The Founding Fathers of the United States

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Why?

No seriously, WHY? I don't get it. I don't understand the veneration and the near-holy status of the founding fathers in American culture and political discourse. It seems a quote from Jefferson or Madison or Hamilton or Washington is enough to silence any critic and can be used as a be-all-and-end-all argument in any policy debate. The intents of the framers seems to enjoy a status that I can only compare to religious authority in the eyes of many Americans(or at least politicians, pundits, members of the media, and more than a few people I've talked to myself), and like religious authority it seems the intents of the framers can support any given position a person can want. The Federalist Papers almost seem like a holy book for some people; a book of unattainable knowledge handed down by greater men from a greater time meant to guide us lowly mortals in all things stars-and-stripes.

And I Just. Don't. Get it.

As a Canadian studying and living in the United States it absolutely baffles me, and I need someone to explain it to me. Please. It's driving me a little bit insane.

MoNKeyYy:
Why?

No seriously, WHY? I don't get it. I don't understand the veneration and the near-holy status of the founding fathers in American culture and political discourse. It seems a quote from Jefferson or Madison or Hamilton or Washington is enough to silence any critic and can be used as a be-all-and-end-all argument in any policy debate. The intents of the framers seems to enjoy a status that I can only compare to religious authority in the eyes of many Americans(or at least politicians, pundits, members of the media, and more than a few people I've talked to myself), and like religious authority it seems the intents of the framers can support any given position a person can want. The Federalist Papers almost seem like a holy book for some people; a book of unattainable knowledge handed down by greater men from a greater time meant to guide us lowly mortals in all things stars-and-stripes.

And I Just. Don't. Get it.

As a Canadian studying and living in the United States it absolutely baffles me, and I need someone to explain it to me. Please. It's driving me a little bit insane.

Well, a part of the reason comes from who they were, at least in American eyes. Since the same people who agitated for independence, and who formed much of the leadership during the revolutionary war were the same ones who created our more enduring governmental system (the first one didn't do so well, but few Americans seem to even realize that it even existed), they get a great deal of mythical status from all three things.

However, it appears to me that in more recent generations, they have become essentially an "appeal to authority" form of debating fallacy. Historically speaking, we've always kind of done that, but as the divisions between political groups and ideologies have grown deeper, the appeals to the "authorities" on the subject of the constitution have become more strident and more of a "This PROVES that I'm right and you're wrong" kind of debate.

It also doesn't help that American law is based upon precedent. So culturally, we have ingrained into our system a way looking back at how the law was applied before. You can't get any before the original constitution interpretations made by these guys, so there is that as well.

And finally, some groups have cultivated the concept of the "Founding Fathers" in their more mythical aspects, bevause it fits that groups viewpoint on how the world works. For example, there is this image: (I am not sure how to imbed, sorry)

http://lucien0maverick.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/one-nation-under-god-painting.jpg

The idea that God gave us our governmental system means that the Founding Fathers essentially become prophets or saints in that particular worldview.

At least that is what I've drawn from my own studies. Others may, and probably do, have a different perspective.

Many young nations hold their founders in very high regard. It'd be pretty bad form to insult the Ataturk when you're in Turkey or Ho Chi Minh while you're in Vietnam, for example. The Founding Fathers established an enduring government that is more or less in place today (setting aside changes in judicial activism and executive power) so in this case the average citizen can directly appreciate the founders' "contribution" to society (instead of them just being some obscure historical figures). Also it helps that overall the ones that are remembered today aren't blatantly awful in any way, which makes it easier for people to worship them.

I find it interesting that people treat the Founding Fathers as an ideological homogeneous body when in reality people like John Adams and Thomas Jefferson agreed on very little, but that's a different issue. Though, next time someone tells me "the Founding Fathers would have wanted this," I'm going to ask them "which ones, specifically?"

I don't have an answer because as a European I am also baffled. It reminds me of the worship of cult of personalities from the 20th century, like Lenin, Marx, Reagan, Mussolini and ancient roman emperors where they are almost deified and their words sacrosanct. They were great indeed great individuals that brought forth the French enlightenment ideas, with relatively less bloodshed and back stabbing. They have indeed earned their reputation to be admired, however hearing them being summoned constantly in rehashed rhetoric is tiresome. The society they lived in is very different from our world, and there are very few things that I would take from any of them as useful concrete advice for now.

davidmc1158:

It also doesn't help that American law is based upon precedent. So culturally, we have ingrained into our system a way looking back at how the law was applied before. You can't get any before the original constitution interpretations made by these guys, so there is that as well.

Curious, I knew about your legal system, but had not considered that it was ingrained culturally. perhaps that explains why such a modern country stubbornly refuses to remove or reform or consolidate old institutions and instead merely make new ones on top of old ones. I'd even dare to say that British bureaucracy is slimmer, albeit just as stubborn with tradition.

It's pretty amusing that Thomas Paine (one such founding father) was dead against the idea of sticking to decisions made by previous generations. He argued at length against iron-clad constitutions.

MoNKeyYy:
Why?

