Constitution Hub

Constitution Day

September 17th might not be as recognized as July 4th but it is equally as important. On that day in 1787, thirty-nine men signed the final draft of newly framed Constitution and sent it to the states for it to be ratified. It took nearly an entire year of heated debate in the pages of newspapers and on the floor of the individual ratification conventions, but ultimately, on June 21, 1788, the Constitution was accepted as the governing document and the supreme law of the land. With the unanimous election of George Washington and his inauguration as president on April 30, 1789, America began a new chapter in her history and the history of the world.

To honor this day, Congress voted in 1952 to formally designate September 17th as Constitution Day, and in 2004 an amendment further instructed that:

“The civil and educational authorities of States, counties, cities, and towns are urged to make plans for the proper observance of Constitution Day and Citizenship Day and for the complete instruction of citizens in their responsibilities and opportunities as citizens of the United States” (emphasis added).1

Furthermore, the law stipulates that any educational institution which receives Federal funds must, “hold an educational program on the United States Constitution on September 17.”2

Some History

This law, however, is hardly a new idea. From the beginning of America’s history, the Founding Fathers realized that the citizens must study the Constitution and its principles. For instance, George Washington explained that it was necessary to ensure, “the education of our youth in the science of government,” reflecting that:

“In a republic what species of knowledge can be equally important and what duty more pressing on its legislature than to patronize a plan for communicating it to those who are to be the future guardians of the liberties of the country?”3

Furthermore, Samuel Adams wrote to John Adams laying out the absolute need for a nation educated in their rights and responsibilities:

“Let the divines and philosophers, statesmen and patriots, unite their endeavors to renovate the age, by impression the minds of men with the importance of educating their little boys and girls; of inculcating in the minds of youth the fear and love of the Deity and universal philanthropy, and, in subordination to these great principles, the love of their country; instructing them in the art of self-government, without which they never can act a wise part in the government of societies, great or small.”4

James Madison, a key delegate to the Convention in addition to authoring part of the Federalist Papers, likewise remarked that:

“It is universally admitted that a well-instructed people alone can be permanently a free people.”5

Even in the generation following the Founding Fathers, leaders continued to rise up and staunchly defend the Constitution. Daniel Webster became perhaps the most well-known of this second generation of Americans and a respected constitutional scholar himself. In a 4th of July speech he reminded the listeners that,

“The American Constitution is the purchase of American valor.…The Constitution is the great memorial of the deeds of our ancestors.”6

Going on, Webster famously admonished the people to continually stand watch that the rights protected in the Constitution were never infringed upon or lost:

“We live under the only government that ever existed which was framed by the unrestrained and deliberate consultations of the people. Miracles do not cluster. That which has happened but once in six thousand years cannot be expected to happen often. Such a government, once gone, might leave a void, to be filled, for ages, with revolution and tumult, riot and despotism.”7

Constitutional Ignorance

However, a brief survey of American students and citizens today reveal a stunning lack of constitutional literacy.

  • 86% of Americans can’t name the Right of Petition
  • 61% don’t know of the Right to Assemble8
  • 27% believe students should get punished by teachers or administrators for posting political opinions they don’t agree with on social media
  • 46% of Americans think institutions should disinvite speakers who might offend listeners
  • 12% of Americans think the Constitution specifically ensures the right to own a pet9

But perhaps the most shocking and revealing statistic is that some 57% of American have never read the Constitution!10

If Americans don’t know what the Constitution says then how can they defend it? Thomas Jefferson warned that, “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”11

In past generations even visitors from Europe recognized that the American political system relied upon a well-educated, civics-oriented population. In Alexis de Tocqueville’s famous 1835 account of his travels in the early republic, Democracy in America, he spoke about how, when asking any American about politics:

You will see the cloud that envelops his intellect suddenly dissipate: his language becomes clear, clean, and precise, like his thought. He will teach you what his rights are and what means he will use to exercise them; he will know according to what usages the political world conducts itself. You will perceive that the rules of administration are known to him and that he has made himself familiar with the mechanisms of the laws.…In the United States, the sum of men’s education is directed toward politics.12

How things have changed! Now over half the nation has never read the Constitution. If Tocqueville were to ask the same question today there is no doubt his answer would be dramatically different.

As a closing thought, George Washington explained to his nephew and soon to Justice on the Supreme Court Bushrod Washington:

“The power under the Constitution will always be with the people.”13

But if the people are unaware of their power then the door remains open to despots and tyrants who would usurp that power for themselves.

Helpful Resources

To help people learn more about the Constitution we have collected numerous resources from early legal commentaries to recent school curriculum. While September 17th is Constitution Day, knowing the Constitution and method of limited government it outlines is an everyday responsibility. Our prayer is that these resources will help you learn about the amazing system our Founding Fathers gave to us!

Early Sources:

Additional WallBuilders Resources:

Recommended Secondary Sources:

Curriculum and Teacher Resources:


Endnotes

1 See, Pub. L. 105–225, Aug. 12, 1998, 112 Stat. 1255; Pub. L. 108–447, div. J, title I, §111(c)(1), Dec. 8, 2004, 118 Stat. 3344, https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/USCODE-2006-title36/pdf/USCODE-2006-title36-subtitleI-partA-chap1-sec106.pdf.

2 See, Pub. L. 108–447, div. J, title I, §111, Dec. 8, 2004, 118 Stat. 3344, https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/USCODE-2006-title36/pdf/USCODE-2006-title36-subtitleI-partA-chap1-sec106.pdf.

3 George Washington, “Eight Annal Message of George Washington,” The Avalon Project (December 7, 1796), https://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/washs08.asp.

4 John Adams, The Works of John Adams Vol. 6 (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1851), 414.

5 James Madison, “Second Annual Message,” The Miller Center (December 5, 1810), https://millercenter.org/the-presidency/presidential-speeches/december-5-1810-second-annual-message.

