Our Upstanding Founding Fathers

By Peter Galuszka

Since it is President’s Day and Virginia is the “Mother of Presidents,” I thought it might be interesting to put some things in perspective.

One of the more curious blog postings of late on the site was Jim Bacon’s gushy advocacy of a move to private, religious-oriented schools because of what he sees as the massive educational and moral failure of the public school system.

Naturally, this is not a new idea. There have been church schools galore for decades. But what really interested me was Bacon’s canonization of Ann McLean, a “blonde banker’s wife” and  “devout Christian” who wants to develop what she imagines to be a “classical education” that would help develop the moral “character” of students. Jim somehow sees this as passing some made-up “entrepreneurship” test, making it all A-OK.

As Bacon puts it: “The founding fathers, says McLean, understood that humans were by nature selfish and fallen, the only antidote for which was the cultivation of personal virtue. ‘The American experiment depends upon an educated populace founded on Christian values,’ says McLean, who makes no secret of her political and cultural conservatism.

It seems that we are getting a big of romanticizing here – in this case about the so-called “Founding Fathers” who are now imagined by many conservatives to have actually been early-form fundamentalist Protestant preachers. I’ve seen a lot of myth-making in my life, especially here in the South where I partly grew up and now work and in the present and former Soviet Union where a lot of 80 and 90-somethings like to gather together, wear their 59 medals from The Great Patriotic War and glorify Stalin.

But before we get too far afield, let’s take a quick look at who our “Founding Fathers” actually were and what their moral standards actually might have been:

  • The brilliant Ben Franklin was such a serial womanizer, his mastery of swordsmanship helped the fledging United States impress the sex-loving French, who saved our Bacon (forgive the pun) time and again, notably at Yorktown.
  • Money guy Alexander Hamilton had an infamous sex scandal with a married woman.
  • James Buchanan had a close, same sex relationship with a slave owner.
  • If the Founding Fathers were alive today, they would probably despise large corporations that make some of the biggest politician donations today. They especially hated the British East India Trading Company because it roamed the world doing business with other people’s money and brutalized many.
  • Thomas Jefferson had his own idea about the Bible. In fact, he took a razor to it. He rearranged Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in chronological order and dumped the Resurrection. Jefferson ended things with the big boulder being rolled up against Jesus’s tomb.
  • Plus, TJ apparently fathered six children with child-slave Sally Hemming. This little taboo has had put the Old Guard of Things Virginian on their heads for years.

It’s always fun to look at what the myths are and what the truth is. Unfortunately, Virginia has been hit with branding issues for decades. One always sees everything from strip malls to old aged homes with “Patriot” monikers. Ditto the Tea Party. They are masters of mythology by stealing the “Don’t Tread on Me” rattlesnake flag (which has nothing historically to do with their views” and, of course, the usual “Patriot” nonsense, in which they imply they love their country more than you do.

10 Responses to Our Upstanding Founding Fathers

  1. As usual, Peter misses the point of pretty much everything.

    I’ll repeat a comment I made to Peter’s previous post: Regarding the moral failings of the public schools, my column was describing *Ann McLean’s* view, not my own. Obviously, Peter can’t tell the difference.

    Referring to McLean as a “blonde banker’s wife” hardly amounts to canonization. She’s blonde. She’s a wife. Her husband is a banker. I was simply conveying basic information in an economical format. She describes herself as a devout Christian — that’s what lefties refer to as her “social location.” I thought it appropriate to mention a dominant element of her worldview rather than let people assume that she is a secular libertarian like myself. If I had left out that fact, Peter would have criticized me for deceiving readers.

    As for the founding fathers…. yes, many of them had significant personal flaws and failings. In other words, they were human. While I do not share McLean’s religious beliefs, I do share her perspective on the Founding Fathers. The FFs recognized that humans were fallible — how could they not, given the evidence all around them? But they “cultivated virtue.” That is, they set high standards for themselves, which they strove to meet, sometimes successfully, sometimes not.

    The alternative is to set no standards for personal behavior, which is pretty much what we have today. We end up with cesspools of moral relativism, situational ethics and greed run amuck like Wall Street. Greed is an ineradicable trait of the human species. But in some eras, the cultivation of virtue holds it partially in check. In other eras, the culture of self indulgence lets it run rampant.

