1776 – Fame and the Founders


By: Warner Todd Huston

“The Revolution called forth many virtues and gave occasion for the display of abilities which, but for that event, would have been lost to the world.” So said Patriot David Ramsay, delegate from South Carolina to the Continental Congress and soldier in the Continental Army, about the amazing generation that were our Founders. They came from many walks of life to create this greatest country on earth but it wasn’t all for selfless reasons. They expected to become famous by their efforts.

But “fame” to the founders was not the kind of “fame” that we might think of as measured by that of the celebrities of today. The Founders didn’t expect to be “famous” like Brad Pitt is famous. And they certainly didn’t expect to be “famous” like Hugh Hefner might be today … though, that kind of fame would appear more like infamy to the Founders. In fact, few today who claim the title of famous would stand up to the standards of fame looked to by our Founders.

No, to the Founders “fame” meant an entirely different thing. The kind of fame that the founders desired was one that would rank them as noble and of the highest minds of history. As Hamilton put it, they sought “that love of fame which is the ruling passion of the noblest minds.” So, they wanted to be sure that their actions would be viewed by history as those of the highest order. Meaning that they wouldn’t want to do anything that future generations would think meanly of.

The Declaration of Independence is one of the best examples of the type of fame that the Founders strove for. It was not only the foundation upon which we created the principles that would guide our new nation, but it was also intended as a statement of the rights of all men.

Samuel Adams said of our principles, “Our contest is not only whether we ourselves shall be free, but whether there shall be left to mankind an asylum on earth for civil and religious liberty.”

Even closer to the point, Tomas Paine lent his eloquent pen to the cause and brought many in the western world to view the Patriot’s cause with favor. Scribe to the patriots and one the cause could not have done without in the early days, Paine stirred hearts all around the world.

“The cause of America is in a great measure the cause of all mankind.
Many circumstances hath, and will arise, which are not local, but universal, and through which the principles of all Lovers of Mankind are affected, and in the Event of which, their Affections are interested. The laying a Country desolate with Fire and Sword, declaring War against the natural rights of all Mankind, and extirpating the Defenders thereof from the Face of the Earth, is the Concern of every Man to whom Nature hath given the Power of feeling.”

The Founders meant their revolution not be one of provincial matters alone, but that of all mankind. And they carefully marked their words, their ideas, and their works by the fame that would come to them as the proud parents of a nascent nation that would show the light of liberty to all mankind.

The times may have made the men, but if it did our Founders stood to the test, proudly and without flinching. They came to the fight with the highest ideals and were guided by the soundest of principles, principles that would, indeed, shine a light to guide the world toward liberty.

If we could but show merely one third the strength and intelligence of the Founders, we would deserve the nation they birthed.

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