Two hundred and forty-one years ago today, on July 3, 1776, John Adams wrote the following to his wife:
The Second Day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha in the History of America.—I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated as the Day of Deliverance, by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations, from one End of this Continent to the other, from this Time forward forever more.
He wasn’t quite right. We don’t celebrate the date when the Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution of independence (July 2). Instead, we celebrate the date when America declared this independence to the rest of the world (July 4).
Celebrating our independence from foreign rule, and our experiment in republican self-government, prompts us to ask what we’re each doing to make our liberty flourish. After all, at the close of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, Ben Franklin was famously asked what form of government the framers had given us. His response: “A Republic, if you can keep it.”
Public Discourse seeks to do our small part in keeping our Republic. We try to make our contribution by offering intelligent, yet understandable essays on important issues of public concern. Indeed, Public Discourse exists to fill a void in the Internet publishing world. Nine years ago, we launched PD. Here is how I described our mission:
We live in a sound-bite age. Rhetoric often replaces reason. Considered judgments often yield to the pressure for quick reactions. Serious moral reasoning often gets short shrift in our public discussions. Public Discourse seeks to fill this vacuum. We make use of the new forums for communication that modern technology provides, but we don’t let them undermine the quality of our thinking. We draw on some of the academy’s best scholars, making their years of study and expertise available and accessible to a broader community, but we don’t get bogged down in technicalities and academic jargon. We can do this, because at the Witherspoon Institute we have created a community of distinguished scholars from diverse backgrounds and fields of study. Public Discourse brings these voices to the public. And we don’t shy away from the most controversial of questions, convinced that careful reasoning can settle many of the challenges before us.
We are not a Journal. We are not a Blog. Our aim is to provide a venue where readers can find out what our associated scholars are thinking about or working on—whether in their own academic scholarship or in informed commentary on contemporary events. Our hope is that by benefiting from these scholars’ perspectives, readers will be better equipped to form their own.
I think we’ve been pretty successful. Consider just a handful of our articles from the past six months:
- Daniel Philpott, “Neither Reformation nor Enlightenment: The Seeds of Religious Freedom Within Islam”
- Paul DeHart, “Madisonian Thomism”
- Doug Mainwaring, “May I Please Speak to My Daddy?”
- Peter Augustine Lawler, “Allan Bloom’s Souls Without Longing, All Grown Up”
- Gerard Bradley, “Religious Liberty and the Common Good”
- Patrick Lee and Robby George, “The Soul: Not Dead Yet”
- Ismail Royer, “Bernie’s Relativism Test Is Bad for Muslims and All Religious Believers”
I contributed three essays in 2017: “How to Think About Discrimination: Race, Sex, and SOGI,” “Natural Law, Social Justice, and the Crisis of Liberty in the West,” and “Faith and Reason, Beauty and Holiness.”
When we launched PD, we were publishing two articles a week. A year or so later, we moved to three articles. Then, this time six years ago, we started publishing an article every weekday.
Our contributors—thoughtful, intelligent, insightful—have made Public Discourse the forum we first envisioned for our readers. While we don’t pay them much, we do compensate them for their time and effort in writing for us. If you’d like, you can help us do that by making a contribution here.
And our editorial team has been top-notch. Over the past nine years, several excellent managing editors have worked for Public Discourse: first Matthew Schmitz (now literary editor of First Things), then Lauren Wilson (now managing editor of First Things), then Octavia Ratiu (now pursing graduate studies at the Institute for the Psychological Sciences), then Gabrielle Speach (now pursuing graduate studies at Princeton University and who has become Gabrielle Girgis, thanks to the matchmaking talents of this editor). For the past four years, we have been fortunate to have the exquisite editorial talents of Serena Sigillito, who recently gave birth to her second child.
Young editors and their children need to eat, so we try to pay them a living wage. You can help feed them here.
We must also meet the costs of maintaining the website, the e-mailing program, and several other technologies that make online publications thrive. Keep us up and running by making a donation here.
These efforts don’t require too much money, but they do require some. If you enjoy reading these articles and would like to help support the success of Public Discourse, please consider making a donation to our publisher, the Witherspoon Institute. You can do so here; please include a note marking it for Public Discourse.
You can also further the work of Public Discourse by sharing our articles with your friends, particularly on social media. Follow Public Discourse on Facebook and Twitter. You can also follow me and Serena on Twitter, as we both share articles from other sources that might be of interest to readers of PD.
As for me, in addition to editing Public Discourse, I research and write as a fellow at the Heritage Foundation. Last month, Oxford University Press released a book I co-authored with Sherif Girgis and John Corvino, Debating Religious Liberty and Discrimination. And just last week, the University of Notre Dame Press released a book I edited with Dan Philpott, A Liberalism Safe for Catholicism? Perspectives from the “Review of Politics.” This winter, Encounter Books will release a book I’ve just completed, When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment.
Whether these efforts will prove successful in helping us to keep our republic is anyone’s guess. That they’ll be more successful with your support is certain. Please support Public Discourse here.