Review of Asian Studies Volume 16 (2014): 11-26 Wang: Confucian Morality in the American Founding

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Virginia Review of Asian Studies

Volume 16 (2014): 11-26

Wang: Confucian Morality in the American Founding



Confucius and the founding of the United States don’t seem to be related. Confucius, the Latinized name of Kongzi (孔子) (c. 550-476 B.C.), was a great philosopher and educator who lived at the end of “the Spring and Autumn Period” (771-476 B.C.) in China. The founding of America in the 1770s was a period in which the founders of the United States waged their death-or-life struggle to overthrow the imperialist rule of the Great Britain. However, despite their differences, a close relationship actually existed between them. The United States’ founders applied many values from Confucian moral philosophy while founding of the United States.1 Their recognition of Confucian ideas can be seen in places such as the house of James Madison (1751-1836), the father of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, which had a portrait of Confucius. In addition, Thomas Paine (1737-1809), author of Common Sense, considered the Chinese sage to be in the same category as Jesus and Socrates.2 Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), the Creator of the American Spirit, made the solemn statement that Confucian moral philosophy was valuable to the human being in general.3 Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), the principal author of the Declaration of Independence, also promoted Confucian moral principles in his inaugural speech in 1801. In his personal scratch-book, Jefferson placed a poem about an ideal Chinese prince that was recommended by Confucius. Other founders such as John Adams (1735-1826) and Benjamin Rush (1746-1813) also regarded Confucius highly in their efforts to make a blueprint for the new nation. These founders urged the citizens of the United States to adopt positive elements from Confucian moral philosophy and follow these moral examples to cultivate and advance their own virtues.4

The great founders’ collective esteem of Confucius during the formation of the United States has stimulated my curiosity to find why Confucius’ moral teachings became so important. The American Revolution was a political revolution which marked the birth of the United States as a new nation. However, it was also simultaneously a moral revolution. While the founders were concerned with preserving their civil liberties and economic freedom through their stance, “no taxation without representation,” they were also concerned with public morality. They fully understood that the war was as much a battle against “the corruption of 18th century British high society” as it was against financial oppression.5 As a result, the founding fathers were determined to construct new virtues responding to the needs of the new nation. Having seen the results of the moral corruption in the old world, the founders worked diligently to use all valuable moral resources available for them to create virtues for the new nation.

A Good Moral is the Life or Death to the New Nation

"We may look up to Armies for our defense, but virtue is our best security. It is not possible that any state should long remain free, where virtue is not supremely honored."6

The conclusion of the revolution in 1783 brought freedom to the British colonists in North America. But with this freedom also came greater opportunities to misbehave. During the late 18th century, moral issues caused by a culture of pleasure and freedom blossomed in American cities. According to some existing historical records, one could find a public place to engage in illicit activities in nearly every block in every 18th-century American city.
Alarmed by those problems and other social issues, the founders reached a consensus that moral construction was not only a necessity in order to make the fruit of the revolution sustainable, but should be considered a priority. The founders believed that only virtuous people could live in a free society. Almost every founding father testified to the link between liberty and virtue. George Washington (1732-1799) told Americans: “It is essentially true that virtue or morality is a main and necessary spring of popular or republican governments.”7 Benjamin Rush stated, "Without virtue there can be no liberty."8 Benjamin Franklin warned, “[O]nly a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.”9 Thomas Jefferson told his fellow Americans, "A nation as a society forms a moral person, and every member of it is personally responsible for his society."10 John Adams told the Americans that while the success of the revolution made the colonies free, “they will not obtain a lasting Liberty” without good virtues.11 He continued, "If Virtue & Knowledge are diffused among the People, they will never be enslav'd. This will be their great Security.” 12 Adams repeatedly warned, "Liberty can no more exist without virtue and independence than the body can live and move without a soul."13 To prevent corruption became John Adams’ main concerns. He told his countrymen:
We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry would break the strongest cords of our constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. 14
James Madison echoed:
The aim of every political Constitution is or ought to be first to obtain for rulers men who possess most wisdom to discern, and most virtue to pursue, the common good of society; and in the next place, to take the most effectual precautions for keeping them virtuous whilst they continue to hold their public trust.15
As the main designers of the new nation, the founders knew that it took more than a perfect plan of government to preserve liberty. They needed some moral principles accepted by the people to encourage them to obey laws voluntarily. They recognized that a free government should be supported by people who could act morally without compulsion, and would not willfully violate the rights of others. Benjamin Franklin firmly believed that "Laws without morals are in vain."16 Cultivating new virtues for the fledgling United States therefore became one of the most significant themes during this time of social and political transformation. With this notion in mind, the founders turned to Confucian moral philosophy.