6 Daniel Webster, Newly Discovered Fourth of July Oration (Boston: A. Williams & Co., 1882), 10.

7 Daniel Webster, Newly Discovered Fourth of July Oration (Boston: A. Williams & Co., 1882), 14.

8 “State of the First Amendment Survey,” Freedom Forum Institute (2023), https://survey.freedomforum.org/.

9 “We the people? 12% of Americans believe the Constitution guarantees ‘the right to own a pet,’” The Washington Times (September 16, 2015), https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/sep/16/12-americans-says-bill-rights-includes-right-own-p/.

10 Thomas Jipping, “More Americans Need to Actually Read the Constitution,” Heritage Foundation (November 1, 2019), https://www.heritage.org/the-constitution/commentary/more-americans-need-actually-read-the-constitution.

11Thomas Jefferson, “To Charles Yancey,” Founders Archive (January 6, 1816), https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/03-09-02-0209.

12 Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 1.2.9 or 291-292.

13 George Washington, “To Bushrod Washington,” Founders Archive (November 9, 1787), https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/04-05-02-0388.

Resources & Fun Activities For Staying In

WallBuilders does not necessarily endorse these websites and resources. We are sharing some educational and fun sites that have been shared with us that we thought might be beneficial. At the time we’re posting this list of resources (April 2020), all of these contain at least some free resources.

Activities/Games

Virtual Tours

Helpful Resources

All Ages Educational

Art

Computers

Faith Based

Foreign Language

Geography

Grammar/Spelling/Writing

History

Math

Music

Reading

Science

Various Subjects

Toddlers

Elementary Age Educational

Geography

Math

  • K-8 online math program that looks at how a student is solving problems to adjust accordingly and build a unique learning path for them. https://www.dreambox.com/at-home
  • K-5 curriculum that builds deep understanding and a love of learning math for all students. https://www.zearn.org/

Misc

Spelling

Reading

Science

Middle School Educational

Grammar

Math

Reading

  • Engaging reading game for grades 2-8 that combines strategy, engagement, and imaginative reading passages to create a fun, curriculum-aligned literacy game. https://www.squigglepark.com/dreamscape/
  • A safe research site for elementary-level readers. They are offering — free 24/7 access [USERNAME: read (case sensitive) PASSWORD: read (case sensitive)]. https://www.facts4me.com/

Science

  • Next Generation Science video game focused on middle school where students directly engage in science phenomena as they solve problems. https://www.tytoonline.com/
  • Science simulations, scientist profiles, and other digital resources for middle school science and high school biology. https://sepuplhs.org/

High School Educational

College Prep

Math

Science

Beyond High School

Signers of the Declaration Resource Page

So many today know very little about the fifty-six men who signed the Declaration of Independence. They pledged their “lives, fortunes, and sacred honor” to preserve the important freedoms enshrined in that document. Their legacy, in the form of the Declaration, has lasted throughout the centuries as America has grown and prospered and that legacy deserves to be remembered! Below we’ve collected some resources so that you can become better acquainted with these brave men.

Biographical Websites

US History.org, Signers of the Declaration of Independence: http://www.ushistory.org/DECLARATION/signers/index.html

National Park Service, Signers of the Declaration Biographical Sketches: https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/declaration/bioa.htm

Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence: https://www.dsdi1776.com/signer/

Biographical Books

John Sanderson, Biography of the Signers: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/007911419

Lives of the Signershttps://shop.wallbuilders.com/index.php/lives-of-the-signers-of-the-declaration.html

Wives of the Signershttps://shop.wallbuilders.com/index.php/wives-of-the-signers-book.html

WallBuilders’ Articles

4th of July: https://wallbuilders.com/resource/4th-july-article

Dr. Benjamin Rush: https://wallbuilders.com/resource/dr-benjamin-rush

James Wilson: https://wallbuilders.com/resource/james-wilson

Secretary of the Continental Congress Charles Thomson: https://wallbuilders.com/resource/secretary-of-the-continental-congress-charles-thomson/

FAQ: Difficulties and Sacrifices of the Declaration Signers: https://wallbuilders.com/resource/faq-difficulties-and-sacrifices-of-the-declaration-signers

Their Lives, Fortunes and Sacred Honor: Richard Stockton: https://wallbuilders.com/resource/lives-fortunes-sacred-honor-richard-stockton

Who Was Charles Carroll?: https://wallbuilders.com/resource/who-was-charles-carroll

John Hart – Quiet Farmer. Selfless Patriot: https://wallbuilders.com/resource/the-cost-of-signing-the-declaration-of-independence/

Courageous Women During the American Revolution: https://wallbuilders.com/resource/women-heroes

Sacrifices of Wives of the Declaration Signers: https://wallbuilders.com/resource/sacrifices-of-wives-of-the-declaration-signers/

Other Articles & Websites

National Archives, The Signers’ Gallery: https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/signers-gallery

National Archives, Signers of the Declaration of Independence: https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/signers-factsheet

Library of Congress, Thomas Jefferson, June 1776, Rough Draft of the Declaration of Independence: https://www.loc.gov/resource/mtj1.001_0545_0548/?st=gallery

Architect of the Capitol, Declaration of Independence Painting: https://www.aoc.gov/explore-capitol-campus/art/declaration-independence

Architect of the Capitol, Key to the Declaration of Independence Painting: https://www.aoc.gov/sites/default/files/painting_key_declaration-of-independence_aoc.png

BARTON: Telling the Truth about Moses

Moses by Michaelangelo: CC A 3.0: Jörg Bittner UnnaThe Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) made revisions in the state’s Social Studies standards which governs the content in textbooks, and thus classroom content. The Texas Freedom Network (TFN), a frequent critic of the State Board, on the warpath, launched a public and social media campaign to demand changes in the standards.

