America is both in crisis and on trial – Were the Founding Fathers heroes or villains?

By Jarrett Stepman | The Daily Signal

Were the Founding Fathers heroes or villains?

While this dichotomy perhaps oversimplifies our attitude toward the founding generation, one would imagine that most Americans think that their country’s origin is fundamentally good.

Few political movements in the history of the United States have truly distanced themselves from the founding. Many have tried to twist and distort the founding, but almost all successful ones have at least sought to hitch their wagons to 1776.

Until now.

A growing number of young Americans are not only ambivalent, but are outright hostile, toward America’s national origin.

A recent Fox News poll illustrated this disturbing trend.

Poll respondents overwhelmingly said that the Founders were “heroes” as opposed to villains.

However, when one breaks down the numbers by age, one notices a radical, generational shift in views.

As Josh Kraushaar, a columnist for the National Journal, noted on Twitter, Americans over 45 almost universally see the Founders as heroes, and only a tiny number see them as villains.

However, nearly the same number of Americans under 45, according to the poll, see the Founders as villains as opposed to heroes.

If one wonders why there is such a ferocious effort to tear down statues and erase America’s past, that explains the phenomenon to a large extent.

Many young Americans have been marinated in a stew of a hostile version of America’s past based on the teachings of the late radical historian Howard Zinn and many others of the new left. Either that or they simply know nothing at all as civics knowledge collapses.

The result is a militant wing of young people hellbent on putting an end to America and the West.

On the other hand, you have a shrinking number of young Americans who can even articulate what it is they are trying to conserve in America. They now feel overwhelmed and pressured to go along with a ruthless cultural revolution that tolerates no dissent.

In a battle between zealots and the perhaps larger numbers of uniformed or uncommitted, bet on the zealots.

The summer of 2020, if anything, has exposed how late in the game this culture war is. These really are the times that try men’s souls.

However, as dark and foreboding as this moment may seem to patriots who still cling to the idea that America is a flawed, but ultimately great and exceptional country, it at least provides clarity.

The war on history, as I explained in my book “The War on History: The Conspiracy to Rewrite America’s Past,” is not about any particular figure or statue. Nor is it about simply correcting a past wrong to build a stronger future.

No, it’s about toppling the foundation of this country. It’s about sweeping away America’s past, both its institutions and culture, in an effort to begin again at year zero.

In his famed first inaugural address in 1801, Thomas Jefferson spoke to a nation deeply divided, where one political “party”—or “faction,” really—replaced another.

Jefferson calmed the country by noting that “we are all republicans, we are all federalists,” the two political sides of that time.

He said that while there were serious disagreements over the issues of the day, most Americans were committed to republican self-government, the principles of 1776.

Now, Jefferson may have harbored deep suspicions that his opponents were closet monarchists, but his statement hit the mark. Certainly, he was right that “every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle,” and that attachment to the principles of the founding remained strong, no matter how they were interpreted.

Can we say that today?

On this issue, like no other, a line must be drawn.

America is more diverse today—by ethnicity, race, and religion—than it has ever been. If the once nearly universal attachment to our history and ideals—the very reason for America’s being—comes undone, it will be impossible to hold onto the concept of e pluribus unum, or “out of many, one.”

Our history, the good and the bad, binds us together. Our attachment to the founding gives us unity of purpose, despite the country’s remarkable diversity.

Not only that, but the ideas attached to that founding, even if not always adhered to, have given us the remarkable ability to correct wrongs and stand strong in the face of great evils at home and abroad.

The American way of life bends toward justice because we have a just system.

So, it is essential right now for Americans to stand fast in the face of this looming revolution that would ultimately deliver us into tyranny. We need to better prepare and inform ourselves so that we may explain our reason for being in debates with our fellow citizens as long as debate and dissent are still allowed and protected.

For those looking for better ways to defend the founding, an excellent source of material is a new book, “America on Trial: A Defense of the Founding” by Robert R. Reilly.

Reilly deftly defends the very essence of what America was built on from critics on the left who are dedicated to its destruction, and even from some on the right who are misguided in thinking that the radicalism of today stems from 1776.

He asks rhetorically in his introduction whether “America was founded on basic principles that are true and just—ones that we can unqualifiedly support—or whether the republic was based on ideas that are false and unavoidably lead to corporate and individual evil.”

The left increasingly answers that question with “no.” Those who disagree are quickly being canceled.