Private Virtue and Confucian Moral Philosophy

Public virtue was regarded as a foundation of freedom. Private virtue was considered the most important element of the public virtue. As early as 1776, John Adams emphasized the significance of the private virtue. He told his fellow Americans that the new American government’s principles were “great and excellent among Men. But its Principles are as easily destroyed, as human Nature is corrupted.” Therefore, “public Virtue is the only Foundation of Republics.” However, “Public Virtue cannot exist in a Nation without private, and there must be a positive Passion for the public good, the public Interest,” 17 James Madison emphasized the significance of private virtue to the new nation. For him, “To suppose liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people is a chimerical idea.”18 Thomas Jefferson also told the Americans, “When virtue is banished, ambition invades the minds of those who are disposed to receive it, and avarice possesses the whole community.” …. “The order of nature [is] that individual happiness shall be inseparable from the practice of virtue.”19 Jefferson understood that leaders had to establish role models in order for the nation to continue its success.

Private virtue meant being a person of integrity; such qualities essential to private virtue included being honest in one’s dealings with others, being faithful in one’s duties to one’s family, and controlling one’s appetites. The qualities that private virtue emphasized could be found in the values that Confucius promoted. For instances, one of the main tenets of Confucian moral philosophy was a positive passion for the public good and public interest.
Confucian moral philosophy is one of the most important components of Confucianism, which is regarded as the crystallization of ancient Chinese traditional culture. Confucius taught five virtues a gentleman should possess: Ren (仁) benevolence, Yi (义)uprightness, which requires Zhong, (忠) loyalty; and Shù, (恕)altruism. Zhi, (知 ) knowledge; Xin, (信) faithfulness Li, (礼) good manners.
Confucius taught that a perfect leader could create a perfect world through moral strength and example. Confucius viewed a leader as a moral person; thus, anybody who anticipated a role of leadership as result of either desire or social status should rigorously mold and polish personal character, or Te (德). Te in this sense was not just personal power, but also positive human qualities such as honesty and loyalty. Confucius believed that personal self-cultivation should be practiced for the benefit of society.
The founders understood that respectable and benevolent men were more likely to support the universal pursuit of happiness. An affectionate man would not only be more likely to live in harmony with his neighbors, but also able to understand the mutual sacrifices required for the success of the new nation. The founders drew from Confucius’ moral teachings for the private virtue that the new nation required.
The main tenets of Confucian moral philosophy provided what the founders needed to build the new private virtue for its citizens and future leaders. These founders dreamt of creating the truly virtuous people brought up by the Confucian standards of a gentleman. As a result, Confucian moral philosophy became so important to the founders and the cause they fought for.
Confucian Moral Philosophy in North America around the Revolution
In the 18th century colonial society, the impact of Confucius was widely discussed in the North American colonies. Some eminent colonists, including Benjamin Franklin, expressed their respect for the philosopher. Franklin followed Confucius’ procedure for moral cultivation and started to develop his own virtues as early as 1727.20 Franklin saw it as his responsibility to spread Confucius’ moral teachings. He published some excerpts from Morals of Confucius in his widely circulated Pennsylvania Gazette in 173721. Franklin also made it clear that he regarded Confucius as his role model in 1749.22 In August 1775, just before the eve of the Independence, Thomas Paine revealed a vital and informed interest in China. He published a series of works about China in the Pennsylvania Magazine.23
Other prominent figures of the day also recognized the value of Confucian teachings. For instance, John Bartram (1699-1777), a well-known botanist in the colonies, was very interested in Chinese philosophy, particularly in the personality of Confucius.24 Bartram’s paper, “Life and Character of the Chinese Philosopher Confucius,” introduced Confucius’ life to his readers. 25 James Logan (1674-1751), another very influential colonist in Philadelphia, acquired a copy of the first European printing of Confucius philosophy for his personal library in 1733.26 Logan was not satisfied with the translation by the Jesuits and showed his desire to obtain the “true sense” of Confucianism.27 Joel Barlow (1754-1812), an American poet and diplomat, considered Confucius to be one of the wisest philosophers in the history of antiquity.28 Jedidiah Morse (1761-1826), a notable geographer, praised Daxue (大学Great Learning) and Zhongyong (中庸the Doctrine of the Mean), two of the four classics of Confucius. Morse extolled the two classics as “the most excellent precepts of wisdom and virtue, expressed with the greatest eloquence, elegance and precision.”29 Morse also compared Confucius with Socrates. He pointed out that Confucius was “very striking, and which far exceeds, in clearness, the prophecy of Socrates."30 A contemporary author found that Morse's high praise of the Chinese sage “is especially significant” because Morse wrote his Geography for the youth of America and “considered it a means of instructing students in patriotism and morality."31
In May 1788, an article carried in the Columbia Magazine discussed Confucian morals related to filial piety.32 One author loved Confucius’ philosophy so much that he published a paper under the pen name, Confucius Discipulus, introducing Confucius and Confucian moral teachings. In his paper, carried in the New Hampshire Magazine in September 1793, this author gave "a concise History of Confucius, a famous Chinese philosopher." He also told his readers that Confucius was “a character so truly virtuous.”33

