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Dr. Larry Arnn on the Declaration of Independence’s Bill of Particulars

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HH: Concluding my three days of broadcast from the Boyle audio studios at the Kirby Center of Hillsdale College in Washington, D.C, beautiful studios constructed by Vince Benedetto of the Bold Gold Media Group and the Bold Gold Broadcast and Media Foundation. I always love coming over. Young Matt has been such a wonderful assist over these past three days. And of course, it’s the last radio hour of the week, and so it is time for us to commence the Hillsdale Dialogue as I do every week at this time with a representative of Hillsdale College, in this case, its able president, Dr. Larry Arnn. All things Hillsdale are available at Every single one of our dialogues dating back now, I think, to 2013, are available at And you can binge listen. It’s better than binge watching anything that’s on TV. Now binge listen in the classics. And Dr. Arnn and I are in a series on the Declaration, which will be followed by a series on the Articles of Confederation, then on a series of the Convention, and a series on the ratification so that people might actually understand how we came to be the United States of the America. Dr. Arnn, speaking of which, you have revamped and relaunched the introduction to the Constitution online course at Hillsdale College. It was pretty doggone good as it was. What have you done to it?

LA: Well, so this heresy arose that’s not a heresy in the college that you know, we in our online courses, we have everything that we need except students. And you know, at Hillsdale College, classes don’t really quite work the way they work on the online courses. The online courses are good, but, and they are a reflection of what goes on in class, but what if you got some students in there? And so spent a long time trying to figure out how to do that, and we built a big studio in one of our auditoria, and we put a whole bunch of cameras in there, and we taped class going on. And it just so happened I was the teacher of this class. And of course, I haven’t seen it. I just did it. But I did with these ten kids, you know, and they’re really, there’s some really, really bright ones in there. And they’re all smart. And it was a hoot. It was fun. And it was like class. And so they’ve cut it up into short bits. So it’s like class for people who don’t actually have the time to go to class. But it’s bits of class. And it’s broken up by theme. And so, and they say, I don’t know, I haven’t seen it, but they say it’s really great. And so we’ll see if it’s great.

HH: Well, will take you there for a little bit, because we want people to experience this. And of course, if you go to, go and look for the introduction to the Constitution class. You know, Dr. Arnn, on Wednesday from the studios at the Kirby Center, Ben Sasse and I were sitting here talking about big education and how it’s really destroyed education, how John Dewey, damn him, that’s now my new phrase. I just don’t say any John Dewey. It’s John Dewey, damn him, actually destroyed American public education quite thoroughly and effectively over the course of a century, and it’s now the job of many people to rebuild it. But I posited to Ben Sasse, Senator, about his new book, The Vanishing American Adolescent, that maybe Big Ed is to experience what Uber obliged the New York City cab medallion holders to experience, which is utter disintermediation from their audience because of a failure, that it looks vast and impenetrable, but classes like this give me hope that there may be a sudden and thorough collapse of Big Ed because quality alternatives are available to mom and dad. What say you?

LA: Agree very much. First of all, you know, so there’s, how do you learn? And the answer is you read, you talk. Both of those are exercises of human reason, and they’re very closely related. So what I think is going to happen is, first of all, we need to disaggregate vocational education from what we call in my world liberal education, that is studying things you just really need to know because you’re a citizen in a free republic and a human being. And so those things, you know, are substantially abandoned by big education, and there’s a craving for those things, right? So I think that’s going to happen. I met a lady the other day, by the way, and their family business is welding big old huge pieces of steel into all kinds of things, and they have to be floated down a river on a barge after they’re welded. And she can’t find welders. And so they started a school, Industrial Arts College, I think they all it, and this school teaches people to weld in like 30 weeks. And they get a job as soon as they get out for $60,000 grand, and they’ll soon be making a lot more than that.

HH: Wow.

LA: And then she comes to me, because she wants to talk about how to run a school, you know, and she runs a big old, she and her family, run a big old company. I think she runs it now. And she said you know, and so we talked. It was just a delightful conversation. And then she wants to teach them civics. And I said you know, wow, what a fabulous idea. So yeah, I think there’s going to be more things like that. I think we shouldn’t lose sight of a peak thing that can never, in my opinion, go away as long as we remain human, and that is that college, at the highest level, works this way – some people of limited number talking with each other. Soon, you’re going to be able to do that virtually, but what you’re not going to be able to change, in my opinion, at the highest level of education, is how many there are, because you can’t have a seminar with a thousand people.

