The Founding Fathers – this group of illustrious individuals are quoted heavily and viewed by many as experts, authorities on most subjects relating to government. This has become accepted practice in most circles that respect the original intent interpretation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
However, just because something is “accepted practice” does not mean that it should be an “unquestioned practice”. Indeed, the more familiar something is, the more normal is appears, the more we should investigate, the more we should question in a pursuit of truth.
Thomas Jefferson: “Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear.” Truth does not fear questions. Rather it encourages it. If our foundation is unexamined, how can we depend on what we build on that foundation?
The Founding Fathers can and should be trusted as authorities when it comes to American government. To make this point, an illustration would be of use.
Suppose you have just purchased a 1969 Camaro with the intention of restoring it to its original, factory condition. In order to do this you would need a couple things. First, you would need the owner’s manual. Second, you would need all of the original parts. Now with these two things, you could probably have a decent idea of what to do.
However, imagine the chief designer of the ‘69 Camaro shows at your garage and offers to lend a hand. Now you have a choice, either use the originalist interpretation, offered by the designer, or use your modern interpretation of the information to figure it out.
The Camaro is like our country. The owner’s manual is like our founding documents. The original parts are a “moral and religious people” (as John Adams said). The Camaro designer is like our founding fathers.
They were there when this all happened. They understand what goes where and why. And though they can’t drop by the halls of Congress and chat, they left a plethora of writings that are the authoritative commentary on American government.
When it comes to American government, we have a choice, either use the originalist interpretation, offered by the designers (aka our founding fathers), or use our modern interpretation of the information to figure it out.
If the goal is a “factory original” America, the choice is clear.
NOTE: Since the point of this article is to ask the hard questions and examine our foundations, it should be noted that the question that follows the above examination is – why do we want a “factory original” America? Maybe our modern interpretation would be better? The are very good questions, and perhaps will be addressed in a future article. However, for now, I would recommend Original Intent by David Barton that covers those very questions in great detail.