Thursday, January 23, 2014

Lesson 03: Founding Documents

Constitution Class Handout
January 23, 2014
Instructor: Douglas V. Gibbs

Faith Armory
41669 Winchester Rd.
Temecula, CA

Lesson 03

·   Founding Documents, and Other Influential Documents

The Four Founding Documents are the Articles of Association, The Declaration of Independence, The Articles of Confederation, and The United States Constitution.  Many other documents were also a great influence on the Constitution.

·   Holy Bible, Old Testament, Torah
·   The Laws of the Twelve Tables of the Roman Republic (About 450 B.C.)
·   Magna Carta (1215)
·   English Bill of Rights (1689)
·   Connecticut Fundamental Orders (1689)
·   Articles of Association (1774)
·   Declaration of Independence (1776)
·   Articles of Confederation (1781)
·   Northwest Ordinance (1787)
·   United States Constitution (1787)

Holy Bible, Old Testament, Torah

Included in the list of influences on the Founding Fathers, during the Constitutional Convention, is the Holy Bible.  More specifically, the American Constitution is largely rooted in ethical and political principles from the Torah, the Five Books of Moses.

The founders were dominantly Protestant, and were encouraged by the revolutionary reform launched by the Protestant Reformation.  As “Bible Believing” Christians, the ranks of the originators of the American System saw in the Five Books of the Bible written by Moses an important framework for modern government.  Many of the Colonial governments adopted or adapted Torah principles and values in organizing their own systems.

The government of the Hebrews was, historically, the first republic, and one that played a large role in shaping the American experiment.

No nation has been more profoundly influenced by the "Old Testament" than America.  The political design of Israel was no doubt a large part of establishing the general model of governance of the United States of America.

Throughout America’s founding documents, the doctrine of a Higher Law is present.  The documents make reference to “The Laws of Nature and Nature’s God,” the “Supreme Judge,” the “Creator,” and “Divine Providence” in a continuous fashion.  The freedoms attained are called the “Blessings of Liberty,” in the Constitution.

Prior to the formation of the United States as a nation, the colonies adopted and adapted various Hebraic laws for their own governance.  The legislation of New Haven, for example, in thirty-eight of seventy-nine statutes, derives their authority from the Hebrew Bible.  The laws of other colonies were also based on the same premise.

In his “Farewell Address,” President George Washington declared: “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports…. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that National morality can prevail in the exclusion of religious principle.”

To remain a free people under the union of States, Washington believed, requires national morality, a precondition of which is religion.  Morality and religion are a check against human nature, a natural tendency to sin, man’s tendency to seek self-indulgence and his tendency to chase the immediate gratification of his own desires.  Without religion and morality, a culture war would emerge where the citizens would fail to exhibit self-restraint and consideration of others.  Religion inspires men, encourages individuality, and directs him with reverence, wisdom, and a desire for self-reliance.

As prescribed by the Constitution, The House of Representatives is designed to contain representatives from distinct districts, where the people of each district elect one person to represent their views and interests.  District elections is implicit in the Book of Deuteronomy.  “Select for yourselves men who are wise, understanding, and known to your tribes and I will appoint them as your leaders” (Deut. 1:13).  The word “election” comes from the word “elect,” and the “elect” means men of high intellectual and moral character.

A principle of Jewish law reads, “No legislation should be imposed on the public unless the majority can conform to it” (Avoda Zara 36a).  According to the principles established by the Torah, legislators are required to consider or consult the opinions of their constituents.  Representatives must be “men who are wise, and understanding,” but also men that legislate in a manner that is in line with his constituents.

The Senate and the States are also concepts influenced by Hebrew principles of governance.  Each of the twelve tribes of Israel had its own distinct identity, its own governor and its own judicial system.

Even the presidency finds itself to have influences from the political system of the Ancient Israelites.  Unlike parliamentary systems like most governments in Europe, the United States has a Unitary Executive, the President.  When Moses told Joshua to consult the elders when he was about to lead the Jews across the Jordan, God countermanded Moses:  there can only be one leader in a generation.  Further examination recognizes that though the representative government was important, a single executive was also important, rather than many heads, or a collective leadership where the perceived head is also a part of the legislative body.

“The adoption of the Constitution will demonstrate as visibly the finger of Providence as any possible event in the course of human affairs can ever designate it.” - George Washington

“I have so much faith in the general government of the world by Providence, that I can hardly conceive a transaction [the framing of the Constitution] of such momentous importance to the welfare of millions…should be suffered to pass without being in some degree influenced, guided, and governed by that omnipotent…and beneficent Ruler in whom all inferior spirits live, and move, and have their being.” - Benjamin Franklin

“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.  It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” - John Adams

The Laws of the Twelve Tables of the Roman Republic

Among the oldest influences on the American Form of Government was Roman law.  Roman Law was based on the Law of the Twelve Tables.

During the era of the Roman Republic (509 to 49 BC), lawmaking was bicameral.  An assembly of the citizens, the lower legislative body, passed legislation.  It was then approved by the representatives of the upper class, or the senate, and issued in the name of the senate and the people of Rome.  In the United States we also have a bicameral legislative body, requiring that all laws go through two legislative bodies before being presented to the executive.  In the United States government, these Houses of Congress are called The House of Representatives, and the U.S. Senate.

The Twelve Tables of Roman law governed crimes, property, debts, and injuries. They were recorded on bronze and wooden tablets ("tables") around 450 B.C. and put on display at the Forum in Rome for all to see.  A thousand years later, in 535 A.D., by order of the emperor Justinian, the tables were put into writing.  The Justinian Code became a large influence on the evolution and development of modern law in Europe, and in countries around the globe where European influence was felt.

Magna Carta (Great Charter)

The greatest of the influences on the Founding Fathers came from their own history in England.  Before they fought the American Revolution, or began penning the American founding documents that proclaimed freedom, and independence, was the Magna Carta.

The Great English Charter served as an historical precedent for asserting their rightful liberties from the British Crown, and the English Parliament.  The framers of the Constitution drew inspiration and direction from the assembly of barons in 1215 that confronted a despotic and financially bankrupt King John, demanding that traditional rights be recognized, written down, confirmed with the royal seal, and sent to each of the counties to be read to all freemen.  The Magna Carta served as an incredible achievement in 1215, and later provided inspiration for the American colonists forging a new nation.

Originally known as the "Articles of the barons," the formal version of the Magna Carta was issued on June 19, 1215.  There was a minor change in the new document, when the final provision was drafted, replacing the term "any baron" with "any freeman" in stipulating to whom the provisions applied.  The term would eventually include all English, and was a starting point for the Constitution’s Preamble, where “any freeman” was changed once again, but this time to the first three words of the American document: "We the People."

The Magna Carta's primary purpose was restorative: to force King John to recognize the supremacy of ancient liberties, to limit his ability to raise funds, and to reassert the principle of "due process."  The final clause of the document created an enforcement council of tenants-in-chief and clergymen, severely limiting the king's power and introduced something new to English law: the principle of "majority rule."  At John's urging, during the following September, Pope Innocent II annulled the "shameful and demeaning agreement, forced upon the king by violence and fear."  The civil war that followed ended in King John's death in October of 1216.

The Magna Carta was reissued in 1217 by the monarchy, in hopes of gaining support for the new king, John's 9-year-old son, Henry III.  It was again issued by Henry when he assumed personal control of the throne in 1225.  Both times the charter was reintroduced, it lacked some provisions, including that providing for the enforcement council, found in the original.

The English Colonists developed legal codes largely incorporating liberties guaranteed by Magna Carta and the 1689 English Bill of Rights.  Though the education of the colonists varied, and few could afford legal training in England, they were familiar with English common law.  During one parliamentary debate in the late 18th century, Edmund Burke observed, "In no country, perhaps in the world, is law so general a study."

James Madison and Thomas Jefferson drew inspiration from the doctrines of the British constitution, or in what were called English liberties.

America was a place where freemen adopted the best of the English system, while adapting it to new circumstances.  The English Colonies was a place where a person could rise by merit, not birth; a place where men could voice their opinions and actively share in self-government.  When the British Crown challenged these beliefs, turning to the colonies as a source of revenue to help alleviate the Crown’s substantial debts, and the growing expense of keeping troops on American soil, the colonists questioned the government in Britain, challenging the actions of parliament, arguing that without consent or direct representation in Parliament, the acts by the motherland were "taxation without representation," and an act of tyranny against the free peoples of the colonies.

The influence of the Magna Carta, and the demand for liberty, was with the colonists long before the War of Independence.  As John Adams later wrote to Thomas Jefferson, "The Revolution was in the minds of the people, and this was effected, from 1760 to 1775, in the course of 15 years before a drop of blood was shed at Lexington."

The Americans would have their rights, and they would fight for them. The seal adopted by Massachusetts on the eve of the Revolution summed up the mood--a militiaman with sword in one hand and Magna Carta in the other.

