Founding Fathers Theory

Founding Fathers Theory

Founding Fathers

Every American has probably had a theory at one point in their life as to what the intent of “The Founding Fathers” was back when they wrote what they wrote or said what they said. One historical problem every American has to wrestle with when engaging in these thought experiments is that our present understanding of the world mucks up our theory on what the “Founding Fathers” meant over 200 years ago. It is the easiest thing in the world to impose our present onto our past.

In theory we should do our best to avoid that phenomena because the “Founding Fathers” were not Nostradamus or psychics who had a full understanding of what the next 200 years was going to be like. They were just guys and many of them were not that much older or younger than I am today at 37 years old. Which begs the question… should we even be putting that much stock into the opinions of what some 30-50 year olds thought of the world 250 years ago?

Probably not, but NYC has never gotten rid of Trinity Church for some reason even so there’s probably something to looking back at History to improve our future in a globalized capitalist modern world. Many historians tend to follow in the footsteps of other people who hold advanced degrees like a masters or PHD and specialize in one area of expertise. They pick a place or time period, study every detail and become an expert. I am no expert and I don’t like examining one topic too much. But I do love history. So here is my theory on the Founding Fathers.

They really did not know what they were doing. They were kind of clueless as to what will happen in the future, but they were men of science and made the best decisions they could with the newest and best information they could get ahold of. This is why sometimes we the people often times refer to the American Story as “An Experiment”.

With the benefit of being able to follow a timeline of events over the last 250 years I have theorized that our Experiment worked. It worked a little too well if I’m being honest. The entire world has in some way or another followed America’s lead. The Founding Fathers would probably look at the world now and go “Who woulda thought what we came up with in Philadelphia that Summer would now be a reality of the world everywhere?”

In March of 1776 a book was published in England that included a an economic theory. It was a critique of the mercantile and colonial economic system that was essentially reality for the prior few hundred years. The book was Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations. The theory was called “Capitalism.” It was a brand new book back when Thomas Jefferson began writing the Declaration of Independence a few months earlier. A decade later after winning our Independence it was still more or less a working theory when the “Founding Fathers” were debating the components of a new constitution during the summer of 1787.

Two years later the first of what would be many world events influenced by America’s success happened. The French Revolution began in 1789. America was just beginning its experiment as a constitution when it instantly became a world leader. France followed America’s story of overthrowing a monarchy in the name of liberty and independence. But I bet if we were to hypothetically go back in time and ask the Constitutional Convention how long the French Monarchy would last. I would bet that the vast majority of them would say centuries into the future because the French Monarchy had existed for centuries before. I would bet that most of them did not have any clue that the actions they were taking would lead to the overthrow of the French Monarchy in about 1000 days.

If we fast forward in history to the time of my home state of California’s story of the Gold Rush. We can look at what was going in the world and see that simultaneously the world was beginning to follow the lead of America and France. In 1848 the Gold Rush was on, hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world flooded the shores of the Golden State in search of quick and easy new money. Also in the late 1840’s there was a movement of revolutions in Europe to overthrow their monarchies. There was also a major change in the economic system of the world, the colonial mercantile system was ending and capitalism was taking its place. One of the hallmark of capitalism is its ability to instill a belief into people that they as an individual are capable of economic growth independent of their family background, education, or ethnicity. The individual can become whatever they want to become economically through hard work, determination, perseverance, entrepreneurship, and overcome a lot of rejection along the way.

During the Gold Rush a lot of people came in the false belief that they can arrive in San Francisco go to the foothills and just find gold running in the streams. There were many more failures than successes of people finding mother loads of gold that they could just retire on. In reality the Gold Rush was a crash course in capitalism and entrepreneurship where the mother loads of wealth were being generated by the business men and women who set a goal of making every would be 49er broke by the time they arrived in Marysville or Oroville CA. Saloons, brothels, newspapers, hardware and general goods stores, and other businesses did a much better job at getting money than the average 49er. Seattle Washington even got wealthier because of the CA Gold Rush. That city’s story began with a ship seeing a light near the shore of some woods. The ship would haul lumbar from Canada and Alaska to San Francisco because San Francisco was expanding rapidly and needed lumbar. The ship found the settlers and made a deal which turned Seattle into a logging city then a mining city. Then the saloons and brothels came to Seattle to serve the loggers and miners and many of the madams and saloon owners came to Seattle from San Francisco because the competition was not as strong in Seattle. The west was settled and founded by a bunch of greedy capitalists. Which makes it a truly great American story.

