This Fourth of July, as we reflect on our country's origins, some may be tempted to look upon the Founding Fathers with a reverence otherwise reserved for saints or the founders of great religions. Past generations erected the “Washington” Monument in “Washington” D.C. to honor and symbolize the resoluteness of the man as both a leading general in the Revolutionary War and our nation's first President. Likewise, the immortal words of the Declaration of Independence – the rallying cry of the American Revolution – are inscribed on the walls of the Jefferson Memorial in honor of the man who penned them. However, these mythologies are incomplete according to Thomas Fleming, a historian and novelist who has picked apart the American Revolution from more than a few angles. His latest book, *The Great Divide: The Conflict Between Washington and Jefferson that Defined a Nation*, cuts through the typical "airbrushing" of historical founding figures to reveal the political treachery that truly characterized the era. Fleming joins Bob for a special Fourth (Fifth) of July episode.
In America we seem unable to resolve the proper Constitutional relationship between religion and our political life. We think we know what the founders intended: “separation of church and state,” “a wall of separation,” the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause. But this issue is far from resolved. Reagan did not attend church enough for some Americans, Romney’s Mormonism was an issue, and some take issue with Obama and Reverend Wright. Raymond Lorber’s first book, “George Washington’s Providence,” explores the unique relationship between Washington’s belief that his God would protect him and his military and political triumphs in a style that is both scholarly and accessible. Ray’s book gives us access to Washington’s many letters and other writings that offer us an understanding of Washington where most other writings fail. Most of us have wondered what qualities separated our founders from those who followed them. This book provides the answer, at least insofar as Washington is concerned.
Everyone loves rights and no one loves duties. Our founders gave us complete control over our government, yet it was Franklin who famously defined it as “A republic. If you can keep it.” The freedom given by the Constitution is fragile and requires vigilant a watch against encroachment by government.
Yet vigilance is hard work. We must always watch what our representatives are doing and above all be informed. In Washington’s Farewell Address he cautioned that “public opinion should be enlightened.” Bill Damon a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and author of Failing Liberty 101; How We Are Leaving Young Americans Unprepared by Citizenship in a Free Society, points out that we have failed to instill the civic virtue necessary for our kids to value and to exercise their duties as citizens in a free society. Is it too late? Have we set the stage for the decline and fall of Liberty in America? If future generations do not value liberty and are trained to detect its encroachments, the “shining city on the hill” will go dark.
The Constitution provides a framework for the American presidency. When the founders wrote it, the concept of an elected chief executive did not exist anywhere on earth. That position was created in 1787. When George Washington was elected as our first President, he had to build the office from the ground up. What he created and how he did it is a remarkable story, as Harlow Giles Unger describes in his new book “Mr. President; George Washington and the Making of the Nation’s Highest Office.” Listen in as Bob and Harlow explore the presidency as imagined by the founders, as created by President Washington, and changed (for the better or for the worse) by presidents since the founding. What are the lessons to be learned by tracing the presidency from Washington to Obama?
For almost four years, Bob has been speaking about his uncompromising admiration for the work of the Founders. They drafted the Constitution and in getting it ratified by the colonies, created the United States of America. James Madison, George Washington, John Adams and their colleagues were above reproach. However, Bob has recently been drawn to the arguments of the Founders, of equal stature, who opposed Ratification. The arguments of those “anti-federalists” seem more compelling than those of the supporters of the Constitution. Who was right, especially given where the country is today? Hard question. In this episode, Tom Fleming joins Bob to discuss this intriguing issue. Tom is perhaps America’s greatest historian and most prolific writer on the subject of early American history. This show cannot be missed.
In this episode, Bob interviewed our first president, George Washington. Well, not quite. But close. With great pride and excitement, we welcomed Thomas Fleming, one of our nation’s leading historians, biographer of Washington, Jefferson and Franklin, past President of the Society of American Historians and author of the popular blog “Channeling George Washington”, to our show. Bob and Tom discussed money and politics, then and now. What did the Founders intend to be the relationship between the two? Is money a political pollutant, or its lifeblood? Tom Fleming shared his lifetime of study to the important and timely issue, and put it all into keen historical perspective.