Learn Liberty

Category Archive: American Founding

  1. The Walking Dead, Tocqueville, and Voluntary Cooperation

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    What can The Walking Dead teach us about prosperity? A lot, according to Professor Dan D’Amico of Loyola University. While The Walking Dead has shown viewers what zombies do to society since 2010, political thinker Alexis de Tocqueville wrote about shambling, lonesome, soulless creatures and the decline of society long before the show debuted. D’Amico explores what The Walking Dead and Tocqueville’s writings have in common, and what they reveal about the key to human prosperity.

  2. How They Beat the Oregon Trail IRL


    How did more than 300,000 people avoid bloodshed and chaos when they crossed the American plains between 1840 and 1860? Trappers used to say there was no law west of Leavenworth, Kansas.

    No one established a government to rule the wagon trains — it’s true. But they governed themselves instead. They signed contracts that worked like voluntary constitutions. The contracts anticipated disputes among the various groups of travelers and laid out how to resolve them.

    Imagine the red tape if the government had gone with the settlers. Marvel at the ability of people to innovate rules and order in a most unlikely setting. That’s what Hill advises. Tune in to hear more.

  3. Forgotten Rebellion: Black Seminoles and the Largest Slave Revolt in U.S. History


    Historian Amy Sturgis recounts history that seems made for the movies but hasn’t made it to the big screen. It’s a decades-long story of oppression and freedom fighting. Why hasn’t there been more attention paid to John Horse and the Black Seminoles?

    Prof. Sturgis argues that John Horse and the Black Seminoles deserve to be remembered for a number of reasons:

    • They created the largest haven in the U.S. South for runaway slaves.
    • They led the largest slave revolt in U.S. history.
    • They secured the only emancipation of rebellious slaves prior to the U.S. Civil War.
    • The formed the largest mass exodus of slaves across the United States and, ultimately, to Mexico.

    Learn more about this remarkable story that has been overlooked by film makers, popular culture, and, importantly, historians of slavery. This story has fallen through the cracks, in part because it blends the history of Native Americans and of slaves and in part because it represents a blemish in U.S. history. But this group of freedom fighters—who ultimately found peace, liberty, and prosperity—is worth remembering.

  4. Andrew Jackson: The First Imperial President


    According to Professor Amy H. Sturgis, Andrew Jackson frequently appears in top ten lists of great Presidents of the United States. The following reasons are often given to justify Jackson’s high ranking among Presidents:

    1. champion of the common man
    2. son of the frontier
    3. war hero
    4. enemy of the elite
    5. champion of the United States Union

    Sturgis argues that most of these reasons are in fact myths when they are analyzed in greater depth. For instance, Jackson engaged in several unauthorized activities during war, like invading foreign territory that he was not authorized to invade and executing non-US citizens he was not authorized to execute.

    Additionally, many of the reform efforts that came out of the so-called Jacksonian revolution made Jackson appear as a champion of the common man. However, the Jacksonian revolution did not align with Jackson the leader or Jackson the man. For instance, part of the Jacksonian revolution was the abolition movement, yet, Jackson himself owned slaves until the day he died.

    Jackson’s battle with the National Bank, Sturgis argues, gave the illusion that Jackson was an enemy of the elite. Although Jackson was constitutionally sound in challenging the National Bank, his reasons for doing so were more personal, rather than legal.

    For more information on Jackson’s Presidency from this perspective, read the following two books:

    1. Old Hickory’s War: Andrew Jackson and the Quest for Empire

    2. The Passions of Andrew Jackson

  5. We Demand Freedom: Popular Movements for Liberty in U.S. History


    According to Dr. Stephen Davies, the tea party movement in the United States is not an isolated occurrence in American history. Rather, it’s part of a recurring movement in American history that ebbs and flows. These movements are peculiar, however, as they are unique to the United States. Dr. Stephen Davies offers several ideas as to why these movements exist in America.

  6. The Market Revolution


    What is the market revolution? How has it affected our daily lives? Was it good for ordinary Americans? What caused it? Was the market revolution good for humanity? Through a series of historical stories and data, history professor Rob McDonald answers all these questions, along with many others.

  7. The American Founding in Practice

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    From the IHS Vault: History professor Rob McDonald of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point gives a lecture on the conflict between the ideals of the American Revolution, such as individual liberty, and unfortunate realities of the time, such as slavery. Filmed at the 2006 IHS seminar “Exploring Liberty” at Princeton University. Produced by Inextinguishable Productions.