Following the flawed logic and history of The New York Times’ so-called 1619 Project, they ultimately conclude that America’s essence is slavery and white supremacy. To be a good person—an “anti-racist” as they define it—is to be against America.

Is that what most Americans now believe? If so, and if that trend continues, there will ultimately be no America and certainly no Constitution to fall back on.

Reilly counters that line of thought and provides a superb foundation for arguing why America is an inherently good and successful country, a culmination of the best ideas in Western thought materialized in a society most capable of embracing them.

He concludes that America has gone astray because it has “not remained true to the Founding.”

“The Founding is not the problem; it’s the solution,” Reilly wrote. “We had best return to its principles before it’s too late.”

That’s what Americans need right now.

Americans must recommit to understanding our history and origins. And more than that, we must be brave and willing to stand up for it in the face of powerful cultural headwinds.

Abraham Lincoln once said that “right makes might,” that the justice and truth of a cause gives it power.

The mobs burning our cities are attempting to impose their will on Americans by force as many of our leaders shamefully stand by and watch, or even join in the anarchy.

But these people still do not speak for the majority, nor do they provide a healthy way to make America a stronger or more just society.

They stand for antipathy, destruction, and mobocracy, not hope or unity or a better future.

Again, this must be a moment of clarity. Will Americans still embrace that light in the darkness in the face of critics at home and the challenge of a rising superpower across the Pacific, or will we fade into the long night of history as our country and the world plunges into a new dark age?

These are not the days for sunshine patriots.

We have hard work and troubled times ahead.

Many will shrink in the face of ruthless “woke” mobs, empowered by the steady drumbeat of support coming from America’s elite cultural institutions.

Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered, as a great American pamphleteer once said.

What we do and what we say now may very well determine whether 1776, and the great country we’ve inherited, stands or falls.

Image courtesy of Public domain

8 thoughts on “America is both in crisis and on trial – Were the Founding Fathers heroes or villains?

  1. Our founding fathers were not perfect, and if these liberal fools believe that they
    are the answer for this country …… boy are they wrong !!

    Let’s go back in time 100 or 200 years and see what these liberal fools would do,
    they wouldn’t last a day or within days they would either be dead or curled up,
    whimpering slugs………………….they surely wouldn’t get away with this nonesense.

    We have a history some of it good and some of it not so good, history is history and
    I can’t wait to see how these liberal fools are portrayed ” Marvel Comic” comes to

    Wake up people………..

  2. I think sometimes it’s the most obvious things that people don’t see.
    Have you ever imagined yourself in their shoes?

    One of my most prized posessions is my old green well worn book of Thomas Jefferson’s letters- published in 1956.
    All you have to do is read this book to put yourself in their place and a whole lot makes sense.
    These people were writing letters that could take a month to get somewhere. They might not have even gotten there.
    They didn’t know what was going on a mile up the road.
    They were writing letters and chewing over what was to be the details of our government- by writing letters!
    Can you even imagine doing such a mountain of a task like this?
    Imagine the traveling alone, how hard that was. Imagine that you just knew who you knew back then.
    The world and all the people in it were not at their fingertips.
    Why on earth are we judging these people by todays standards?
    Just getting food and clothes washed was a major task alone!!

    How about we cut these people some slack?

  3. Let’s consider the academic schedules of many, if not most, of the nation’s public school systems to seek the source for the prevailing absence of understanding of local and state governance in our country today. When our “educators” decided some fifty or so years ago to drop the teaching of history, predominantly American History, and courses which used to be called “civics” from the
    pedagogy agendas of their instructional systems, several generations of students have been deprived of the rights to study and understand how government is widely practiced in a democracy such as that which exists in our country. Certainly there are shortcomings in the day-to-day exercise
    of laws in any society, but by in large, those existing in our society have met the test of time and are
    superior overall to those adopted by the majority governments worldwide.

    Many of our “under 45 year old’s” simply don’t have any comprehension of what it takes to operate complicated systems of law and justice and just assume that if it sometimes it doesn’t work to their particular liking, it is inherently unjustified and should be immediately reversed or, all too often, trashed. That is likely to be the result of an education system which has neglected to provide a proper understanding of the very complicated workings any governmental organization including the proper means by which the deficiencies and imperfections in their operation may be appropriately addressed and, when necessary, modified.

