This is one test of many.
Taking an audience back in time or close to an experience most people will never have is the objective of many of the best storytellers. Steven Spielberg said his quest to get Daniel Day-Lewis to play Abraham Lincoln was driven by his desire to create “an out-of-body experience that would put us in a real-time encounter with the man, his legacy and that century.” Director Tom Hooper did the same with actor Paul Giamatti in the HBO series “John Adams.” For a few hours, we are transported back in time.
Ricks has now directed his powers on the Framers and what shaped those men. They were products of the Enlightenment and students of ancient history. They worked at learning. They read deeply and spoke seriously to each other and, through their writings, to the world. In “First Principles,” Ricks provides us the reading list we would have to undertake to get close to the Framers’ worldview. Ricks is not squeamish about their collective blindness to the evil of slavery, or its cruelty and brutality. He describes their acceptance of this evil but does not ask for a pardon. Nor should he. Quaker abolitionist John Woolman had spent a lifetime preaching about the evil. The Framers knew. Of course they knew.
They also knew Aristotle’s six forms of government. They knew the cycle of recorded human history: crisis, revolution, counterrevolution, restoration, reform, stability — and…
Read full article