No seriously, WHY? I don't get it. I don't understand the veneration and the near-holy status of the founding fathers in American culture and political discourse. It seems a quote from Jefferson or Madison or Hamilton or Washington is enough to silence any critic and can be used as a be-all-and-end-all argument in any policy debate. The intents of the framers seems to enjoy a status that I can only compare to religious authority in the eyes of many Americans(or at least politicians, pundits, members of the media, and more than a few people I've talked to myself), and like religious authority it seems the intents of the framers can support any given position a person can want. The Federalist Papers almost seem like a holy book for some people; a book of unattainable knowledge handed down by greater men from a greater time meant to guide us lowly mortals in all things stars-and-stripes.

And I Just. Don't. Get it.

As a Canadian studying and living in the United States it absolutely baffles me, and I need someone to explain it to me. Please. It's driving me a little bit insane.

When the former Sovereign of the British empire including the territory which would become Canada, King George III, asked his American painter, Benjamin West, what Washington would do after winning independence. West replied, "They say he will return to his farm."

"If he does that," the incredulous monarch said, "he will be the greatest man in the world."

As far as the federalist papers are concerned, attaining the knowledge that was gathered is explainable, all one has to do is review all the civilizations and governments that have been risen and fallen over the scope of known human history and create a lessons learned plan.

Basically: you had a group of people who would have been all set to install a 'New World Monarchy'. In fact, there were lots of people who would have gladly accepted Washington as America's 'King George I'. Instead, the framers created a constitution dedicated to creating a limited government that couldn't run roughshod over its People; they installed a Bill of Rights enumerating in specificity the rights of the People.

In short: they had a chance to become the tyrants they fought against, and instead created a government 'Of the People, By the People, and For the People', rather than one that serviced the nobility exclusively (at least this is the popular interpretation of events).

So you've got these men who fought for and won freedom from the English crown, established a government distinct from what had been before; one that acknowledged the rights of citizens, stepped aside when their time came (affirming that they were not the new royalty), and that nation -founded on ideals of freedom and independence- still endures today.

Worth honoring, I'd say.

senordesol:
Basically: you had a group of people who would have been all set to install a 'New World Monarchy'. In fact, there were lots of people who would have gladly accepted Washington as America's 'King George I'. Instead, the framers created a constitution dedicated to creating a limited government that couldn't run roughshod over its People; they installed a Bill of Rights enumerating in specificity the rights of the People.

In short: they had a chance to become the tyrants they fought against, and instead created a government 'Of the People, By the People, and For the People', rather than one that serviced the nobility exclusively (at least this is the popular interpretation of events).

So you've got these men who fought for and won freedom from the English crown, established a government distinct from what had been before; one that acknowledged the rights of citizens, stepped aside when their time came (affirming that they were not the new royalty), and that nation -founded on ideals of freedom and independence- still endures today.

Worth honoring, I'd say.

The problem with this justification is that it relies on this idea that the British government at the time was an absolute monarchy in the style of Bourbon France or Tsarist Russia, when in actual fact it was a constitutional monarchy, and the principle of parliamentary sovereignty was well established by the 1770s; the supposed tyrant George III was more of a figurehead, though he did exercise more power than the current Queen. It was no liberal democracy, voting was still restricted to wealthy landowners and heavily corrupt, but the US didn't exactly use universal suffrage from day one either.

The strange thing though is that this is implicitly acknowledged when people talk about, "No taxation without representation," meaning representation in Parliament, but then they'll suddenly act as though the idea of having elected officials at all was never tried before the Founding Fathers did it.

And all that's not even getting into the fact that for all their talk about freedom and liberty, quite a few of the Founding Fathers owned slaves, something which was already illegal within Britain.

I don't get it either, and sometimes I'm not even sure people realise they're basically elevating them to deities.

You think it would be absolutely absurd to describe it as worship, but frankly that is the best way of describing it. But why? I have no idea.

DJjaffacake:
The strange thing though is that this is implicitly acknowledged when people talk about, "No taxation without representation," meaning representation in Parliament, but then they'll suddenly act as though the idea of having elected officials at all was never tried before the Founding Fathers did it.

Well, in complete honesty, at the time, the House of Lords was more important then the House of Commons, and the House of Commons at that time was very corrupt and backwards ("Rotten Burroughs" and "Pocket Burroughs" are an example of Backwardness and Corruption). It's true that they did have power, but the House of Lords was still more important (They wouldn't start loosing power to the Commons until 1832), and the King still had some authority (Especially through influencing the House of Lords).

DJjaffacake:
The problem with this justification is that it relies on this idea that the British government at the time was an absolute monarchy in the style of Bourbon France or Tsarist Russia, when in actual fact it was a constitutional monarchy, and the principle of parliamentary sovereignty was well established by the 1770s; the supposed tyrant George III was more of a figurehead, though he did exercise more power than the current Queen. It was no liberal democracy, voting was still restricted to wealthy landowners and heavily corrupt, but the US didn't exactly use universal suffrage from day one either.

The strange thing though is that this is implicitly acknowledged when people talk about, "No taxation without representation," meaning representation in Parliament, but then they'll suddenly act as though the idea of having elected officials at all was never tried before the Founding Fathers did it.

And all that's not even getting into the fact that for all their talk about freedom and liberty, quite a few of the Founding Fathers owned slaves, something which was already illegal within Britain.