    If we are to successfully address the use of thuggery by either those who oppose existing law and
    how it is maintained or by those who represent the existing government itself, then we must learn
    how to approach and utilize the means which the Founding Fathers wisely provided when they organized our governing institutions well over 300 years ago. And if, because of the lack of offering instruction to K-12 students in the last some fifty years as to how and why our historic governing systems were developed, it should be of no surprise that citizens who are broadly identified as being under 45 years of age are taking to the streets and are using brute force (burning and destroying property and beating and killing those with whom they disagree including law enforcement representatives) to change the direction of our guidelines and rules of law.

    Not entirely, but to some very substantial degree, we can lay at the feet of those who modified the educational agendas and practices of recent years for a broad roster of serious governmental problems with which we are necessarily contending today.

  4. As has been stated many times, our form of government while not perfect is the best one out there. These nea sayers should be forced to spend a year at places like Cuba, Venezuela, and China. Once there, they can get on their soap boxes and harang to their heart’s content. Next thing they know, they’ll be rewarded by receiving free room and board at one of the state’s penal colonies. If these folks have a problem, run for office and work within the system. Elections have consequences.

  5. The problem isn’t about the founders being villains or not, which they most certainly were not.
    Its about a education system that has taught the Hate America first and foremost.
    Resent arrest records of the rioters in Portland Or confirmed that showing 13 of twenty arrested
    were public school teachers who apparently never learned history themselves..
    Had they done a little studying they would know there wouldn’t have been black slaves available
    had not their black brethren sold them into slavery.. there is you villains you militant antifa and blm’ers.. if you hate America so much MOVE, your allowed to do that in a free country made possible by our founders.

  6. Were the Founding Fathers heroes or villains?

    Answer: They were neither. They were both. And to discuss this further, in the detail and complexity worthy of the subject matter, is to require more time and consideration than most readers will likely care to invest at this time.

    One thing is certain. The Founders were individuals who accepted responsibility for their actions. In all other aspects, they were different from one another, each marching to the beat of their own drummer. Sometimes in unison. Sometimes not so much.

    The Founders weren’t alone, they were not the proverbial flash in the pan implied by this article. They were products of ‘The Enlightenment’…. the ‘Age of Reason’. They considered the ideas of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle from 5 and 4 BC. They considered the Magna Carta from 1215 AD (or CE). They considered the philosophies of John Locke, Immanuel Kant, Jean-Jac Rousseau, David Hume, and many others, including some few of you would ever consider.

    It was William Bradford, for example, who along with the other elders of the Plymouth Plantation, created the first instance of universal ‘private property’ out of the failing commonwealth known as the Mayflower Compact… a change, in 1623, that saved them from ‘a starving time’.

    It was Canassatego (c. 1684–1750), leader of the Onondaga nation who became a prominent diplomat and spokesman of the Iroquois Confederacy in the 1740s. … best known for a speech he gave at the 1744 Treaty of Lancaster, where he gave Benjamin Franklin the idea for the colonies to emulate the Iroquois by forming a similar confederacy.

    It was Mum Bett, a slave who successfully sued for her freedom in the Massachusetts courts several years before the Founders ratified the U.S. Constitution.

    Yes, America is both in crisis and on trial. It always has been so. It always will be so. And yes, most certainly, what we do and what we say now will determine whether the great country we’ve inherited, and that our children will inherit, stands or falls. It’s up to us now. Today, we are The Founders.

    • Yep. The idea that any one person or arbitrary group of people must be either living saints or demons sent from hell is idiotic.

      As I often like to say: “America is the worst country on the planet. Except for pretty much all of the others.”

      I don’t see people strapping tires together into makeshift rafts and trying to float their way into, say, Burkina Faso or Myanmar. So we’re clearly doing something right.

      Things can always be better. There’s always room for improvement. But they can more easily get a hell of a lot worse.

      For instance, people in Russia in 1917 were tricked into believing that getting rid of the Czar would usher in a utopia. What followed was the worst bloodbath of the 20th century. And it did nothing to improve anyone’s life save a few at the top of the food chain.

      Abolishing the Federal Reserve is step one if we want to get back to something approximating sanity. Practically any other movement at the local, state or federal level is doomed to failure.

      • I suggest that School Choice is the required tangible next step. Parents and their children have to learn that learning is up to them – not the government. All the other stuff will fall into place once the electorate is truly educated.

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