All the laws of the land can be traced back to the Preamble, and every law begins with this proposition to prove its legitimacy and authority. As the U.S. Supreme Court and court precedent have drifted away from the Founders' original intent, the harder it is for the people to secure the blessings of Liberty.

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Standing Fast
on March 03, 2020 at 22:26:40 pm

You wrote, "while individuals are free to think what they like about the Constitution and its meaning, those who do not know or understand that American government cannot function if everyone was to act on their own interpretations."

I had written, " I doubt even five U.S. Congresspersons own an interpretation he or she would like to promote as his or her civic, civil, and legal commitment to fellow citizens. I hope one. . . reader will answer this challenge by promoting his or her interpretation of the preamble to the U.S. Constitution for personal practice."

U.S. citizens are free to ignore the U.S. Preamble's proposition for civic integrity, and you exercise that freedom.

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Phillip Beaver
on March 04, 2020 at 14:38:47 pm

The Preamble to the Constitution derives from the Declaration of Independence's definition of Liberty (Freedom and Independence) and its statement on the purpose of government being to protect the lives, liberty and pursuit of happiness (which, to the Founders, encompassed private ownership of personal and real property). So the Preamble spells out in broad terms the responsibilities of our legislators.

We ignore the Preamble's proposition, as intended by the Founders, at our peril. My commentary is based on what I've read of the Founders' thoughts on the matter (which go far beyond the Federalist Papers) and reflect my understanding of what they meant.

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Standing Fast
on March 04, 2020 at 18:49:32 pm

Standing Fast, perhaps you are mistaken in your association of happiness with property. The Founders, in the original May 1776 independence resolution, defined "safety" in terms of "life, liberty and property," and defined "happiness" as "internal peace [clean conscience], virtue [with benevolence at the heart of the preeminent virtue of justice] , and good order [freedom from the four disorders of the soul -- distress, fear, lust and ecstasy]. Of course the Founders, following Cicero, routinely paired "safety and happiness," and of course it's hard to be happy if you aren't safe.

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John Schmeeckle
on March 04, 2020 at 22:54:50 pm

About 2,400 years ago, a Greek suggested, in my interpretation, that humans can connect for equity under statutory justice. The Greek's name is not important, because my interpretation is an attempt to create a statement that I am willing to commit to and offer to you for consideration as an agreement that would support your path to the happiness you want for you and not prevent my path to happiness for me as I perceive happiness.

I don't think the Greek was a Christian, but that does not matter. (However, Jesus said: Before Abraham, I am. For all I know, Jesus made himself known to the Greek 2,400 years ago.)

Regardless, we don't need to know the Greek's name to reach an agreement to equity under statutory justice. Likewise, "the founders" have no bearing on our negotiation for our individual happiness-preferences. Not one of them knew you or me. They could not imagine the lives we live.

The authors of the U.S. preamble offer a civic, civil, and legal proposition that fulfills that Greek suggestion. It is intended for you and me, not them. Let's use it for our lives.

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Phillip Beaver
on March 05, 2020 at 13:49:37 pm

Thank you, John. However, I am basing my statement that "happiness" covers private ownership of property because I have read extensively from the Founders' comments on these matters, and from the writers they read.

Our generation doesn't know what the Founders' meant by Happiness. They did not mean Disneyland. They did not mean when your horse comes in the winner. They did not mean the fleeting pleasures of this world. They meant you are able to observe all of God's commandments without interference from Government or your neighbor. They believed that Happiness comes from following the Laws of God. This is a very deep kind of contentment, sense of well-being, prosperity (spiritual, political and material) and joy (a much deeper and lasting kind of happiness).

American society grew up around the freedom to pursue happiness, and for the first two hundred years, to most Americans that meant having something between enough and plenty to eat, a solid roof over your head, self-sufficiency and/or a trade, opportunities and choice. A place to call your own where you could raise a family. People did this in all kinds of different ways.

Property ownership and happiness are not mutually-exclusive.

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Standing Fast
on March 05, 2020 at 13:56:34 pm

I should add that your definition of the Founders idea of Happiness does not match up to their views. They did read Cicero, and found much to like about him. But they also followed the Holy Bible, and the Judeo-Christian Natural Law Tradition (Mosaic Law--including Jesus' commentary on that Law, English Common Law, the Rule of Law, and Natural Law) even more. They liked Cicero because his views were harmonious--but not identical--to the Christian idea of Higher Law, Wisdom and Virtue--although not in every way.

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Standing Fast

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