America's founding fathers were liberals (classic liberals, not modern liberals).

America’s Founding Fathers were Liberals

America’s founding fathers were classical liberals, meaning they favored liberty, private property, capitalism, freedom of religion, and a limited Republican style of government. See definition of classical liberalism.[1][2][3]

In fact, the founding fathers of America weren’t just “liberals”, they were Republicans, Federalists, and Democrats too. They were Patriots, they were a lot of things, but one thing they weren’t were monarchists or loyalists to the crown. The father of modern political science and modern Republicanism Machiavelli said, “the governments of the people are better than those of princes” [Book I, Chapter LVIII of Livy], and in the Spirit of Montesquieu’s “Liberal” Republicanism they agreed (although they often didn’t agree on much beyond that).

I say this only as a technicality, and from a historical perspective, as the Tories, King’s men, and Loyalists (the conservatives of the day) were all but forced to choose between “The Crown” and the principles of Liberalism due to the events leading up to the Revolution and America’s victory in it.[4]

The founders shared general ideology with both major parties of today (Democrats and Republicans), but the key here is that America is a liberal nation and what we think of as “conservative” is actually liberal-conservative (like Burke, not classically truly conservative like a King to the right of Hobbes).

This can be confirmed by thinking about the “American Revolution” where our patriot founders fought the King’s men to create a Democratically-minded Liberal Republic.

After the Revolution, many conservative loyalists were forced to flee, and those who stayed weren’t always treated kindly.

Certainly, no loyalist (no true Tory, Loyalist, or King’s men; i.e. no “true” conservative) was going to have a position in the new government. The leaders of the new government would be comprised solely of Patriots.

Even our most conservative founders like Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, John Adams, and Gouverneur Morris were types of liberals (conservative liberals in terms of economics and central power… but generally social progressive liberals in terms of issues like slavery and modernization).

Those liberal-conservative founders weren’t “conservative” in the classical sense, they were just a different type of liberal than the more radically classically liberal (and often socially conservative) Anti-Federalist founders like Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry (who were willing to accept conservative positions on slavery if it meant avoiding a strong central government). See types of liberalism and conservatism.

BOTTOMLINE: Although some founders were today what we call “conservative” in America (which is liberal-conservative for the most part), America was founded by liberals and principals of liberalism and is today still a liberal nation. Other countries and parties throughout the world have specifically been trying to prove that liberalism doesn’t work since about the mid 1800’s (if not just since 1776), and honestly it is what a lot of the World’s major Wars have been about. We should not forget the importance of defending liberal values in America (and in our case that is as simple as defending the spirit of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and the character of the men and women who fought for them, ideally through liberal and democratic means).

PBS The American Revolution

SEMANTICS: Liberalism is the ideology of liberty and equality. Classical liberalism emphasizes liberty, and Social liberalism emphasizes equality. Thus another way to phrase this would be, as one commenter eluded, “America’s founding fathers were liberals. Some were more liberal than others, but all were liberals (not “classical liberals”, but just “liberals”). And, even amongst the most liberal of the founders [and most the most conservative for that matter], differing ideas were held as to how best to assure human liberty [and equality] in the state.” In other words, the founders didn’t favor authority, tradition, and state control over liberty like the Tories did, and they fought for equality-for-all in their battle for human rights, sovereignty, and democracy (something rarely done in history), but that doesn’t mean that they were all what we think of as “modern liberals” or that they fully agreed on how best to ensure liberty, equality, and justice for all. Today, social liberalism is the predominate form of liberalism and we can say those who favor the liberty aspect (like a states’ rights advocate or a libertarian) are being “classically liberal”, so the distinction works, but we can still despite this say simply, “America’s founders are liberals” and “the nation was founded on the principles of liberalism”. Feel free to comment below.

TIP: Economic classical liberalism is a thing, it is what Adam Smith, Franklin’s friend and father of modern economics, presents in his Wealth of Nations… but don’t go thinking every classical liberal is a staunch Goldwater or Friedman Libertarian. That isn’t the case at all. Thomas Paine favored a wealth tax, and the term “commonwealth“, which predates the U.S. gaining independence, essentially implies a redistribution of wealth for the “common social good” within the state. In modern terms, we can say “all the founders were types of classical liberals”, but some were more progressive or conservative than others, in terms of economics and/or social policy, on a given issue. Later, those liberty minded, progressive, and conservative liberal ideologies would grow into the modern political factions, but at the time they are all liberal-left to George III’s right.