Parliament by then was still wholly the nobility. Parliament wasn't really democracy by this point, but still the same as the normal states except that the nobles had a more defined reign on the King. Which meant that as far as the colonies were concerned (and remember, the colonies didn't have nobility; all the nobility were already landed and had no need to go grab land in the English colonies)

It wasn't until much, much later in England that parliament would be more than a way for the nobility to impose their will on the king.

Since I see a few people not from America posting, allow me to explain (granted most of this is filtered through the perspective of someone who spent most of their education in catholic school)

You see, Europe is a lot more... I suppose you could say "interconnected" then America. Due in part to the complexity of feudal politics it's really hard to declare any one person as the "founder" of a nation. For example, who can we -honestly- say founded England? Alfred the great? The Anglo-Saxon colonists or the Brythonic celts? The Romans? William the Conqueror? Europe is, in essence, so dependent on the history of -other- nations to tell the tale of one's own nation. The hundred years' war is just as important to France as it is to England, and from there they can learn about the Umayyad caliphate in spain, the viking age, and so on.

Growing up here in America... well, the only "social studies" or history courses I've had have always been the same. We start with the early colonies for a chapter, then onto pre-revolution and maybe the french and indian war, then spend half the book talking about the revolution and the final half about the civil war. Our geography is entirely composed of memorizing the states and we have tests on memorizing all our presidents and in which order (something I can't exactly do today, regardless) and then we move on to the next year to do it all over again.

American history is, in essence, pretty "self-centered". Sure we may be taught about our wars to take over the Philippines and some Spanish colonies but we aren't taught who was the ruler of Spain at that time or how long they had the colonies, after all the "old world" was an ocean away.

From that point on, "American History" is nearly our -only- history. We don't learn anything about Rome's great conquests, the hundred years' war, none of that. The founding fathers are then elevated to the point of being the -only- "notable" people in history. Combine that with rhymes and folk stories we learn at a young age and it's no wonder that they're such a massive part of modern american culture.

MoNKeyYy:
Why?

No seriously, WHY? I don't get it. I don't understand the veneration and the near-holy status of the founding fathers in American culture and political discourse. It seems a quote from Jefferson or Madison or Hamilton or Washington is enough to silence any critic and can be used as a be-all-and-end-all argument in any policy debate. The intents of the framers seems to enjoy a status that I can only compare to religious authority in the eyes of many Americans(or at least politicians, pundits, members of the media, and more than a few people I've talked to myself), and like religious authority it seems the intents of the framers can support any given position a person can want. The Federalist Papers almost seem like a holy book for some people; a book of unattainable knowledge handed down by greater men from a greater time meant to guide us lowly mortals in all things stars-and-stripes.

And I Just. Don't. Get it.

As a Canadian studying and living in the United States it absolutely baffles me, and I need someone to explain it to me. Please. It's driving me a little bit insane.

These were some of the smartest men of their time. Writers, inventors, men who had seen and traveled the world. They had the best education of the time. They were actually tolerant (for the time), respecting other religions. They did the impossible, turning a backwater rag tag bunch of colonies into a functioning nation.

It is rare combination of being smart, getting lucky with the war, having no really large personal or moral flaws, and being the underdogs. This all combines to create a simple narrative, the David vs. Goliath, a few men doing the impossible. If the colonies peacefully left British rule, like most of the commonwealth's former colonies, they wouldn't be talked like gods among men.

American culture, especially political culture, is grounded in ideas which were codified by the Founding Fathers. The stuff they put down to paper is the essence of what it means to be American. As much as the racist imbeciles like to claim otherwise, there is no single language, history, ethnicity, or religion which defines an American. We only have ideas put down on paper. It's funny that you say it's holy, because it's sacred in the same way that the Abrahamic religions are sacred: paper. And the thing about paper is, it doesn't go away so long as there are men to read.

Not G. Ivingname:
having no really large personal or moral flaws

Well, excepting stuff like owning slaves.

Now, you can say that they were products of their time, which they were, but then you are saying they had no unusual or uncommon moral flaws, which isn't the same thing.

Witty Name Here:
Since I see a few people not from America posting, allow me to explain (granted most of this is filtered through the perspective of someone who spent most of their education in catholic school)

You see, Europe is a lot more... I suppose you could say "interconnected" then America. Due in part to the complexity of feudal politics it's really hard to declare any one person as the "founder" of a nation. For example, who can we -honestly- say founded England? Alfred the great? The Anglo-Saxon colonists or the Brythonic celts? The Romans? William the Conqueror? Europe is, in essence, so dependent on the history of -other- nations to tell the tale of one's own nation. The hundred years' war is just as important to France as it is to England, and from there they can learn about the Umayyad caliphate in spain, the viking age, and so on.

Growing up here in America... well, the only "social studies" or history courses I've had have always been the same. We start with the early colonies for a chapter, then onto pre-revolution and maybe the french and indian war, then spend half the book talking about the revolution and the final half about the civil war. Our geography is entirely composed of memorizing the states and we have tests on memorizing all our presidents and in which order (something I can't exactly do today, regardless) and then we move on to the next year to do it all over again.

American history is, in essence, pretty "self-centered". Sure we may be taught about our wars to take over the Philippines and some Spanish colonies but we aren't taught who was the ruler of Spain at that time or how long they had the colonies, after all the "old world" was an ocean away.