  2. I haven’t seen a faster back-pedal since I watched a Charlie Chaplin movie

  3. “She’s blonde. She’s a wife. Her husband is a banker. I was simply conveying basic information in an economical format. She describes herself as a devout Christian”

    she’s dark-haired, her husband is a Muslim cleric and she thinks American schools are for infidels….

  4. Given the nature of this post, I thought an excerpt from the lives of Sally Hemmings’ and Thomas Jefferson’s children (Beverly, a male, and Harriet) would be of interest:

    ” In 1822 at the age of 24, Beverly “ran away” from Monticello and was not pursued. His sister Harriet Hemings at the age of 21 followed in the same year. The overseer Edmund Bacon said that he gave her $50 and put her on a stagecoach to the North, presumably to join her brother. In his memoir, Bacon said Harriet was “near white and very beautiful,” and that people said Jefferson freed her because she was his daughter. Madison Hemings said that Beverley and Harriet each entered white society in Washington, DC according to their appearance, and each married well.”.

    It seems the Bacon family has been secretly helping the political elite of Virginia avoid accountability for many generations.

  5. LarryG and Don the Ripper,
    Big points to both of you!
    Have you ever heard of “social location?” As a supposed leftie I am supposed to have. Maybe Bacon was “providing context.”
    Nevertheless, it is a cry for help. The man really needs an editor!

  6. on the right – there seems to be a need to “classify” someone who has an opinion and if they are classified (found out/exposed) as a “liberal” anything that comes out of their mouth after that determination is blasphemous offal to be discarded as if it were a used tissue.

    It is downright FASCINATING listening to Santorum the last couple of days!

    the man is truly “authentic” and he’s decided to “tell it like it is” and the Republican establishment is downright apoplectic.

    Unlike the Virginia conservative shysters who got elected to the General Assembly masquerading as fiscal conservatives when they were really social conservatives, Mr. Santorum has decided to tell all.

    and the right – LOVES HIM! and the only alternative to him is other damaged goods.

    GAWD… the moon and stars are ALIGNING !

    I cannot believe Obama’s unbelievable luck!!!!!

    MORE! MORE!

    ;-)

  7. Aaahhhh LarryG:

    He comments on a post about history while ignoring history.

    On April 10, 1980 – while speaking at Carnegie Mellon University as a presidential nominee – George HW Bush referred to Ronald Reagan’s economic theory as voodoo economics.

    Later that year, running as Reagan’s VP nominee, Bush would be part of a Republican ticket that would demolish incumbent Democrat Jimmy Carter, 489 electoral votes to 49 electoral votes.

    Thus, the last socialist president before Obama met his political demise.

    It’s mighty early in the cycle to be counting your chickens there, LarryG.

    Romney – Rubio will be a real problem for Obama – Biden no matter what Santorum says in February.

  8. DJ – if the economy keeps improving, what will they run on?

    and Rubio? he’s a hard right social guy… I think he LOSES the independents like Santorum will.

    Oh.. and we’e about to find out that Romney used govt bail out money to rescue the Olympics.

    GAWD!

    you said it yourself DJ. Clown Show.

    The current crop of Republican Contenders is the best of the rest – of the Clown Show sans Trump, Perry, Bachman, Cain, Huntsman.

    this is what happens when the right wing takes over the Party.

    folks like Jeb Bush, Mitch Daniels, etc could have won but the right wing wanted these wackos !

    Obama could well lose… especially if Iran blows up and gas goes to $6 a gallon… but if I were Romney, I’d NOT pick Rubio… because Romney cannot afford to lose the independents.

  9. however, DJ is correct. It’s a LONG WAY to voting day!

    but Republicans have seriously erred in their assessment of where the country is on the political spectrum.

    and over and over – they have tried to personalize this to this particular President almost as if it’s a personal attack.

    the average American – (not the hard right) – does not like personal attacks.

    the more a candidate personalizes attacks against Obama, the more likely people will not vote for him.

    Romney and Paul have this right. Santorum and Gingrich don’t.

  10. “DJ – if the economy keeps improving, what will they run on?”

    You have that right, LarryG …

    Absent war -

    “It’s the economy, stupid”.

    A continuing improvement puts Obama in the WH for four more years.

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