Some crazy/reprehensible things that any Founding Father said/believed.

I love reading about the founding fathers. Obviously, a unique group of people. But I’m also driven mad by the way people talk about the founders as though they were infallible or as though they could have envisioned the world as it now is.

I want a list of crazy quotations or stories about the founders for the next time someone quotes a founder saying something.

The most obvious example I can think of is slavery. The founders had slaves. That’s awful.

Keep in mind, I’m not trying to say that the founders were awful people, rather, I just want an arsenal of citations for the next time I’m in a conversation and someone cites the founders as the end all be all.

John Adams supported the Alien and Sedition Acts, which banned much of what we’d consider to be core First Amendment speech. A lot of criticism of the government was banned, for example.

Adams was a remarkable fellow in many ways, but he had a nasty authoritarian streak.

I’m not sure you’ll find much negative. These people were pretty remarkable.

John Adams represented the British Soldiers after the Boston Massacre

This was at a time when siding with the British could have cost John Adams everything. He could have been tarred & feathered or even hanged by a mob. Justice and liberty for all were more than empty words for this man.

YMMV but many people encounter many of their quotations on organized religion to be reprehensible.

Like Jefferson:

“History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance, of which their political as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purpose.”
- to Baron von Humboldt, 1813

“The truth is, that the greatest enemies of the doctrine of Jesus are those, calling themselves the expositors of them, who have perverted them to the structure of a system of fancy absolutely incomprehensible, and without any foundation in his genuine words. And the day will come, when the mystical generation [birth] of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as his father, in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation [birth] of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.”
- to John Adams, Apr. 11, 1823

And if you consult Thomas Payne, he was even “worse”.

“Mingling religion with politics may be disavowed and reprobated by every inhabitant of America.”

Jefferson, an avid Francophile, downplayed the severity of the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution and made excuses for the Jacobins’ deadly employment of the guillotine. So when he famously said:

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.

it’s a lot scarier when you consider the context.

I can’t find any direct quotes but I understand that George Washington, an officer in the French & Indian Wars and a general in the Revolution, had little good to say about the usefullness of citizens militias in actually fighting and winning wars. So he would not be the best example for anyone trying to point to the Founding Fathers as advocates of personal gun rights.

But they aren’t the paragons of conservatism that some are trying to make them, either. Hamilton opposed the free market principles and favored government intervention. Jefferson banned all foreign trade and his embargo act sought to keep American vessels from leaving port. Madison was a staunch pluralist. Hamilton envisioned and sought to build a large central government. So did Washington. John Jay created (and sanctioned) the concept of jury nullification. Adams signed the Alien and Sedition Acts. As President, Washington used the army against US citizens to quell the Whiskey Rebellion.

Some of the founding fathers owned slaves. Many of them fathered children out of wedlock. Most of them agreed that only white male land owners should be allowed to vote.

Do a search for Benajmin Franklin’s “Old Mistresses Apologue,” in which he lists the benefits of older women. It’s not political, but it’s a great read.

“in the dark, all cats are gray…”

Remarkable, yes. Perfect, no.

And yet, the same person signed the Alien and Sedition Acts.

Thomas Jefferson presumably thought it was OK to sleep with a woman who he owned, someone who would have had no legal recourse if she didn’t want to sleep with him.

The Founding Fathers presumably thought it was OK to deny someone the right to vote on the basis of race or sex.

Alexander Hamilton presumably thought that dueling was an acceptable way to resolve an interpersonal conflict.

I agree with your sentiment but there are plenty of people who unfortunately view this as one of his greatest quotes.

Thank you! Never saw it (or read it) before. But now I know, “They are so grateful!!” :wink:

Uh huh… so make up your mind. Are you trying to prove that the Founders were reprehensible jerks, unworthy of our admiration? Or that they were secretly liberals (which, presumably, would make them MORE admirable in your eyes)?

They were unabashed liberals. Conservatives, by definition, don’t overthrow governments. They conserve the present order and are generally against change.

Unlike those famous liberals Francisco Franco and the Ayatollah Khomeini. :wink:

I don’t think that Washington and Hamilton sought to “build a large central government,” so much as one that would be sufficient for the task at hand. The Federal government was tiny throughout both of Washington’s terms - smaller in its entirety than any single Federal agency today, I suspect. Both W. and H. had seen during the Revolution how powerless the “national” government (then largely comprised of the Continental Congress) had been to get the states to provide for the army, or to have effective taxation or economic policies.

Washington did use the army during the Whiskey Rebellion (in fact, he personally led it in the field), but that was because local authorities were clearly not up to the task. Besides, the Constitution specifically “provide[d] for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, [and to] suppress Insurrections…” It was largely a bloodless exercise, and Washington then pardoned the leaders of the rebellion.

It’s not like the founding fathers said, “hey, this is the way it’s going to be!” It was popularly accepted at the time by virtually everyone that that was how the status quo worked. Sure, there would have been a few people – men and women – with more liberal ideas, but that was the culture. Culture changes. Not more than 10 years ago we had no problems with gas guzzling SUV’s. In 50 years, people will villify us for having used fossil fuels to power our vehicles. I don’t feel evil, and I can certainly empathize with our founding fathers for things that were different then that aren’t acceptable today.

Words to live by. :slight_smile:

I’m sure the founding fathers opinions on Native Americans wouldn’t pass muster today. Of course, back then, the Indians were still an actual threat to life and limb of the settlers (justified or not), so it’s not surprising.

Alexander Hamilton made his early fortune smuggling, latter called patriotic defiance against British tyranny but still.

During The First Barbary War Thomas Jefferson was the perfect storm of capricious foreign policy maker, ineffectual Commander-in-Chief and shrewed but political backbiter.

Come on, at this time in genteel society it was the only way if the conflict was serious enough.

Mutha fucka stepped to him! Waz he 'sposed to do!?!?!