HH: Right, right.

LA: And you know, just remember how old that phenomenon is, that you know, the word academic comes from a general in Athens, Akademos, who gave a field to Plato so he could have his academy, right, outside the walls of Athens. And that’s that old. And I don’t think that’s going to go away, and you know, if you’re going to have teachers, you know, in schools, in public education, which is a wonderful idea and which can be rescued, then you’re going to have classrooms, and you’re going to have a teacher, and everybody in the classroom is going to think together.

HH: Well, what I suggested this week after reading Sasse’s book, I wrote to an investment banker who’s investigating alternative media platforms. And I suggested to him that you might think about the digital ability to deliver in tandem with small groups of students and maybe homeschooling settings or disaggregated from Big Ed, the very best of remote teaching for half an hour, but then a very small group to discuss it, and that you could run it on 12 or 10 or 8 digital television stations between 9 and 3 every day and combine both the ability to deliver the kind of product that this new course at Hillsdale is along with the hands on teacher who will make it real for a small group of students, and so that anything is possible right now except the continuation of what we have, because it’s failed.

LA: Yeah, and you know, I mean, you know, I’m in the trade, right, so I’m a competitor in the trade. But gracious sakes, you know, I had a talk yesterday with a friend of mine who runs a consortium of colleges, whatever that may be. And a lot of the colleges, old colleges involved in this, they don’t really do anymore what we do at Hillsdale College. And like if you want to see the mark of a real liberal arts college, do they have a big curriculum that everybody has to take, because that’s a deterrent, right? If what you want to do, and it’s a very respectable thing to do, is you want to learn, you know, in half a year to become a welder and get a welding job, that’s a very fine thing to do. But you can’t learn the great books or the meaning of them or the questions of them in six months.

HH: Absolutely not. John Ratzenberger, by the way, who played Cliff Claven on Cheers, he’s been saying that there’s a dearth of the manual trades forever. He’s been out preaching this, and so I’m so glad to hear about the industrial college, but that it will also teach citizenship. And I am reminded again of Ben Sasse’s book in which he said, and now we’ll go to the Declaration, John Adams, he quotes as saying, “The Revolution was over before the first shot was fired because of the pamphlets.” The argument had been won when the, maybe not quite the first shot, but when the Declaration of Independence issues on July 4th, 1776 about which we’re talking, the argument had been on underway for a long time. The critical mass had been persuaded.

LA: Yeah. See, there’s two ways that human beings can relate to each other. And one is reason, and one is force. And over the long term, force doesn’t work. You know, you can do a lot with force, right? I mean, the King of England, that was a long war we were in, right? And he was no expert in the use of force of the kind that we have today. The totalitarian regime is a modern phenomenon. But it’s still true that those violate human nature so much, one of Churchill’s proofs when it was impossible for Britain to overcome Adolf Hitler when they were alone and they had a tiny army, and their equipment abandoned in France, one of his proofs that Hitler was weak and could be beaten was this. He said what is he afraid of? It is words that make him fear.

HH: Words indeed. We’ll talk about the words in the Declaration of Independence when I return with Dr. Larry Arnn on the Hillsdale Dialogue. All things Hillsdale at All the dialogues collected at

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HH: Dr. Arnn, last two weeks that we did the Declaration, we covered the first two paragraphs, which were important. But then, there’s a bill of particulars, and I’m actually going to go through this bill with you, because it’s never often, not never, but very infrequently read. But it matters, because they said, the framers, the people who signed this, said we have to prove to the world. The world deserves an explanation why we’re doing this most amazing thing. And they began this way. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world. What do they mean by a candid world, by the way?

LA: People who say what they think.

HH: That’s plain spoken.

LA: That’s right, but also, just think, you know, if you’re living in a world, as they were, especially in Boston, where people could get arrested for what they said and what they wrote, then to be candid is an act of courage.

HH: Yeah, the very first thing they write about George III, he has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good. What’s that mean? What are they complaining about?

LA: Well, I wrote a book about this, and I began with a quote from, his name will come to me in a minute. He’s an important historian, Joseph whatever his name is. Anyway, he says that the Declaration of Independence are opposite documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are opposite documents.

HH: Joseph Ellis?

LA: Joseph Ellis, right.

HH: All right.

