The founding fathers weren’t gods

Can we please stop putting the founding fathers on a pedestal? Half the people in this country act as if Thomas Jefferson and his cohorts were demi-gods sent here by Jesus to craft the perfect document.

Listen, I’m not going to argue that the founding fathers weren’t intelligent or that they didn’t have good intent. They were quite smart, and the government they formed was groundbreaking. But please, let’s not kid ourselves: the founders were far from perfect.

First of all, I know there are a lot of people out there who have wet dreams about the constitution, but it is not a perfect document. It never was, and it still isn’t. It’s a great document, sure. But it’s not the pinnacle of human creation, as some people like to expound. First of all, it’s been amended 27 times. Apparently the founders, in all of their wisdom, simply forgot about little things like…slavery. And letting women vote. Just slipped their perfect, visionary minds, I guess.

Which brings home the real point: although the founders were certainly biased against autocracy and created a form of government to reflect a distaste for abuse of power, the founders themselves were the ones in this country that wielded the power. The constitution was written by rich white men and designed to protect the interests of rich white men. Shocking, I know, especially considering that the “right to vote” isn’t even explicitly mentioned in the constitution, and that you couldn’t even vote at all unless you were a white, land-owning male until 1820. Oh, and did you know that US senators weren’t elected by popular vote until the 17th amendment was enacted in 1912? Hitherto the senators you sent to DC were elected by the state legislature. Representative democracy indeed.

Do not misunderstand me. I love this country and I love the freedoms afforded to me here. I just get sick and tired of all of this blind, irreverent worship of the “perfection” of the founding fathers. The founders weren’t perfect and they weren’t selfless and completely virtuous. Give credit where credit is due–the founders made the country we now live in possible, but it’s the American people who have made it great.

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4 thoughts on “The founding fathers weren’t gods

  1. Of course they weren’t perfect, any one that claims perfection is seriously ill.

    I feel like the founding fathers, regardless of their lack of perfection, did the best they could in the situation they were in at the time, to lay the groundwork for a fledgling country. Yeah, the constitution needed a few amendments, probably needs a few more, but love it or hate it, this country does its best to offer us the illusion* of freedom, in a sense many the world over do not experience.

    I tell my kids a lot of things, one of the things I try to drive home is…no matter how bad you think we have it here, look around at the third world theocracies, dictatorships, and lands under the rule of those with the biggest or the most guns. Then consider yourself lucky to have been born and raised here. For all of it’s faults, and there are many, this country is in the top 5 I’d pick to live in, given the choice.

    I get where you are coming from on this one, though I must admit I haven’t seen much of anyone making the claim the founding fathers were perfect…I have seen a lot of creationist nonsense claims that this country was founded on x-ian principles, which is B.S.

    * What I mean is that no matter how much freedom you think you have, just be careful which sidewalk you spit on 🙂

    1. I definitely didn’t mean this to come off as Anti-American or Anti-FF. I love this country and I give the founders a lot of credit for helping to make it what it is.

      I see a lot of this founders-worship from pundits, politicians, and hyperconservatives, especially anytime something like gun control is being debated. “The founders were perfect and the constitution was sent to us from god and to say otherwise is unpatriotic, you commie loving abortionist” argument is a favorite rhetorical device of people who really have no argument.

  2. I agree with you Ryan. I do see a lot of constitution worship myself. And I agree, it is a good document, but not a great document. I also see it as problematic that we should still be trying to follow, to the letter, a document that is more than 200 years old. Which makes it even more surprising that people try to be so literal about 2000 year old document like the Bible. The world has changed and so at the very least to be a constitutional traditionalist like Justice Scalia and pretend like we are supposed to stick to the meaning that the founding fathers had in mind at the time it was written is just absurd. If that is the case, then the second amendment should allow only muskets and cannons. lol The founding fathers were visionaries for their time, but there is a limit to how much men or women can be advanced for the time that they lived. Lincoln abolished slavery, but he was by no means so progressive that he though black people were equal to white people in anyway. As our own morality evolves it bothers me that we continue to adhere to documents that represent a fixed point in time. Even if that document was advanced for it’s day, if we were to write a new one today I sense that it would be different document. The country is way too divided right now to make any beneficial amendments to the constitution so I fear we are stuck with it for some time.

  3. Swarn Gill, this is the second quite lucid and well thought out post I’ve seen from you this morning. You have the gift, start your own blog, I will be the first of many to read it.

    Ryan, your reply I can agree with wholeheartedly.

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