Monthly Archives: August 2012

A Picture of Silver Framing an Apple of Gold

September 17, Constitution Day, is not as vivid in the American imagination as is the Fourth of July. But the two dates will need one another forever in American history. On July 4, 1776, of course, Americans declared their independence, proclaiming to the world what will always be the most American of all ideas, “that all men are created equal.” Eleven years later, still trying to vindicate that idea, delegates to the Constitutional Convention signed on September 17, 1787, the Constitution that resulted from their summer-long deliberations and recommended it to the states in hopes of forming “a more perfect Union.” As it happened, this was done in Independence Hall in Philadelphia–where the Declaration of Independence, too, had been signed–making this arguably the most politically sacred ground in America. Some scores of years down the American road, on the eve of his great trial and the greatest crisis of the Union and the Constitution, Abraham Lincoln meditated on the relation between the Union and the Constitution and the Declaration. He had in mind a beautiful passage from Proverbs (25:11)–“a word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver”–as he wrote a private note to himself sometime after his election as president in November 1860, and before his inauguration in March 1861. He reflected on the blessings enjoyed by the United States–our “free government” and “great prosperity.” “All this,” he writes, “is not the result of accident.”

It has a philosophical cause. Without the Constitution and the Union, we could not have attained the result; but even these, are not the primary cause of our great prosperity. There is something back of these, entwining itself more closely about the human heart. That something, is the principle of “Liberty to all”–the principle that clears the path for all–gives hope to all–and, by consequence, enterprize, and industry to all.

The expression of that principle, in our Declaration of Independence, was most happy, and fortunate.Without this, as well as with it, we could have declared our independence of Great Britain; but without it, we could not, I think, have secured our free government, and consequent prosperity….

The assertion of that principle, at that time, was the word, “fitly spoken” which has proved an “apple of gold” to us. The Union, and the Constitution, are the picture of silver, subsequently framed around it. The picture was made, not to conceal, or destroy the apple; but to adorn, and preserve it. The picture was made for the apple–not the apple for the picture.

In the period of the American Founding, from the Revolution to the establishment of the Constitution, Americans displayed statesmanship unsurpassed in the history of human freedom. Any freedom and prosperity we enjoy today is, as Lincoln understood in his time of constitutional crisis, a legacy of that statesmanship–an inheritance of apples of gold in pictures of silver.

Happy Constitution Day.

–Christopher Flannery, Professor of Political Science, Azusa Pacific University, and Louaine S. Taylor Professor of American History and Government, Ashland University

Welcome to We The Teachers

The Ashbrook Center and are pleased to unveil our new history and government teaching resource blog, We the Teachers.  Here you will find regularly updated posts highlighting not only the resources found at our own site, but many of the best resources, lesson plans, and professional development opportunities offered by leading history and civics education groups and government agencies.

Your feedback is encouraged and will help us to refine We the Teachers as this project continues to develop.  We encourage you to share us with friends and colleagues by posting to your own social networking sites, to follow our feed on Twitter, and to like our page on Facebook.

New Live Online Graduate Courses from Ashland University

Looking for a graduate degree program which fits the busy schedule of a teacher?  Need coursework to renew a teaching license?  Ashland University’s Master of Arts program in American History and Government has recently added live online courses during the fall and spring semesters.

Offered on an once per week schedule for eight weeks, MAHG Live Online makes it possible to work toward an MA degree in American History and Government or to earn graduate credit in your content field while meeting your personal and professional responsibilities.  With a combination of online and intensive summer study, you may earn your degree in as few as 15 months.

View the schedule online or learn more today. is a project of the Ashbrook Center at Ashland University

401 College Avenue | Ashland, Ohio 44805 (419) 289-5411 | (877) 289-5411 (Toll Free)