LA: He says in a book, he says that the Declaration of Independence is unfriendly to government and law. And so you know, I wrote and said you know, that’s a short document. You could read it. And what it says is the first charge, he refuses laws, right, wholesome and necessary for the public good. That means you’ve got to have them, and they’re good if they’re the right laws, right? And so it starts out that. We, he has denied to us law, the rule of law.

HH: Yeah, the rule of law. Yeah, and that matters so much today. His second charge, George III has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance unless suspended in their operation until his assent should be obtained. And when so suspended, he is utterly neglected to attend to them. Again, rule of law.

LA: That’s right, and the same charge now applied to these governors that he appoints of his own authority to form the executive in each colony.

HH: He continues. George III has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only. Commentary?

LA: Yeah, see, we have a right to elect representatives to make our laws.

HH: And only tyrants fear that.

LA: That’s right. That’s right.

HH: So they’re calling George III a tyrant.

LA: Yeah, they, and see, in, and I love that word inestimable, it’s in the first line of the college’s articles of association. Civil and religious liberty and intelligent piety are said to be inestimable blessings, that is you can’t say, you can’t estimate how important they are.

HH: The right of representation in legislature, we cannot overestimate its importance. So I’m going to bite. What does the right of representation mean?

LA: Well, the first thing that the first check on, the Constitution of the United States starts with this thing even before the provisions of the Constitution, and that is because you have consent of the governed, which is a fundamental conception in the Declaration of Independence, the government can’t do anything to the governed that the governed do not permit it to do. That’s the first separation of powers. And so the way that consent of the governed is given effect is through representation.

HH: You can’t have a just government without representatives, and George III is preventing that. More of the Bill of Particulars in the Declaration of Independence, why it matters as well when we return to the Hillsdale Dialogue on this Friday edition from the Kirby Center in Washington, D.C.

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HH: The first three of them were about the fact that the rule of law had collapsed. The next one was George III has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable and distant from the depository of their public records for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures. This is a very specific but pointed barb at George III. We know, we see you, George III. We know what you’re doing sort of thing.

LA: That’s right. And see, you know, an executive that can issue arbitrary edicts has a million opportunities. You know, my personal opinion, by the way, about Russia is we should not be looking for a war with them, but we should arm and be ready to defend ourselves against them. And one of the reasons one knows that is Putin is guilty of interfering in the political, in the representative process, or so it seems, right? And so you have to suspect him. And George III was doing the same thing.

HH: Yeah. And he also went on, George III has dissolved representative houses repeatedly, and doing so for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people. So there’s a compliment in there to the House of Burgess and other elected representatives.

LA: And they deserve that compliment very much.

HH: He has refused for a long time after such dissolutions to cause others to be elected whereby the legislative powers incapable of annihilation have returned to the people at large for their exercise. The states remaining in the meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without and convulsions within. There’s some political theory in there, Dr. Arnn, incapable of annihilation.

LA: In other words, a people have a right to make laws. And if they are obstructed from forming legislatures to make them on their behalf, then that right just returns to them. You can’t get rid of it. No king can pass a law to change that.

HH: You see, that’s actually overlooked. I’ve overlooked that a lot. There’s a natural law/right, to make law via your representative bodies. And if they are denied the right to meet, then you can send delegates to Philadelphia to declare your revolutionary moment. But that is, you know, often overlooked. That is a lot of political theory in a sentence.

LA: That’s it. Yeah, and remember, Jefferson’s particular gift, it’s a gift of the founding, but he is the one who possessed it to the highest degree. He is capable, because he is so nimble with these points of theory of stating these things compactly and forcefully.

HH: His next one, Jefferson is, there’s much to be upset about by Jefferson, but much to admire. Jefferson has endeavored, I mean, George III has endeavored to prevent the population of these states for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners, refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands. Now a modern ear might say well, that’s what Donald Trump’s doing with the wall. But in fact, it’s not that at all. Donald Trump wants to increase legal immigration, wants to make it smart. And George III wanted to stop it.

LA: This contains the two elements, right? The elements are that you know, in America, we want a lot of people. We like people, right? But we want them to be citizens. We want them to comport themselves in a way to exercise their rights dutifully, and to recognize the rights of others. That’s what naturalization is for.

HH: And we do not have a set number in mind. We’re not anywhere near full up here.

LA: Yeah.

HH: But we want to do it in the right way.

LA: That’s right.

