We Could Use Some of Our Nation’s Founding Fathers Today
By Tom Anselm
Due to the opportunity of writing ‘real news’ these past few column entries, I have missed a few calendar milestones that always make for good topics. So today I hope to combine them, they being Father’s Day and Independence Day, into a coherent riff. Let us begin with the Founding Fathers.
Among the many who met to declare independence, and then subsequently write a constitution for the new country, there are seven who stand out. They were Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Jay and of course, George Washington.
Plantation owners, lawyers, inventor, banker, soldier—at least three of them held slaves. Many were college-educated, a few, such as Franklin and Washington, largely self-taught. Many were men of financial means.
One thing can be said of all of them, however. They were courageous. Those who put their names to the Declaration of Independence also put their necks literally on the line, since their signature constituted an act of treason against the King of England, against whom the war was concurrently being fought.
At the time of the signing, that war was not going all too well, the result still in the balance. Franklin urged that they “all hang together, or assuredly we will all hang separately.” Ironically, George Washington was not among the signatories, he being just a little bit busy elsewhere. He was, however, the presiding officer of the Constitutional Convention, which was formed to revise the weak Articles of Confederation, but ended up producing a new governing document altogether, complete with the first ten amendments.
Now, this is a wholly incomplete history, to be sure. It just continues to fascinate me that so many men of such incredible talents and intellect came together in a physical location and particular time to carve out what has become one of the greatest nations in the history of the world. They took on the most powerful empire at the time in Great Britain, and remarkably, beat it.
Was it because of the weariness of the English for wars abroad at the time? Was it because the Brits had poor generals, or didn’t take seriously the resolve of the rebellion? Or was it something more, something ordained by a Higher Power, one that was called on by the colonists time and again for guidance? Maybe a combination of these, and more.
Nevertheless, The United States of America was born of their efforts, and these Fathers were the prime movers and shakers in that birth.
So some 238 years later, what is to be made of that nation? Blessed with enormous natural resources, intrepid people, and a taste for freedom, we have become a world power. There were great pains involved in that becoming. This effort simply took land away from the rightful owners in the name of expansion. The nation nearly was ripped permanently apart by civil war. But it later welcomed immigrants from the Old World to the New is mass numbers.
It survived an economic depression of over a decade. It led the way in saving that Old World in two global wars, and was involved in numerous other conflicts, some arguably less noble. It became the gold standard of freedom and democracy. But sometimes I wonder, what is this nation now?
It seems that our leaders are wanting. The politicians appear to be especially duplicitous, particularly partisan, incredibly selfish, and nearly impotent in righting the wrongs of our nation. I am not naïve, and a quick review of the haggling and deal-making that went on to pass the Declaration (watch the musical “1776″) tells me that it has always been thus.
But just because this is the status quo doesn’t mean we can’t hope for someone to stand up and become the leader whom we can rally ’round. Where are the Thomas Jefferson’s, the James Madison’s, the George Washington’s of today? Will our land ever see the likes of them again?
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