Of the 54,000 words that comprise the Texas Social Studies standard, this organization objected to a 27-word statement in high-school history requiring students to: “identify the individuals whose principles of laws and government institutions informed the American founding documents, including those of Moses, William Blackstone, John Locke, and Charles de Montesquieu.” Their main issue was the mention of Moses.

They therefore launched their “Tell the Truth” campaign, berating the “Texas State Board of Education Members’ claim that Moses influenced America’s Founding documents.”1 According to TFN, the SBOE “exaggerated, if not invented, Biblical influences on American Founding.”2 TFN is therefore asking the public to “Tell the State Board of Education to #Teach the Truth.”3

Others on Moses

Telling the truth is an excellent recommendation. We hope that the SBOE will indeed tell the truth about Moses—that it will tell students that:

  • Noted political scientists from the University of Houston documented that the most-cited source in the political writings of America’s Founding Era (1760-1805) was the Bible, and that among the most frequently quoted passages were those from Moses.4
  • Founding Fathers John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin, appointed by Congress to design a Great Seal for the United States, placed Moses as the central figure in that design.5
  • The inscription emblazoned around the famous Liberty Bell is by Moses, from Leviticus 25:10.
  • Numerous Founding Fathers specifically invoked Moses and his writings, such as signers of the Declaration Thomas Jefferson,6 John Adams, 7 John Witherspoon,8 and Caesar Rodney,9 Arthur Middleton;10 signers of the Constitution Benjamin Franklin11 and James Wilson;12 and other notables, including Thomas Paine,13 Joseph Story, 14 Elias Boudinot,15 and many more.
  • When George Washington died, two-thirds of the eulogies delivered about him likened him to Moses.16

However, Moses was an authority in America long before the Founding Fathers. Almost every one of the dozens of early legal codes in colonial America repeatedly invoked Moses and his writings as the basis of its laws; and countless state and federal courts over the next three centuries openly invoked his writings in their rulings.17

Moses in Government Buildings

Main Reading Room, Thomas Jefferson Building, Library of Congress.

Even today, Moses continues to be officially recognized as a significant influence on American government:

  • In the Chamber of the US House of Representatives, Moses is honored as the most important lawgiver in history.
  • Inside the Supreme Court Chamber, Moses is featured three times, and is also honored at several additional locations throughout the building.
  • In the National Archives, directly in front of the display of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution is a depiction of the Ten Commandments given by the lawgiver Moses.

The direct influence of Moses and his writings across four centuries of American history is so well-documented that Time magazine concluded “from the Pilgrims to the Founding Fathers, the Civil War to the Civil Rights movement, Americans have turned to Moses.”18

Sadly, the Texas Freedom Network has once again confirmed not only its historical ignorance but also its anti-religious intolerance—they become apoplectic over mentions of Judeo-Christian influences, even when history affirms the reality of that influence. They clamored for the SBOE to “Tell the Truth,” but ironically want to keep students from knowing the truth mentioned above. Their attempt at blatant censorship of American history is disturbing.

The Texas Freedom Network is entitled to its opinion, but they are not entitled to rewrite historical facts simply because it does not comport with their anti-religious bigotry. The State Board of Education should continue to “Tell the Truth” by keeping Moses in the Texas Social Studies standards.


Endnotes

1 See a video posted on: the Texas Freedom Network Facebook page in May 2018: https://www.facebook.com/TexasFreedomNetwork/videos/10155547650203034/ & the Texas Freedom Network Twitter feed on May 14, 2018: https://twitter.com/tfn/status/996037333442072576.

2 See a video posted on: the Texas Freedom Network Facebook page in May 2018: https://www.facebook.com/TexasFreedomNetwork/videos/10155547650203034/ & the Texas Freedom Network Twitter feed on May 14, 2018: https://twitter.com/tfn/status/996037333442072576.

3 See a video posted on: the Texas Freedom Network Facebook page in May 2018: https://www.facebook.com/TexasFreedomNetwork/videos/10155547650203034/ & the Texas Freedom Network Twitter feed on May 14, 2018: https://twitter.com/tfn/status/996037333442072576.

4 Donald S. Lutz, The Origins of American Constitutionalism (Baton Rouge: Louisiana University Press, 1988), 140-142.

5 August 20, 1776, Journals of the Continental Congress (Washington, D. C.: Government Printing Office, 1906), V:690.

6 John Adams to Abigail Adams, August 14, 1776, Letters of John Adams, Addressed to His Wife, ed. Charles Francis Adams (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1841), I:152, .

7 John Adams to Abigail Adams, May 17, 1776, Letters of John Adams, ed. Adams (1841), I:109.

8 John Witherspoon, “Seasonable Advice to Young Persons,” February 21, 1762, The Works of the Rev. John Witherspoon (Philadelphia: William W. Woodward, 1802), II:485.

9 Caesar Rodney to Thomas Rodney, September 11, 1776, Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774-1789, ed. Paul H. Smith (Washington, D. C.: Library of Congress, 1979), 5:133-134.

10 Arthur Middleton to Aedanus Burke, November 1781, Letters of Delegates, ed. Smith (1979), 18:221.

11 John Adams to Abigail Adams, August 14, 1776, Letters of John Adams, ed. Adams (1841), I:152.

12 The Works of the Honorable James Wilson (Philadelphia: Lorenzo Press, 1804), II:10, 80, 288, 477.

13 Thomas Paine, Common Sense; Addressed to the Inhabitants of America (Philadelphia: W. and T. Bradford, 1776), 47.

14  Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States (Boston: Hilliard, Gray, and Company, 1833), I:57-58.

15 Elias Boudinot to Samuel Mather, September 30, 1783, Letters of Delegates, ed. Smith (1979), 20:565-566.

16 Bruce Feiler, “How Moses Shaped America,” Oct. 12, 2009, Time, https://content.time.com/time/subscriber/article/0,33009,1927303-1,00.html.

