The Floundering Fathers – Part 2
When we last left our heroes, they were commenting on the role of religion in the nascent nation. The idea that the United States of America was founded on the principles of Christianity and designed to be a Christian nation is misguided. The feedback from the founders suggests a resounding answer of “no way.” For the most part, they were decent men and had a basic understanding of human rights, and understood the primary rules of social interaction (treat others the way you would like to be treated). I hesitate to call this the golden rule because that implies it was a Jesus original and humans had been dealing with each other for close to a million years before. If there was any predisposition toward any sort of dogma it would be more toward humanism than any single religion.
Myth #2 - The overriding concern of the founders in establishing the tenets of the constitution was the welfare of the common man.
Without exception, the founders were members of the elite class of the latter 18th century. The individual who was nearest to having a common pedigree was the bastard from the West Indies, Alexander Hamilton. It is somewhat ironic that his political beliefs revealed him to be the biggest snob of the lot..
What some of the more dense citizens tend to forget is that the forerunner to the United States was a series of land grants given by the British monarchy. Each of the original colonies was a boon granted to an individual favored by the king. The colonies were founded and maintained for the benefit of the elite. Those who came here yearning to be free were either out of options in their homelands or sorely disappointed by the promises of being able to control their destinies. States originated from colonies and the interests of their elite rulers. Those who today sing the praises of states' rights are merely celebrating the Faustian bargains made to establish a republic on the North American continent.
The early colonies were a diverse group of special interests who were chiefly concerned with maintaining those interests. There was no grandiose sense of individual liberty involved except the liberty of the elite to pursue their self-interests.
The Articles of Confederation and later the Constitution of the United States were nothing more than a series of compromises intended to form a national coalition of the former colonies. The southern colonies were agrarian and very labor-intensive while the northern colonies were more focused on trade and manufacturing. The southern elites had no desire to do the intensive labor themselves or spend their wealth hiring others to do the labor so the institution of slavery was established early on.
Of the 64 men regarded as the founding fathers 49 owned slaves, including 4 of the first 5 presidents. The irony of declaring all men created equal while owning humans was not completely lost on Thomas Jefferson, but he was pragmatic and adept at the required moral gymnastics.
When George III proclaimed the lands beyond the Appalachian Mountains belonged to the indigenous population and off-limits to those of European descent, many of the founders were busy securing prime real estate through agents and in secrecy. George Washington acquired much land near the Ohio valley in this manner.
James Madison did much of the writing of the constitution but he never intended it to be a permanent fixture. He and Jefferson both agreed it would need to be rewritten more than once as the nation matured. Alexander Hamilton proposed the President and Senators be lifetime appointments from among the educated elite. He withdrew the proposal knowing it would not even get out of his New York delegation.
There is no record of any of the founders espousing the selection of common men to positions of responsibility. Most colonists were illiterate and trained only as apprentices in specific trades. The founders had no intention of handing over power to them. The great unwashed only have rights today as the result of compromises made to secure ratification of 9 of the 13 colonies and the additional compromises necessary to obtain unanimity