The Nobility of the Founding Fathers

The “Committee of Five,” composed of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston, presenting the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration of Independence. By: John Trumbull.

Much of the progress that America experienced during the Revolution happened as a result of the Founding Fathers’ contradictory actions. The Founding Fathers, predominantly privileged, in some ways paid the price of the Revolution in the most noble way.

As Gordon Wood explained in Revolutionary Characters: What Made the Founders Different, one price of “democracy was a decline in the intellectual quality of American political life and an eventual separation between ideas and power.” Gordon Wood, Revolutionary Characters: What Made the Founders Different, 10. The Founding Fathers, while empowering the common man to extraordinary new heights, were also directly impeding their futures.

In this way, the Founding Fathers were “the progenitors” of their own disempowerment, not merely the victims. See id. at 11. They created “the changes that led eventually to their own undoing, to the breakup of the kind of political and intellectual coherence they represented.” Id. In other words, “they willingly destroyed the sources of their own greatness.” Id.

In retrospect, and in comparison with the founding of governments around the world, it is difficult to think of a comparable situation. Of course, the Founding Fathers did not absolutely eliminate the influence of aristocracy in America. But typically, those who create the systems and institutions that govern ensure that their own power is preserved within that new framework.

The nobility of the Founding Fathers is admirable in this way. Few politicians before or since have dedicated their actions toward establishing a more equal, more just system of government.

Modern Americans would do well to remember the nobility of elected officials when considering which candidate to vote for in elections. Those elected officials who value the prosperity and rights of the common man and woman, despite their aristocratic background, should be favored. As the Founding Fathers undoubtedly recognized, the aristocratic class would always find ways to preserve its power and influence in government.

The nobility that the Founding Fathers exhibited in their actions during the Revolution set an example for subsequent generations of Americans. That example should continue to be remembered and achieved, so that future generations can achieve more equality and more justice in American society.

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