17 See, for example, “Affidavit in Support of the Ten Commandments,” WallBuilders, https://wallbuilders.com/affidavit-support-ten-commandments/.

18 Bruce Feiler, “How Moses Shaped America,” Oct. 12, 2009, Time, https://content.time.com/time/subscriber/article/0,33009,1927303-1,00.html.

* This article concerns a historical issue and may not have updated information.

James Wilson

Quiz


1. What was James Wilson’s country of birth?

2. True or False: James Wilson signed the Constitution but not the Declaration of Independence.

3. True or False: At the Constitutional Convention, Wilson was one of the relatively inactive members.

4. Who appointed Wilson to the Supreme Court?

5. True or False: During the War for Independence, Wilson was sent to negotiate with the Indians.

6. What teaching position did Wilson hold concurrent to his time in the Supreme Court?


A Lost Founder

One Founding Father we should definitely remember was James Wilson, born on September 14, 1742. Take the above quiz and see what you know about him!

In the modern rewriting of our American history, some of our nation’s Founding Fathers have been wrongly misportrayed as people not worthy of study, but most have simply been ignored. As a consequence, many worthy heroes are now forgotten. Fortunately, the Scriptures encourage us to study the past: “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning” (Romans 15:4).

James Wilson can teach us much that is relevant today, including about the important role that religion plays in civil law:

Far from being rivals or enemies, religion and law are twin sisters, friends, and mutual assistants. Indeed these two sciences run into each other. The Divine law, as discovered by reason and the moral sense, forms an essential part of both.1

Take some time to learn about James Wilson, and then share what you learn with others. Wilson is one of the heroes who helped make America a great nation!


How did you do? Check your answers!

1. Wilson was born in Scotland in 1742, he immigrated to America in 1766.2

2. False. James Wilson signed both the Declaration of Independence3 and the Constitution.4

3. False. James Wilson was the second most-active delegate at the Constitutional Convention, speaking 168 times on the floor of the Convention.5

4. George Washington. James Wilson was one of the original Supreme Court justices, serving from 1789 to 1798.6

5. True.7

6. Professor of Law at the University of Pennsylvania. Wilson organized the first systematic legal training in America, teaching classes to law students while simultaneously sitting as a Justice on the US Supreme Court.8 Prior to Wilson’s law classes, law students were largely individually trained and apprenticed in the law.


Endnotes

1 James Wilson, The Works of the Honourable James Wilson, ed. Bird Wilson (Philadelphia: Lorenzo Press, 1804), III:106.
2 “James Wilson,” B. J. Lossing, Biographical Sketches of the Signers of the Declaration of American Independence (New York: George F. Cooledge, 1848), 126.
3 “Signers of the Declaration: Biographical Sketches,” National Park Service, accessed December 15, 2023.
4 “Signers of the Constitution: Biographical Sketches,” National Park Service, accessed December 15, 2023.
5 See, for example, Mark David Hall, “Justice, Law, and the Creation of the American Republic: The Forgotten Legacy of James Wilson,” June 1, 2009, The Heritage Foundation; “Forgotten Founders: Gouverneur Morris,” June 8, 2020, National Constitution Center.
6 “Wilson, James,” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, accessed December 15, 2023.
7 “James Wilson,” Lossing, Biographical Sketches of the Signers (1848), 128.
8 “A Biography of James Wilson,” University of Groningen, accessed December 15, 2023.

Dr. Benjamin Rush


Take the Benjamin Rush Quiz!

  1. Which two former Presidents did Benjamin Rush help reconcile?
  2. What was the name of the society that Benjamin Rush helped form to start Sunday Schools?
  3. What other Founding Father helped Benjamin Rush found America’s first anti-slavery society?
  4. How many colleges and universities did Benjamin Rush help establish?
  5. What was the name of the colonial law requiring children to know how to read, and establishing public schools for that purpose?

Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, was considered by John Adams to be one of America’s three most notable Founding Fathers, ranking alongside George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. 1 But his contributions to America were not purely political, even though those were very significant. 2

Rush is also known as the “Father of American Medicine.” 3 He was a founding member of America’s first Bible Society 4 and is credited with helping begin the American Sunday School movement. 5  He helped organize America’s first Anti-Slavery society 6 and was a leader in the national abolition movement. 7 He held multiple university professorships, 8 and is properly titled “The Father of Public Schools Under the Constitution,” being an advocate for free public schools for all youth. 9

As families across the nation send millions of children back to school 10 each year, it is a good time to review the intent behind America’s original educational system: for students to receive a sound academic education based on God’s Word. 11

In fact, in 1791, Dr. Rush wrote a lengthy piece providing a dozen or so reasons why America would continue teaching the Bible in our public schools. (To see a portion of the letter as it was printed by the American Tract society in 1830, visit our website.)


See How you did!

  1. Which two former Presidents did Benjamin Rush help reconcile?
    John Adams and Thomas Jefferson (To see the story behind the reconciliation, read this article.)
  2. What was the name of the society that Benjamin Rush helped form to start Sunday Schools?
    First Day Schools
  3. What other Founding Father helped Benjamin Rush found America’s first anti-slavery society?
    Benjamin Franklin (To see what the Founding Fathers thought of slavery, see here.)
  4. How many colleges and universities did Benjamin Rush help establish?
    Five (The College of Philadelphia, the University of the State of Pennsylvania, the Young Ladies’ Academy of Philadelphia, Dickinson College, and Franklin College)
  5. What was the name of the colonial law requiring children to know how to read, and establishing public schools for that purpose?
    The Old Deluder Satan Act (For additional information, check out Four Centuries of American Education.)

