Our Floundering Founders
The congressional branch of our government seemed from the beginning like a compromise both in its purpose and geographical location. Contrary to the fervid fantasies of many of today’s Teapotheads, the men who tried to put this country together did not really have much “unum” in their attempts to establish the “E pluribus” part.
First of all, they weren’t sure they were Americans by any means. They may not have liked King George nor his policies, but they thought of themselves as Englishmen. But, our present day Tea Party has not declared its independence from the U.S., possibly because no one wants them.
The first Thirteen colonies to sign up to ratify our Constitution might have seemed on the surface to have only a few commonalities with today’s GOP right wing extremists. Though they dumped some tea into Boston Harbor, most of these rebels were complaining about “burdensome red tape” and taxes.
Then there was the problem of slavery. About half of the original colonies were opposed to slavery, some vehemently. The rest of the colonies were almost as vehement in support of it. Division over slavery turned out to be primarily a Southern versus Northern quarrel, with not that many swing states in play.
The colonies might have been united by religion (does that ever happen?) Though the American rebels were overwhelmingly Christian, they were riven by a dozen schisms ranging from the Puritans to the Quakers. Once again, they were more united in what they didn’t want: an established state religion.
They were pretty much limited to muskets and one-shot pistols, not a Bushmaster in sight. They were keen on protecting themselves not so much from other groups of people as from the central government.
Thus, each colony was permitted, in what became our Bill of Rights, to raise a militia to defend its homes. But a “militia” was not a mass mail order business designed to sell weapons to anyone with the price. Nor was it intended to be a pressure group in our politics. That came much later.
Our Founding Fathers really valued privacy and would have been furious if any government had tried to tell them how to regulate their personal sex lives. Maybe they’re not such a good match for our present-day Teapotheads.
Their version of democracy was minus a Karl Rove or Koch Brothers so it still looks pretty good from our vantage point. Maybe we ought to pay attention to what they really believed in, starting with the Declaration of Independence.
To visit John O’Toole on the Huffington Post, click here.