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Thread: Founding Fathers

  1. #1

    Default Founding Fathers

    Someone want to explain to me why exactly the founding fathers' opinions matter so much to the U.S.? It seems like such an arbitrary argument to me.

    Shouldn't it only matter what the country thinks now, and how best to advance from this point forward? If the founding fathers hated bacon, should the U.S. as a whole stop eating bacon?

    Just because they were the first to actually create a government doesn't mean that their government is the best. Things grow and change, and isn't it a bit odd to assume that people NOW know what the founding fathers would want if they were alive? Even when you take things that they said exactly, there's still two important questions: 1) Is that opinion only because of the times they lived in? and 2) What makes this guy's opinion valid in regards to this specific situation?

    When I see "the founding fathers wanted [blahblahblah]", what I'm really reading is "I don't really have a good reason for what I want, but America, HOORAH!".

  2. #2

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    Hmmm, how is this any different from relating a current line of reasoning to a innovator in any other field? All the time people say that a particular style of philosophy is reminiscent of that of Plato or a unique battle strategy is something that Sun Tzu would approve of. The founding fathers of the U.S.A. just happen to have been experts in the field of government. So it stands to reason that they would be looked upon as shining examples of how a nation should be run just as Beethoven's symphonies is an excellent example of how to write music.

  3. #3

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    Zephy brings up a valid point. I have been hearing this a lot from friends as of late as well.

    Many times listening to my friends who are die-hard paulbots; meaning Ron Paul fans- I get this whole 'think about what the founding fathers would say?' thing as well and it drives me up a wall. Who knows what they'd think right now as times have changed in the 21st century. I have no real opinion on it and I get sick and tired of them throwing this in my face like it's the best thing to ask. Just so Ron Paul fans know, I am NOT ripping on Paul or his supporters OK? I just have a lot of friends of mine who are ardent supporters of the man.

    Only way to find out is if time-travel were even remotely possible and you can go back to 1776 and ask George Washington, Ben Franklin and the other founding fathers. Like I'd really be able to time-warp back to 1776 and ask them anyway- enter sarcastic tone of voice: I get asking the question but the fact is times really have changed since the 1770s and putting that concept into a modern context would be difficult to do. Or so I think.

    I really have no idea what they would think right now. I mean, times have REALLY changed and the human population has grown since the 1770s. Time, technology and the human species has grown up and we want to think of what someone in the 1770's think? Sorry, but not me. All I want to do is just live my life, enjoy it, stay out of things and just wait and see where my chips may fall. I've had enough on my mind without worrying about the world and the world's affairs.

    WildThing121675

    A good point, Zephy... very good point man.

  4. #4

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    Looking to the founding fathers for guidance for current issues is asinine. However, seeking a historical compass for guidance concerning policy is a whole other matter entirely. The founding fathers may not have considered amendments for the internet, however I'm certain they had something to say concerning unfair taxes and the rights of man. Granted, that's not to say "because the founding fathers would have wanted free ponies for everyone" is a valid argument. However, looking at how they would have likely reacted to legislation concerning the rights of man and the involvment, or lack thereof, of the federal goverment is something I believe is worth seeking their guidance and perspective. However, in the end it comes down to the facts and points of the argument, not who would have endorsed it. Citing the founding fathers is something of the likes of saying "if you don't love apple pie then your a dirty commie." It's more or less used improperly by candidates and politicians seeking to

    On a different note, I was amused by a side banner that read "Who would Ronald Reagan vote for this election?" I was afterwards convinced of some sort of afterlife whereas significant historical figures can be appeased much in the way of deities to garner their favor and endorsement.

  5. #5

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    Now I'll admit the whole "what would the founding fathers do" can be used as a bit of a rhetorical cudgel (i.e. if you don't agree with me your not an American). That usage bothers me but there are some legitimate uses for that argument. Like what reddawn and JackTheWriter said about policy as a whole, pretty much anything that can be decided on principle. Or when congress tries to over turn the rights that they, the founding fathers, put in place. That's happening quite a bit these days; so you're probably hearing more people stuffing their opinions into Ben Franklens mouth then usual.

