During post-lecture discussions, I’ve heard classmates refer to Washington and Jefferson as nothing more than fools who thought that liberty should exist for no one except rich whites. While I agree that such immorality should have been avoided, these criticisms are short-sighted. My classmates have the good fortune of living in a society that was able to correct its wrongs and move forward to a time in which liberty graces all people.
We’re at a crossroads: how will we decide to look back upon American history? Rioters deface and topple statues of Lincoln and Washington. Some call for the destruction of Mt. Rushmore. Commentators call into question every aspect of the lives of these men who put in blood, toil, tears, and sweat to establish a more perfect union. Some will have you believe that their effort, whether it is for posterity or not, doesn’t merit praise for they are guilty of sin.
Alexander Hamilton is the most recent Founder to draw ire. Since the digital release of his musical biography, leftists have dug into his life and decided that his marriage to the daughter of a prominent slave owner and his brief engagement in the slave trade was too dangerous to warrant support—forgotten are his writings on abolition, his work and deep friendships with prominent abolitionists, and his writings of the Federalist Papers. He was imperfect, yes, but his legacy advanced the cause of freedom and justice for all.
Many of our nation’s Founding Fathers indeed partook in the abomination of slavery. Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin were indeed adulterers. These men were not perfect, but to hold them to that account lacks any fairness that we grant ourselves.
Time serves only second to God as the greatest judge of all things. In the not so distant future, our way of life and our values will be looked back upon contemptuously. Often the left, and increasingly so the right, has looked upon those in the past with ill will and as backward and terrible. They’re denied their fair shake, and the standards in which men were judged during their own daily lives are thrown out in favor of those of the present.
Even current progressive champions cannot survive the purity test of the wokescolds. Joe Biden oversaw the passage of the ‘94 Crime Bill that led to the era of mass incarceration. Barack Obama’s use of drone strikes led to civilian casualties. Bill Clinton engaged in an affair, and both he and Hillary both pushed strongly against same-sex marriage before it was politically advantageous to endorse it.
Historical revisionism also plays a role in our perception of the past. In 2015, the Pew Research Center found that public opinion had considerably swayed into a near majority of Americans believing that the use of nuclear weapons during the Second World War was a mistake. In 1945, 85% of Americans believed that their use was a justified means to end the war. Regardless of the morality of the act in itself, it’s important to realize that these men believed that they were doing good at the time, saving millions of lives.
Today, revisionists find themselves at outlets of great influence. The New York Times’ “1619 Project” molds the minds of its impressionable audience despite its numerous inaccuracies. Efforts by individuals like them serve only two purposes: manipulate information and hold those in the past accountable to the standards of today.
What seems lost upon those who would cast down our Founders is the very system they use to condemn them. The Constitution both empowered and limited the government that enabled this country to move past its original sin and into a more enlightened age. The First Amendment allows them to organize and criticize. Representative government elects their preferred progressive champions. The appeals to the equality of all men found in the documents gave rhetoric to the abolitionists, suffragists, and civil rights activists.
Such scathing contempt for our Founders also ignores the strides that the system they created has made. These so-called “champions of social justice” have seemingly forgotten that a country supposedly built on racism eventually led to a black man sitting behind the Resolute Desk.
We forget that while great men often do terrible things, that our recognition of them isn’t an endorsement of all of their life’s actions, but rather an endorsement for their service to society and our nation. Build monuments, honor, and celebrate the great men who built our nation, for their service to freedom is unparalleled. If we don’t, the great men of our time will receive the same harsh and unfair judgment as those of yesterday who we vilify.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.