Even among the women in the fledging United States, Confucian moral philosophy was also read and appreciated. Mrs. Elizabeth Drinker in Philadelphia was deeply impressed by Confucian moral teachings. Mrs. Drinker believed that people in her era should follow Confucius to cultivate their virtues. After studying the Morals of Confucius, she wrote in her diary on May 28, 1795:

I have been pleased by reading The Morals of Confucius, a Chinese Philosopher, who flourished about five hundred and fifty years before the coming of Christ—said to be one of the choicest pieces of Learning remaining of that nation. A sweet little piece it is. If there were such men in that day, what ought to be expected in this more enlightened Age!34

The Founders’ Efforts to Use Confucius Moral Philosophy in their Efforts to Build New Virtue

The founders of the United States promoted Confucian moral teachings and urged these principles be applied in the developing nation. Benjamin Franklin loved Confucius virtue so much that he even planned to build a United Party for Virtue. He told his readers,

There seems to me at present to be great occasion for raising a United Party for Virtue, by forming the virtuous and good men of all nations into a regular body, to be governed by suitable good and wise rules, which good and wise men may probably be more unanimous in their obedience to, than common people are to common laws. 35
Franklin used Confucian moral principle as a guideline to examine social phenomena appeared after the revolution. By using Confucian moral principles, Franklin opposed an idea raised by some revolutionary veterans who wanted to hand down glory to their descendants. In the wake of America’s victory, these veterans of the Revolutionary War wanted to establish a hereditary aristocracy in order to “distinguish themselves and their posterity from their fellow citizens.” These veterans wanted to form an order of hereditary knights and organized the Society of Cincinnatus 36 hoping to let their descendants to inherit their honor. Franklin drew from Chinese examples to fight against this idea:
Thus among the Chinese, the most ancient, and, from long Experience, the wisest of

Nations, Honour does not descend but ascends. If a Man from his Learning, his Wisdom

or his Valour, is promoted by the Emperor to the Rank of Mandarin, his Parents are

immediately intitled to all the same Ceremonies of Respect from the People, that are

establish’d as due to the Mandarin himself; on this Supposition, that it must have been

owing to the Education, Instruction, and good Example afforded him by his Parents that

he was rendered capable of Serving the Publick. This ascending Honour is therefore

useful to the State as it encourages Parents to give their Children a good and virtuous

Education. But the descending Honour, to Posterity who could have had no Share in

obtaining it, is not only groundless and absurd, but often hurtful to that Posterity, since it

is apt to make them proud, disdaining to be employed in useful Arts, and thence falling

into Poverty and all the Meannesses, Servility and Wretchedness attending it;37

Confucius maintained that the people should be led by leaders who governed through their virtue rather than using their laws. He believed that if a government rested its rule entirely on laws, its people would try to escape punishment and have no sense of shame. Therefore, he reasoned that if the people were led by virtue, they would possess a sense of shame and follow their leaders through their own will. (See Appendix One.)
In 1778, two years after the colonists declared their independence, Franklin addressed the significance of the morality. He pointed out the necessity of governing with morality, especially for the leaders of the United States. He told his fellow Americans that laws were not enough for the new nation:
What the political struggle I have been engag’d in for the good of my compatriots, inhabitants of this bush; or my philosophical studies for the benefits of our race in general! For in politics, what can laws do without morals? Our present race of ephemeras will in a course of minutes become corrupt like those of other and older bushes, and consequently as wretched.38
Thomas Paine, the famous polemicist of republicanism, regarded Confucius as one of the world's great moral teachers. In his Age of Reason, 1791-1792, Paine listed Confucius with the ranks of Jesus and the famous Greek philosophers. Paine reiterated this point in an article he wrote a decade later for The Prospect, a New York magazine:
As a book of morals there are several parts of the New Testament that are good, but they are no other than what had been preached in the East world several hundred years before Christ was born. Confucius, the Chinese philosopher, who lived five hundred years before the time of Christ says, ‘acknowledge thy benefits by the turn of benefits, but never revenge injuries.’ 39
In his political disagreements with the Federalists, Paine used Confucian ideas to criticize their moral faults. He told these Federalists to follow Confucian teachings so they could be honest. 40
As to the hypocritical abuse thrown out by the federalists on other subjects, I recommend to them the observance of a commandment that existed before either Christian or Jew existed.

