George Washington greatest Founding Father

A new Rasmussen poll shows George Washington as our greatest Founding Father, up 11% from last year to 43%.  He is followed by Thomas Jefferson (24%), Benjamin Franklin (16%), with John Adams and James Madison each at 5%.

Americans still are strong believers in the foundations of our American Republic.

Data released earlier shows that Americans continue to strongly believe in the nation’s founding ideals articulated in the Declaration of Independence.  While most believe that governments derive their only just authority from the consent of the governed, only 23% believe the federal government today has such consent.

In fact,  45% believe that the gap between Americans who want to govern themselves and politicians who want to rule over them is now as big as the gap between the American colonies and England during the 18th  Century.

I find it refreshing that most Americans still honor the Founding Fathers, not as perfect beings, but as inspirations that began the movement of freedom that has expanded to include women, blacks, and others seeking freedom and basic God given rights.

Still, it is somewhat disturbing that 77% of Americans believe that the government has gone beyond the bounds of the consent of the governed. Hopefully our federal government can catch the spark that seems to still be in the vast majority of Americans.

We are, as Pres Reagan noted, the “city on the hill”, even the beacon of freedom for all the world.

And as Pres Lincoln noted: America is the “last best hope on earth” for freedom.  No other revolution for freedom up to the time of Lincoln had succeeded.  The French revolution failed.  The revolutions in Latin America had replaced Spain with despots of their own.  Only America offered true freedom to the world.

And I hope that ours will not be the last generation to enjoy that freedom. Let us pray we do not extinguish the “last best hope on earth.”

Rasmussen Poll

 

Data released earlier shows that Americans continue to strongly believe in the nation’s founding ideals articulated in the Declaration of Independence. While most believe that governments derive their only just authority from the consent of the governed, only 23% believe the federal government today has such consent.

In fact,  45% believe that the gap between Americans who want to govern themselves and politicians who want to rule over them is now as big as the gap between the American colonies and England during the 18th Century.

14 thoughts on “George Washington greatest Founding Father

  1. The preference for George Washington is silly; the majority of Americans likely has only a superficial memory of what he or the other candidates did. Basically amounts to a popularity poll on reality TV. “To vote for George, text 001 to….”

    But the other part of the poll is quite interesting.

  2. Washington’s greatest contribution was his mere presence, his dignity, his stature. Others did most of the work of constructing the new nation. But I agree that such a poll is meaningless since so few Americans could even name most of the founders let alone tell you what they did. And, of course, Michelle Bachmann believes John Quincy Adams was a founder.

  3. Some of the best Founders are the ones who people don’t talk about much. Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, Thomas Paine and John Jay come to mind.

    If I had to name one as the greatest, I would agree that Washington is the man, with Jefferson second.

  4. First — a technicality: I suspect that Geo. W’s rating is up 11 percentage points, not 11% from last year (from 32% to 43% instead of from 39% to 43%). My check of the poll article (which you do not link) confirms my hunch.

    It would be interesting to see results of the representation part of the poll over time. How can respondants who know little about the founding fathers know how large the representation gap was in 1776 and compare that to today? How many other periods has the discontent about the federal government been about evenly split (43% agreed with that statement; 40% did not, and the margin of error is 3%)?

    An interesting poll for pot-stirring, I suppose. It’d be more effective if there was something in the pot.

  5. Paul, thanks for correcting. That is exactly what I meant, just didn’t write it as I should.

    Geoff: “Consent of the governed.” What’s that?

    I’ve read about it in some 19th century history books. I also understand that a guy name Mises has talked about it some.

    Aaron, I agree that President Washington’s presence was one of his greatest gifts. Remaining all winter long at Valley Forge and sharing his meal with the hungry soldiers creates a presence of character that cannot easily be dismissed. Then, to enter into the Continental Congress with his military uniform on, well, that just completely steered the Congress towards Independence.

    I would also put him first for the statesman he was. He served when asked, then quietly went back to his home. He didn’t stay overtly engaged in politics as we see so many former presidents now do (Jimmy Carter comes to mind). And that he encouraged us to stay aloof of political parties, but to focus on ideas and the character of the individual, would go a long way in modern politics.

    Brian, George Washington basically was unopposed in running for president. Besides, the poll is on who is the greatest Founding Father, not president. Without George Washington seated in the Continental Congress, odds are there would not have been the unity needed to declare independence.