HH: George III has obstructed the administration of justice by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers. So again, he’s assuming something not yet argued that there exists these powers called the judiciary powers.

LA: Because the theory of the Constitution, which we’re going to talk about next, I think, it requires separation of powers. And remember, this is a transition paragraph, see, because these first group are all offenses against representation and the legislative power. But now, he’s interfering in the judicial power.

HH: And that means that it also exists, along with the legislative power, independent of the king.

LA: Can’t be, see, as the legislative power must be separate from the executive power, so the judicial power must be separate from both the legislative and the executive power.

HH: He goes on. He has made judges dependent on his will alone for the tenure of their offices and the amount and payment of their salaries. This is very bad. We don’t have this, we have provisions in the Constitution specifically to stop this.

LA: There’s a distinction. You know, I said yesterday that the president can of course fire a policeman, right? It’s very important that he be able to do that. And the president can fire a prosecutor. Those are executive branch officials. The president cannot fire a judge, right? And that means it doesn’t matter if you’re Abe Lincoln with 100% approval, or Winston Churchill in the war with 80% approval. He cannot overturn actions of a judge. And he cannot fire the judges.

HH: He cannot fire the judges. Now Dr. Arnn, he keeps going on in the course of this. This is one of my favorites. He has erected a multitude of new offices and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

LA: Yeah. Who said that history doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes? This is pure repetition right here. (laughing)

HH: (laughing) First time tragedy, second time farce. First, they were redcoats and they take your house. Now, they’re from the Bureau of Land Management or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the Army Corps of Engineers. They’ll take your land.

LA: Yeah.

HH: But no one will know it, because they won’t be wearing redcoats. He has kept us, he has kept among us in times of peace standing armies without the consent of our legislature. He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to the civil power. I read both of those paragraphs at the same time, because it goes to the abuse of the military.

LA: That’s right, and see, today, like first of all, George Washington sets the example for all American history of this, because he resigned after he won his great battles. And he refused to join his senior officers in putting pressure on the Congress, even though they had not been paid, and even though they had won that great war. The military has to work for us. And today, there’s great hesitation in America. It’s one of the great Constitutional features that persist. We don’t want the military policing us.

HH: Ever. It goes on, and this is one of the more complicated, obscure ones. George III has combined with others, write the framers of the Declaration, to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our Constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws, giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation. Is he just referring to the British Parliament here?

LA: No, to Quebec. So he gave a new Constitution to Canada, and set up a new legislature, and then he moved part of what had been the territories of the southern colonies under the jurisdiction of that legislature.

HH: Oh, I did not know that.

LA: Yeah, and so I am fond of saying that when Obama intervened by executive order to make permanent residents here several million people, that’s the same kind of thing, in my opinion. He’s tampering with who the people are, and by what body they’re part of. And that was very angry making to the founders.

HH: Three quick ones. For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us, by protecting them by mock trial from punishment for any murders which they should commit on inhabitants of the state, and then for affecting our trade with all parts of the world. Now we’re getting right down to the conditions of life in the United States or the colonies at that time. He’s screwing around with everything – right to lodging soldiers in your house.

LA: That’s right, and you know, the order, the way that worked was a judge, that the quartering troops laws that caused such outrage applied only to public houses and vacant properties. But then, there was a justice of the peace appointed solely by the king, or his ministers, who would decide what’s what, right? So you could get a ruling that your house was vacant, even if you were living in it. And that so you’ve got to move. And the first step was that the royal troops took over the barracks of the militia, so they didn’t, the militia didn’t have any place to gather.

HH: And it’s, now, only after all these things we’ve done, deep in the Declaration’s Bill of Particulars, we come to for imposing taxes on us without our consent. And I point out that it only comes after much else, Dr. Arnn. The children’s history of the revolution is no taxation without representation. And that is true. But note that this is not at the top of the Bill of Particulars.

LA: That’s right, and see, the reason it’s important that it’s there is that you know, as John Marshall famously wrote in McCulloch V. Maryland was that the power to tax involved the power to destroy. And so if the king can set any taxes on you he wants to by himself, then all of your property becomes his.

HH: Yeah, but it’s interesting that if you think everything depended upon taxation, you’re just so wrong. There was such a much larger indictment.