"Thou shalt make a covenant with thy senses,

"With thine eye, that it beholds no evil.
"With thine ear, that it hear no evil.
"With thy tongue, that it speak no evil.
"With thy hands that they cemmit no evils.41 (See Appendix Two.)

For John Adams, the purpose of government is to allow the pursuit of happiness. Such happiness lies not merely in “ease, comfort, [and] security,” but also characteristics such as virtue, humility, industry, and goodwill. Adams confidently declares “Confucius… agreed in this” goal of happiness through virtue. 42 Adams also realized that virtue ennobled individual character and lifted the entire society. Adams’ statement conveys the significance of virtue for a good government and the significance of Confucius's moral philosophy in Adams’ own efforts to bring up “the minds of the people.” John Adam showed his high regard for Confucian virtues and believed that any good Americans should possess these traits.

In a letter to Thomas Jefferson, Adams criticized the English theologian and natural philosopher Joseph Priestley for ignoring Confucius in his writing:
Priestley ought to have given us a sketch of the religion and morals of Zoroaster, of Sanchoniathon, of Confucius, and all the founders of religions before Christ, whose superiority would, from such a comparison, have appeared the more transcendent.43
Dr. Benjamin Rush, an ardent patriot, asserted in a 1798 essay on education in the new republic that “the only foundation for a useful education in a republic is to be laid in Religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments.” Having expressed his veneration for Confucianism which “reveals the attributes of the Deity,” Rush declared that he had rather see the opinions of Confucius “inculcated upon our youth, than see them grow up wholly devoid of a system of religious principles.” 44

As one of the main founders of the new nation, Thomas Jefferson eventually became the third president of the nation after his victory in the election of 1800. For Jefferson who tired of metaphysics, a practical religion that advanced private virtue, such as Confucianism has a definite appeal. As president, Jefferson realized the importance of Confucian values to keep his ideals alive and move the country forward. His inauguration speech reflected his thoughts on how to make the United States a great nation. Remarkably, Jefferson showed his confidence in using Confucian moral values in his efforts to lead the new nation in 1801. In front of the representatives celebrating his victory, Jefferson made the following statement:

Let us then, with courage and confidence, pursue our own federal and republican principles; our attachment to union and representative government. Kindly separated by nature and a wide ocean from the exterminating havoc of one quarter of the globe; …. enlightened by a benign religion, professed indeed and practised in various forms, yet all of them inculcating honesty, truth, temperance, gratitude and the love of man, acknowledging and adoring an overruling providence, which by all its dispensations proves that it delights in the happiness of man here, and his greater happiness hereafter; with all these blessings, what more is necessary to make us a happy and a prosperous people? 45
Jefferson admired Voltaire (1694-1778), the French leader of the Age of Enlightenment. Voltaire regarded Confucianism as a high system of morals, and Confucius as the greatest of all sages. From Jefferson’s speech, it is evident that Jefferson accepted the Confucian concept of the true gentleman, and the belief that a good moral foundation was the foundation of a good government. Jefferson’s vision for a better United States was largely based in a benign religion and a wise government. The morals Jefferson listed in his inauguration speech were the same moral principles that Confucius maintained. Jefferson also enshrined the Confucian moral principle that a ruler loses his mandate if the people don't approve in the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident . . . That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it." 46 Furthermore, through careful examination of the Declaration of Independence and the First Great Pronouncement of King Wu 武王47, one author has identified that Thomas Jefferson had imitated the First Great Preannouncement of the King Wu.48

During his presidency, Thomas Jefferson included an ancient Chinese poem from Shijing (诗经The Book of Odes) in his scrapbook.49 This poem is about an ancient Chinese prince who was set up as an example for other leaders of the nation to follow. Jefferson’s inclusion of this specific Chinese poem is significant and reveals his close ties to Confucian ideals. Confucius pointed out, ''He who exercises government by means of his virtue may be compared to the north polar star, which keeps its place and all the stars turn towards it.''50 (See Appendix One) Jefferson aimed to make himself this “North Polar Star.” Therefore, it was not a surprise that Thomas Jefferson regarded the Chinese prince, whom Confucius considered to be one of the ideal rulers to be his role model.51 (See Appendix Three.)

