The Center for Political and Economic Thought at Saint Vincent College is proud to announce the Fifth Annual Douglas B. Rogers Essay Competition.
Honoring the memory of Doug Rogers, a young scholar of great promise who died tragically in 2011, the competition is meant to encourage undergraduate students to join the Center in discussing themes of Western Civilization such as individual freedom, limited constitutional government, free market economics, and the philosophical and moral foundations of America and the West.
This year students are asked to write an essay on a theme or themes that emerge from President Thomas Jefferson’s August 13, 1800 letter to Gideon Granger of Connecticut, which is excerpted below. While knowledge of the historical context may be useful in responding to this essay prompt, we are particularly interested in an analytical reflection on the principles at stake in this letter. Some creativity in responding is encouraged. Does the letter, for example, reveal any tensions in Jefferson’s political thought that might be reflected in the American polity as a whole?
The competition is open to all full-time undergraduate students currently registered in any field of study at a college or university in the United States or Canada. The Center will appoint a committee of judges to select the winning essays. Prizes will not be awarded if, in the exclusive opinion of the judges, submitted essays are of insufficient quality. Essays that are, in the exclusive opinion of the judges, of publishable quality will, with the consent of the author, be eligible for publication in the Center’s journal, Citizens and Statesmen: An Annual Review of Political Theory and Public Life. The first place winner will receive $2,000 and an invitation to attend an awards dinner and lecture to be held at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania on March 15, 2017. Second and third place winners will receive invitations to said awards dinner and $1,000 and $500 respectively. Winners choosing to attend the awards dinner will be responsible for their own travel. Prior to the awarding of cash prizes, winners will be required to verify their eligibility and to attest to the fact that the winning essay is wholly their own. Any amount of plagiarism will result in disqualification.
Essays should be a minimum of 2,500 words. There is no maximum length. Submissions should be sent in Microsoft Word format to firstname.lastname@example.org by January 12, 2017. Winners are notified in February.
To Gideon Granger
August 13, 1800
I received with great pleasure your favor of June 4 and am much comforted by the appearance of a change of opinion in your state: for though we may obtain, and I believe shall obtain a majority in the legislature of the U.S. attached to the preservation of the Federal Constitution according to its obvious principles and those on which it was known to be received, attached equally to the preservation to the states of those rights unquestionably remaining with them, friends to the freedom of religion, freedom of the press, trial by jury, and to economical government, opposed to standing armies, paper systems, war, and all connection other than of commerce with any foreign nation, in short, a majority firm in all those principles which we have espoused and the federalists have opposed uniformly; still should the whole body of New England continue in opposition to these principles of government, either knowingly or through delusion, our government will be a very uneasy one. It can never be harmonious and solid, while so respectable a portion of its citizens support principles which go directly to a change of the federal Constitution, to sink the state governments, consolidate them into one, and to monarchize that. Our country is too large to have all its affairs directed by a single government. Public servants at such a distance, and from under the eye of their constituents, will, from the circumstance of distance, be unable to administer and overlook all the details necessary for the good government of the citizen; and the same circumstance by rendering detection impossible to their constituents, will invite the public agents to corruption, plunder and waste: and I do verily believe that if the principle were to prevail of a common law being in force in the U.S. (which principle possesses the general government at once of all the powers of the state governments, and reduces us to a single consolidated government) it would become the most corrupt government on the face of the earth. You have seen the practices by which the public servants have been able to cover their conduct, or, where that could not be done, the delusions by which they have varnished it for the eye of their constituents. What an augmentation of the field for jobbing, speculating, plundering, office-building and office hunting, would be produced by an assumption of all the state powers into the hands of the general government. The true theory of our Constitution is surely the wisest and best, that the states are independent as to every thing within themselves, and united as to every thing respecting foreign nations. Let the general government be once reduced to foreign concerns only, and let our affairs be disentangled from those of all other nations, except as to commerce which the merchants will manage the better, the more they are left free to manage for themselves, and our general government may be reduced to a very simple organization, and a very inexpensive one: a few plain duties to be performed by a few servants. But I repeat that this simple and economical mode of government can never be secured if the New England states continue to support the contrary system. I rejoice therefore in every appearance of their returning to those principles which I had always imagined to be almost innate in them. In this state a few persons were shaken by the XYZ duperies. You saw the effect of it in our last Congressional representation chosen under their influence. This experiment on their credulity is now seen into, and our next representation will be as republican as it has heretofore been. On the whole we hope that by a part of the Union having held on to the principles of the Constitution, time has been given to the states to recover from the temporary frenzy into which they had been decoyed, to rally round the Constitution and to rescue it from the destruction with which it had been threatened even at their own hands. …
The Fifth Annual Douglas B. Rogers Conditions of a Free Society Essay Competition
The Vital Importance of Small Politics
Dennis Clark, Ashland University
Harmony by Anatomy: Thomas Jefferson's Plan for Saving the Constitution
Claire Anderson, Trinity College
United in Freedom: The American States and Constitutional Interpretation
Thomas More College