For those who predict that the American experiment cannot last, and who are concerned that the social fabric is disintegrating at a time of growing political division, it is worth remembering that when the ink had barely dried on the Constitution, the Founding Fathers they were deeply pessimistic. about the future of the country they had created.
Alexander Hamilton called the Constitution a “fragile and worthless fabric. “George Washington lamented the growth of political factions. John Adams thought that lack of civic virtue condemned the republic. Jefferson observed with horror the sectional divisions between North and South, and said that the “sacrifice” made “by the generation of 76” was “useless” because it would be “cast aside by the reckless and unworthy passions of their children.”
“My only consolation,” he wrote, “is to be that I live not to cry for that. “
“His pronouncements may seem too dramatic to the modern ear,” he says. Syracuse University Professor Dennis C. Rasmussen. In his new book, Fears of a setting sun: the disappointment of America’s foundersRasmussen struggles with the Founding Founders’ stark perspective on the future of the country.
“I think it’s because they thought there was a lot at stake. They really thought that the future of the Republican government and the future of human freedom depended on this American experiment … The potential failure of that experiment that they thought would be a failure.” world historical calamity “.
Should Americans view the dissolution of the Founders as a sign that America is flawed beyond hope? We are still plagued by many of the same fears.
“We hear people pronounce the end of American democracy all the time,” says Rasmussen. “The fact that it hasn’t finished in the last 230 years suggests that maybe [it will] they last much longer. “
“But the fact that these issues have been with us from the beginning, from the founders themselves, suggests that they could be more systemic, more entrenched than we sometimes dare to hope.”
Produced and edited by Meredith Bragg.