by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Victor Davis Hanson writes for National Review Online about the work of President Trump’s commission on American history.
The unanimously approved conclusions focused on the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the historical challenges to these founding documents, and the need for civic renewal. The 16-member commission was diverse in the widest sense of the word. It included historians, lawyers, academics, scholars, authors, former elected officials, and former public servants.
Whether because the report was issued by a Donald Trump-appointed commission, or because the conclusions questioned the controversial and flawed New York Times-sponsored 1619 Project, the Left almost immediately criticized it.
Yet in any age other than the divisive present, the report would not be seen as controversial.
First, the commission offered a brief survey of the origins of the Declaration of Independence, published in 1776, and the Constitution, signed in 1787. It emphasized how unusual for the age were the Founders’ commitments to political freedom, personal liberty, and the natural equality endowed by our creator — all the true beginning of the American experiment.
The commission reminded us that the Founders were equally worried about autocracy and chaos. So they drafted checks and balances to protect citizens from authoritarianism, known so well from the British Crown, and also from the frenzy of sometimes wild public excess.
The report repeatedly focuses on the ideals of the American Founding as well as the centuries-long quest to live up to them. It notes the fragility of such a novel experiment in constitutional republicanism, democratic elections, and self-government — especially during the late-18th-century era of war and factionalism.
The report does not whitewash the continuance of many injustices after 1776 and 1787 — in particular chattel slavery concentrated in the South, and voting reserved only for free males.
Indeed, the commission explains why and how these wrongs were inconsistent with the letter and spirit of our founding documents. So it was natural that these disconnects would be addressed throughout our history, even fought over, and continually resolved. …