Critical Analysis of Use and Abuse of Revolutionary Legacy by H.W Brands.
Critical Analysis of Use and Abuse of Revolutionary Legacy by H.W Brands
The founding fathers of the United States of America played an exceptional role in the history and existence of this nation. Their role in role in uniting the nation and building a culture that has been perpetuated from one generation to another is a thing that cannot go unnoticed. However, according to Brand, the revolution history of the founders of the U.S is exaggerated and overly celebrated more than it deserves. First, Brand is critical of the way the founding fathers used the revolutionary legacy bestowed on them to exploit and misuse their powers. The legacy made some of the founders act like demigods and amazing creatures whose abilities were beyond those of an ordinary man. For instance, Brands is critical of the way Washington acted close to apotheosis and demeaned of one of his former friends, Morris, when he tried to boast that he could interact with him like an old drinking partner. Morris is taken aback when Washington gives him a cold reception and drives him out of the room when he tries to pat his shoulder. That is because most of the founders took their contemporary political life to another level and demanded much respect than anyone could have expected.
Brands make a reference on how Washington exalted his superiority from the National Gazette where Philip Freneau describe him as a monarchist “who acts like a king, receive birthday congratulations like a king, answers petition like a king and handles his enemies like a king” (Brands, 2003). Brands are critical of the contemporary political life of most of the founders since they demanded too much credit in everything they did regardless of whether it was good or bad. Washington decided to step down from after two terms since he did not want further criticism from the infamous scribblers in the public print. It shows that he was contented with what he had done and desired to be revered rather than to be discredited for continuing with his political life.
Moreover, the founders were practicing politics rife of propaganda against each, and they were no different from ordinary human beings. For instance, during the campaign, Jefferson was accused to have sired several children with one of his slaves to tarnish his name and to discredit his ability to rule. The founders did not also like public criticism, and they wielded their power to the detriment of those they oppressed. For instance, the Republicans tried to pass the Alien and seduction Acts of 1798 that sought to outlaw public criticism (Brands, 2003). For instance, Brands talk of a Republican patron who went to witness a 21 round gun salute conferred to President Adams and wished that one of the rounds could have hit have hit him. The patron was arrested, and that action drew media outrage.
Brands’ Argument is Compelling
The arguments made by Brands are compelling since he cites major deficiencies that the founders were culpable of. Brands say that the founders survived through experiments and not through their exceptional leadership skills (Brands, 2003). The burden of confronting the deficiencies was left with the Americans of the second quarter of the 19th century. One of the main deficiencies with the founders was the constitution framing. Brands concur with William Lloyd criticism on those who drafted the constitution for embedding slavery upon the American politics. The revolutionary fathers did little to restrict slavery, which was against human right. Brands refer to the statement made by Abraham Lincoln before he becomes President where he stated that the revolutionary fathers understood that slavery was unjust but they never had an amicable means to eliminate it. Lincoln suggested that, by failing to mention slavery in the constitution, the founding fathers left chances of changes, but their later successors would make those changes. The heirs were left with the huge burden of determining whether the slavery would remain on the government agenda. The successors were left with another huge responsibility of determining between the national government and the states, who had the power to make a decision regarding slavery.
Despite having framed the constitution to try to put the nation in order, Brands cites that the constitution was drafted from a business perspective. The big merchants, manufacturers and shippers wanted to override the state governments and influenced the framing of the constitution by paying the drafters. The prominent merchants and shippers wanted to have a wider sphere where they could operate their business make greater financial benefits. The merchants were in the frontline in giving credit to the founder’s achievements since they were direct beneficiaries of their regimes. Brands refer to Charles Beard book An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States (Brands, 2003).
Brands reckon that the Founders were not unique in any way since they were dealing with a population much lesser than the entire Chicago population (Brands, 2003). Failure to have leaders who are exceptional as they were is limited by the problems that left later Americans to deal with and a large population 80 times, of what they used to govern during their era. Much has been achieved by their successors including enormous technological advancements, upholding of civil rights, defeat to fascism and communism. There is a sober approach to issues that will affect the future generation, and the Constitution is the supreme law of the nation. Everyone is bound by the constitution and must act within the spirit of the supreme law. This is unlike in past where issues were faced head-on without due diligence of the implications the issues will have in the future.
Brands cite the use of Electoral College as provide by the constitution that was drafted by the founders as a limitation (Brands, 2003). Use of the Electoral College confers victory to the individual who is a popular loser. He reckons that, if the constitution was drafted in the new era, such a constitutional provision could not be included since it is undemocratic. The founders left the Americans with an uncertain future and applied means that tried to solve the problems at hand instead of offering long lasting solutions. Too much hype about the accomplishments of the founders can derail Americans from dealing with the insufficiencies that were left by the founders. The founders deserve ever credit for the achievements they made, but much focus should be given to current issues that require concerted effort to resolve.
Brands, H. W. (2003, September). “Founders Chic: Our reference for the Fathers has gotten out of hand.” The Atlantic Monthly. Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2003/09/founders-chic/302773/
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