One of the more common statements made of Conservative or the Tea Party members is that they are “anti-intellectual,” or against the “educated class.” It has been said enough for me to think that it is a leftist talking point, so it therefore bears examining. While such a statement might be made about populist movements, I cannot say that this is at all true here.
I say that because the founders were intellectuals. They were leaders in society. Franklin was a publisher. Jefferson was an inventor. The list goes on and on.
- At the time of the convention, 13 men were merchants: Blount, Broom, Clymer, Dayton, Fitzsimons, Shields, Gilman, Gorham, Langdon, Robert Morris, Pierce, Sherman, and Wilson.
- Six were major land speculators: Blount, Dayton, Fitzsimons, Gorham, Robert Morris, and Wilson.
- Eleven speculated in securities on a large scale: Bedford, Blair, Clymer, Dayton, Fitzsimons, Franklin, King, Langdon, Robert Morris, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, and Sherman.
- Twelve owned or managed slave-operated plantations or large farms: Bassett, Blair, Blount, Butler, Carroll, Jenifer, Jefferson, Mason, Charles Pinckney, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, Rutledge, Spaight, and Washington. Madison also owned slaves, as did Franklin, who later freed his slaves and was a key founder of the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society. Alexander Hamilton was opposed to slavery and, with John Jay and other anti-slavery advocates, helped to found the first African free school in New York City. Jay helped to found the New York Manumission Society and, when he was governor of New York in 1798, signed into law the state statute ending slavery as of 1821.
- Broom and Few were small farmers.
- Eight of the men received a substantial part of their income from public office: Baldwin, Blair, Brearly, Gilman, Livingston, Madison, and Rutledge.
- Three had retired from active economic endeavors: Franklin, McHenry, and Mifflin.
- Franklin and Williamson were scientists, in addition to their other activities.
- McClurg, McHenry, and Williamson were physicians, and Johnson was a college president.
Many of these men were from the top of American society. I can see no angry mobs full of ignorant rednecks here.
Most of them participated in the Constitutional Convention, and what these men did was far reaching. They recognized individual freedoms that government does not grant, but has an obligation to protect. They intentionally made the government small, with limits on its powers, in order to avoid tyranny. And, they made the smallest and the largest of us equal in the eyes of the law. The small illiterate farmer had the same rights as the wealthy merchant or landowner. (Note that at no time was the illiterate farmer eligible to confiscate part of the merchant’s wealth, but that is another story). In so doing, the founders created a means by which the illiterate farmer, or perhaps his children, might rise through work or knowledge, to assume another role or place in society. This equality of opportunity lead to The Unites States becoming the nation with the greatest innovation, wealth, and prosperity in human history. History is driven by individuals; those who have the right idea at the right time-those that choose to act instead of follow. Our system allows those people to be heard, and removes obstacles to their legal actions.
I will say that we are against is elitism. The founders created the nation, and while many went into (at times) government service at various levels, many others went back to work, or back to the farm. They left us to manage our own lives, without the tyrannical interference of government. On the other hand, our current elites crave power, and seek to wield that power in order to dictate most aspects of our lives. The elites sneer at the common man, or others that offer a dissenting opinion. They believe that they have a right to govern based on their education and so-called enlightenment. They believe that they alone are endowed with the knowledge with which to manage our education, careers, salaries and wages, diets, housing, transportation, energy consumption, childrearing, media consumption, medical care, retirements, and so on. They believe that our Constitution, based on a small government and individual freedoms, is outmoded and in need of re-interpretation. They believe that we are far too foolish and short sited to deal with our problem. In fact, how many times have we read that we are acting against our own self-interests? When we choose freedom, and the responsibility that comes with it, the elites view us as foolish and petulant children that are in need of ridicule and the “loving” guidance of the all powerful nanny state.
To clarify the overall issue, Conservatives and allied groups respect education, and recognize its importance. We want the education that prepares the individual for a role in our Constitutional Republic. We want education that is locally controlled and not subject to political forces in Washington DC and state capitols. We want education that teaches children how to read, write, and do mathematics. We want education that teaches children how to think independently by taking information and using logic to solve problems. We want education that teaches our system of government, as well as our history, flaws and mistakes included. We want education that teaches children how to recognize their own power as individuals. The elites wants children to know how to put condoms on fruit, to be immersed in social justice and other fallacies of the left. The elites want an educational product that belongs to the socialist/fascist herd, and looks to the elite for guidance. They seek a mindless drone, not an individual. The results of elitist intervention in education are seen in high illiteracy, low graduation rates, and an exceedingly poor return for the monies invested.
In the end, Conservatives are not against education or intellectualism. Intellectuals founded our Republic, and we need educated individuals to help maintain it. We are against elitism-those who would use intellect, deception, and acquired power to deprive us of our individual liberties.