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Attention Conservatives: Stop Selectively Quoting The Founding Fathers.

“We have to get back to the principles America was founded on.”

“THIS isn’t what the founding fathers had in mind.”

How many times have we heard statements like this from Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and their followers?  They can’t go five minutes without invoking the founding fathers– usually in opposition to a Democratic politician’s attempt to address a real-world problem.  Libertarians use this argument as well, albeit in a much less obnoxious, less hypocritical manner than Hannity and friends.  But they’re still wrong.

Many Conservatives don’t seem to understand that the world has fundamentally changed in the last 200 years. It’s not heresy to suggest that some of the ideas of the founding fathers are outdated.  You get nowhere trying to explain that capitalism can’t ran rampant, or that the expansion of our agribusiness necessitates federal oversight to keep us healthy, so let’s use buzzwords that even Sean Hannity can understand:

National defense.  The military.

Guess what, Hannity?  The founders of this great nation were adamantly opposed to the concept of a standing army.

Thomas Jefferson had the following thoughts on standing armies:

“Standing armies are inconsistent with [a people’s] freedom and subversive of their quiet.”

“The spirit of this country is totally adverse to a large military force.”

“There shall be no standing army but in time of actual war.”

“The Greeks and Romans had no standing armies, yet they defended themselves. The Greeks by their laws, and the Romans by the spirit of their people, took care to put into the hands of their rulers no such engine of oppression as a standing army. Their system was to make every man a soldier and oblige him to repair to the standard of his country whenever that was reared. This made them invincible; and the same remedy will make us so.”

It wasn’t just Jefferson:

Rep. Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts: “What, sir, is the use of a militia? It is to prevent the establishment of a standing army, the bane of liberty.”  (August 17, 1789).

James Madison: “As the greatest danger to liberty is from large standing armies, it is best to prevent them by an effectual provision for a good militia.” (1787 Federal Convention).

You get the point.

Our nation’s founders adamantly opposed the use of a standing army except in times of actual war.

This tells us two things right off the bat.

First, it tells us that Sean Hannity and his type are total fucking hypocrites.  They talk glowingly of America’s military might and our influence in the world and in the same breath curse liberals for “straying” from our founding principles.  You can’t have it both ways.  Either shut the hell up about the founding fathers or start calling for the armed forces to be disbanded.

Secondly, it tells us that technology has made the world a whole lot smaller and a whole lot more dangerous than was the case in 1776.  We need a standing army.  The world has changed.

By the same token, we need a stronger government than we did 233 years ago.  In 1776, the concept of a stock market crash didn’t exist.  153 years later, it nearly destroyed our nation.  And 80 years after that it happened again.  Our economy needs intelligent regulation.  It just does.

233 years ago, nobody imagined factory farms.  Nobody imagined injecting poultry and livestock with hormones to fatten them up.  We didn’t need the government to inspect farms and food products to keep us safe.  We do now.

233 years ago, nobody imagined the technology that would enable corporations to span countries and continents.  Nobody imagined that tycoons would be more powerful than presidents– capable of virtually enslaving millions of low-wage workers across the globe.  No minumum wage was neccesary, nor was any sort of welfare.  It is now.

And 233 years ago, nobody imagined nuclear warfare.  Nobody imagined supersonic fighter jets.  It was possible for a country to defend itself without highly trained, professional armed forces.  It’s not possible today.

It’s time for conservatives to stop dwelling in the past.  Conservative ideals do not need to be abandoned– after all, hard work, determination, and ingenuity are what makes this country great.  But we need to find a way to safeguard life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in today’s world.  And that process starts with the realization that it’s not 1776 any more.

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13 comments to Attention Conservatives: Stop Selectively Quoting The Founding Fathers.

  • You make great points. Although it hasn’t been 90 years since the great depression, only 80! (2009 minus 1929)

    But besides that small nitpick you are right on. It’s crazy to pretend like the world hasn’t changed over the last 200 years when in fact the rate of change has accelerated so fast that in even 25 years the world can significantly change.

    The internet is the best of many recent examples of technology changing the way the world works and the way people live their lives.

  • Lord Tantrum

    Thanks for the correction. It’s been fixed 🙂

  • Great post! Just wanted to let you know you have a new subscriber- me!

  • I must disagree

    The use of a quote that embraces a principle/value is not wrong.

    As you say pundits, political commentators, or for that matter bloggers are hypocritical if they use quotes that may reinforce a value/principle as they must agree completely on all issues with the person they have quoted? I can’t imagine you agree with all the quotes one could pull from Mark Twain, or one of his stories, yet you choose a quote of his to help describe your blog. Apparently this is a bit of the pot calling the kettle black.

    The basis for your argument is the founding father were not fans of a standing army and due to this belief all of their other thoughts are no longer relevant. As you say, “Either shut the hell up about the founding fathers or start calling for the armed forces to be disbanded.” You can’t have it both ways…it’s either black or it’s white, as you infer. This is due to how modern, moral, and socially advanced our world has progressed since the day of our founding 233 years ago? Their idea and thoughts related to liberty and common sense fall flat in your new progressive world?

    Life, Liberty and Property. These are rights, as described by the authors of our Constitution. The document created and signed on this day to protect these rights. “Provide for the common defense”. These same men who disagree with standing armies as it applied to their world, had the foresight to author a Constitution that would enable that to change, and adapt with time. A “living” document.

    As American’s celebrate the birth of this great Nation, many don’t understand the basic principles for why it was created. I understand the “tantrum” aspect of this blog…i have two toddlers, but what I understand how we can benefit as a Nation to not look at where we came from and what those great men said.

  • thebabbster

    I get so tired of listening to people quote the Founding Fathers as some sort of justification for overthrowing/assassinating Obama. I’d like to find some Founding Father quotes that supported things like racism, elitism or slavery so I can paint these “Uber Patriots” in an awful way.

  • Anonymous


  • Rod Miller

    Dear Anonymous,

    Thanks for using all caps so I know you’re right.

    The Founding Fathers knew enough to know that they didn’t know it all. The Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments–think about that for a moment. Amendments. A recognition that the Constitution was a living document that would need rethinking, revision, amending from time to time. They hoped their creation would last but knew the rules would change. We revere Benjamin Franklin as one of history’s greatest thinkers and innovators, but we have no evidence that he foresaw anything like the technology of the 21st century (or the 20th for that matter.) Can anyone seriously think he and his peers intended the Constitution to serve the purposes of the nation without revision 233 years later?

  • […] ever use these words: “our standing army is the pride of our nation.” Very few things terrified the Founding Fathers more than the idea of a standing […]

  • […] ever use these words: “our standing army is the pride of our nation.” Very few things terrified the Founding Fathers more than the idea of a standing […]


    Um… I hate to burst your bubble there, Anonymous, but not only were the Founding Fathers the most impressive collection of learned and distinguished men in our nation’s history, they were among the most liberal groups of all time. You don’t get more liberal than what they had achieved by rocking the boat and fighting for freedom from the tyranny of their oppressive King. The conservatives of the time, in the American colonies, were the ones who thought that Americans should be “loyal” to the King of England, the Tories. Arguably, the Founding Fathers are among the most influential liberals and progressives in history… after Jesus Christ, of course.

  • Sir Kevin

    So, ignoring the constitution is “changing” it because times have changed? You are a slave to the elitists, too bad you won’t be smart enough to realize it until it’s too late. Just because idiot NEO-conservatives ignore the conservative values of our founding fathers in no way proves your opinions as truth. You are arrogant and are simply regurgitating what the institution has taught you. Good luck slave!

  • Sir Kevin

    …and SirLizard, trying to say our founders were “liberals”, doesn’t prove a thing… since most liberals today are actually socialist and communist, something EVERY founder spoke openly against.

  • bubba

    So funny that this is called raging tantrum. You leftist are just a bunch of little children stomping your feet and telling everyone to do as you say. Grow up you douche.

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