The Five Thousand Year Leap

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The Five Thousand Year Leap
The 5,000 Year Leap.jpg
Author W. Cleon Skousen
Country United States
Language English
Genre Christianity
Political Science
American history
Publisher National Center for Constitutional Studies
Publication date
June 1981
ISBN 978-0-88080-004-4

The Five Thousand Year Leap: Twenty-Eight Great Ideas That Are Changing the World is a book that was published in 1981 by US author W. Cleon Skousen. The book asserts that the United States prospered because it was established upon universal natural law principles that had been passed down from common law and traditional Judeo-Christian morality, as many of the Founding Fathers had been guided by the Bible, among others. Thus, U.S. Constitution incorporates enlightened ideas.[1][2]

Ronald Mann's introduction to the 10th-anniversary edition praises Skousen for grasping the country for choosing "Christ or Chaos" and for acknowledging that its future depends on "accepting and demonstrating God's government."


The Constitution's framers looked upon it as a miracle.

Benjamin Franklin said, "I have so much faith in the general government of the world by Providence that I can hardly conceive a transaction of such momentous importance as the framing of the Constitution... should be suffered to pass without being in some degree influenced, guided, and governed by that omnipotent, omnipresent, and beneficent Ruler in whom all inferior spirits live and move and have their being."

James Madison said that "the real wonder is that so many difficulties were surmounted with a unanimity almost as unprecedented as it must have been unexpected. It is impossible for the man of pious reflection not to perceive in it a finger of that Almighty hand which has been so frequently and signally extended to our relief in the critical stages of the revolution."

George Washington said, "The adoption of the Constitution will demonstrate as visibly the finger of Providence as any possible event in the course of human affairs can ever designate it."

There are two extremes of government: tyranny on the left and anarchy on the right. The middle road is "all power in the people."

Jefferson wanted to restore Anglo-Saxon common law, or "people's law" and so wanted the following:

1. A commonwealth of freemen.

2. All decisions needed to be with consent of the people.

3. The laws needed to be considered "natural laws" given by "divine dispensation."

4. Power was dispersed among the people, not concentrated.

5. Responsibility for problem solving was first the individual, then the family, then the tribe or community, then the region, and finally the nation.

6. They were organized into small groups, then family groups of 10, then a hundred families, etcm, with representatives from each level.

7. The rights of the individual were unalienable.

8. Justice was based on complete reparation of the wrong to the person wronged. There were four crimes against the whole people, and they were capital offenses: treason, failing to fight, desertion and homosexuality.

9. They attempted to solve problems on their level.

The founders noted the similarities between common law, and the People's Law of Ancient Israel. Both were based on "natural law" or "devine" law:

1. There was a commonwealth of freemen: Leviticus 25:10: "Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof." (That is written on the American Liberty Bell). See Jeremiah 34:17.

2. All people were organized into small units, which, in turn, were organized into larger units.

3. There was an emphasis on strong, local self-government. Problems were solved at the local, small level.

4. The code of justice was based on reparation. The only crime for capital punishment was murder.

5. Leaders were elected, and new laws were approved by the common consent of the people (See 2 Samuel 2:4, 1 Chronicles 29:22; for the rejection of a leader, see 2 Chronicles 10:16; for the approval of new laws, see Exodus 19:8).

6. Accused persons were presumed to be innocent until proven guilty.

The Founders struggled to establish a people's law in the balanced center and a stable system in which things did not vacillate between anarchy and tryanny. The founders recognized the need for an enlightened, educated electorate. They saw a need for individual virtue as being critical for the success of the union.

The Founders came from many different religions, and some had no religion. They were all well-read. The thinking of Polybius, Cicero, Thomas Hooker, Coke, Montesquieu, Blackstone, John Locke, and Adam Smith garnished their writings and conversations. They were careful students of the Bible, especially the Old Testament. They read historical material from a broad view of history including Greek, Roman, Anglo-Saxon, European, and English. The shared academic experience unified them in their fundamental values.

The book lists how the Founding Fathers of the United States used 28 fundamental principles to create a society based on morality, faith, and ethics, which Skousen asserted resulted in more progress having been achieved in the last 200 years than in the previous 5,000 years of every other civilization combined:[1]

  1. The only reliable basis for sound government and just human relations is natural law.
  2. A free people cannot survive under a republican constitution unless they remain virtuous and morally strong.
  3. The most promising method of securing a virtuous and a morally stable people is to elect virtuous leaders.
  4. Without religion the government of a free people cannot be maintained.
  5. All things were created by God, therefore upon Him all mankind are equally dependent, and to Him they are equally responsible.
  6. All men are created equal.
  7. The proper role of government is to protect inalienable rights of all individuals equally.
  8. Men are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.
  9. To protect man's rights, God has revealed certain principles of divine law.
  10. The God-given right to govern is vested in the sovereign authority of the whole people.
  11. The people may alter or abolish a government that has become tyrannical.
  12. The United States shall be a republic.
  13. A constitution should be structured to permanently protect the people from the human frailties of their rulers.
  14. Life and liberty is secure so long as the right to property is secure.
  15. The highest level of prosperity occurs when there is a free market economy and minimum of government regulations.
  16. The government should be separated into three branches—legislative, executive and judicial.
  17. A system of checks and balances should be adopted to prevent the abuse of power.
  18. The unalienable rights of the people are most likely to be preserved if the principles of government are set forth in a written constitution.
  19. Only limited and carefully defined powers should be delegated to the government, all others being retained by the people.
  20. Efficiency and dispatch require government to operate according to the will of the majority, but constitutional provisions must be made to protect the rights of the minority.
  21. Strong local self-government is the keystone to preserving human freedom.
  22. A free people should be governed by law and not by the whims of man.
  23. A free society cannot survive as a republic without a broad program of general education.
  24. A free people will not survive unless they remain strong.
  25. Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations—entangling alliances with none.
  26. The core unit that determines the strength of any society is the family. Therefore, the government should foster and protect the family's integrity.
  27. The burden of debt is as destructive to freedom as subjugation by conquest.
  28. The United States has a manifest destiny to be an example and a blessing to the entire human race.
  29. To have liberty requires duty.

James Madison, the primary author of the Constitution of the United States, said, "We have staked the whole future of our new nation, not upon the power of government; far from it. We have staked the future of all our political constitutions upon the capacity of each of ourselves to govern ourselves according to the moral principles of the Ten Commandments."

John Adams said of the new Constitution, "We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." (Letter to the Officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia of Massachusetts (11 October 1798)

John Quincy Adams said, "Is it not that the Declaration of Independence first organized the social compact on the foundation of the Redeemer's mission upon earth? That it laid the cornerstone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity?" (Speech on Independence Day, Newburyport, Massachusetts, July 4, 1837)

Patrick Henry wrote, "It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religion, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For that reason alone, people of other faiths have been afforded freedom of worship here." (Liberty Quotes blog/Patrick.Henry.Quote.9FA2)

Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in 1831, "The Americans combine the notions of Christianity and of liberty so intimately in their minds that it is impossible to make them conceive the one without the other."


Princeton University historian Sean Wilentz, a self-described humanist, disputes the book's claims on taxes, the redistribution of wealth, the separation of church and state, and the "In God We Trust" motto.[2] Wilentz describes The 5,000 Year Leap as "a treatise that assembles selective quotations and groundless assertions to claim that the US Constitution is rooted not in the Enlightenment but in the Bible and that the framers believed in minimal central government."[2] Wilentz claims that those assertions are not true:

Either proposition would have astounded James Madison, often described as the guiding spirit behind the Constitution, who rejected state-established religions and, like Alexander Hamilton, proposed a central government so strong that it could veto state laws.[2]

Wilentz acknowledges that the Founding Fathers rejected what Samuel Adams denounced as "utopian schemes of leveling," but he notes that some of the Founding Fathers were quite pragmatic when it came to policy specifics.

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