When it was time to form a new government, embodied in the Constitution of the United States, where the authority emanated directly from the people, not from any governmental body, like the Magna Carta, the Constitution would be "the supreme Law of the Land."  Under the Magna Carta, no man, not even the king, was considered to be above the law.  That was the basis of constitutional thought in the United States.

"A government of laws, and not of men." - John Adams

English Bill of Rights

As a result of the Glorious Revolution of 1688, the English Bill of Rights (1689) further limited the monarchy in England.  The English Bill of Rights is still in effect and is a cornerstone of law in the United Kingdom.  It calls for freedom of speech, regular elections, the right to petition, the right to bear arms, no cruel or unusual punishment and calls for the consent of the people.

A number of provisions in the Constitution are taken by direct influence of the English Bill of Rights.  Included in these provisions influenced by the English Bill of Rights are the clause requiring that the President faithfully execute the laws enacted by Congress; the possession of the purse strings by the House of Representatives; the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances; the Third Amendment which forbids the quartering of soldiers in private homes; the right to keep and bear arms; free elections; free speech; jury of our peers; and the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Connecticut Fundamental Orders

The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut was the first written constitution in North America.  The document was comprised of a preamble, and eleven orders.  The document was heavily influenced by biblical principles, and remained the colony’s law until 1662.  The Orders called for a “good and orderly government” to “order and dispose” of peoples’ affairs as the reason for people to “associate and conjoin” themselves into a Commonwealth.  The purpose of the Commonwealth was “to maintain and preserve the liberty and purity of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus,” as well as to formulate “Laws, Rules, Orders and Decrees” to guide civil affairs.

The Orders provided for election of a governor and six magistrates, and the body of government had a legislative body, an executive, and a judicial power.  It also included guidelines for representation, paying taxes, and contained a bill of rights.

Articles of Association

In response to the Boston Tea Party on December 17, 1773, and other colonial acts of destruction of British property, the British Parliament enacted the Coercive Acts in the spring of 1774.

Seeking to quell the "commotions and insurrections" taking place in Boston, the passage of the acts was designed to punish the dissent in Massachusetts, and to serve as a visible consequence for rebellious activities.

The first act closed the port of Boston on 1 June 1774.  Parliament added the Administration of Justice Act and the Massachusetts Government Act, to take effect in the summer of 1774.  These three acts, together with the Quebec Act and the Quartering Act, completed the collective group of British legislation known collectively as the "Coercive Acts."

Although the three of the Coercive Acts were directed at Boston and Massachusetts, the colonial leaders worked furiously to remind all colonists that they "suffer in the common cause."

A committee formed, calling for a plan of resistance known as the Solemn League and Covenant.  The covenant called upon all colonists to boycott British goods.

In September of 1774, representatives from twelve of the American colonies gathered in Philadelphia to discuss a unified course of resistance to the Coercive Acts.  The Continental Congress appealed to King George III for redress.

What came out of the gatherings was the Articles of Association, which united the colonies through a universal prohibition of trade with Great Britain.  The Articles of Association prohibited import, consumption, and export of goods with England.  Most of the associations prior to the Articles of Association were individual associations.  The Articles of Association in 1774 established citizen committees to enforce the act throughout the colonies.

Declaration of Independence

The Declaration of Independence is heralded as having been written by Thomas Jefferson, and though he penned it, the writing of the document was actually by committee.  The committee of five appointed by the Continental Congress was Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Roger Sherman of Connecticut and Robert R. Livingston of New York.  Roger Sherman, interestingly enough, is the only Founding Father whose signature is on each of the four founding documents, the Articles of Association, The Declaration of Independence, The Articles of Confederation, and the United States Constitution.

The Declaration was approved by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, and outlined the reasons why the colonies were seeking independence from Great Britain.

The document declares that it is the right of the people to alter or abolish their government should it become destructive.  It also states that these truths are self-evident, and 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.”

A list of grievances are given, most of which are also iterated in the U.S. Constitution.  The Declaration calls for fair representation, encourages immigration, a judiciary separated from the will of the monarchy, a stop to the presence of a standing army, a stop to the quartering of troops in the houses of the citizens, fair trials, due process, free trade, fair taxation, a protection of rights, and for the Crown to hear the redress of grievances by the colonists.

The call for independence then ends with an incredible statement.  “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

Articles of Confederation

A constitution existed before the U.S. Constitution, and it was called the Articles of Confederation.  The government under the Articles of Confederation, however, was too weak to protect the union of states, so the founders met in May of 1787 to fix the Articles of Confederation, and if necessary, form a whole new government with the writing of a new constitution.

The Continental Congress wrote the Articles of Confederation during the Revolutionary War, as a way to create and maintain the Continental Army.  The problem was, because of the great fear of the existence of a central government, the government under the Articles of Confederation was given the job of enabling diplomacy, printing money, resolving controversies between the states and coordinating the war effort (which included the creation and maintenance of the Continental Army), but the government under the Articles of Confederation was given no authorities to accomplish the tasks.

Under the Articles of Confederation, the congress could request States to send soldiers, but they couldn't demand or enforce the request.  The central government could print money, but they could not tax.

Printing money to pay for the war, but not backing the money with anything, led to incredible inflation.  By the conclusion of the Revolutionary War, the currency was worthless.  When the government under the Articles of Confederation asked the States to raise taxes to back the currency, most refused and began printing their own money.

Under the Articles, the legislature consisted of only one house, and each State only had one vote.  They needed 9 of 13 states to enact a law, and in order to amend the articles themselves, they needed unanimous agreements from the States.

The articles were originally written to give the colonies some sense of a unified government.  But since the Articles of Confederation was written with such a strong emphasis on State autonomy, it gave little care to the union, or the external issues that accompanies a national structure.

The Articles made the states and legislature supreme.  The President was a figurehead with no power.  Judicial functions were very limited, and virtually non-existent.

Many of the principles of the Constitution were, however, introduced in the Articles of Confederation.  Understanding the Articles of Confederation gives clues as to why the founders drafted the Constitution in the manner that they did.

Northwest Ordinance

Under the Articles of Confederation, while the United States Constitution was being drafted, in 1787, the Northwest Ordinance was passed.  The Northwest Ordinance established a process for admitting territories to the Union as States.  The territories were to be governed by Congress until it had 5,000 free, white males.  Once the territory reached that level of population, the settlers could vote whether to become a permanent State with all the rights of the other States in the Union.

The Northwest Ordinance also disallowed slavery in the new territories, granted freedom of religion, and the right to trial by jury.

Now on to the The Path to the United States Constitution. . . And don’t worry, we didn’t forget the Mayflower Compact.  Read about it in the beginning of the next lesson!


- Articles of Confederation, Avalon Project - Yale University:
- Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, Bill of Rights Institute: resources/americapedia/americapedia-documents/orders-of-connecticut/
- John L. Hancock, Liberty Inherited: The Untold Story of America’s Exceptionalism; Liberty Lane Media (2011)
- The Articles of Assocation; October 20, 1774, Avalon Project - Yale University:
- The Jewish Torah Roots of the American Constitution by Prof. Paul Eidelberg, Destination Yisra’el: yisrael/2010/07/the-jewish-torah-roots-of-the-american-constitution-by-prof-paul- eidelberg.html
- The Laws of the Twelve Tables,
- The Magna Carta,
- W. Cleon Skousen, The 5000 Year Leap: The 28 Great Ideas That Changed The World, Washington: National Center for Constitutional Studies (1981)

Copyright: Douglas V. Gibbs, 2014

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Lesson 02: Historical Influences on the United States Constitution - Temecula Constitution Class

Constitution Class Handout
January 16, 2014
Instructor: Douglas V. Gibbs

Faith Armory
41669 Winchester Rd.
Temecula, CA


·   Historical Influences on the United States Constitution

·   Anglo-Saxons
·   Ancient Israel
·   City States of Greece
·   The Roman Republic
·   Montesquieu
·   Slovenia
·   British Empire


The British Isles are geographically separate from the rest of Europe, and developmentally separate from the rest of Europe.  With the Anglo-Saxon invasion at about 500 A.D., the national character of the English Speaking Peoples were identified as being one that was strong on individualism, land ownership, natural rights, a government by the consent of the people, and a free market.

The rest of Europe developed very differently, evolving from the absolute rule of the Roman Empire, and the authoritarian nature of the Roman Catholic Church.  Under the stronger monarchies in Mainland Europe, the rulers owned the realm, and the people had little say about the nature of their government.  The Kings were seen as having been divinely appointed, and they ruled with a heavy hand.  In 1066, mainland Europe came to England, in an attempt to subjugate the land dominated by the Saxons.

The Normans invaded, and conquered England, and implemented their feudal system into what was a relatively free society.  The common people became nothing more than servants to the conquerors, and the land was distributed to King William, the Church in Rome, and Williams loyal supporters.  England became a land ruled by a few elites, but the freedom that had been planted by the Saxons had never been forgotten.

