I’m old enough to remember being taught about the Founding Fathers and the Constitution with respect and patriotic pride.
However, as I was growing up the mood of the nation was changing. Patriotism gave way to disdain and derision. The Founding Fathers were dismissed as “dead white men,” and the Constitution as a dated “living document,” subject to interpretation by modern liberal scholars. Patriotism may be enjoying a mild resurgence, but public school education about the period of our founding remains abysmal. The book The 5000 Year Leap, by Willard Cleon Skousen, goes a long way toward filling that void.
The premise of the author, Cleon Skousen, is that the freedoms guaranteed by the United States Constitution, and the free market principles necessary to such a free society, energized the citizens of our country and as the light of freedom spread to other nations it facilitated a worldwide great leap of progress. It is difficult to dismiss world progress over the last two hundred years; causation is the issue.
Both sections of the book are grounded in Judeo-Christian principles. Because modern secularism seeks to strip away this foundation, I found this emphasis refreshing. Each section consists of succinct easy-to-read chapters. The major points are backed by abundant quotes.
In the first section, Skousen correctly points out that in 1607 the settlers of Jamestown had come to America “in a boat no larger and no more commodious than those of the ancient sea kings. Their tools still consisted of shovel, axe hoe, and a stick plow which were only slightly improved over those of China, Egypt, Persia and Greece.”
The author also explains how the Founders saw the political spectrum. The Founders, Skousen states, tried to find that balance between tyranny and anarchy, while the major political parties of today lean every more toward the “Tyranny” end of the spectrum.
The second part is the heart of the book. This section covers 28 principles the author considers critical to the creation of the Constitution. Backed by abundant quotes from the Founding Fathers the author discussed federalism, limited powers, strong local government, checks and balances, separation of powers, the role of religion and much more.
In the end, I came away unconvinced that the Constitution, and resulting freedom, was the sole cause of the great leap of progress. However, to me that does not significantly diminish the greatness of the Constitution. In a time when no one was truly free, the Founding Fathers established a free republic. Yes, there were slaves (a legacy of British rule) and women were not entirely free, but the momentum was toward ever-greater freedom and progress. That legacy of freedom, which the Founders passed on to their descendants, is a great gift.
Because of references to Christian scripture and ideals, I cannot image this book ever finding its way into the public school system, but the respect and patriotism that it instills for our founding and for those who gave us this great republic should still be taught across this great land. I recommend you buy the book, read it, and teach the principles to your children.