The poem pays tribute to Prince Wei from the State of Wei, who was loved and respected by the people of his state.52 Confucius praised Prince Wei when he quoted this poem in his famous book, The Great Learning, to provide a standard to aspire to other princes and leaders of various states.53
Jefferson’s choice to place this poem in his scrapbook reflects his determination to be as great a leader as Prince Wei. Therefore, “His mem’ry of eternal prime, Like truth defies the power of time!” Jefferson wanted himself to be “in manners goodly great, Refine the people of the state.” Jefferson used Prince Wei to encourage himself to be a leader loved by the future American people, just as Prince Wei was praised and remembered by all posterity.

In the section, “Poems of Nation,” Jefferson included certain commentary on his presidency. The “Poems of Nation” shows that Jefferson viewed his legacy as intertwined with the success of the republican experiment. Believing that he should help the United States to maintain his political, moral, and personal values in the history of the America Revolution, Jefferson collected documents, books, newspapers, and other materials so that later historians could construct an a right and comprehensive American revolutionary history.54 Jefferson was very serious about preserving his personal legacy. His inclusion of the ancient Chinese poem in his scrapbook shows that Jefferson valued Confucianism highly and used some of the principles to build new nation in the new land with rich natural resources. With the help of Confucianism, Jefferson was confident that he could achieve his goal.

During the founding of the United States, the Founding Fathers “managed to establish a set of ideas and institutions that, over the stretch of time, became the blueprint for political and economic success for the nation-state in the modern world.”55 My intent is to bring to light to what was the founders’ efforts to adopt some principles of Confucian moral philosophy and made them into the fiber of the new virtue met the requirement of a free and democratic society. The founders tried to develop good morals to ensure that the democratic system would function in correct direction. They attempted to use Confucian moral philosophy to safeguard the democratic system, build private virtue, and bring up citizens with good morals to serve the new nation. Through the founders’ efforts, Confucian moral philosophy contributed greatly to the formation of the American virtue.
Appendix One
The following two chapters are from Analects by Confucius
CHAP. I. The Master said, ''He who exercises government

by means of his virtue may be compared to the north polar

star, which keeps its place and all the stars turn towards it.''


CHAP. III. 1. The Master said, ''If the people be led by

laws, and uniformity sought to be given them by punishments,

they will try to avoid the punishment, but have no sense of

shame. 2. ''If they be led by virtue, and uniformity sought to be

given them by the rules of propriety, they will have the sense

of shame, and moreover will become good.''

Appendix Two: Thomas Paine’s quote from Confucius

Yen Yüan said, "I beg to ask the steps of that process." The Master replied, "Look not at what is contrary to propriety; listen not to what is contrary to propriety; speak not what is contrary to propriety; make no movement which is contrary to propriety." Yen Yüan then said, "Though I am deficient in intelligence and vigor, I will make it my business to practice this lesson."

Legge XII.1

Analects of Confucius
Appendix Three: Jefferson’s clipping of the poem
A Very Ancient Chinese Ode

Translated by John Collegins seq

Quoted in the To Hio of Confuciues56

(….from a manuscript presented in the Bodlein Library)57

The following ode has been translated into Latin by Sir William Jones58, who informs us to his Treatise on the second classic book of the Chinese, that the Ode is taken from 1st Vol. of the Shi King.59 “It is a panegyrick (says he) on Vucan. Prince of Guey, in the Province of Honang, who died near a century old, 756 years before the birth of Christ. The Chinese poets might have been contemporary with Homer and Hesiod, or at least must have written the Ode before the Iliad and Odyssey were carried into Greece by Lycurgus.”
SEE! how the silvery river glides,

And leaves' the fields bespangled sides !

Hear how the whispering breeze proceeds!

Harmonious through the verdant reeds!

Observe our prince thus lovely shine!

In him the meek-ey'd virtues join!

Just as a patient carver will, Hard ivory model by his skill,

So his example has impress'd Benevolence in every b[re]ast;

Nice hands to the rich gems, behold,

Impart the gloss of burnish'd gold:

Thus he, in manners, goodly great,

Refines the people of his state. True lenity,

how heavenly fair !

We see it while it threatens,—spare!

What beauties in its open face!

In its deportment—what a grace!

Observe our prince thus lovely shine!

In him the meek-ey'd virtues join!

His mern'ry of eternal prime,

Like truth, defies the power of time!60

子 曰 : 「 於 止 , 知 其 所 止 , 可 以 人 而 不如 鳥 乎 !
詩 云 : 「 穆 穆 文 王 , 於 緝 熙 敬 止 !

為 人 君 , 止 於 仁; 為 人 臣 ,止 於敬 ; 為 人 子 , 止 於 孝 ; 為 人 父 , 止 於 慈;

國 人 交 , 止 於 信 .詩 云 : 「 瞻 彼 淇 澳 , 菉 竹 猗 猗 . 有 斐 君 子 , 如

如 磋, 如 琢 如磨 . 瑟兮 僩 兮 , 赫 兮 喧 兮 . 有 斐 君 子 , 終

可諠 兮 !

