The 1776 Commission, also known as the 1776 Project, was an advisory committee established in September 2020 by President Donald Trump to support what he called “patriotic education”. The commission released The 1776 Report on January 18, 2021, two days before the end of Trump’s term. Academic Historians overwhelmingly criticized the report, saying it was “filled with errors and partisan politics”. The commission was terminated by President Joe Biden on January 20, 2021. We have read the report and found it to be a fair and informative recounting of history. The current administration has their reasons to oppose “Patriotic Education”, but we offer this for you to read and judge for yourself.
The American Mind
Americans yearn for timeless stories and noble heroes that inspire them to be good, brave, diligent, daring, generous, honest, and compassionate.
Millions of Americans devour histories of the American Revolution and the Civil War and thrill to the tales of Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, and Franklin, Lincoln and Grant, Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass. We still read the tales of Hawthorne and Melville, Twain and Poe, and the poems of Whitman and Dickinson. On Independence Day, we hum John Philip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever” and sing along to Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land.” Americans applaud the loyalty, love, and kindness shared by the March sisters in Little Women, revere the rugged liberty of the cowboys in old westerns, and cheer the adventurous spirit of young Tom Sawyer. These great works have withstood the test of time because they speak to eternal truths and embody the American spirit.
To place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent, and to justify ourselves in the independent stand we are compelled to take. . . . it was intended to be an expression of the American mind, and to give to that expression the proper tone and spirit called for by the occasion. Thomas Jefferson
It is up to America’s artists, authors, filmmakers, musicians, social media influencers, and other culture leaders to carry on this tradition by once again giving shape and voice to America’s self-understanding—to be what Jefferson called “an expression of the American mind.”
To them falls the creative task of writing stories, songs, and scripts that help to restore every American’s conviction to embrace the good, lead virtuous lives, and act with an attitude of hope toward a better and bolder future for themselves, their families, and the entire nation.
Reverence for the Laws
The principles of equality and consent mean that all are equal before the law. No one is above the law, and no one is privileged to ignore the law, just as no one is outside the law in terms of its protection.
In his Lyceum Address, a young Abraham Lincoln warned of two results of a growing disregard for the rule of law. The first is mob rule: “whenever the vicious portion of [our] population shall be permitted to gather in bands of hundreds and thousands, and burn churches, ravage and rob provision stores, throw printing-presses into rivers, shoot editors, and hang and burn obnoxious persons at pleasure and with impunity, depend upon it, this government cannot last.”
But Lincoln also warned of those of great ambition who thirst for distinction and, although “he would as willingly, perhaps more so, acquire it by doing good as harm, yet, that opportunity being past, and nothing left to be done in the way of building up, he would set boldly to the task of pulling down.”
Whether of the Left or of the Right, both mob rule and tyrannical rule violate the rule of law because both are rule by the base passions rather than the better angels of our nature. Both equally threaten our constitutional order.
When crimes go unpunished or when good men do nothing, the lawless in spirit will become lawless in practice, leading to violence and demagoguery.
Patriotic education must have at its center a respect for the rule of law, including the Declaration and the Constitution, so that we have what John Adams called “a government of laws, and not of men.”
In the end, Lincoln’s solution must be ours:
Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well-wisher to his posterity, swear by the blood of the Revolution, never to violate in the least particular, the laws of the country; and never to tolerate their violation by others. As the patriots of seventy-six did to the support of the Declaration of Independence, so to the support of the Constitution and Laws, let every American pledge his life, his property, and his sacred honor;-let every man remember that to violate the law, is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the character of his own, and his children’s liberty. Let reverence for the laws, be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap-let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be written in Primers, spelling books, and in Almanacs;-let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice.