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

Independence Day

It’s coming up. Look for it in your neighborhood. John Adams gave us some advance warning of what he thought would and should transpire on July 4th each year (only he thought it would surely be July 2nd—the day the proposal to break with Great Britain was agreed upon). The Declaration itself would be approved and ratified on July 4.

John Adams wrote to Abigail: “Yesterday the greatest Question was decided, which ever was debated in America, and a greater, perhaps, never was nor will be decided among Men . . . The 2nd day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha [sic], in the History of America – I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews [sic], Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires, and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.” (“Abigail Adams, a Biography”, 1987, by Phyllis Lee Levin, pages 90-91. Capitals as in the original.) read more

Founding Fathers Today

I flipped through some notes and here’s what I found:

A Peanuts comic strip.

Charlie Brown, holding a bedroll, and a back pack, is talking to Snoopy who is laying on the top of his doghouse. (Did you notice it’s a red doghouse?) Charlie says to Snoopy:

“Well, old friend, I’m off to camp for two weeks.”

Next frame Charlie continues: “I just wanted to say ‘Good-bye’ before I left . . . I know I’m going to miss you.”

In the next frame Charlie adds: “I suppose you’ll miss me, too. But I guess we . . . read more

Benjamin Franklin Sincerely

In his “Project for Moral Perfection” one of the character traits Benjamin Franklin wanted to become morally perfect in the application of was Sincerity. He described this trait as: “Use no harmful deceit; think innocently and justly, and if you speak, speak accordingly.”

Franklin also wrote a book and titled it “The Art of Virtue.” If you haven’t read it, or even heard of it, go and find it. It’s worth the trouble!

In that book Ben proposed that one of the principles for happiness is truth and honesty. How true that is. He added: “If the rascals knew the advantage of virtue, they would become honest men out of rascality.” Then, about himself, he added “That is my only cunning.” read more

Benjamin Franklin and the Constitution

“The Constitution only guarantees the American people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself!” –Benjamin Franklin

Of course Franklin knew these words were directly in the Declaration of Independence, which was upheld by the United States Constitution. He helped draft both of them. But the meaning of the direct words is vouchsafed by our Constitution.

And he was a printer by trade, so he was careful with words. So he knew what he was saying. That is, that the Constitution protects you unalienable rights to pursue happiness, you still must pursue it and “catch it!” It’s all up to you. read more

The Founding Fathers and Kindness

One of the virtues our Founding Fathers are known for, is Kindness. Thomas Jefferson was known to receive visitors to the President’s Mansion without prior announcement or request. He was always polite and gracious to his visitors.

George Washington likewise entertained drop-in guests at Mount Vernon and served them delicious meals and cheerful reunions.

Benjamin Franklin was always very diplomatic. He treated everyone like an equal.

Kindness can have its rewards. I’m reminded of a client I had in my 37 years of Estate Planning. This one divorced man was very quiet but polite in all situations. His name was Ray. On one visit he told me of a kind and respectful young cashier he had met at the local Safeway grocery store where he shopped weekly. He was divorced and wanted some specific bequests made in his small trust. He didn’t own much in the way of assets. read more

Benjamin Franklin and the Bible

Benjamin Franklin told some of his closest associates that his favorite Book in the Bible, was the Book of Proverbs. That book is deemed by scholars to have been written by King Solomon. And Ben loved Solomon. You can tell by reading that Proverbs was even the source for some of Franklin’s adages and quotes in his “Poor Richard’s Almanac.”

Even so, some of Franklin’s favorite passages came from the Book of Kings. In this scripture the story is told of an angel of the Lord appearing to the boy, Solomon, and asking of him “What gift do you want to rule your country? Riches? Intelligence? Power?” Solomon’s simple answer was “give me the gift of an understanding heart to judge thy people.”
(1 Kings 3:12). read more

A Republic—If You Can Keep It!

Benjamin Franklin was asked one question as he left the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia after the meeting had adjourned on September 17, 1787. He was asked by a widow as Ben walked slowly down the steps: “Well, Doctor Franklin, what have we got, a Monarchy or a Republic?”

His response was quick, full of meaning, and authoritative: “You have a Republic—if you can keep it!”

A part of keeping such a Republic depends on the character of those who govern themselves. That’s because the people are the source of all lawful authority. Americans are free and inherently independent of all but THE MORAL LAW. America does not have a unified religion or a common theology, but we do have something we have to depend on for our freedom. That is a common morality shared by all citizens and that morality is rooted in faith and reason. read more

Martha Chooses Thomas Jefferson

After their marriage, Tom and Martha began their trek to the as yet only minimally completed Monticello. They had to travel more than 100 miles without plane, or boat, or automobile. In the cold and on not quite decent roads. (She must have really loved Tom!)

When they finally arrived, Martha got her first view of the partly completed mansion. Well, it wasn’t a mansion yet. They arrived in the midst of a blustery snowstorm. Martha got her first view of her new home. The still small new home clung to the top of a hill and was dark and empty. read more

Music at Christmastime

Here’s another quote from that book “In The Dark Streets Shineth” by David McCollough. These words were shared with the listeners of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir special for Christmas a few years back.

800px-Mtchoirandorchestra_ConferenceCenter_(cropped)“Music is a part of our history. It is an expression of who we are and the times we’ve known, our highs, our lows, and so much that we love. Take away American music from the American story and you take away a good part of the soul of the story.

“Impossible to imagine life in America without it—without “Shenandoah” or “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Or Gershwin or Copland or Scott Joplin. read more