FT 012-I Founding Brothers and Revolutionary Characters
Scott Himsel, Department of Political Science
In election years, people often wish that the candidates were as great as our Founding Fathers. But were our Founders really that great? We often worship them, forgetting that they were real people with both gifts and faults. For example, George Washington lost far more battles than he won as a general, but he set a lasting example of how a President should treat others. John Adams was so blunt and opinionated that he offended almost everyone, but by sticking to his principles he kept us out of a war that could have destroyed our young nation. And Thomas Jefferson’s willingness to exert his power allowed America to make the greatest deal in history (the Louisiana Purchase), but that deal contradicted his own belief in limited government. By treating the Founders as real people and drawing on their dramatic experiences, we will seek help in dealing with issues that confounded them and that still confound us today, including: our crippling national debt, the nasty character of our politics, the proper role of religion in our government, and our extreme difficulties with certain other nations. We will search for answers in the Founders’ own words, the words of their critics, portrayals of them in film and television, and with the help of their very best biographers. The answers may surprise you.