The Rule of Law reemerged in 1215 with the Magna Carta.  The “English Charter” forced the king to accept the rights of the individual, and unlike the rest of Europe, limits were placed upon the king.  Limited rule had been a Saxon tradition, and the English were not going to automatically accept absolute rule from their monarchs.

As time passed, again power consolidated with the ruling class, and many of the limits placed upon the monarchy by the Magna Carta were being ignored.  The condition in England continually worsened, until 300 years later, when the Protestant Reformation emerged.

King Henry VIII sought a divorce from Catherine of Aragon so that he could marry Anne Boleyn.  He wanted an annulment from the Pope, claiming Catherine was not a virgin when she married him.  Pope Clement VII refused.  Martin Luther in Germany was calling for the reformation of the Catholic Church, so Henry VIII decided to support Martin Luther’s cause, and severed ties with the Catholic Church.  The pope excommunicated King Henry VIII, and in return the Protestant Church of England was created, setting Henry VIII up as head of the church.  He granted himself the allowance to have a divorce, and England, once again, was separated from the traditions of authoritarianism that ruled the countries of mainland Europe.

In an attempt to bring England back into the fold of the Catholic Church, Charles V of Spain declared war on England and sent a massive armada to England to set the rebellious nation straight.  A large storm in the English Channel scattered the armada, and Sir Francis Drake defeated the remaining Spanish vessels.

England, shortly after, established colonies in the New World, partially to seek riches to help pay for the war with Spain.  The legacy of the Anglo-Saxons society of freedom played a strong influence on the new colonies, such as Jamestown, in 1607.  After pursuing a failed communal style system of governance, which nearly doomed the colonies, each of them returned to the roots of England.  Limited government, a free market, and land ownership.  As a result, the colonies began to thrive.

Back home, in England, the King of England was working on a plan to force absolute rule on the English People.  The year was 1688, and economic, political, and religious forces came together to stop the overreach of the monarchy, which resulted in the king fleeing London in shame, disguised as a woman.

Absolute tyranny was not acceptable.  The principles of the Anglo-Saxons were the choice of the people.  Individual freedom was the engine behind the Glorious Revolution, which resulted in the establishment of a parliamentary system, and a return to the principles of a limited monarchy.

The feudal system of master and serf, where it was believed God gave power to the monarch to rule over the people, was no more.  In the reemerging system, the people were seen to enjoy God-given rights, and the monarchy was to be governed by the consent of the people.  The people were considered to be sovereign individuals, and the stage was set for the emergence of an end of the system with doctrines of divine rule and absolute power of the king.  The Glorious Revolution set the foundation of what would later become, across the ocean, American Exceptionalism, and the birth a nation founded on the principles of limited government, individual rights, free markets, and the private ownership of property.

Ancient Israel

The Founding Fathers studied many historical records as they prepared to establish a new Law of the Land after the apparent failure of the Articles of Confederation.  As Christians, they naturally turned to biblical principles, and as they studied the record of the ancient Israelites, they were fascinated by the fact that Israel operated under a system of government similar to those of the Anglo-Saxons.

The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut in 1639 were based on the principles recorded by Moses in the first chapter of Deuteronomy.  Connecticut’s constitution was so successful, that Rhode Island also adopted the written order of self-government.

Like the Anglo-Saxons, the Ancient Israelites set themselves up as freemen.  Also, the Israelites set up their system of governance into an organization of small, manageable units, where representatives from the families carried a voice, and a vote.  The Israelites emphasized strong local government, and a code of justice that was based primarily on reparation to the victim, and a presumption of innocents until proven guilty.  Leaders and laws were, through a vote, approved by the common consent of the people.

It was the original intent of the Founding Fathers to have both the Israelite’s Star of David and a portrayal of the Israelis going through the wilderness led by God’s pillar of fire, and the profile of two Anglo-Saxons representing Hengist and Horsa, the brothers that first brought the Anglo-Saxons to England, represented on the official seal of the United States.  It turned out to be too complicated for the small seal, so a simpler design was used.

City States of Greece

During the debates of the ratification of the United States Constitution, the delegates discussed the various republics in history.  During the North Carolina ratification debates, James Iredell Sr. voiced his concerns over the creation of a central government, despite all of the precautions in place to check the federal government.  Recollecting the history of Ancient Greece, which had confederated government, he said that “The king of Macedon, by his arts and intrigues, got himself admitted a member of the Amphictyonic council, which was the superintending government of the Grecian republics, and in a short time he became a master of them all.

James Madison, in Federalist 43, concurred, writing “Greece was undone. . . As soon as the king of Macedon obtained a seat among the Amphictyons.

Ancient Greece was seen as both a shining example of freedom, and a lesson of what happens when such a system does not protect itself from the rise of tyranny through pure democracy.

The concern was not unfounded.  The founders existed in an age of kings, emperors, czars, princes, sultans, moguls, feudal lords, and tribal chiefs.  A system governed by the consent of the people existed almost nowhere on Earth.  Even England’s limited monarchy featured an entrenched aristocracy that carried a heavy hand against a nearly irrelevant House of Commons.  The samples of the ancient world, primarily the republics of various Greek city-states, and pre-imperial Rome, were fine examples of what to do, and what not to do, but none had been established as the United States by the people, and both had deteriorated into tyrannies under the heavy hand of powerful rulers.

In the establishment of the plans of government, Greece played an important role, nonetheless.  Early on, the Greek republics had resisted the progression of statist alteration.  To fight attempts to alter the rule of law that the republics in Greece existed under, Solon stipulated that his constitution for Athens could not be amended in a hundred years.

The American Constitution, in many ways, breaks with the principles of Ancient Greece.  The system in Greece was too democratic, and the founders recognized that mob-rule led to the rise of tyrants, and the destruction of the political system in Greece.  The lesson of Greece, more than instructional in how a republic can flourish, provided many examples of what not to do.

In Federalist 55, James Madison remarks, “Had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates, every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob.”

Madison went on to criticize the ancient Greek brand of direct democracy in Federalist 63, writing that the defining principle of American democracy, as compared to Athenian democracy, “lies in the total exclusion of the people in their collective capacity.”

The founders, based on their lessons from the failed system of direct democracy in Greece, instead created a republic, using some democratic processes.

In Ancient Greek governments, which had practiced various forms of direct democracy, the city-states were also referred to as republics.  James Madison, in his writings, sought to establish a linguistic distinction, writing, as he did in Federalist 10, “A republic, by which I mean. . .”

The Federalists, in common statist fashion, worked to manipulate the language, seeking to obliterate Madison’s linguistic distinctions, proclaiming that a “republican” form of government could be either directly, or indirectly, democratic.  For James Wilson, the crucial distinction did not lie between the definitions of democracy and republic as it did with Madison, but between a democracy/republic and monarchy, or aristocracy.  Charles Pinckney described a republican government as one in which “the people at large, either collectively or by representation, form the legislature.”

The politics of Ancient Greece also influenced the decision of the founders regarding the courts, where it was decided that judicial decisions would be made by clusters of ordinary citizens, juries, though smaller than the Greek juries which could number in the hundreds.

The Roman Republic

The Law of the Twelve Tables was the ancient legislation that stood at the foundation of Roman law.  The Twelve Tables was the earliest attempt by the Romans to create a Code of Law.  Creation of the Twelve Tables followed a 16 year battle with a tyrannical king, Tarquin the Proud, after which the people of Rome vowed never to be ruled by a powerful king again.  A representative system, run by leaders elected by the people, emerged.

509 B.C., the citizens of Rome created a new governmental system, and called it The Roman Republic.  Adult free Roman men were considered citizens, while women, children, and slaves remained outside of the system.  As the system evolved, the leaders of the Republic put the laws in writing, to make sure everyone understood them. These written principles were called "The Twelve Tables" because the written laws were organized into 12 sections.  They were engraved on tablets of metal and put on display at the Forum in the city of Rome, so that everyone could see them.

The laws applied to every Roman citizen, regardless of his economic position in society.  The concept was that all citizens were equal in the eyes of the law.

When Greece was conquered by Rome, one of the greatest Greek historians of the time period just over a hundred years before Christ, was a man named Polybius.  After Greece fell, Polybius was deported to Rome, and once he recognized the advantages of the Roman Republic, he became a friend and ally of Rome.

Polybius recognized that there were three types of government.  A monarchy, an aristocracy, and a democracy.  By themselves, none of these system provided equality, prosperity, justice, or domestic tranquility for the whole society, so Polybius recommended to the Roman Republic a constitution that mixed these three systems.  During his life, Polybius saw his philosophy begin to develop in the Roman system, but his dream of a three-department government ended with his death, and shortly after Polybius departed from this world, the Romans began to abandon their principles of a republic.

About 75 years before the birth of Christ, the Roman Republic had reached its zenith.  Rome was the lone superpower in the world.  What began as a republic, equipped with a system of representation, was becoming something the founders of Rome did not intend.  The leadership were wealthy beyond imagination, and had attained incredible political power. The rulers had become suspicious of everyone, intolerant of opposition, indifferent to the demands of the middle class, and considered the Constitution which was designed to curb their ambitions an impediment to their aims.

