It is not often that I am draw to the field of political science. For me, that is basically like eating liver—it might be good for you, but it is not very palatable. So it was with a great deal of surprise that I discovered (and thoroughly enjoyed) The Founder’s Key by Larry P. Arnn. Arnn, president of Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, Michigan, is a professor of politics and history. As P. J. O’Rourke says in his endorsement of this book: “The Founder’s Key is not just brilliant but—in a shock to political science—a pleasure to read.” And indeed, it is a pleasure to read this very important book.
Did I say important? Well, I meant it. This is one of those books that you really wish everyone would read. In a culture that has both forsaken and forgotten the very principles and ideals that our nation was built upon, this book offers insight into how it might just be possible to find our back—at least in the governmental and political sphere. The basic thesis of the book is this: Our rights and freedoms are codified in the both the Declaration and the Constitution together.
Arnn explains that the Founding Fathers of this nation presented us with a universal proclamation of rights and freedoms in the Declaration of Independence. They understood that these rights were not given by man and not instituted by governments. Instead, they are inherently ours as the result of natural law. In other words, God Himself instituted natural law, and has given us our “unalienable rights” based on this law. Further, the Deity Himself gave us the rational ability to recognize these rights and to form governments to ensure that they are acknowledged and maintained.
How are we to ensure the continued possession of our natural rights? This only happens through a governmental system that recognizes that it can only operate through the consent of the governed. To work, this governmental structure must also recognize the fallibility and weakness of the human condition. This means that there must be a system of checks and balances that safeguards us from both mob rule and tyrannical leadership. It is in the Constitution of the United States that we find a detailed and carefully organized plan for such a government. Without the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence is powerless.
However, some do not like the Constitution because they see it as restricting our liberty. Yet, there must be a balance between our liberty and the limitations placed on that liberty to guarantee the rights of all people. Thus, the Declaration and the Constitution are two sides of the same coin. Both are necessary. Both are required to safeguard our freedom.
Arnn points out that there is a growing hostility to the Constitution, even by some of our lawmakers. He also notes that the government itself has become so large and so institutionalized that it threatens the very system of rights and liberties it was meant to protect. He notes that both political leaders and governmental systems act in disregard to the Constitution and the just limits it places on government. He stresses that such disregard is to our own peril.
In presenting his case, Arnn examines the concepts of natural law and natural rights. He demonstrates the historical foundation for these ideas. He also carefully considers the documents and arguments of our Founding Fathers in laying the foundation for our government. He even includes a number of appendices which contain the seminal documents of our nation. He also argues for the position held by our Founders—that rightful government can only be based on natural law, which comes from the Divine hand, and is not of human origin. To deny the divine and natural rights of humanity is nothing less than tyranny.
The subtitle of this work says it all: “The Divine and Natural Connection Between the Declaration and the Constitution and What We Risk by Losing It.” What will we risk? Everything! Our rights and freedoms as a people (which are not just ours, but are universal) is dependent on our understanding the foundations of our government and political systems. It is for this reason that I truly wish everyone would read this book.
The Founder’s Key by Larry P. Arnn. Nelson Books (An imprint of Thomas Nelson). Nashville, TN. 2013