如 磋者 , 道 學 也; 如 琢 如 磨 者 , 自 脩 也 ;瑟 兮 僩 兮 者 , 恂 慄 也 ; 赫 兮喧 兮 者 , 威 儀 也; 有 斐 君 子, 終

可 諠 兮 者 , 道 盛 德 至 善 , 民 之不 能 忘 也 .

詩 云 :「於 戲 前 王

忘 !

君 子 賢 其 賢 而 親 其 親 , 小 人 樂 其 樂

而 利 其 利 , 此 以沒 世

忘 也 .右 傳 之 三 章 . 釋 止 於 至 善 .

子 曰 : 「 聽 訟 , 吾 猶 人 也 , 必 也 使 無 訟 乎 !

無 情 者不 得 盡 其辭 . 大畏 民 志 , 此 謂 知 本 .右 傳 之 四 章 . 釋 本 末 .
In the Book of Poetry, it is said, "Look at that winding course of the Ch'i, with the

green bamboos so luxuriant! Here is our elegant and accomplished prince! As we cut and then file; as we chisel and then grind: so has he cultivated himself. How grave is he and dignified! How majestic and distinguished! Our elegant and accomplished prince never can be forgotten." That expression-"As we cut and then file," the work of learning. "As we chisel and then grind," indicates that of self-culture. "How grave is he and dignified!" indicates the feeling of cautious reverence. "How commanding and distinguished! indicates an awe-inspiring deportment. "Our elegant and accomplished prince never can be forgotten," indicates how, when virtue is complete and excellence extreme, the people cannot forget them.

In the Book of Poetry, it is said, "Ah! the former kings are not forgotten." Future princes

deem worthy what they deemed worthy, and love what they loved. The common people

delight in what delighted them, and are benefited by their beneficial arrangements. It is on this account that the former kings, after they have quitted the world, are not forgotten.

500 BC THE GREAT LEARNING Confucius translated by James Legge [1893]61

1 Dave Wang, The US Founders and China: The Origins of Chinese Cultural Influence on the United States, Education About Asia, Fall, 2011, pp.5-11.


3 Benjamin Franklin, Letter to George Whitefield, July 6, 1749. It is available on line at

4 Patrick Mentis, Peaceful War: How the Chinese Dream and the American Destiny Create a Pacific New World Order, United Press of America, New York, 2013, p.50.

5 Marvin Olasky, Fighting for Liberty and Virtue, Washington D.C, Regnery Publishing, 1996, p. 142.

6 The Founders' Constitution, Volume 1, Chapter 18, Document 6
The University of Chicago Press. The Writings of Samuel Adams. Edited by Harry Alonzo Cushing. 4 vols. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1904--8.


 WASHINGTON’S FAREWELL ADDRESS 1 - Alexander Hamilton, The Works of Alexander Hamilton, (Federal Edition), vol. 8 [1774] The Works of Alexander Hamilton, ed. Henry Cabot Lodge (Federal Edition) (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904). In 12 vols. Vol. 8.


 Benjamin Rush, The Selected Writings of Benjamin Rush. Edited by Dagobert D. Runes. New York: Philosophical Library, 1947.


 Benjamin Franklin, The Writings of Benjamin Franklin, Jared Sparks, editor (Boston: Tappan, Whittemore and Mason, 1840), Vol. X, p. 297, April 17, 1787.


 Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson to George Hammond, 1792.


 John Adams, Letter to Zabdiel Adams, June 21, 1776


 John Adam, Letter to Mercy Warren, April 16, 1776, :


 John Adams, Novanglus Letters No. III, 1774


 John Adams, October 11, 1798, letter to the officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia of Massachusetts. Charles Francis Adams, ed., The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Boston, Little, Brown, and Co., 1854, 9:229.


 James Madison, “The Alleged Tendency of the New Plan to Elevate the Few at the Expense of the Many Considered in Connection with Representation” The Federalist No. 57, New York Packet, Tuesday, February 19, 1788


 Benjamin Franklin, Motto of the University of Pennsylvania


 John Adams, John Adams to Mercy Warren, 16 Apr. 1776, Warren-Adams Letters 1:222--23

The Founders' Constitution, Volume 1, Chapter 18, Document 9; The University of Chicago Press

Warren-Adams Letters, Being Chiefly a Correspondence among John Adams, Samuel Adams, and James Warren. Vol. 2, 1778--1814. Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, vol. 73. [Boston:] Massachusetts Historical Society, 1925.


