How wise, really, were the founders of this country? Could they have been merely smart, and not wise at all; or at least as blind, perhaps, as they were wise? Surely their supposed wisdom can and should be questioned. After all, some of them owned slaves. Can a man who preaches equality, and who buys and sells human beings, still be wise? Certainly he can be nice and mean well; he can be a kind master; he can also smile and listen to his wife, even if he believes with all his foolish heart that she is not his equal and not intelligent enough to vote — and besides, she owns no property. Even men who did not own property were not given the vote. Wise? Yes, those were different times. Maybe you and I would have done the same. Maybe we still do, in our own modern way. But of course you and I do not claim to be wise. I wonder, did they? Or is their wisdom the wishful fabrication of those who came after them? What easier way to justify the present, than to glorify the past? Never mind that these same men bumbled through the country’s first unnecessary wars and claimed vast swaths of land that was already inhabited. Of course, all the kids were doing it — that Napoleon, for instance, was quite the go-getter. Spain had some clout. England was a power. First come, first served! The last one in is a rotten egg! And so maybe instead of insisting that they were wise, it would make more sense to say they were men with a great deal of charm, ability, and character. That their divisive governmental squabbling began at the outset and steadily increased through Jefferson and Madison’s time, each faction trying to derail the others’ plans, to the extent that some even wanted to break away and form their own country loyal to England, is, perhaps, at least a tiny indication that they were not wise, or not wholly, indisputably wise, and that, in fact, they were, above all, fallible men. But what fine ideas some of them they had! Would it not be wise to cling to some of them?
September 29, 2020
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