Part I: Our Founders Would Cry


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. 


3 responses to “Part I: Our Founders Would Cry

  1. Yes, we all see life through our own cultural and experiential bias.

    [This comment was edited because the content was off topic]

  2. Good article. Very few delve into the details of the ruling class before the country was born.

    It seems that during the time, before the Revolution, the ruling class was propped-up and protected by the English. Once the American, colonial ruling class got tired of taxation without representation, they incited a rebellion. Thousands of non-land owning colonists were enlisted to fight the ruling class’s war for their financial and governance independence from the English crown. So, it seems that basically, the colonial ruling class, warts and all, became what we know as the founding fathers.

    I agree with you that they, the colonial ruling class of the revolution, did not envision what America would become, and certainly, they would not have wanted a black man acting in their stead. Several of the colonial ruling class had black slaves and never had a notion of them ever being anything but slaves, never to be heard on matters of state.

    Anyway great article, you shined some light on a crevice of “American History” that most want to conveniently forget.

  3. It seems like the treatment of minorities in almost all cultures is disadvantaged. I’m not sure if it is fear of a balance of power or just the need to establish oneself at the top of the pecking order. However, women are not a minority and yet they have had to fight for rights given over to the white male automatically.
    Our founding fathers were pretty good at writing a constitution, but they had a power structure in mind that would benefit them and keep others in a position to serve their needs with very little say in the laws and direction of the country or their own lives.

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