Endnotes

1 John Sanderson, Biography of the Signers to the Declaration of Independence (Philadelphia: R. W. Pomeroy, 1823), IV:283; John Adams to Richard Rush, May 5, 1813, L. H. Butterfield, “The Reputation of Benjamin Rush,” Pennsylvania History, January 1950, XVII:1:9.
2 For example, Dr. Rush pushed for the ratification of the U.S. Constitution, as well as adoption of the 1790 Pennsylvania State Constitution. He was appointed Treasurer of the U.S. Mint by President John Adams, a position which he held under Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.
3 Thomas D. Mitchell, The Character of Rush (Philadelphia: Published by the Class, John H. Gihon, Printer, 1848), 4.
4 The First Report of the Bible Society Established at Philadelphia; Read before the Society at their Annual Meeting, May 1, 1809 (Philadelphia: Printed by Order of the Society; Fry and Kammerer, Printers, 1809); “Rush, Benjamin,” Dictionary of American Biography.
5 Edwin Wilber Rice, The Sunday-School Movement and the American Sunday-School Union (Philadelphia: American Sunday School Union, 1917 ), 44-45.
6 Constitution of the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery, and the Relief of Free Negroes, Unlawfully Held in Bondage. Begun in the Year 1774, and Enlarged on the 23rd of April, 1787. (Philadelphia: Francis Bailey, 1788), 8; “Rush, Benjamin,” Dictionary of American Biography; Thomas Clarkson, Abolition of the African Slave-Trade, by the British Parliament (Augusta: P.A. Brinsmade, 1830), 1:66-69.
7 Centennial Anniversary of the Pennsylvania Society, for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery, the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage, and for Improving the Condition of the African Race (Philadelphia: Grant, Faires, & Rodgers, 1875), 15.
8Benjamin Rush,” University of Pennsylvania, accessed October 26, 2023.
9 David Ramsay, An Eulogium upon Benjamin Rush, M. D. (Philadelphia: Bradford and Inskeep, 1813), 107; Benjamin Rush, “Of the Mode of Education Proper in a Republic,” Essays, Literary, Moral and Philosophical (Philadelphia: Thomas and Samuel F. Bradford, 1798), 6-20.
10Public and private elementary and secondary teachers, enrollment, and pupil/teacher ratios: Selected years, fall 1955 through fall 2021,” National Center for Education Statistics, accessed October 26, 2023.
11 Alexis de Tocqueville, The Republic of the United States of America and Its Political Institutions, Reviewed and Examined, trans., Henry Reeves (Garden City, NY: A. S. Barnes & Co., 1851), 41; Edward Kendall, Travels through the Northern Parts of the United States, in the Years 1807 and 1808 (New York: I. Riley, 1809), I:270-271.

How much do you know about the Constitution?

Here are some questions relating to the United States Constitution so you can test your knowledge!

  1. Of the 39 signers of the Constitution, how many had previously signed the Declaration of Independence?
  2. The Constitution was signed in 1787, but was not binding until it was ratified. When did that happen?
  3. Which state was the first to ratify the new constitution?
  4. Which state was the last to ratify the Constitution?
  5. How many articles does the Constitution contain?
  6. Which article is the longest, and why?
  7. The Constitution Convention met in Philadelphia for the purpose of creating a document that would establish a new government for the States. True or False?

On September 17th 1787, in a warm room in Philadelphia, 39 men signed the document that formed our nation: the United States Constitution. With each passing year, America continues her record of having the longest on-going constitutional republic in history. Discover more resources, including lesson plans and activities, on our Constitution Hub!


How’d you do?

  1. Six: Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, Robert Morris, George Clymer, George Read, and James Wilson1
  2. It was ratified on June 21, 1788, when New Hampshire became the 9th state to ratify the Constitution, as specified in Article 7 of the Constitution. The new government under the Constitution came into effect on March 4, 1789.2
  3. Delaware, on December 7, 17873
  4. Rhode island, on May 29, 17904
  5. Seven5
  6. Article I is the longest. It organizes and governs the legislative branch, which was the branch closest to the people and the most important of the three branches. It was therefore given the most, and the most powerful responsibilities.6
  7. False. The purpose was to address and solve the weaknesses that had become apparent under the Articles of Confederation, the document under which the country had been governed during the American Revolution.7

Endnotes

1 “Signers of the Declaration Biographical Sketches,” National Park Service, accessed December 15, 2023.
2 “About the Constitution: FAQs,” National Constitution Center, accessed December 15, 2023.
3 “Observing Constitution Day: Background,” National Archives, accessed December 15, 2023.
4 “Observing Constitution Day: Background,” National Archives, accessed December 15, 2023.
5 “The Constitution of the United States: A Transcript,” National Archives, accessed December 15, 2023.
6 “The Constitution of the United States: A Transcript,” National Archives, accessed December 15, 2023.
7 “Constitution of the United States: Primary Documents in American History,” Library of Congress, accessed December 15, 2023.

Test Your Knowledge: John Quincy Adams

How much do you know about John Quincy Adams?
Take the following quiz to find out!

(Answers at the bottom.)

1. How old was John Quincy Adams when he accompanied his father John Adams (who had been appointed as ambassador) to France, where he became his secretary?

2. Who told John Quincy Adams “[I] would much rather you should have found your grave in the ocean you have crossed, or that any untimely death crop you in your infant years, than see you an immoral, profligate, or graceless child…”?

3. True or False: John Quincy Adams was 18 years old when he received a congressional appointment as secretary to Francis Dana, the American ambassador to Russia.

4. True or False: John Quincy Adams was one of three individuals who served in the U.S. House of Representatives after being President of the United States.

5. True or False: The House of Representatives passed a gag rule to keep John Quincy Adams from introducing petitions calling for the abolition of slavery.

6. What famous Supreme Court case did Adams argue on behalf of a group of captured Africans who had revolted and regained their freedom while on board a ship transporting them into slavery?


