Author: Cleon Skousen
Publisher: National Center for Constitutional Studies
For a book that has incurred quite a bit of hostility and derision, The 5000 Year Leap by Cleon Skousen is discerning, non-aggressive, simple, and direct in its explanation of the Founders’ ideas for forming the United States. Skousen’s book is divided into what might be called three parts. The first small section of the book, just over thirty pages, is full of forwards, praise, and reasons for the book in addition to the actual introduction. The actual first part establishes the foundation for the book, including the Founders’ basis in Judeo-Christian values, Anglo-Saxon law, the three branches of government, and the influences of certain Enlightenment thinking. The 28 chapters which comprise the meat of the book are titled by principles that Skousen believes built and energized what is often called the Great Experiment.
Skousen’s ideas are nothing new to those who know history, but they are conveniently placed into a singular book that is decent for reference. Nearly every page has a quote by a founder, and if not a founder then one who praised, criticized, or led America. These are decent for reference, but it may seem tedious to those who are not accustomed to reading chucks of original text from the founding era. Even so, they aid the modern reader trying to understand why and what the Founders did. Not enough people read what our Founders wrote, if they even read our founding documents! Though Americans should read the actual texts, this book does a decent job summarizing their ideas.
These ideas, or founding principles, vary in nature but are unified in purpose. Each of these ideas built upon the others to make our nation what is it, or perhaps what it is supposed to be. The author frequently comments on the fact that our nation, especially our governing body, has strayed from these founding principles. A few of these principles include: Natural Law, Morality based on Judeo-Christian values, Equality under the law and in the eyes of God; right to defense and property and the necessity of them both; limited powers and freedom of people; the burden of debt and the need for a strong family. While I agree with many of the arguments that Skousen made in his book, he is not flawless. Though America is great, she is not perfect as people are imperfect. Towards the end of his book, he seems to lose the focus on the fact that mankind is morally flawed and gives Americans a little too much credit. But then again, he wrote this book during a different time, and I see today’s world a much bleaker one.
Additionally, Skousen held to Mormonism, which, though holding to Judeo-Christian values, is not a true Christian faith. For those who are not Christian, this will hardly impact your reading, as I am sure most everyone can agree these values are essential to a reasonable society. For those who are Christian, just keep it in the back of your mind. His Mormonism barely impacts the book and does not hinder his message concerning the Founders and their goals. Even so, keep it in mind.
Skousen’s The 5000 Year Leap is a simple book that shows how a group of people moved past millennia of royals, dictatorships, slavery, and secularism to form a government based on the power of the people, limited government, and Judeo-Christian values. His praise may seem to high for these people, but do not let that overshadow the monumental change made by the Founders. Though not on as big of scale as Christianity, the Founders and America as a whole changed world history, and mostly for the better. We are not perfect, and we have strayed from our founding. Skousen’s book is one effort to educate more people in a reasonable manner on where we came from, a warning for where we are going, and a guide to get back.
Blessings to you and yours,