Essay: Wisdom of the Founders


We are facing a crucial period in American history, not that such things weren’t faced before.
We are for at least the third time facing economic ruin, but as if that wasn’t enough our federal government is breaking the rules in separation of powers that was limited by the Constitution, a document of government law that was not created overnight. Those we elected have continually, in various degrees, continue to ignore the limited government articles of the Constitution of the United States. Those we elected are more concerned with politicking rather than being statesmen and stateswomen after winning the majority vote. Elections have become a circus side show as to who can think up or invent as much crap they can heap upon the character of their opponent; and too often elements of it or all of it is true. 

Yet, despite the continual breakdown of our basic rights within government and natural law, we have lost most of our property rights, much of our freedom of choice and respect for rule of law and government itself. Those that we choose to elect to operate our government is not entirely to blame, for it was the people who put them there, with the help of media manipulation and citizens allowing themselves to be duped to the point that some Americans won’t even exercise the sacred right to vote because they feel “all politicians are crooked”. Once again, the gist of the problem lies in the foundation of the fact that We the People, through apathy or just plain believing lies instead of seeking truth – or blind loyalty to political entities called “parties” that are really just CMA-good old boy clubs. The cost of running for office has jumped with leaps and bounds, mostly because campaign strategies are not within the platform of “winning the hearts and minds of Americans” – but who can survive the mud slinging, controls the media, and cheats the most in various schemes during election periods. Both traditional political parties are guilty, just one has carried itself so far up the corrupted path that their agenda and platform are quite clear: remove the republican form of government (sadly a political party so named, but doesn’t live by its name) to an American style of democratic-socialism that history shows never stops there but instead continues on to pure tyranny until either there is revolution of violence or the civilization, society, and government collapse under the weight of economic ruin in providing entitlements that are not within constitutional law for a government to provide.

Politicians discovered during times of crisis that the people get desperate enough to start believing that only government can get us through the hard times. It certainly worked for FDR who began his third term as President of the United States in 1940, despite his insertion of socialist programs where the cards were stacked for the long-term benefit of the government. People were desperate enough to lose fundamental liberties in order to receive the promise of false security. Our founders have come to be looked at as wise men for their age, but nothing applies to what is happening in the present. It is as false as saying that Aristotle’s wisdom no longer matters or any of the basic foundations of classical wisdom and education be thrown out the window because they no longer apply.
Let me tell you something, the truth: No matter how technically advance any civilization becomes the basic values, wisdom, and golden rule of society still apply. I should state: should still apply.
The politicians are always seeking to remove poverty, and in the last fifty-plus years, that has been a great attraction for votes. We must always endeavor to reduce the percentage of poor in any nation, but to remove it totally is impossible. It is because some people make poor choices when it comes to their lives – they disregard the importance of education that improves their chances of securing lucrative employment. Instead of working towards goals of self improvement they continue on the path that made them poor in the first place or continues their plight generation after generation. Another aspect or part of society retains its attitude of being victims in one way or another, which is only an excuse not a solution to the problem.
Benjamin Franklin was one of the founders of our nation. He was famous mostly for his accomplishments in science and philosophy, but never had formal college education. He came from a large family that was poor, yet succeeded in life through determination, hard work and the attitude that encouraged them to be self educated through reading and the opportunity provided him to became an apprentice printer.
When in the course of political discussion, as to using the public treasury to assist the poor, Benjamin Franklin spoke of welfare by government:

I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion of the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. In my youth I traveled much, and I observed in different countries, that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves and became richer. 1