Marcus Tullius Cicero was but a young man, a student of law under old Scaevola, the eminent lawyer of his day.  Cicero, whose writings many centuries later would be studied by men like Thomas Jefferson, was disillusioned.  Caesar, in complete disregard for the rule of law, had by force of arms, guile and trickery, used his military to dominate the world.

Society, like the leaders, were tossing aside standards set by the early Romans.  The citizens were no longer worried about defending their rights, and had instead learned to live on the gifts from the treasury the politicians had offered them for their votes.  They were fat, immoral, careless, and happy to live on the government’s offerings, which had been taken by bureaucratic chicanery from the substantial men of business.  

One such man, wealthy, but wronged by politicians that coveted his wealth, came to Cicero for representation.  Cicero built his case, and presented it, but the judges were not responding in the way Cicero had expected.  The law was being set aside, believed Cicero, so he consulted with his great friend and mentor, Scaevola.

Cicero explained how he had built his case, and the course he had followed for presentation, and asked why he had failed. Scaevola was disgusted - he slammed his fist on the table and, leaning toward Cicero, shouted, "Imbecile! Of what use are records presented to tribunes, consuls, or senators if the government is determined to rob and destroy a man who had displeased them, or who possesses what they want? Have I truly wasted all these years on such an idiot as this Marcus Tullius Cicero!"

Cicero continued to plead his client's defense against confiscatory taxation, saying "we are taxed in our bread and our wine, in our incomes and our investments, on our land and on our property, not only for base creatures who do not deserve the name of man, but for foreign nations, for complacent nations who will bow to us and accept our largesse and promise us to assist in the keeping of the peace - these mendicant nations who will destroy us when we show a moment of weakness or our treasury is bare. We are taxed to maintain legions on their soil, in the name of law and order and the Pax Romana, a document which will fall into dust when it pleases our allies and our vassals. We keep them in precarious balance only with our gold. Is the heart-blood of our nation worth these? Shall one Italian be sacrificed for Britain, for Gaul, for Egypt, for India, even for Greece, and a score of other nations? Were they bound to us with ties of love, they would not ask our gold. They would ask only our laws. They take our very flesh, and they hate and despise us. And who shall say we are worthy of more?"

Cicero did not save his client. But he did live to argue the cause of honest government and to talk with Sulla, the Dictator (Senate appointed leader), about integrity and fair dealing. Sulla had little faith in the people. He believed them too deeply interested in their own welfare to concern themselves, too timid to stand up for their rights. He told Cicero the middle class, the lawyers, the physicians, the bankers, and the merchants would make no sacrifices. He said none of your lawyers will challenge the lawmakers and cry to them, "This is unconstitutional, an affront to a free people, and it must not pass!" He asked "Will one of these, your own, lift his eyes from his ledgers long enough to scan the Twelve Tables of Roman Law, and then expose those who violate them and help to remove them from power, even if it costs their lives? These fat men. Will six of them in this city, disregarding personal safety, rise up from their offices and stand in the Forum, and tell the people the inevitable fate of Rome unless they return to virtue and thrift and drive from the Senate the evil men who have corrupted them for the power they have to bestow?"

Rome continued to decay. The liberties of the people were being trampled upon in the name of emergencies (crisis), or they were relinquished voluntarily so as to be awarded government benefits.

Cicero, in his Second Oration before the Senate, had this to say: "Too long have we said to ourselves 'intolerance of another's politics is barbarous and not to be countenanced in a civilized country. Are we not free? Shall a man be denied his right to speak under the law which established that right?' I tell you that freedom does not mean the freedom to exploit law in order to destroy it! It is not freedom which permits the Trojan Horse to be wheeled within the gates. . . He who is not for Rome and Roman Law and Roman liberty is against Rome. He who espouses tyranny and oppression and the old dead despotisms is against Rome. He who plots against established authority and incites the populace to violence is against Rome. He cannot ride two horses at the same time. We cannot be for lawful ordinances and for an alien conspiracy at one and the same moment.  Though liberty is established by law, we must be vigilant, for liberty to enslave us is always present under that very liberty. Our Constitution speaks of the 'general welfare of the people.' Under that phrase all sorts of excesses can be employed by lusting tyrants to make us bondsmen."

Years later Cicero appeared before the Senate again.

He said "The Senate, in truth, has no right to censure me for anything, for I did but my duty and exposed traitors and treason against the State. If that is a crime, then I am indeed a criminal."

Crassus, Caesar and Pompey were in the hall listening to Cicero, but turned away to reject his words. He said to them, "You have succeeded against me. Be it as you will. I will depart."

He then told the Senate: "For this day's work, lords, you have encouraged treason and opened the prison doors to free the traitors. A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and he carries his banners openly against the city. But the traitor moves among those within the gates freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears no traitor; he speaks in the accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their garments, and he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation; he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of a city; he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to be feared. The traitor is the carrier of the plague. You have unbarred the gates of Rome to him."

Cicero was exiled from Rome for his words.  From outside of Rome he continued to plead the cause of honest government.  The people were not concerned. They were satisfied living a mediocre life on the public dole.  His friends were also satisfied, and did not wish to make waves.  They were lawyers, doctors, and businessmen, and they told him, "We do not meddle in politics. Rome is prosperous and at peace. We have our villas in Caprae, our racing vessels, our houses, our servants, our pretty mistresses, and our comfort and treasures. We implore you, Cicero, do not disturb us with your lamentations of disaster. Rome is on the march to the mighty society, for all Romans."

Cicero was in despair. He began to write his book De Legibus, but Atticus, his publisher, asked, "But who will read it? Romans care nothing for law any longer, their bellies are too full."

Cicero, however, was not completely unheard.  Brutus, the long-time sycophant of the ambitious Caesar, went to Cicero with his plea that something be done to save the nation. He confessed his error, he said he had believed in Caesar.  Brutus believed that Caesar would restore the republic.  Caesar had betrayed his trust.

Cicero replied, "Do not blame Caesar, blame the people of Rome who have so enthusiastically acclaimed and adored him and rejoiced in their loss of freedom and danced in his path and gave him triumphal processions and laughed delightedly at his licentiousness and thought it very superior of him to acquire vast amounts of gold illicitly. Blame the people who hail him when he speaks in the Forum of the 'new, wonderful good society' which shall now be Rome's, interpreted to mean 'more money, more ease, more security, more living fatly at the expense of the industrious.' Julius was always an ambitious villain, but he is only one man."


The concept of Polybius’ “mixed” constitution was not lost.  During the middle 1700s, France’s Baron Charles de Montesquieu was determined to resurrect the concept of a mixed constitution, and resubmit it for the consideration of modern man.

A scholar that ranked among the best educated, Montesquieu was also a well traveled man.  The recipient of a wealthy uncle’s fortune, he spent about twenty years in travel, and research, before writing his philosophical history titled, The Spirit of Laws.

The book was so full of praise for the English system of government that it never became popular in France.  The book, however, was greatly admired by the men in the English Colonies that had declared independence, and were forging a new nation.

The concept of a mixed constitution in the book included a concept of a government based on “separation of powers.”  This, and the many other political concepts in the book, illuminated the minds of the founders, encouraging them to create a system based on “separated” powers, governed by the consent of the governed, and containing a series of checks and balances.

Polybius had recognized the three departments of government as being the executive, the senate, and the people’s assembly.  Montesquieu, however, saw his version of the separation of powers developing in England.  Montesquieu’s developed along the lines of an executive, a legislature (with an upper and lower house), and an independent judiciary.

Montesquieu wrote, “When the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person, or in the same body of magistrates, there can be no liberty; because apprehensions may arise, lest the same monarch OR senate [legislature] should enact tyrannical laws, to execute them in a tyrannical manner. . . Again, there is no liberty, if the judiciary power be not separated from the legislative and executive.  Were it joined with the legislative, the life and liberty of the subject would be exposed to arbitrary control, for the judge would then be the legislator.  Were it joined to the executive power, the judge might behave with violence and oppression.”

Montesquieu called for a single executive, as opposed to the two or more consuls in Rome set up to preside over the people, or the thirty executives in Greece.  A single executive would ensure responsibility would be concentrated in a single person who can make decisions quickly and decisively, and cannot escape either credit or blame for the consequences.

Some, in the Constitutional Convention of 1787, actually called for numerous presidents.  Others, like James Wilson, argued along the lines of Montesquieu, that there should only be one president.

As for the concept of “separation of powers,” many of the delegates argued for the existence, at the federal level, of only a Congress.  In the Articles of Confederation, the President held no power, and there was no national judiciary.  During the Constitutional Convention of 1787, in fact, the creation of the Judicial Branch occurred late in the convention, on the fourth to last day.  Many of the founders feared a three-department federal government, and even more of them feared a federal judiciary, for fear it would become a judicial oligarchy, or a tool used by a despotic ruler.


