Author Archives: dsheridan

The Preamble: World History Changed With One Sentence!

The Preamble: World History Changed With One Sentence! – By Daniel W. Sheridan

Audio Version

Thomas Cahill wrote a series of books collectively called The Hinges of History. He explains why he chose that title.

“We normally think of history as one catastrophe after another, war followed by war, outrage by outrage – almost as if history were nothing more than all the narratives of human pain, assembled in sequence. And surely this is, often enough, an adequate description. But history is also the narratives of grace, the recountings of those blessed and inexplicable moments when someone did something for someone else, saved a life, bestowed a gift, gave something beyond what was required by circumstance.”

The U.S. Constitution is undoubtedly one of those narratives of grace, a Hinge of History, a work of genius bestowed upon us during a unique time in human history. The Preamble, which is only one sentence, sums up the Constitution’s goals.

“We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

“One sentence,” said Constitutional author Akhil Reed Amar, “this one simple sentence, changes everything. It’s the pivot of world history, the hinge of history,” applying Cahill’s concept to the Preamble’s principles. “Before this sentence, you have self-government, democracy, existing almost nowhere on planet earth.”

Can you memorize this world-changing sentence? Give it a shot! See if you can do better than Barney Fife

Election Day 2020 Preparation

Election Day 2020 Preparation – By Daniel Sheridan

With last night’s debates, the 2020 Presidential race is underway! What do you say we take the next sixteen months to study our party-blind Constitution? Beginning today, I will be posting short studies on the U.S. Constitution – line-by-line – beginning with the Preamble. By Election Day, we will have read and learned something about every line of our governing document.

The Constitution, which includes the Articles and Amendments, is just under eight thousand words. A straight read-through takes about 30 minutes – easy peasy.

Every American should read it. If you can find time to watch your favorite shows, listen to your favorite songs, and attend your favorite sporting events, you can certainly take the time to read the document that makes us Americans.

The Constitution and its Amendments tell the story of America. Each citizen should take some time to get to know what it says and why. We should seek to discover the intent of the Founders and the Amenders, for these were seeking answers to problems Americans were facing at the time. Did they solve those problems? Did they fail to foresee and provide for future complications? Is there something we can do to make things better?

If we are to make a difference in our day, we should know who we are and where we’ve been. I look forward to learning with you. We’re in this together.

The U.S. Constitution: Read it. Know it. Share it.

Daily Link News for 2/7/19

Democrats propose a Green New Deal. Trade talks with China are resuming. New unemployment numbers are in. And, on this day in history, an amendment of the U.S. Constitution is ratified as a result of a controversy which lead to what was probably the first real Federal Court Case of lasting significance. Which Amendment is it?

Your Daily Link News: Short, Sweet, and Educational without the Angry Bickering

Sir Edward Coke

Sir Edward Coke – By Daniel W. Sheridan (Twitter: @DanielWSheridan)

On this day, February 1, 1552, Sir Edward Coke is born. What he did matters to you.

There were three types of oppression that drove the English to the New World: political, religious, and economic. Political oppression led to the greatest amount of resistance in England.

The Stuart Monarchs bullied the courts by forcing the judges to do their their bidding. Chief Justice Coke, believing Monarchs aren’t above the law, courageously withstood King James the First who then angrily dismissed the just judge. Coke told King Jimmy that he was bound by the common law, but tyrants never like words like “bind” being applied to them.

Coke’s courage inspired future opponents of arbitrary government, especially the American Founders. Coke’s works were read by lawyers well into the 19th century. Before becoming a lawyer, America’s famous Revolutionary Orator, Patrick Henry, studied “Coke Upon Littleton” – one of Coke’s four-volume “Institutes of the Laws of England.” The volume Henry read contains the text of Sir Thomas Littleton’s 1481 treatise on property with an English translation and commentary by Coke. Henry, with help from Coke, passed his law exams with flying colors.

The rest is history!

Henry’s studies in Coke would soon be put to the test. As in Coke’s days, King George III became oppressive imposing arbitrary laws on the colonists. Like Coke, Henry stood up to King George III.

One day a young Thomas Jefferson attended a meeting of the House of Burgesses which was discussing one of King George’s oppressive laws – the Stamp Act. On that fateful day, Jefferson heard Henry give his famous speech in which he defied Parliament and compared King George III to Julius Caesar and Charles I saying he might “profit by their example.” Jefferson, so inspired by Henry’s substantive oratory, said that was the most important day of his life.

The rest, once again, is history!

