Over the holidays I listened to an audio tape called “Founding Brothers” by Joseph J. Ellis, a history professor at Mt. Holyoke College.
As I watch many Americans today who show their lack of knowledge about the founding of our country — and more importantly, those brilliant men who were involved — I am amazed!
I would strongly recommend this history lesson. Too many of our countrymen (and women) slept through American history and government in high school. Or maybe their more important concern was that cute girl or guy in the first seat in the second row. Or maybe it was a teacher who failed to stress the the importance of history and government.
As I look around I see a lot of overweight Americans who are addicted to the TV, watching shows where guns and explosions plus way too much sex are featured, with a high-caloric snack at their side. Many could not tell you who the local government office holders are, many don’t vote, and some can’t spell “vote.”
You say that most in politics do nothing but squabble and fuss with little getting done? Well, let me tell you a little about our forefathers.
This historic group of men was the first in our world to establish a nation not ruled by kings or queens, dictators or generals, but by the common hard-working people. Today, the United States is the oldest democracy in the world, and it was this brave few who put it together and it is still going strong.
How brave were they, you ask? They knew that if they failed, they would all hang. Benjamin Harrison said to Elbridge Gerry, who were both signers of the Declaration of Independence: “As heavy as I am, when we hang I will die quickly. You however, a lightweight, you may swing kicking and gagging for a hour before you die!”
They all knew what might lay ahead. But did they get along? Not at all. Every state had its own agenda. Every section — north, south, east and west — did battle on the floor of Congress. It seems it has always been that way.
The author whose book I just enjoyed stated that our country has faced three very important periods that could have been the end of our democracy: the 10-15 years from 1787 to 1802, the Civil War, and World War II.
In our so-called modern times, we sometimes think that politicians spend too much time debating the problems of the times and doing very little. From almost day one, this has been going on. The duel between Aaron Burr, Vice President, and Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of the Treasury, in which Hamilton was killed and Burr was disgraced, was an example of a political disagreement that went on between the two for decades. This duel, by the way, ended dueling at that level forever.
We have just witnessed the battle of words between those backing Trump and those supporting Biden. But can you imagine what took place in the late 1700s when no one new how a nation of free people was supposed to work?
The bitterness between Hamilton, Burr, Jefferson, Madison, and John Adams and many others who all had ideas as to how America was to proceed, was unreal and is spelled out in this book.
At one point, the New England states almost withdrew from the Union over where the capitol was to be. Only compromise saved the day.
There is no doubt in my mind that George Washington is truly the father of this country. The south got the capitol, but did you ever wonder why one of its main streets is Pennsylvania Avenue? Thanks George … I am convinced that his influence kept this nation and its leaders, in its early years, from certain destruction.
Tony Lamke of Wilmington writes a periodic column for the News Journal. He can be reached at [email protected]