FACT: The Glorious Revolution and England, the American Revolution, and the French Revolutions were all liberal revolutions. The rebels in each case fought for principles of liberalism and against kings. America was founded on the principles of the enlightenment (as can be clearly seen in the structure of the Republican government enacted by the Constitution, and the classical liberal principles enacted by the Bill of Rights).

FACT: Before the Revolution, about a third of the colonists were loyal to Britain, a third neutral, and a third wanting rebellion. All the founders were essentially patriots (those who wanted rebellion) and none were openly loyal to Britain. The Patriots called those who supported Britain, “persons inimical to the liberties of America.”

TIP: All the founders were also Republicans (in that they favored a Republic). They were almost all Democrats (favoring elements of democracy) and Federalists (favoring a federation or confederation of states; this is even true for the Anti-Federalists). The founders were generally well versed in the history of famous successful nation-states like Rome and Athens and pull their ideas from the enlightenment philosophers who examined these nation-states like Locke and Montesquieu.

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776. The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America: “…We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” – The Declaration of Independence; where Thomas Jefferson mirrors the words of the father of liberalism John Locke.

The Political Ideology of the Founding Fathers

To be clear, not every founder agreed on ideology. In fact, there was little agreement.

Some founders were conservative in terms of economics, others were liberal in terms of economics, some favored a strong central government, others wanted States’ rights, some wanted a rural nation with no central bank, some wanted a modern nation focused on trade. In these ways, our founders were diverse in their views as we are here in 2016. This is one of the reasons why we have a United States and not just a single State. the liberal principle of federalism allows for a diverse nation of United States!

The founders’ wide range of beliefs eventually led to both party politics and famous compromises, but despite their differences, they had one thing in common: They were not loyalists (and thus not true conservatives for the time).

Some founders may have wanted to keep ties with Britain, but these more classically conservative founders like Adams and Hamilton were Whig-like Federalists, not Tories and King’s men. Likewise, the more socially conservative pro-slavery founders in the southern Anti-Federalist party were true liberals, despite their social conservatisim. Thus, even the most socially or classically conservative founder is a type of liberal.[5]

In fact, this is still true for most Americans today. We may think of a deep south politican as socially conservative, or a New York banker as classically conservative, but make no mistake, no true freedom-loving by-the-Constitution Patriot is a true Conservative in 2016 any more than they would have been in 1776.

The Constitution: A Liberal Governing Document

The Constitution was written, and the war won, by the American Patriots (pro-independence classical liberals of all kinds) rebelling against “the Crown” (conservatives).

Many of the true loyalists fled after the war. Meanwhile, of those who stayed, even the “somewhat loyal” Federalists feared political “factions“, favored freedom, wanted to get away from kings and taxes, and thus, despite their conservative character, didn’t want a “traditional, conservative” pro-monarch style of government.

While the founders didn’t agree on much, as stated above, it is largely their agreement of the principles of liberalism which kept them united.

Instead of breaking into different factions or favoring a confederacy (as the Articles of Confederation did), the founders eventually found compromise positions in a Constitutional Federal Republic (a more perfect Union), as detailed by 1789’s Constitution. They focused on a mutual agreement on a separation of powers and liberty, and other basic principles of liberalism and the democratic ideals that opposed the aristocracy of Britain.[6][7]

Just like today, there is little agreement on what liberty means exactly or how government should look based on our core principles, but there is no question, despite the conflict, we uphold principles like truth, justice, and liberty for all.

You can read about each founding father. We know that the Age of Enlightenment was based on the concept of Liberalism and the works of the Father of Liberalism John Locke. Out of these ideas come Britain’s Glorious Revolution (1688), the American Revolution (1776), and the French Revolution (1788).

In sum, the United States of America was founded on the concepts of liberalism and the separation of church and state (although, to be fair, these words aren’t said explicitly in the founding documents).

