Like many of you, I am sick to death of watching ill-educated and misinformed Tea party-types attempting to hijack the notion of “what our Founding Fathers would have wanted” in favor of what they and their ignorant brethren actually want. Whenever someone pulls out the “Founding Fathers” card these days, I recoil immediately because I know I am dealing with an intellectually dishonest scoundrel from the get-go, as this is usually an admission that what they have to say is totally bogus and very often has next to nothing to do with actual history. Referring to what the Founding Fathers would have wanted has become a fall-back straw-man argument of the historically-challenged Glen Beck set and it’s being rendered meaningless the more and more often it gets repeated by ignorant people wanting to shoot their mouths off on TV and at Tea party rallies regarding issues they know nothing about.
While we can’t know exactly what the Founding Fathers would say about the racists on the radical right who are protesting the plans for the Cordoba House in downtown Manhattan, we can read what George Washington himself said about religious freedom on this very in history, August 18th, 1790, in his letter to the Jewish congregation of Newport, Rhode Island:
The reflection on the days of difficulty and danger which are past is rendered the more sweet, from a consciousness that they are succeeded by days of uncommon prosperity and security. If we have wisdom to make the best use of the advantages with which we are now favored, we cannot fail, under the just administration of a good Government, to become a great and a happy people.
The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.
Not very ambiguous is it? Even something like the above would probably still fail to faze the Facts? Who Cares About Facts? brigade of the Republican party. If you are going to invoke the matter of what the Founding Fathers would have wanted, you simply can’t pick and choose from history willy-nilly to suit your argument and be considered credible. But whether they are misinformed or simply lying, however you slice it, when these folks start to evoke what they Founding Fathers would have wanted, they are almost always just plain wrong.