Evacuation Day

test-your-knowledge-john-quincy-adams-1March 17 is annually celebrated in Boston as “Evacuation Day,” commemorating the departure of the British from the city after an eleven month occupation at the start of the American Revolution.1 April 19, 1775 through March 17, 1776 was the Siege of Boston. This time encompasses some of the early events of the American Revolution, including the Battles of Lexington and Concord,2 the Battle of Bunker Hill,3 and George Washington taking command of the American army.4

John Quincy Adams, whose family lived near Boston, personally watched the Battle of Bunker Hill at the age of 8.5 Just a few months before, he had performed military drills with the local militia and Minutemen — an event that John Quincy remembered in detail over 50 years later!6

John Quincy Adams spent 68 years of his life in public service for America. Today, on Evacuation Day, his is truly a life worth honoring.


How did you do?

1. He was 10 years old. John Adams went to France in February, 1778 (in his diary, he even talks about a battle his vessel had in early March during the ocean crossing7). John Quincy Adams, born on July 11, 1767, would have been several months shy of his 11th birthday when he accompanied his father.

2. Abigail Adams. See the complete letter from Abigail to John Quincy.8

3. False. John Quincy Adams was 14 years old when he was appointed as Francis Dana’s secretary and translator.9

4. False. Nineteen Presidents have served in the House of Representatives,10 but John Quincy Adams is the only one who was elected to Congress after being president.11

5. True. The “gag rule” was passed by each Congress from 1836-1844, and John Quincy Adams was the leader in the effort that eventually repealed this rule.12

6. United States v. The Amistad, decided in 1841. John Quincy Adams was 73 years old at the time.13 This event is depicted in the famous Hollywood movie Amistad.


Endnotes

1 “The Siege of Boston,” Massachusetts Historical Society, accessed December 8, 2023.
2 “Lexington and Concord,” ushistory.org, accessed December 8, 2023.
3 Bernard Bailyn, “The Battle of Bunker Hill,” Massachusetts Historical Society, accessed December 8, 2023.
4 “Washington takes command of Continental Army in 1775,” April 15, 2016, US Army.
5 “Letter (draft) from John Quincy Adams to Joseph Sturge, March 1846,” Massachusetts Historical Society.
6 John Quincy Adams, entry for August 20, 1827, Memoirs of John Quincy Adams, ed. Charles Francis Adams (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co., 1875), VII:325.
7 John Adams, entry for March 14, 1778, The Works of John Adams, ed. Charles Francis Adams (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1851), III:108.
8 Abigail Adams to John Quincy Adams, June 1778, Letters of Mrs. Adams, ed. Charles Francis Adams (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1840), I:122-125.
9 Office of the Historian, “Biographies of the Secretaries of State: John Quincy Adams (1767–1848),” Department of State, accessed December 8, 2023.
10 “House Members Who Served as President,” United States House of Representatives, accessed December 8, 2023.
11 “The Election of John Quincy Adams of Massachusetts,” United States House of Representatives, accessed December 8, 2023.
12 “The House “Gag Rule”,” United States House of Representatives, accessed December 8, 2023.
13 “The Amistad Case,” National Archives, accessed December 8, 2023.

Revisionism: How to Identify It In Your Children’s Textbooks

Revisionism Definition & Goals

Revisionism is the common method employed by those seeking to subvert American culture and society. The dictionary defines revisionism as an “advocacy of the revision of an accepted, usually long-standing view, theory, or doctrine; especially a revision of historical events and movements.

Revisionism attempts to alter the way a people views its history and traditions in order to cause that people to accept a change in public policy. For example, during the 150 years that textbooks described the Founding Fathers as being devout men and Christians who actively practiced their faith, civic policy embraced and welcomed public religious expressions. But in recent years as the same Founders have come to be portrayed as atheists, agnostics, and deists who were opposed to religious activities, public policies have similarly been reversed.

Revisionists generally accomplish their goal of rewriting history by:

Underemphasizing or ignoring the aspects of American history they deem to be politically incorrect and overemphasizing those portions they find acceptable;

Vilifying the historical figures who embraced a position they reject; and

Concocting the appearance of widespread historical approval for the social policy they are attempting to advance.

There are many means that are used by revisionists to accomplish these goals but the most common include:

1. Patent Untruths

Numerous history texts make claims such as: our “national government was secular from top to bottom,” or that the Founders “reared a national government on a secular basis.” Those who have studied the American Founding know that this is a patent untruth. Many Founders proved the opposite, such as John Adams. He declared: “The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity.” (Even the text of the Declaration of Independence refutes any charges of government secularism.) This approach usually relies on a general lack of public knowledge about that untruth. Consequently, such untruthful claims are rarely made in areas where citizens have broad general knowledge. (For example, claiming that James Madison used an atomic bomb to end the Civil War. Or that the first sub-machine gun was developed in 1536 in Nevada by the Quakers). Revisionism relies on a lack of citizen knowledge in specific areas.

2. Overly Broad Generalizations

This revisionist tool presents the exception as if it were the rule. For example, texts often name Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Paine as proof of the lack of religiosity among the Founders. Yet they fail to mention the rest of the almost 200 Founding Fathers. Dozens of these men received their education in schools specializing in the training of ministers of the Gospel and were active in Christian ministry and organizations. Some examples include: John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Benjamin Rush, Roger Sherman.

Similarly, when discussing religion in America, the Salem Witch trials are universally presented. Rarely mentioned, however, are the positive societal changes produced by Quakers, Baptists, Presbyterians, and dozen of other religious groups. These organizations worked for the abolition of slavery, secured religious freedoms, and fought to end societal abuses. Also never mentioned is that the American witch trials resulted in some two dozen deaths and were halted by religious leaders. The European witch trials resulted in 100,000 deaths. American Christianity at that time might not have been perfect but it was light years ahead of Europe. European secularism also resulted in thousands of executions in the French Revolution.

