Sunday, March 11, 2012

Book review- The Founders' Key: The Divine and Natural Connection Between the Declaration and the Constitution and What We Risk by Losing It

As you all probably have noticed, I tend to read fairly "lightweight" books most of the time.  This is a habit I got into during years of working as a scientist, where I would read scientific literature all day, and needed to give my brain a break when I got home.  However, I'm going to be starting a Law and Public Policy program in graduate school this fall,  so when I saw The Founders' Key listed as an option on Booksneeze, I was intrigued and requested to review it.  Here's a bit about the book, from the publisher's website:

Dr. Larry Arnn, President of Hillsdale College, reveals the integral unity of the Declaration and the Constitution, and warns us of the threat they are under from the modern Progressive movement.
The ringing words of the Declaration of Independence have a way of continuing to ring across the ages. The arrangements of the Constitution have a way of organizing our actions so as to produce certain results, and it has done this more reliably than any governing instrument in the history of man. Connect these arrangements to the beauty of the Declaration, and one has something both inspiring and commanding. The Declaration acquires a practical form and operation that do not seem to come from it alone. The Constitution soars to the elevation of the natural law, and its arrangements are reinforced with that strength.
FDR was the first president to sever the two documents. He embraced the Declaration but demoted the Constitution, claiming that the rights in it should be up for reinterpretation as society changed.
You see the same efforts to divide one mighty document from the other in the Progressive movement today. The result: both documents have been weakened, their influence diminished, their meaning obscured. The Founders' Key is a rousing call to rediscover the imporant connection and thereby restore our faith.
I haven't studied the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution or even thought about either one of them much since about 10th grade. Which was a fairly long time ago. I wish that I'd taken the time to re-read them (both are helpfully included at the back of this book) before I started reading The Founders' Key, because I think I would have been a little less overwhelmed if I had done so. 

The author is a college president and professor of politics and history and, honestly, the book seems more like a college course than a book. The writing style is a little dry, but there is a lot of great information in The Founders' Key, so it's worth the effort.  It took me several chapters to get used to the author's style, and eventually I really got into the book and enjoyed it. It's well worth the mental effort. 

The Founders' Key has a lot of background on the authors of the Declaration and the Constitution, their backgrounds and motivations in writing these two documents and how the two documents compliment each other and work together.  There are also interesting discussions about the American style of government and how it has changed since the time of the Founders. I particularly was interested in the chapter entitled "Hypocrisy", which has a nice discussion of the Founders' views on slavery and why they didn't abolish it when they wrote the Declaration or the Constitution.   This chapter was a fascinating discussion of a topic I've often thought and wondered about.

All in all, this is a very informative, thought-provoking and intelligent book. It's a fairly short book- only 123 pages, plus the Declaration and Constitution and several Federalist papers. If you're at all interested in American Government or the Declaration and Constitution, I highly recommend reading The Founders' Key

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book to review for myself, thanks to Booksneeze. I was not compensated in any other way and all opinions posted here are mine and mine alone.