From that point on, "American History" is nearly our -only- history. We don't learn anything about Rome's great conquests, the hundred years' war, none of that. The founding fathers are then elevated to the point of being the -only- "notable" people in history. Combine that with rhymes and folk stories we learn at a young age and it's no wonder that they're such a massive part of modern american culture.

This is actually a great explanation, I don't have much else to add but I think this makes great sense. Assuming of course that everyone else in the US had a similar education. What about the histories of your neighbours, like Canada and Mexico? Or is it completely US centric?

Not G. Ivingname:

MoNKeyYy:
Why?

No seriously, WHY? I don't get it. I don't understand the veneration and the near-holy status of the founding fathers in American culture and political discourse. It seems a quote from Jefferson or Madison or Hamilton or Washington is enough to silence any critic and can be used as a be-all-and-end-all argument in any policy debate. The intents of the framers seems to enjoy a status that I can only compare to religious authority in the eyes of many Americans(or at least politicians, pundits, members of the media, and more than a few people I've talked to myself), and like religious authority it seems the intents of the framers can support any given position a person can want. The Federalist Papers almost seem like a holy book for some people; a book of unattainable knowledge handed down by greater men from a greater time meant to guide us lowly mortals in all things stars-and-stripes.

And I Just. Don't. Get it.

As a Canadian studying and living in the United States it absolutely baffles me, and I need someone to explain it to me. Please. It's driving me a little bit insane.

These were some of the smartest men of their time. Writers, inventors, men who had seen and traveled the world. They had the best education of the time. They were actually tolerant (for the time), respecting other religions. They did the impossible, turning a backwater rag tag bunch of colonies into a functioning nation.

It is rare combination of being smart, getting lucky with the war, having no really large personal or moral flaws, and being the underdogs. This all combines to create a simple narrative, the David vs. Goliath, a few men doing the impossible. If the colonies peacefully left British rule, like most of the commonwealth's former colonies, they wouldn't be talked like gods among men.

I am sorry to say this but your reply seems to be a bit stained of the romanticism we are trying to question. The colonies were not a backwater rag tag bunch, many rich English men went to the colonies to establish themselves, because it was easy to own land without being a noble. Let us not forget that the revolution began not as a wish to separate from the kingdom, but rather for the English men in the Americas to have representation in the British parliament, since many had enough of the disproportioned investments of government subsidies as well as the ludicrously high tariffs. Also due to mercantilism they couldn't trade with anyone outside the empire, which is fine if you are close to Europe, but across the Atlantic made things very difficult for a population of only 2 million.

Ideally it can be said the revolution began as a request for exceptionalist policies towards the American colonies. Pragmatically a revolution against unfair economic policies. Let us not forget that the colonials saw themselves as Englishmen, and merely wanted a chance to influence policy in parliament through a representative, and not virtual representation through an unknown lord.

The whole talk of separation came later when things escalated, and it was used like a rallying cry or propaganda, the idea of tyranny was one of taxes without a say in their distribution.

As for the form of government, it was the political deas of contemporary French enlightenment thinkers that were written down.

Which is one of the reasons that the French were so eager to help, the other was of course that the French would never give up a chance to destabilize what was at the time a United Kingdom. The French helped tremendously during the birth of the US, that is way many streets are named after general Lafayette, and other French officers were offered military positions.

Mr.Mattress:

DJjaffacake:
The strange thing though is that this is implicitly acknowledged when people talk about, "No taxation without representation," meaning representation in Parliament, but then they'll suddenly act as though the idea of having elected officials at all was never tried before the Founding Fathers did it.

Well, in complete honesty, at the time, the House of Lords was more important then the House of Commons, and the House of Commons at that time was very corrupt and backwards ("Rotten Burroughs" and "Pocket Burroughs" are an example of Backwardness and Corruption). It's true that they did have power, but the House of Lords was still more important (They wouldn't start loosing power to the Commons until 1832), and the King still had some authority (Especially through influencing the House of Lords).

This is true, but like I said, the US didn't exactly come out of the gate with universal suffrage and a fully elected government: Senators were appointed, and voting, just like in Britain, was restricted to wealthy landowners, and usually just white males as well (although in fairness Britain didn't allow women to vote either). And it's not like Britain was the only place with elected officials: the concept existed even in France with the Estates-General (though they hadn't been called for over a century by the 1770s).

Xeorm:
Parliament by then was still wholly the nobility. Parliament wasn't really democracy by this point, but still the same as the normal states except that the nobles had a more defined reign on the King. Which meant that as far as the colonies were concerned (and remember, the colonies didn't have nobility; all the nobility were already landed and had no need to go grab land in the English colonies)

It wasn't until much, much later in England that parliament would be more than a way for the nobility to impose their will on the king.

That's only half true. The House of Commons, by definition, was not made up of nobles, though in fairness the majority of power did rest with the House of Lords. But my point was not that Britain was a democracy (because it wasn't, and neither was the USA of the time), but that it was not the autocracy that is required for the, "we revere them because they didn't create an absolute monarchy," justification to make sense. What they set up was in effect a noble republic, except membership in the political class was defined by wealth rather than lineage, and several noble republics (Poland-Lithuania, Venice, Genoa) already existed.

thaluikhain:

Not G. Ivingname:
having no really large personal or moral flaws

Well, excepting stuff like owning slaves.

