Our Founding Fathers Were Liberal, NOT Conservative

A lot has been said about our founding fathers in recent years. The Tea Party has all of the sudden become historical scholars.  They have become the defenders of our Country and our Constitution. Glenn Beck is their proverbial historical professor.  Unfortunately their knowledge is fairly limited to specifically what their Fox News comrade regurgitates.

In 1797, Paine wrote a pamphlet called “Agrarian Justice“. It was his last great pamphlet and it was addressed to the French legislature, itself in the throes of revolution. While he addressed the pamphlet to the French legislature, he meant the plan in it to be universal, as he said in his accompanying letter:

The plan contained in this work is not adapted for any particular country alone: the principle on which it is based is general. But as the rights of man are a new study in this world, and one needing protection from priestly imposture, and the insolence of oppressions too long established, I have thought it right to place this little work under your safeguard.

Paine starts his proposal by discussing poverty. First of all, he says poverty is not natural:

“Poverty, therefore, is a thing created by that which is called civilized life. It exists not in the natural state. On the other hand, the natural state is without those advantages which flow from agriculture, arts, science and manufactures.”

Paine decries the disparity of income just I have and many other liberals have today:

“Civilization, therefore, or that which is so-called, has operated two ways: to make one part of society more affluent, and the other more wretched, than would have been the lot of either in a natural state.”

He accepts as a basic principle that:

“the condition of every person born into the world, after a state of civilization commences, ought not to be worse than if he had been born before that period.”

This thought is the same type of thought that we have today as Americans, We want the next generation to have a better standard of living than we had.

When Thomas Paine wrote this, unfortunately, this was not the case in 18th century Europe.

It is a position not to be controverted that the earth, in its natural, cultivated state was, and ever would have continued to be, the common property of the human race. In that state every man would have been born to property. He would have been a joint life proprietor with rest in the property of the soil, and in all its natural productions, vegetable and animal.

Thomas Paine in the next paragraph plans how to solve this problem:

Every proprietor, therefore, of cultivated lands, owes to the community ground-rent (for I know of no better term to express the idea) for the land which he holds; and it is from this ground-rent that the fund prod in this plan is to issue.
The property owners owe rent to those who do not own property for the privilege of cultivating the land, and taking away the natural ownership that all people have.

In my view, Thomas Paine is calling for Property taxes, and the the use of property tax to help the community as a whole.

In fact, Paine directly challenges the justification for pure private property with no community responsibilities:

There could be no such thing as landed property originally. Man did not make the earth, and, though he had a natural right to occupy it, he had no right to locate as his property in perpetuity any part of it; neither did the Creator of the earth open a land-office, from whence the first title-deeds should issue.

Paine proceeds to justify private property on the common grounds that cultivation is important, but not without community responsibilities in exchange for permission to cultivate:

Cultivation is at least one of the greatest natural improvements ever made by human invention. It has given to created earth a tenfold value. But the landed monopoly that began with it has produced the greatest evil. It has dispossessed more than half the inhabitants of every nation of their natural inheritance, without providing for them, as ought to have been done, an indemnification for that loss, and has thereby created a species of poverty and wretchedness that did not exist before

And just as today’s liberals continue do argue against the idea that they are simply trying to institutionalize charity or welfare, Paine rejected the idea that he was advocating for charity at all. Instead, he was advocating for a positive right.

In advocating the case of the persons thus dispossessed, it is a right, and not a charity, that I am pleading for. But it is that kind of right which, being neglected at first, could not be brought forward afterwords till heaven had opened the way by a revolution in the system of government. Let us then do honor to revolutions by justice, and give currency to their principles by blessings

In other words, Paine considers a primary purpose of government to be remedying the problems of the marginalized poor as a fundamental right not as a form of institutionalized charity or welfare state.

In case you think this was all just an hypothesis, Paine finishes off with a detailed plan of how to move forward. His proposal:

To create a national fund, out of which there shall be paid to every person, when arrived at the age of twenty-one years, the sum of fifteen pounds sterling, as a compensation in part, for the loss of his or her natural inheritance, by the introduction of the system of landed property:

And also, the sum of ten pounds per annum, during life, to every person now living, of the age of fifty years, and to all others as they shall arrive at that age.

This proposal sounds like a national pension plan, similar to Social Security. Later on, Paine also argues for the same 10 pound payment to be made to the disabled. By comparison, a housewife could make between 6 and 8 pounds for a year.

But how is a country expected to raise enough money to give every citizen that much money upon turning 21, and pay living expenses for the elderly and disabled? The answer is an estate tax, inheritance tax or as the conservatives like to call it the DEATH TAX.

Taking it then for granted that no person ought to be in a worse condition when born under what is called a state of civilization, than he would have been had he been born in a state of nature, and that civilization ought to have made, and ought still to make, provision for that purpose, it can only be done by subtracting from property a portion equal in value to the natural inheritance it has absorbed.

Various methods may be proposed for this purpose, but that which appears to be the best is at the moment that property is passing by the death of one person to the possession of another. In this case, the bequeather gives nothing: the receiver pays nothing. The only matter to him is that the monopoly of natural inheritance, to which there never was a right, begins to cease in his person. A generous man would not wish it to continue, and a just man will rejoice to see it abolished.

Paine covers what kind of “revolution” he would like to see.”

It is not charity but a right, not bounty but justice, that I am pleading for. The present state of civilization is as odious as it is unjust. It is absolutely the opposite of what it should be, and it is necessary that a revolution should be made in it. The contrast of affluence and wretchedness continually meeting and offending the eye, is like dead and living bodies chained together. Though I care as little about riches as any man, I am a friend to riches because they are capable of good.

This quote by Thomas Paine is very similar to what I believe. Unfortunately through trickle down economics of the past
30 years we have seen people lose their jobs through outsourcing in order to increase the affluence of a few.

“I care not how affluent some may be, provided that none be miserable in consequence of it. But it is impossible to enjoy affluence with the felicity it is capable of being enjoyed, while so much misery is mingled in the scene.”
Many on the right call for charity to help the poor rather than society. While it has it’s good intentions, it is simply not enough.

Here Thomas Paine explains:

There are, in every country, some magnificent charities established by individuals. It is, however, but little that any individual can do, when the whole extent of the misery to be relieved is considered. He may satisfy his conscience, but not his heart. He may give all that he has, and that all will relieve but little. It is only by organizing civilization upon such principles as to act like a system of pulleys, that the whole weight of misery can be removed.

In other words, government, through taxation, and proposals such as the one he’s outlining here, are the only solution to the problem. In fact, he argues that a prime purpose of government is to resolve vast income inequality.

Again arguing for this plan as part of the French Revolution, Paine points out that by helping the poor, France will be better off in the end:

A plan upon this principle would benefit the revolution by the energy that springs from the consciousness of justice. It would multiply also the national resources; for property, like vegetation, increases by offsets. When a young couple begin the world, the difference is exceedingly great whether they begin with nothing or with fifteen pounds apiece. With this aid they could buy a cow, and implements to cultivate a few acres of land; and instead of becoming burdens upon society, which is always the case where children are produced faster than they can be fed, would be put in the way of becoming useful and profitable citizens.

In other words, we can resolve the burden on society by vast poverty by simply making it easier for the impoverished to start life with something, instead of being trapped in the cycle of poverty. Almost sounds like a modern-day liberal, doesn’t he?

Further, he argues that it’s not enough to help the poor once they become poor–we must fundamentally alter the conditions that unjustly produce poverty.

It is the practice of what has unjustly obtained the name of civilization (and the practice merits not to be called either charity or policy) to make some provision for persons becoming poor and wretched only at the time they become so. Would it not, even as a matter of economy, be far better to adopt means to prevent their becoming poor? This can best be done by making every person when arrived at the age of twenty-one years an inheritor of something to begin with.

It is cheaper to fix the larger problem of poverty than it is to apply failing band-aids on top of the problems of the impoverished.

This particular quote, Thomas Paine responds in advance of the wealthy who will most likely attack him for advocating for a social safety net. He did this by telling them that they were in favor of war, which costs more in taxes than the Social Security, disability payments, and inheritance that he is proposing.

It is from the overgrown acquisition of property that the fund will support itself; and I know that the possessors of such property in England, though they would eventually be benefitted by the protection of nine-tenths of it, will exclaim against the plan. But without entering any inquiry how they came by that property, let them recollect that they have been the advocates of this war, and that Mr. Pitt has already laid on more new taxes to be raised annually upon the people of England, and that for supporting the despotism of Austria and the Bourbons against the liberties of France, than would pay annually all the sums proposed in this plan.

So, you see or forefathers like Thomas Paine were not conservative in a sense of advocating for Economic Darwinism and individualism. There are many more quotes from various founding fathers all the way to today’s leaders and advocates.

Today we are still fighting the fight that led to Thomas Paine writing this pamphlet and we must continue, no matter what the cost.

178 Replies to “Our Founding Fathers Were Liberal, NOT Conservative”

  1. Someone needs to post this over at Faux Notion’s hatesite and Beckanoia’s “wildly popular” site, The Blazpheemer.

    Thank you for such terrific information.

