They Just Don’t Make Them Like They Used To: An Ode To The Founding Fathers

I have had a deep appreciation and love for all things American history since I was a kid. While I enjoy and try to gobble up any time frame of our history, I have a particular fondness for the very beginning of our country.

When I visit Washington DC or George Washington’s home Mt. Vernon and Thomas Jefferson’s home Monticello, I am always in awe of these giants of our beginnings. How genuinely remarkable these men were and almost other-worldly in their abilities.

I’m always happy to open on our Founding Fathers regardless of what time of year it is. Still, it seems appropriate to always spend a moment remembering who they were and what they did for us. Especially when we live in a time where we seem all too eager to erase them from our memories.

Setting The Bar: George Washington

I consider myself a Military Woman. I served my country for 20 years and numerous times in service to her.

Like my man George I do believe:

“Every post is honorable in which a man can serve his country.”

However, while Washington is often known as the ‘sword’ of the nation, he lost more battles than he won. While not consistently successful on the battlefield, he was well-loved by his men and was quite the spymaster.

According to the Central Intelligence Agency, “General Washington was more deeply involved in intelligence operations than any American General-in-Chief until Dwight Eisenhower during World War II.”

A man who carried the embarrassment of only being schooled until he was 11 years old was quite adept at utilizing human and written intelligence. He even employed invisible ink and a female spy, reasonably progressive for the time.

What always struck me the most remarkable about Washington was how he could withstand the allure of power and step down after two terms as President. He easily could’ve remained President, and nothing at the time said he couldn’t.

Still, to instinctively know that stepping down would set a precedent for future Presidents is almost on another level of intellect and humility that I’m not sure anyone else, past or present, possesses.

Thomas Jefferson: The Pen Is Equal To The Sword

I’ve long believed that Thomas Jefferson and I would be besties if he were alive today. A lover of the written word, he gobbled up books, famously saying:

“I cannot live without books.”

When the British laid siege to DC and burnt down much of the books during the War of 1812, he sold his 6,700-volume personal library to replenish the loss. This sale was the foundation of the Library of Congress.

Not only did he love to read, but he also loved to write. He wrote over 19,000 letters. No wonder he would become the author of the Declaration of Independence.

He was fascinated by almost everything, including architecture, gardening, archaeology, and animals. At one point, he had two grizzly bears caged on the front lawn of the White House, and he also had Mastodon bones laid out in the East Room in an attempt to form a skeleton.

Honorable Mentions

You can’t talk about the Founding Fathers without mentioning other notables. The ‘Father of the Constitution’ James Madison makes the list, of course. Another man with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge is viewed as the first Grad student of Princeton University.

He attended the College of New Jersey, which would later become Princeton. He four years of instruction in a completed lighting fast two-year period. Undoubtedly thanks to his strict schedule, he slept a mere four hours each night so he could spend his waking hours reading law books and books on Greek and Roman philosophy.

If it wasn’t for James Madison, we wouldn’t have our three branches of government and the checks and balances that come with them.

I’m personally not a huge Alexander Hamilton fan, but a list isn’t complete without him. Besides being the father of our banking and financial system, he also created the beginnings of our modern-day Coast Guard.

The first American Renaissance Man, Benjamin Franklin, seemingly could do it all. Author, printer, scientist, inventor, and diplomat, he helped shape the beginnings of our foreign policy. Pretty impressive when you consider he was only formally educated up to the age of ten.

Of course, there is also John Adams, who accurately summed up his time as Vice President as; “…the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived…”

Patrick Henry could stir up a crowd, perhaps so more than any other Founding Father, with his famous cry “Give me Liberty! Or give me death!”

However, one that often doesn’t get enough love is Thomas Paine, author of the quintessential ‘Common Sense,’ which convinced the colonists that a representative government was the best. John Adams once said of this piece of work:

“Without the pen of the author of ‘Common Sense,’ the sword of Washington would have been raised in vain.”

What This America Needs

The men of our founding were inspiring for dozens of reasons. But what makes them stand apart and inspires me the most is their insatiable curiosity and the ability to argue beautifully.

I worry that we have lost those two traits as time has passed. Elon Musk is the closest person I have seen to the same level of curiosity as the Founders.

He not only seems to have an insatiable drive for knowledge and advancement but is also eccentric like some of the Founders. For example, Franklin used to air bathe, meaning he would walk around naked daily while reading.

We no longer engage in passionate but constructive debate. Instead, family and friends shut each other out, never to speak again because one is pro this and one is pro that.

When Washington retired from his military duties and thought he would enjoy the life of a farmer, he wrote what is known as the ‘Circular Letter to the States.’ Within the letter, he states that the Union requires all people:

“…to forget their local prejudices and policies [being willing] to sacrifice their individual advantages to the interest of the community.”

Our collective addiction to Rage has clouded our ability to empathize and converse with one another as fellow Americans. As Thomas Paine wrote in ‘The American Crisis’:

“These are the times that try men’s souls.”

Are they ever.

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