Now, you can say that they were products of their time, which they were, but then you are saying they had no unusual or uncommon moral flaws, which isn't the same thing.

Are you suggesting their is an objective morality set down beyond that which we arbitrarily have decided is good and bad in the world? Unless we say 'slavery is bad', it's not bad. Nothing is bad or good unless we decide it is.

Anyway, mostly because they're largely made up of intelligent, charismatic men who did have interesting lives, even beyond the myths. For the time what they created was a democratic republic. And while you can say property requirements were a thing, I'd point out that the property requirements in America were not the same as in England, since in England most land was held by the rich or the noble. In America almost everyone outside of the city could fulfill the property requirements due to how land was distributed.

And, probably, because they were actual statesmen and philosophers and idealist. They were educated in something other then being a lawyer. Many of them were also lawyers, but the meaning of that word has changed over the years. Being able to read was the main requirement for being a lawyer, and being able to speak well was the essence of being a good lawyer, rather then devoting your life to legal studies.

Compare them to modern politicians and you might understand why people look to the founding fathers like they do.

Bentusi16:

thaluikhain:

Not G. Ivingname:
having no really large personal or moral flaws

Well, excepting stuff like owning slaves.

Now, you can say that they were products of their time, which they were, but then you are saying they had no unusual or uncommon moral flaws, which isn't the same thing.

Are you suggesting their is an objective morality set down beyond that which we arbitrarily have decided is good and bad in the world? Unless we say 'slavery is bad', it's not bad. Nothing is bad or good unless we decide it is.

Of course, we can only judge by either our current standards, or perhaps theirs.

But, well, we have decided that slavery is bad. To say that slave owners are moral is therefore wrong, given that premise.

Bentusi16:

Are you suggesting their is an objective morality set down beyond that which we arbitrarily have decided is good and bad in the world? Unless we say 'slavery is bad', it's not bad. Nothing is bad or good unless we decide it is.

I think everybody here is in agreement about slavery, though, wouldn't you say?

thaluikhain:

Now, you can say that they were products of their time, which they were, but then you are saying they had no unusual or uncommon moral flaws, which isn't the same thing.

Agreed. As for being products of their time, so was John Adams, who refused to own slaves on principle. Slave-owning was not so taken for granted that people simply couldn't think about it and come to the decision that it was wrong. Many did just that.

thaluikhain:

Bentusi16:

thaluikhain:

Well, excepting stuff like owning slaves.

Now, you can say that they were products of their time, which they were, but then you are saying they had no unusual or uncommon moral flaws, which isn't the same thing.

Are you suggesting their is an objective morality set down beyond that which we arbitrarily have decided is good and bad in the world? Unless we say 'slavery is bad', it's not bad. Nothing is bad or good unless we decide it is.

Of course, we can only judge by either our current standards, or perhaps theirs.

But, well, we have decided that slavery is bad. To say that slave owners are moral is therefore wrong, given that premise.

I agree with you. But with a caveat or at least a 'but'.

When people try to dismiss the founding fathers contributions, they usually jump to 'oh, they owned slaves, therefore everything they did was invalid', which to me is a bullshit arguement. No one is perfectly moral. Do certain moral actions have more weight then others? I think so, yes. So while Slavery is very bad, morally speaking, I refuse to accept the premise that someones morality negates the nature of their ideals.

We just have to keep in mind that they were fallible and by standards of the modern time immoral, but by standards of their own time they were mostly moral and also immoral. No one exist purely in a state of positive morality.

Bentusi16:
I agree with you. But with a caveat or at least a 'but'.

When people try to dismiss the founding fathers contributions, they usually jump to 'oh, they owned slaves, therefore everything they did was invalid', which to me is a bullshit arguement. No one is perfectly moral. Do certain moral actions have more weight then others? I think so, yes. So while Slavery is very bad, morally speaking, I refuse to accept the premise that someones morality negates the nature of their ideals.

We just have to keep in mind that they were fallible and by standards of the modern time immoral, but by standards of their own time they were mostly moral and also immoral. No one exist purely in a state of positive morality.

Oh, certainly, yes, if we are to dismiss people's work because they weren't perfect, we'd have to dismiss everyone. If they were, on the whole, an improvement, than that's an achievement.

However, we should still be aware of those issues.

Bentusi16:

thaluikhain:

Bentusi16:

Are you suggesting their is an objective morality set down beyond that which we arbitrarily have decided is good and bad in the world? Unless we say 'slavery is bad', it's not bad. Nothing is bad or good unless we decide it is.

Of course, we can only judge by either our current standards, or perhaps theirs.

But, well, we have decided that slavery is bad. To say that slave owners are moral is therefore wrong, given that premise.

I agree with you. But with a caveat or at least a 'but'.

When people try to dismiss the founding fathers contributions, they usually jump to 'oh, they owned slaves, therefore everything they did was invalid', which to me is a bullshit arguement. No one is perfectly moral. Do certain moral actions have more weight then others? I think so, yes. So while Slavery is very bad, morally speaking, I refuse to accept the premise that someones morality negates the nature of their ideals.

We just have to keep in mind that they were fallible and by standards of the modern time immoral, but by standards of their own time they were mostly moral and also immoral. No one exist purely in a state of positive morality.

