May 3, 2012

Off Topic: The Diverse Visions of the Founding Fathers.

I keep coming across this phrase again and again, "The one true vision of the Founding Fathers". This is a phrase, I would argue, which has only one proper response. That response being the sort of BLEEPing noise one hears on game shows when a contestant gives a wrong answer to a question, or if on Jeopardy! the wrong question to the answer.

Why is this one might ask? Well, basically because the very idea that there was one, and only one, unified vision that the Founding Fathers had for America, is fundamentally flawed. The Founding Fathers, I would like to point out, were rarely of one mind and disagreed frequently. Their political (and religioius) beliefs were as diverse as the Founding Fathers themselves

Some of the founding fathers owned slaves, others were abolitionists. Some thought a weak central government was best, others thought a stronger federal government was needed to rule over the states. Some were atheists, diests, and agnotics, others were deeply religious. Some believed that a bill of rights would be unnecessary, but we ended up with one anyways

Furthermore, the Founding Fathers were not even of one mind over how the Constitution itself should be interpreted. Some, like Thomas Jefferson believed that the government had no powers other than what were explicitely granted by the Constitution, others believed a looser interpretation would be necessary in order to practically run a country.

If there was one value that the Founding Fathers agreed on, it was the importance compromise. You read that right, the Founding Fathers were big fans of coming together, in spite of their differences of opinion and negotiating untill a compromise could be reached. One needs to look no further than the U.S. Constitution to see this. The most obvious would be the Great Compromise, which divides Congress up into the Senate and House of Representatives. The other well known compromise would be the 3/5ths compromise, which also serves as an awkward acknowldgment of the existence of slavery.

If there is one value that has been lost in modern politics, it is the importance of compromise and negotiation. What makes this even more interesting (and ironic) is the fact that amongst many of todays politicians, those who cry the loudest about being true to the vision of the Founding Fathers, are also those who have become the most intractable.

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