Americans Can Save the Constitution
W. Cleon Skousen. Americans Can Save the Constitution. This founder’s message was presented at the dedication of the Freemen Institute in south Provo, Utah on September 18, 1976.
Now let me make a very brief report to you. First of all, I so appreciate your patience this morning insofar as the seating is concerned. Because this building was not constructed for a dedication with several hundred people in attendance, we have had to ask some of you to watch us through the large plate-glass windows from seats in the front parking area, but I hope you can see and hear adequately.
The New National Headquarters
At the conclusion of the program, we hope you will make yourselves at home and go through the entire building. Please go upstairs where our research center is located along with the editorial offices for the Freemen Report. On the main floor you will see our mail-out section and extensive storage and supply section. The presses occupy a large area to the rear. This new headquarters facility is a completely self-contained operation.
A few months ago this structure was merely an empty shell of a building. It was made available to us as a result of some of our fine friends watching us as we attempted to operate out of rented quarters about half as big as this assembly room. Of course, in the beginning we were merely serving Utah and southern Idaho, but by 1976 our program had spilled over into nine States. At our other building, boxes were piled on top of one another, desks were jammed together, and students were trying to maneuver in between them to attend their seminars.
Some of our friends saw what was happening and said, “Look, this isn’t the way we are going to save the Constitution. You need operating space.” So they rallied together and helped obtain this building. Others helped by raising money to construct the interior and provide the modest but attractive and efficient facilities you see today. Now our headquarters are finally finished, and what is equally important, they are all paid for! (Applause)
May I express our grateful acknowledgment to the following friends for their outstanding assistance in making all of this possible:
The Dudley Swim family,
Frank and Arlene Talley,
the Orvin Nielson family,
the Don Buehner family,
the Joseph McPherson family,
the Rita and Woodrow Miller family,
plus the 300 pledged Freemen who have been faithfully sending in ten dollars or more per month to strengthen our arm in accomplishing this work.
The Purpose of the Freemen Institute
Now the whole purpose of the Freemen Institute is to preserve freedom in this country. That can only be done by restoring the original Constitution as contemplated by the founding fathers. On your program you will see a replica of Independence Hall surrounded by a halo which says, “The Constitution in the Tradition of Our Founding Fathers.” That is our new logo. In order to accomplish our primary objective it was necessary to begin by setting up an ever-expanding program of Constitutional seminars. Someday we hope these will extend from coast-to-coast and reach hundreds of thousands of people.
At present we are still in our infancy, but during the past eighteen months we have given the Constitutional seminars to more than 5,500 people. These seminars take one night a week for eleven weeks or a Friday night and Saturday morning for four weeks. During the past eighteen months we have also been invited to give talks on the Constitution to many community groups which have been attended by more than 53,000 people. Out of these tiny acorns we expect some mighty oaks to grow.
Years ago when President David O. McKay asked that we try to do something along these lines he said it would be very important to structure the program so that it was not associated with any particular church or any particular group. He said it must belong to all the people. It must be done in the name of freedom, in the name of the Constitution, and it must be done so that people of every race and every creed will feel comfortable in participating. Our program is therefore structured on this basis. We call ourselves Freemen and this, the Freemen Institute, simply because the founding fathers called themselves “Freemen” long before they referred to themselves as Americans.
The Constitutional Seminars
The Constitutional seminars sponsored by the Freemen Institute are unique. They are different from any course you would ordinarily take in school, especially in law school. A person in law school is required to study what has been said in various court cases, particularly what the court has said in its cases lately. Our course is what the Constitution said originally. We zero in on this approach because in the final analysis it was the original Constitution which made us the first free people in modern times and built us into a great nation.
Of course, case law is also important for our students to know. They cannot practice in the courts without it. But what Americans especially need to study is the philosophy of the Constitution and the original precepts of the founders which were never completely carried out.
In our research for this course we discovered that the founders had aspirations to set up the United States as a completely new kind of civilization. Their ideas were only partially realized. For example, we read in a recent biography of Thomas Jefferson this interesting comment:
“… Jefferson’s great ambition at that time was to promote a renaissance of Anglo-Saxon primitive institutions on the new continent. Thus presented, the American Revolution was nothing but the reclamation of the Anglo-Saxon birthright of which the colonists had been deprived by ‘a long trend of abuses.’ Nor does it appear that there was anything in this theory which surprised or shocked his contemporaries; Adams apparently did not disapprove of it, and it would be easy to bring in many similar expressions of the same idea in documents of the time.” 1
Jefferson, himself, argued for the necessity of cleansing the English law of the barnacles of feudalism and Roman Civil Law which had attached themselves to the English ship of state after the Norman conquest. He wrote:
“Are we not the better for what we have hitherto abolished of the feudal system…. Has not every restitution of the ancient Saxon laws had happy effects? Is it not better now that we return at once into that happy system of our ancestors, the wisest and most perfect ever yet devised by the wit of man as it stood before the 8th century?” 2
What is equally interesting is that when Jefferson, Franklin and Adams were assigned the task of designing a seal for the United States, they wanted to associate the Anglo-Saxon institutes with ancient Israel. In the Journals of Congress, volume V, p. 517, we read:
“Mr. Jefferson proposed (to depict on one side of the seal) the children of Israel in the wilderness led by a cloud by day, and a pillar by night — and on the other side, Hegist and Horsa, the Saxon chiefs, from whom we claim the honor of being descended, and whose political principles and form of government we have assumed.
