There is a conscious effort to unremember history in the current
pseudo-intellectual fad taking place in many college and university
liberal arts departments --- and in not a few public secondary
schools. As part of this, there are also attempts to denigrate the
importance of many so-called ‘founding fathers” of our republic
that was born in a revolutionary struggle from 1775 to 1783.
The motivation for this, as is usually the case, is an ideological one,
and twenty-first century standards are being used to accomplish
the unremembering of so many of the remarkable figures who so
brilliantly and courageously created the world’s first and most
enduring modern democratic republic in the eighteenth century.
The targets of these efforts include no less figures than George
Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Alexander Hamilton, as well as
later figures such as Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln. A few
brave and distinguished historians have recently published books to
counter this trend, but “political correctness” continues its destructive
Historian/politician Newt Gingrich, however, has just issued an
excellent new DVD reinforcing George Washington’s role as the
“indispensable” political and military figure in the founding of
the republic, and his wife Calista Gingrich has written a superb series
of books for young children emphasizing and restoring the high
character of the transforming values of early American history.
Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer continues to write incomparable
volumes with new insights about Abraham Lincoln. The biggest hit
on Broadway is a musical depiction of Alexander Hamilton and his
dispositive contribution to American economic life.
One of the most lamentable and self-destructive trends occurred
recently with the Democratic Party hierarchy’s attempts across the
nation to erase the two most important founders of their party,
Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson, from places of honor in
the party’s history and commemoration.
Yes, even the greatest statesmen and figures in history had personal
flaws and made mistakes, especially judged by the hindsight and
standards held centuries later.
One of the figures I think is not fully appreciated from the germinal
period of our nation is Benjamin Franklin. Of course, everyone
knows his name, and so far, he remains on the $100 bill, and on
the name of a national chain store. He was on the half dollar until
He was not as indispensable a military and political figure as
George Washington, nor as central a constitutional figure as were
John Adams, Jefferson, and James Madison. In spite of his key role
as an early and high-minded author-publisher, he was also not as
rallying a voice of the revolution and constitution as were Thomas
Paine and the authors (Hamilton, Madison and John Jay) of the
What Benjamin Franklin was, on the other hand, was America’s
first and perhaps greatest intellectual figure. He was one of the
world’s all-time greatest polymaths --- an important inventor and
scientist, philosopher, diplomat, author, wit, and creator of a
national pragmatic ethos which endures to this day. His role
representing the young nation in France was decisive not only in
gaining critical French support for the revolution, but in providing
the important contributions of Baron Von Steuben and the Marquis
de Lafayette to General Washington’s struggling continental army.
In the innumerable discussions leading to he Declaration of
Indpendence, and later the adoption of the Consititution, Franklin
was a voice of enlightenment and reason, often speaking out against
the "political correctness" of that time.
I think that without Benjamin Franklin the American revolution
does not succeed. That is why he matters.
Copyright (c) by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.