Christopher Flannery, Azusa Pacific University
April 13, 2002
This seminar will be a conversation about some of the central ideas of American constitutional democracy as they are illuminated in selected writings of the American Founders and those who influenced them. We will discuss the meaning, implications, and political logic of such ideas as equality, liberty, natural law, government by consent, representation, the rule of law, separation of powers, limited government, natural rights, republicanism, and constitutionalism.
Christopher Flannery is a Professor of Political Science and Chairman of the History and Political Science Department at Azusa Pacific University in Azusa, California. Prior to teaching at Azusa Pacific University, he served as Vice-President of the Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy. He has served as a member of the California Department of Education Review Team for Draft National Standards for Civics and Government and as a consultant to the California Department of Education with respect to civics education and textbook assessment. Some of his recent publications include “Tender of the Flame,” in The American Scholar, “Pedagogical Uses of Federalist 10,” “Geography and Power” in Statecraft and Power, and “Educating Citizens,” published in Moral Ideas for America.
Topic: “Apple of Gold”: The Centrality of the Declaration of Independence in American Political Life
Focus: Why is it important to understand the Declaration of Independence? What does the Declaration say, and why and how does it say it? What does the Declaration not say, and why and how does it not say it? What is the significance of Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration?
- Declaration of Independence
- Selections from Jefferson letters to Henry Lee and to Roger Weightman
- Lincoln, Gettysburg Address, Second Inaugural, and Fragment on the Constitution and Union.
- Carl Becker, The Declaration of Independence: A Study in the History of Political Ideas. New York: Vintage Books, 1922; 1942. “Drafting the Declaration,” 135-193.
- Pauline Maier, American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997. “The Declaration of Independence: The Jefferson draft with Congress’s Editorial Changes,” Appendix C, 235-241.
Topic: The American Mind and “Good and Wise Men, in All Ages”
Focus: What is the logic of the argument of the Declaration? What does the Declaration mean, and what does the Declaration not mean? What is the philosophical and historical heritage on which the Declaration draws? Reflections (time permitting) on the course of human events, people, the laws of nature and of nature’s God, decent respect for the opinions of mankind, self evident truths, equality, rights, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, people, consent, prudence, the ends of government, the right to abolish government and institute new government, facts submitted to a candid world, sacred honor, and more.
Reading: From The Founders’ Constitution (Volume I):
Equality, Liberty, and Government by Consent:
- Chapter 1, Document 3, Virginia Declaration of Rights, June 12, 1776;
- Chapter 1, Document 6, Massachusetts Constitution (Preamble and Part the First. A Declaration of the Rights of the Inhabitants of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.), March 2, 1780
- Chapter 2, Document 1, John Locke, Second Treatise, §§ 4-15, 54, 119-22, 163, 1689
- Chapter 2, Document 4, David Hume, Of the Original Contract, 1752
- Chapter 2, Document 5, James Otis, The Rights of the British Colonies Asserted and Proved, 1764
- Chapter 4, Document 1, John Locke, Second Treatise, §§ 95-99, 1689
Right of Revolution:
The Character of a Free People:
- Chapter 18, Document 1, James McHenry, Anecdote, 18
- Chapter 18, Document 6, Samuel Adams to James Warren, November 4, 1775
- Chapter 18, Document 7, John Adams to Mercy Warren, January 8, 1776
- Chapter 18, Document 11, Thomas Jefferson, Preamble to a Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge, Fall 1778
- Chapter 18, Document 19, A Proposal for Reviving Christian Conviction, October 11, 1787
- Chapter 18, Document 22, James Madison, Federalist 55, 375-78, February 13, 1788
- Chapter 18, Document 29, George Washington, Farewell Address, September 19, 1796