    Also The founders are bound to come up in any debate over whether or not something is constitutional because they wrote the damn thing.

    P.S. also the founders are dead so they can't defend themselves when you try to miss represent their views. making it really easy.
    Last edited by soupy; 18-Jan-2012 at 16:44. Reason: added the ps

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by soupy View Post
    Now I'll admit the whole "what would the founding fathers do" can be used as a bit of a rhetorical cudgel (i.e. if you don't agree with me your not an American). That usage bothers me but there are some legitimate uses for that argument. Like what reddawn about policy as a whole, pretty much anything that can be decided on principle. Or when congress tries to over turn the rights that they, the founding fathers, put in place. That's happening quite a bit these days; so your probably hearing more people stuffing their opinions into Ben Franklens mouth then usual.

    Also The founders are bound to come up in any debate over whether or not something is constitutional because they wrote the damn thing.

    P.S. also the founders are dead so they can't defend themselves when you try to miss represent their views. making it really easy.
    Which makes sense... except that it's something only Americans seem to do.

    We have the Canadian Constitution with the important ammendment of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which grants many of the same rights as the constitution in America. In all my discussions about what it should and should not cover, I have never heard someone say "Trudeau wanted so-and-so to be interpreted this way" in the way that people use the founding fathers in the U.S.. So your argument that they should be brought up because they wrote it does not stand up to scrutiny.

    I don't see any reason to ever use the founding fathers' opinions on how things should be. Their opinions aren't reasons, in and of themselves. That's not to say that they aren't right, but that they wanted to isn't a good argument. If they wanted it a certain way, there must have been a reason. If so, then your argument should be that reason, rather than using a person's opinion as dogma. That also forces the person to review whether the founding father would still be of that opinion in this day and age.

    For instance, while saying all men are equal, many of the founding fathers were alright with slavery. That is to say, some of the founding fathers did not consider black people to be "people", however now we can all (mostly) agree that people are equal regardless of race, colour, or creed. Right there is a contradiction that forces one of two options, the way I see it: 1) The founding fathers had some good ideas, but to keep any to this day one must have justified reasons regardless of the founding fathers' stance (i.e. what they personally believed is irrelevant), or 2) That the nation should be run EXACTLY as the founding fathers originally meant it to (i.e. dated things such as slavery should not have been changed). Well, there's always the third option of indeterminism too, I guess...
    Last edited by Near; 19-Jan-2012 at 00:09.

  7. #7

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    The reason I would want to look at the 'founding principles' for our nation are to cover the basic rights that are supposed to be guaranteed to citizens of the United States. A good example of this is our Second Amendment to the Constitution. Why was this amendment placed there originally? Does it have any bearing today? Should there be limitations on it based on the changes that have occurred since it was added to the Constitution?

    As we go forward, we should not necessarily do what someone might think the "Founding Fathers" would do. We need to adjust appropriately for the changes in the world compared to what it was like 200+ years ago. With that said, remember a very important lesson: "Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it."

  8. #8

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    A significant part of the arguments made here do come from a lack of knowledge about the "founding fathers" of the United States. Please don't take offense, if you have not spent years reading and annotating dusty tomes of American history while trying to codify concepts into plausible arguments for term papers to give to professors who can be brutal about destroying a syllogistic argument with a stroke of the thrice damned red pen, then some of what I will say may come as a bit of a shock.

    The founding fathers were not experts in government, anyone remember the articles of confederation? To over simplify you had T, Jefferson, the first rational anarchist, you had Washington who did not want anything to do with a federal government and had to be convinced by J.A. to take up the Post. Adams was the a staunch Democratic Republican and wanted a tiny Government and no standing military. The First super Federalist would be Hamilton with Patrick Henry in passionate opposition to Hamilton and the Federal government and the constitution. I could go on and on listing the players and all the proposed forms of Government that crashed and burned.
    Ever notice that our "Founding fathers" declared a constitutional convention in violation of the articles of confederation (the law at the time) by not having Rhode Island present in Annapolis?