In and of itself, a failing in one regard does not undo the good done elsewhere. Newton's personal failings do not stop him being a genius, Gandhi's documented racism does not stop him being an inspiring activist and peaceful advocate.

However, if your failings directly contradict your ideals, whilst it is a fallacy to reject the sense of the ideals it must colour the perception of the man. It is one thing not to conform to our morality, another not to conform to your own. And saying 'All men are created equal' - except for black guys who it is fine to treat as property, is hypocritical.

Yes, it should not negate the value of the ideals. Ideals should stand on their own merits, not on the merits of the people who propose them. But at the least it should serve to remind people that these guys where just men, not saints.

O maestre:

This is actually a great explanation, I don't have much else to add but I think this makes great sense. Assuming of course that everyone else in the US had a similar education. What about the histories of your neighbours, like Canada and Mexico? Or is it completely US centric?

Me personally, I was taught nothing about Canada or Mexico, and I live only a few miles from Canada. My history lessons were basically split 40% US history (well, until WW2 where it kinda became generic world history with US as a focal point), 40% ancient history (Greece, Rome, Egypt), and 20% everything else (with the 20% mostly focusing on forms of governing, science, and agriculture rather than politics). Crusades, 100 year war, and Charlemagne is all that I know about Medieval political history. Hell, I didn't even know Burgundy or Bohemia existed until I started playing Europa Universalis.

ClockworkPenguin:

Bentusi16:

thaluikhain:

Of course, we can only judge by either our current standards, or perhaps theirs.

But, well, we have decided that slavery is bad. To say that slave owners are moral is therefore wrong, given that premise.

I agree with you. But with a caveat or at least a 'but'.

When people try to dismiss the founding fathers contributions, they usually jump to 'oh, they owned slaves, therefore everything they did was invalid', which to me is a bullshit arguement. No one is perfectly moral. Do certain moral actions have more weight then others? I think so, yes. So while Slavery is very bad, morally speaking, I refuse to accept the premise that someones morality negates the nature of their ideals.

We just have to keep in mind that they were fallible and by standards of the modern time immoral, but by standards of their own time they were mostly moral and also immoral. No one exist purely in a state of positive morality.

In and of itself, a failing in one regard does not undo the good done elsewhere. Newton's personal failings do not stop him being a genius, Gandhi's documented racism does not stop him being an inspiring activist and peaceful advocate.

However, if your failings directly contradict your ideals, whilst it is a fallacy to reject the sense of the ideals it must colour the perception of the man. It is one thing not to conform to our morality, another not to conform to your own. And saying 'All men are created equal' - except for black guys who it is fine to treat as property, is hypocritical.

Yes, it should not negate the value of the ideals. Ideals should stand on their own merits, not on the merits of the people who propose them. But at the least it should serve to remind people that these guys where just men, not saints.

True, but you also have to factor in that slavery was not based on racism, but economic need. It's cold, but that's the truth of it. THey didn't show up and go "Oh look, black people, we hate them, let's make them slaves". They showed up and said "Oh look, we have massive farms that need labors and improvement in living conditions in England have stopped the indentured servant flow that would be necessary to farm them".

They were still massive racist, but racism was not the REASON slavery became a thing, it helped enable it.

At the time of the signing of the constitution, they needed slaves to be economically viable, at least in the south, which lacked the timber industry that was fueling the Norths economy. Inevitably slavery became obsolete and failed anyway when Egyptian cotton sprung up.

And Jefferson, despite owning slaves, pushed for damning language in the original signing of the declaration of independence re: slavery in the british empire. http://abolition.nypl.org/print/us_constitution/

Basically there's a lot of factors you have to deal with when examining people, instead of trying to draw them down to charictures, which I think is what happens on both sides.

Bentusi16:
True, but you also have to factor in that slavery was not based on racism, but economic need. It's cold, but that's the truth of it. THey didn't show up and go "Oh look, black people, we hate them, let's make them slaves". They showed up and said "Oh look, we have massive farms that need labors and improvement in living conditions in England have stopped the indentured servant flow that would be necessary to farm them".

They were still massive racist, but racism was not the REASON slavery became a thing, it helped enable it.

At the time of the signing of the constitution, they needed slaves to be economically viable, at least in the south, which lacked the timber industry that was fueling the Norths economy. Inevitably slavery became obsolete and failed anyway when Egyptian cotton sprung up.

And Jefferson, despite owning slaves, pushed for damning language in the original signing of the declaration of independence re: slavery in the british empire. http://abolition.nypl.org/print/us_constitution/

Basically there's a lot of factors you have to deal with when examining people, instead of trying to draw them down to charictures, which I think is what happens on both sides.

I don't really see how slavery based on economic need makes it any better.

What you're saying is it wasn't racism, which would mean they hate them and just didn't care that they're slaves, but they didn't hate them and were using them as slaves for convenience, whilst spouting that all men are created equal.

Arguably, that's worse.

O maestre:

This is actually a great explanation, I don't have much else to add but I think this makes great sense. Assuming of course that everyone else in the US had a similar education. What about the histories of your neighbours, like Canada and Mexico? Or is it completely US centric?