People have come to believe, thanks to those who misinterpret the Constitution for whatever reason, that the meaning of the words in the preamble: “promote the general welfare” is interpreted to mean “provide welfare”. It is obvious from Benjamin Franklin’s remarks and other founders’ philosophies that was incorporated into constitutional law, that words can be changed and thus the meaning.
A good example of misinterpretation of the Constitution and ignoring its rules of limited power of the federal government would be the recent decision regarding the so-called ObamaCarelegislation.
In the Declaration of Independence, the words are written:
. . .endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness . . .
The words “Pursuit of Happiness” have come to mean to politicians and those seeking support of other people’s money that government “guarantees happiness”. As Margaret Thatcher, prime minister of the United Kingdom stated:
The problem with socialism is that at some point you run out of other people’s money.
Guess what?
The Founders were also aware of such types of government, pitfalls when citizens do not get involved, and political philosophies because they were studied in classical education and knew the history of civilizations. They knew the pitfalls that must be avoided when operating a government, and while the government is For the People, it is not government’s job to control individual lives and especially collective lives.
When I wrote in protest of the Supreme Court decision in which the justices had pinpointed upon articles and paragraphs within the legislation to decide if parts of it (or as a whole) were unconstitutional, they overlooked an important factor:
Where in the Constitution of the United States (and its amendments) does it state or refer that the federal government has the power and authority to control the people’s health care?
Can they regulate in such a manner in order to control the entities that make up the cost of health care rise to unaffordable amounts?
Can they legislate in the special interest of insurance companies who spend millions annually on lobbying that disregards the rights and “fairness” practice of business upon the pocketbooks of the consumers?
The size and scope of government has gone well beyond its limitations prescribed, and as time goes on it will only increase to the point it collapses – and society with it because increasingly the productive citizens will “run out of money” supporting those who have decided that government should make up for any gaps in conducting the affairs of their personal business.
The Founders knew that a poor democracy would quickly lead to trouble and become a nation ruled by the mob, and that mob has increased in size to the point that over 40% of Americans do not pay their share of taxes. Many people ignore the fact that they are allowing others to pay their share to make up the difference. But on the other hand, that much taxation would not be required if the government was fiscally responsible and handled the people’s money better.
As I mentioned previously, the early Americans were no stranger to socialist type societies.
When Jamestown was established in the 1600s through the financing of investors in England who encouraged people to colonize the New World, the prime part of the regulations of the newly established community was a form of socialism. That is why it failed. When Plymouth was established, financed again by investors in London, they did the same thing, not learning from their previous mistake. But this time they had a wise governor who saw the problem and changed the rules to where each family was provided a given amount of land to work and succeed. Before it was a communal project, but the new system provided more incentive to succeed. Individuality versus collective, the latter being socialism. The families knew that they were working for themselves and must succeed or starve – but most worked hard to improve their lot in life and their family. The government in Plymouth rarely interfered.
The Founders knew and promoted general education where all citizens could have access to education, because as Thomas Jefferson put it – educated people are better citizens.
This has become a failure of government because the federal government did not leave delegation of authority for education matters to the state governments and the once successful parent-teacher relationship became a thing of the past. Part of this occurred when the trade unions controlled the teachers, the administration, and thus wrought a negative impact upon educational institutions, part of the cause of escalating cost and at the same time deescalation of standards of education. Standards set previously were deemed “unfair” by the politically correct crowd of society, whose influence, despite being a minority increased because of certain changes within the American society.
So, the United States has not only become economically bankrupt, but has also lost tried and proven values that make a society great. We can thank President Lyndon Johnson and his “Great Society” programs that inserted more socialism and nanny state policies than FDR introduced. Coinciding with loss of values was the destruction of the family nucleus, once again caused by a minority that had taken control within the government and permeated society through means of controlling the educational institutions that generations of youth would attend. The international “golden rule” and common sense began to disappear from the American scene.
Charles Beard
Too many still deny it, but by the time Charles Beard‘s edition of Economic Interpretationwas published, Marxism has worked its way from across the sea, imported by Stalin to spread communism through introduction of socialism. In that time period, Beard and others suggested:

. . .that the framers of the Constitution were motivated by their underlying economic interests. 2