3. Omission

Notice the following three examples from American history works:

We whose names are under-written . . . do by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God, and one of another, covenant and combine our selves together into a civil body politick. MAYFLOWER COMPACT, 1620

Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? . . . I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death? PATRICK HENRY, 1775

. . . ART. I.—His Britannic Majesty acknowledges the said United States . . . PEACE TREATY TO END THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION, 1783

What was omitted from these important historical quotes?

We whose names are under-written having undertaken for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith and honor of our king and country, a voyage to plant the first colonie in the Northern parts of Virginia do by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God, and one of another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politick.

Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death?

In the name of the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity. It having pleased the Divine Providence to dispose the hearts . . . ART. I.—His Britannic Majesty acknowledges the said United States . . .

The omitted segments are those that indicate the strongly religious nature of American government documents and leaders. Also regularly omitted from texts is the fact that gratitude to God was central to the first Pilgrim Thanksgiving. And ignored is that, in 1782, the US Congress approved America’s first English-language Bible. Also, in 1800, Congress voted that on Sundays, the Capitol Building would serve as a church building. (By 1867, the largest protestant church in America was the one that met inside the US Capitol.)

4. A Lack of Primary Source References

The avoidance of primary-source documents is characteristic in revisionism. For example, the authors of the widely-used text The Godless Constitution blatantly announce that they have “dispensed with the usual scholarly apparatus of footnotes.” This is supposed to support their thesis that America’s government is built on a secular foundation. Similarly, The Search for Christian America purports to examine the Founding Era and finds a distinct lack of Christian influence. Yet 80 percent of the “historical sources” on which it relies to document its finding were published after 1950! That is, to determine what was occurring in the 1700s, they quote from works printed in the 1900s.

Identify Revisionism

To locate revisionism in a text, look at its tone, the documents it presents, and the heroes it elevates.

  1. To discover a revisionist tone, find the answers to these questions in the textbook: Is exploration and colonization motivated only by the desire for land or gold? Are those who promoted religious and moral values portrayed as harsh, punitive, and intolerant? Is traditional family ignored? Is government presented as statist — that is, that the state (rather than individuals, families, churches, or communities) is to take care of society’s needs? Is there a victim ideology — a steady diet of those who have been exploited throughout history rather than those who have uplifted their culture? Are other religions portrayed positively and Christianity negatively (if at all)?
  2. Are original documents presented? (Do students see the actual text or only what someone else says about it?) Do they see the Mayflower Compact? Or the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution? Are George Washington’s “Farewell Address” and Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address presented? Are the documents edited to present only a few sentences or do they provide a substantive amount of text?
  3. Who are the heroes presented? Do they tend to be angry – fighting an unjust society or government? Do they tend to be modern heroes only? Do they tend to be only secular leaders? For example, the U. S. Capitol displays some 100 statues of the most important individuals in America’s history; a significant percentage of those statues are of ministers and Christian leaders. Will your children receive in their textbooks at least the same view of American heroes that is presented in America’s pre-eminent government building?

Conclusion

When examining a text, always remember that your children do not know as much about history as you do. Consequently, they have no basis for identifying bias. Therefore, examine each text as if you knew nothing at all about history except what is presented in that text. On that basis, will you be pleased with the tone toward America inculcated in your child through that text? If not, then urge your school to get a better text or be diligent to supplement for your children what is missing or wrongly presented in the text.

It is not melodramatic to state that America’s future rests on what is taught to our children, for as Abraham Lincoln wisely observed:

The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next. (attributed)

Famous American educator Noah Webster therefore rightly admonished:

The education of youth should be watched with the most scrupulous attention. . . . [It] lays the foundations on which both law and gospel rest for success.

Indeed!

Ten Commandments Displays

Introduction

While there have been dozens of rulings striking down Ten Commandments displays (another indication that federal judges need to be appointed to the courts who are well-versed in original constitutional understandings); no ruling has been more publicized than that against Judge Roy Moore in Alabama. In that case, the 11th Federal Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a 5,280 pound granite monument of the Ten Commandments could not be displayed in the rotunda of the Alabama State Judicial Building.

The ACLU, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the Southern Poverty Law Center filed suit against the Ten Commandments display on behalf of three attorneys. And why did those attorneys want the monument removed? They alleged that they had been “personally offended” by the monument and “as a result, suffered direct injury.” A three-judge panel of the 11th Federal Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with them and prohibited the display.

Court Decision

In order to reach their decision, the panel of federal judges transformed themselves into an ecclesiastical council of theologians. They ruled that the version of the Commandments posted by Judge Moore was a “Protestant” version and that “Jewish, Catholic, Lutheran and Eastern Orthodox faiths use different parts of their holy texts as the authoritative Ten Commandments.”

Strange! I thought that “Do not kill” and “Do not steal” meant the same regardless of the version! In fact, I am not aware of any person in America who, after seeing the granite monument, would cry out, “I have just seen the 9th command forbidding perjury, but it is a Protestant version of the Ten Commandments that I just saw, so I cannot obey it for I am a Lutheran (or a Catholic, or a Jew, or whatever).”

The 11th Circuit had ignored an elementary principle of law—and thus a fundamental responsibility of the courts: establish the spirit and intent of a law before making any ruling about it. Signer of the Constitution John Dickinson had explained the importance of this legal principle:

[N]othing is more certain than that the forms of liberty may be retained when the substance is gone. In government, as well as in religion, “the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” 2 Cor. 3:6

The Ten Commandments

Actually, the Ten Commandments themselves were the result of God’s demonstration of this principle. When God delivered the Commandments, He told Moses “According to the tenor of those words I have made a covenant with you” (Exodus 34:27). That is, God Himself declared that the Ten Commandments were merely the general theme (the tenor) of what He wanted. “Don’t steal,” “Don’t kill,” “Don’t commit perjury,” etc. were simply the summation of over 600 laws given at or about the same time.

