Out of the many, one
Here comes another birthday for our country, another chance for us to gather with family and friends, eat, have a day off (some of us) and maybe watch some fireworks. We drag out quotes from our Founding Fathers and play patriotic music to commemorate the official signing of the Declaration of Independence, our country’s “birthday.”
Like most new babies, the FF probably were like most new parents: What in the world do we do with her now? How do we help her grow?
Many of them had opinions about that as they kept telling the British, “Um, you have no business governing us anymore,” over and over throughout the next few years in words and in battle until the British conceded.
So what do you call a group of people who have plenty their hands in the government? Politicians. Today’s variety has nothing on the ones from then. We love to romanticize those former heroes who fought for independence, but they were just “regular” people like today.
They were a varied group of people, farmers, businessmen, plantation owners, merchant and more. They fought with each other, carried on sometimes like party boys, and some of their escapades would have made great headlines. I wonder how some of their political careers would have fared in this age of social media.
It’s said that Ben Franklin, for example, enjoyed walking around in the buff at home while creating his inventions. Thomas Jefferson owned slaves and died broke. He and Alexander Hamilton couldn’t stand each other. Jefferson and John Adams (who both died on July 4, 1826) also had a major falling out that lasted for years.
Once the Constitution had been framed and voted on, not everyone got what they wanted. Alexander Hamilton wanted a lifetime term limit for the President. James Madison wanted to give the federal government the power to veto any state legislation. A number of the signers of the Declaration of Independence didn’t want to ratify the Constitution.
These are things that aren’t taught in school. I like to think that hopefully we’ve been taught one of the most important things about them.
These people learned how to compromise, at least to the extent that they could work together and get business done. They realized not everyone would get what they wanted and learned to make concessions.
E. pluribus Unum—out of the many, one— began on Independence Day, but it was and still is a work in progress. Maybe our powers that be now can take a few cues from these imperfect heroes.