Civics 101.


Assigned reading:

  • In the Institutes of the Roman Emperor Justinian (A.D. 535) we read:
    The precepts of the law are these: to live honestly, to injure no one, and to give every man his due. Freedom, from which men are called free, is a man's natural power of doing what he pleases, so far as he is not prevented by force or law: Slavery is an institution of the law of nations, against nature subjecting one man to the dominion of another.

    A thousand years earlier, Pericles (439 B.C.) said of Democratic Athens:

    Our constitution favors the many instead of the few; this is why it is called a democracy. If we look to the laws, they afford equal justice to all. (Thucycides, History of the Pelopponesian War, II, 34)

    And our founding fathers, who threw off allegiance to King George, must have agreed with the words of the Hebrew prophet Samuel who, half a millennium before Pericles warned the people that asked of him a king.

    This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots. And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots. And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your olive yards, even the best of them. And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and ye shall be his servants. And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you (1 Samuel chapter 8).

    Regarding wealth distribution

    Solon discoursing about the commonwealth approved of equality, as being that which would occasion no tumult or faction. But this opinion appeared too popular; for by this arithmetical method he would have set up democracy in the room of a far happier government, consisting with a more suitable (viz., a geometrical) proportion. --Plutarch, On Brotherly Love, 12


    Assigned reading:

  • Magna Carta
  • Liberty and equality before law can be traced back to the Great Charter of England (A.D. 1215) which declared:

    No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land.

    Alexander Hamilton refers to Magna Carta in Federalists #84 with respect to the Bill of Rights.


    Assigned reading:

  • U.S. Constitution [original text plus the Bill of Rights]
  • Federalist Paper Number 51
  • If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary

    The Founding Fathers' theory of republic limited constitutional government.