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Civics

Know your R's

Foundational Basics 

The Founder's enlightened skepticism of centralized power produced two timeless documents—the Constitution and Bill of Rights—that still frustrates the schemes of despots to this day. Though written in 18th century prose, its pages retain high voltage ideas that can recharge a new generation's intellect and courage to uphold their liberty. We hope you will become well-read in these six foundational texts as they will empower you to speak and act as rightful citizen-stewards of the American republic.

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Common Sense

Thomas Paine

Common Sense was first published anonymously by Thomas Paine in January of 1776 and is regarded by many as the most important piece of writing of the American Revolution. Although dissent among the colonists was growing over the British government's newly levied taxes and customs duties and the bloody battle at Concord, there was still talk of reconciliation among the colonists.

 

However, Paine's convincing arguments against the monarchy and British domination spread like wildfire throughout the colonies and turned the public tide toward independence. General George Washington wrote to a friend in Massachusetts: "I find that Common Sense is working a powerful change there in the minds of many men. Few pamphlets have had so dramatic an effect on political events."

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Declaration of Independence

Thomas Jefferson and Committee of Five

was designed for multiple audiences: the King, the colonists, and the world. It was also designed to multitask. Its goals were to rally the troops, win foreign allies, and to announce the creation of a new country. The introductory sentence states the Declaration’s main purpose, to explain the colonists’ right to revolution. In other words, “to declare the causes which impel them to the separation.” Congress had to prove the legitimacy of its cause. It had just defied the most powerful nation on Earth. It needed to motivate foreign allies to join the fight.

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Federalist Papers

Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay

A collection of 85 articles and essays written by Alexander HamiltonJames Madison, and John Jay under the collective pseudonym "Publius" to promote the ratification of the Constitution of the United States

The essays explores the complexity of representative rule and makes the case for a “republican” form of government. 

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Anti-Federalist Papers

Patrick Henry and other Founding Fathers

the collective name given to the works written by the Founding Fathers who were opposed to or concerned with the merits of the US Constitution of 1787.

 

Starting on 25 September 1787 (eight days after the final draft of the US Constitution) and running through the early 1790s, these Anti-Federalists published a series of essays arguing against the ratification of the new Constitution. 

 

They argued against the implementation of a stronger federal government without protections on certain rights. The Anti-Federalist papers failed to halt the ratification of the Constitution but succeeded in influencing the draft the United States Bill of Rights.

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U.S. Constitution

James Madison and others

The Constitution acted like a colossal merger, uniting a group of states with different interests, laws, and cultures. Under the Articles of Confederation, the states acted together only for specific purposes.

 

The Constitution united its citizens as members of a whole, vesting the power of the union in the people as the ultimate delegator of legislative, executive and judicial authority to its public servants. 

Full Articles of Confederation (off site)

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Bill of Rights

James Madison with inputs from Anti-Federalists

During the debates on the adoption of the Constitution, its opponents repeatedly charged that the Constitution as drafted would open the way to tyranny by the central government.

 

Fresh in their minds was the memory of the British violation of civil rights before and during the Revolution. They demanded a "bill of rights" that would spell out the immunities of individual citizens. Several state conventions in their formal ratification of the Constitution asked for such amendments; others ratified the Constitution with the understanding that the amendments would be offered

Full Bill of Rights (off site)

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