war and dictatorial diplomacy; secret prisons and unusual punishment;
infringements on habeas corpus and right to public trial; invasions of privacy
and arbitrary powers of search and seizure; secret departments of government
and Orwellian campaigns of disinformation; intimidating limits on freedom of
speech, press; gargantuan public debt used to subsidize corporate sponsors and
cut taxes for the wealthy few---all portrayed as within the original scope and
intent of our Republic’s Founding Fathers.
this possibly be true?
Founding Fathers could hardly have imagined 21st Century America with or
without George W. Bush. But there is no need to guess on what they thought
about war and peace, sources and limits of governmental power, checks and
balances, crony politics, public corruption, individual rights of conscience
and dissent. The Founders examined these subjects from every angle, and spoke
and wrote on them voluminously, with passion and reason, with unmistakable bluntness
and unforgettable eloquence.
to a man, the Founders would have been appalled at the flaunted
anti-intellectuality of George W. Bush. “I’m not a textbook player. I’m a gut
player,” Bush bragged to Bob Woodward in justification of his leadup to the
Iraq War in August 2002. While on occasion, the Founders acted out of passion
as well as forethought, it is impossible to imagine any of them ever asserting
ignorance, intellectual laziness or blind faith as the basis for any vital
national policy---let alone as the rationale for a bloody pre-emptive war and
occupation of a beleaguered foreign nation.
a 2001 Yale commencement speech, the President joked: “And to the C students I
say, you, too, can be President of the United States.As I often remind
Dick Cheney---who studied here, but left a little early . . . if you graduate
from Yale, you become President.If you drop out, you get to be Vice
President.”Clearly the president was, in part, joking on himself here,
but the smug sub-message undercuts the jocularity.
Founders took issues of education and entitlement somewhat more seriously.
Being ignorant is not
so much a shame as being unwilling to learn.
---Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1758
Knowledge is in every
country the surest basis of public
---First Annual Address, January 8, 1790
John Adams Liberty can not be preserved without a general
knowledge among the people.
---A Dissertation On The Canon And Feudal
agree with you that there is a natural aristocracy among men. The grounds
of this are virtue and talents. . . . There is also an artificial
aristocracy founded on wealth and birth, without either virtue or talents. . .
. The natural aristocracy I consider as the most precious gift of nature for
the instruction, the trusts, and government of society.
---Thomas Jefferson, letter to John
error is more certain than the one proceeding from a hasty and superficial view
of the subject.”
---James Madison, Letter to W.
T. Barry, 1822
is not the aim of this book to suggest that the Founders’ words were in any way
intended to address modern issues. Nevertheless, as ethics, values,
self-evident truths and inalienable rights are slow to change, much of what the
Founders thought and wrote still resonates in our times; not only on a
philosophical level, but---inasmuch as we still regard the framing and founding
of our country as the basis for our Constitution and Laws---also on a practical
level. As “the Intents of the Founders” is used in our culture as if it were
scientific evidence or scriptural revelation, it befits us to pay attention to
what the Founders actually said and meant.
Founders v. Bush intends to show the
vast gap between the way that the Founders saw the nation’s relationship to
their world and the way that the Bush Administration sees our nation in our
world, and, beyond that, the gap in eloquence and depth of thought that is
equally wide. While the words of the Founders still offer us the pleasure of
observed truth, reasoned argument and poetic style, Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld
offer us cynical sarcasm and simplistic solecisms, cave grunt condescension and
broken-record PR repetitions.
know nothing of George W. Bush beyond his public image and pronouncements. I
don’t know if he truly eschews open-minded discussion, ignores undesirable
evidence and reasoning or if he is a master actor who has created a convincing
persona of the “artificial aristocrat” that Jefferson warned us of; I don’t
know if he is ignorant and uncurious or merely master poseur---but that he is a
smug demagogue and prodigious liar is beyond all doubt.
book juxtaposes the words of George W. Bush and his advisors and defenders with
relevant words from the Founding Fathers. While it is not a book of Bush gaffes
and malapropisms, it is hardly possible to juxtapose Bush’s simplistic
pre-chewed garble to the elegance, wit and erudition of our defining spokesmen
without wincing in dismay. However, the purpose here is not to portray Bush as
a clown prince. “Bushisms” tend to deflect us from the issues, and, in fact,
many of the dopey statements and malapropisms most often attributed to Bush are
fakes, or were actually said by Dan Quayle, or were spoutings of some
late-night comedian or splenetic Anon.
of unsourced quotes! In this book all of the quotes have been sourced, sources
provided, and, as far as feasible, provided in ample context. As to the
founders’ quotes, for the most part they have been arranged chronologically in
each section and according to their authors’ seniority: Benjamin Franklin,
George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Alexander
Hamilton. A number of other founders could legitimately be added to this list,
but no expert on our nation’s founding would reasonably argue with these
Benjamin Franklin (1706 - 1790)
referred to as “The First American,” Franklin was a genius of incomparable
breadth. Printer. Writer. Satirist. Scientist. Inventor. Freemason. Statesman.
