Did the Founding Fathers get anything Wrong?

rambot

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It seems there is a faction of people who hold the Founding Fathers up to be almost gods (but certainly some kind of divine representative). So much so that they figure a 240ish yr old legal document is as applicable in today's culture as in one from that long ago.


I'm curious, is there anything you think that Founding Fathers really should have thought a bit harder on. So I'm thinking problems that they REALLY should have been able to foresee and not empowered.

For example (and I am NOT a historian so please feel free to eviscerate and enlighten me)....I don't understand how a judge appointed by a president would be permitted to try that same president in their court room. How is it that this did not have some kind of stop gap measure?

Thoughts? Other examples? Keeping in mind it I'm looking MOSTLY for examples that are not explicitly from our times but are problems that could have arisen back then (ie..nothing about AI...that kinda thing)
 

AlexB23

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It seems there is a faction of people who hold the Founding Fathers up to be almost gods (but certainly some kind of divine representative). So much so that they figure a 240ish yr old legal document is as applicable in today's culture as in one from that long ago.


I'm curious, is there anything you think that Founding Fathers really should have thought a bit harder on. So I'm thinking problems that they REALLY should have been able to foresee and not empowered.

For example (and I am NOT a historian so please feel free to eviscerate and enlighten me)....I don't understand how a judge appointed by a president would be permitted to try that same president in their court room. How is it that this did not have some kind of stop gap measure?

Thoughts? Other examples? Keeping in mind it I'm looking MOSTLY for examples that are not explicitly from our times but are problems that could have arisen back then (ie..nothing about AI...that kinda thing)
Well, we live in a fallen world, so everyone was and is bound to get stuff wrong, whether that be the Founding Fathers at the end of the 1700s, or a young man posting on a forum in 2024. :) This is the simple answer. I'll let you guys answer the rest.
 
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Reasonably Sane

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It seems there is a faction of people who hold the Founding Fathers up to be almost gods (but certainly some kind of divine representative). So much so that they figure a 240ish yr old legal document is as applicable in today's culture as in one from that long ago.


I'm curious, is there anything you think that Founding Fathers really should have thought a bit harder on. So I'm thinking problems that they REALLY should have been able to foresee and not empowered.

For example (and I am NOT a historian so please feel free to eviscerate and enlighten me)....I don't understand how a judge appointed by a president would be permitted to try that same president in their court room. How is it that this did not have some kind of stop gap measure?

Thoughts? Other examples? Keeping in mind it I'm looking MOSTLY for examples that are not explicitly from our times but are problems that could have arisen back then (ie..nothing about AI...that kinda thing)
Freedom of speech could have been limited to actual speech or the written word. But I'm not sure I'd even be in favor of that.

I think their biggest mistake was to not realize just how depraved our culture could have gotten.

One biggie that they couldn't have known about: The human brain is not fully developed until age 25. I think putting 25 as the voting age into the constitution itself may have kept things more sane for longer.
 
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Reasonably Sane

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For example (and I am NOT a historian so please feel free to eviscerate and enlighten me)....I don't understand how a judge appointed by a president would be permitted to try that same president in their court room. How is it that this did not have some kind of stop gap measure?
It does - the supreme court. He can't just appoint them.
 
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Yttrium

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Well, clearly the founding fathers should have thought a lot harder about the slavery issue. And equal rights. And how to better deal with native Americans. It gets to be a long list. But I tend to give them some slack, because they had a lot to deal with at the time, and coming up with a new government is never easy.
 
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ThatRobGuy

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I think some of the underlying ideas are still applicable. And being that nearly every other developed country has copied large parts of the concepts for their own national documents, clearly their were some ideas they got right.

On individual levels, obviously none of them would live up to the moral standards that exist present day.

I think they tried their best to instill the concepts of checks and balances all throughout the founding documents. (which is a good idea)

And it's a power split between the 3 different branches of the government (and the people), and that power struggle exists within 3 different levels.


I think some of the "they should be put on the ultimate pedestal, as individuals" response is, to a degree, backlash against the idea of "well, this guy owned slaves, so that means we should toss out every idea he had, teat it all down, and start from scratch"


For your particular example, the Judge is isn't the one trying the president, it's the prosecutor (who's not appointed by the president) who decides which cases to try. Does "judge presiding over a trial for the president that appointed them" have some potential pitfalls and risks? Absolutely, but similar flaws could exist with the inverse. Since we only have 2 major parties in the US, when it comes to a judge sitting on the bench for a case against a president, the two choices are "someone who was appointed from their own party" vs. "someone who was appointed by someone from the opposing party", Both are going to draw accusations of bias to some degree.
 
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GoldenBoy89

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That whole owning people while founding a country on the idea that all men are created equal was pretty bad and we’re still dealing with the effects of that hypocrisy today.
 
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Matt5

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In reality, democracies only last up to about 250 years. By that time so much corruption has set in that nothing is going to fix it. I have noticed for over 20 years that voting in the US mostly doesn't change anything. Democracy is merely an illusion with the occasional exception.

Ultimately, there is no way the founding fathers could have fixed this problem. We were always going to end up here.
 
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It seems there is a faction of people who hold the Founding Fathers up to be almost gods (but certainly some kind of divine representative). So much so that they figure a 240ish yr old legal document is as applicable in today's culture as in one from that long ago.


I'm curious, is there anything you think that Founding Fathers really should have thought a bit harder on. So I'm thinking problems that they REALLY should have been able to foresee and not empowered.