    The Argument to look for the founding fathers for guidance is vital to our nation to BUT not the definitive answer to all our woes. By understanding the rational behind the document that gives structure to the federal power, we can better determine if the current controllers of authority are within the confines of the law. Jefferson wanted individuals to be free and within a level of personal sovereignty never before allowed any group of people since the first humans decided to settle down in the same place together. Ever read the code of Hammurabi? it makes the UCMJ look like a pre-school rule list, people could be executed for saying the wrong words in temple on the wrong day.

    Jefferson wanted the people of the United states to be free to live according to their individual desires balanced against their talents and working together for a common good only by choice of the individuals to do so. Does that sound like our country today? Hamilton on the other hand wanted to control the states through money, and very nearly did so. Does that sound the Federal government ways of doing business in this day and age?

    What these men started has lead to what we have toady so understanding and looking to them and MAYBE trying to bring back some of the principles of Jefferson or John Locke or Thomas Paine maybe the cure to put this country to rights?

    It always scares me when a student argues that a major person or event in history is irrelevant, because ignorance of history and the why of it makes it easier to manipulate the thinking of the modern people. Equally scary is when a student is so caught up in solipsism that they focus only on the pieces of history that support their point of view without giving equal consideration to the counter points of view.

    Wisdom would say that one needs to give consideration to the founding fathers perspective while evaluating it against the modern world we live in to determine if the specific concept could be applicable to the problem. But to simply disregard any historical information because it is a "catch phrase" or "overused" is the path to ignorance and promotes a middle class full of unthinking sheep, easy to deceive and easy to control.

    I understand the frustration, but is it not the nature of those in power to over use something so you get sick of it and no longer pay attention to it so they can can continue to use it as a measure of control over your freedom? Remember when the country generally got sick of The healthcare issue then bang we have a healthcare bill? Same type of weapon.

    i want to say more, but I have to cook dinner. Does what i say make sense or does it just piss some of you off? It is not my intent to anger only to offer my perspective, i am not the adjunct as we are all equals so forgive my pontifical speech making please.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fragarach View Post
    It always scares me when a student argues that a major person or event in history is irrelevant, because ignorance of history and the why of it makes it easier to manipulate the thinking of the modern people.
    If you read what I said carefully, I never said that the historical persons were irrelevant, but that their opinions are. And in an argument, that's true. Opinions are not premises on which one can base an argument. As I also said, if the reasons that the founding fathers wanted things a certain way are still relevant to the issue, then the argument would stand on those reasons, not "that's what the founding fathers wanted". Therefore, the conclusion would be that the opinions of the founding fathers are irrelevant to the argument itself, although they may be useful in finding points to support your argument.

    For instance:
    Given that FF (founding father) believes O (opinion) because R (Reason) then:
    PP (present person) believes O because FF believed O <--- This is not valid, yet many people argue from this stance.
    PP believes O, and refers to R as stated by FF in support of O <--- This would be valid, provided R is still relevant.

    In summation, it's the reasons behind the founding fathers' decisions that should be used as arguments, not the dogmatic demi-God view some Americans seem have of them.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fragarach View Post
    It always scares me when a student argues that a major person or event in history is irrelevant, because ignorance of history and the why of it makes it easier to manipulate the thinking of the modern people. Equally scary is when a student is so caught up in solipsism that they focus only on the pieces of history that support their point of view without giving equal consideration to the counter points of view.
    I am glad to hear this put forward, thank you very much for all of the information. We should all take some time to learn the basic history of our nation before we go to vote on critical positions or legislation. It puts a proper perspective on why things were done the way they were, and may give us pause to think about whether or not that was the right decision. It helps to remember that the 'Founding Fathers' drafted the Constitution but it was not ratified by the states until AFTER the first ten amendments (also called the Bill of Rights) was added. Those who wrote the Constitution did not have all the answers, when putting the matter forward to the population is when those important rights were added in.

    Again, we must learn from history so we do not repeat it. Napoleon waged war in Russia, only to get his butt handed to him when the Russian winter set in. They were not prepared for the severe cold for equipment or troop clothing. Hitler tried to wage war in Russia during WWII and got beat back by the Russian winter just like Napoleon had. Sometimes we should be able to learn from the mistakes of others rather than repeating them ourselves.

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