Community planner. The fifteenth among seventeen children of a working class
Boston family (his father was a soap and candle maker), Franklin was forced to
quit school at ten and was almost entirely self-educated. A voracious reader
and life long bibliophile, he later formed a series of “Junto” study groups,
founded the first public lending library, the American Philosophical Society
and the University of Pennsylvania.
pertinent to his credentials as a founder: Franklin organized the Albany
Convention in 1754 where his “Albany Plan of Union” put forth the first plan of
confederation for the American Colonies. As Ambassador to England, he became
the patron of Tom Paine and
sponsored Paine’s emigration to Philadelphia, where they both became prime
movers of the Revolution. As a key member of the Continental Congress, he was
on the committee that produced the Declaration of Independence. Later, from
1776-1785, he served as Ambassador to France where (in addition to being a
resident scientist, philosopher and socialite) he secured vital French support
for the Revolution, as well as providing a letter of introduction for the
Marquis de Lafayette to George Washington.
his “dotage,” Franklin was the oldest delegate at the Constitutional
George Washington (1732 - 1799)
Washington’s many facets, he was: farmer, soldier, surveyor, land-speculator,
plantation owner, Freemason, politician, patriot, general, mediator, and, without opposition, First President of
the United States. Washington’s greatness was less for his words than for his
leadership, courage and steadfast loyalty to liberty and union.
Adams (1735 -1826)
Adams came from old Puritan stock and grew up in rural Braintree,
Massachusetts. Largely self-taught, Adams was a great reader. He balked against
being trained for the clergy and, instead, entered the law and sought out an
urban cosmopolitan life. His marriage to Abigail Smith was arguably the most
successful of all the founders. Abigail Adams, in her own right, was an
intelligent, forward-thinking woman, an early feminist who refused to be
excluded from the affairs of the nation.
the Continental Congress, Adams was easily its most indefatigable member: he
served on ninety committees and
chaired twenty-four! He was also one of the committee of five (with Jefferson,
Franklin, Philip Livingstone and Roger Sherman) that produced the Declaration
of Independence. Following the war, he served as ambassador to England, France
and the Netherlands, became leader of the Massachusetts Whigs and main author
of Massachusetts Constitution, was Vice-President under George Washington, then
second President of the United States.
Thomas Jefferson (1743 - 1826)
was born of plantation wealth in rural Virginia. While he never lost his
reverence for agrarian life, his brilliance also led him to excellence in
science, mathematics, language, architecture, history, philosophy, writing and,
intermittently, political leadership. Author of the Declaration of
Independence, ambassador to France, member of the House of Burgesses and the
Continental Congress, he became the leader of the Republican (later
Democratic-Republican) party, and served two terms as third President of the
his tomb, Jefferson chose this epitaph: “Here was buried Thomas Jefferson,
author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the statute of Virginia
for religious freedom, and father of the University of Virginia.”
James Madison (1751 - 1836)
was the runt of the Founders, barely over five feet tall and a hundred pounds,
always in delicate health. Born to a wealthy plantation owner, Madison had
neither a disposition for business or clergy. Shy with both women and men, he
became a bookworm, his prodigious intellect turning him into a formidable
scholar and legal historian.
twin catalysts of intensive college study and the rising campus tumult of the
incipient Revolution brought Madison out of his shell and into public life,
where, mentored by George Mason and Thomas Jefferson, his keen mind and writing
style quickly brought him to the fore as a member of the Virginia House of
Burgesses, where he later became principle author of Virginia’s Constitution
(from which the U.S. Constitution was largely taken).
with (later rival) Alexander Hamilton, Madison co-organized the Constitutional
Convention and co-authored (with a few additions by John Jay) the greatly
influential Federalist Papers. Madison also served as meticulous scribe of the
Convention, as well as one of its most active voices for combining republican
principles with a strong federal union.
(with Jefferson), Madison co-founded the Democratic-Republican Party and served
two terms as Fourth President of the United States.
Madison’s size and frailty, he lived to be the last surviving signer of the
Alexander Hamilton (1755- 1804)
out of wedlock in 1755 on the Caribbean island Nevis, his mother was a “fallen
woman,” his father a ne’re-do-well drifter of an aristocratic Scottish family.
Hamilton was a prodigy in every respect: socially adept, born to battle, a
brilliant thinker and writer, Washington’s aide-de-camp in battle when he was
only 21, and soon one of Washington’s most trusted advisors.
a strong believer in a strong federal government, Hamilton organized the
Constitutional Convention and co-authored the Federalist Papers. His biographer
Ron Chernow calls Hamilton “a quintessentially urban man, who preferred to
commune with books, not running brooks . . . a city dweller, harnessed to his
genius, fortitude and self-confidence was often mixed with his distrust of
altruism and democracy, his deep belief in the motivating power of
self-interest and ambition. After stomping out of the Constitution Convention
(because his draft version had been rejected), he returned to assist in the
writing final draft, then went on to become the First Secretary of the
Treasury, architect of national banking system, leader and voice of the
are legitimate reasons for calling him the “Father of American Capitalism,” as
well as the “Father of the American Party System.”
was tempest-tossed by great forces his entire life, from his Dickensian childhood,
through his Horatio Alger youth to his boom-to bust tragic end when he was
killed in a duel at the hand of former Vice-President Aaron Burr.
Other Founders quoted in this
book: John Quincy Adams, Samuel
Adams, John Marshall, George Mason, Gouverneur Morris, Thomas Paine, William
Paterson, Benjamin Rush, James Wilson.