Coke didn’t win all his battles, but he inspired those who came after him. We may not see the results of our work in our lifetime, but we can influence future generations. Imagine if Coke knew that his work would one day influence a Henry and a Jefferson, men who would in turn create a Declaration of Independence, Bills of Rights, and the U.S. Constitution – in short, an Empire of Liberty and Reason!

Happy Birthday Sir Edward Coke! Thanks for sacrificing comfort and east for me.

Illinois and the 13th Amendment

Illinois and the 13th Amendment – by Daniel Sheridan (Twitter:@DanielWSheridan)

OTD, January 31, 1865, Americans make amends as Congress passes the 13th Amendment. The words of the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal” is consistently applied.

I was sharing with my daughter the story of the Thirteenth Amendment since my home state played such a huge role in its passage.

Illinois instructed its Congressional delegation to vote for the Thirteenth Amendment, President Abraham Lincoln signed it on February 1st, and then the Amendment went to the States for ratification. The Amendment reads,

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

Senator Lyman Trumbull from Illinois, who was a co-author of the amendment, telegraphed Illinois Governor Richard J. Oglesby moments after President Lincoln approved the Amendment earnestly encouraging the Legislature of the President’s home state to be the first to ratify. The did it that very day.

Oglesby, like Lincoln, was always opposed to slavery. He urged the legislature to ratify the Amendment saying,

“It is just, it is constitutional, it is right to do so.”

By the end of that February day, Illinois became the first State to ratify the Thirteenth Amendment. During that same session the horrible “Black Laws,” which were in force since the state’s birth, were also repealed.

The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution became part of our Nation’s governing document on December 6, 1865. My little girl is proud of our home state and so am I. I know you are too.

“Not without thy wondrous story, Illinois, Illinois,
Can be writ the nation’s glory, Illinois, Illinois…”

Get your Pocket Constitutions at

America’s First Written Constitution

There are two principles of Government which are uniquely American. The first principle is our emphasis on local self-government. The second principle, and perhaps the most groundbreaking liberty-promoting concept in human history, is our insistence on written constitutions with clearly defined limits on governmental powers. These two principals combined signal a great advance in the progress of human civilization.

A written Constitution implies two things.

1. A recognition by “we the people” that government is necessary to provide stability and order.
2. An awareness among “we the people” that this same government can degenerate and become a threat to individual liberty.

These principles are so important to Americans that we put them into practice in our earliest days. Here’s the story.

—Winthrop vs. Hooker: The Preview of Hamilton vs. Jefferson

What is now Connecticut began taking shape in the 1630s. There were those who grew dissatisfied with the operations of government; the clergy had too much power and only church members could vote. The towns of Dorchester, Watertown, and Cambridge were the least content with these arrangements.

The pastor in Cambridge, Thomas Hooker, believed all the people should have a role in governing, directly or indirectly. “In matters which concern the common good,” said Hooker, “a general council chosen by all to transact business which concerns all I conceive most suitable to rule and most safe for the relief of the whole.”

This is the opposite view of John Winthrop, the younger, who, believing the people were incapable of governing, called for the “best” and “wisest” to run things.

Winthrop was aristocratic; Hooker was democratic. Winthrop vs. Hooker was a preview of Hamilton vs. Jefferson; a battle of ideas over the proper role of government, intellectual battles we’re still fighting today.

Hooker’s ideas were radical in his day. puts it into historical perspective beautifully,
“The foundation of authority is laid firstly in the free consent of people.” That principle lies at the heart of the representative system by which the United States has governed itself for more than two centuries. But when the Reverend Thomas Hooker declared those words in a sermon in Hartford on May 31, 1638, they were a radical concept.

In 1638 almost all the nations of the world were governed by monarchs, emperors, tsars, and others who wielded power secured by inheritance or conquest. Ordinary people had little, and usually no, voice in selecting their leaders or making their laws.”

Hooker and his friends acted on their “radical” beliefs.

— America’s First Written Constitution: The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut

In the spring of 1636, weary of the constant religious bickering in Massachusetts, many people from Cambridge, Dorchester, and Watertown packed their things, trekked across the wilderness, finally arriving in the fertile Connecticut valley in July. Those with Thomas Hooker founded Hartford, those from Dorchester founded Windsor, and those from Watertown settled Wethersfield.

In January of 1639, representatives from each of these towns met in Hartford to approve a governing document written by Thomas Hooker. This constitution, made by a self-governing American community for itself, united the three towns into a republic called “Connecticut.” It went into force on January 24, 1639.

This is the first written Constitution in American History. The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, as this constitution is known as, consisted of eleven liberty-based provisions.