Few are aware of the influence that Slovenia had on the creation of the American System of Government.  Thomas Jefferson, in fact, studied the history of Slovenia at length, learning much from his studies.

By the early 7th century, democracy emerged in Slovenia.  The Slovenes’ Slavic forebears founded the Duchy of Carantania, based at Krn Castle (now Karnburg in Austria).  The Ruling dukes were elected, and vested, before ordinary citizens.  The Slovenian model of government was referred to by the 16th-century French political theorist Jean Bodin, whose work was a key reference for Thomas Jefferson when he wrote the American Declaration of Independence.

British Empire

Experience can be a prime motivator, and in the case of the Founding Fathers, based on the history of the Colonies, and their relationship with the motherland, the Founders knew exactly what not to do.  The lessons of tyranny by the British Empire played a heavy role on what the delegates during the Constitutional Convention of 1787 decided upon.

During the early 1600s, King James I enforced conformity to the Church of England.  Anyone who dissented was punished.  In 1629 King Charles I initiated aggressive anti-Puritan policies.  The Puritans, and the Pilgrims, came to the New World seeking religious freedom.

Quakers flocked to Pennsylvania where William Penn was determined to live in peace with the Indians, and all other religious denominations. Penn’s first principle of government was that every settler “enjoy the free expression of his or her faith and exercise of worship towards God.” Pennsylvania tolerated all Protestant sects, as well as Roman Catholics.

Rhode Island was created to advocate freedom of religion when Roger Williams, the founder of the colony, had been banished by the Puritans in the early 1630s.

In all facets of the American System, as it emerged from being an idea, and entered true application, the founders sought to be as unlike the British Empire, in regards to the tyranny and despotism, as possible.  The Founding Fathers, based on their own experiences, the experiences of the colonists before them, and the realities of history, determined that freedom for individuals was best served when the governmental system was limited by the chains of a constitution. Nationalists believe that government should have the authority to enact any act of government for the purpose of forceful benevolence. But if an individual is being forced, how is it benevolent?

In the American system, the States held all powers originally.  Authorities necessary for the protection, preservation, and promotion of the union were granted to the federal government by the States.

The British Empire had come to be ruled by men.  The King believed Britain to be his realm, therefore the concept of property ownership was limited to a small group of land owners, who were the Lords of Britain.  The King, and the nobles, had complete power over making law, and imposing taxes.  The House of Commons was more of a consultative assembly, than a legislature representative of the people.  The Founding Fathers realized that a nation ruled by an oligarchy of political elite was not compatible with the society that would champion liberty, and individual rights, that the founders desired.


- Akhil Reed Amar, America’s Constitution: A Biography; New York: Random House (2005)
-Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America; New York: Penguin Group (1984), Originally published in 1835 and 1840.
- John L. Hancock, Liberty Inherited: The Untold Story of America’s Exceptionalism; Liberty Lane Media (2011)
- Slovenia: History, The Lonely Planet;
- The European Tribe That Inspired Thomas Jefferson’s Idea of Democracy, Ground Report;
- W. Cleon Skousen, The 5000 Year Leap: The 28 Great Ideas That Changed The World, Washington: National Center for Constitutional Studies (1981)
- W. Cleon Skousen, The Making of America: The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution, Washington: National Center for Constitutional Studies (1985)

Copyright: Douglas V. Gibbs, 2014

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Lesson 01: Basics of Government - Temecula Constitution Class

Constitution Class Handout
January 9, 2014
Instructor: Douglas V. Gibbs

Faith Armory
41669 Winchester Rd.
Temecula, CA


·   Basics of Government

·   Why do we need government?
·   Building Blocks of Government
·   The American Form of Government
·   Political Spectrum
·   American Exceptionalism

Why do we need government?

"Society in every state is a blessing, but government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one; for when we suffer or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country without government, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer." --Thomas Paine, Common Sense, 1776

“If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.” ― James Madison, The Federalist Papers

In a society with no government, people have no freedom.  In a society with too much government, people have no freedom.

Without government there is no law, and without law there are no enforcers of the law.  This kind of system is called an anarchy, which is a transitional form of government.  In an anarchy, there is no freedom because the citizens must constantly protect their property, and their lives.

With government in place, there are laws in place.  When there are laws in place, it is necessary to hire enforcers of the law, such as a police force.  A society with a government in place can create an environment of freedom that allows citizens the ability to leave their property and engage in activities away from their property.

In a society with no government, people have no freedom.  In a society with too much government, people also have no freedom.

Tyrannical governments dominate the pages of history.  These governments obtain their power through violence, and bloodshed.  To maintain their power, they must also do so through violence and bloodshed.  When tyrannies are finally toppled, the path to dislodging tyrannies also includes violence and bloodshed.

Violence and death are the common results of powerful central governments with dominant rulers.

Dictators do not normally reveal their plans of tyranny during their rise to power, for the people would never have allowed them to become their leaders if they knew this kind of violence was in their future.

In history, tyranny is the rule, and liberty is the exception.  Governments that protect the freedoms of the people, and respect the rights of their citizens, are a rare occurrence.  Freedom requires the citizens to be informed and involved.  With freedom comes responsibility.

“A well-instructed people alone can be permanently a free people.” - James Madison.

An educated society begins by teaching the younger generations the principles of liberty.  The founders understood we need government, but a limited government was required to protect the rights and property of the citizens.  However, because of human nature, the founders realized that without making sure that the people remained educated about the system they had established, a downward spiral into despotism and tyranny was inevitable.

Thomas Jefferson originated the concept of public education, through state governance.  The original purpose of public education in this country was to teach our children:

·   Politics
·   History
·   Government

"Of all the views of this law [for public education], none is more important, none more legitimate, than that of rendering the people safe as they are the ultimate guardians of their own liberty." ~Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia (1782)

An uneducated society allows tyranny to rise up because of the failure of the people to remain vigilant in protecting their freedoms.  The government becomes unwilling to live up to its promises, or follow the rule of law set up as a standard.

People often search for purpose through government, believing the false promises by their powerful leaders.  Then, the government creates emergencies, to better enable the rulers to do things they could not normally do when society is peaceful, and there are no domestic disturbances.  As a result of the emergencies, the citizens become eager for stability.  They are willing to accept something different than what they had in order to achieve peace and safety.  Even statism begins to look attractive, because all the people know is that they yearn for a change from what the citizenry had been experiencing under the prior government in crisis.

In the case of Adolf Hitler’s Germany, the German people were deceived by an evil Nazi ideology that eventually became a threat to the stability of the entire globe. War spread across Europe.  The Nazi War Machine engulfed Europe.  Japan began to swallow up territories in the Pacific.  Italy concentrated on North Africa.  During World War II Hitler slaughtered millions of Jews, as well as people the Nazis believed were genetically inferior, and people who dared to stand as opposition.  Millions of lives were lost during World War II to stop the tyranny of the Axis powers.

The Founding Fathers recognized the dangers of creating a central government.  Their research of the Anglo Saxons, Ancient Israel, Greece, Rome, and Slovenia revealed to them the dangerous reality that a central government in the United States created the potential of tyranny in the new country.  However, without a strong government, the union of States would be unable to defend themselves against invasion, nor ensure domestic tranquility.

The Founding Fathers of the United States recognized that government is necessary, but that too much government is dangerous, so the federal system created during the Constitutional Convention placed an emphasis on local control over local issues, while allowing the Federal Government to handle the external issues necessary for protecting, preserving, and promoting the union of Sovereign States.

The new government needed to recognize State Sovereignty.  The powers of the state governments would exceed the powers of the national government, except when regarding the authorities granted to the federal government.  The new United States Government had to be strong enough to protect, preserve and promote the union, while limited enough not to intrude upon the rights of the individual States.  Alexander Hamilton called for a strong national government, but many of his colleagues saw nationalism as dangerous, and prone to tyranny.

America needed a lion, powerful enough to defend the union against foreign enemies, but restrained enough that it left State Sovereignty alone.  The problem with lions, however, is that they eat you.  So the question was, how could the founders create a strong enough central government for the external issues, but limit it in such a way that it not only did not interfere with internal issues, but when needed, would act as a mediator between the States when necessary?

Building Blocks of Government

The Founding Fathers understood that in order to control power at the governmental level, power would need to be limited through a series of strategies.  Various concepts were used to ensure that government not only remained limited, but that there would be many checks and balances to make sure those limitations remained in place.

Government, in a general sense, is directly connected to The Law.  The parts of government must be able to make law, modify law, repeal law, execute the law, and apply the law.  Therefore, there are generally five parts of government.

·   Legislature
·   Head of Government/Executive
·   Judiciary
·   Local Governments
·   The People

Some governments use all of these parts, some of these parts, or only one of these parts.  The manner in which these parts of government are used, or not used, will depend upon where along the political spectrum the government in question lies.


