The American Founders
The Founders knew that their citizens and their government colleagues were imperfect. The Founders themselves were imperfect. In an imperfect world of imperfect people it could not be otherwise. Indeed, they could be petty. With the hindsight of the historian, their decisions may appear questionable. The Founders could be pessimistic about democracy. “Public affairs go on pretty much as usual: perpetual chicanery and rather more personal abuse than there used to be,” wrote John Adams to Thomas Jefferson only weeks before they died. “Our American Chivalry is the worst in the world. It has no Laws, no bounds, no definitions; it seems to be all a Caprice.”
However, the American Founders were as able a political leadership as any in recorded history. Whatever their faults and fears, they acted, in peace and war, as if America’s future were bright.
Before leaving for his inauguration in 1789, President-elect Washington wrote: “My endeavours shall be unremittingly exerted (even at the hazard of former fame or present popularity) to extricate my country from the embarrassments in which it is entangled, through want of credit; and to establish, a general system of policy, which, if pursued will insure permanent felicity to the Commonwealth. I think I see a path, as clear and as direct as a ray of light, which leads to the attainment of that object. Nothing but harmony, honesty, industry, and frugality are necessary to make us a great and happy people.”