The Principles of Liberty| Principle 23

"A Free Society Cannot Survive as a Republic Without a Broad Program of General Education"

The English colonists in America undertook the education of the whole people.  They believed that they must prepare themselves for a most unique and important role in the unfolding of modern world history.  Universal education was considered an indispensable ingredient for this preparation.

The movement for universal education began in New England, in the 1647 the legislature of Massachusetts passed a law requiring every community of 50 families or households to set up a free public grammar school to teach the fundamentals of reading, writing, ciphering, history, geography and Bible study.  In addition to this, every township with 100 families or more was also required to set up a secondary school in advanced studies to prepare boys for attendance at Harvard.  John Adams said that this program was designed to defuse knowledge generally through the entire body of the people.  He Said:
"They made an early provision by law that every town consisting of so many families should always be furnished with a grammar school.  They made it a crime for such a town to be destitute of a grammar schoolmaster for a few months, and subjected it to heavy penalty.  So that the education of all the ranks of people was made the care and expense of the public, in a manner that I believe has been unknown to any other people, ancient or modern.
The Consequences of these establishments we see and feel every day (written in 1765).  A Native of America who cannot read and write is as rare as a comet or an earthquake.  It has been observed that we are all of us lawyers, divines, politicians, and philosophers.   And I have good authorities to say that all candid foreigners who have passed through this country and conversed freely with all sorts of people here will all say that they have never seen so much knowledge and civility among the common people in any part of the world.  Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people.  They have a right, an indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible, divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge, I mean, of the characters and conduct of their rulers."
The way that this system was designed made good local school boards very important.  Not only did they choose what textbooks would be used, they also chose which teachers they would issue certificates to.  It was important that the board have a rotation of officers every three years.  And that it was 1/3 that was always being rotated, that way, there were those on the board with experience (2/3 of the board) that could help keep things maintained while the new board members got familiar with the system.

Something that we should note about this time period, is that at this time illiteracy was quite common in Europe among the common people.  France, for example, had over 24 million inhabitants, but only 500,000 could actually read and write.

In the American colonies, the intention of this education system for the children was so that they could grow up to become well informed citizens through their own diligent self-study.  This also explains why the Founders were so well read having had limited formal education.  After learning the fundamentals, they went on to develop knowledge through a self-learning process.

This system of education was so wide spread, that by 1831, when Alexis de Tocqueville came to visit the United States, he was amazed.  He said that to find a person that was ignorant of the doctrines and evidences of his religion, the history of his country, and the leading features of the Constitution was very rare, a phenomenon. 

Education includes Morality and Politics.  Alexis also stated that" instruction that enlightens the understanding is not separated from the moral education.  The American learns to know the laws by participating in the act of legislation; and he takes a lesson in the forms of government from governing.  In the United States, politics are the end and aim of education."

Young children were taught the value of the Constitution, the book was called "Catechism on the Constitution."  Early Americans knew that they had a unique and invaluable invention of political science and they were determined to promote it on all levels of education.

Many Early Americans spoke with great eloquence, and this was due to their extensive education in reading the Bible.  A great example is Abraham Lincoln, whose great speeches cannot be attributed to a college education since he did not have one.  The Founding Fathers felt that the strength of America's moral character came from the studying of the Bible.  "The book teaches man his own individual responsibility, his own dignity, and his equality to his fellowman. " One need not go very far today to find a school that has eliminated the Bible reading from their curriculum, nor the removal of curriculum for children of the same caliber as "Catechism on the Constitution."  One could also say that this Bible verse says it all,
Hosea 4: 6
6 ¶ My people are destroyed for lack of aknowledge: because thou hast brejected cknowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the dlaw of thy God, I will also forget thy children.

Thomas Jefferson Warns of Dangers of National Debt

The Principles of Liberty | Principle 22

"A Free People Should be Governed by Law and Not the Whims of Man"

If mankind are governed by the whims of men they are subjected to every changing inclination of sudden illogical changes of mind, ideas, or actions of those in power.  This is ruler's law at its worst.  In this kind of society, no rights are secure and nothing is dependable; things are in a constant state of flux.  Nothing is fixed nor predictable for the future.

The Founders defined law as a 'rule of action', which was binding on the ruler as it was upon the people.  It was designed to give society a stable frame of reference so the people could feel secure in making plans for the future.  John Locke said:
Freedom of men under government is to have a standing rule to live by, common to everyone of that society. and made by the legislative power erected in it.
Under established law, every person's rights and duties are defined.  Such a society gives the people a feeling of liberty, liberty under the law.  The American Founders believed that without the protection of law there can be no liberty.

John Locke also pointed out that unless a society can provide a person with a code of fixed and enforceable laws, he might as well have stayed in the jungle.
To this end it is that men give up all their natural power to the society that they enter into, and the community put the legislative power into such hands as they see fit, with this trust, that they shall be governed by declared laws, or else their peace, quiet, and property will still be at the same uncertainty as it was in the state of Nature.

John Adams also agreed when he said:
No man will contend that a nation can be free that is not governed by fixed laws.  All other government that that of permanent known laws is the government of mere will and pleasure.
 Aristotle said:
Even the best of men in authority are liable to be corrupted by passion.  We may conclude then that the law is reason without passion, and it is therefore preferable to any individual.
 And from this we can see that Aristotle disagreed with his mentor Plato, who believed that that the ideal society should be governed by a few who would rule according to scientific principles and make on the spot decisions and force the people to do what is good for them.  He said that if there was not a man with this scientific knowledge, then law would be required, but it was only the second best thing.

the difference appears to be perspective.  Rather then looking at law as a merely a code of negative restraints and prohibitions, the Founders considered it to be a system of positive rules by which they could be assured of enjoying their rights and the protection of themselves, their families and their property.  John Locke said it best:
The end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom.  For in all the states of created beings, capable of laws, where there is no law there is no freedom.  For liberty is to be free from restraint and violence from others, which cannot be when there is no law.
The Founders were sensitive to the fact that people only have confidence in laws that they can understand, as well as feel that it is of relative permanence, which will not be continually changed.  James Madison said this so well:
It will be of little avail to the people that the law are made by men of their own choice if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be revealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is today, can guess what it will be tomorrow.  Law is defined to be a rule of action; but how can that be a rule, which is little known and less fixed?
 Thomas Jefferson resigned from the congress in 1776 in order to return to Virginia to make certain that the state laws were rewritten so that when independence had been won, the people would have a model system of legal principles which they could both understand and support.  The complex codes and laws of our day could be similarly improved with such a great housecleaning as Jefferson did for Virginia.  Imagine what James Madison would think of our legislature and senate who pass bills that are so large that they have not read them when they vote on them, that vote on bills that are not yet even written!