Alexis de Toqueville, who toured this country during the 1820 – 30’s, and who wrote extensively of his experiences as an observer of American culture, after noting American ignorance about European affairs, wrote the following…
“But if you question [the average American] respecting his own country, the cloud that dimmed his intelligence will immediately disperse; his language will become clear and precise as his thoughts. He will inform you what rights are and by what means he exercises them; he will be able to point out customs which obtain the political world. You will find that he is well acquainted with the rules of the administration, and that he is familiar with the mechanism of the laws. The citizen of the United States does not acquire his practical science and his positive notions from books; the instructions he has acquired may have prepared him for receiving those ideas, but it did not furnish them. The American learns to know the laws by participating in the act of legislation; and he takes a lesson in the forms of government from governing. The great work of society is ever going on before his eyes and, as it were, under his hands.”
Clearly major changes have occurred in America since the time of Toqueville’s observations and we suffer the results of our current ignorance of our history by living in a culture that gradually acquiesces to increasing infringements on rights and liberties that our Founding Fathers considered God- given and unalienable. Indeed, there are many who make the case that we are living in slavery in America at this time. What to do? Well, why not begin at the beginning and take the positive steps that will lead to real, tangible, palpable results. Let us, first of all, thank God for the freedoms that He has allowed us to retain and let’s begin to recover the lost tools of self-government by learning about our place in His history. Let’s learn the history of our own country, how our Founding Fathers fashioned a plan for its preservation. The purpose of that plan was set forth in the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the structure of that plan took the form of an agreement between the sovereign states known as the United States Constitution.
We need to study this profound document and the historical context in which it was written and adopted. We need, furthermore, to understand the religious and philosophical worldview of the drafters of this instrument and the clear intent of the States in ratifying a document that set forth the limited nature of the powers being vested in the federal government. We need to understand the Founders intent in adopting a Bill of Rights that acted as a check on the power of Congress and the executive authority from infringing the rights of people from whom their authority was derived. Regrettably but perhaps not surprisingly, the government schools have gradually lessened their emphasis on the teaching of American history and government.
There seems to be a systematic and organized attempt to disconnect the youth of America from their heritage so that, at the present, although but a few generations from our Founders, school children today have very little concept of the basic principles that their Fathers fought and died to defend. It is our hope that through the use of this lecture series along with the study notes and other materials, working in small, community groups and connected through the marvelous technology of the internet, participants in the Institute on the Constitution series can begin and continue the challenging but rewarding and Godly task of restoring our lost freedoms and passing on our Constitutional heritage of freedom to future generations of free Americans.