  6. My point is not to dispute George Washington as “the greatest.” It is to say that most Americans have pretty much nothing substantial to base that vote on. You bring up the Continental Congress; what minority percentage of polled Americans even know what that was?

    Also, I think you misunderstood my use in #3 of the word “candidates.” I wasn’t referring to presidential candidates—past or present—but to greatest Founding Father candidates.

    And for that, my money is on Elizabeth Stanton. True, she was neither alive at the time nor ever a “father,” but if Bachmanniac can vote for John Quincy Adams….

  7. I agree with BrianJ, this poll doesn’t mean much when other polls have shows most Americans don’t really know the specifics about what any of these Founding Fathers actually did. How much do you want to bet a percentage of those people voted for George Washington based on “he could not tell a lie” when he supposedly chopped down the cherry tree, or equally shoddy history?

    As for going beyond the bounds of government, a percentage might actually know what that means, but I’d guess most have been told that by talk radio and cable news and couldn’t actually tell you what it means other than buzzwords like “taxes!” and “Obamacare!”. You have people running for President that make things up about what these men did, we can hardly count on the average citizen to know more than what they remember from their tenth grade history class thirty years ago.

    That being said, Jefferson rocks my world. I love his first inaugural address, I love that he helped get the Library of Congress going, I love his push for education, and I like that he at least gave getting rid of slavery a shot.

    George Washington isn’t too shabby though ;).

  8. It should be pointed out that the poll in question only offered the five choices that are shown ranked in the OP, so it’s really only fair to say that 43% of respondents chose Washington as first among those five. There was no “write in vote” in the poll, and respondents were not requested to generate a name for themselves.

  9. Silly.

    They should have shot him after the Whiskey Rebellion.

    Maybe “Most Treasonous Founding Father”…

  10. And now the alcoholics come out to defend their favorite rebellion….

    Washington was a Federalist for the most part. However, he understood that this was a fledgling nation with many giants (England, France, etc) just waiting for America to fail, so they could swallow up the pieces. Washington felt he had to respond to the whiskey rebellion in order to preserve the nation, just as Lincoln felt it was necessary decades later.

    Anyway, I do not believe in judging presidents by one action or decision they have made. It is the overall event. Second, this poll is for Founding Fathers, not presidents. So the Whiskey Rebellion complaint really doesn’t count.

    Yes, many Americans are not well versed in accurate history. But the cherry tree myth did not stop me from still admiring George Washington for his other great attributes when I was taught that in grade school. The myth is based upon reality, and it is the reality that we must come back to. Washington was an honest man, and the myth just reinforces that characteristic.

    We have myths in our Bible that do not hold up to the scrutiny of history and science. Yet we still gain much value from studying those myths and applying the important concepts taught by them. So it is with American myths.

    That Sarah Palin occasionally mutilates American history is besides the point. Americans are generally raised on the concept that Independence Day means more than just fireworks and barbeques. It includes the concept of freedom, which is so rare today. Most Americans understood Reagan’s statement, “Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” And they understand how freedom is necessary to save the world from despots and tyranny. Whether they get that from accurate history or from myths (or both) is irrelevant. What is relevant is that they do have a sense of history that leads to an appreciation and love of freedom.

  11. A general appreciation of freedom doesn’t really have anything do with the poll if the respondents are basing some sense of freedom today on some mythical freedom of yesterday. I don’t believe most people really have any idea other than “the flag still stands for freedom, and they can’t take that awayyyyyyyyyyy”.

    The fact that Reagan is still worshiped today is proof that Americans care more about the myth than the reality. I don’t have a problem with the myths until you have people saying how awful today’s America is when compared to an America 235 years ago that they barely understand.

  12. Character assassination aside, the Federalist’s prosecution of the Whiskey Rebellion, particularly Hamilton’s (*spits*) tax breaks for large distilleries in the east, compared to the higher per-gallon tax levied upon independent farmers in the west, is further evidenced that the they (the Federalists) were always motivated by corporate/banking interests. Promoting individual liberty was always secondary to that, especially for Hamilton (*spits again*).

    Even before the repeal of the whiskey tax (by Jefferson, the only president in the history of the Republic that didn’t royally screw the People while in office), the federal government didn’t collect it uniformly. Sending federalized militia into western Pennsylvania to forcibly collect the tax and arrest the resistors was only an effort by Washington to flex his muscle, and establish federal superiority over the states.

    This action didn’t change his character, but revealed it. He was no different a man as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army than he was as president.

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