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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 RealClear's American Civics portal: providing an education in the principles and practices that every patriotic citizen should know.


Essays

"Why Is the Constitution Not Democratic?" 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. . . . 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. . . . 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.


"George Washington and Self-Government" by William B. Allen

As George Washington’s first presidential administration, the first term of government under the United States Constitution, neared its end in 1793, the president found himself confronting a form of populism antithetical to stable politics in a republic. The situation emerged from the turbulent development of highly polarized partisan politics, along with efforts by France’s revolutionary government to interfere in American elections. . . . Read more.


"Hamilton: Statesmanship at the Service of a Natural Rights Republic" by Tony Williams

In recent years, American civic culture has suffered deep cleavages. Civil conversations have been poisoned by battles over the meaning of America’s past, and which figures we should revere—and condemn. Even America’s Founding Fathers have come under the microscope, but one—Alexander Hamilton—has been spared such judgments by the massive popularity of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s runaway hit musical. . . . Read more.


"Martin Luther King, Jr., the American Revolutionaries, and the Politics of Parallel Reality" by S. Adam Seagrave

Throughout the Stamp Act crisis of the 1760s—the “Prologue to Revolution,” according to the title of historian Edmund S. Morgan’s published collection of documents—the British North American colonists sent petition after petition to both houses of the British Parliament. These petitions frequently asserted the rights that the colonists possessed. . . Read more.


"Increased Devotion" by Christopher Flannery

Abigail Adams quoted from memory the ode “How Sleep the Brave,” by English poet William Collins, in a letter to her husband John, started on Sunday, June 18, and mailed on Tuesday, June 20, 1775. She had just confirmed reports of the death of their dear friend and family doctor, 34-year-old. . . Read more.


"The Founders' Understanding of Equality" by Robert Curry

We have reached a time when each of us must make an effort to rediscover what Adams and Jefferson and the other Founders meant when they declared that we are all created equal. For over a century, instead of trying to help each generation of Americans understand the Founders’ idea of America, political thinkers. . . Read more.

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