The Five Thousand Year Leap
The 28 Great Ideas
That Changed the World

by W. Cleon Skousen

Review by
Sarah Emily Jordan

some editions titled / subtitled –
The 5000 Thousand Year Leap
A Miracle That Changed the World

some editions have additional prefatory material

National Center for Constitutional Studies (NCCS): 1981

337 pages

February 2011

The impact of freedom upon history

Several years ago as my interest and involvement in politics was increasing, the book The 5000 Year Leap by W. Cleon Skousen was recommended to me. I was and am very appreciative of that recommendation. The book serves as a terrific and informative primer for anyone who wants to understand the Founders of this nation, their ideologies, philosophies, and faith that guided the formation of our Constitution. I highly recommend it to any seeking a groundwork knowledge of how this country came about and how far we've strayed from our foundational principles.

The American Constitutional structure of freedom

The book is divided into two parts. The first part is titled "Structuring a Government With All Power In the People." This part was eye-opening and extremely clarifying for me. Right of the bat Skousen discusses the Founders' Political Spectrum. The idea of political left and right has been so muddied by politicos and the media, and I for one hadn't bothered learning about it because I thought it would be too confusing. Skousen's explanation is crystal clear and makes the political landscape quite easy to understand. The Founders Political Spectrum have the farthest left as Tyranny and the farthest right as Anarchy. The Founders understand the need for government but wanted the least amount possible. The Constitution was established in the center right of the spectrum.

Skousen also discusses the difference between Ruler's Law and People's Law. They believed that man could rule himself and sought to establish a government that would truly allow for that.

The Founders very much valued history and sought examples and wisdom from history in the foundation. They learned from previous attempts at People's Law. This is one of the things that I really appreciate about the Founders, they valued and applied the lessons of history. Wouldn't it be amazing if more of our politicians today would do that?

The Founders through experience and wisdom established a government that would better enable a prosperous nation. Their understanding of the importance of freedom and man's capability did change the world. Government should protect freedom but also stay out of the way of the people's exercise of freedom. It's a free people that can change the world for the better.

Principles underlying American Constitutional freedom

Part Two of The Five Thousand Year Leap is titled "The Founders' Basic Principles". Skousen outlines 28 principles which are key to our Founder's view and establishment of government. He does a great job pulling together quotes from our Founders on these principles. For the sake of brevity I'll focus on only a few.

Two of the key principles are a virtuous and moral people, and virtuous and moral leaders. Skousen quotes Samuel Adams in discussing these principles,

The sum of all is, if we would most truly enjoy the gift of Heaven, let us become a virtuous people; then shall we both deserve and enjoy it. While, on the other hand, if we are universally vicious and debauched in our manners, though the form of our Constitution carries the face of the most exalted freedom, we shall in reality be the most abject slaves." (p.56)

The Founders knew the importance of religion and the role of Our Creator. George Washington is quoted,

No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand which conducts the affairs of men more than the people of the United States. Every step, by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation, seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency." (p.100)

The Founders established a nation on free-market economics. Skousen outlines four laws of economic freedom. They are:

  1. The Freedom to try
  2. The Freedom to buy
  3. The Freedom to sell
  4. The Freedom to fail

These principles are necessary for the growth and prosperity of a nation. The more the government interferes with these the less freedom and growth the nation will experience.

These are just a few of the principles Skousen covers. He also goes into great detail discussing the separation of powers and the checks and balances contained in our written Constitution.

Continuing in freedom

Cleon Skousen is obviously an individual who loves this country dearly. He believes in the uniqueness and the historically altering founding of this country. He wrote this book with an almost palpable sense of awe at what the Founders were able to accomplish, by knowing their history and by relying upon God. Skousen believes that continuing to honor the principles which our Founders honored is necessary to continuing freedom. After reading this book I have more firmly committed to doing so.

Great and valuable information and insight is contained in The 5000 Year Leap. If you want to understand America, where we came from and how, read this book. Its a great start to understanding, and the knowledge I gained from reading it is still something I rely on as I continue in civic activity.


© 2011 Sarah Emily Jordan

Sarah Emily Jordan blogs at
The Conservative Independent Rant

W. Cleon Skousen's site

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