Our Socialist Founding Fathers


Alex Knapp

Alex Knapp writes about pretty much everything under the sun, including politics, art, religion, philosophy, sports, music, culture, and science.

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30 Responses

  1. Avatar George Turner says:

    Thomas Paine ended up with about as much respect as a founder as Benedict Arnold had. He became a French revolutionary, and when he returned from Europe (where he wrote “Agrarian Justice”), American children met his ship at the peer and threw rocks at him. Only six people went to his funeral. At some point over there he’d gone off the rails and started ranting against Jesus and George Washington. It wasn’t pretty.Report

    • Avatar greginak in reply to George Turner says:

      Yeah his unpopular religious views ( deism, free thinking, mocking Christianity,etc) made him, well, unpopular. Common Sense was still a big event in inciting the Rev. He was as much a founder as plenty of others. That his views are not PC nowadays for many people is irrelevant.Report

      • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to greginak says:

        Greg, Paine’s “Common Sense” is almost totally a biblical argument. Who knew? Not me, until I actually read it, true story.


        • Avatar greginak in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

          You are aware of Paine’s views on religion, aren’t you. Not exactly Christian.

          From The Age of Reason:
          The opinions I have advanced … are the effect of the most clear and long-established conviction that the Bible and the Testament are impositions upon the world, that the fall of man, the account of Jesus Christ being the Son of God, and of his dying to appease the wrath of God, and of salvation, by that strange means, are all fabulous inventions, dishonorable to the wisdom and power of the Almighty; that the only true religion is Deism, by which I then meant, and mean now, the belief of one God, and an imitation of his moral character, or the practice of what are called moral virtues – and that it was upon this only (so far as religion is concerned) that I rested all my hopes of happiness hereafter. So say I now – and so help me GodReport

    • Avatar Alex Knapp in reply to George Turner says:

      Indeed. And that’s a sad thing.Report

  2. Avatar Jaybird says:

    It’s all “brethren” this, and “civilization” that when they want you to stand in front of Brits shooting rifles.

    Once the war is won, it’s all “political realities”.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

      It’s “Common Sense” and “Rights of Man”
      And “‘Tom Paine, he’s the one!”
      But it’s “Throw him out, the Commie!”
      Wen there’s governing to be done.Report

  3. Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

    Hamilton’s was a Liberal Fascism*, Paine was commie**, Jefferson an agrarian slaveowning hypocrite*** whose hands never touched a plow, and Franklin was speaking of private charity, as was his wont as a community leader and organizer, not a community agitator, demanding from the government what was best left to the charity and discernment of the people.

    Aside from that, Alex, your Cliffs Notes from the Founding are not that bad. Cheers, mate.


    *Although Hamilton, liberal fascist that he was, out of respect for the Constitution argued that the building of canals exceeded the federal government’s constitutional authority, and so, a constitutional amendment was in order to authorize it.


    **I like Paine. America didn’t after our revolution though, and neither did revolutionary France either, which threw him in prison, where President Washington let him stew. Interesting story.

    ***Jefferson? Really? The man had wonderful rhetoric but otherwise was a pig.


    ****Franklin the “socialist,” and his last bit there goes double for me, Messrs. the Public, respectfully submitted:

    ” The day you passed that act, you took away from before their eyes the greatest of all inducements to industry, frugality, and sobriety, by giving them a dependance on somewhat else than a careful accumulation during youth and health, for support in age or sickness. In short, you offered a premium for the encouragement of idleness, and you should not now wonder that it has had its effect in the increase of poverty. Repeal that law, and you will soon see a change in their manners. St. Monday, and St. Tuesday, will cease to be holidays. SIX days shalt thou labour, though one of the old commandments long treated as out of date, will again be looked upon as a respectable precept; industry will increase, and with it plenty among the lower people; their circumstances will mend, and more will be done for their happiness by inuring them to provide for themselves, than could be done by dividing all your estates among them.

    Excuse me, Messrs. the Public, if upon this interesting subject, I put you to the trouble of reading a little of my nonsense. I am sure I have lately read a great deal of yours; and therefore from you (at least from those of you who are writers) I deserve a little indulgence. I am, your’s, &c. ARATOR.

    The London Chronicle, November 29, 1766


    • Avatar greginak in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

      Must eliminate any thought or idea the sainted Founders may have had that doesn’t comport with modern republican beliefs. Must purge wrong thoughts.Report

        • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Rod says:

          Fellas, it pains me to see you insult your own intelligence. C’mon, gentlemen, I consider you the cream of the crop.Report

          • Avatar Rod in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

            Well… it wasn’t liberals that put together that site. I’m not sure what your point is, Tom. (Not an uncommon occurrence, BTW)Report

            • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Rod says:

              Talkin’ the OP, Rod—“Our Socialist Founding Fathers” by Alex Knapp. Not liberals, not Conservapedia. Yes?Report

              • Avatar Rod in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Perhaps it’s just the brevity of your comments. Or maybe it’s just that I need to go to bed.

