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Education Reporter

We Still Hold These Truths: Rediscovering Our Principles, Reclaiming Our Future, Matthew Spalding, ISI Books 2009, 267 pages, $26.95.

When Benjamin Franklin left the Constitutional Convention in 1776, an acquaintance asked him if the framers had created a monarchy or a republic. "A republic," responded Franklin, but then famously added, "if you can keep it."

We Still Hold These Truths is essentially a primer on the founding principles every American should have learned in school, but didn't. The Founding Fathers devised a government that, for the first time in history, would not be a relationship between ruler(s) and subjects. Instead, people would come together to decide how they should govern themselves, in order to secure the natural rights they possess as humans.

Readers gain a context for the radical experiment in liberty framed by the Declaration of Independence before the author goes on to explain the articles and amendments of the Constitution, along with the Bill of Rights.

Many will find they have believed numerous popular misconceptions. For example, many Americans understand our nation to be a democracy. The Founders instead chose a republic, so as to prevent the "tyranny of the majority" from undermining the rights of the minority.

Likewise, many understand the Supreme Court to be the final authority in interpreting the Constitution, but Spalding provides contrary quotes from the Framers. From Thomas Jefferson in 1820: "To consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy."

What about the contradiction between the stated ideal of equal rights and slavery? Framers made compromises that temporarily tolerated slavery to gain widespread support; however, the Constitution was crafted to ultimately limit and extinguish slavery. Numerous quotes support the claim that the Founders intended to put domestic slavery, as Abraham Lincoln put it, on "the course of ultimate extinction."

Spalding also explains how progressive ideas of relativism and human perfectibility led us away from the founding principles, resulting in support for a "living constitution" and unlimited government. Results include a bloated central bureaucracy, newly discovered "rights," and ever-expanding entitlement programs.

In recognizing how far we've strayed from the Constitution's original design, we can begin to take steps to restore the liberties that made America great. Suitable for high school students and adults. Download the first chapter for free at WeStillHoldTheseTruths.org.

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