  2. This is absolutely a fabulous post. I’ve been calling our Founding Fathers liberals for years – it’s about time someone listened to me. lol

    Seriously, I’ve never yet met a conservative who has read any of the works, letters, journals written by our FFs. Never! I’ve gotten into some serious disagreements with folks who just refuse to go to original sources. They prefer the likes of Beck and Barton to explain it all to them. How do you reason with people like this? You don’t – you can’t. Very frustrating.

  3. I understand, that is why I wrote this in a very pin pointed way. People need to know, and if this article gains enough traction hopefully hopefully someone, somewhere will mention it.

    maybe I’ll be invited on Glen Beck to talk about this….lol

  4. What mine of information this article is, and its presentation makes it easy to read. Thank you very much, and I hope I will read more of your work.

  5. This is all well and good, except for one thing … it’s not true! Throughout history, in almost every (and perhaps every) civilization, there have been those with position, power and/or wealth and those without. There are leaders and there are followers. All people are NOT created equal. Some can sing; some are able athletes; some are naturally inclined to math and some are not. Yes, all humans are created with basic, inherent rights, but those do not include comfort and wealth, but simply the availability to take care of one’s needs. The rest is up to the creativity and, perhaps, luck, of the individual. Should, however, the man or woman that starts with nothing and works hard, long hours and builds a successful business be forced to give to those who chose to sit around and collect welfare though they are physically and mentally able to work? Those who are unable to work are not at issue, but those who generation and generation, chose to play the system and suck it for everything they can … for nothing. This is a cultural issue, not a political one.

    Yes, our forefathers were “liberals” in the sense that they wanted the FREEDOM to choose their own lifestyle, religion, and sources of happiness. If, as you propose, they believed all to be equal, there would have been no point in a rebellion. If we’re all equal and deserve equal goods/wealth, they could well have just sat around and waited for it. I imagine King George would have been happy to placate them for “peace.”

  6. Thomas Paine called for a national fund, to pay EVERY SINGLE PERSON in the country at the age of 21 years old.

    “To create a national fund, out of which there shall be paid to every person, when arrived at the age of twenty-one years, the sum of fifteen pounds sterling, as a compensation in part, for the loss of his or her natural inheritance, by the introduction of the system of landed property:

    And also, the sum of ten pounds per annum, during life, to every person now living, of the age of fifty years, and to all others as they shall arrive at that age.”

    “Every proprietor, therefore, of cultivated lands, owes to the community ground-rent (for I know of no better term to express the idea) for the land which he holds; and it is from this ground-rent that the fund prod in this plan is to issue. ”

    Sounds to me that, Mr Paine said if you are wealthy enough to own property, you owe to those that do not own property. He explicitly believed in inherited earth. If you own an acre of land, you took the natural inheritance of another person.

  7. Great article. You guys do such a good job tying history to current events. Always love Hraf’s posts on same topic. Keep up great work!
    @Barbara, I agree that it depends on how you define liberal, but the point is that the founders do not belong to the Republicans. If anything, they were more liberal than they were conservative just due to what they were doing. Change and progress are liberal by nature.

  8. The Founding Fathers were CLASSICAL LIBERALS, real liberals. They believed in open minds and open markets.

  9. The Founding Fathers represented multiple views. Adams and especially Hamilton were more conservative. They demonstrated some other lessons that would be well taken today:

    1) One coalition of thought didn’t gang up on and shut out the rest.
    2) They criticized each other’s arguments heatedly while still respecting each other.
    3) They compromised and regarded it as a good thing.

    I love this:
    “neither did the Creator of the earth open a land-office, from whence the first title-deeds should issue”
    Clever and a perfect example of an underlying philosophy separating religion and government.

  10. Ah… I love Thomas Paine; and the fact the Founders were by definition the liberals and progressives of their day is so undeniable is just so plain and Common Sensical it just curdles my blood to know some are so dim as to argue otherwise! However…

    Englishman Thomas Paine was not a Founding Father. Sorry. Friend? Yes. A crucial thinker? Of course. But not, properly speaking, one of the Founders.

  11. Wow and all this time I thought our Founding Fathers were trying to escape an oppresive government, not create one of their own. Apparently the only problem they had with taxes on tea was that King George was getting the money and not the federal government.

  12. I’m a real liberal. I believe in “open markets,” that is no protectionism. That’s an issue Winston Churchill fled the Conservative Party and joined the Liberal Party over, by the way.

  13. To compel a man to subsidize with his taxes the propagation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.
    Thomas Jefferson

    I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.
    Thomas Jefferson

    The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.
    Thomas Jefferson

    How liberal is that?

  14. I’m sincerely sorry to hear you disbelieve in roads and bridges and science and research. It must truly be terrible for you, friend.

  15. The personal right to acquire property, which is a natural right, gives to property, when acquired, a right to protection, as a social right.
    James Madison

    No power on earth has a right to take our property from us without our consent.
    John Jay

    Property is surely a right of mankind as real as liberty.
    John Adams

    “When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.”
    -Benjamin Franklin

    “To take from one, because it is thought his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers, have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, the guarantee to everyone the free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it.”
    -Thomas Jefferson, letter to Joseph Milligan, April 6, 1816

    “Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated.”
    -Thomas Jefferson

    “If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the general welfare, the government is no longer a limited one possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one subject to particular exceptions.” James Madison, “Letter to Edmund Pendleton,”
    -James Madison, January 21, 1792, in The Papers of James Madison, vol. 14, Robert A Rutland et. al., ed (Charlottesvile: University Press of Virginia,1984).

    Bunch of bleeding hearts weren’t they.

  16. Did I say that, but they weren’t all in favor of a national pension system or property taxes. But you go ahead and cherry pick your info while you ridicule Glenn Beck for doing the same and fail to see your hypocrisy.

  17. By way of fair warning, I think you need know, each time you use Google? Al Gore gets another nickel.

  18. So your argument is that, before civilization, there was no income gap and that all men were equal?
    This was only because a man could not count on being able to support himself without being robbed by another without laws that establish private property. Civilization has obviously been a good thing compared to warring communal tribes of humans who might starve or kill one another any moment.

  19. Actually, labeling the founders as either “Liberal” or “Conservative” using the modern, American, definitions of those terms does not do them justice. The founders were a diverse group of individuals and did not see eye-to-eye on every issue. One needs only to read the transcripts of the debates that eventually led to the Constitution to realize that the Founders were not members of a hive-mind. They had just as much diversity of ideas as we find in modern political discourse.

    Yes. Thomas Paine was, by and large, what we today would call a “Liberal.” But his ideas were NOT representative of the majority of the Founders. The proof of this is simple: His ideas were not codified into law. If all the founders had agreed with Paine regarding property rights, America would be a far different country then it is today. Would it be a better country? Impossible to say.

    We do not need to hide our idealogies behind the Founders. We have a right to our own ideas. A right to debate the issues openly without fear of what “Jefferson” or “Franklin” or “Paine” would have said regarding those issues. The operative term in the Constitution is “We The People.” That’s us, not our ancestors. That’s why we, the people, have the responsibility to ammend the Constitution to address and reflect the concerns of a modern society.

    The reality is, regardless of what your philosophy of government might be, you can find an abundance of quotes among “The Founders” to support your ideals. Just as your opposition can find an abundance of quotes to use against you. Turning to “The Founders” has become merely a method to squash debate, just like labeling your opponent “socialist” or “fascist.”

  20. You do realize the definitions of “liberal” and “conservative” are very skewed today, and your article only confirms that.

    Yes, the founding father’s were “liberal”. Liberal, meaning, they believed in individual freedoms and equal rights. By it’s true definition, both of today’s parties are “liberal”.

    And even though I identify myself as conservative (because it’s easier to explain my views), I am not, nor are any other conservatives, actually “conservative”. We all aspire for change of some sort, and in many cases, drastic change. That defies the very definition of “conservative”.

    Yes, Thomas Paine had many ideas that today’s Democratic party seems to support. Yes, he was liberal, but so was EVERY Founding Father, based on the interpretation of “liberal” at the time. It would be unfair, and flat out wrong, to peg the beliefs of the Founding Father’s as today’s version of liberalism. It couldn’t be further from the truth, and the fact that you only have a few out of context excerpts by Thomas Paine only proves that your title here is quite misleading.

  21. Just to play Devil’s Advocate, Thomas Paine was not the only “Founding Father” (people can debate about who deserves the title), and he held many views markedly different from those of Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, or Washington, particularly in regards to his views on individual and property rights.

    It was Paine’s authorship of “Common Sense” that most often is cited when including him in the “Founding Fathers”, but that particular pamphlet didn’t delve into those views of his that would today be considered leftist or socialist – rather, it simply attacked the authority of the monarchy and espoused revolution in the colonies.