“Franklin was in full accord except that he thought the Israelites should be shown emerging in the distance from the Red Sea which had been miraculously divided, and show the Egyptians in the foreground all being drowned.”
In the end, neither of these ideas were accepted for the United States seal because of the complexity of the portrayal, but it clearly demonstrates the way these leaders among the founding fathers were thinking.
The Israel Connection
Why did they associate the original Anglo-Saxon institutes of law with ancient Israel? One of the most interesting aspects of our research for the Constitutional seminars has been the discovery that secular sources now available clearly demonstrate that the Anglo-Saxons are descendants of the ancient Israelites. Although they lost the religious faith of their fathers, the Anglo-Saxons retained their basic concepts of law and government which had been given to the ancient Israelites by divine revelation.
When I was in law school we were told that our Constitution and our legal system was based on the precepts of the Anglo Saxons. I visualized a group of Druid priests huddled around a campfire and dreaming up all of these wonderful institutes of freedom. Frankly, it was not very inspiring to imagine all of this coming from a primitive band of Druid priests. But it was inspiring to learn that these great precepts came to us from ancient Israel under the mantle of divine revelation.
Only a few modern scholars seem to be aware of this because there is not the same amount of study devoted to the origin of the common law as there used to be. One of the exceptions was a man known to most of you, named Stephen L. Richards. A law professor himself, he graduated from the University of Chicago Law School and was acclaimed by his dean as the best student of that school during the dean’s tenure of office which lasted 25 years. Here is what Stephen L. Richards had to say about the connection between the Anglo-Saxon institutes of freedom on which the Constitution was built and the institutes of ancient Israel revealed by God:
“It might be said … that there is not a single fundamental institution of this country, ordained and established under the Constitution, that does not have something like a counterpart in the Israelitish form of government …”
He proceeded to give a number of illustrations and concluded:
“So it might be pointed out, if time would permit, a large list and line of comparisons which establish a very close relation between the government which predominated during the time that the children of Israel were governed by their judges, and the government established here. I wonder how many know that in that form of government which prevailed in ancient times, there were three departments, which are comparable to our three departments of government, namely, the legislative, the executive and the judicial…. There is abundant evidence to warrant the conclusion that the fathers drew liberally on their knowledge of, and training in, the Hebrew scripture, in building the democracy of the New World.” 3
Sir William Blackstone, a contemporary of the American founding fathers, was the first scholar to make a complete compilation of English common law. In his famous Commentaries he devoted the last chapter of volume four to the history of the changes which had occurred in English law from the time of the Anglo-Saxons. All of the founders were familiar with Blackstone and quoted him frequently. He was no doubt one of the foremost sources which alerted the founders to the fact that early Anglo-Saxon law was far more efficient in administering justice than the later English institutes which had been corrupted by elements of continental feudalism and Roman Civil Law. It is unfortunate that in 200 years Americans have never gotten around to adopting Jefferson’s suggestion that we administer justice according to Anglo-Saxon common law as it existed up to 800 A.D.
Anglo-Saxon criminal justice followed the same pattern as that of ancient Israel. In both systems offenses against people or property required reparation to the victim plus a heavy penalty to motivate the offender to avoid similar depredations in the future. In other words, offenses against people or their property were considered as torts against the victim and not as crimes against the state. The only exceptions were capital crimes such as murder.
Under the law of Israel if a person stole a sheep, he had to return two sheep or the value thereof. If the sheep was stolen as part of a commercial operation then the penalty was four to one. If it involved cattle the penalty was five to one. Injuries to a victim required compensation in damages under threat of very severe penalties if the damages were not paid. This is the meaning of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” A person made it up to his victim or suffered the consequences.
Leading authorities on Anglo-Saxon law point out that the law in England was similar to ancient Israel up to the Norman conquest in 1066. As John Richard Green indicates in his well-known history:
The free man’s life and the free man’s limb had each on this system its legal price. “Eye for eye,” ran the rough customary code, and “limb for limb,” or for each fair damages. 4
Dr. Colin Rhye Lovell of the University of Southern California points out that:
“In its substantive aspects … the law was one of damages for injury to person or property; that is, by modern legal terminology, it was exclusively a law of torts with no distinction between civil and criminal wrongs.” 5
However, there were a few “crimes” or offenses against the whole community which were punished by death. Dr. Lovell says these included “treason, cowardice, desertion, and because of its threat to the tribal population, sexual perversion.” 6
Under Anglo-Saxon law the fines for other offenses all went to the victim. Think how much more just that system was than the one we use today where the fines go to the county, the state, or the government. Of course, even under our law the victim can sue the criminal if he wants to, but what hope of recovery is there when the criminal is in prison and his family is on welfare?
