Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Founding Fathers (too bad Popper wasn't there to help)

The designers of the United States were well instructed in Greek and Roman history. Their writings at the time attest to their knowledge of ancient cultures. Here is how The Oxford History of the American People (p. 355) describes some of the designers:

Most of the American state and federal constitutions were the work of college-educated men who had studied political theory in Aristotle, Plato, Cicero, Polybius, and other ancient writers, and had given deep thought to problems of political reconstruction. Men such as George Mason and Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Adams, and James Bowdoin knew exactly what they were doing. And most of these were relatively young men. Jefferson was thirty-three years old and Madison twenty-seven when they helped draft the Virginia constitution. John Adams, when he did the same for Massachusetts, was a mature forty-four; of the same age was John Dickinson when he drew up the Articles of Confederation. The New York constitution was drafted by three graduates of King's College (now Columbia): Gouverneur Morris, Robert R. Livingston, and John Jay, aged respectively twenty-four, thirty, and thirty-two. These men were familiar with what ancient and modem publicists had written on government; yet they were no mere doctrinaires. Every one had had political experience in colonial assemblies, local conventions, or the Continental Congress. This synthesis of classical discipline with practical politics accounts for the striking success of the Americans at constitution making. Their efforts won the admiration of the Old World, and from them the New World still benefits today.

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