The President’s Advisory 1776 Commission 40 pg report
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In the course of human events there have always been those who deny or reject human freedom, but Americans will never falter in defending the fundamental truths of human liberty proclaimed on July 4, 1776. We will—we must—always hold these truths. The declared purpose of the President’s Advisory 1776 Commission is to “enable a rising generation to understand the history and principles of the founding of the United States in 1776 and to strive to form a more perfect Union.” This requires a restoration of American education, which can only be grounded on a history of those principles that is “accurate, honest, unifying, inspiring, and ennobling.” And a rediscovery of our shared identity rooted in our founding principles is the path to a renewed American unity and a confident American future.
The Commission’s first responsibility is to produce a report summarizing the principles of the American founding and how those principles have shaped our country. That can only be done by truthfully recounting the aspirations and actions of the men and women who sought to build America as a shining “city on a hill”—an exemplary nation, one that protects the safety and promotes the happiness of its people, as an example to be admired and emulated by nations of the world that wish to steer their government toward greater liberty and justice.
The record of our founders’ striving and the nation they built is our shared inheritance and remains a beacon, as Abraham Lincoln said, “not for one people or one time, but for all people for all time.” Today, however, Americans are deeply divided about the meaning of their country, its history, and how it should be governed. This division is severe enough to call to mind the disagreements between the colonists and King George, and those between the Confederate and Union forces in the Civil War.
They amount to a dispute over not only the history of our country but also its present purpose and future direction. The facts of our founding are not partisan. They are a matter of history. Controversies about the meaning of the founding can begin to be resolved by looking at the facts of our nation’s founding. Properly understood, these facts address the concerns and aspirations of Americans of all social classes, income levels, races and religions, regions and walks of life. As well, these facts provide necessary—and wise—cautions against unrealistic hopes and checks against pressing partisan claims or utopian agendas too hard or too far. The principles of the American founding can be learned by studying the abundant documents contained in the record. Read fully and carefully, they show how the American people have ever pursued freedom and justice, which are the political conditions for living well.
To learn this history is to become a better person, a better citizen, and a better partner in the American experiment of self-government. Comprising actions by imperfect human beings, the American story has its share of missteps, errors, contradictions, and wrongs. These wrongs have always met resistance from the clear principles of the nation, and therefore our history is far more one of selfsacrifice, courage, and nobility.
America’s principles are named at the outset to be both universal—applying to everyone—and eternal: existing for all time. The remarkable American story unfolds under and because of these great principles. Of course, neither America nor any other nation has perfectly lived up to the universal truths of equality, liberty, justice, and government by consent. But no Washington Crossing the Delaware Emanuel Leutze The 1776 report 2 nation before America ever dared state those truths as the formal basis for its politics, and none has strived harder, or done more, to achieve them. Lincoln aptly described the American government’s fundamental principles as “a standard maxim for free society,” which should be “familiar to all, and revered by all; constantly looked to, constantly labored for, and even though never perfectly attained, constantly approximated.” But the very attempt to attain them—every attempt to attain them—would, Lincoln continued, constantly spread and deepen the influence of these principles and augment “the happiness and value of life to all people of all colors everywhere.” The story of America is the story of this ennobling struggle.
The President’s Advisory 1776 Commission presents this first report with the intention of cultivating a better education among Americans in the principles and history of our nation and in the hope that a rediscovery of those principles and the forms of constitutional government will lead to a more perfect Union. II.
THE MEANING OF THE DECLARATION
The United States of America is in most respects a nation like any other. It embraces a people, who inhabit a territory, governed by laws administered by human beings. Like other countries, our country has borders, resources, industries, cities and towns, farms and factories, homes, schools, and houses of worship. And, although a relatively young country, its people have shared a history of common struggle and achievement, from carving communities out of a vast, untamed wilderness, to winning independence and forming a new government, through wars, industrialization, waves of immigration, technological progress, and political change. In other respects, however, the United States is unusual. It is a republic; that is to say, its government was designed to be directed by the will of the people rather than the wishes of a single individual or a narrow class of elites. Republicanism is an ancient form of government but one uncommon throughout history, in part because of its fragility, which has tended to make republics short-lived. Contemporary Americans tend to forget how historically rare republicanism has been, in part because of the success of republicanism in our time, which is derived in no small part from the very example and success of America. In two decisive respects, the United States of America is unique. First, it has a definite birthday: July 4th, 1776. Second, it declares from the moment of its founding not merely the principles on which its new government will be based; it asserts those principles to be true and universal: “applicable to all men and all times,” as Lincoln said. Other nations may have birthdays. For instance, what would eventually evolve into the French Republic was born in 1789 when Parisians stormed a hated prison and launched the downfall of the French monarchy and its Martin Luther King Jr. The 1776 report 3 aristocratic regime.
The Peoples Republic of China was born in 1949 when Mao Tse Tung’s Chinese Communist Party defeated the Nationalists in the Chinese Civil War. But France and China as nations— as peoples and cultures inhabiting specific territories— stretch back centuries and even millennia, over the course of many governments. There was no United States of America before July 4th, 1776. There was not yet, formally speaking, an American people. There were, instead, living in the thirteen British colonies in North America some twoand-a-half million subjects of a distant king. Those subjects became a people by declaring themselves such and then by winning the independence they had asserted as their right. They made that assertion on the basis of principle, not blood or kinship or what we today might call “ethnicity.” Yet this fact must be properly understood.
As John Jay explained in Federalist 2, Providence has been pleased to give this one connected country to one united people—a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs, and who, by their joint counsels, arms, and efforts, fighting side by side throughout a long and bloody war, have nobly established general liberty and independence.
Yet, as Jay (and all the founders) well knew, the newlyformed American people were not quite as homogenous—in ancestry, language, or religion—as this statement would seem to assert.
They were neither wholly English nor wholly Protestant nor wholly Christian. Some other basis would have to be found and asserted to bind the new people together and to which they would remain attached if they were to remain a people. That basis was the assertion of universal and eternal principles of justice and political legitimacy.
See PDF Attachment for the full 40 Page Report
Thank you to
Larry P. Arnn, ChairCarol Swain, Vice ChairMatthew Spalding, Executive DirectorPhil BryantJerry DavisMichael FarrisGay Hart GainesJohn GibbsMike GonzalezVictor Davis HansonCharles Kesler Peter KirsanowThomas LindsayBob McEwenNed RyunJulie StraussEx-officio MembersMichael Pompeo, Secretary of StateChristopher C. Miller, Acting Secretary of Defense David L. Bernhardt, Secretary of the InteriorBen Carson, Secretary of Housing and Urban DevelopmentMitchell M. Zais, Acting Secretary of EducationBrooke Rollins, Assistant to the President for Domestic PolicyDoug Hoelscher, Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs
The Commission is grateful to the following individuals who assisted with the preparation of the 1776 Report: William Bock, Alexandra Campana, Ariella Campana, Joshua Charles, Brian Morgenstern, Macy Mount, McKenzie Snow, and Alec Torres. Adam Honeysett, Designated Federal Officer.
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