Thomas Jefferson asserted in a letter in January 1789, shortly before the government under the new Constitution was seated, "Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government; that, whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights."
There is some cause for doubt as to whether the people currently are well-informed and can be trusted to set things right.
An online poll conducted earlier this month by Harris Interactive for the Bill of Rights Institute found that on the topic of the Bill of Rights -- the first 10 amendments of the Constitution demanded by the Anti-Federalists and most states at the time of ratification -- Americans are woefully ignorant, correctly answering questions about the document only 32 percent of the time.
Most revealing is that 42 percent of Americans believe the concept of "from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs" appears in one of the nation's founding documents, usually attributed to the Bill of Rights.
It is, of course, Karl Marx's central tenet for communism.
This misapprehension revealed in the poll is jaw-dropping: 55 percent thought "education" was one of the five rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.
Meanwhile, only one in five could correctly state the 10th Amendment reserves rights to the states and the people.
This was no fluke.
In 2009, the American Revolution Center surveyed 1,000 adult Americans about the events, personalities and principles of the Revolution. Fully 89 percent gave themselves a passing grade on their knowledge of the period, but nearly 83 percent flunked.
Even given multiple choices on 27 questions, those surveyed correctly answer only 44 percent.
Asked who said "from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs," only 19 percent correctly answered Marx. Twenty-six percent failed to even venture a guess, while 21 percent said Thomas Paine, 19 percent said George Washington and 15 percent said Barack Obama.
Such surveys reveal an astounding ignorance of the founding principles and the ability of the average voter to grasp the political debate about capitalism's role in job creation.