GETTING STARTED ON A GREAT ADVENTURE!
1. Course Materials: You need 4 items: a) Pocket copy of Declaration of Independence & The U.S. Constitution. The Cato Institute http://store.cato.org/index.asp?fa=ProductDetails&pid=144278-A&... & www.askheritage.org/ have them.
b) The Federalist Papers. This is a collection of 85 essays written during 1787-1788 by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, in order to explain the proposed Constitution to The People and to induce them to ratify it. For this reason, The Federalist Papers are THE authoritative commentary on the meaning of The Constitution. The late 18th century style of writing may seem difficult at first; but if you stick with it, you will get used to it. The authors were geniuses in political philosophy, and they are delightful! James Madison, of course, is The Father of the U.S. Constitution. Amazon has hard copies, & here is a web edition with a searchable text:
c) Webster's American Dictionary of the English Language (1828) I have the big green & gold hard copy which is a facsimile of the original. It costs almost $60.00; but is worth it. Amazon has it in hard copy and in kindle for $10.00. Here is an on-line edition:
http://1828.mshaffer.com/d/search/word,welfare Here is another:
d) Colored pencils.
2. How should we read The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution, and The Federalist Papers? Objective meaning? Or Subjective Interpretation?
a) The Traditional View, which I urge you to embrace, is that texts have a fixed and objective meaning, and it is the reader's task to ascertain that meaning. In order to do this, you must, among other things, pay close attention to definitions of words - you must understand the meaning of words the same way the author understood them. This is why you need Webster's 1828 Dictionary. You must also lay aside your own views and everything you think you already know about the subject so that you can read with an open mind, and so you don't read your own views into the text. Here is a common example of such error: Our allies are rightly angry at the "federal" government in Washington, D.C. But to some of these allies, "federal" has become a very bad word synonymous with statist government. So, they argue, since Hamilton, Madison, and Jay were "federalists", they were big-government statists, and the Anti-federalists were the ones with the right idea! But this dreadful error can be avoided simply by opening your mind and by looking up federal in Webster's! There, we learn that federal meant:
"Consisting in a compact between parties, particularly and chiefly between states or nations; founded on alliance by contract or mutual agreement; as a federal government, such as that of the United States."
It is the federal government created by The Constitution which is explained and endorsed in The Federalist Papers. The federal government created by Our Constitution bears no resemblance whatsoever to the illegitimate dictatorship now being constructed.
b) The modern view ("literary deconstruction") is that a text means whatever the reader thinks it means. The concept of a text having a fixed and objective meaning has been thrown out altogether! The sorry result of this view is that American educrats no longer teach how to read for the objective meaning of a text. It has become the dogma of our time that texts have no “objective meaning” to be discovered! Instead, each person is to come up with his own “understanding” – and one person’s “understanding” is as good as another’s. A friend recalls the following incident which occurred in an high school English class during 1960: The class read a short story, and then the teacher asked each student to say what the story meant to him. Whatever a student said was praised by the teacher. But when it was my friend’s turn, he said: “It doesn’t matter what it means to me – what matters is what the author meant.” The teacher was not pleased with this ‘out of place’ comment. Is it any wonder that judges on the U.S. Supreme Court feel free to “understand” the Constitution any way they please? They were conditioned in school to “think” that way; but they did not resist the conditioning. But here, you will learn how to read our founding Documents to look for and find the "original intent" - the "objective" meaning of the Documents.
3. First homework assignment:
a) Go through your copy of The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution and underline all references to God. Be sure you don't miss the express recognition of the Lordship of Jesus Christ which is contained within The Constitution!
b) For now, read through only the first Seven Articles of The Constitution. We will address the Amendments later. With another color, go through The Constitution (through Art. VII) and underline each of the law-making powers delegated by The Constitution to Congress. Most of the powers delegated to Congress are listed ("enumerated") at Art. I, Sec. 8; however, other enumerated powers granted to Congress are set forth elsewhere in The Constitution. Use another color for the powers delegated to The Executive Branch; and a 4th color for the judicial power of the federal courts. Use a 5th color to underline all powers which are specifically forbidden to the federal government. Use a 6th color to underline all powers which are specifically forbidden to The States.
4. Thinking about Our Constitution: Re-read The Preamble. With respect to The Constitution: Who established it and put it into effect? Who is the "creator" and who is the "creature"? Who is the "master" and who is the "servant"?