Tea, Taxes, and The American Revolution: Crash Course World History #28

TIP: In Latin “liber” means “free.” So classic liberalism embodies the concept of liberty. The founders are all liberals; they believed in and fought for freedom. The Constitution establishes a Government that is evidence of this and documents like the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights back this up. Even the “loyalist” founding fathers were Liberal in many respects; such is the nature of fighting against the (already somewhat liberal) aristocracy in the name of liberty.

TIP: The main thing that divides Americans into factions and parties are differing views on the meaning of liberty. Nearly all Americans value liberty above all else (which essentially makes everyone, even today, a type of liberal), yet there is a big difference between a conservative-libertarian and a social-liberal, this is the key point to grasp. In a perfect world the factions work together to create a perfect unity, in practice our Founders disagreed with each other fervently, and the divide on what liberty means has resulted in the Civil War and battles over Civil Rights.

America’s Founding Fathers Were Liberals

America and the Principles of Liberalism

The American revolution is inspired by the Age of Enlightenment in Europe which saw the birth of classic liberalism. At its core Liberalism simply means “we don’t want to be ruled by an aristocracy because we value liberty.”

Today, if we could ideologically separate the Libertarian Party of America from its conservative ideology, which favors a restrictive religious-based law, we could say that “classic liberalism” is simply libertarianism. If we can’t, then we have to concede it is closer to the social liberalism of the Democratic party, which sacrifices small government for social welfare, which isn’t classical liberalism either (it is more a mix between what Franklin set up in his Commonwealth and what Morris almost lost his position over).

“He never would concur in upholding domestic slavery. It was a nefarious institution. It was the curse of heaven in the States where it prevailed.” – 1787. James Madison Report on Gouverneur Morris’ Address to the Federal Constitutional Convention

“This country must be united. If persuasion does not unite it, the sword will.” Gouverneur Morris (i.e. a social liberal, which is somewhat of a traditionally conservative position).[8]

Liberalism and the Religious Views of the Founders

The liberal ideology of the founders is true not just in terms of politics and rights, but in terms of faith too.

Despite many having strong faiths, the Founding Fathers explicitly agreed on a secular government and structure for the state based on reason.

The separation of powers, including the separation of branches of government and the separation of church and state, are core classical liberal values discussed by Montesquieu (early America’s most cited author and an obvious influence of Madison’s Virginia Plan). They are mirrored by Locke, Kant, and many more. Other, more traditional liberal-conservative thinkers like Hume and Burke, are were also considered, and an ongoing debate between empiricism and rationalism also affected things.

Other Liberal Documents

The Bill of Rights, Constitution, Federalist Papers, Declaration of Independence, and Party Platforms of each year all read like a classic liberal manifesto. This is because Britain itself was the aristocracy trying to oppress the nation who demanded liberty (America).

Rebelling against the King and taxes created what can arguably be called by no other name than “liberal revolution” and thus the patriots which won it can be called by no other name than liberal.

Despite the truisms above, and as noted above, it should be made clear that many founders and Americans of the time were then and are today “conservative” in that they favor tradition and order. During the American Revolution, this could mean favoring the church, the rule of law, and/or ties to Britain. Later this would mean favoring states-rights for slavery, favoring temperance, favoring states rights over Civil Rights, or favoring big business over people and public welfare, which is something both parties have historically done at times in the US. The definition of conservative is subject to change depending on what it is opposing.

What is a Liberal (Social Liberalism)? Notice how this explains that if you are poor and oppressed you can’t be free? That is social liberalism (the dominant liberalism of today). Libertarianism says, “sorry friend” freedom trumps your meal; you’ll have to starve on the street. Traditional classical liberalism (libertarianism) led to the Civil War, rejection of Civil Rights, and lots of other troubles. Many modern social liberals reject the idea of completely free-markets. Some Libertarians reject the idea of Keynes and the social liberals.

What Is Libertarianism (Classical Liberalism / Modern American Libertarianism)? Libertarianism is classical liberalism. The only problem is the American Libertarian party is no more classically liberal than the modern Democratic party. They both favor the core ideology, but the interpretation is very different. Social liberals, like the Democrats, believe liberty can only exist with a strong safety-net (they believe in Keynes and the welfare state).

