Introduction

Welcome to my series of lectures on the U.S. Constitution. My name is Tim Lewis and I am a teacher by profession. Because of that I live a somewhat conflicted life. One the one hand, I love the learning process and helping the students understand important principles and concepts regarding the law. In that process the student and teacher act like allies in a common effort. But the very distasteful part of my job is to evaluate and grade my students in a competitive format. That part of my job seems to put me in a somewhat adversarial relationship in their minds with respect to at least some of my students. But, to its credit, the grading process tends to make the students be serious about their studies. In purely pass/fail classes, students tend to do the minimum amount of work they can—at least that is the way I approached a pass/fail class that I once took during college. I would love to just be able to teach motivated students about very important things without having to grade them. I hope this series of lessons on the Constitution will approach that optimal teaching environment. I am not being paid anything to be here, so I don’t have to be here. And you aren’t taking this class for any type of academic credit so you don’t have to be here either. What motivates both of us is an admirable sense of civic duty, a love for America, and a desire to do what we can to preserve and prosper our country. I sincerely hope that I can share with you some very valuable information that will make you feel that it is worth your time to listen. Most of what I have to share I learned after my formal education came to an end. And when I discovered these things through my own efforts, I wondered why I was not exposed to these things somewhere in my formal education. In fact, I felt cheated that it was not included somewhere along the way. My interest and studies began during a trip back east to visit some of our country’s historical sites. If you haven’t done that yet, you need to. It seemed that every place had a gift shop containing lots of books about the place being visited and American history in general. Among the several books I bought was the Federalist Papers. I wasn’t quite sure what it was but the title seemed vaguely familiar to me as being somehow important to a proper understanding of our founding philosophy. When I was at Independence Hall in Philadelphia during that trip, I asked the Park Service tour guide if it was a replica like so many other places I had visited which had burnt down sometime in the distant past and had been reconstructed to match the original. The guide said that Independence Hall was the original building and had never burnt down. As I considered that the Declaration of Independence had been debated, composed, and signed there and later the Constitutional Convention had been convened there to debate

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and craft the U.S. Constitution, I could imagine those many towering statesmen of the Revolutionary era being in the very place I was standing—people like George Washington, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, etc. It gave me a feeling of reverence and awe. I literally felt like Moses on Mt. Sinai who was standing on holy ground. I felt powerfully inspired to learn more about our Constitutional history and philosophy. Consequently, I returned home that summer and began reading the Federalist Papers. That book of essays was difficult, at first, to comprehend since the authors tended to write in very long sentences—longer than most of even the longest paragraphs we would read today in our modern writings. But as I got used to the writing style and improved my powers of concentration, their writings seemed to be very beautiful and profound. They spoke with a eloquence seldom matched today. As I read those essays on the principles of government embedded in the U.S. Constitution, I came away with the distinct feeling that these people were--by far--my intellectual superiors—they were geniuses. It is a shame and an indictment against our public school system that every American student is not required to read those essays somewhere along the way during their formal education. Over the years as I thought about our country the following questions came to mind. Why did America rise so quickly in world prominence? Why did she become so prosperous and the envy of the world? Was it luck? Was it coincidence? Or were there powerful principles at work which effectively opened the floodgates of discovery, creativity, and economic growth? Was economic and political liberty the key? Was moral goodness an important ingredient? Did God have a hand in things? Currently, America verges on bankruptcy. How did we get to this point? Were we just unlucky? Was it coincidence? Or was it the result of philosophic and political error on our parts when we departed from the political faith of our founders? Did anyone see it coming and try to warn us about the dangerous path we were on long before we found ourselves in such deep trouble? These and many other questions prompted me to search for answers. As I have read many things over the course of my life, whenever I happened upon what I thought were important truths that suggested answers to those questions, I wrote them down. I have gotten to the point in my life where I think I should make a concerted effort to weave them together for the benefit of others in hopes of saving them a lot of time in their search for answers to similar questions. Along my path of discovery I came upon a man by the name of J. Reuben Clark, Jr., who has become a hero figure to me in trying the find the answers to such questions. Clark was a careful student of both world and American history and gained the reputation of being a Constitutional scholar in his day. He was the Ambassador to Mexico during the early 1930s and probably would have been America’s Secretary of State had his candidate been able to beat Franklin D. Roosevelt in one of his presidential elections. In

