Alexander Hamilton

The Founding Fathers: Demigods or scoundrels?

The Founding Fathers: Demigods or scoundrels?

For much of American history the founding generation, often mythologized and capitalized as the Founding Fathers, served as the gold standard against which we measured the debased currency that came after them. Ralph Waldo Emerson put this semi-sacred tradition succinctly: "They saw God face to face; we can only see Him second-hand."

Later in the 19th century Henry Adams made the same point more mischievously, observing that any chronological list of American presidents must lead to the conclusion that Darwin got it exactly backward.

The Adams observation flashed into my mind recently while watching the media coverage of Donald Trump, whose self-absorption,...