These are the same people who promoted the idea that all citizens should be equal in everything, especially economically and it was “unfair” that some had more than others or could afford to have more than others; as well as painting free enterprise as something evil.
Sound familiar?
Demonizing our Founders became a pastime in the past 100 years, especially as socialism crept into our society” – George Washington being the prime target because of the reverence for him. In the next article, I will cover this topic.
Thomas Jefferson is mentioned frequently, more so than other founders because of his prolific letter writing and keeping his private library stocked with important papers, for he knew that generations later would want to know what happened before, during and after the Revolutionary War.
As remarkable a statesman as he was, in the past decade or so, Jefferson has been the target of criticism, especially since he promoted “equality” but had slaves. But this issue really bothered Jefferson, and like Washington, knew that it would be irresponsible to “free” slaves only to be cast out into an ultra prejudice society at the time. Also, women could not participate in politics therefore could not vote and their rights were not equal to their counterpart males when it came to the law. Washington and Jefferson had to fight against the mindset of society at the time. It took a Civil War before the South could no longer have slaves and it became illegal to enslave anyone. Even then, civil rights was a long road to travel to what it is today. Unfortunately, too many “black” Americans retain the victimization syndrome; but also there are more and more middle class African Americans which means more are finding how important it is to have education and maintain a responsible family nucleus. Always remember that in any society throughout human history, any nation whose family structure disintegrated along with core values was destroyed internally, before being destroyed from without.
On the positive aspect of modern historical authorship and scholarly works, studies of archived letters, diaries, and written accounts that have survived provided a more clear vision of every day life of ordinary people and could be compared to those who were famous. It demonstrated that accomplishments and historical events and actions were beyond the group of founding patriots of our early Republic. 3
While Charles Beard had criticized the Founders, he also commended them in one passage in his 1912 edition:
Never in the history of assemblies has there been a convention of men richer in political experienced and in practical knowledge, or endowed with a profounder insight into the springs of human action. 4
Recent historians have little or no respect for the Founders, one author attempted to prove that Benjamin Franklinfrequented brothels 5and Abraham Lincolnwas a closet homosexual. Another author proposed that Lincoln was either a transvestite or a bearded woman. Most disturbing to me, people actually purchase such books, not that they do not have the right to, but such literate trash should not be promoted.
Why have authors become possessed in demonizing people that founded our nation or committed great acts of various natures? That in itself seems to be a conspiracy.
Is it because that it is getting harder to find such heroes today?
Some believe that they are ushering an era where tradition, honor, and integrity are passéand do not apply to the “modern” world. I say to them: No matter how much civilization progresses in achievement and technology, the basic standards of conduct, tried and proven values, and the golden rule must always apply in order for any society to survive without becoming something to be ashamed of.
The Revolution failed to free the slaves, failed to offer full political equality to women, failed to grant citizenship to Indians, . . . failed to create an economic world in which all could compete on equal terms. 6
Yet the achievements of the founders have rarely been matched by any other generation in American or world history.
We do not need to rely upon myth and legend to realize the greatness of the founders; however, it is often conjectured that it was fate that would have them in a right time in the right place in the right climate of history – the Age of Reasonis what Thomas Paine called it, also called the Age of Enlightenmentby Europeans.
The philosophy and wisdom of the Founders, like the classical educators such as Plato, Cato, and Aristotle; and are just as important to not lose in history as some of the texts of antiquity were lost. Just as Judeo-Christian texts applies to our lives today, so does the wisdom of those of the Age of Reason and ancient cultural civilizations; not just in the western world, but the eastern world as well.
We do not need to learn Latin or classical Greek, for example, in order to enjoy and understand the writings from ages past; just as our Constitution does not require “interpretation” as to its clear meaning, but instead interpreting constitutional law within modern cases brought before the Supreme Court. Lawyers commonly do not make good statesmen or stateswomen because they are trained to find loopholes within the context of laws. In the case of the Constitution, recently those articles have been translated into something other than what the Framers clearly meant for it to mean. The Federalist Papersand Anti-Federalist Papers are helpful aids into understanding the reasoning behind constitutional law established in 1789. Also, the private letters of Thomas Jefferson, the writings of George Washington, Alexander Hamilton,James Madison, John Adams and other founders also provide an insight upon the subject.
Snyder wrote that the founders . . .

were the beneficiaries of a semi-aristocratic political system, and their extraordinary leadership was due in large measure to processes that we today would consider undemocratic and detestable. 7

But it worked, didn’t it?
Blaming the woes upon the Constitution by claiming it to be outdated is on the increase and coming from those whose political platform and agenda is democratic-socialism to replace the republic. In pure democracy, mob rule eventually turns into some form of socialism because the government becomes a nanny state promoting government welfare and control of individual lives of the people under an umbrella of collectivism that is economically unsustainable.
The rule of law is important and everyone, from the President of the United States to the local school janitor is answerable to the law. However, creating vast amounts of laws has been the practice of congressional members for mundane reasons – like someone or some organization advocating to make a law just because something irritates them, without any consideration that it might transgress another citizen’s constitutional rights and/or liberties. This is what the judiciary is supposed to do and make decisions based upon the foundations of the principles of the Constitution of the United States and its amendments.
Intellectual allies were present in the English parliament during the period of our early history and even when protests were being made against the tyranny of King George III. English statesmen like William Strahanor Edmund Burke, an Irishman who was one of the great writers, philosophers, and statesmen of his time.
Daniel Webster
The publishing companies produced books of enlightened authors, manuals on social conduct from setting a table to how to act in company. Dictionaries were compiled, and in America, Daniel Webster produced the American version of the Oxford English Dictionary. Standards of ever-changing language was set in this way.
The “dumbing down” of educational standards in today’s America has injured a generation in terms of quality education. Despite the huge amount of taxes paid for educational institutions operated by the government, the standards have depreciated to the point that we used to be the top five nations in educational excellence and we are about 25 out of 44 nations in educational standards of excellence. It is not just sad, but frightening because education leads to success through knowledge, and knowledge is power to the People.
Today, the productive and successful citizens are expected to support the unproductive and unsuccessful, and I am not referring to unemployed due to national economy. They are unemployed, as the democrat-socialists will tell you, because of greedy corporations and too many businesses moving overseas; when in fact THEY are the problem (government over regulation). Any programs that government promotes should be programs that help Americans (not illegal aliens) get a boost to improving their situations. When tragedy strikes, I have no problem helping folks get back on their feet. But there are too many who believe they are entitled to be supported by others who are successful, and they are successful because they made the right choices in life – education and hard work with viable goals. Included in that success is a sense of values that make good citizens.
Benjamin Rush
To the founders and general populace in early America – creativity, reasoning, and intellect were important, and as Benjamin Rush wrote in 1766 – useful and pleasing conversation was characteristic in Edinburgh, Scotland as it was in the American city of Philadelphia. 8