1. It provided political equality for every citizen who took an oath of allegiance to the commonwealth. This eliminated the rule which only allowed Church members to be counted as citizens.
2. The king was denied jurisdiction.
3. The governor and other officers were to be elected yearly.
4. The representatives in the Assembly were apportioned among the townships according to population.

This Republic and Constitution more nearly resembled the Founding Fathers’ creation than any other colonial plan. The Fundamental Orders were in force for nearly two centuries!

Do you appreciate your liberties?

Edwin Prescott: The Man Whose Invention Made Our Childhood Fun!

Freedom means more fun! Do you remember your first loop-the-loop?
Edwin Prescott: The Man Whose Invention Made Our Childhood Fun! – By Daniel Sheridan (Twitter: @DanielWSheridan)
On this day, August 16, 1898, the loop-the-loop was patented by Edwin Prescott. The patent reads:
“Be it known that I, EDWIN PRESCOTT, of Arlington, county of Middlesex, and State of Massachusetts, have invented an Improvement in Roller-Coasters…This invention has for its object the production of a novel roller-coaster or railway chiefly for purposes of pleasure…
After this, Prescott goes into technical language describing how the tracks are laid and how the car moves along them becoming inverted in a loop. He also tells us how it’s scientifically possible for a car to be inverted,
“…due to centrifugal action, the contents of the car remains securely in place and the ear follows the track.”
That line about centrifugal action is why Prescott called it the “centrifugal railway.” The loop-the-loop first saw action in North America on Coney Island, New York, in 1901, where the first looping roller coaster was built.
So let’s thank Edwin Prescott for making our summer amusement park outings so much fun!
My first loop-the-loop was “The Demon” at Great America, Gurnee, Illinois, summer of 1984. I remember vividly standing in that 45 minute waiting-line smelling the cotton candy and hearing Steve Perry’s “Oh Sherrie” blasting over the loud speakers! I can still feel the excitement when my turn finally came to take my seat and when the overhead harness locked me in. Then hitting that first loop…Yaaaaaaaaaaaahoooooooooooooo!!!!
What was your first loop-the-loop?
Remember that these wonderful amusements can only be enjoyed by the masses in an atmosphere of freedom. This is why our Constitution was written! Freedom means more fun!

The American Presidency: A shining example in victory, in loss, and even in shame.

The American Presidency: A shining example in victory, in loss, and even in shame. – By Daniel Sheridan

When the Constitution was first written there were no term limits. George Washington could have served as president as long as he wished. His life is full of examples of heroism on the battlefield, but one of his most noble examples is what he did at the end of his second Presidential term.

Washington knew the world was watching the American experiment, so he gave them something amazing to see when he willing stepped down after his second term, a move unheard of in world history! It’s not how Washington used power, but how he relinquished it that made him great. As President he had demonstrated the power of the office; but when he willingly stepped down he showed the world that the American President, unlike Kings and Tyrants, is a mortal and fallible man just like his fellow citizens.

John Adams succeeded Washington. Adams ran for a second term in 1800, it was a hostile election where the press played a huge role for the first time. The papers were full of slanderous and unfair characterizations of the men who gave birth to our country. The very men who gave their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor, in times which tried men’s souls, were now being portrayed as their county’s greatest enemies – the country they created!

Adams lost the election becoming the first sitting President to suffer defeat. The world was watching again. Many were worried about the transfer of power. The pages of ancient and modern history are stained with the blood of violent overthrows. This campaign was harsh. Would Adams step down willingly? Will a bloody power-struggle ensue?

America, once again, put on a history making show for the world! Adams accepted defeat and peacefully departed the seat of Government. We owe John Adams a debt of gratitude for providing a wonderful example of a political leader accepting defeat and encouraging a peaceful transfer of power.

Jump to the 1970s. Richard Nixon is president. He was caught spying on the Democratic Party during the election; we know this as the Watergate scandal. Nixon arrogantly claimed,

“When the President does it that means it’s not illegal.”

This sounds like the old divine right of king’s theory resurrected in 1970s America! But our wonderful system prevailed over such arrogant claims! Congress wanted Nixon to turn over the tapes, Nixon said no. The Supreme Court voted unanimously to side with Congress. Nixon then resigned knowing the tapes would expose him. Nobody is above the law in America!

Then, on this day, August 9th, 1975, Vice President Gerald R. Ford was sworn in as the 38th president of the United States without any violence. The new President said,

“My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over.”

Washington stepped down willingly after two terms. Adams accepted defeat and left the seat of Government. Nixon resigned while in office amidst a scandal. All these were peaceful transfers of power. So in victory, in loss, and even in shame, the American institutions are shining examples to the world.