 James Madison, Representation, Virginia Ratifying Convention, CHAPTER 13, Document 36, 20 June 1788, Papers 11:163. It is available on line:


 Thomas Jefferson, Jefferson's Literary Commonplace Book: The Papers of Thomas Jefferson Second Series, Princeton University press, 1989.


 Dave Wang, From Confucius to the Great Wall: Chinese Cultural Influence on Colonial North America, Asia Japan Journal, 10the Anniversary Special Issue, March, 2011, Asia Japan Research Center, Kokushikan University, pp.117-125; Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Chinese Civilization, Virginia Review of Asian Studies 2009. ;Exploring Benjamin Franklin’s Moral Life, Franklin Gazette, Volume. 17, No. 1, Spring 2007 .



 Franklin told Whitefield, “I am glad to hear that you have frequent opportunities of preaching among the great. If you can gain them to a good and exemplary life, wonderful changes will follow in the manners of the lower ranks; for, Ad Exemplum Regis, &c. On this principle Confucius, the famous eastern reformer, proceeded. When he saw his country sunk in vice, and wickedness of all kinds triumphant, he applied himself first to the grandees; and having by his doctrine won them to the cause of virtue, the commons followed in multitudes. The mode has a wonderful influence on mankind; and there are numbers that perhaps fear less the being in Hell, than out of the fashion. Our more western reformations began with the ignorant mob; and when numbers of them were gained, interest and party-views drew in the wise and great. Where both methods can be used, reformations are like to be more speedy. O that some method could be found to make them lasting! He that shall discover that, will, in my opinion, deserve more, ten thousand times, than the inventor of the longitude.” To George Whitefield, Philadelphia July 6, 1649. Reprinted from The Evangelical Magazine, xi (1803), 27-8; also al (fragment): American Philosophical Society. It is available on line at


 Paine was the editor of the magazine. The works were composed based on the three works written by some seamen who had been China, including A Voyage to China and the East Indies, A Voyage to Suratte and Account of the Chinese Husbandry, were "published as a unit in Swedish in 1757” In 1765 they were translated into German and into English in 1771. A. Owen Aldridge, p.34.


 The Morgan Library in New York City possesses a manuscript in Bartram's hand titled "Life and Character of the Chinese Philosopher Confucius."


 According to John Bartram, Confucius had been the greatest moral as well as practical philosopher that ever lived, and he excelled Pythagoras (570-495 BC--writer) in pursuit of religion and morals. Confucius was of the most exemplary sobriety and chastity of life, was endured with every virtue and free from every vice, and showed the greatest equableness and magnanimity of temper even under the most unworthy treatment. His whole doctrine tended to restore human nature to its original dignity and that first purity and luster which it had received from heaven and which had been sullied and corrupted. He taught as means to obtain this end to honor and fear the Lord of Heaven, to love our neighbor as ourselves, to subdue irregular passions and inclinations, to listen to reason in all things, and to do or say nothing contrary to it. He taught kings and princes to be fathers to their subjects, to love them as their children, and he taught subjects to reverence and obey their kings and governors with the honor and affection due to their parents….In short, Confucius was the original ultimate end of all things and the one supreme holy, intelligent, and invisible being.” Cited in A. Owen Aldridge, The Dragon and the Eagle: The Presence of China in the American Enlightenment, Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1993, p. 32.


 A. Owen Aldridge, p.23.


 Edwin Wolf II, James Logan, 1674-1751, Bookman Extraordinary, Philadelphia, Library Company of America, 1971, p.4.


 Owen Aldridge, American Literature: A Comparatist Approach, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982, pp.289-90.


 Jedidiah Morse, The American Universal Geography; or a View of the Present Situation of the United States and of all the Empire, Kingdoms, States, and Republics in the Known World, 2 vols. Part II. Second edition of this volume. Boston: Isaiah Thomas and Ebenezer Andrews, p.499




 A. Owen Aldridge, p.37.


 The Columbia Magazine, May 1788, 2, pp.257-263.


 According to the author, Confucius “recommended the contempt of riches and outward pomp; he endeavored to inspire magnanimity and greatness of soul” and to reclaim his countrymen from voluptuousness to reason and sobriety. “Kings were governed by his counsels, and people reverenced his as saint.” New Hampshire Magazine, vol. 2, 199-203, 1793.