    Aside from his contribution to propaganda through “Common Sense” (which was considerable), Paine’s other ideas had very little influence with most of the other founders – Jefferson in particular dismissed Paine’s views on the origins of Poverty as naive. If nothing else, the fact that none of Paine’s ideas regarding redistribution were included in the Constitution is the best indication of his real influence.

  22. You should be ashamed for taking a few quotes out of context and completely misrepresenting Jefferson. He was no conservative, that’s for sure.

  23. This would probably be valid if you had bothered to quote more the one man, Paine != founding fathers but simply one of them. It is like trying to peg Beck or Palin as being the sole voice of the GOP. Also it should be noted that liberalism THEN has very little in common with today’s brand of it, this also applies to conservatism. Ie the so called neocons have almost nothing to do with what use to be defined as “conservative” beliefs.

  24. Thomas Jefferson like most of our founders was a Libertine or Libertarian. He was most definitely one to look for government to provide sustenance or answers.
    The government that governs least governs best.

  25. Somebody doesn’t understand the difference between one person and a diverse group of people, most of which were dramatically more “conservative” than Paine. The title “Our Founding Fathers” should be “This One Founding Father With Whom I Totally Agree With whilst Ignoring the Others”.

  26. “In fact, Paine directly challenges the justification for pure private property with no community responsibilities:”

    The key word being COMMUNITY. Here Paine expresses the core of the Tea Party belief – taxes are needed, and should go to the COMMUNITY. Not people far beyond the community. Paine would obviously be aghast at the power and resources drained by the federal government, and in modern times be all about reverting power to the states.

  27. “We all aspire for change of some sort, and in many cases, drastic change.”

    Yet another self-identified “conservative” who does not read the news or watch their own Party’s speeches.

    Even the “progressive” Tea Party is running off of platforms from 1947 and using speeches from 1859. Literally. Is that change?

  28. Sir,

    Your comments are repugnant.
    Your description of history only seems to agree with others who believe in wealth inequality. Yet, I wish you to scream from the top of your lungs about your ideas, just to ensure that everybody knows which echo chamber you live in.
    Focusing on a specific document, in a sea of documents and writings, shows a complete lack of context. To consider Googling “Founding Fathers wealth inequity” complete research again shows more desperation for an outcome.

    I look forward to your on air rebuttal. But, I only seem to only hear high school games on that station… When I can actually pick it up. Are you the on air guest announcer for the games?

    My suggestion is to ensure your Union Card is up to date and find a contract. I certainly hope that you are better at electrical contracting than history.

  29. Typical liberal: once you’ve had your soft head handed to you, you reply with an ad hominem smoke screen to escape. This article is complete misinformation but its great to see you softheads run around and praise the author as if he has accomplished some great work. Paine was never a “Founding Father”, “Common Sense” simply justified rebellion, nothing else. The real founding fathers called for very “anti-liberal” measures like: working for a living, small government, and the right to personal and national defense.

    I better leave it at that, I can smell the patchouli oil burning on your neck at this very moment.


  30. You can’t cherry pick your favorite founder and attribute his ideas and character to the rest who established our country. Aaron Burr was a founding father too.

  31. well i think it goes something like this:

    Thomas Paine was a Founding Father. I’ve found some quotes of his supporting estate taxes and government transfer payments. These would be considered liberal ideas in today’s world. And the Founding Fathers all basically had the same thoughts and ideas. So by the transitive property this means that they all basically were a bunch of liberals. Hey!

    You stupid dirty conservatives don’t want to help anyone but yourselves and don’t care about anything but your money. and that Glenn Beck. I hate that guy. I don’t really have anything to back it up, I’ve never seen him speak. And if you try to confront me on this, I’ll just make some other accusation towards another prominent right-wing figure like Sarah Palin to try and get the attention off the fact that I say things with no merit. You evil dirty Republicans you.

  32. I lean left, but I can’t get behind the argument that Paine represents a homogeneous body of thinkers, no matter how much I might romanticize his arguments.

    Also, I agree that we should not invoke the names of Jefferson, Paine, or any other Revolutionary to justify our current beliefs–They should stand on their own merits and not be given extra weight out of a sense of history and tradition. Invoking the names of these gentlemen (to whom we are deeply indebted) amounts to ancestor worship–which is definitely not progressive.

  33. I would suggest the book “The politically incorrect guide to the founding fathers” as a must read for any person interested in this debate. I’ll keep my opinion on the subject to myself.

    Ron Paul 2012!!!!!

  34. I detect severe levels of delusion and possible retardation by the author.

    I noticed years ago that whenever a polling organization asked even the most insane question, that about 24% of the respondents would answer with the crazy , far end of the spectrum response.
    EG; “Do you think aliens live amongst us?” = about 24% were “yes” or “possibly”.

    Now I know where these people come for their “news”.
    I just can not imagine the lengths of self delusion the writer went to to arrive here.
    Or perhaps, like our “brilliant” president, he just assumes we are all so very stupid that we’ll just fall for it. (“They are against it because I just didn’t explain it well enough!” [barf])

    “It’s not that liberals are stupid, it’s just that the “know” so many things that are not true.” RR

  35. Calling Thomas Paine a “Founding Father” is like calling Al Gore one of the inventors of the internet.

    There is little of Thomas Paine in any of the major documents that underpin the foundation of our nation. Thomas Paine was a radical, plain and simple.

    Look it up, Dumbasses!

  36. (1) TP was NOT a founding father…so……duh!
    (This alone demonstrates the authors ignorance fabulously.)
    (2) Further, his writings and “bright” ideas at times, were his alone and you will find no support whatever from the framers and founders, and not certainly in the law of the land, our Constitution.
    (This undercuts your basic fallacy which is an appeal to authority. Which you misrepresent (see 1st point).
    (3) It REALLY does not matter a damn what TP’s personal views were, any more than Jefferson’s private letter with the phrase “separation of church and state” does. Jefferson acted contrary to those words numerous times as president because he WAS a founder and he had a passingly good grasp of the “law of the land”, the a fore mentioned Constitution.

    What you libtards seem to forget as you bastardize our language and alter the meanings of words and attempt to rewrite history, is that we have a document to refer to. You may have heard of it? It’s called the Constitution.
    “IF” you don’t want to live within it’s constraints, handily, it gives specific options for it’s own alteration. What we actual conservatives want is for you scum to stop trying to change it illegally via the courts.
    The founders, like today’s conservative, decided that if your bright ideas on how to do it better had actual merit, then you would be able to explain it and we’d go along with it.
    However, you “champions of democracy” are forever trying to abuse us, it, and the process….and we are getting fed up!

  37. This idiocy has me still fuming a bit so ….
    (1) TP was NOT a founding father…so……duh!
    (This alone demonstrates the authors ignorance fabulously.)

    (2) Further, his writings and “bright” ideas at times, were his alone and you will find no support whatever from the framers and founders, and not certainly in the law of the land, our Constitution.
    (This undercuts your basic fallacy which is an appeal to authority. Which you misrepresent (see 1st point).

    (3) It REALLY does not matter a damn what TP’s personal views were, any more than Jefferson’s private letter with the phrase “separation of church and state” does. Jefferson acted contrary to those words numerous times as president because he WAS a founder and he had a passingly good grasp of the “law of the land”, the a fore mentioned Constitution.

    What you libtards seem to forget as you bastardize our language and alter the meanings of words and attempt to rewrite history, is that we have a document to refer to. You may have heard of it? It’s called the Constitution.
    “IF” you don’t want to live within it’s constraints, handily, it gives specific options for it’s own alteration. What we actual conservatives want is for you scum to stop trying to change it illegally via the courts.
    The founders, like today’s conservative, decided that if your bright ideas on how to do it better had actual merit, then you would be able to explain it and we’d go along with it.
    However, you “champions of democracy” are forever trying to abuse us, it, and the process….and we are getting fed up!

  38. Thank you for your useful contributions to this discourse and to the language, friend. By the way, for future reference, “it’s” is a contraction of it is. The possessive for it, as in (I presume) the Constitution’s supposed “constraints,” would be its. I point this out for the sake of your improving the clarity with which you may in the future convey your sublime knowledge and reasoning to the more benighted amongst us. Cheers!

  39. Cousin George! How ya’ doin’? Oh wait… I misread your name there, seeing two ohs and not one. My bad. Darned oil smoke gets in my eyes, don’cha know.

  40. Yeah, I feel your Paine. Just as soon as I saw Glenn Beck’s name appear in the article I stopped reading. I get so sick and tired of this baseless out of context attacks on America’s History Professor and on Queen Esther, it makes me want to puke just like you.

  41. Er… these baseless attacks, I meant. Dern that crack cocaine eating up my brain… now that is/i> Glenn Beck’s fault, since he stopped taking up his share!

  42. Funny thing, I’ve noticed that if I was to stop paying the school tax or the county real estate tax the community would tell me to vacate the land upon which my house is located… probably enforcing that with the use of police and weapons subsidized by the federal government, no less! You should see the dither folk downstream get into when I crap in my creek, too. They sound like a bunch’a treehuggers, they do. Freedom’s so hard to come by these days.

