“Standing Up For Our History:” Constitution Day at Wyoming Catholic College

“My generation is being raised to hate America — it’s time to stand up for our history:” Anthony Jones (’21) in USA Today, writing on the College’s annual Constitution Day Celebration and on the history and modern relevance of America’s founding principles. 

Constitution Day, the anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution on September 17th, 1787, offers us an opportunity to reflect on our political heritage and the fundamental framework within which our ordinary, day-to-day and year-to-year political life occurs.

Americans were fortunate to have enlightened statesmen at the helm of our ship of state during the Founding period, when the Constitution, which remains the “supreme law of the land,” was debated, written, and ratified. But in what sense were the Founders “enlightened”? In other words, what were the philosophical underpinnings of the constitutional order that the Founders established—what was the foundation of our Founding? Did they adopt the modern political philosophy of social contract thinkers such as Thomas Hobbes and John Locke? To what extent were they influenced by Aristotle, Cicero, and most immediately, English constitutional history?

Increasingly, contemporary critics of American politics—both liberal and conservative—trace our political difficulties to the philosophical assumptions contained in the Founding. Each year, Wyoming Catholic College professors ask whether the statesmanship of the American Founders should be associated with a specific political philosophy, and if so, which one, tracing the practical consequences of these questions to our present political situation.

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