To be honest I barely know enough as is of Mexico during... pretty much any part of American history. Heck, I only know what I do of Europe because I'm a bit of a history nerd and I play Paradox's grand strategy games constantly. Even in events that involve the U.S. interacting with non-english speaking nations, it's frequently told from the U.S. perspective. Like our invasion of Cuba to "liberate" it from Spain. During that section (it wasn't "worthy" of a whole chapter) we weren't told the political state of spain at the time, we weren't told what the cubans thought of it but we -were- shown a piece of U.S. propaganda that showed the cubans as near slaves under spanish rule and "civilized" under American "assistance". So the most we can do is just -glean- from those works what it was like.

Apparently Spain had a reputation for mistreating Cuban colonists. As for Canada, the most we ever learn about -that- seems to be how the English took it from France during the french and indian war (and even then that's only included because washington was participating in the war) and at best most books offer a paragraph on the war of 1812. Overall, our "social studies" is more on America and the groups that immigrated to America and -very- rarely do we learn about the reasons those groups immigrated unless we have a section on the gangs of intolerant nationalists/racists picking on irish and italian immigrants yet rarely do we ever learn the -reason- why those immigrants left for america under than some vaguely jingoistic claims of people wanting "freedom" without elaborating on just what that "freedom" is.

Pluvia:
I don't really see how slavery based on economic need makes it any better.

What you're saying is it wasn't racism, which would mean they hate them and just didn't care that they're slaves, but they didn't hate them and were using them as slaves for convenience, whilst spouting that all men are created equal.

Arguably, that's worse.

It wasn't convenience but necessity. They knew they'd need southern support against the British, but were aware of how deeply ingrained plantation culture was in these colonies. Mainly in South Carolina but also Virginia, which was less homogenized but the most powerful of the 13 (many prominent founders were from there,) the ruling caste were the cavaliers, landed gentry from that part of England which slips my mind now. Hence the term Old Dominion for eastern Virginia and "Old South" for the southern Atlantic seaboard. We need only look to the destruction and divisiveness of the American civil war to determine that they could not have proclaimed all men created equally without a footnote if you will.

So yes, it was evil but the lesser one.

punkrocker27:

Pluvia:
I don't really see how slavery based on economic need makes it any better.

What you're saying is it wasn't racism, which would mean they hate them and just didn't care that they're slaves, but they didn't hate them and were using them as slaves for convenience, whilst spouting that all men are created equal.

Arguably, that's worse.

It wasn't convenience but necessity. They knew they'd need southern support against the British, but were aware of how deeply ingrained plantation culture was in these colonies. Mainly in South Carolina but also Virginia, which was less homogenized but the most powerful of the 13 (many prominent founders were from there,) the ruling caste were the cavaliers, landed gentry from that part of England which slips my mind now. Hence the term Old Dominion for eastern Virginia and "Old South" for the southern Atlantic seaboard. We need only look to the destruction and divisiveness of the American civil war to determine that they could not have proclaimed all men created equally without a footnote if you will.

So yes, it was evil but the lesser one.

Still not seeing how that's lesser.

I understand the logic behind it, but the logic isn't making it lesser.

Pluvia:

punkrocker27:

Pluvia:
I don't really see how slavery based on economic need makes it any better.

What you're saying is it wasn't racism, which would mean they hate them and just didn't care that they're slaves, but they didn't hate them and were using them as slaves for convenience, whilst spouting that all men are created equal.

Arguably, that's worse.

It wasn't convenience but necessity. They knew they'd need southern support against the British, but were aware of how deeply ingrained plantation culture was in these colonies. Mainly in South Carolina but also Virginia, which was less homogenized but the most powerful of the 13 (many prominent founders were from there,) the ruling caste were the cavaliers, landed gentry from that part of England which slips my mind now. Hence the term Old Dominion for eastern Virginia and "Old South" for the southern Atlantic seaboard. We need only look to the destruction and divisiveness of the American civil war to determine that they could not have proclaimed all men created equally without a footnote if you will.

So yes, it was evil but the lesser one.

Still not seeing how that's lesser.

I understand the logic behind it, but the logic isn't making it lesser.

Yeah, I would say that an argument for slavery being "pragmatic" rather than a lesser evil.

OT: Worshiping a document that could become outdated could make a system inflexible to new needs.

I can understand the symbolic value, but I hope it's still clear that this document isn't always relevant.

A Super Brief history of Slavery in the United States:

The Slave trade was a pretty big factor in the trade triangle in the Atlantic between New World Colonies, Africa, and Europe.

I can't remember when I heard it, the first Black Slaves to make it to the colonies that would make up the original 13 Colonies that made up the USA were more or less Indentured servants. This was the status quo until the poor workers were complaining about the wages and living conditions.

The wealthy employers wanted to hinder the poor folk from working together so they made perks for the white workers. I'm sure there were discrimination, but it didn't get to the slavery we usually hear about in the text books until that point.

Move over to the invention of the Cotton gin in the mid 1800's. By this time slavery was more of a tradition then a necessity. In fact it was rather a pain as you had to be rather wealthy to own them (hence the image of the Blue Blooded plantation owners in large mansions). It was rich man's game.

Then half way through the American Civil War, Lincoln made went into motion to end Slavery. Originally he didn't care. He didn't like slavery, but he was about as racist as any other person of the era. He also had slave states fighting for the Union, so the war wasn't about that. Ending slavery eventually did end it sooner as abalitionists could feel better about the war, and many a Southern Boy ditched the army as he wasn't fighting to allow some rich man to keep property.