  43. Thanks for the call to cents, there; I must admit I myself was perilously close to something just like that in a comment I made above, wherein I implied Al Gore was an early investor in Google and consequently gets paid a stipend every time it’s used.

  44. Thomas Paine is considered a Founding Father because of his “Common Sense”, published in 1776. You really need to get your info from sources other than FOX News. Truly, if there is anyone out there who is guilty of “alter(ing) the meanings of words and attempt to rewrite history” it is FOX news and it’s viewers.

  45. Depends on where you view things from and why you view them the way you do. To say that it is good for industrial progress and in certain cases social progress is fine and accurate. But to say that it has been good in general is not true, for it has definitely not be health for the planet and other forms of life, or for humans on all fronts to be honest.

  46. “(1) TP was NOT a founding father…so……duh!”
    Make sure you let the tea party know this, along with Glen Beck

    “(2) Further, his writings and “bright” ideas at times, were his alone and you will find no support whatever from the framers and founders, and not certainly in the law of the land, our Constitution.”

    Funny, his writting have been referenced many times by Glen Beck and teabaggers around the Country. But now that his ideas seem liberal, you throw him under the bus…pathetic

  47. It is really humorous that the conservatives that have read this and claimed ownership of Thomas Paine, are now turning their backs on him.

    It’s quite disturbing seeing that many have quoted him and made youtube videos of him speaking about revolution.
    Now that he has some social programs, like a social security fund, property taxes…etc they have cast him aside…because even TP isn’t CONSERVATIVE enough for them.

  48. Really? Wow, you really need to go around an tell all the colleges this because when I took political science with an emphasis in constitutional law at Rutgers, Thomas Paine and they might beg to differ. Oh wait, what…your parents never told you about these establishments when you were home schooled? Oh, I see….well, better for the rest of us that you can’t find these institutions of learning anyway ;)

  49. I believe the fact that he believed in a living wage and that he distrusted corporations was the reason

  50. Thank you Mitch! These people only conjure up such nonsense to justify themselves and what they are doing in “fundamentally transforming” this country.

    Truth in education is the key to circumventing this practice. So, keep posting, and thanks for doing so.

  51. Ok, so in your mind, reading the ideas on Thomas Paine isn’t education. In your mind Thomas Paine didn’t want a national pension sysem, except for the fact that he wrote about it, and how to pay for it.

    Seems to me you conservatives want to re-write history to fit your arguement.

  52. The title is broad. They weren’t all liberals. I think that everyone should keep an open mind about everything. The key to humanity taking the next step toward being an advanced civilization is giving up our primal instinct to be reactionary. If we are always reacting we can never progress, yet that is all i see on both sides is a bunch of reacting. Not all liberal ideas are good and neither are all conservative ideas, but take to heart what is really going on….UNITED WE STAND…DIVIDED WE FALL. We are more divided than ever and everyone is defensive…We have already begun the Fall.

  53. The idea that the Founders were conservative is absurd. Anyone can cherry-pick quotes to make it seem like the Founders were conservative, but only by using today’s standards (conservatism is very mild compared to what it once was, and has never been very strong in the United States); and only by ignoring the broader historical context in which America developed.

    The Constitution was founded on Classical Liberal ideas, for example that people should be free. Private property was a means to political freedom. It gave people independence. Conservatives today think private property is an end in itself, and cherry-pick quotes about property by the Founders to justify this. People like Jefferson were for private property, but understood there must be limits:

    “While it is a moot question whether the origin of any kind of property is derived from Nature at all… it is considered by those who have seriously considered the subject, that no one has, of natural right, a separate property in an acre of land… Stable ownership is the gift of social law, and is given late in the progress of society.”


    “…legislators cannot invent too many devices for subdividing property… Another means of silently lessening the inequality of property is to exempt all from taxation below a certain point, and to tax the higher portions or property in geometrical progression as they rise. Whenever there are in any country uncultivated lands and unemployed poor, it is clear that the laws of property have been so far extended as to violate natural right.”

    People fled Europe and came to America to escape conservative oppression. The conservatives in Europe appropriated all the property for themselves and used religion to oppress people. The British loyalists in America were the conservatives. They were called “Tories.” People like Alexander Hamilton and John Adams and had conservative views by today’s standards, but were liberal when compared to even moderate conservatives at the time, such as Edmund Burke (a Whig).

    People that call themselves “conservatives” today don’t even really know what the term means.

  54. The real issues in american politics today have nothing to do with conservative or liberal, republican or democrat. The two main issues that are ruining the country are government corruption stemming from the influence money has on legislation and campaigns, andthe destruction of a free press which has been replaced by demagogic propaganda owned and run by a handful of corporations.

    Those two factors condemn the country to decline and further stratification.

    And as far as cutting federal government spending what are you going to radically cut?

    1) military (approx 50-56% of the total US federal budget when you throw in all “off budget” items and other categories of “defense” spending not covered in the Pentagon budget; you get a grand total of somewhere between $1.01 and $1.35 trillion spent on national defense in 2010. btw, that is more than the military spending of China, Russia, Japan, India, and the rest of NATO COMBINED!)

    2) 15% Pensions (social security and pensions for other govt workers, not including those paid to military)

    3) 16% medicare/medicade (not including payments to military)

    4) 12% other programs (workfare [wellfare does not exist anymore, btw], emergency relief (katrina), federal law enforment (fbi, tobacco&firearms, etc), roads, bridges, education, Nasa, etc]

    5) 5-7%, interest

    6) the rest is running government and waste.

    No, the US has stopped investing in their people through education and other human resource development programs while simultaneously squandering their financial resources on outrageous military expenditures; and there is no outrage in 99% of the media.

    Americans do not know the extent of the corruption in their government, or the extent to which they have been manipulated.

    It is kind of scary though, because of the intense warlike nature of the nation, when real crisis does come, it is not out of the realm of possibility that the United States will start an external war to prevent internal violence.

  55. Those courts you deem illegal…yeah those are in the Constitution and are allowed the power they have to review laws and see which laws are unconstitutional. THIS IS LEGAL!

  56. Excuse me. God has placed a King over us, and has given us a Church of which that King is Chief, and to which we must all tithe, just all Good Citizens pay taxes to their King joyfully & without complaint.

    Yes, there is an element here in the American Colonies that has been radicalized by certain pamphleteers and is becoming a Dangerous Rabble.

    These people and their yowling must be both rejected and refuted by all solid Conservative citizens who are Patriots rather than atheistic anarchists.

    Yrs. sincerely,
    The Coyote

  57. This article amazes me…and no that’s not a compliment. No, they weren’t liberal, they were very conservative. Not all conservatives are Republicans. Look up the Libertarian movement.

  58. So when Thomas Paine called for a national pension, that’s not a liberal idea. When he said ALL property owners owe “groud rent” to non-property owners, that is not liberal.

    Nathan your ignorance of fact is what is amazing and you inability to READ an entire article is further proof that you willfully stay ingnorant.

  59. It is FUNNY to me, to see the conservatives, who just 3-4 months ago were proclaming Thomas Paine as one of their own, is now willfully casting him aside.

  60. Once again I must say, there is only one politician in Washington who realizes this and the effects it will have on our society; Ron Paul.

    He has been right about everything, categorically, so far.

    Ron Paul 2012 REAL change!!!

  61. I don’t question whether those are liberal positions, just whether they are intelligent positions. The right to property is fundamental and absolute.

  62. Our founding fathers were neither Liberals, nor Conservatives. They were something we do not see at all in our current politics – Revolutionaries who were willing to compromise for the benefit of the Republic – not one group or another. They were flawed men who knew they were flawed. They were thinkers and doers, not limousine liberals nor parasitic businessmen. There have been only three great generations in the 200+ years our Republic has stood – the Revolutionaries, those who fought and defeated slavery and the generation who saved us and the world from Fascism. We are in a period of time where small men, think small thoughts of left versus right. We need to be more like the Greeks of the old republic – they planted olive trees. You must believe in the future and plan for success to do that. It take 100 years for an olive tree to give fruit. You don’t grow them for yourself or even your children, you grow them for your grandchildren. Our society has forgotten that when you burn too brightly, you burn up the world.

  63. I’m forever astounded by both ends of the political spectrum claiming the Founders as being in their camp. The Founders were a rather large group who disagreed rather vigorously about a great many important issues and fell, as individuals, all along the spectrum from (our current) Left and Right. Here’s my piece refuting the TeaGOP’s love of corporations and bastardization of the famed Boston Tea Party: http://filterednews.wordpress.com/2010/11/16/will-the-tea-party-condemn-and-apologize-for-the-american-revolution/
    And here’s another post in which the TeaGOP is shown to have precious little knowledge of the Founders: http://filterednews.wordpress.com/2010/06/03/be-careful-what-you-wish-for/

  64. This post drives me absolutely insane. Every young, brain-washed, and zombie following idiot in this world thinks that liberal decisions are the way to go just because their damn teacher told them WRONG information about our government. I guarantee not more than 5% of the people in college classes even notice when they are getting opinions and not facts shoved down their throats. This author is so ignorant and full of bullshit that when he says “Maybe I’ll get on Glenn Beck’s show”…Dude you are so fucking dumb. I bet you don’t even know what being Liberal is, I’ll just come to your house one day, say I’m the government and ask that you give me half of the money you’ve made this year and give it to fucking illegal immigrants that for some reason you think are allowed to be here and for that thought alone you should be deported out and revoked citizenship of this country. This country is finally realizing how fucking shitty Obama Bin Laden is and he will end his presidency with the worst approval rating of all time. Liberalism is bad. Taking money from people who worked for it makes no fucking sense. The poor need to climb out of the hole themselves and fix their own lives. It’s their fault and not ours.

