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.

Session One

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?


Session Two

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:

Right of Revolution:

The Character of a Free People: