How Would Our Nation's Founders React to Current Political Issues?

ABSTRACT: How would our nation's founders react to important contemporary political issues like individual rights, big government, and federal deficits? I try to answer this question by examining the views of John Adams, Alexander Hamilton,and Thomas Jefferson.

White House (1)
Americans often defer to the (supposed) will of our nation's founders when formulating their political opinions. However, they might want to think twice before giving such authority to the founding fathers. For one thing, most Americans, whatever their political affiliation, would not agree with some of the views expressed by men like John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, and Thomas Jefferson. As important, our nation's founders, when alive, were not a monolithic group; they rarely spoke with one voice on any issue.

Given the importance of this topic, it might be worthwhile to see how three of our nation's founders-Adams, Hamilton, and Jefferson-would react to some of the most important issues in contemporary American politics.

Basic Freedoms

All three of these men favored limiting basic freedoms for certain groups of Americans. Adams and Hamilton were elitists who feared the power of the masses. They thought that only the wealthy should govern and were not in favor of allowing everyone to vote. At times, these two men also supported restricting other basic freedoms on the pretense of maintaining order. Adams and Hamilton demonstrated this penchant by abetting the passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts.

By contrast, Jefferson believed in allowing a large number of Americans to enjoy basic freedoms, such as the freedom of speech and the right to assemble. However, he was unwilling to extend these rights to everyone, as indicated by the fact that he owned slaves.

Big Government

Jefferson was an advocate for states' rights and would probably favor ending most, if not all, federal entitlement programs. He would also want to dismantle the government's regulatory framework and eliminate the Federal Reserve. Jefferson might significantly cut military expenditures as well. Libertarians would applaud Jefferson's actions; however, most Americans would cry foul.

Adams and Hamilton would probably also agree to eliminate entitlement programs and abolish regulatory infrastructures. However, they would not take these positions out of any fear of big government. Instead, Adams and Hamilton would be guided by their religious beliefs and by their pro-business philosophies. They would likely keep many of the other government agencies in place. In fact, Hamilton might want to increase the power of the Federal Reserve. After all, he was a huge fan of the Bank of the United States (America's first national bank).

Federal Deficits

Jefferson would advocate for balancing the federal budget. Hamilton on the other hand would not have a problem with government deficits, though even he might worry about the size of the current federal debt. It is unclear what Adams' position on this topic would be.

As a nation, we owe a great debt to our founding fathers. However, we should not base our decisions on the supposed will of these men. By doing so, we oversimplify our Colonial past while at the same time ignoring the lessons we have learned over the course of our nation's history.

Miller Center. (2012). "American President: John Adams (1735-1826)." University of Virginia.
Miller Center. (2012). "American President: Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)." University of Virginia.
Anonymous. "Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804)". University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law.
Anonymous (2012). "The Federalist Party." Blue Ridge Public Broadcasting Services.
Linder, Doug (2012). "The Bill of Rights: Its History and Significance." Exploring Constitutional Law (website). University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law.
Anonymous. (2012). Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809). The White House.

1. Author: Ed Brown
    Date: May 6, 2005
    Title/Description: View of the North Portico and North Lawn of the White House, residence of the
                               President of the United States.
    Location/Permission: Wikimedia Commons - Author's note releasing the photo into the public domain
                                     (click on title/link to see photo, credits, permissions).

The author is a freelance writer and has a B.A. in History from Roanoke College.

-- Anthony Hopper

#presidents #US #UnitedStates #history #UShistory #founders #Jefferson #Congress #gridlock #Adams #Hamilton

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