Let us abhor Superstition and Bigotry, which are the parents of Sloth and Slavery. Let us make war upon Ignorance and Barbarity of Manners. Let us invite the Arts and Sciences to reside amongst us. Let us encourage every thing which tends to exalt and embellish our Characters. And in fine, let the Love of our Country be manifested by that which is the only true manifestation of it, a patriotic soul and a public spirit. 9

The founders were sensitive towards reputation and held honor and integrity in esteem, becoming models of character for others to follow. It is no wonder why today we make think of them as demagogues, but they were merely humans who elevated themselves through formal, classical, and self-education; that we as a society today could achieve (and should expect) despite our high tech bustling world we have created.
Character and values should never be considered outdated; for that consensus will be the downfall of our society and nation.
The founders integrated themselves with society, never giving the impression they stood apart or above the world around them. They were individualists, but still remained concerned with their social identity.
People generally hid their personal feelings for the sake of civility. Thomas Jeffersonand Martha Washington, for example, destroyed their correspondence with their spouses; but Abigail Adamskept her husband’s letters that have provided a more intimate insight upon the character of the patriot.
John Adams never considered himself one of the star patriots as he thought of other patriot-founders. He asked his friend, Benjamin Rush. . .
Was there ever a Coup de théâtre that had so great an effect as Jefferson’s penmanship of the Declaration of Independence?10
George Washington
Most of the founders were college graduates who acquired a liberal arts education. Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, and Nathaniel Greene did not attend college but improved themselves with self-education. Benjamin Franklinlearned to read and write French, which helped him when he became the first ambassador of the United States to France.
Thomas Jeffersonwas different from his father who was a wealthy plantation owner, who could not read Latin, or speak/write French, and did not play the violin. Thomas’s father never questioned the idea of an established religion or the morality of owning slaves.
Aaron Burr was the odd founder in the crowd. He was a veteran of the Revolutionary War, a Princeton graduate, and wealthy aristocrat. He became a senator for New York and a Vice President of the United States. His character set him apart from his fellow founders. He was more interested in promoting his own selfish interests over the good of the people, and provoked fellow statesmen into challenging him in the form of dueling at the extreme level.
Contemporary writers paint a critical picture of all the founders, some more than others, because they did not include women in their claim of equality. The native Americans were treated harshly and the government often broke treaties made with tribes.
The founders did not accomplish all they wanted, despite the respect of the public, realizing that they could not control society or the culture behind such topics. Like leaders today, the future cannot be told with accuracy. 

Without wishing to damp the ardor of curiosity or influence the freedom of inquiry, I will hazard a prediction that, after the most industrious and impartial researchers, the longest liver of you all will find no principles, institutions or systems of education more fit in general to be transmitted to your posterity than those you have received from your ancestors.
John Adams, 1798

Today there is a growing movement to reform the present central government by returning to the principles of the republic and operate the government within the limits of the Constitution. 

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FOOTNOTES 

1 On the Price of Corn, and Management of the Poor, November 29th, 1766.
2 Charles A. Beard, An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States, 1935 edition; NY, 1986; xlvi, xliv.
3 Joseph J. Ellis, Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation; NY, 2000; p. 12.
4 Charles A. Beard, The Supreme Court and the Constitution; NJ, 1962; p. 91.
5But the fact that he had one illegitimate son is true.
6 Peter C. Mancall, Valley of Opportunity; Ithaca, 1991; p. 232.
7 Charles S. Snyder, Gentlemen Founders, University of North Carolina, 1952; pp. 120-134.
8 John Clive and Bernard Bailyn, England’s Cultural Provinces: Scotland and America; Princeton, 1974; 2:425.
9 William Livingston, Independent Reflector, Klein edition; p. 220.
10 John Adams letter to Benjamin Rush, September 30th 1805.