The legislature is the law-making part of government.  It is the duty of the legislature to make law, modify law, or repeal law, as necessary.  The legislature can be a consultative assembly, a parliament, or a congress.

If the legislature is consultative, this means it is nothing more than a part of an oligarchy, advising the ruler on matters of law, policy, and foreign affairs.  Consultative assemblies lack the lawmaking power of traditional legislatures, and often exist only to give the appearance of giving the people a voice, when in reality they provide no real check against the central government, or the head of state.  Consultative assemblies are normally just a rubber stamp for the ruling party, or head of state.  Members can be elected, or appointed.

Parliamentary legislatures are normally elected.  A parliament can be a single legislature, or consist of two, or more, houses.  In a parliament, the members make law, modify law, and repeal law, and through its leadership, serves as the head of state, or executive branch, or government as well.  In a parliament, there is no separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches of government.

A Congress, like a parliament, may consist of a single legislature, or be broken up into groups, or houses.  The members are elected, and in a republic the power to legislate is granted solely to the Congress.

Legislatures do more than make and revise laws, though that power is their main authority.  Legislatures often are also charged with administrative oversight, ensuring the laws are being carried out by the proper agencies of government.  In the American system of government, the U.S. Senate also has an “advise and consent” power, where the executive must receive approval of the Senate before taking certain actions, such as making treaties with other countries, and regarding appointments to government positions that are not elected.

Legislatures represent the constituents, serving as a voice of the people.  The representatives are elected to represent States, territories, provinces, or districts, depending on the government in question.

Head of Government/Executive

The head of government, or executive, also acts as the head of state.  It is the job of the executive to run the day to day operations of the government in a manner not unlike the chief executive officer of a large business.  Other duties can include acting as the representative of the nation to the world, which includes visiting with foreign dignitaries, as well as a potential of many ceremonial duties.

The head of government can be a monarch, a ruler, a prime minister (which also makes the head of government a legislator, as well), a chancellor, or a president.  The head of government can be appointed, achieve the position by birth, or be elected.  In a parliamentary system the prime minister, or chancellor, is also, normally, the leader of the majority party in the legislature, which means the head of government always has a legislative majority.

Presidents are separately elected, and are not a part of the legislature.  Presidents may, or may not, enjoy a working majority in the legislature.  A president lacks the full authority to dictate governmental policy, reliant upon the legislature to propose laws, and make laws.  The president’s authority regarding laws is normally limited to “approval,” which is confirmed by the president’s signature on the proposed law.  Once a law is in place, however, the President has the authority to ensure the legislation is carried out, or “executed.”

In the United States, the President also provides information and advice to Congress, like through the State of the Union address; works with foreign states by negotiating treaties, or negotiating executive agreements; appointing non-elected government jobs (with the consent of the U.S. Senate, in the case of the United States); acts as commander in chief of the military; accepts or vetos proposed law; and grants pardons (except in the cases of impeachment).  Often, the President will also suggest proposals for new law, which is, more often than not, proposed by a representative that is in the same political party as the President.  Some authorities, as in the authority to make war, rests solely on the President because there are times when these decisions must be made quickly, without the benefit of a prolonged debate.

The model of the American President is the most commonly followed model around the world.


The judiciary is normally the part of government where the law is applied.  Courts can consist of one judge, panels of judges, or committees.  Some courts have juries, and some don’t.  In the United States we have a dual federal and state system of courts.  The federal courts and the State courts have their own powers, and area of constitutional authority.

Some courts are “trial courts,” some are “appeals courts,” and each State, and the federal government, also have their own “supreme court.”

U.S. Courts can only hear cases that are brought before them.  A trial courts, evidence is presented, and arguments are made.  A jury may be present, depending on the size, or type, of case.  In some cases, a grand jury may be convened, to determined if a case should proceed to trial in the first place.  Trial courts normally hear “civil cases,” and “criminal cases.”

Due Process is a constitutional concept we will discuss later.  Judicial Review is not a constitutional concept, and will also be discussed in subsequent chapters.

In the American judicial system, the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.  This means that the burden of proof lies with the plaintiff, or the state.  The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant has committed a crime.

Either party in a civil case, or the defendant in a criminal case, may appeal the decision to a higher court if they feel the ruling was wrong.  Appeals courts accept no new evidence, and the parties making the appeal are tasked with arguing that mistakes were made in the original trial, or the law was misapplied.  Appeals courts are under no obligation to hear appeals.

Local Governments

Local governments include State governments, provincial governments, and municipalities.  In the United States, State governments are supposed to be autonomous from the federal government, enjoying State Sovereignty.  City governments, though enjoying some autonomy, are also often subject to provisions in the State Constitution.  Local government is closest to the citizens.  In unitary governments, all authorities belong to the national government, and the local governments possess little or no power regarding local issues.

In the United States, the States are their own republics.  The States are supposed to be as individual and autonomous as the residents within their borders.  Though autonomous, sometimes the States and federal government hold concurrent powers on some issues.

The People

The U.S. Constitution begins with the words “We The People” because the document was written for the people in a language that should be easily understood by the people.  Government exists because of the people.  However, like government, if the people have too much power, it can be dangerous, which is why the U.S. Constitution even divides the power of the people.  This is a part of what makes this nation a republic, and not a democracy.

Congress is the link between the people, and their government.  Representation enables the interest of the citizens to be applied to government.  Elections are held so that the people can choose the representatives they wish to represent them in government.  Some elections are direct, and some are indirect (as in the case of the Electoral College).

The American Form of Government

The battle of political ideas is indeed the battle for control over the United States Government. The debate over the role of government in America continues to shape our history to this day. What kind of government Americans should live under is a question best answered, however, not by today's ideologues, but by the framers of the United States Constitution.

The Constitutional Convention of 1787 had its share of debate. In fact, the battles between persons like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison against personalities like Alexander Hamilton during the early years of this nation (note that the debates between Jefferson and Hamilton did not occur during the Constitutional Convention, as Jefferson was in France during that time period) are quite similar to the debates we are experiencing today between the political establishment, and traditional conservatives. One could even classify Alexander Hamilton as one that clung to ideas very similar to those of today's liberal Democrats. He believed that the federal government should be centralized to better rule over the States, that the federal government should subsidize businesses in order to make them supportive of an ever-growing state, as treasury secretary he supported tax increases and strict government planning of the economy, and he championed the accumulation of public debt, protectionist tariffs, and politically controlled banks. Hamilton belittled Thomas Jefferson, and others like him that believed in a limited federal government, for speaking too much of liberty.

Hamilton, like today's liberal Democrat and Establishment Republicans, believed the people could not be trusted.

The Founding Fathers, with a few exceptions like Alexander Hamilton, believed the American government must be limited, and localized, if individual liberty was to be protected. The federal government is limited to only those authorities enumerated to it by the U.S. Constitution, while all other authorities are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people, as enunciated by the Tenth Amendment. Thomas Jefferson strongly opposed public debt and national banking, seeing both of them ultimately as a threat to an American's natural, God-given, rights.

When the government is allowed to do things that are not Constitutionally authorized, it is akin to letting the camel poke his nose into the tent. Eventually, whether you like it or not, the camel will be completely inside the tent, and you will have little room to do much for yourself, leaving you compelled to practice all of your activities around the will, and size, of the camel.

As a result of letting the camel poke its nose into the tent, the United States Government has pushed aside the Constitution, and has practiced little restraint when it comes to the powers of the federal bureaucracy in Washington, DC. The idea that the federal government is a servant to the people, and that the citizens of the states are the masters, is facing demise. Generations of activist judges in an unconstitutionally powerful judiciary have eviscerated the constitutional protections afforded the American People. National debt, harmful protectionist international trade policies, tax dollars being used to subsidize various politically connected businesses, central economic planning, and a political control over the money supply have instigated boom-and-bust cycles in the economy that has brought some Americans to a point of asking for the government to save us - when it was the statists in government that caused the mess in the first place with their liberal policies over the last century, or so.

The centralized state of the British Empire, headed by a despotic king, is what we fought against during the American Revolution. Behold, after more than two hundred years of freedom, this nation's leftwing of the political spectrum is working on enshrining that very system we fought against in America. The Democrats, and Establishment Republicans, are trying to change the American Form of Government into something the Founding Fathers fought against, hoping to eliminate true federalism, and create a system built on protectionism, dominant executive powers, judicial activism, state guided mercantile economics, government franchise monopolies, a state run banking system, and interventionism that benefits the statists and their supporters at the expense of the general public's wallet, and freedoms.

Big government policies reside throughout the political system. Neo-conservatives, like Democrats, have also never opposed big government in the way traditional conservatives have, and often embrace leftist proposals. These people are the most dangerous of all, because while they claim to be champions of a limited constitutional government, and promise to slash the size of the federal government, once in office they align themselves with the political establishment, joining the big government politicians as they goose-step America into decay, and financial ruin.