Types of Liberalism

Shortly after the birth of liberalism, the ideology split into a few types of which the modern parties have grown out of.

We can say the great Americans have typically fallen into roughly five groups:

  • Classic Liberals: A libertarian with no right-leaning ideology. Favors a capitalist economy in the style of Adam Smith
  • Social Liberal: A liberal who believes that liberty can only be obtained with some government intervention. Favors mixed-market capitalism (Keynes).
  • Conservative Liberal: Pro-business liberal or conservative who favors trade and free markets, but has an elitist outlook. This is a type of classical liberal.
  • Conservatives: A response to whatever the liberalism of the day is, typically pro-religion (even to the effect of recombining church and state).
  • Social Conservatives: Conservatives who are against the use of government to provide for social welfare.
  • Socialist: A rejection of capitalism and liberalism, ideologically and economically in favor of Marx. A Communist is an extreme socialist who doesn’t want any sort of mixed-socioeconomic system.

Which founding fathers were liberals? The founders can be thought of as a few types of liberals (some of which we actually associate with the term “conservative” today. We can express this roughly as: radical liberals like Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry, conservative liberals like Alexander Hamilton, centered liberals like Benjamin Franklin and James Madison, and early social liberals like Gouverneur Morris (whose family were loyalists and who almost became a traditional conservative, but sided with the Whigs). Today we may describe figures like Samuel Adams and Patrick Henry as social conservatives, or Hamilton as a Neoliberal or traditional conservative, but in their day the Tories of Britain and King George III where the conservatives and the patriot founders were not.

Federalists and Anti-Federalists: Despite us being able to retroactively place founders in groups with accuracy, the  founding fathers and their original two factions were classic liberals (Jefferson and Anti-Federalists) and conservative liberals (Hamilton Federalists), the other factions don’t arise until later in history.

Today’s Democrat is a Social Liberal

Today when we say liberal we mean Democrat, but modern Democrats are only liberal in three ways. 1. the Democratic party originated as the party of Jefferson (a progressive, despite his socially conservative qualities); 2. they aren’t conservative regarding the separation of church and state and other such issues; 3. they hold most of the core liberal values, they just interpret liberty differently than their ancestors and favor a “welfare state.”

Thus, modern Democrats are mostly social liberals, although they are often classically conservative as well. Meanwhile modern Republicans are typically social conservatives and classical liberals. Thus, still today, Americans are generally all types of liberals.

TIP: For more reading see “how to understand the basic political parties.”

Chomsky on Classical Liberalism, Freedom, & Democracy


America’s founding fathers were classic liberals, this means they didn’t want to live under the rule of the King, but rather wanted a secular government by the people, for the people, that promoted liberty.

This should not be confused with modern social liberals, or the modern right-leaning libertarians, both of which grew out of classic liberalism.


  1. Classical liberalism” Wikipedia.org
  2. Founding Fathers of the United States” Wikipedia.org
  3. Minutes of the Tryon County Committee of Safety” docsouth.UNC.edu
  4. American Revolution
  5. Loyalist (American_Revolution)” Wikipedia.org
  7. Founding Fathers” Biography.com
  8. Gouverneur Morris, The Constitution and Slavery” Mrsoshouse.com

"America’s Founding Fathers Were Liberals" is tagged with: American Politics, Fathers or Mothers of a Field, Left–right Politics, Liberalism and Conservatism, Liberty, United States of America

Vote Fact or Myth: "America’s Founding Fathers Were Liberals"

Your Vote: {{ voteModel || 'no vote' | uppercase }}

Wastrel on

At that time, the word “liberal” meant “generous” or “suitable for a free man.” The Founding Fathers were liberal in the sense that they were generous to their slaves and treated them well. (Generous to others, as well, one should suppose, but that doesn’t make the point.) 🙂

The word “liberal” did not mean a political orientation until after World War One, and probably was not commonly used until the institution of the social programs to get out of the Great Depression.

Thomas DeMichele on

Thank you for your contribution, but I’ll have to refute this. They called themselves Federalists and Anti-Federalists, loyalists and patriots, tories and whigs, Republicans and Democrats, by any name it is the same.

