Just not first.
The Founders were all wealthy men by the standards of the day. But they were neither wealthy nor powerful by the standards of the peerage class, the aristocracy, which arrived by appointments from the King once the American colonies had become a profitable property for the Crown.
Even Jefferson’s forbears, only two generations earlier, about 50 years, had cleared land and pulled stumps with horses and built their first houses and barns with sweat equity. TJ’s father, Peter, could barely read, and was self taught, but he thought so much of that “skill” that he had young Thomas tutored.
By 1776, all the Signers were doing very well for themselves. Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists. Eleven were merchants, nine were farmers and large plantation owners; men of means, well educated. Each colony governed itself. The only drawbacks were “taxation without representation” by the Crown, and the general down-the-nose manner by which they were treated by that class of agents of the King who had done nothing, invested nothing, in the building of these colonies. To the Crown, we were just geese to be plucked.
So they signed the Declaration of Independence knowing full well that the penalty would be death if they were captured.
They all pledged “our lives, our Fortunes and our Sacred Honor”…
…to each other…as well as their constituent citizens.
And in those days at least, such a Pledge, made to each other as honorable men, was Number One in their list of priorities.
(This is called “the catch”.) They subordinated all their personal ambitions to this single Cause simply by taking this pledge, also known as an Oath, which every member of Congress takes..
So check out the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. You never heard of most of them. I suppose most had a county named after them back home, but a generation or two after they died.
Here’s the kicker. They all actually kept that pledge.
Five signers were captured by the British as traitors, and tortured before they died.
Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army; another had two sons captured.
Nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or hardships of the Revolutionary War.
Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships swept from the seas by the British Navy. He sold his home and properties to pay his debts, and died in rags.
Thomas McKeam was so hounded by the British that he was forced to move his family almost constantly. He served in the Congress without pay, and his family was kept in hiding. His possessions were taken from him, and poverty was his reward.
Vandals or soldiers looted the properties of Dillery, Hall, Clymer, Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Ruttledge, and Middleton.
At the battle of Yorktown, Thomas Nelson, Jr. noted that the British General Cornwallis had taken over the Nelson home for his headquarters. He quietly urged General George Washington to open fire. The home was destroyed, and Nelson died bankrupt.
Francis Lewis had his home and properties destroyed. The enemy jailed his wife, and she died within a few months.
John Hart was driven from his wife’s bedside as she was dying. Their 13 children fled for their lives. His fields and his gristmill were laid to waste. For more than a year he lived in forests and caves, returning home to find his wife dead and his children vanished. A few weeks later he died from exhaustion and a broken heart.
Norris and Livingston suffered similar fates.
For the most part the Republican Party hasn’t a Member in Congress that hasn’t accepted, by their words, usually come election time, the principles of the Declaration of Independence. And they’ve all taken that Oath. Unlike many Democrats, they’ve actually heard those words, and know what they mean..
But as Mark Twain once said about Christians, some are “Professing Americans” and others are “Professional Americans”.
They all know the four corners of the Constitutional “Good book”.
And like those Signers of 1776, they also have their goals in life. Clearly, they like to make money. Lots of it. And lots of it is offered. And they like to wield power. And lots of it is laid bare in front of their eyes, just for the taking. They have their own plans; for their friends, for their family, for their golden years and retirement. So we don’t really know where “America” lies on their list of priorities.
That last sentence of the Declaration is the kicker,
“We pledge our Lives, our Fortunes and our Sacred Honor”.
Set aside the Democrats, who have no counter-argument to anything we might say about Liberty. Just consider the Republicans, from Amash to McConnell, from Collins to Murkowski, from Upton to Jordan, I think I can count the sum total on both hands those Republicans who could honestly keep faith with that Pledge. Most have spent their careers in Congress avoiding having to stare that damned Pledge in the face and stand and deliver even when the Evil is obvious to a child.
Then consider those millions of Americans who visit Walmart each week. Seems they’ve taken that Pledge-in-the-mirror, too. It was never restricted to the political class.
Apparently so has the world’s biggest small businessman, Donald Trump.
In fact, much of the hate for Trump, other than hailing from Queens, is that he clearly believes in the Pledge, and has paid dearly for it. In the process he’s humiliated his “intellectual betters” on a level most of you haven’t really considered, namely being more faithful to the Founder’s Pledge in the Declaration, and their broader pledge to “We the People of the United States” in the Constitution.
It’s as simple as that. In the film “Oklahoma Crude”, the bad guy, Jack Palance, held a shotgun under the chin of George C Scott, the good guy, then unzipped his trousers and peed on Scott’s boots. (You have to be a westerner to know what having your boots peed on means, but it’s a non-verbal way of saying a fella’s mother wasn’t married when he was born.)
Washington is awash with peed-on shoes because of Donald Trump. only it seems the shoes and the inference fit.
Trump has shown up the light-stepping Republicans in all their Sunday School amen-departments, by putting his body and soul where his mouth is. 2020 is the time to either show them the door, or have them come, at the foot of the cross, begging for just one more chance.
Millions of people have done likewise, and this fact changes everything.
It’s one thing to be shown up by billionaire, but quite another by 40 million Walmart shoppers.
People who still remember the shoulders they stand on.
Laisser les bons temps rouller!