People often try to justify their opinions by saying that the “founding fathers” agree with them. They often are guilty of selective use of history. A good place to start would be to define what we mean by the phrase founding fathers.
The FF word was not used before 1916. A senator from Ohio named Warren Harding used the phrase in the keynote address of the 1916 Republican convention. Mr. Harding was elected President in 1920, and is regarded as perhaps the most corrupt man to ever hold the office.
There are two groups of men who could be considered the founding fathers. (The fathers part is correct. Both groups are 100% white male.) The Continental Congress issued the Declaration of Independence, which cut the ties to England. Eleven years later, the Constitutional Convention wrote the Constitution that governs America today. While the Continental Congress was braver, the Constitution is the document that tells our government how to function. For the purposes of this feature, the men of the Constitutional Convention are the founding fathers.
Before moving on, we should remember eight men who signed the Declaration of Independence, and later attended the Constitutional Convention. Both documents were signed by George Clymer, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Morris, George Read, Roger Sherman, and James Wilson. George Wythe left the Convention without signing the new document. Elbridge Gerry (the namesake of gerrymandering) refused to sign the Constitution because it did not have a Bill of Rights.
The original topic of this discussion was about whether the founding fathers owned slaves. Many people wonder about this. If you go to google, and type in “did the founding fathers”, the first four answers are owned slaves, believed in G-d, have a death wish, and smoke weed.
The answer, to the obvious question, is an obvious answer. Yes, many of the founding fathers owned slaves. A name by name rundown of the 39 signatories of the Constitution was not done for this blogpost. There is this revealing comment at wiki answers about the prevalence of slave ownership. “John Adams, his second cousin Samuel Adams, Alexander Hamilton, and Thomas Paine were the only men who are traditionally known as founding fathers who did not own slaves.
Benjamin Franklin was indeed a founder of the Abolitionist Society, but he owned two slaves, named King and George. Franklin’s newspaper, the Pennsylvania Gazette routinely ran ads for sale or purchase of slaves.
Patrick Henry is another founding father who owned slaves, although his speeches would make one think otherwise. Despite his “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” speech, he had up to 70 slaves at a time. He did apologize from time to time. He knew it was wrong, he was accountable to his God, and bemoaned the “general inconvenience of living without them.”
Patrick Henry was a star of the Revolution, but not present at the Constitutional Convention. The author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, was in Europe during the convention. Mr. Jefferson not only owned slaves, he took one to be his mistress, and kidsmama.
One of the more controversial features of the Constitution is the 3/5 rule. Here are the original words “Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.” In other words, a slave was only considered to be 60% of a person.
That seems rather harsh. The truth is, it was a compromise. The agricultural southern states did not want to give up their slaves. The northern states did not want to give up Congressional representation. This was the first of many compromises made about slavery, ending with the War between the States. This webpage goes into more detail about the nature of slavery.
The research for this feature turned up a rather cynical document called The myth of the “Founding Fathers” . It is written by Adolph Nixon. He asks : “most rational persons realize that such political mythology is sheer nonsense, but it begs the question, who were the Founding Fathers and what makes them so great that they’re wiser than you are?”
Mr. Nixon reviews the 39 white men who signed the Constitution. He does not follow the rule, if you can’t say anything nice about someone, then don’t say anything at all. Of the 39, 12 were specified as slave owners, with many tagged as “slave breeders”.
The Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, have served America well. However it was intended, it was written so that it could be amended, and to grow with the young republic. It has on occasion been ignored (when was the last time Congress declared war?). However fine a document it is, it was created by men. These were men of their time, who could not have foreseen the changes that America has gone through. Those who talk the most about the founding fathers know the least about them.
A big thank you goes to wikipedia This is a repost.