Take these quotes from Jefferson where the term liberal is used explicitly

I was quite rejoiced, dear Sir, to see that you had health & spirits enough to take part in the late convention of your state for revising it’s constitution, and to bear your share in it’s debates and labors. the amendments of which we have as yet heard prove the advance of liberalism in the intervening period; and encourage a hope that the human mind will some day get back to the freedom it enjoyed 2000 years ago. this country, which has given to the world the example of physical liberty, owes to it that of moral emancipation also, for, as yet, it is but nominal with us. the inquisition of public opinion overwhelms in practice the freedom asserted by the laws in theory. http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/98-01-02-1789

“Men by their constitutions are naturally divided into two parties: 1. Those who fear and distrust the people, and wish to draw all powers from them into the hands of the higher classes. 2. Those who identify themselves with the people, have confidence in them, cherish and consider them as the most honest and safe, although not the most wise depositary of the public interests. In every country these two parties exist, and in every one where they are free to think, speak, and write, they will declare themselves. Call them, therefore, Liberals and Serviles, Jacobins and Ultras, Whigs and Tories, Republicans and Federalists, Aristocrats and Democrats, or by whatever name you please, they are the same parties still and pursue the same object. The last one of Aristocrats and Democrats is the true one expressing the essence of all.” –Thomas Jefferson to Henry Lee, 1824. ME 16:73 http://famguardian.org/Subjects/Politics/thomasjefferson/jeff0800.htm

—— The term liberal wasn’t always used explicitly, and its meaning has changed over time, but the founders were not Kingsmen or loyalists, they were liberals. When the founders split into two factions one was radical liberal and the other conservative liberal. So I get the concept, but the term that comes up after WWI describes social liberalism (like FDR) not classical liberalism like Jefferson or Hamilton. http://factmyth.com/conservatism-vs-liberalism/

C.Smith on

And that’s why “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” is the same tune as “God Save the Queen”, right? You conveniently left out Greco-Roman roots of Republicanism in your rendition of history. Religion is dogma, not theism. Spirituality is not dogma.

Thomas DeMichele on

Thanks for the comments, if we left anything out it was to keep it short. Good factoid about the melody of the two songs.

The founders were mostly Diests, maybe I can expand on the section about church and state a bit.

As for Greco-Roman roots of Republicanism, amen! We talk about it extensively on our website. See:


to name a few.

Richard Cannarella on
Doesn't beleive this myth.

I have to refute this:

Many founders were Conservative. Take Thomas Jefferson comment:

“Small government is finest government there is.

Washington said:

You can sooner scrub a blakamoor white than change the confession of a confessed democrat. I think they are bound to overthrow this countries government.

Sorry the above comment is right! The word liberal did not mean what it means now. If anything the “liberals” were called democrat-republicans. In fact liberals as they are called are actually radicals. This change has only come since the early 1900s.
The federalist were conservative from the start and the way of thinking has been that way. The Revolution was a coalition not just some liberals are ailigned

Richard Cannarella on

As correction Jefferson said:

Small government is the finest conservative government here is

Thomas DeMichele on

My general response to you is:

1. I am using the term liberal in the historic and philosophical sense.

2. You are trying to use it in the modern sense where a Fox News watching Republican is conservative and a Rachel Maddow loving Democrat is liberal.

Even in that sense though, Jefferson was part progressive liberal and part libertarian who was only socially conservative in a few odd ways that were a testament to the times more than anything (i.e. he was socially conservative in that he owned slaves for example).

A small government being conservative is a cheeky way of saying “there is nothing more conservative (in the sense of the word where we take it to mean “using very little of something”) than a small government.”

Jefferson wanted a very small government, because he wanted liberty. In his day it wasn’t a matter of cutting Medicare, it was warding of another King. That was the frame. Otherwise Jefferson was in many respects a left-wing liberal (where both those terms are speaking to the time, not to our modern understanding of them; although there is cross over).

I suggest being proud of who you are and your ideology and your party, and from that lens you can look to a range of federalists and anti-federalist and find heros regardless of what party you are in, but I would also avoid trying to equate Republicans and Democrats and their current platforms with the terms liberal and conservative from history in the times of the founders.