That these laws simply represent the spirit of all civil and criminal laws was made clear by an elderly Texas woman, Esther Armstrong. Despite her advanced years, Esther maintained a ministry in local prisons and jails, frequently visiting the inmates, all of who considered her as their own grandmother. One day, one of the “jail-house attorney” inmates (a prisoner who has become obsessed with the study of the law) told Esther in amazement: “Mama Esther? Did you realize that there are over one-hundred thousand laws that will put you in jail?” To which she promptly replied, “Do you realize that there are Ten that will keep you out?”

11th Circuit Court

Nevertheless, the federal judges refused to consider the general purpose of the Commandments. Instead, they focused on theological minutia about which version of the Ten Commandments was on display (which they apparently felt completely competent to address) much in the same way that theologians of former generations vigorously debated such useless and inane topics as how many angels would fit on the head of a pin.

Perhaps only a liberal activist judge, an ACLU attorney, or a member of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State (i.e., groups and individuals who have demonstrated their distaste for religion in general) would make this “theological” distinction as they did in this case. I am quite sure that Judge Moore, just like 99.9 percent of Americans, was not aware (nor would he have cared) that there were allegedly different theological versions of the Commandments. As a judge, he was concerned with general behavior, not theology.

Furthermore, I firmly believe that no matter which version of the Ten Commandments Judge Moore would have displayed (whether Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, or one of each), the same arguments still would have been used against him.

The three theologians (Oops! My bad!!! I meant the three judges) in the 11th Circuit who delivered the decision even personally impugned Moore, comparing him to “those Southern governors who attempted to defy federal court orders during an earlier era.” Amazing! Apparently in the minds of those judges, Judge Moore’s displaying the Ten Commandments must be a sin akin to racism! The three also forcefully pronounced to Moore a warning that when the time came, he would obey their order to remove the Commandments.

Protests

Following the 11th Circuit’s decision, federal district judge Myron Thompson (who originally ruled against Moore before the case rose to the 11th Circuit) promptly issued his own order that the monument be removed. Now! Even before Judge Moore’s appeal to the Supreme Court had been filed. Judge Moore refused to comply with that order, and hundreds rallied outside the court building in an effort to prevent the removal of the monument.

Dozens who exercised their First Amendment right “peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances” were handcuffed and arrested, including an elderly woman in a wheel chair. She was one among hundreds willing to resort to peaceful civil disobedience in order to preserve respected symbols of our nation’s heritage and the constitutional right to free exercise of religion. Amazing! Americans are being arrested for trying to preserve the nation’s moral law rather than break it!

This same type of peaceful civil disobedience eventually turned the tide in the civil rights’ protests of the early 1960s. When Americans saw blacks arrested and beaten by police simply for sitting in the wrong seat on a bus, or going to the wrong table in a cafe, public sentiment propelled legislators to action to provide a political solution. Such may well be the effect of the current arrests—if they continue for an extended period. Perhaps the current publicity will cause Christians to stand up not only for this display but also for those in their own local communities.

Judge Moore

Interestingly, voices of condemnation against Judge Moore have been raised around the nation, alleging that he refuses to follow “the rule of law.” Such claims constitute some of the more civically-illiterate statements made in recent years.

Consider: in every student civics or government book in America is a page on “How a Bill Becomes a Law.” Anyone who examines those pages will notice that the judiciary has no role in making law; laws come from bills passed by the legislature and signed by the president or governor. Since no such law has been passed in this case, what “rule of law” is Judge Moore not upholding? Can it actually be that these critics talking about “the rule of law” believe that an order by a single unelected federal judge is actually the equivalent of a law? Apparently so.

Don’t misunderstand: this is not to suggest that judicial rulings should be ignored based on the personal predilections of an individual in a case; however, this ruling goes against every deeply embedded legal standard in America’s common law, and Judge Moore’s refusal is not based solely on his selfish or personal inclinations. (To learn how deeply the Ten Commandments have been implanted into American law and traditions, read our legal brief on this issue.)

Actions Against Him

Following Judge Myron Thompson’s edict, the other eight justices on the Alabama Supreme Court announced their unanimous opposition to Judge Moore’s position and agreed to cooperate in the removal of the monument. Judge Moore was subsequently suspended from his judgeship by the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission for his refusal to comply with the federal judge’s order.

Importantly, Judge Moore is elected (as are the other eight State Supreme Court  judges) and therefore ultimately accounts directly to the people of Alabama, who can have the final say on this issue. When that time comes, the decision of the voters likely will not agree with the State’s other Supreme Court judges or the State’s Judicial Inquiry Commission. Moore was already well-known for his stand for the Ten Commandments before he was elected to the Supreme Court (he had already won three legal decisions on the Ten Commandments at the time of his election) and recent polls show that 77 percent of the State supports the display.

Conclusion

The U. S. Congress is well aware of the situation in Alabama, and the House has already taken direct action.

Rep. John Hostettler introduced, and the House overwhelmingly passed (260-161), an amendment that prohibits federal funds from being used to enforce the judicial order against the display. Similarly, Rep. Robert Aderholt has introduced (and the House has twice passed) the Ten Commandments Defense Act, allowing State and local communities rather than federal judges to have the final say in displays of the Ten Commandments. The Senate Democrats have killed the bill each time.

Sen. Wayne Allard (R-CO) has introduced a bill (S 1558) that applies powers from Art. III, Sec. 2 of the U. S. Constitution to restrict the federal judiciary’s right to rule on this issue, but the bill is not likely to move unless Democratic Senators feel substantial pressure to do so.

The monument was eventually removed from the Rotunda and relocated in a remote non-public room in the building. This is simply a reconfirmation of the overall judicial message of recent years: if you must have a religious expression, it must be done in private (like pornography), not out in public where others can see it.