LA: Well, this is a good point to make a summary point about all this, because he’s going to turn to some horrors that the king did after this. But if you just read the provisions of the Declaration of Independence, down to this point, what you see is the Constitution of the United States exists in the Declaration of Independence in negative terms. That is to say all of the chief features of the Constitution are named in what we’ve read so far as things that the king has violated. And that’s why rebellion is necessary or good. You have to have a structure, a form of proceeding to protect people’s rights, else they won’t be protected.

HH: When we come back from break, then, we will continue on with the Bill of Particulars. Don’t go anywhere, America, except to for the new Constitution course, or to I’ll be right back with Dr. Larry Arnn.

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HH: Dr. Arnn, I’d like to get through a couple more of the particulars before we conclude our week. And three of them, rat-a-tat-tat. They accuse, the signers of the Declaration of Independence do, George III of depriving us in many cases of the benefits of trial by jury, for transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses, for abolishing the free system of English law in a neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging its boundaries so as to render it at once an example and thin instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into the colonies for taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our government. This is now becoming repetition. It refers back to what you told me about, the Quebec Parliament in the last segment. I assume they are talking about the transportation I know about, but I assume they are talking about the Quebec instrument here as well?

LA: That’s right. If he decides, you know, I mean, put it this way. Churchill loved to make the distinction there are two kinds of countries – the ones where the people own the government, and the ones where the government owns the people. Well, if the government gets to define who the people is…

HH: Right.

LA: …then you have changed that relationship.

HH: Very fundamentally. Very fundamentally, and then they add for taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the form of our government. Now we can’t do that in the United States. We need, we can amend the Constitution. We have often, actually, over 200-plus years, but no one can make us do that.

LA: That’s right. In the end, and you know, one of Madison’s criticism of the Articles of Confederation was that it was passed by the state legislatures in most cases just by themselves. And that meant that that body, those bodies, which were subject to a constitution, had made the constitution. So the best constitutions are made by the people themselves, and then those for another reason we’ll state are the only laws that the people make.

HH: Let me finish this week with three. He, first, they charge George with suspending our legislatures and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever. He has abdicated government here by declaring us out of his protection and waging war against us. He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns and destroyed the lives of our people. I go back to a point you made earlier. Jefferson’s awfully doggone good at this, because therein is poetry.

LA: Yeah, it’s, I mean, you know, people like to say it wasn’t that bad, what the British were doing, right? And you know, we judge that in light of our acquaintance now, our sad acquaintance with a new kind of government that uses science comprehensively to control everything down to the raising of children, everything, right? The king wasn’t doing that. But if you just think about these things for a minute, if these things were allowed to continue, in principle, they prepare the way for that.

HH: Yeah. So where we break here, we’ll come back one more time, and the President is taking flight today. And he’s going to Saudi Arabia where they have no liberty. He’s going to Israel where they have a great deal of liberty, and he’s going to the Vatican where they have no liberty. But the first no liberty and the last no liberty are of a very different sort, are they not?

LA: Oh, yeah. Well, I mean, first of all, the Vatican is, for a long time, the Vatican, you know, there was, in medieval times, the Vatican was a power, a temporal power. They had an army. They had territories. They engaged in war, right? They don’t do that anymore. And so if you don’t want to live in the Vatican, you know, move ten blocks, and you’re in Italy. And so it’s, that’s right. And that means that the people who live in the Vatican, they have chosen to live there, and redress is nearby if they don’t like what the Pope does.

HH: They can. They can get out of Vatican City. What do you make of this first trip? And what will you be watching for, Dr. Larry Arnn, as we close our week together? It begins a very monumental week for Trump after a very bad week. The President now goes abroad, and lots of presidents have gone abroad after bad weeks and done good things in doing so.

LA: I think, I encourage people to watch the President. He believes, and he’s right to believe, that direct communication with the people is a great idea for him. That’s why I don’t object to the tweets, although I don’t like some of them. And I think that they should watch how he conducts himself and what he says. And you shouldn’t just read the news reports of what he says. Watch what he says. You know, he has been gracious. He’s, he looks wrong in some ways. He always has, because he’s informal about formal things. But it doesn’t mean he doesn’t get them right. And so I hope that he will cultivate those three great religious centers you shrewdly noticed he’s going to. They’ll have to be cultivated in different ways. And I hope that he will do that skillfully, and I expect him to.

HH: Dr. Larry Arnn, as always, a wonderful tour through this. We will complete the Declaration of Independence next week and move on to the Articles of Confederation. The Hillsdale Dialogues, always great fun way to end the week.

End of interview.


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