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Documents of Freedom


9 Units

Unit

The Foundations of American Goverment

6 Lessons

America's Founders looked to the lessons of human nature and history to determine how best to structure a government that would promote liberty. They started with the principle of consent of the governed: the only legitimate government is one which the people themselves have authorized. But the Founders also guarded against the tendency of those in power to abuse their authority, and structured a government whose power is limited and divided in complex ways to prevent a concentration of power. They counted on citizens to live out virtues like justice, honesty, respect, humility, and responsibility.

Unit

The Purpose of Government

9 Lessons

The structural or institutional features of the American constitutional order only make sense in the context of what the Founders hoped to achieve--securing the right of the American people to live decent, worthwhile lives according to their own goals and faculties. The thoughtful preservation of those institutions, occasionally through necessary corrective measures, depends on a proper understanding of what it is that they are designed to promote as well as an appreciation of how to manage those institutions to serve the best interests of the American people. All of this requires a citizenry with the skills and dispositions necessary for republican self-government, that is, a citizen body whose members understand and act to promote justice.

Unit

The Tradition of Rights

15 Lessons

Rights claims have always been central to American political discourse. In the Founders' view, no human being is so decisively superior to other adult human beings that he is entitled to direct their actions without their express consent. By Nature all adult human beings, regardless of their race, sex or class, are free to rule themselves or, what is the same, to exercise the same "inalienable rights," including the right to life, physical liberty, acquire and use property, marry and raise children, communicate one's opinions, and worship God according to the dictates of one's conscience.