Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Who was the Greatest Founding Father? (Part I)

Who was the greatest founding father? This is a very difficult question to answer because there is certainly no right answer, there are many choices who had a great impact on creating our great nation. George Washington was the commander in chief leading the colonies to a revolutionary win over Great Britain and became our first president. Washington was great, but my issue with him was he was a Federalist. He believed in a strong central government that can control state governments. This was most evident when Washington sent troops to squash the “Whiskey Rebellion” in 1791. The rebellion was merely a protest over a tax on whiskey. But Washington’s first intention was to use federal force to silence people’s first amendment rights. Washington, also followed the advice of his Treasury Secretary, Alexander Hamilton, to push Constitutional bounds by creating a National Bank citing the “General Welfare” clause of Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution. The next president, John Adams, another great founding father (also a federalist) passed the Alien and Sedition Act in 1791 that fined and imprisoned citizens who spoke poorly of the administration. The law also deported foreigners and made it difficult for immigrants to vote.

Thomas Jefferson would also be a solid candidate. Jefferson, a Republican (not similar to our current day Republican) believed in a small federal government yielding more power to state governments. Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence and was our second president presiding over the largest land purchase in American history (Louisiana Purchase).

However, my choice is James Madison. Madison is largely regarded as the father of the Constitution, a document that has prevailed over the course of centuries. I choose Madison over Jefferson because he was Jefferson’s Secretary of State and was his most influential cabinet member reading over every word written by the president before it was made public. And Madison was the man who influenced the Louisiana Purchase. Madison even wrote many speeches made by President Washington including his inaugural address.

Madison was one of the authors of the famed “Federalist Papers” along with Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay wrote 5 of the essays. These documents were paramount in convincing states to ratify the Constitution. However, Madison will stray from Federalism once the government is formed and create a second political party – Republicans. He felt a political party system was not ideal, but it was the best way to keep checks and balances within the political system. One thing Madison wanted in the Constitution was a means for the federal government to keep state governments in check. He feared under the current system that state governments would become corrupt and powerful. He never got his wish, but would later discover after armies were used to silence protests and the passing of the Alien and Sedition Act that it was the Federal government that was too powerful and should be feared – not the states. Hence, the formation of the Republican Party. Later, the adoption of the 14th amendment following the Civil War would add to the Constitution that check on state governments that Madison originally pushed for.

The biggest issue of the Madison two term presidency was obviously the War of 1812 with Great Britain. Madison wanted peace and the United States tried for years without any success to end British rule over the colonies. The British never left their posts in Western America following the Revolutionary War and during war with France the British would continually capture American trading ships and even indentured American citizens into the British Navy. This went on for decades before Madison convinced Congress to go to war. A 64 year old James Madison was on the front lines of the war when the British attacked Washington DC. The treaty of the war did not favor either side, but America had grown into a world power gaining the respect of both France and England. Victory over the British and their Indian allies in western America opened the American frontier all the way to the western coast.

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