Were the Founding Fathers ultimately failures?

I keep hearing from Tea Party types about what geniuses the Founding Fathers were. The essential evidence of this genius is that they founded a system that sustained over the centuries. I don’t hear anybody responding that, in fact, they were failures, and their system broke down.

The Founding Father passed off the slavery issue to later generations and put in a system that prevented a political solution. This led to American’s most destructive war and essentially a second “founding” with a radically different form of government (more nationally based.) The system was again unable to respond to changing conditions leading to the New Deal. America’‘s current system bears little resemblance to Founding Fathers’ vision.

Were the Founding Fathers political geniuses? Or has history, especially the Civil War, show they were failures? I mean what bigger failure can there be for a political system than breaking down into civil war?

Interesting take. On the other hand, the US has, at least nominally, the same system since its birth. The profound stupidity Tea Partiers or simple minded patriots have is to consider them as a mix between the Holy Family and a superhero team. But the craftiness of the Founding Fathers was not in having established a perfect system, but a perfectible one. Even with a civil war, the US didnt suddenly become a military dictature. Compare that to Europe at the same time.

Their constitution is still being actively used some 220 years later. I think France has had 6-7 since that time.

I’d argue they were a success because in large part the constitution they created gave room for change, so it didn’t have to be scrapped for enormous societal changes to come about. The founders probably never envisioned the 14th Amendment, but their framework allowed for it.

As for the civil war, I don’t know. The framer’s work easily provided for a political end to the slavery question. If enough of the country voted in favor of it, technically slavery could have been abolished through legal, and not military means. However, whether or not a constitution provides for a political solution is irrelevant if some part of the country is unwilling to accept a political solution.

The South actually seceded precisely because they knew that slavery could be abolished through the political process, even if every state in the South was opposed to it. They saw the writing on the wall and refused to accept the direction of history, and decided to secede and form their own country.

Now, on the legal issue of secession, I would agree the constitution was unfortunately extremely mute. In truth only force of arms decided the secession issue. However, even if the constitution explicitly stated a political process for allowing or barring secession, just like the slavery issue if an entire consolidated region of the country refused to accept the political or legal situation they could just take up arms against it.

No document can prevent a sub-national separatist groups from taking up arms.

Design change is coded right into the Constitution through amendments. I’d say they knew the future could be different and allowed for change.


To be honest too much store is set by what they migt’ve or might nor have thought. They were 18th century breakaway colonialists, not really relevant to a 21st century superpower.

Like a vast majority of things in the world, it’s not a simple matter of failure or a success, and it’s fuzzy thinking to say it was all one or the other.

The founding fathers realized they weren’t perfect and that what they thought was correct might not be true in the future. So they made a great decision - they created a system of government that can change itself. And they succeeded in doing that.

But the changes required to deal with slavery were unmanageable with system the Founders created.

They founded a nation where no nation existed, and they set rules in place that helped keep it unconquered and essentially democratic for over two hindered years. Show me someone who’s done better.

The fact that they weren’t perfectly successful isn’t surprising - the fact that they succeeded at all, is.

They planted a seed. That’s enough.

The changes required to deal with slavery were unmanageable for political reasons, not for structural reasons. It was unmanageable because you had one group of people who believed slavery was morally wrong and had to be gotten rid of and another group who believed slavery was morally right and had to be kept. But at any time between the Constitution was ratified and the Civil War started, the Constitution could have been amended either to abolish slavery or to say that slavery couldn’t be abolished. It wasn’t because of a lack of consensus and political will.

Actually, any time after 1808. The amendment procedure laid out in Article V bans amendments that would deny a state equal representation in the Senate without its consent, and until 1808 bans amendments affecting the first and fourth clauses of Article I, Section 9, which deal with immigration and the slave trade for the former and capitation taxes for the latter.

I know they’re pretty much religious figures in the US, but crediting them with the creation of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans is a bit much, don’tcha think?

Yeah, they had a bit of luck, there.

How so? The United States fought a civil war and ended slavery without collapsing into anarchy or dictatorship.

Poppycock. The USA isn’t a nation, it’s a political project. Take away the constitution & the USA doesn’t exist; that’s not true of an actual nation-state.

Not sure what you mean by ‘perfectible’, but their genius was in realizing that perceptions of perfection would be transient. By leaving all aspects of the Consitution open to democratic change, unless we vote away that ability, we will never end up creating a perfection that future generations must destroy.

Thomas Jefferson after much coffee went out front and returned fourth very relieved, and Franklin went out back after much wine and return likewise very relieved, and thus is the story of the formation of the Atlantic and the Pacific, and why they’re salty.

So the US didn’t exist under the Articles of Confederation?

The USA is definitely a nation-state, and would still exist under a different political system.

American exceptionalism, much? From where I stand, the U.S. is as much a nation-state as France or Japan. And that’s nothing to be ashamed of.