                If your point is that the Founders were just the founders, in all their warts and glory, and for either camp to try to re-write history to pigeon-hole them into conforming to either of our contemporary warring camps is a huge mistake and a drastically over-simplified reading of what was essentially a bunch of politicians trying to wrestle a pig to the ground… then I totally agree.

                (And the fact that I could “craft” the sentence above, and declare it worthy of submission without a rewrite on the grounds that it’s too much trouble is proof positive that I need to retire. Nighty-night.)Report

              • Avatar Alex Knapp in reply to Rod says:

                I’d agree with your 2nd para, with the addendum that one modern camp, in particular, does not really understand political nuance. Hence the title.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Rod says:

                It’s a comments section, Rod. {alex.} Brevity is presumably a virtue, and I wasn’t all that brief. But happy to expand on the trail of breadcrumbs, should there be sincere interest.Report

              • Avatar Rod in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Meh… I just wish you’d say what you mean to say instead of acting all inscrutable like some Oriental master from a bad kung-fu movie. (Snatch the pebble from my hand, Grasshopper) If my following comment wasn’t relevant… then whatever. Expand or no, I don’t much give a fish either way. I’ll leave it to the Mrs. Van Dyke to explore your treasure trail.Report

    • Avatar Alex Knapp in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:


      Oh, I’m well aware of all your points. This is really more of an ironic commentary on RW media’s penchant for labeling everything socialist. Not meant to be a front pager, actually. It’s strictly sidebar material.

      Two notes… I think that fascist is harsh for Mr. Hamilton, and would refer you to the aforementioned report re: jurisprudence, particularly as to “general welfare.”

      Second, the article I quoted was part of Mr. Franklin’s argument to the Pennsylvania Assembly to establish the Pennsylvania Hospital. And yes, it was publicly funded, tho it raised charitable contributions as well.Report

      • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Alex Knapp says:

        Thank you, Alex. A bleg, since this my area of interest: I cannot find Franklin’s hospital plea as a call for public finance, only for private charity. And Christian charity at that, although I do not see Franklin as a “Christian” in any theological sense—although here he calls Jesus “Our Savior, and “The great author of our Faith,” quite uncharacteristic of him, but probably along the lines of Paine, playing that Christian card.

        “…that Virtue, which most of all recommends us to the Deity, I mean CHARITY.

        The great Author of our Faith, whose Life should be the constant Object of our Imitation, as far as it is not inimitable, always shew’d the greatest Compassion and Regard for the SICK…


        Not that politically or philosophically I have anything but full support for our government showing Christian charity to the poor, including taxpayer-financed hospital care for the indigent. I mean, really, no snark. Can’t imagine even the worst righty willing to let people die in the street and I hope you can’t either. [Exc Ayn Rand, but if there’s one person you & I both would let die in the street, it’d probably be Ayn Rand. I’d probably back over her a few times just to make sure, y’knowwhatI mean?]

        Anywayz, if you can find something linking the Franklin quote to a proposal for gummint money, I’d be appreciative. Cheers.Report

  4. Avatar Murali says:

    The problem with talk about the founders believing this, that and the other is that what they believed has nothing to do with whether private property in the means of production really is a good idea or whether government protection of industries is a bad idea.Report

    • Avatar greginak in reply to Murali says:

      Well yeah but for many Americans invoking the Founders has a religious quality. Quoting the Founders is always solid proof for whatever the hell someone wants to prove. According to some we should live exactly as the Founders imagined or at least how people with magic Ouija boards are sure the Founders would want us to live.Report

    • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Murali says:

      Mr. Murali, there’s no problem with talk about the Founding Fathers atall if we actually read them. They weren’t all that complicated. We are quite free to reject them, mind you, but that’s no replacement for understanding what they said in the first place.

      Even the statist Hamilton respected the limits placed on the federal government by the Constitution; Paine was a propagandist for the Revolution, penning stuff he didn’t even believe, like God setting up America as the refuge for the “true religion” of Protestantism; Jefferson was Jefferson, talking the talk but not walking the walk; and Ben Franklin, whose communitarianism was on the voluntary community level from fire departments to universities and hospitals, not the aggrandizement of government.

      You have a different vision of America? Do tell it. I suspect there’s a fellow running for president just now who shares it completely. 😉Report

  5. Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

    The comments section on this post is as exhausting as the things that inspired it in the first place. Nicely done, Alex.Report

  6. Avatar Liberty60 says:

    I am going to start a meme.
    I am going to create an account somewhere like RedState or PJ Media, and begin the meme that Obama took scissors to the Bible and cut out the pages he disagreed with.Report