  65. The founders were neither liberal not conservative as is currently fought over. In fact, if the founders were alive today to hear this blue state vs red state rachel maddow vs glenn beck idiocy they would thrash all of you within an inch of your life & throw you in a lunactic asylum.

  66. I grew up poor and on welfare and my mother died at the young age of 45 while she was still poor. I was never able to help my mother since I was still a kid when she pasted away. Even with this and other hardships in my families life do I think taking from others makes sense? NO – you can give it any name you want but when its not something you have earned and its coming from someone else and they did not openly give it to you – it is something taken.

    My point here is that T. Paine’s logic, while well thought out and with many good points, is simply flawed. The law of “nature” is nature itself. No one, not earth, God, Budda, the guy down the street, Kings, Presidents or the poor homeless in Haiti and the world over owe me anything nor I them. Is the world fair? Of course not. Is Nature fair – nope. Tell the baby Gazelle just born in Africa that then becomes some Lions dinner that nature is fair.

    This idea of “land rent” is a clever way of man trying to create a balance in this world that “nature” itself does not produce. I am no longer poor and in fact very well off because of my own hard work and determination and by the love of friends and community. But I do not ever allow myself to think that I as a man can invent an “idea” that can somehow forces others to give me what is theirs because I was not born on balance with everyone else. Nothing in nature is born that way. You exist and that is it – nothing else. Make the most of it. Be kind to others. As bad as you have it – always remember that someone has it worse. Many “intelligent people” spend a lot of time trying to invent ideas that will change how others think when all we all need to do more is spend time changing how we act so that we can change how others feel. My 2 cents – God Bless.

    P.S. while Thomas Paine is by many considered a Founding Father please note he was not a signer or a framer, so it really depends on how you yourself define “Founding Fathers”. I myself do since he was an influence on John Adams. But to pass him off as a Jefferson, Adams, or Washington is a stretch (not saying anyone is BTW).

  67. “Classical Liberal” is exactly correct to describe most of the founders . . . and liberals today are NOT classical liberals.

    Ron Paul is the politician CLOSEST to being a classical liberal – and I’m guessing most of you think he’s a kook.

    I have a couple questions for the writer of the article. Did Thomas Paine sign the Constitution? Did Paine attended the Constitutional Convention? Did Thomas Paine assist in the writing of the Declaration of Independence?

    If you want to argue that the Founder Fathers (PLURAL) were liberals, then you should quote more than one of them. Your failure to do so shows a complete lack of credibility and a serious case of misrepresentation.

    If I were a college professor, I’d give you a “D” or an “F” for that fact alone. If you had stated that THOMAS PAINE was a “liberal”, then your article would have been more or less properly titled and represented.

    And finally, I still haven’t seen anyone refute the above quotes from the other Founding Fathers PROVING that they were NOT liberals in the modern sense of the word.

    And I won’t see that, because they weren’t. Period. They also definitely weren’t conservatives.

  68. This article is whatever. I thought the title was self-explanatory and quite obvious. The founding fathers had the ethics of modern day liberals, and the determination to develop of modern day conservatives. Of course, they didn’t realize back then how Capitalism would eventually become a monstrosity of a system. Our government is essentially controlled by the highest bidder. How is that fair? How is this democracy? I used to consider myself liberal, now I consider the battle between the left and right wings an endless joke. People always arguing for their stupid little opinions on blogs which make no impact whatsoever on the real world. If you want to actually do something for yourselves, go start a fucking riot. Look what the students in the UK did when their tuition increased by 200%. Their government is going to respond because they acted on injustice, rather than posting stupid comments online. The US government is pathetic. We all know it. Get out there and do something about it. Our government will never develop no matter if liberals or conservatives are in office, because real change is impossible with a system that requires checks and balances. So screw it, I’ll probably vote for Ron Paul.

  69. Huzzah! Let’s hear the truth of the matter, and not rightwing spin!
    We can see an example of the manipulative, misleading and robotic rhetoric of the far right in his the of the term “libtard” – a sure sign of a faithful Dittohead in The Church of Limbaugh.
    Such simplistic sloganeering may substitute for critical thinking on the far right, but not in the real world. Rather than recounting the lengthy list of right wing misinformation, disinformation and plain meanness, let me encourage a a reading of one of the first documents to attempt to define America: John Winthrop’s “A Model of Christian Charity” which would evoke howls of rage in today’s extremist right with its hysterical fear of “socialism” or any form of social responsibility. Selfishness is a dead end, and it just might finish our species. Get with the program – communal values and collaboration are the wave of the future and the sign of an evolving species.

  70. Whether Thomas Paine or his friends in the liberty movement wanted taxation or not is irrelevant, because the Constitution provided a method of taxation through the states. If Virginia wanted a property tax and a pension fund, and Maryland didn’t, then so be it.

    The founders wanted people to be able to vote with their feet. That’s why they put the 1oth Amendment in there.

  71. I followed your link, and the first words I read were:

    Thomas “Tom” Paine (February 9, 1737 [O.S. January 29, 1736[1]] – June 8, 1809) was an author, pamphleteer, radical, inventor, intellectual, revolutionary, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States.[2][3] He has been called “a staymaker by trade, a journalist by profession, and a propagandist by inclination.”[4]

    Sounds like a liberal to me—


    **intellectual (currently called “an elitist”)


    All of which I’ve heard today’s conservatives use to described liberals.

    Some people don’t know what they THINK they know.

  72. You’re confusing Paine’s opinion that land cannot be wholly privately owned, with calls to redistribute types of property that Paine considered 100% legitimate to own privately, like manufactured goods, or commodities, or gold coins.

    It was ONLY in respect to land that Paine thought there should be government action to even out distribution of its produce.

  73. There was no federal government at the time that the Boston Tea Party took place in the 1760s.

    The colonists’ main quibble with George III over the selling of tea had to do with granting the Dutch East India Company the right to sell tea to the colonists tax free. This created an economic disadvantage for the colonial tea sellers. This was important to the colonists because tea was the main beverage consumed at this time in America’s history.

    I’ve yet to see the phrase “no taxation without representation” used and explained correctly by any tea partier.

  74. Yep, they bled so profusely that they were inclined to add the Elastic Clause (Article I, Section 8, Clause 18) to expand the enumerated powers of Congress so that the nation could meet the challenges of the future.

    The Constitution was not meant to be a non-living, or static, document as many conservatives are wont to claim.

  75. From wikipedia:

    Thomas “Tom” Paine (February 9, 1737 [O.S. January 29, 1736[1]] – June 8, 1809) was an author, pamphleteer, radical, inventor, intellectual, revolutionary, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States.[2][3] He has been called “a staymaker by trade, a journalist by profession, and a propagandist by inclination.”[4]

  76. I read Agrarian justice by Thomas Paine…and it is obvious you have not. You regugitate drivel that you hear.

    If you read agrarian justice, you would know that he wanted a national pension, and the peoperty owners OWED non property owners land rent because the property owner took the natural inheritance of being a human, which is land

  77. Sir,
    If you read agrarian justice you would have understood where my position comes from. I believe a national pension is liberal. I believe having all property owners PAY non-property owners for “land rent” is also liberal.

  78. Payne, of course, would have been astounded at the wealth possessed by those who today pass as “the poor” in comparison to the poor in America of the 18th century.

  79. What do you mean “No”, I just stated he thought that LAND was in the public domain, and wanted to tax LAND to redistribute equally among citizens the earnings it produced.

    His view was not based on the poor having any intrinsic right to the property of the wealthy, it was that EVERY ONE had an equal right to the some of the income produced by land, which was collective property.

    It was ONLY land that he viewed to be common property, not a factory or a corporation that an investor owns a share of.

  80. Reminds me of a joke I heard once… coupla’ genetic researchers get all excited by a breakthrough, the big one as it were, and call up God. “God,” they say, “we finally did it. We created Life!” God says, “Why that’s very interesting. Well done, children. I’d like to see your results,” and he heads on down to visit the laboratory to observe. The thrilled scientists go about preparing the demonstration for their esteemed visitor and begin by scooping some clay into a petri dish. “Whoa, whoa, stop right there,” says God. “I want you to get your own dirt.”