Marysville CA is just one small town in the American story, but it has a history kind of like Seattle. It was the very last stop for the steamships who carried 49ers. The Main Street is just off the Feather River and is relatively small when compared to Sacramento or San Francisco and has roughly 200 or so buildings. However, during the Gold Rush it was estimated that of those 200 buildings, there were 50 saloons and 40 cathouses all of which were making money by taking the money and gold the 49ers found. The true CA Gold Rush story was making the 49ers broke by selling them stuff they didn’t need at outrageous prices before they got to the Sierra Foothills. Then if some lucky 49er’s actually found some gold, it was spent on booze and women making them broke by the time they got back to San Francisco for a return ticket back to wherever they came from.

The era of apprenticeships determining your place in the economic system and indentured servitude were over. Capitalism replaced it. But, if we were to hypothetically tell the founding fathers at the Constitutional Convention that in 60 years or so there would hardly be a monarchy left in Europe and most people in the world and capitalism would be the dominating system worldwide, they would have probably laughed at the idea, thinking that the monarchial system has existed for centuries and would probably exist for centuries to come, and that the USA is just an idea they were trying out and probably would fail like the Articles of the Confederation failed.

Also in 1848 a completely different book was being published in London which proposed an economic theory that was the exact opposite of the story unfolding in CA during that same time. Karl Marx critiqued the capitalist system in his book The Communist Manifesto. Basically this idea makes everything about economics a class system of struggle for advancement because capitalism creates income inequalities. There is no point to further discuss this theory because it fails everywhere 100% of the time it has been tried. But, that doesn’t stop some college professors teaching it as a legitimate theory. Whenever you hear anyone complain about capitalism and use the following keywords of “Class” or “System” or “Exploitation” or “Inequality” etc. It means their argument has a little bit of communist critiquing capitalists in its logic.

One unique thing about the American story and experiment is that the USA has always been a place where all cultures are welcome. We have been a melting pot of people from different all over the world. And yes sometimes our history has been one seriously messed up pot of fondue like our past issues with slavery and Jim Crow and racism. But we as Americans tend to always rebound and improve by mixing things up. America today is no longer a messed up pot of brew mixed together by the witches from Macbeth. The USA in the 2020’s is more or less an acceptable pot of fondue from the 1970’s. Our story of forming a more perfect union is paved on road of multiculturalism.

Europeans in the 20th century are becoming more multi cultural due to their colonial past. For example, when I was in Paris I hardly saw French people anymore. I saw people from Algieria and Morocco and I ate a gyros as much as I ate French Food. England today is a completely different place than it was when my Dad studied abroad at St. Andrews University in the 1970’s. I met a British woman on my flight to Seattle who was visiting her family in Sacramento, she was Indian and we talked about how much English food has improved because of India. Who is to say that British Food is not Curry as much as it is Fish and Chips? At one point chips were not even grown in Ireland or England because Potatoes are a food that was found in the “New World.”

In 1970 it would have been unthinkable to the British people my Dad interacted with that England would elect a Prime Minister of Indian descent. Today Rishi Sunak is the Prime Minister and nobody find it strange or odd. My point being is that the American Experiment has influenced the entire world throughout history. Americans like to sometimes play the “Dumb American” card and say something like “We are a young country” or “Europeans have been at it longer than us.”

Which is all true to some degree or another. But it is also not that historically accurate and is a little bit too much of a fib to say with a straight face. We’ve actually are one of the oldest houses on the block of Democracy, even though it sometimes looks like a messed up house that isn’t in order and can’t get anything done most of time. At some point, it gets whipped into shape by the people in charge of running it.

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