Part I: Our Founders Would Cry
The phrase “what would the founding fathers do?” has become just as commonly used and intertwined into contexts where the justification for using it is misguided as the phrase “what would Jesus do?” Through the treatment of this expression, we can assume that those who utilize it perceive a likeness in the necessity for a prevailing influence over the country between the founding fathers and a spiritual being. Not to suggest that the two figureheads had a semblance in their physical existence and capabilities, as that would be silly, but the founding fathers appear to be treated as if they share some of the same omniscient and omni-benevolent qualities. And so, as we employ their reasoning and moral compass, it must be asked, what would the dear six (and their other often unnamed constituents, but that’s not important) think of America today?
But before we can truly answer this question, let’s quickly examine who exactly John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and George Washington were. It can go without deep clarification that they were all Caucasian and wealthy. Most were landowners, merchants or lawyers. While we like to see them as a unified mass of goodness, they had differing opinions on some issues, as exemplified by Adams not owning any slaves whereas Washington owned more than 200. But the founding fathers were certainly unified when it came to excluding slaves, Indians, indentured servants, small landowners, and women from direct protection under the newly formed constitution.
In some ways, the founding fathers may be deeply disappointed with how their children changed their intention for their country. For example, Abraham Lincoln’s decision to free the slaves if the Union prevailed over the Confederacy in the Civil War would probably make most of their stomachs curl if they only knew. Later legal action in favor of African Americans’ rights, such as Brown vs. Board of Education and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 may have disgusted them. The ideas perpetuated by Susan B. Anthony and the suffragettes probably made the founding fathers turn over in their graves. The late, but still existing, creation of the Native American Rights Fund in 1970 would likely result in panic and befuddlement, as the people they fought against for land gain any sense of empowerment. Perhaps most of all, the mere election of Barack Obama, an African American man occupying the highest position of governmental office with his African American family living in the long Caucasian-dominated White House would send them to tears.
But, thank goodness, as we wander about trying to behave politically, economically and socially in the image of our founding fathers, we haven’t completely rebelled – we may only deserve a firm spanking.