Reviving the Anglo-Saxon Approach to Justice
It is part of the program of the Freemen Institute to carry on where Jefferson left off. We have been pushing hard for “justice through restitution,” and others seem to be joining in the crusade. One Assistant United States Attorney General, John M. Greacen, wrote in the Barrister magazine for lawyers 7 that most offenses against people and property should be treated as torts and require payment of damages to the victim. He said this could virtually empty our jails and reserve the penal system for the more incorrigible criminal.
In Connecticut a grant of $288,000 has been set up to experiment with “victim restitution” cases. In Las Vegas a judge told me that he had used this approach with more than a hundred criminals and it had worked on all but one or two. Those who failed to cooperate were given heavy prison sentences.
Only last week I received a letter from the office of the Attorney General in California asking for a summary of recommendations from the Freemen Institute concerning our “justice through restitution” program. I have also been told that this whole subject will be brought up for extensive consideration by the Utah State Legislature this coming year.
Of course, this is only one facet of our Constitutional seminars but it is typical of the principles we are emphasizing so that people can appreciate that the founding fathers had practical, time-tested answers for many of the most serious problems confronting the nation today. We like to show how the founders anticipated nearly every major issue of today’s complex world and provided answers if we just have sense enough to apply them.
If Jefferson were here he would probably point out that they warned against the erosion of local self-government, they pointed out the danger of having too many laws, too many regulations, and too much power in a central government out of reach of the people. In our hedonistic age of degeneracy and low morality he would point out that according to Blackstone 8 the law of God is the supreme law of the land and any court or legislature which issues edicts or passes laws in violation of God’s law is “no law” at all. It is null and void. Jefferson would emphasize the sanctity of property rights which are unalienable along with liberty and the right to life. He would point out that popular books like the one written by Harvard psychologist B.F. Skinner, entitled Beyond Freedom and Dignity, is an act of philosophical treason against the American Constitution and the Christian concept of free agency.
Freemen In Action
Now, just a word in closing. I would like to say something about Freemen in action. In the Freemen Institute we do more than just study. We encourage our people to become active in the party of their choice and go to work. We want to encourage the promotion of Constitutional principles in all political parties throughout the United States. Under the Constitution, political action is a “numbers game,” and we must get thousands of people directly involved in the task of restoring the Constitution.
It was pretty exciting last Tuesday when we found five of our Freemen coming out of their respective parties as victors in the primaries. A lot of them gathered their workers together to celebrate their success. Since most of them were from one party it was interesting when a candidate from the other major party came bursting into the room and said, “I won too!” They all congratulated him and rejoiced in his success. You see, parties are important only as vehicles of action. When we get well-trained Constitutionalists coming up in all the parties they can work together and start turning things around.
Sometimes people come to me and say, “What can I do?” It isn’t always easy to tell them what to do but I know they can do something. A lot of people are self-starters and don’t need suggestions. One of these is Ken Porter who came to us last year and said, “How about starting seminars all over Idaho?” We already had a number of other fine friends initiating seminars in that State but he volunteered to spend his own time to serve as a coordinator for Idaho and get things going. As a result, we have held a whole series of seminars in Idaho Falls, Blackfoot, Salmon, Preston, Pocatello, and Burley.
John Scott and Lupe Barbare of North Dakota had us fly up to Bismark for four weekends and give our seminar to a packed audience at the Holiday Inn.
Dr. Robert Meese has done a great job at Tucson, Arizona.
Judge Kenneth Chatwin is coordinating our seminars in Phoenix.
Ken Warthen has put on two fine seminars in Las Vegas.
And President Jim Bean was very successful in sponsoring a seminar in Portland.
Up in Ogden Tom Hadley and his associates have had so many seminars we had to set up a branch Institute there to take care of the crowds.
Mark Porter and Clyde Baugh have handled our seminars in Logan.
We have been in Seattle and Yakima, Washington, and had people fly as much as 500 miles to attend from Montana and Wyoming.
In Salt Lake City we hold our seminars at the Carden School which is operated by two outstanding Freemen, Don and Anna Lou Jells.
In Utah we have held seminars all up and down the whole state from Logan to Kanab.
During the next few months we will be revising our text so that it will include all of the new and exciting information we have discovered. It will be so thoroughly documented that no one will have to ask where we found the information. As soon as the text is finished we will put the lectures on tapes and films so that we can start reaching tens of thousands.
I want all of you to know how deeply I appreciate your marvelous loyalty and support. I know many of you sacrifice both in time and money far beyond the ordinary call of duty to make this program succeed. I see some here today who have not only worked on this building but slept here at night so they could get started early the next morning. In my book all of you are cut from the stripe of the founding fathers themselves. Thanks to all of you for coming, and God bless you every one!