About Steven W. Allen, J.D.

Steven W. Allen, J.D. is an author, speaker, and retired attorney. His book "Founding Fathers - Uncommon Heroes" is popular with all ages and is used in many schools. See his other books at www.StevenAllenBooks.com

James Madison Advises Virtue

James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, wrote a message to the States complete with a dire warning that still holds true today. It’s quite a long sentence and paragraph (I took the liberty of dividing the paragraph in two for easier reading). Nevertheless, I’m going to repeat it here for you:

“The citizens of the United States are responsible for the greatest trust ever confided to a political society. If justice, good faith, honor, gratitude and all the other qualities which ennoble (mark the word, ennoble) the character of a nation and fulfill the ends of government be the fruits of our establishments, the cause of liberty will acquire a dignity and luster, which it has never yet enjoyed, and an example will be set, which cannot but have the most favorable influence on the rights of Mankind. read more

The Bible Words Are Like Music

Yesterday’s post reminded me of a conversation between Schroeder and Lucy in a Charles Schultz Peanuts cartoon. Schroeder is, of course playing his toy piano. Lucy, leaning on it asks: “I have an historical question for you.”

Then she asks: “Did Beethoven ever have any beautiful girls nearby while he was practicing his piano?”

Schroeder replies: “No. I don’t think Beethoven ever had any nutty females hanging on his piano while he was trying to practice!” read more

Founders’ vs. Today’s Bible

I’ll bet you can’t tell who said the following:

“You’ve been given insight into God’s kingdom. You know how it works. Not everybody has this gift, this insight; it hasn’t been given to them. Whenever someone has a ready heart for this, the insights and understandings flow freely. But if there is no readiness, any trace of receptivity soon disappears. That’s why I tell stories; to create readiness, to nudge people toward receptive insight. In their present state they can stare till doomsday and not see it, listen till they’re blue in the face and not get it.” read more

The Founding Fathers and Religion

In the early years of our American nation, religion fared very well even in the Supreme Court. Joseph Story (1779-1845) served as a Supreme Court Justice at the age of 32. He was the youngest to serve in that position. Her served from 1811 to 1845. He wrote several remarkable decisions of the High Court. The most memorable was the Amistad decision (now a movie), which he read out loud in the Court.

Here is a remarkable statement that he made during his tenure on the Court.

“The promulgation of the great doctrines of religion, the being, and attributes, and providence of one Almighty God; the responsibility to Him for all our actions, founded upon moral freedom and accountability; a future state of rewards and punishments; the cultivation of all the personal, social, and benevolent virtues;–these never can be a matter of indifference in any ordered community. It is indeed difficult to conceive, how any civilized society can well exist without them.” read more

Benjamin Franklin Diplomat

John Hancock the President of Congress, called Benjamin Franklin aside after The Declaration of Independence had been signed.

Hancock told Franklin in their meeting: “We have an important assignment for you.”

Franklin responded: “I am too old to be a soldier.”

John Hancock corrected him, saying: “No, no, we want you to be our new Minister to France.”

“Oh, that’s all right,” quipped Franklin, “A soldier has to die for his country, but a diplomat only has to lie for his country.” read more

Founding Fathers on Kindness

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is quoted as saying: “Hard times have a way of teaching us lessons that we refuse to learn in good times. That is the one university we all get to attend—tuition free.”

I have learned to be nice to everyone. You don’t really know what others are going through at any particular time. Someone may cut you off in traffic because they must get to the hospital in time. Someone may be a little short with you because they are late for an urgent meeting or date or happening. You never really know. It’s just better to be nice and let little things go. read more

Alexander Hamilton and Laws

I saw an interesting quote about Law today, and thought I’d pass it along. It’s from a man named Coleman Cox. I don’t know anything about him, but I love his thought:

“If we could make a great bonfire of the thousands of laws we have in this country, and start all over again with only the Golden Rule and the Ten Commandments, I am sure we would get along much better.”

It reminded me of a cartoon I once saw where a man was in a law library and was looking at the shelves full of law books. The caption read: “And to think in all started with 10 Commandments!” read more

Benjamin Franklin on Vacation

Benjamin Franklin was a hard worker. He became a printer, a scientist, a writer, a diplomat, musician, an inventor, and a philosopher. His tips and words of wisdom included in “Poor Richard’s Almanac” have stood the test of time. Many are repeated today. And yet he seemed to always find time for some fun and entertainment.

I believe Ben would have loved the words of Lee Iacocca, the former CEO of the Chrysler Corporation. He may have even stolen them and printed them in his almanac: “Over the years, many executives have said to me with pride: ‘Boy, I worked so hard last year that I didn’t take a vacation.’” read more

Virtue Discussed by Adams and Washington

John Adams, our second President, believed adamantly in Virtue and Religion. He said: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

In other words, a virtuous people can maintain our best Constitutional form of government. But without virtue, no written document can protect the people from themselves

George Washington underscored this thought in his First Inaugural Address’ “. . . No Wall of words, no mound of parchment can be so formed as to stand against the sweeping torrent of boundless ambition on the one side, aided by the sapping current of corrupted morals on the other.” read more

The Founding Fathers and Education

The Founding Fathers agreed that education was the most important way to teach virtue, shape character, and mold citizens. The “best means of forming manly, virtuous, happy people, will be found in the right education of youth.” And as George Washington wrote: “Without this foundation, every other means, in my opinion must fail.”

Moral education should begin when the first habits and manners were established. That’s why they supported public education. “Children should be educated and instructed in the principles of freedom. The education here intended is not merely that of the children of the rich and noble, but of every rank and class of people, down to the lowest and poorest. It is not too much to say that schools for the education of all should be placed at convenient distances, and maintained at the public expense.” (John Adams, “A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America”, a two volume work which was next to the Bible the most often quoted work at the Constitutional Convention.) read more