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my opinion Clark was a genius and spoke very eloquently in expressing his ideas. I will probably quote him quite often in my lectures because many times I don’t think things could be expressed any better than he did. Clark was always an honest seeker of truth. In his 1898 university commencement address at the University of Utah, he said that he and his fellow students had been “taught those two great lessons first, to seek truth for the love of it, and second, and equally important, to recognize truth when found.”1 He later observed: “there always comes a time when unpleasant truths must be retold, even though the retelling disturbs the ease and quiet of a luxurious error. Today seems to be such a time….”2 I think that wonderful insight retains its currency today. As a humble seeker of truth, Clark recognized the possibility that he might not yet have fully discovered it. In a quick memorandum he prepared at the request of Judge Salmon O. Levinson on American foreign policy, Clark said: “I reserve the right to change any and all views therein expressed, after more mature reflection.”3 He emphasized that statement by putting it into italics. In other words, he always kept an open mind sensitive to the possibility that he might be wrong and need to change his position on something. That is a great mental frame of reference that we all would be wise to adopt if we are to accurately be described as honest seekers of truth. (If Julie Ross is in attendance, I think she would very much like that quotation since she became a conservative after being a staunch liberal for most of her life. I just met her a week or two ago and think she has a personal story that would be very interesting to hear.) Today it seems that many simply believe that everything new is better and everything old is worse. In this regard, Thomas Sowell warned: “In social life, the more fundamental a truth is, the more likely it is to have been discovered long ago–and to have been repeated in a thousand ways to the point of utter boredom. In this context, to make excitement and novelty the touchstones of an idea is to run grave risks of abandoning the truth for ideological trinkets.”4 My focus in this lecture series is to come to a better understanding of the political philosophy of the founders of this country. Unfortunately our educators today largely dismiss the philosophy of our founders as being irrelevant to a modern scientifically and technologically advanced society. They effectively win the debate by keeping their students ignorant of any sort of deep understanding of our founding philosophy.
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J. Reuben Clark, J. Reuben Clark Selected Papers On Americanism and National Affairs, the fifth of a multivolume set on the life and work of J. Reuben Clark, Jr., edited by David H. Yarn, Jr., (Brigham Young University, 1987), p.12. 2 Some Elements of Postwar American Life (1945), Yarn 5, p.541. 3 Some elements of an American Foreign Policy (1925), Yarn 4, pp.349-50. 4 Thomas Sowell, The Vision of the Anointed, p. 247.

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But even though we have made great strides scientifically and technologically, has human nature fundamentally changed over the intervening 230 some-odd years since the American Revolution? Has it fundamentally changed in the last several thousand years? If not, then the fundamental principles of human government worked out and discovered back then should have as much relevancy today as ever before. It would seem to me that it would be more intellectually honest to, in the words of Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music, “Let’s start from the very beginning—a very good place to start….” In other words, before superficially concluding that the principles of government discovered and implemented by our founders through our U.S. Constitution are now somehow irrelevant, shouldn’t we first learn what they were? That is the main purpose of these lectures. I suggest that a paper be sent around this evening allowing you to write down your name, phone number, and email address if you would like to receive a written version of this lecture (and the others) with the various quotations I will use, and their citations. If you do that, you will not have to worry about taking a lot of notes, but rather, can just sit back, and take in the various quotations and not have to miss some things that I am saying in trying to feverishly capture in writing a particular point or a quotation that you want future access to. I should say at the outset, that I will not go through all of the Constitution sentence by sentence but rather, I will focus on the parts that have, in my opinion, been misinterpreted and misapplied and are responsible for the current situation we see in our country. So let’s get started.

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