Letter: ‘The Founders’ were hardly some sacred group shrouded metaphysical mantle


Mr. Barber’s and others’ use of the phrase “The Founders” is a misnomer. The Founders were a diverse and divided group, ranging from farmers to lawyers, and split mainly between Anti-Federalists, represented perhaps best by Jefferson, and Federalists, represented by Jefferson’s protege Madison, and Hamilton.

These different camps opposed, and sometimes even hated each other. Hell, they waited until the most brilliant mind in the country was across the pond before they even dared to hold a constitutional convention. If Jefferson had been present, we may have received a much different document, government, and country.

Not only were these men often divided, the apparent unities are exasperated compromises between em-battered opponents. Apart from the southern response to northern capitalist aggression (often called the Civil War), the general trend in this country has been towards centralization: even the most ardent displayers of the rebel flag are almost always also those who display a U.S. flag as well. A union or confederate soldier would have found this scenario intolerable and unimaginable. The Confederacy and the US were enemies, not friends. If two people decide not to kill each other, is that unity? I don’t think so.

We need to stop holding the Founders up as if they were some sacred group shrouded in some metaphysical mantle of being the ultimate authorities.

They were men who were born naked, reared, educated, ate, drank, smoked, burped, farted, had kids, thought, wrote, participated, and perhaps for their time, they served a purpose, then they died. Perhaps if we had known how to keep their heads animate, our ancestors could have created the Deadheads, and we could all approach with questions like ancient Greeks sought answers from oracles.

Reality is a lot more harsh, there is no guidebook, except what we have done in the past as humans (awww!). Jefferson and Madison both warned against holding too steadfastly to tradition. Jefferson wrote to Madison: “On similar ground it may be proved that no society can make a perpetual constitution, or even a perpetual law. The earth belongs always to the living generation. They may manage it then, and what proceeds from it, as they please, during their usufruct. They are masters too of their own persons, and consequently may govern them as they please [...] Every constitution, then, and every law, naturally expires at the end of 19. years. If it be enforced longer, it is an act of force and not of right.”

The so-called Greatest Generation (and people say I’m arrogant) and you Cold War folks had your chance to make the world a better place, and you have failed. Time to move over and let the living take charge.

Matthew Holmes



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Deva1961 1 year, 9 months ago

Thank you for this. Too often do we Americans think and speak of our founders as if they were godlike, infallible, and something more than human. They were indeed people, just like us. With strengths, weaknesses, brilliance and, yes, moments of foolishness. Even- gasp!- stupidity. Just like us, the inheritors of their legacy. I was born in 1961, near the tail end of the baby boom. And it's been sad for me, to witness the high hopes and aspirations, the ideals and dreams of my generation slowly fade into memory. Maybe it's just the effect of time and age, wearing us down. Making us selfish and mean. I have begun to wonder if the world my children will inherit (assuming it still exists) won't be a better place simply for being freed of us. A huge generation of selfish, angry people. (and, yes, I can already hear the outraged chorus, "speak for yourself!"...coming from the most angry and selfish among us.)