Every once in a while an intellectual rebel stirs up controversy in the staid halls of Academe by challenging politically correct interpretations of history. Thaddeus Russell, Columbia University Ph.D., formerly a professor at
Russell does have a point, though he pushes it way too far. The Founding Fathers were primarily interested in political liberty and the protection of property rights. Men like George Washington, John Adams, and the rest, were generally conservative in their social outlook. They wanted to preserve the self-governing civil society of independent householders that already existed in British North America, while releasing it from Britain’s shackles of monarchy and aristocracy. So their first priority was to establish viable institutions for an independent, self-governing republic. But the Founders, as Russell rightly points out, were elitists who wanted to maintain an orderly society in which elite men of property and education would serve as fathers of the people, restrain popular passions, and govern the republic on the people’s behalf. Most of the Founders (Jefferson was an exception) were not prepared for the upsurge of populist energy, popular assertiveness, and social mobility unleashed by the Revolution. And they were certainly not countercultural radicals. (Lately, as I told my class, I’ve tried to imagine how George Washington would react to watching a Lady Gaga video.) Christian morality, the Founders firmly believed, was the essential bedrock of a self-governing republic. Securing the liberty of social outcasts to flout the Protestant work ethic and pursue unconventional lifestyles was definitely not on their agenda.
Here is another video of Russell discussing his ideas, this time with Ted Balaker on Reason.tv.