By Shelli Dawdy
This is the third and final in a series examining an article in the Lincoln Journal Star on July 4 entitled "Whose side are the Founding Fathers on?" Just click one of the titles to read the first part: "The Founding? Move Along Folks, Nothing to See There. Onward Progress!" or second part: Efforts to Muddle History of the Founding Don’t Change Its Facts.
Why so much focus on the article? GiN's primary mission is to promote a return to limited Constitutional governance as originally intended by the Founders. The LJS is a study in why a return is necessary and how we've gone so far astray.
The Declaration was the charter document in the founding of a nation the Articles of Confederation a preliminary attempt at forming a government structure. The Constitution resulted from efforts to establish a federal government with just enough power to provide for the established needs. But concerns about a federal government growing too powerful necessitated the implementation of many checks and balances.
Although there were certainly a few men among those influencing the process who wished for a powerful centralized government, such as Alexander Hamilton, that was not the prevailing wish. What the school of perpetual debate does not tell anyone is it is not that the overwhelming majority of the men influencing the whole process disagreed on bedrock ideas like the source of rights, necessity of morality or religion, the individual right to bear arms, universal condemnation of a political class, or many other things.
The debates were simply about the nuts and bolts of how to protect man's natural rights, provide for agreed upon needs, and yet prevent government from becoming so powerful as to be tyrannical.
The perpetual debaters go out of their way to vilify the Founders, because some were slaveholders, and as the author of the LJS article attempts to convey, the whole period and its resulting works are morally suspect because slavery was not abolished. Again, the author "cherry picks".
In addition to selective memory, the author contradicts himself. One the one hand he attempts to convey the notion that the Founders and the Founding were men and solutions specifically of and for their own time in history. In other words, the men and episode are irrelevant for our time. The contradiction appears, however, with the repetitive labeling of Founders as "shrewd politicians". The effort is to paint the Founders as politicians, like those familiar to us. And the impression is left that these men were actually even more distasteful than the politicians of our day because - today's politicians would never abide enslavement as government policy.
Men like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and others of the early American period were men, to be sure. They were not gods to be deified. They were not devils either. They were not politicians as we know them today. The men of early America had lives and professions entirely separate from their public service. They viewed public service as a part-timeduty to their country for which they were not even reimbursed travel or lodging expenses.
The men who participated in the Founding of America were extraordinary, not because they were gods, but because they simply were men, flawed like all others, yet they overcame their own selfishness to such an extent that over 50 of them were willing to sign their own death warrants when they put their names to the Declaration of Independence. And although many were mindful that future generations would study the period, they did not participate out of a desire for fame or fortune. The majority of those men died in obscurity, many in poverty directly as a result of their participation.
When contrasting the men of early America to today's politicians, I find it difficult to think of more than even a handful willing to put their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor on the line for something like liberty.
The efforts to tear down the Founders and the Founding are not only inaccurate, they actually threaten, if allowed to prevail, the very liberty Americans have enjoyed since the Revolutionary period. A move on, onward progress mentality has prevailed in the minds of historians, educators, and especially the political class for decades. The result is a gradual loss of some of our liberties and now truly threatens ruin to the country.
Entirely absent from the LJS article and the perpetual debaters view is a recognition of the uniqueness of the idea that it is not government which grants rights, it is God.
I, for one, cannot understand the objective of those who have an insatiable need to excise spiritual influence from the Founding of this country. Outside a desire to have no limits on one's own behavior, I cannot see what benefit it could possibly provide anyone. Even those Founders, referenced in the LJS article who were "skeptics" about faith, at least had an appreciation for it.
The fact is, those who wish to cut God's influence out of our country are doing themselves and their fellow Americans no service at all. The Declaration of Independence explicitly states:
"We are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights."
If the Creator does not endow those rights, then who does? Government? Politicians? The majority of Americans?
And as for the idea that today's politicians are morally superior simply because they would never perpetuate slavery, it is absurd. What is multi-generational welfare? A welfare plantation. What is mandating government education and prohibiting by law parental choice of schools, even if schools are failing? An education plantation. (See Linda's piece which focuses on education.) What is the result of irresponsible unsustainable spending and creating of money out of thin air, if it is not in the best case scenario, enslavement to punishing taxation and robbery through runaway inflation or at worst financial collapse?
There is a simple answer to the question posted in the LJS article's title "Whose side are the Founders on?" The Founders were most assuredly not on the side of gigantic government, a political class, elites, or big business.
They were on the side of the individual American. They wanted us to be free.