The implementation of big government ideas is nothing short of socialism, and the injection of these policies into the American Form of Government will lead America to consequences the Founding Fathers did not wish us to suffer through. Big Government is dangerous in any form, be it Compassionate Conservatism, American Liberalism, or neo-socialism that takes the form of a Leviathan State that promises it is nothing of the sort. The combination of centralized power and economic mercantilism are the defining characteristics of the British Empire that the American revolutionaries waged war against, and those are the same characteristics of the proposals of American leftists.

Socialists know that the American People have a distaste for a government that believes its role is to provide from the treasury for entitlement programs, and to in turn dictate the behaviors of the citizens for the "common good." This is why the strategy of these statists is to promise the American People one thing, and then deliver something very different. They realize that in the beginning they can never appear to be supporting a socialistic system of government, or reveal that they are indeed big government statists, even though their platforms are indeed socialist in nature. They mustn't let you realize they are the reincarnation of the European economic mercantilists, pushing economic policies that call for government regulation of America's economy in order to increase its power at the expense of rival nations that may seem to provide a favorable climate for a season, but fails to recognize that all trade is beneficial, and strict government controls are counterproductive. They have also been careful not to deliver so much statism that the American People would discover the nature of their intentions, and instead have instilled big government statism incrementally, allowing the American People to become dependent upon the liberal entitlement programs, essentially softening the people up for the hard-core socialism they have planned in the future, and seem to be trying to implement during the term of the current administration.

Statists have declared that their control over the private sector is necessary to save the Free Market, their control over health insurance is necessary to save the health care industry, their Cap and Trade policies are necessary to save the planet from the mythical threat of man-made Climate Change, and their socialism is necessary to preserve democracy.

Leftists proclaim the role of government is to provide a series of new deals, to provide competition when the government is not a fair competitor, and to give hope through hopeless programs that kills choice and liberty. Their deception and lies, and forced legislation if necessary, they believe will bring about their big government system.  They believe that once you are enslaved by the growing federal government, you will like it, because the elitist intellectualists are going to take care of you, and make sure you are a productive member of the state, for the state, of the state, and by the state.

Such is the threat of an unhealthy love of an unconstitutional government, accompanied with the desire to put down any opposition, and elevate rulers of compassionate dictators to the highest levels of the American Form of Government.

When government grows, liberty wanes. When statism gains complete control over a nation, freedom dies - and tyranny rises once again to take claim of yet another victim as it has so many times in history.

Political Spectrum

In the battle of Left versus Right, it is important to understand what it all means in the first place. Like-minded individuals tend to gather together when a theater of opinion erupts. Congregating in such a manner is human nature. Houses, or chambers, of government are no different. Members of the political assembly who support similar agendas sit together, much in the way social allies tend to hang out together at a dinner party. The classification of "left" and "right" grew out of the tendency of people to group together on one side, or the other.

The early definition of "left" and "right" was different than in today's American Society. The earliest known split between the left and the right in a political assembly occurred in France before the French Revolution. Members of the National Assembly sat on the right or the left of the hall depending on their level of political support in regards to the ruling monarchy. Those in support of the monarchy, and the religious elements that came with the reigning government, would sit on the right. The people on the right were defined as being those holding traditional interests in line with the Church and the monarchy, believing the king ruled by divine right, and that Catholicism must continue to be the state religion, and therefore continue to be a strong influence on governance. These people who sat on the right side of the assembly believed that the Church had a vested interest in the political system.

Those who sat on the left side of the hall in France during the period preceding the French Revolution did so in support of "enlightenment," which was considered to be in the interests of rationalism and secularism. The left used secular elements to challenge the Church's long-held influence over government, fostering nationalism among its allies, and promoting hope in constructing and shaping the political community. The left desired to change government by overthrowing the Church and the aristocracy by promoting secularism and nationalism. The planners of this glorious new "Enlightened" government became the leaders of France after the French Revolution, orchestrating a Reign of Terror, which was a period of chaos during which thousands were guillotined for being politically incorrect.

The radicals within this new government saw the Catholic Church as the enemy while promoting its Cult of Reason. Like with the monarchy before them, however, it became clear that to control the political and social upheaval the government in place must also become tyrannical in their own right. Under the rule of “The Left,” France remained a nation unable to cultivate liberty, and one that remained under the iron fist of a dictatorial government. For many, this was no surprise. Some of the planners of the change of the form of government in France knew that in order to keep order they would need to "treat the people as cattle."

The French National Assembly established a constitutional monarchy and adopted a new constitution in 1791 that created a Legislative Assembly. The political assembly, as with any other political body, rapidly divided into factions opposing each other. The three factions that formed in the new French Legislative Assembly were the radicals (liberals), moderates (centrists) and conservatives. The radicals (liberals) sat in the left section of the assembly hall, the conservatives sat on the right, and the moderates sat in the center section. Their political identities were more similar to those political movements today in the United States, than was the pre-revolution arrangement that emphasized itself more on monarchy and religion.

America was much younger than the European nations, and never had a landlord class of titled nobles. In fact, the U.S. Constitution specifically prohibited such a system. The Founding Fathers desired to break away from European traditions as much as possible, even abandoning much of British Common Law when defining citizenship. To be a British Subject the rules were weak, and divided loyalties ran rampant throughout the British Empire. The United States as a nation could not tolerate divided loyalties, and placed a stronger standard of natural born citizenship upon the President in order to eliminate the opportunity for the executor of the American Form of Government to harbor divided loyalties between the United States of America, and any other nation. That way, the new American government could break completely free of any European influence, and forge itself into a Republic independent from British influence, and in fact, European influence as a whole.

The political landscape of the United States of America, since there never was a class of nobles, was simple in the young nation. Either you were a Federalist, an anti-Federalist, or somewhere in between. In other words, you believed in a stronger centralized federal government, you believed that the federal role in government should be limited greatly, or you found yourself somewhere between the two beliefs.

Unlike the Europeans, royalty played no role in determining the political spectrum, nor did religion. Nearly all of the early American Politicians were deeply religious men, so the political spectrum did not separate the factions along religious lines. God played a major role in the principle foundation of the nation, but the founding fathers also determined that no religion could ever take an official role in government. In other words, the establishment of any religion as the official religion of the United States was forbidden. But, the freedom to practice one's religion was not to be infringed upon. Almost all of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were either clergy, or highly involved in their church. 27 of the 56 signers had Christian seminary degrees. The founding fathers fervently prayed in Congress. Benjamin Franklin is widely regarded to be among the least religious of the founding fathers. However, his speech given to Congress on June 28, 1787 asking that Congress have a prayer every morning before conducting business was overtly religious in nature. Despite the belief of some, there was not a political battle between The Church and the secularists.

From the newer models in France, and America, the definition of the Political Spectrum became about the level of control of government over a society, rather than the presence of a monarchy, or established church. Zero percent government intrusion on the lives of the people inhabits the far right of the current political spectrum, which is a condition known as "anarchy." 100% governmental control inhabits the far left extremity of the Political Spectrum, or a totalitarian government. The American form of government, or a Constitutional Republic that rules by law, is very near the center of the spectrum, resting on the slight right of the middle.

Most of the current forms of government present reside on the left side of the Political Spectrum, drawing their foundations from socialist principles. Socialism is authoritarian, which in its beginnings sought to overthrow the Church and aristocracy by promoting atheism and nationalism, much like the enlightened planners of the French Revolution, only replacing the government they thought to be a tyranny with a tyranny of their own. In Russia, the rise of socialism held the basic tenet of replacing the individual's commitment to God with a commitment to love and serve a collective society ruled by an elite few.

When one examines the communist society, which resides on the left side of the Political Spectrum, one finds that if society was ruled over by an equally powerful religious theocracy, the basic governmental elements of the ruling doctrine are the same, and is just as tyrannical. Therefore, a controlling government based on religion is no different than an atheistic system of communism. Either way, the form of governance is based on centralized control over the people, and limits personal individualism, and freedoms.

Economically, the left again is going to encourage increased government involvement with the instruments that regulate the economy. Under a leftist economic system, such as in the communist model, the government seizes control of the industries, eliminating private ownership. In the fascist model, however, the authoritarian political entity engages in corporatism, allowing the private enterprises to remain private, yet bundled together in a uniting strength under authoritarian government rule. Because fascism (from Italian fascismo, Benito Mussolini's authoritarian political movement in Italy 1922 to 1943) was created to be an adverse reaction to the apparent economic failure of Marxism, and labeled itself as the opposite of communism, fascism is often referred to as being right-wing, and ultra-conservative. If you break down the political structure of fascism, however, it becomes apparent that defining fascism as being on the right side of the political spectrum is problematic. Like socialism, fascism exalts the group above the individual (in fascist states often the nation or race is exalted above the identity of the individual). Like other leftist systems fascism also calls for a separation of church and state, a national civilian army, and a progressive taxation. One element of fascism some may argue as being right-wing is the fact that fascism seeks to eliminate labor unions for co-ops. But the co-operatives, in a fascist state, are controlled by the government, and therefore become more so leftist than the system before. Though fascism during the early twentieth century claimed to be anti-communist, the National Socialism of the ideology hardly placed them on the opposite side of the Political Spectrum.

