While I consider that I know more about American history than some people, I realize that I don’t know enough. I’m not really a student of history, but I’m very interested in the beginnings of our country.
As I consider the drastic measures taken by our founding fathers, I am constantly amazed by the risks they took, combined with the forethought they had. The document they created over the course of several months has withstood the test of almost 220 years with only 21 major changes over a dozen occasions. Almost half of those came in one collection in response to early concerns expressed by the several states. Most of the others came in acknowledgment of either changing cultural and societal norms, or as a result of events the founders probably couldn’t have foreseen. What incredible insight!
Many, if not most, of the founders were landholders and educated men. Some gave their lives in defense of the republic they felt led to found. There is an urban legend mailing that purports to discuss the fates of several. Parts of it are false, but the parts that are true bear incredible witness to to the level of commitment of the founders and those who followed them.
John Francis Mercer is reported to have said “It is a great mistake to suppose that the paper we are to propose [the Constitution] will govern the United States. It is the men whom it will bring into the government and the interest in maintaining it that is to govern them. The paper will only mark out the mode and the form. Men are the substance and must do the business.” As I survey the current political landscape, as governments pile laws upon ineffective laws, I wonder who in the country today would be equal to the task accomplished by our founding fathers and those who wrote our Constitution. Who today has the wisdom of Jefferson, or Adams? Who has the humility of Washington? What person has the statesmanship skills of Franklin?
I am not suggesting that men like Washington, Adams, Franklin, Jefferson, or Hancock or others were perfect men. Their faults are well-documented, if not well-known. Jefferson had at least one illegitimate son. Certainly to that extent, there are plenty of candidates in today’s political and economic arenas. But if we take a long, honest and serious look at people today, I wonder if we would find anyone who could do what they did so long ago?