For example (and I am NOT a historian so please feel free to eviscerate and enlighten me)....I don't understand how a judge appointed by a president would be permitted to try that same president in their court room. How is it that this did not have some kind of stop gap measure?

Thoughts? Other examples? Keeping in mind it I'm looking MOSTLY for examples that are not explicitly from our times but are problems that could have arisen back then (ie..nothing about AI...that kinda thing)
Their initial voting issues and then the electoral college "fix" come to mind as something they could of done better.
 
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Hammster

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durangodawood

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1. They really failed to anticipate the rise of political parties and natural gaming out of the system into a 2 party regime. I think this should have been foreseeable. And so I wish they'd have headed it off by requiring voting systems that would diminish the spoiler effect.

2. The moral abomination that was slavery should never have been tolerated, even if it means we got two countries instead of one. We knew better, even back then. One of those countries, at least, could have properly said it was predicated on respect for human liberty.

3. I want to say that the founders should have included something in the constitution that would have prevented the genocide against the Indian tribes. Not sure what that would be.
 
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It seems there is a faction of people who hold the Founding Fathers up to be almost gods (but certainly some kind of divine representative). So much so that they figure a 240ish yr old legal document is as applicable in today's culture as in one from that long ago.


I'm curious, is there anything you think that Founding Fathers really should have thought a bit harder on. So I'm thinking problems that they REALLY should have been able to foresee and not empowered.

For example (and I am NOT a historian so please feel free to eviscerate and enlighten me)....I don't understand how a judge appointed by a president would be permitted to try that same president in their court room. How is it that this did not have some kind of stop gap measure?

Thoughts? Other examples? Keeping in mind it I'm looking MOSTLY for examples that are not explicitly from our times but are problems that could have arisen back then (ie..nothing about AI...that kinda thing)
Some people might be tempted to say things like "slavery" or "universal suffrage" but the fact of the matter is those never would have passed at the time (it should also be noted that one thing no one could have plausibly foreseen was the invention of the cotton gin, which played a big role in supercharging the institution of slavery). I'll therefore be focusing on things that could have possibly been done back then.

One thing that I think is an issue, but I'm not sure was avoidable, is the ridiculously difficult process of amending the Constitution (changing the Constitution should be hard, but not this hard). But the difficulty of amending the Constitution may have been necessary to convince all the other states to join in without fear that suddenly the government would say "hey, thanks for signing our Constitution! Now here's a bunch of amendments you don't want you now have to follow." Unfortunately, it doesn't mean it hasn't caused a lot of issues subsequently.

But setting aside things where (even if suggested) implementation might have been impossible without losing some of the states, to me there's one big error that permeates the Constitution that was avoidable to at least some extent: Not taking into account the power of political parties. Political parties are one of the most powerful and influential forces in politics, and it's very obvious the Constitution was made without anticipating the effects they would have. As I saw someone remark:

The Founders expected government officials would be loyal to themselves first, their branches second, and the American people third. A lot of our checks and balances are based on the idea that elected legislators and elected Presidents have few common political interests and are mutually jealous and suspicious of each other.

Political parties spoil this assumption. In fact, the President has strong political ties and shared interests with certain members of Congress, and vice versa. Loyalty to the party and the party agenda comes way ahead of branch loyalty, and sometimes even trumps loyalty to one's self.


Because of political parties, instead of electors in the electoral college actually conversing amongst themselves in order to decide the votes as was the original intention, they quickly became robots for the candidates their political parties chose. The presidential veto, which was supposed to prevent the legislature from overwhelming the president, instead (largely due to political parties) makes the President the effective leader of the legislature. And, of course, political parties are what make gerrymandering so pernicious. One could no doubt list more examples of how things in the Constitution that would make sense if you assumed you'd have at most some small political factions end up not working so well when you have two dominant national parties. I will be complimentary and say it's impressive they came up with a system that worked as well as it did even while not anticipating the power of political parties, but it's still a huge oversight.

Granted, your question is about things they should have foreseen. How much they could have foreseen the power of political parties is debatable, as political parties really only became a thing after the Constitution was passed. It's hard to anticipate something that didn't exist yet. However, political factions were definitely known, even if they weren't as formal or powerful as political parties. I don't think it was possible to foresee how powerful political parties would be, but I think it would definitely have been possible to see they'd be a major force; it's not like they only came by decades later, they were a huge national force quite quickly. Some level of foreseeing it and appropriate adjustment of the Constitution in order to accommodate such forces seems possible.

So I think the big one that was actually avoidable was their error in not foreseeing the impact of political parties.
 
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perplexed

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Obviously any human can make mistakes when dealing with something incredibly complication like government but basically I am guilty of "founding father worship" similar to Ben Shapiro and Jordan Peterson,

The American revolution was ridiculously successful and relatively bloodless.
I doubt it was all luck, I assume the founding fathers were ridiculously talented at refining a system of government.

I am disgusted by their racism and homophobia but that does not mean I could do a better job at forming government, and the brutal reality is that in many ways I am a typical person so if I grew up an a society where being a racist homophobe was the norm I would be racist homophobe.

I also think social media makes people way more tribal which is a threat to democracy, we will either grow up and turn things around or go off the cliff, the founding fathers will not save us.
 
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rambot

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They should have emphasized that we are under the authority of Jesus Christ.
My only problem with that is that a LOT of governments claiming to be under the authority of Jesus Christ throughout history (read: Europe) did a LOT of pretty terrible things.
 
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