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What Is It?

The 1776 Series is a collection of original essays that explain the foundational themes of the American experience. Commissioned from distinguished historians and scholars, these essays contribute to the broader goal of the American Civics project: providing an education in the principles and practices that every patriotic citizen should know.


Essays

How Democratic Is the Constitution? by Dennis Hale & Marc Landy

It’s hard not to notice that in the United States, political arguments frequently turn on questions that, in other democracies, nobody talks about. What are the powers of the legislature? What may the executive do? What can the states do without begging permission from the national government? Why can’t an idea popular with the public become a law?...Read more.


Lincoln, the American Founding, and the Moral Foundations of a Free Society by Lucas Morel

Abraham Lincoln believed that the success of American self-government required the right ideas and the right institutions. He thought that the right ideas were found in the Declaration of Independence—specifically, human equality, individual rights, government by consent of the governed, and the right of revolution. A corollary to these bedrock principles was “the right to rise,” which Lincoln described as the duty “to improve one’s condition.” These ideas of the Declaration were so fundamental that Lincoln referred to “the principles of Jefferson” as “the definitions and axioms of free society” and “the father of all moral principle” in the American people....Read more.


Religion and the Moral Foundations of American Democracy by Carson Holloway

According to social scientists, traditional religiosity is in decline in contemporary America. Fewer Americans identify as members of long-established churches. Fewer Americans attend religious services on a weekly basis than in generations past. Some Americans view these developments in purely empirical terms, as evidence of a changing culture. Others, critics of traditional religion, take the decline of American religion as a desirable trend, a sign of liberation from outmoded beliefs and irrational superstitions unsuitable to a modern, rational age....Read more.


Civic and Moral Virtues, the American Way by Will Morrisey

In declaring their independence from Great Britain, Americans famously asserted their unalienable rights. Much less conspicuously, but no less tellingly, they listed ten moral responsibilities consonant with those rights. In announcing their political separation, they begin by acknowledging a duty to observe “a decent respect for the opinions of mankind” by stating the causes for their decision....Read more.


Self Government, the American Way by Will Morrisey

After winning the independence they had declared in 1776, Americans had to prove that they could sustain self-government in peace. They’d governed themselves already, as colonists, but now the British government no longer protected them from the other European powers, and indeed remained a potential enemy of the new country. It’s easy for us today to wonder why American statesmen from Washington to Lincoln seemed obsessed...Read more.


Started in Slavery, Founded in Freedom: 1619 vs. 1776 by S. Adam Seagrave

Now that everyone with a computer and an opinion has had his or her say on the merits and shortcomings of the “1619 Project,” we are now in a position to step back and ask ourselves: What is really at stake here? The most controversial aspect of the project has not been its content—apart from one important, mistaken historical claim in Nikole Hannah-Jones’s introductory essay, which has since been corrected—but its framing....Read more.


Howard Zinn’s Assault on Historians and American Principles by Mary Grabar

Recently, Michael Barone heralded a bipartisan refutation of the New York Times’s 1619 Project. As part of “an ongoing battle for control of the central narrative of American history,” Barone noted, the August 2019 Times magazine supplement had made the case for redefining the founding of the United States from 1776 to 1619, when, presumably, the first slave ship came to Virginia, beginning a chain of exploitation by which the country supposedly built her wealth....Read more.

RealClear's American Civics portal explores the principles and practices every patriotic citizen should know.