 Elizabeth Drinker, Extracts from the Journal of Elizabeth Drinker, Period from 1759-1807, J. Bl Lipincott Company, 1889, p.267. It can be read online from this link


 Benjamin Franklin Autobiography. It is available on line at


In the years soon after the revolution, membership continued to expand. Members have served in all the

major offices of the United States and many state governments. Some, including Thomas Jefferson, were

alarmed at the apparent creation of a hereditary elite; membership eligibility is inherited through

primogeniture, and excludes enlisted men and in most cases militia officers, unless they were placed under

"State Line" or " Continental Line" forces for a substantial time period. Benjamin Franklin was among the

Society's earliest critics, though he would later accept its role in the Republic and join the Society under

honorary membership after the country stabilized. He voiced concerns not only about the apparent creation

of a noble order, but also the Society's use of the eagle in its emblem as evoking the traditions of heraldry.


 Benjamin Franklin, To Sarah Bache (unpublished) Passy, Jan. 26th. 1784, in The Papers of Benjamin

Franklin,.ed. by Yale University. It is also available on line at; See also, Mark Skousen, ed., The Completed

Autobiography by Benjamin Franklin, Washington DC: Regnery Publishing Inc. 2006, pp.311-312.


 Benjamin Franklin, To Madame Brillon: “The Ephemera” AL (draft): Cornell University Library; French translations: American Philosophical Society (three), Bibliothèque de la Société Eduenne, Autun, Institut de France; copy or transcript: Yale University Library; incomplete copy: Huntington Library. It is available on line at


 Thomas Paine, “Of the Old and New Testament,” The Prospect (March 31, 1804). See also Completed Writings 2, ed. Philip S. Foner (New York: Garden City Press, 1945), 805.




 Thomas Paine in 1802? Thomas Paine, The Political Works of Thomas Paine, 2 vols., [in 9 pt.], Oxford University, 1864, p.15. Paine quoted from Confucius’ following teaching maxims to Yan Yuan, one of his well-known students: "Look not at what is contrary to propriety; listen not to what is contrary to propriety; speak not what is contrary to propriety; make no movement which is contrary to propriety." (Section 12 of the Analects).


 “Thoughts on Government: Applicable to the Present State of the American Colonies; In a Letter from a Gentleman to his Friend” April, 1776.


 From John Adams, 25 December, 1813, in The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Retirement Series: Volume 7:28 November 1813 to September 1814. It is available from Google eBook.


 Benjamin Rush, Of the Mode of Education Proper in a Republic, 1798 Selected Writings 87--89, 92, 94—96. It is available on line at


 Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Volume 33: 17 February to 30 April 1801 (Princeton University Press, 2006), 148-52. It is available on line at



 King Wu of Zhou (周武王) was the first king of the Zhou Dynasty of ancient China. The chronology of his reign is generally thought to have begun around 1046 BC and ended three years later in 1043 BC.


 Sarah Schneewind, Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence and King Wu’s First Great Pronouncement, Journal of American-East Asian Relations 19 (2012) 75–91.


 Colin Wells, Thomas Jefferson's Scrapbooks: Poems of Nation, Family, and Romantic Love Collected by America's Third President, in Early American Literature, Nov2007, Vol. 42 Issue 3, p.626.


 Confucius, Analects, Chapter One.


 Dave Wang, All Posterity Will Remember My Legacy: Thomas Jefferson and a Legendary Chinese Prince, Huaren E-Magazine (Australia) September, 2008.


 The Chinese character Feng, 风 "wind” has been interpreted as “mores” or “customs. The character may also be read as "influence". This is particular the case of Confucian commentators who stress the poems' political significance. The section of the Wind of State contains 160 songs and is subdivided geographically into fifteen sections, one for each of fifteen states in ancient China. Most of them deal, however, with the lives of the common people--their work, play, festivities, joys, and hardships. The Wind of Wei (魏风)is number 10 from the "Wind of State (国风)”. This poem as metaphorical expresses the grateful sentiments of the people of Wei to Duke Hwan, who rescued them from invasion.


 Great Learning is one of the four books, including The Doctrine of the Mean, The Analects and The Mencius. They were edited by Confucius.


 Gene Allen Smith, Thomas Jefferson: Reputation and Legacy, in Journal of American History, Jun 2007, Vol. 94 Issue 1, pp.260-261.


 Joseph J. Ellis, American Creation: Triumph and Tragedies at the Founding of the Republic, Alfred Knoopf, a Division of Random House, New York, 2007, p.3.


 It is the ancient translation of the Great Learning.


 Bodlein Library, the main research library of the University of Oxford, was established in 1602.


 Sir William Jones (1746-1794) was an English scholar and the founder of the Asiatic Society.


 It is Shi Jing in Chinese phoenix, which has been translated variously as The Book of Songs, Classic of Poetry, or Book of Odes.


 Jonathon Gross, p.163. This poem is title The Odes of Wei (Prince of the Wei State). It is in the section of the Airs of the States in the Book of Ode.


 It is available at

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