We beat back the tyrants and created a land of liberty and enlightenment. We are liberals. We disagree on how to best ensure liberty, we formed two factions who bickered as much then as we do now.

Richard Cannarella on

No sir I am not saying that in the present tense. I gave you the quotes. You do not have one primary source from the 1770s till 1800 that’s show so the founders were all liberal. Not ONE. Show me where the founders said “we are all liberal”

Thomas DeMichele on

One doesn’t have to say they are liberal to be liberal. They only have to believe in, champion, and exhibit the qualities. NOTE: part of the problem here is that the term liberal wasn’t in common use in those days, but to the extent that it meant the same thing, we can see instances of Jefferson using the term here: http://oll.libertyfund.org/search/author?q=liberal&id=3777

I would submit that they did this and the evidence is their written works, especially the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Declaration of Independence.

Here is where I define classical liberal: //factmyth.com/what-is-classical-liberalism/

Examples of Classical Liberal Values: Economic freedom, separation of governmental powers, tolerance, free trade, individual liberty, property rights, the use of reason, freedom of religion, separation of church and state, appreciation for science and education, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, the right to a fair trial, popular sovereignty, and more.

Then I would point to this Jefferson Quote:

“men by their constitutions are naturally divided into two parties. 1. those who fear and distrust the people, and wish to draw all powers from them into the hands of the higher classes. 2dly those who identify themselves with the people, have confidence in them cherish and consider them as the most honest & safe, altho’ not the most wise depository of the public interests. in every country these two parties exist, and in every one where they are free to think, speak, and write, they will declare themselves. call them therefore liberals and serviles, Jacobins and Ultras, whigs and tories, republicans and federalists, aristocrats and democrats or by whatever name you please; they are the same parties still and pursue the same object. the last appellation of artistocrats and democrats is the true one expressing the essence of all.”

Point there is men are divided into two factions, one more liberal and one more conservative (or elite and populist). Since the faction United States broke away from the faction King and Kingsmen to create a liberal state, I would say that in this respect the founders were liberals…. then of those two liberals are two factions, democrats and republicans.

ps. You have a good Jefferson quote too, but again I would point out that he is saying that [paraphrasing] “never was there such a truly conservative power as the one that ensures our liberal state.” i.e. “the Conservative body you propose might be so constituted as, while it would be an admirable sedative in a variety of smaller cases, might also be a valuable centinel and check on the liberticide views of an ambitious individual. I am friendly to this idea. but the true barriers of our liberty in this country are our state-governments: and the wisest Conservative power ever contrived by man is that of which our revolution and present5 government found us possessed. “

Richard Cannarella on

You’re “fact” quote was from 1824 and 1821 not from the 1770s or the 1780s or the 1790s. Please share if you have one

Washington didn’t like the Democrat Republicans and supported the Ailien Seition acts. Not very “liberal” there last I checked and yet he mention the word liberality and progressive in letters. That doesn’t mean he was one. Sorry. You are the not the source to be a fact/myth guru

Thomas DeMichele on

The founders were children of the liberal revolution and lead a liberal revolution against the British Monarchy to develop the modern liberal state.

That makes them liberals.

Of the two types of American liberals of the era, federalists and anti-federalists, the federalists were more conservative in terms of traditional government roles and the anti-federalists were more socially conservative in terms of allying with the slaveholder class. Both had their liberal and conservative planks, but they were overall liberals.

The nativist Alien and Sedition acts were the same nativist American liberal / socially conservative / nationalist sentiment we see today, just in a different form. Still the same deal, a liberal nation, with the highest ideal being liberty, that passes nativist nationalist policy on top of this while the base chants “America first.”

Some of this is an argument over semantics, some of this is “literally we live in not only a liberal state, but the shining historic example of a modern liberal state as founded by the founders.” Within that sphere of a liberal state, we have many different identities, which can be described as classically or socially liberal or conservative.

Now, I don’t consider myself a guru, I consider myself a researcher. However, my research is correct as far as I can tell. And nothing short of a strong and well cited argument is going to find me changing my mind.

Make the case that the U.S. is not a liberal state or not founded as one, and I’ll respond happily.

Richard Cannarella on
Doesn't beleive this myth.

