“Theme is Freedom, The” by M. Stanton Evans

The Theme is Freedom: Religion, Politics, and the American Traditions
by M. Stanton Evans

The premise (and conclusion) of M. Stanton Evans’ seventh book is best captured in the following text from the final chapter:

“… American constitutional doctrine is the product of an immensely long development, unfolding over two millennia of Western thought and practice. It starts with the religious insight that there is a higher law above the state; finds backing for this stricture in the church, and thereafter in the feudal order; deduces from these a system of contractual statecraft, representative bodies, and written guarantees of freedom — all translated to our shores and undergirded by the methods we have examined. Taken as a whole, this history tracks a series of ever-narrowing and more definite limits on the reach of secular power — of which the American Constitution is (or was) the ultimate expression.”

On the surface, this is neither controversial nor divergent from common thinking. But, read it carefully and add to it the two primary and inseparable themes of the book and the debate begins. These themes are:

“… the chief political tradition of our culture is, above all else, a tradition of limited government, in the interest of protecting personal freedom” AND “… that this tradition is rooted in religious faith, not secular abstraction.”

Key to his presentation is identifying the sources of American government and culture. For example, he shows that “… the Puritans, Locke, and the Founding Fathers were all inheritors of the medieval doctrine, the covenental teachings of the sixteenth century, and the common law of England …” Today, popular use of the expression “the great American experiment” creates confusion. Evans’ documentation shows that the principles were not invented by the likes of Thomas Jefferson. It is mainly the implementation of these principles in the form of a written Constitution that can be considered experimental.

Evans uses a fair amount of ink dealing with the parenthetical “or was” from the first quotation. The modern concept of a flexible and evolving Constitution does not serve American citizens in the way James Madison and James Wilson intended. Evans states on page 314 that over the years, Madison and others consistently reaffirmed the following objective given in Federalist No. 45:

“… the powers of the federal government were ‘few and defined’ while those remaining to the states were ‘numerous and indefinite.'”

© Copyright 1995, 2008, Clancy Cross.  All rights reserved.

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The Theme is Freedom: Religion, Politics, and the American Traditions