Book Review: What Would The Founders Say?


I ran across this book completely by accident. I had never heard of it before (nor had I ever heard of the author, Larry Schweikart), but I found it interesting due to my inherent draw to anything about The Constitution. Larry Schweikart is a history professor at the University of Dayton who has written many academic articles and books on subjects ranging from national defense to business to financial history. The premise of the book, though fairly obvious, is to examine current issues in the context of the Founders’ thoughts and beliefs.


Many of today’s issues ultimately inspire the question of the proper role of the Federal Government. In fact, that question has become one of the most prominent over the last two or three years, in large part as a result of a bevy of legislation passed that many view as an overreach by the Government. What Would the Founders Say?What Would the Founders Say?: A Patriot's Answers to America's Most Pressing Problems examines ten of the day’s most prominent issues in the context of the views and philosophies of the Founders of our Nation.

Question #1: How important is Religion, especially Christianity, in matters of State and Government and should the two be entirely separate?
Question #2: What is the function of Education and how much control should the Federal Government have over it?
Question #3: Is the Government responsible for protecting the Land and the Environment?
Question #4: Is the Health of the People considered part of the “General Welfare”?
Question #5: Should the Government stimulate the Economy and otherwise ensure Full Employment?
Question #6: Does the Government have a responsibility to keep large Businesses solvent in order to protect American Industry?
Question #7: Doesn’t the Government have a specific stake in protecting the Money Supply and the Banking System?
Question #8: Should the United States tolerate high Deficits and a large National Debt?
Question #9: What is the purpose of War and should it be avoided?
Question #10: Should Federal, State or Local Governments collectively or individually have the authority to regulate Gun Ownership?

History means nothing without context. Many are quick to cite specific events or quotations but fail to understand the context in which they occurred. By doing so, they often either misinterpret or completely misunderstand the implications of those events. What Would the Founders Say?What Would the Founders Say?: A Patriot's Answers to America's Most Pressing Problems explores the preceding questions in the historical context of the time, providing a much more accurate outlook on what the Founders intended and how that applies to today’s interpretation of The Constitution.

Overall, it’s a well researched and well written book. Due to its focus on historical context, it can be a bit dry in places, but if you’re an aficionado of history or Constitutional application, I would recommend reading it.

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+Kevin A. Nye

What Would the Founders Say?:

A Patriot’s Answers to America’s Most Pressing Problems

What Would the Founders Say?: A Patriot's Answers to America's Most Pressing Problems
By: Larry Schweikart

Book Description:

How can we fix the great problems of our time? According to renowned historian Larry Schweikart, we need to get back to our roots. And to do that, we should ask ourselves a simple question-what would the Founders say? Schweikart examines ten key issues plaguing our nation today-from healthcare reform to government bailouts to gun control-and asks what would Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, and the other men who built this country think about the path we’ve taken?

Drawing mainly on primary documents, Schweikart also suggests what the Founders might have proposed to problems they could never have imagined in the eighteenth century. For example:

On religion in public life: “How would Washington view modern secular progressives who insist on wiping out any vestiges of Christianity in American government? Taken in context with John Adams’s opinions on the necessity of religion, a concrete principle emerges: that there can be no democracy without a majority of citizens’ being virtuous; that virtue requires morality; and morality requires religion and belief in a higher power than oneself.”

On health care: “The health-care reform act promises to lead to unprecedented invasions of private choices, activities, and even well-being, for one man’s necessity will soon be another man’s vice. The Founders knew this and for that reason did not even entertain the notion that heath care was a right, and certainly not a function of government. ‘Were we directed from Washington when to sow, and when to reap,’ Jefferson said, ‘we should soon want bread.'”

On bailouts: “Nowhere did the Founders show any concern about the success or failure of individual businesses. Quite to the contrary, they focused on the tendencies of governments to use any occasion, any event, as a ‘necessity’ to expand its own power. ‘Those who are engaged in the management of public affairs are more subject to excitement and to be led astray by their particular interests and passions than the great body of constituents,’ warned James Monroe.”

On the national debt: “Alexander Hamilton never called debt in general a ‘national blessing.’ Rather, it is entirely clear that Hamilton rejected the concept that ‘public debts are public benefits,’ and that it was the funding of the debt, i.e., the system he devised to pay it off, that would provide the ‘national blessing.'”

Written in Schweikart’s informal yet informative style, What Would the Founders Say? is sure to delight his dedicated fans and anyone looking for a little clarity in a time of chaos.

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What Would the Founders Say?: A Patriot's Answers to America's Most Pressing Problems

“John Trumbull – Declaration of Independence” Image credit: Trodel


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