  81. It seems apparent to me, that maybe Thomas Paine should have addressed and handed out the pamphlet the the signers of the Declaration of Indedendence, the veterans of the Continental Army, and all of the states whos leaders ratified the U.S. Constitution in the newly formed United States of America at the time instead of a French “legislature” in the throes of its own revolution if he’d meant it to apply to them. The opinions he stated were, indeed, his own and it’s pretty clear that most didn’t subscribe to his point of view on the topic. I’d guess the Marqui De Sade had a blast with it though while all those benevolent French revolutionaries were sacking monestaries, slaughtering religous leaders, decapitating political leaders, stripping people of their property and murdering french citizens on a whim, at least until they came after him…. Come to think of, I think it was around the time of the French revolution,,,, in France even,,, that the beginnings of modern day socialism and communism came into being…..

  82. Who wrote this bull ?

    Our Founding Fathers were in no way like the liberals of today, but they certainly weren’t like the conservatives either. Today’s liberal Democrats seek more government influence & laws, more of a full democracy (especially for elections), and hell they even want to tax food that’s deemed “bad for us” … Our conservative Republicans have been finding ways to create wars ever since they were formed, they’ve been ignoring the Constitution since their first Republican President, and they cater to the corporation and the church.

    Our Founding Fathers fought against all of these things; The separation from England and war for Independence was over complete democracies and the tyranny of the many over the few, we had maybe 5 to 7 original Federal Laws which only concerned treason against the country – today we have thousands, They never wanted taxes – England was taxing them to death and the income tax (?) Even Woodrow Wilson stated that it was his greatest regret when he agreed to income taxes after decades of politicians fighting against it. The influence of the church on government is terrible; One of the key reasons for our American Revolution was getting away from the Church Of England. Today church groups (mostly Evangelicals) are lobbying against human rights such as marriage. Damn, I could go on forever …

  83. This will be one of a few articles I write in regards to the Fouders and their liberal ideas.

    Paine wanted a national pension. He also wanted to make sure non-property owners received compensation from the property owners. Those two ideas seem like a modern day liberal.

  84. You didn’t READ and educate yourself in regards to Agrarian Justice, a pamphlet written by Thomas Paine. He called for a national pension, a fund that would pay EVERYONE at the age of 21.

    He also believed that property owners OWED money to non property owners for taking their natural inheritance, which was land.

  85. There you go again, trying to deprive righteous folk of their enjoyments; how typically liberalish of you. Whatever happened to whatever it takes? If it takes confabulating history and distorting it beyond any semblance to reality for them to sustain their beloved endeavor of argumentative belching (not to mention the ramming down our throats of their agenda), shouldn’t they be indulged, even pampered? For shame! Oh, the victimhood to which you subject them.

  86. Wow. You mean revolutionary like rebelling against the crown? Or intellectual, as in being able to craft an argument for no taxation without representation? Or radical, like a Boston tea party, or like rebellion, or like declaring independence?

    What is it that you want, anyway? The glory of revolution, or the blind obedience to tyranny?

  87. The common sense philosophy our Founding Fathers borrowed from Thomas Paine was not Agrarian Justice. Thomas Paine’s ideas on a Republic was his only contribution to our Constitution.

    If you READ you’ll see that the income tax was rejected as unconstitutional by U.S. Supreme Court during 1868 to 1895. It was first created to fund the Civil War. In 1913 Congress passed the 16th Amendment making income tax a permanent fixture – just before World War One.

    President Woodrow Wilson knew it was wrong and he regretted it til the day he died …

    I am a most unhappy man. I have unwittingly ruined my country. A great industrial nation is controlled by its system of credit. Our system of credit is concentrated. The growth of the nation, therefore, and all our activities are in the hands of a few men. We have come to be one of the worst ruled, one of the most completely controlled and dominated governments in the civilized world.

  88. As he states
    ““Poverty, therefore, is a thing created by that which is called civilized life. It exists not in the natural state.”

    I’m no genius, but when you’re talking about people in places of power, they have that power because they’ve created a civilization (i.e. A king is the ruler of his civilization, a tribal leader is the ruler of his). When we create a civilized society where there are people who ‘have’, we inevitably end up with ‘have-nots’.

    He does not seem to be stating that people are completely equal in an arbitrary sense, (i.e. Sing well, or business minded) he’s arguing that people are equal in that we are all beings with needs. We all need food, and while we don’t NEED it, it would certainly be nice to have a place to rest our heads.

    You seem to be saying that people without jobs don’t deserve to have anything at all. I suppose it’s a simple phrase ‘if/then’, such as ‘IF they don’t work, THEN they don’t deserve to eat.’ When we are in a society where there are 5 people applying for every 1 position (or in this case http://www.newsnet14.com/2010/12/19/desperation-sets-in-more-than-100000-people-apply-for-flight-attendant-position-at-delta/) it’s rude to assume that the people accepting aid from the government are all ‘loaf-abouts’.

    People of power always breed this myth that they are better than everyone else because they started a company that employs thousands. They had ambition and drive, which is essential, but when they assume their ambition and drive makes them better people; that’s when I start taking exception.

    The founding fathers may not have all believed the same things, in fact I’m glad they believed differently. I’m glad that in this country we have people with different values and beliefs and religions and colors, creeds, sexual orientations (etc.). I’m glad I’m living at this point in time, on this bold precipice of existence where things are beginning to change.

    This is a time for the smaller man, the down trodden and weather beaten man to stand up and start to believe he is worth more than the world tells him. The hard working might start being heard soon, and the rich might find their coffers a little more empty, but their hearts much more full.


  89. These guys may have been classic liberals but they were not the Marxists we see today. Yes Thomas Paine might have been an agrarian socialist but he was not a signer of the constitution and he went to to do and say a lot of dumb things after writing “common sense”. You guys that listen to NPR think you have some moral or intellectual high ground on people that watch Fox news? Think again. You really fooling only your self.

  90. I respect your opinion. And, I think you’re right, people have their opinions on different matters. Good thing they did too, otherwise this country would have nothing worth fighting for.

    What irks me a lot of the time is when people assume that their opinions are facts, and because their opinions are facts they oppose their opinions on other people.

    Welfare may not have made sense in their time, the government was still budding and taking shape. But, societies change, kings becomes priests, priests become governors, governors become presidents. Thus, the founding fathers said and did what made sense for their way of life.

    If the rich are unable to take care of the ‘underlings’ then the government has to step up and do it, by taking the money from the rich and giving it to people that need money to survive.

    I might not be rich, but I’m not poor. I’m a working American, and we are what Our America is made for.

    Enjoy your tax cuts.

  91. Yeah, Paine addressed the distinction between the underlying land on which improvements are built on, and the improvements themselves.

    He explained that the value that comes from the original land is a tiny fraction of the value added through the efforts improve it, which is why civilization just assumed, for simplicity’s sake, the owner of the improvements to the land to also own the underlying land.

    Any way, my point is that Paine was not a fucking welfarist who believed in government redistributing wealth from the rich to the poor. He believed that the un-improved land itself was common property, since no one created it, and that the government should tax land a certain amount in order to distribute to every one their share of the earnings produced from this common property.

    His message was not about re-distribution of wealth, it was about recognizing people’s rightful possession of un-created wealth.

  92. Any commenter who argues that another commenter listens or watches or gets info from “Fox News” immediately loses credibility. Unless they cite Fox News then you don’t know squat. Fox News has been stealing Libertarian ideas since the Tea Party movement got hijacked in April 2009, so many online are watching Fox News, Fox News just happens to have gotten a clue and report good information the Libertarians have been preaching for a long time…

    Oh and btw the Founding Fathers were Libertarian.. Liberalism is a spinoff of Libertarianism that morphed into something hideous. True conservatism is most Libertarian though nowadays conservative is equivalent to moderate or even slightly liberal only a few decades ago…

  93. lol at mitches word phrasing
    “What you libtards seem to forget as you bastardize our language and alter the meanings of words and attempt to rewrite history”
    you must be making our generation ten times smart by making up words:]be a professor please<3

  94. Paine was liberal, and I am sure there are other examples both liberal and conservative. You fail to make your point that our founding fathers were liberal. A better title for the article would have been “Thomas Paine was a Liberal”.

  95. I was pointing to the ideas that Thomas Paine had. His ideas were a national pension fund and many other ideas regarding wealth inequality and the governments role to solve the problem.

  96. You don’t even need to look at the grammar. The bold font and bulleted response identified him as flame bait right away.

    I do wish this piece was more comprehensive than just Thomas Pain though. Kinda hard to extrapolate his view to say all founding fathers felt this way without additional evidence.

  97. How can you say “Fathers” if you only pick Thomas Paine? Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin did not share the same views.

    Next time, show more than one view. That’s like saying all Presidents are crooked because one approved waterboarding. How about use your god damned brain for once and stop making us democrats look like idiots pushing liberal agendas on the youth.

  98. This poorly written and revised piece of crap thread is as useless as a mesh condom on John Holmes. The religious convictions of the founders and the actions they took are clearly right wing, and thank God they broke America free from the European swines who had it all wrong. George Washington had a soldier whipped for saying “God D@mn”. Doesn’t sound exactly like Howard Dean or John Kerry to me.

