Hi, I’m Blaine Winship, author of the book Moralnomics: The Moral Path to Prosperity.
Okay, we all know that some of our nation’s founders had slaves. That includes George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.
Let’s be crystal clear on this. It is an offense to universal morality for any human being to claim ownership of another human being—as though people are things rather than thinking, feeling beings. The slave-owning legacy of some—but far from all—of our founders deserves our moral condemnation, as does their treatment of women as inherently inferior to men.
But what follows from that? Should we smash their memorials, obliterate their names from our history books, and torch the Constitution they bequeathed to us?
Intuitively, we know better. We know that the far greater point, when it comes to the founders, is not that they owned slaves or that they deprived women of rights, but that they played tremendously important roles in advancing the cause of liberty on this planet from where it had been when they were born.
They risked their lives and their worldly possessions to win their freedom, and brought all of their towering intellect to bear on crafting a charter for freedom that has proven worthy of enduring through the ages—a Constitution that, while itself imperfect, has laid a bedrock foundation for us to build upon for our own freedom and happiness, including the freedom and happiness of blacks and women.
It’s probably true that the baby boomers, myself included, were raised on overly idealistic portrayals of the founders—images that, upon closer inspection, can never prove true of any human being. The idea never should have been to deify the founders, but instead to celebrate them for the wonderful things that they, flaws and all, accomplished in launching the United States.
Knowing our species’s history is important because it helps us to appreciate how much blood and treasure have been expended to pull us up from a long state of unbroken top-down rule of the few into a state of civilization and individual liberty, exemplified by the grand experiment known as America. We come to learn how fragile civilization and freedom are, and how devastating their loss has proven to be to hundreds of millions of human beings—even in just the last century.
But history also points the way forward to a better tomorrow. The point is to learn from yesterday in ways that elevate us today, so that we can make a better tomorrow. Studying history enables us to learn from past mistakes, so that we don’t repeat them. And it enables us to learn from past successes, so that we can build on them—figuratively inching the bar up for the benefit of ourselves and one another.
The immorality of demanding perfection in others, and in refusing to see the good in them for the bad, is a major problem in modern America. This form of immorality is being used relentlessly by liberals to discredit anyone and everyone who stands in their way, as they seek to transform America from a bottom-up nation of citizens into a top-down nation of child-like subjects—while pretending that their own objective is moral.
We see this most openly now in the attacks on our founders, the ulterior purpose being to attack our Constitution. Yes, let’s learn from our founders’ mistakes. And let’s do our best to ensure that all persons are free to grow as moral and productive human beings—no matter their race, gender, age, or ethnicity. But let’s also learn from the distinct greatness of our founders, because they bequeathed so much more than most other human beings ever bequeathed to future generations.
Their gifts to us, and the threats to liberty posed by today’s top-downers in modern America, are discussed in Part VI of my book. I think you’ll find it informative and interesting, so I hope you’ll give it a try.