[ExI] overlooking

Dan TheBookMan danust2012 at gmail.com
Fri Jul 10 20:47:42 UTC 2020

On Jul 10, 2020, at 7:37 AM, spike jones via extropy-chat <extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:
> > On Behalf Of William Flynn Wallace via extropy-chat
> Subject: [ExI] overlooking
> To me it's not overlooking in how we judge our Founders.  It is accepting the bad with the good.
> Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.
> Cliche' but true.
> bill w
> Ja.  Otherwise the farther back in time you go, the worse they get.  Our perception of right and wrong changes over time for perfectly understandable reasons: we get to see how things turned out.  The old timers were guessing at how things would turn out.  We read about it.  The old ones didn’t even have internet.
> The founding fathers recognized that the continent could not sustain a prolonged armed struggle between states, or a system whereby every state was a completely independent nation (which is why they didn’t allow the Green Mountain Boys to form Vermont into its own country or the Kanawhans to form an independent nation.)  The founders had to accept compromises in order to get the states to work together.
> spike

Hasn't the whole argument that times were different been overused? Again, I've pointed out that there were antislavery movements in the Colonies and in Britain around before the US formed. So, some of the Founders were behind the times here. Heck, even some of these abolitionists were contemporary critics of the Founders or were Founders themselves. So, it's not like the Founders were unaware of antislavery ideas and had to slowly invent the idea themselves.

I think there's also an overstatement of the Founders as innovative thinkers. I would say none of them had an original thought, but their basic political philosophy arose out of the wider liberal movement in Britain and Europe. And here they were mostly borrowers from thinkers like Locke, Sydney, Montesquieu, and Rousseau (though the last is an odd bird here) sometimes via seconds source like Cato's Letters.

This isn't to fault them. Being original in political philosophy is rare and difficult. 

With compromises in history, sure, it's easy to overlook the messiness and how maybe folks were making the best of a bad situation. But one must be careful not to excuse everything. There's a tendency in many national histories -- and US national history is no exception -- to read many historical compromises, especially ones the Framers made, as excusable or even laudable. But I think this goes way too far. Other Founders criticized the Framers and the Framers' specific compromises.

It might be difficult to see what might have been, but let's say the freed colonies split over slavery were decisive. What then? Two separate confederations or many separate states? What would've been the horror of that? The usual thing I've heard is each state would've been picked off by a major power like Britain or France. Maybe, but maybe not. Major European powers seemed to have other concerns, especially after the French Revolution.

And from the perspective of slavery, one view is that it would've ended sooner. Slave states wouldn't have a federal government to back their claims over runaways. An Underground Railroad under such conditions would probably terminate right across the northern border of the Mason-Dixon line rather than in Canada, making running much easier and making slavery far less economical, especially close to the border. Freedom of slaves, to me, seems like a better goal than national union for national union's sake.

Vermont was an independent republic until 1791. And it abolished slavery during that time. Its joining the US had to do more with not wanting to be surrounded by US territory yet outside it and having land disputes with US states that it wanted settled. West Virginia, to my knowledge, wanted to be a separate state inside the US -- not a separate nation state with full national sovereignty.


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