“Unity” In The Early Republic
So little is known about the early years of the United States.
Even less of that knowledge is used to truly garner understanding.
Our history has been propagandized in so many directions, and for so long, that even history buffs seem to struggle in piecing together the full picture of what it all means.
Many of these historians may have some unique tidbits of knowledge, but they cannot understand the ramifications of our history when put together.
One place where I find this happening often is in conservative circles with what I call the “United Founders” theory. Many conservative-types will often make arguments for or against certain practices, because “that’s not what the founders would have wanted”.
Leftists do this too, but they use it in an egalitarian sense (“The founders believed all men are created equal!”)
It’s like an appeal to authority fallacy. But instead of a modern authority, it’s an appeal to the founders. I’m not saying it’s a good argument, just that I hear it a lot (as I’m sure you have, as well).
The foundational premise of this argument is that the Founding Fathers were united and would collectively be for or against whatever the individual is pushing for.
However, this foundation is quicksand for anyone that has even the slightest knowledge of our history.
Our founders were not united. They never were united.
This conception that our founders were a cohesive bloc fighting for “democracy” and “freedom” is a complete fable of the modern era.
We have been a state in struggle since the founding.
I encourage readers to study the years prior to the revolution and immediately after to quickly ascertain this reality. But, nowhere is this disunity more prevalent than the 1790s, just a mere decade and a half after the actual founding itself.
Our 1790s was a period of intense conflict.
This is the decade where George Washington himself was called “debauched” by political opponents. This is when the two-party system emerged, because of a complete split in the supposed “unity” which resulted in a breaking off into diametrically opposed factions. The very premise of the country—the American Revolution—and what it meant was hotly debated during this time because of the French Revolution.
The Federalists openly touted Washington as the best president of all time, never to have that title be overtaken. Meanwhile, the Democratic-Republicans said that he was a traitor that destroyed liberties.
Both parties hated one another and truly believed the other would destroy the newly created state if they gained power. In the 1796 election, for instance, the Federalists argued that the other party would bring the murderous anarchy of the French Revolution to the States. Meanwhile, the Democratic-Republicans claimed their opponent was an aristocratic class that wanted to create a dictatorship. How is that for unity?
An important piece of knowledge here: All this happened during the tenure of our very first president. John Adams, our second, served from 1797 to 1801 (the tail-end of this period).
I see no logical way how anyone could claim our founders were united when they literally broke apart into pieces within the term of our first president, almost immediately following the revolution itself.
Our true history is more nuanced. What actually happened in our heritage was that a bunch of different nations put their differences aside temporarily and joined together to fight off the British, but then returned to their own internal bickering and disunity once that greater threat was removed.
There was never an era of truly united persons on this continent; we have always been at odds (in at least ideology, more often much more than just that).
Some would claim that the Founders were at least united against the British, but we also know this is not true. Most current thinking places about 20% of the population as Loyalists, given current historical research. This certainly included many leaders, but they often had to be quiet for fear of reprisal. Even more than this were the fence-sitters, who were easily the largest group. This places the patriots into a minority. How is that for “unity”?
There is a lack of this knowledge among Americans. Most do not understand this reality.
But even among the small subset that has this knowledge, many of the same still lack an understanding of what this teaches us. You’ll have a small subset of people that can recognize that the founders weren’t united, but cannot take it to the next step to let that teach us something.
- Our country was not united in the beginning. It is not united now. It never has been united.
- Maybe, just maybe, it will never be united because we have too many disparate nations within the U.S. that all seek different ends?
The different leaders, parties, and factions that fought each other in the early days of the Republic are the same nations that still fight each other today. There is nothing new under the sun. Conflict then; conflict now.
Independent nation-states can have unity. They often go through cycles where they do not, but they have periods where they do. The United States, on the contrary, has never have had unity. Because we are not an independent nation-state. We are an empire of many nations. Which means there is never a time for true unity in the nationalist sense. The nations within are always vying for dominance.
Also, the founders did not want unity. They wanted their nation and their ideology to be in charge of the entire United States. All groups did. All groups still do today. It’s a constant internal struggle for dominance. This is not the way a nation should live. All nations should be able to be free and seek their own independent ends. We should not have to live like this.
Pairing knowledge with understanding is where the magic of wisdom arises.
Knowing this information, and recognizing the reality of what it means, leads us to one conclusion:
- If we want the opportunity for unity, we need independent nations.
Nothing else will do. Our near two hundred and fifty years of history clearly teach us this.
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