    This writer is obviously an apprentice poser without much knowledge.

  99. Like I have said over and over to my conservative “posters”…did you even read it? No? Then you are making a statement based on ignorance of facts. Sorry for your disposition.

  100. The statement which killed the 39th President’s re-election bid: “Life isn’t fair.” So much more of a ring to “It’s morning in America.”

  101. Ray,

    I think that I understand your confusion [if you’re cognitively impaired and/or 7 years-old]. Unfortunately, though, you could not be more wrong in your presumption. The Framers, at least those of who made significant contributions to our founding documents, were staunch advocates of republicanism and individualism [you’ve obviously never looked either of those -isms up]. First, I should say, the message of the Tea Party is by no means a sufficient representation of the Framer’s views. The party lays claim as a “grassroots” movement [a certainly vague concept], which allows the ignorance of its membership to spread far and wide. However, Neo-Conservatives make up a large part of this group. Neo-Cons are those who support an immoral foreign policy [nation-building and policing the world], and also tend to bring faith and religion [unconstitutionally] into the political arena. These are the people who you should criticize. They are the traditionalists and social conservatives who favor the status quo. They say they want small government, but then support policies and mandates that keep it growing. Typically, today’s use of the term “liberal” means “contrary to the status quo.” So hey, let’s all be liberals if the status quo is “Neo-Conservatism.”

    What you obviously do not understand is the difference between classical liberalism and modern day liberalism. U.S. Framers were NOT conservatives in their historical context of the term. Conservatives were those in support of centralized, monarchial rule [like Britain]. They were traditionalists or social conservatives [sound familiar?]. Our Framers were “liberal” because they were advocates of LIBERTY. You, however, are an advocate of a soul-killing socioeconomic philosophy [sorry, that may sound vituperative], which elevates the “Will” of society, i.e., the collective good or welfare of the people, over the freedom of the individual. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, et cetera, were opposed to that idea, be it the Will of God, the Will of a group, or the Will of King–freedom means the inviolate sanctity of the individual.

    Excerpt from a great thinker [who you are not smart enough to understand]: When the framers of the American republic spoke of “the people,” they did not mean a collectivist organism one part of which was authorized to consume the rest. They meant a sum of individuals, each of whom—whether strong or weak, rich or poor—retains his inviolate guarantee of individual rights.

    Another excerpt [not my own]: Throughout history the state had been regarded, implicitly or explicitly, as the ruler of the individual—as a sovereign authority (with or without supernatural mandate), an authority logically antecedent to the citizen and to which he must submit. The Founding Fathers challenged this primordial notion. They started with the premise of the primacy and sovereignty of the individual. The individual, they held, logically precedes the group or the institution of government. Whether or not any social organization exists, each man possesses certain individual rights. And “among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”—or, in the words of a New Hampshire state document, “among which are the enjoying and defending life and liberty; acquiring, possessing, and protecting property; and in a word, of seeking and obtaining happiness.”

    In other words [I’ll try to put it in layman terms], government is to be a neutral institution, one that must never deal with opinion or preference, but only with action; namely, to protect individuals against force and fraud, and to promote and protect trade. It [government] must never endorse race or religion. An individual is FREE. He or she may be a racist and a bigot who claims their is no god but the Christian god; he or she may be a well educated and thoughtful atheist [like myself] who craves economic freedom and civil liberty for their country; he or she may be flamboyantly homosexual and recycle too much. Doesn’t matter. The government is not to be in the business of determining or favoring social values. You should also look up the difference between a Democracy and a Republic. The constitution protects individuals and states’ rights. The U.S. is still a Republic, even if our political process is democratic. You have a great deal to learn, Ray.

    P.S. Paine wrote “Agrarian Justice” in regard to LAND OWNERSHIP, which has nothing to do with private property/capital. Go back to school, read some books, and do some critical thinking, Ray.


    Thomas Jefferson’s Hugh Jorgasm

  102. So a national pension that was to pay every man and woman was against the “critical thinking” of Thomas Paine, or the fact that he said Land owners OWED land “rent” to non- property owners.

    How is this any different than today?

  103. The founding father were liberals? LOL nice laugh! lol Why are progressives always trying to rewrite history?

  104. Besides Iraq, democrats initiated American involvement in every war of the last century. Both Iraq wars started by the big government and new world order supporting members of the Bush family.

  105. Ray,

    Why do you insist upon ignoring every bit of “schooling” that your intelligent posters give to you so freely? You can believe that Thomas Paine had three dicks if you’d like [kidding]. Truth is, I have not read “Agrarian Justice.” From your post, however, it seems clear to me that Paine was giving a great and noble effort to reconcile one of the most difficult issues of his time: who gets the land? I respect him for that. The Native Americans did not believe that any man lay particular claim to part of nature. The Colonists, however, in light of creating a “civil society,” did exactly what Thomas Paine described. They set up a governing body over the land, which then set out to disperse the land among the citizenry. As an aspiring economist, I am certain that Paine’s ideas would only work privately and at the local level.

    Regardless, I will take back my ill-written postscript. I would need to read more by Paine before I made any sort of generalized assertion about his political ideology. The ideas expressed in “Agrarian Justice,” though, do seem be those of a “modern day liberal” [socialist]. Thankfully, however, he did not write our founding documents. Jefferson kept Paine’s ponderous inanities out of the Declaration of Independence, and Madison kept them out of the Constitution. Liberty is a beautiful thing, Ray, and so is the Constitution. I wish that modern day progressives [like yourself] did not hate it so much.

    Please re-read my post again. Ignore the postscript and focus on the terms, then you might respond with an apology to your readership for making such an insane generalization about the Framers. Write all you would like about Paine’s “AJ” as socialist propaganda. Do not, however, pretend that the overarching argument in your post is completely valid.


  106. You don’t know me. Or my beliefs.

    I only say “conservative” because I’m fundamentally opposed to most everything today’s “liberals” stand for.

    I’m fairly confident my PERSONAL views, while probably not feasible or popular, are not rehashes from some bygone time.

    No, I don’t follow my “party” or any of that. Because that’s not me. Watch yourself with the hasty generalizations. Not everyone who opposes “liberal” policies is an idiot.

  107. Not only were the founders liberals, they were revolutionary, radical liberals – students of the enlightenment. Modern conservatism is merely the latest derivation of the counter-enlightenment movement. They’ll never give up, but they become more ridiculous with every passing day.

  108. Not liberals but more like progressive. Liberalism and progressivism are two different things and the founding fathers didn’t tax the hell out of the rich to feed the poor like they try to do today. Let’s look at this logically.

  109. Whenever liberals or progressives want to co-opt the founding fathers to help them justify their case, they always turn to Thomas Paine because he was the most radical of all the noteworthy figures associated with the revolutionary and founding period of America. Don’t get me wrong, Paine was a master polemicist who galvanized the revolution and Americans for all time are in his debt. But he wasn’t even in the United States when the Constitution was being written and debated I don’t think. So he wasn’t in the convention. It was the federalists who wielded the biggest influence on the governmental institutions and fundamental law of the country; and they approached the political problems of the day with a conservative spirit and a modest view of human nature (and they loved property rights).

  110. The founding fathers didn’t live in 2010. Thats the logic

    If you want to live in the founding fathers time go for it. But you wont like it

  111. I find it rather funny that because a leader may be religious, he is conservative. That is a fraudulent statement. some 80% – 90% of our country claims to be christian yet it is obvious that 80% – 90% of the land is not made up of conservatives. Just because someone is or may be religious doesnt make them a republican or conservative

  112. And when conservatives want to prove their cause they always say the founders were conservative minded.

    The laws of this land coem from the freedoms that were gained in Europe, going back as far as the Magna Carta(part of our court system). In those cases, the people getting the freedoms were getting it from those you would call conservatives.

    The people that settled this land came here to escape the religious right, not the liberal left. That taste of right wing repression was in the mouths of the future founders of this constitution. The constitution is full of freedoms for the people. Quite liberal wouldn’t you think?

  113. The federalists didn’t believe in direct democracy or complete universal suffrage, they didn’t think the government should dispense positive rights or redistribute wealth, they didn’t think you could change human nature. Rather than wiping the slate clean to engineer Utopia, they looked back in history and examined the flaws of past republics. They were obsessed solving the problem of combining liberty with sound order. They focused on political processes rather than substantive, social justice results.
    In other words, they weren’t like the radicals in the French revolution. Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine, on the contrary, were more left wing.

  114. But everything you said is true. They were liberals in the sense of “liberalism” writ large. But if you put them on a left-right spectrum (left meaning you can solve more or most of the perennial problems of society, right meaning to take a reduced view of what we can hope for from politics), the federalists come down more on the right. Paine comes down on the left.

  115. You are in assumption that the government wants to create wealth distribution in a social manner.
    You first must understand what wealth distribution means in the US instead of just taking that phrase and screaming bad bad!

