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The Soul of the American Founding

From: Michael P.
Sent on: Wednesday, February 29, 2012 10:21 PM

This is an excerpt from the materials you have access to as part of Hillsdale College's FREE online course: CONSTITUTION 101: "The Meaning and History of the Constitution"

The course is ten weeks long, but each week's materials can be covered in about two hours (unless you want to go deeper into suggested reading). Week two has just been released, but you can start anytime as everything is at your own pace. Get started HERE

 http://constitution.hillsdale.edu/

 

Thomas G. West Paul and Dawn Potter Professor in Politics

The soul of the American founding is located in the universal political principles expressed in the Declaration of Independence. The meaning of equality and liberty in the Declaration is decisively different than the definition given to those principles by modern liberalism.

 Lecture Summary

Liberty is the right to be free from the coercive interference of other people. It is derived from nature itself, and is a natural right—something possessed simply because one is a human being.

Equality means that no one is by nature the ruler of any other person. Each human being is equal in his right to life, liberty, and property, which the Declaration calls "the pursuit of happiness."

Equality, liberty, and natural rights require a certain form of government: republicanism, based on the consent of the governed. Legitimate government, based on the consent of the governed, must accomplish three things: the establishment of civil laws that protect man’s natural rights, the punishment of those who infringe on others’ natural rights, and the protection of natural rights through a strong national defense.

The people themselves also play a vital role in protecting their rights. They must be educated in "religion, morality, and knowledge."

Modern liberalism uses the same language of "liberty" and "equality" found in the Declaration of Independence. Yet modern liberals mean something other than what the Founders meant by those words. For the Progressives, "equality" means equal access to resources and wealth, while "liberty" means the ability to utilize a right, rather than the right in itself. Both of these ideas necessitate government programs that help mankind liberate itself from its "natural limitations."

The Declaration of Independence and modern Progressivism are fundamentally opposed to each other. The modern misunderstanding of "equality" and "liberty" threaten not just the Declaration of Independence, but the whole of the American constitutional and moral order.

 

 

 

 

 

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