Ultimately, the true definition of the Political Spectrum is dependent upon how government interacts with society. Increase government intrusion and the needle on the spectrum moves to the left. Limit government intrusion and the needle moves to the right. In both cases, the extreme of totalitarianism, or anarchy, are equally dangerous. And ultimately, some forms of government, despite the promise of fairness, are often only precursors to another form of government. The Founding Fathers realized this, recognizing that the only form of government that both limits the powers of the federal government, while still giving it enough strength to govern, is a Constitutional Republic. They knew that if you pursue liberal thought too far an authoritarian government would rise from the movement. If government was limited too much, and the government did not have enough power to enforce law, an authoritarian government would rise to fill the void.

American Exceptionalism

Through its history as colonies in the New World, the Americans had already proven to the world that they were exceptional.  The British Colonies, after all, were founded on the principles of Religious Freedom, and Property Ownership, while re-discovering concepts like the Free Market, and Natural Rights.

The definition of Exceptionalism is, “The condition of being exceptional or unique; The theory or belief that something, especially a nation, does not conform to a pattern or norm.” In other words, to be exceptional is to be truly unique, and to be the exception to the rule.

The United States is exceptional.  This country is different from all of the others around the world.  Our exceptionalism emerged long before the United States became a nation.  The conditions through which the American Colonies were formed, and their belief in Divine Providence, contributed to the exceptional nature of the United States of America.

This nation was not only exceptional at its founding, but became increasingly exceptional over the passage of time.  The exceptionalism this country enjoys will no doubt continue well into the future, as long as the concept of exceptionalism is defended by the individuals that make up the grand experiment known as The United States of America.

The exceptional nature of the United States has been important not only to the growth of this country both geographically and economically, but to the many other peoples around the world.  Our exceptionalism has set us apart in many ways, defining our character as a nation of opportunity, revealing our individualistic nature that has given way to self-reliance, and prosperity.  Americans are more likely to “pull themselves up by the bootstraps” and engage any challenge that may come their way.  We tend to be more personally responsible, we work harder, hold disdain for statism, are more charitable, and are more likely to participate in civic activities.  Best of all, we do these things voluntarily, because we are free to as individuals.

Americans are patriotic.  We are proud to be Americans.  Some argue that is a form of arrogance, but in reality our pride as Americans is truly exceptional.  According to the book, Understanding America: The Anatomy of an Exceptional Nation, Editor James Q. Wilson explains that to recognize the existence of American Exceptionalism, one must only look at polls. “Three-quarters of Americans say they are proud to be Americans; only one-third of the people in France, Italy, Germany, and Japan give that response about their own countries. Two-thirds of Americans believe that success in life depends on one’s own efforts; only one-third of Europeans say that. Half of Americans, compared to one-third of Europeans, say belief in God is essential to living a moral life.”

Alexis de Tocqueville in 1831 and 1832 recognized the exceptional nature of the United States, and was amazed at how the politicians prayed, and the pastors preached politics, but government did not control religion, and the church restrained itself from intertwining itself with government.  He noticed that though there was a certain level of separation between church and state, they also depended upon each other in a symbiotic manner.  Tocqueville realized that America is great because America is good.

Alexis de Tocqueville was astonished by America because among the elites in Europe there was an anti-American sentiment that was sometimes believed by members of the general populace.  The truth he learned by visiting the United States was very different from the criticisms of America by the political ruling classes of Europe.

Sigmund Freud said, “America is a great mistake.”

“Anti-Americanism was an elite view,” James Q. Wilson commented in an article in The American, “but it has spread deeper to publics here and abroad.”

Clearly, American Culture is different from any other culture in the world.  The level of patriotism, individualism, religious beliefs, and our spirit of self-reliance sets the United States apart as a nation.  As revealed in our founding documents, and the example provided by the everyday lives of Americans, we are a culture that holds dear our individual rights, while keeping a watchful eye on a potentially intrusive government.  As a society, we largely support the limiting principles of the United States Constitution, expecting the role of the federal government to be restrained to only those functions necessary for protecting, promoting, and preserving the union.  We expect our economy to grow as a result of a flourishing free market, with as little governmental interference as possible.  Individualism means that we may encounter personal consequences, and we are fine with that, rather than expecting the government to somehow mend any vestige of perceived inequality.

The early history of America set the tone for our exceptionalism.  Historically, America is diverse, rugged, and a land of individual opportunity.  And for this, the United States was blessed with an incredible influx of immigrants who came to this nation desiring the opportunity to participate in the freedom, and exceptionalism, that America had to offer.

The United States also made its share of mistakes, but rather than sink into despair, this country rose above those dark points in history, correcting the nation’s course, and becoming greater because of those momentary storms of history.  The strengths of our civil society has been different because we have achieved our prosperity through self-governance, where the local governments handle the local issues, and the centralized federal government is tasked only with the complexities of protecting, preserving, and promoting the union.

Regarding social issues, the U.S. elevates to a level of exceptionalism unmatched around the world.  Despite the rise of the welfare-state brought about by the Progressive Era, no nation allocates more responsibility for social policy to the non-profit sector.  Our reliance on private entities to provide for “benefits,” offered at the governmental level elsewhere, has contributed to the prosperity of this nation, keeping the government out of societal workings so that the governmental bodies can dedicate their time and energies to more pressing matters authorized to the government by the United States Constitution.

The exceptionalism of the United States, however, is frowned upon by political elites, and certain politicians have made it their priority to fundamentally change the complexion of this nation into something that more resembles the systems of Europe, and other parts of the world.  They wish to eliminate American distinctiveness, fearing that it betrays a certain kind of arrogance.

Historically, societies that allow government to be less restrained end up bogged down by governmental interference.  America’s prosperity is the nation’s defiance against such systems of communitarianism.  The U.S. has purposely aimed to be as unlike Europe as much as possible.  The distinctiveness of this country directly contributes to our exponential growth as a nation.  Capitalism in America has enabled our culture to take full advantage of America’s commercial potential.  Self-imposed discipline has fueled the free enterprise system, and this opportunity to succeed in the United States, and for the nation to prosper as a result, has specifically been because of the exceptional nature of America that works endlessly to disallow governmental attempts at intrusive regulations.

American Exceptionalism is American Individualism.  We cherish our personal freedom, and though community and family is important, we place the freedoms of the individual above the perceived needs of the community.  As a result, the community better benefits from the self-reliance, personal responsibility, and successes of the individuals.

America is exceptional because Americans are individuals.  America is great because those individuals are good.


Anarchy: Zero Government.  Supporters of Anarchy believe that from chaos rises order.  They seek to destroy the old system so that a new political system may rise up from the rubble.  Anarchy is a transitional state of governance, transitioning whatever it destroys into an oligarchy, or similar centralized state.

Capitalism: Economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market.

Civic Activities: Participating in community events, donating time for society, i.e. donating blood and charity events.

Communitarianism: Society where community outweighs the individual; a common good conception of justice; well ordered society without rulers that uses pluralism as the guiding principle.

Divine Providence: The care and superintendence which God exercises over his creatures.

Exceptionalism: The condition of being exceptional or unique; The theory or belief that something, especially a nation, does not conform to a pattern or norm.

Nationalism: Unhealthy love of one’s government, accompanied by the aggressive desire to build a ruling centralized governmental system.

Questions for Discussion:

1. How would the United States be different if we did not perceive ourselves as being an exceptional nation?

2. Why is America’s view of Divine Providence different than in other countries?

3.  What is the difference between charity, and governmentally sponsored redistribution of wealth?

4.  How has our history made our nation stronger in the long run?

5. What would America be like if our Founding Fathers decided they wanted the United States to be more like Europe?

6.  How is the success of the individual beneficial to the community?  How does this show that an individualistic society based on personal choice benefits the community better than a communitarian society?


- The Free Dictionary by Farlex:
- John L. Hancock, Liberty Inherited: The Untold Story of America’s Exceptionalism; Liberty Lane Media (2011)
- Peter H. Schuck and James Q. Wilson, Understanding America: The Anatomy of an Exceptional Nation; New York: Public Affairs (2008).
-Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America; New York: Penguin Group (1984), Originally published in 1835 and 1840.
-Karlyn Bowman, “Understanding American Exceptionalism,” The American, April 28, 2008, american-exceptionalism
-Merriam-Webster Dictionary:
- W. Cleon Skousen, The 5000 Year Leap: The 28 Great Ideas That Changed The World, Washington: National Center for Constitutional Studies (1981)
-Yahoo Answers:
-Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:
-Webster’s Dictionary, 1828 Version:
-The Free Dictionary by Farlex:

Copyright: Douglas V. Gibbs, 2014