    Our society could be looked at as a triangle. The base is the poor and the almost poor. Its the largest part of our country and of our triangle. Next, as we go up the triangle we get to the middle class in all of its ranges, from poor middle class to very rich middle class. From there we go to the top of the triangle and the millionaires and billionaries.

    Now, the rich of the past could not maintain wealth without the entire rest of the triangle doing quite nicely thank you. Of course we always have poor and the requirements of welfare are low. Within the triangle there is a band of people with purchasing power. When that band is very narrow as it is today, corporate America becomes stagnant and begins a spiral downwards. Here I refer to company’s of the genre that supply the big 3 etc and that hire huge amounts of people. Companys that create products for construction etc, I think you see my point. As the spiral widens it perculates down and creates a much vaster portion of the bottom of the triangle. Now requirements for welfare are high. I refer to the maintenance of the poor as welfare. This is where we are now.

    So you have people out there now crying we dont want to take care of Americans poor. You cant tax us to help them. So I ask you, what doesa a government do? You have millions and millions out of work and buying nothing, and NOT taking in the income taxes it needs to operate.

    We now go back to the idea that in order for this country to be successful, all layers of the triangle must be successful. Otherwise you end up with the very top taking care of the entire bottom of the triangle. The Obama weath distristribution is to infuse money into the lower parts to provide jobs for that layer. That layer becomes more successful, the band of purchasing power widens and bingo, you have wider wealth distribution.

    Remember what the tea party is not telling you. Distribution has to meanings. One is distribution of wealth statistically and one is to actually distribute. One is a measure of the other.

    If the layer of the mid middle class down to the poor class is not successful, what and where does that leave America? We do not buy products nor do we make them for lack of demand. And the cost of welfare is extreme

    And that spells failure. The general welfare of the US is everyones business and everyone is required to be involved. Dont want to be? Then dont expect to reap the benefits.

  116. Ray,
    I loved this piece and especially enjoyed reading replies from all the righties you got stirred up. Nothing pisses them off more than the idea that America should treat its citizens fairly, instead of being little more than a labor pool and source of revenue for corrupt corporate executives.

    Of course the Founding Fathers were liberal! They were breaking free of the most aristocratic, oppressive form of Conservatism that existed at the time, a monarchy. A monarchy places power completely in the hands of those with wealth and status, and turns all other citizens into its workers and renters. This of course, pleases Conservatives who believe they are entitled to exploit those who don’t have as much wealth and therefore, little say in how they are treated by a right wing “government.”

    However, good luck getting the torch and pitchfork crowd to understand what you’re saying. These are people who claim to understand the Constitution, yet one of their own candidates for the United States Senate did not know that the Constitution includes separation of church and state among its provisions. In short, these are not the brightest bulbs in the chandelier. They are easily manipulated, stirred to angry mob mentality and lack any depth in their political positions, which mostly consist of reciting the Bible and screaming about “socialism” (a word I doubt most even understand the definition of.)

    Thank you for posting- I’m re-posting to my facebook Wall.

  117. Kudos Ray for bringing a light in the forest of darkness to those who don’t ponder the proper context in which our country was born. Of course the founding fathers were liberal and progressive. Overthrowing a system of government based on institutionalized religion and over taxation for an experiment in secular democracy had never been successfully achieved. That’s a liberal idea if there ever was one and no one knew if it would even work.

    One big misnomer that the right wing has foisted upon the public discourse for years is they define “liberal” as weak minded intellectuals who only seek to enshrine a welfare state to support the lazy, the disenfranchised, the minorities, and any other group that white males deem threatening. Let’s look at the Big 5 of “liberal” achievements over the last couple of centuries.

    1. The American Revolution
    2. Abolition of slavery
    3. Women’s suffrage
    4. Social Security
    5. Civil Rights Act

    These illustrate a progressive thought process that seeks to equalize the playing field for everyone. Look at who opposed these. White male land owners who had a vested economic interest in keeping the status quo intact. Fast forward to today and look at who makes all the racket about the advancing liberal agenda. Kind of makes you go “hmmm……”

    Liberals need to reclaim their own definition and cease letting conservatives do it for them. They need to get the message out that it’s OK to be a liberal, and that it is actually conservatives who seek to enshrine a state of unequal distribution of wealth based on the self righteous egomaniacal greed of a few industrious people and corporations who want no regulation or accountability.

    Liberals need to peel away the veneer of faux patriotism that conservatives have stolen and monopolized. War can be a necessity but is never the first option…..and it’s OK to support the troops and protest an unjust war.

    Liberals need to reclaim a sense of spirituality and stop letting the fascist evangelicals co-opt God for their own piety and stop dictating the the social issues. Yes you can go to church or synagogue and still oppose the harsh encroachment of conservative theocracy.

    As for the liberal attempt to rewrite history…..how’s that neo-con Texas schoolbook rewrite effort coming along?

    Since the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 (a Reagan neo-con success), there is no way to debunk any fallacy that the right-wing echo chamber spews forth. Since Fox News is consistently cited as purporting the most number of erroneous facts, if this is your primary source of information, you’re in bad shape. Just like a computer, garbage in….garbage out. Anyone who cares to read “Idiot America” by Charles Pierce will see a nicely delineated yardstick measuring America’s intellectual decline at the hands of neoconservatism, and how acting on your “gut” is institutionalizing stupidity. The gut is the mob rules mentality, as exemplified by the torch and pitchfork crowd just previously mentioned. Bad ideas passing as truth with the force of a bull dozer wreaking havoc on those in its path is no way to achieve a fair and balanced society. I also fear that since the Supreme Court ruling in favor of Citizens United v FEC that our election process and democracy has hit the iceberg and is going down. Public offices are now for sale and the king makers (money sources) are more powerful than the kings they elect as they are disposable.

    If I remember my pledge of allegiance correctly, the last line is “with liberty and justice for all” ……NOT “with liberty, justice and wealth for some and the rest can go f**k themselves.”

  118. truly an epic post. Well said. It does seem that these days the Liberals are for the people and the Republicans are not.

    I read a article the other day about why Germany thinks we are insane. In Germany it’s all about their people. No one dies from diabetes because of lack of medicine, no one goes without health care. No one gets old without being taken care of

    all I know is that we need to get away from with liberty and justice for profit and as you say the rest can go F**k themselves

  119. It’s vital to remember that Jefferson’s ideal of the yeoman farmer (what we liberals and progressives would call a middle class) simply didn’t exist in pre-revolution France. The aristocracy owned the land and the tenants were basically subsistence farmers, paying rent to their lord.

    I was arguing this with a friend the other day. The problem, I told him, is that modern liberal thought has flip-flopped from the days of liberte, equalite, fraternite. “Liberals” aren’t progressive anymore, they’re scared to change or to try new things. Culturally and politically in these United States we’ve had a vast liberal shift for all of the 20th century. Some of the experiments didn’t pan out, however, and now liberals are locked into defending those broken systems instead of being willing–as liberals should be–to change them and try something new.

    I argued that bureaucracy is the new aristocracy, and that “modern liberal thought” is directly at odds with classical liberal thought. Modern liberal thought is simply the Tory ethos, but with “God, King, Country” replaced by “State, Party, Country.”

    Of course I got told that I was full of shit. :)

    Being a Progressive is tough, but progress is the only way to get ahead. ^_^

  120. I’m not sure if that’s true, we did get healthcare reform which is about 50% as effective as what we wanted. They did go for it though. President Obama wants high-speed trains in all kinds of new stuff to build up the infrastructure of the US, I think that’s kind of progressive

    But you are absolutely correct about the first part of your post, the beginnings of the middle class was there in the shop owners but they were still considered part of the fifedom

  121. The biggest problem here is that everyone uses these terms (liberal, conservative, rep, dem, etc., etc.) without defining them. I have found one thing to be true… everyone has a different definition of what these words mean.

    If you call yourself a liberal, you are confining yourself to what I think a liberal is. I have found many liberal-made web sites that define “liberal”. I sent three liberals I know to those sites and asked if they agreed with the entire definition/explanation given. None of them did. I did the same with myself, and have since stopped calling myself a conservative.

    I also have a friend who calls himself a liberal. Yet, when we talk about individual topics, we agree on 99% of everything we talk about.

    oh, and if you think that the Tea Party is lead by Glenn Beck, and that they all cling to what’s on Fox News(as you suggest in your first paragraph), you are obviously ignorant. Unless you have talked to the majority of them yourself, it sounds as though you are regurgitating what you are hearing from your brainwashing TV channel of choice.

  122. You are aware the the conservatives, the ‘right wing’ of the day were the royalists and that is a clear cut simple fact that can not be disputed. A government of the people, by the people and for the people, is about as socialist as left wing as it gets.

  123. Uh oh, bad news for the pious Conservatives (who they believe God only loves)- Paine was a Deist (basically an agnostic/atheist lite).

  124. Could you consider the tea party/Conservatives rallying for the new royalty- Koch Bros, Murdoch, GOP? Supporting the idea of a two class system, a few very powerful rich and a lot of powerless poor- Making them an idea of a modern Tory.

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