Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Founding Fathers Would Have Written for EPJ

The Founding Fathers weren't the wimps that many politically correct writers are today. They let it rip. Indeed, if EPJ would have been around at the birth on the nation, I can't think of a better outlet for their writing.

Ron Chernow in this weekend's WSJ explains:
In the American imagination, the founding era shimmers as the golden age of political discourse, a time when philosopher-kings strode the public stage, dispensing wisdom with gentle civility. We prefer to believe that these courtly figures, with their powdered hair and buckled shoes, showed impeccable manners in their political dealings. The appeal of this image seems obvious at a time when many Americans lament the partisan venom and character assassination that have permeated the political process.

Unfortunately, this anodyne image of the early republic can be quite misleading. However hard it may be to picture the founders resorting to rough-and-tumble tactics, there was nothing genteel about politics at the nation's outset. For sheer verbal savagery, the founding era may have surpassed anything seen today. Despite their erudition, integrity, and philosophical genius, the founders were fiery men who expressed their beliefs with unusual vehemence. They inhabited a combative world in which the rabble-rousing Thomas Paine, an early admirer of George Washington, could denounce the first president in an open letter as "treacherous in private friendship…and a hypocrite in public life." Paine even wondered aloud whether Washington was "an apostate or an imposter; whether you have abandoned good principles, or whether you ever had any."...When the new government was formed in 1789, most newspapers still functioned as neutral publications, but they soon evolved into blatant party organs. Printing little spot news, with no pretense of journalistic objectivity, they specialized in strident essays. Authors often wrote behind the mask of Roman pseudonyms, enabling them to engage in undisguised savagery without fear of retribution. With few topics deemed taboo, the press lambasted the public positions as well as private morality of leading political figures. The ubiquitous James T. Callender typified the scandalmongers. From his poison-tipped pen flowed the expose of Hamilton's dalliance with the young Maria Reynolds, which had prompted Hamilton, while treasury secretary, to pay hush money to her husband. Those Jeffersonians who applauded Callender's tirades against Hamilton regretted their sponsorship several years later when he unmasked President Jefferson's carnal relations with his slave Sally Hemings.
Here's a sampling from the writings of the Founding Fathers, as compiled by Chernow.

John Adams on Benjamin Franklin:
His whole life has been one continued insult to good manners and to decency.
Thomas Jefferson on Alexander Hamilton:
I will not suffer my retirement to be clouded by the slanders of a man whose history, from the moment at which history can stoop to notice him, is a tissue of machinations against the liberty of the country which has not only received and given him bread, but heaped honors on his head.

Alexander Hamilton on Thomas Jefferson:
He is not scrupulous about the means of success, not very mindful of truth,and..he is a contempitble hypocrite.
John Adams on Alexander Hamilton:
The bastard brat of a Scotch peddlar.
Also from Adams on Hamilton:
a superabundance of secretions which he could not find whores to draw off

Ah yes, all fit for print at EPJ.


  1. Wenzel,

    I enjoy this idea of sharp-tongued, acerbic Founding Father argumentation tactics because nowadays these comments would be disparaged for being AD HOMINEM (oh no!!) and the owner of such castigating words would be quickly dog-piled with a desultory tongue-lashing himself.

    Now, I wonder if I might rightfully be considered the intellectual heir to the Founding Fathers with efforts such as this: Is UTA's James Galbraith A True Economist?"

  2. Brilliant, especially that last quote regarding Hamilton!

  3. I think one quote sums it up pretty well:

    "God darnit, Mr. Lamarr, you use your tongue prettier than a twenty dollar whore."