Monday, December 17, 2007

Defending the Founders

This is a video I put together for YouTube a while back. In light of the debate taking place in another thread here, I felt I needed to post it. In spite of their faults and shortcomings, the Founding Fathers were great men - the likes of which the United States has not seen on the national stage of leadership since. They deserve our honors and our accolades. I offer this video in their defense and in tribute to them.

If there are some here who believe I am waving the flag too much or honoring our heritage too much....I make no apology for doing so.


Brad Hart said...


I enjoyed your video and I appreciate what you bring to this blog. I think your views are based on sincere research and a desire to uncover the truth. I have to say that I agree with much of what you said in the video.

First off, you are right that the American Revolution changed the opinions of Americans in regards to the slavery issue. There is ample evidence to support this. White and black Americans signed hundereds of petitions demanding an end to slavery.

I would, however, like to respectfully disagree on a couple of points. First, I think that the Founding Fathers do deserve a measure of responsibility for not ending slavery. All of the rhetoric, protests, petitions, etc. makes it seem like the founders were incapable of practicing what they preached (with regards to slaves). Also, there is no doubt that racism was deeply rooted in the early American population. My personal opinion is that this racism was what prevented our Founders from taking REAL action. Words are nice, but actions mean more.

You are again right to point out the fact that slavery had been abolished in the territories and that the trade was soon abolished thereafter. This fact, however, does not mean that the Founding Fathers are off the hook. They still gave slavery a constitutional protection. Unfortunately, that is one ugly truth that we can't deny.

The second point I wanted to make has to do with Dr. King. It is true that he paid homage to the Founding Fathers, but your clip negates an important part of his speech. King stated that when the Founders signed the Constitution and the Dec. of Independence that they were signing a "promisary note." What he goes on to say is that when African Americans went to cash in the note, they realized that they had been given "a bad chack" and that the vaults of America (in regards to freedom for Blacks) had "insufficient funds." This is a clear truth of the Founders. Again, they gave great rhetoric, etc against slavery, but also provided "insufficient funds" for their African American citizens.

Overall, I think your video proves how much you truly appreciate the Founding Fathers. I admire you for this. Unfortunately, there are very few people in the historical community that will. You are right to give them the credit they deserve. The Founders did establish a tremendous system of government and their contributions are immeasurable. I think that the slavery issue is, and always will be, a black eye for them. The truth is that they came short of what they wanted in this regard. My guess is that even they would admit as much.

Steve Becknall said...

Interesting video. I think it takes a lot of guts to lay it all out there. Even though I disagree with a lot of what you said, I think your perspective adds some good color to this blog. It's nice to see that we are finally engaging in some good debating.

Raven said...

I'm sorry, but I think your conservative views are getting the better of you on this. You can't get around the fact that the Founding Fathers did little to end the slave trade. To say that the founders paved the road for Martin Luther King is bogus. King faced tremendous opposition, much of it stemming from the same racism of the founders, passed down from generation to generation. The founders did little to help King.

Brad Hart said...


Your comments to this blog are appreciated, but please try to not be so harsh. It is fine to disagree. I'd imagine that every one of us has a unique perspective on virtually every issue of the American Revolution. We encourage disagreement and debate. We don't, however, want to see people attacked for what they post. I believe that it was Benjamin Franklin who stated that no man on earth has a monopoly on the truth.

What will make this blog strong is if we continue to encourage an open and honest discussion, where disagreements can be stated without any fear of retaliation or personal attacks. The one thing I love most about this blog is the fact that our contributors all come from different walks of life and embrace different opinions. It makes our postings and discussions fun.

In short, PLEASE disagree but keep the negative innuendos out.

Steve Becknall said...

So I was thinking about this whole debate last night, and I have come to a conclusion that I hope makes sense.

I think it is clear that all of us respect and revere the Founding Fathers. It is also obvious that we are all very enthusiastic about this time period. I think the obvious difference in this debate centers on what level of chastisement the Founders deserve for slavery.

I was reading an old book entitled "Slavery and the Founders" and I came across some interesting quotes. Jefferson stated that "If thete is a god in heaven we must surely pay for what we've done to the Negroes." Washington called the African American race, "the grazing multitude."

There is ample evidence to suggest that the Founders were well aware that slavery was wrong. Numerous books have published a countless number of quotes that demonstrate how our Founders understood this fact. Their constitutional protection of the "peculiar institution" proves that the Founders were unable to seal the deal, or as Brad put it, "Practice what they preached."

Slavery is a dark chapter in American history, arguably the darkest of them all. I think that your deep-rooted admiration for the Founders is warranted, Brian. I feel as proud as you about our nation's heritage. Your patriotism is very appropriate. I would argue, however, that pointing out the dark truths of slavery and our Founders is not unpatriotic, but is instead a historical responsibility. We must never neglect to face some of the unsavory truths of our nation's founding.

Overall, I have to believe that we all agree on this issue more than we think. I think we all share Brian's admiration for the Founders, but at the same time, we all recognize that the Founders were far from perfect. I think that by learning of the Founders imperfections that the revolutionary story becomes even greater. These were not demigods, but imperfect men.

Brian Tubbs said...

An important clarification....

I want to say this to everyone (esp those who are more critical of the Founders)....

I accept that these men were flawed and that they (collectively) fell short.

SIDE NOTE: Several of the Founders were very outspoken against slavery and did not own slaves. I don't think you can ask much more from THOSE Founders - I'm thinking of Franklin, Hamilton, Adams (and his son, John Quincy), Benjamin Rush, etc.

Collectively, the Founding Fathers fell short. I acknowledge that.

What I get passionate about is when people like Howard Zinn and others come along and try to diminish them to the extent that they no longer hold a place of respect - respect that I think they richly deserve.

Bottom line..when it comes to the Founders, the good FAR outweighs the bad. But, I won't deny that there's "bad" there - just as there is with EVERY generation.

Brad Hart said...

I agree with you about Zinn, that guy is crap! How anyone can take that book seriously is beyond me.

I also think your point about several founders not owning slaves is very important to keep in mind.

David Mabry said...

I would still agree with John Adams and call the Convention of 1787 a collection of demigods. The fact that we recognize their flaws and discuss the role of these shortcomings on the construction of our government just makes this and other discussions more interesting.
The issue of slavery was not expected to be a topic at the Convention by any of the delegates. However, the representation debate and the struggle between the large and small states made this inevitable in a compromise debate as the large states need the southern delegation as they were easily outvoted by the small states at the Convention.
I know that I harp on the 1787 Covention quite a bit, but hey, this is where we can see the men "in action". This is also one occasion where all of these issues are being decided.
The Founders should be revered for formulating our government and achieving something no one else in the world before or since have been able to emulate. Create a government powerful enough to defend its people and their rights while at the same time not having enought power to abuse the very people it protects. I love the Constitution and the law, and therefore, the men who created it. Demigods, indeed.

David Mabry said...

Oh, about Zinn.....we do sometimes need someone out there to publish, speak and point at events, people, with their outrageous viewpoints to keep us honest. Some things must be said, even at a cost. Without people like Zinn, our discussions would not be as colorful, or perhaps as passionate.
You want a scary thought? The number of college or high school faculty that use Zinn as a class text.

Brian Tubbs said...

David, I agree with what you said about Zinn. He does add a valuable perspective to the study of history, but I find it VERY alarming that his textbook is used as a PRIMARY basis for instruction. When that happens, I find myself more in agreement with Brad's colorful description. :-)