The idea that our Founding Fathers may have been naive is something that never entered my head until yesterday. I had always considered our Founders to be among the most astute men to ever grace this planet we all share. They certainly understood the nature of governments. They knew that governments, by their nature would always try to expand their powers unless those powers were severely restricted by a constitution. They understood that it would be very dangerous to vest too much power in any one branch of government and so they devised a constitution that gave a balance of power to the different branches. The constitution they gave us was designed to keep the majority of power with the states and the people, while the federal government was given certain enumerated powers.
Yesterday, however, I was reading an article by Plubius Huldah, in which she was refuting the proposals of Mark Levin in his new book, The Liberty Amendments. I won’t go into her arguments against the Liberty Amendments. You can read her essay for yourself, if you are interested. What caught my eye was a couple of references in her conclusions on how Alexander Hamilton and James Madison thought those who were chosen to govern would be held to the letter of the constitution. She noted that, in Federalist No. 16, Alexander Hamilton expected The People to be “the natural guardians of the constitution”. Ms. Huldah also makes reference to what James Madison said on June 20, 1788 at the Virginia Ratifying Convention:
“…. But I go on this great republican principle, that the people will have virtue and intelligence to select men of virtue and wisdom. Is there no virtue among us? If there be not, we are in a wretched situation. No theoretical checks – no form of government can render us secure. To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people, is a chimerical idea. If there be sufficient virtue and intelligence in the community, it will be exercised in the selection of these men. So that we do not depend on their virtue, or put confidence in our rulers, but in the people who are to choose them.” _ (Bold added)
Well, putting their faith in the American electorate didn’t turn out so well, did it? As Plubius Huldah commented:
Since we never bothered to learn the Constitution, we elected politicians who also hadn’t bothered to learn it. So they ignored the Constitution when they assumed office.
This is why, after more than 100 years of electing politicians who ignore the Constitution, we are now under tyranny and headed for disaster.
So, were our Founding Fathers naive? After further thought, I conclude they were not naive. What other choice did they have but to put their faith in We The People? In hind sight, I wonder why the delegates to the constitutional convention didn’t return to their respective states and insist that the electorate be schooled on all of the founding documents: the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution. The Federalist Papers, and etc. Maybe such an effort would have carried over into our education system where the Founding Documents were given equal weight with reading, writing, and arithmetic.
Well, that’s what I’m thinking. What are your thoughts?
20 thoughts on “Were Our Founding Fathers Naive?”
I agree with you; and I remember a time when we were all taught about our Founding Fathers and the Constitution — it was called “civics” — but then went by the boards about the same time that teaching English did. Now we have both linguistic and political morons graduating from school. But the left is having a good laugh.
The more ignorant the masses; the more superior the elites feel.
It’s a fair question.
They had just exited the tyranny of a King who took everything they had including their rights. I think they naturally assumed that people would want to live as free men.
They could not have possibly known that we would become a nation of sheep that took all of those things for granted.
Only when we lose everything- will we yearn to be free again. When that happens the founders will be seen as the brilliant men that they were.
So no I don’t think they were naive- I just don’t think they thought we could turn into a nation of idiots.
I suspect that Ben Franklin was doubtful of the people’s ability to hang on to their republic.
“A republic, madam, if you can keep it.”
Ben Franklin knew, didn’t he?
It was a much different world then. No iPhones, iPads, TV, etc. Less distractions for the people. Plus the Democratic party had not been formed yet. And as the Democratic party would go on to be the official religion of America its job would be to keep the people thinking the way they want to.
Geez! You mean there was no internet? No, wonder everything went to hell. 🙂
Al Gore wasn’t born yet and had yet to invent the intertubes.
Most folks at the time were worried about staying alive. I once had a link to the voting records back to the earliest records. The percentage participated was about the same as now. We have a notion that the population was as educated, moral, and as concerned as their representatives. I doubt it. We were fortunate to have ethical moral people participate in governance for many years. It was a sacrifice to serve. Not so anymore. IMO.
You make an interesting point, Bunker. Thanks for sharing it.
” Is there no virtue among us? If there be not, we are in a wretched situation.” I’d say this pretty well sums up the current situation in our country. When I think of an electorate comprised of people like the Obama phone woman I’d say we have achieved that wretched situation. But the biggest problem with not having virtue among us is not that we elect leaders who don’t know the Constitution, but that virtue lost is irretrievable. Without a virtuous electorate we are doomed to be ruled by tyrannical leaders.
I wish I could disagree with you, Charles, but I can not. There are too few people who care enough anymore.
Because the Founders believed the government came from the people, by the consent of the governed, they had no choice but to put their faith in the people to govern themselves. They did not let us down, we have let them down.
” They did not let us down, we have let them down.”
That is the sad truth, my friend!
Folks, it is what it is and from this point we are just along for the ride. Another George Washington would be welcome at this point.
Similarily Bill Whittle asked in a recent video: Where is our modern day Churchill. It seems we are stuck with our version Nevil Chaimberlan (sp?).
They knew their republic could still degenerate, but perhaps they weren’t as prescient about it as de Tocqueville a few decades later: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/chat/2486133/posts
Thanks for that link, Lin. I have bookmarked the article for future reference.
People are imprefect. You can create a perfect world on paper, and humans will surely screw it up. Naive? Yes. To think they actually thought this would work forever. Alternatives? None that I can conjure up. Damned if we do, damned if we don’t. Welcome to your life.