Oversimplified, but it works for now.

As for the Founding Fathers, what can be said that hasn't already been said?

They were flawed individuals and some of their points were hypocritical, but who isn't.

[Edit to emphases who was actually doing well for most of the Revelutionary war]
However they are remembered for the getting the US started, and for all intensive purposes, beating the biggest and greatest empire of their time. The Brittish had the best warships, the Better (actually) training for the first few years, and far greater numbers, and for a while were winning.

Had it not been for Washington's charisma and willingness to there in the trenches with his troops, the army would have fallen apart long before hand (most of the recruits would have been a motley crew at best). Add the military training by Baron von Steuben, a Prussian military leader who joined the Revolutionaries as a way to still serve militarily (he was not well liked in his homeland due to a great shame, which in that day and age probably meant homosexuality).

Add riffling in the Kentucky riffle, unconventional tactics, new (for the time) medical breakthroughs on the colonist side to battle small pox (Americans at this point were not used to it and lacked the immunity Europeans had), and good leadership and the British were defeated. The Spanish and the French eventually helped, but they had to make sure this was worth their time first (a move I'm sure both would live to regret latter).

As for King George III, how much authority DID he have at that time? I know it wasn't absolute, but was it like with the Emperor of Japan where he was basically an figure head and religious symbol while the Shogan was the real power for centuries?

Frission:

OT: Worshiping a document that could become outdated could make a system inflexible to new needs.

I can understand the symbolic value, but I hope it's still clear that this document isn't always relevant.

But the genius and beauty of the Constitution can be changed to fit things.

I have no issues with the Constitution being changed, but it should be changed through the methods that were set up for it to be changed. We have many amendments already, we could use some more. My issue comes when people want to change the Constitution without going through the process of amendments.

saint of m:
snip

In actuality things are... well, a lot more complex than on the surface.

You see at the time the colonists... weren't exactly doing well. While Washington was certainly charismatic and capable of keeping his army together heck, he was even skilled at organizing retreats, as bad as that sounds someone who could lead his troops in an organized manner when they were under fire and losing definitely had some decent skill, he wasn't exactly the greatest -general- in the revolution. In fact for the most part America was losing the war until the french and spanish became involved.

What happened was America managed to secure a lasting victory against the British to get foreign support, seeing that there was a -chance- of America winning was all that Britain's rivals needed to join the side of the colonists... yet even then there was some serious issues with that. The loyalists in the colonies (who made up a rather decently large group in some places) were outraged, and several british officers who originally didn't want to fight against their kinsman took up the sword. Why? Because they saw it as a betrayal not only greater than the one the revolutionaries were committing against the motherland, but against the ideals of the revolution itself. They saw it as a "betrayal" that the protestant forces arguing for democracy would side with two catholic absolute monarchies against a kingdom that, for all it's faults, embraced some degree of democracy in the form of parliament.

As for King George III, he's certainly an interesting figure. He was relatively well liked by his subjects and certainly took some control back from parliament in favor of the monarchy, with certain stories claiming his mother on the day of his coronation gave him one piece of advice: that he should "be a true king." In fact, what helped his popularity was that parliament was woefully incompetent and corrupt at the time, to the point where before the declaration of independence was signed many of the revolutionaries were still hesitant to insult the king, they saw it mostly as parliament's idiocy and viewed themselves as still loyal to the crown by some degree.

I know in recent times he's depicted (well, if he ever IS depicted in works on the revolution) as a tea-sipping british "tyrant". Heck, he even essentially renounced his "german" heritage to declare himself 100% british on the day of his coronation, he was regarded as a man in touch with the common people and was relatively interested in things viewed as "mundane" by "high society" like farming and agriculture.

Overall, the truly ironic thing was that if the revolutionaries initial "plans" succeeded and they earned the support of the king through petitions and the like, America would probably still be subject to the crown. It could've gone down in history as the patriots "proudly winning the support of their king to curb the powers of the overly corrupt/democratic parliament"

Witty Name Here:
Snip

Concede. I never really got the "My ancestors got the shaft from a few idiots in government" lesson but the British Empire as a whole were keeping the colonist down" lesson (although I'm sure Vietnam probably saw the US as being a jerk and not 3 or 4 presidents and hundreds of generals and elected officials calling the shots either).

It should also be noted that the majority of colonists probably didn't care. I am going on the top of my head as its been a few years since I covered US history in school, but I'm guessing about 80% were neutral on the subject. The other 20% were more or less The Regulars (Those loyal to the king) and the insurgents (why the US blows stuff up every July 4th).

The fact that 13 colonies got two world super powers (granted, it was the ones that was soon to go into its own revolution and start an event that coined the term Terrorism and had its main fleet reduced to ash and wreckage on the bottom of the sea 2 centuries prior respective but powers none the less).

Basically it was the Japanese Military Vs Godzilla. Yeah they eventually win, but not before some collateral damage is done :)

Why is God always having to Save the Queen?

Every country, I'm assuming, and especially most western nations, have a few things they kind of just. . . do. You know?

the United Kingdom has their danger prone royalty, apparently pouring syrup on snow and eating it is a thing in Canada (or so the internet tells me), and the United States has the Founding Fathers. And a variety of patriotic songs that we stole from the British.

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