Lmao! No they were not conservative liberal. They were either conservative or radical. The men of the revolution were a coalition of all. Edmund Burke was a Whig. He is the founder of modern conservatism. He is not a Tory! Two different faction names don’t mean one is strictly one and not the other
Washington as I mentioned, was for the alilien sedition acts, was against the Democratic reblicans (the radicals of anything).
Besides Burke I can prove this with Sir Thomas Fairfax during the English civil war. He openly defended conservatism to parliament and yet lead the parliamentary forces against the King

Thomas DeMichele on

Fully agree about Burke. I call Burke a liberal-conservative (or conservative-liberal) above.

I don’t think we on different pages about what was the case, just perhaps interpreting what it means differently.

Jim Balter on

“At that time, the word “liberal” meant …”

This page isn’t about what some word meant in 18th century America, but rather whether the Founders were liberals (according to how we use the word now).

Richard Cannarella on
Doesn't beleive this myth.

And that’s the mistake you are making….about how wheather the word “now” applies to back then. They weren’t calling themselves liberals

Thomas DeMichele on

Got it. So I get the logic of the argument, but would still assert that they were indeed liberals (and that the Tories and Loyalists lost the war, leaving only the whiggish, radicals, republicans, democrats, etc).

But anyways, there were many conservative founders in the sense that you mean it. Some more toward being Tories, most toward being conservative whigs.

I will be clear, I don’t mean “the Founders were progressive social liberals” and instead many of them held planks generally in common with todays Democrats and Republicans.

Mostly though, thanks for offering your points, I appreciate you making cogent arguments. I’m sure it’ll be useful to people who read through this all in the future!

Richard Cannarella on
Doesn't beleive this myth.

“The Tories lose the war” yes and the Whigs you mentioned….was Burke a Whig? And who is the founder of conservatism. The Whigs starting calling themselves Liberals decades later. Not all Whogs were Liberal

Thomas DeMichele on

Very true. Burke is often thought of as the or a founder of modern conservatism and was a conservative Whig (later what was thought of as an old whig as opposed to the new whigs, the more liberal faction that broke away from the whigs and arguably went on to become the labour party).

Richard Cannarella on
Doesn't beleive this myth.

I am sorry if I am coming off as aggressive. I just disagree with you and don’t think that this is a fact. If it was, no one will argue. We simply disagree. I am just says my that if it went by what you are saying they would’ve all called themselves Liberal back then. If you were to take a Monarchy, an Aristocracy, a Plutocracy AND Democracy you will find conservatives associated with this governments. And I’d have to believe even at a Democracies inception. For democracy is open to all. I gave Jefferson’s quote and if he felt that way, why wouldn’t Washington and Adams and Hamilton who were in the opposite faction not be even more like that. Ours was not a radical revolution as much as France, and I think that has to come into play here. Thank you for you time and again sorry for any comments that came of as insulting

jamesofthecommons on

I agree with much of what you have written on this site; that said, your claim as to the founders being ”classical” liberals, as opposed to just simply being liberals, is not at all based upon fact. It would be much more accurate and honest to say that some of the founders were more liberal than others and that even amongst the most liberal of the founders, differing ideas were held as to how best to assure human liberty.
As to the so called, classical liberal founders favoring capitalism; it is important to note that no true liberal would hold the conviction that liberalism should be defined by support for capitalism, and or private property. It is important to note, that no where in the constitution, is capitalism declared to be of fundamental value to the purpose of the founding of the nation, and it is just as important to note, that the constitution allows for government regulation of market activities at both the state and federal level. Not only does the founding documents allow for government regulation of economic activity, said documents make it clear that the needs of the public, are vital enough of an interest, to allow for the legal taking of private property, given that just compensation be given to the property owner. Keep in mind, that the King of England, nor any of the Royal authorities of the old world, were in the habit of taking private property for public use ! Old world loyalty were better known for the enclosures of common lands and then latter, the taking of private property, for their own personal use. In short, our liberal founders, if they are to be considered capitalists at all, certainly can not be considered to be promoters of unregulated, capitalism. This being the case, it is incorrect to say that the founders were classical liberals that were somehow different to modern liberals whom believe that to promote human liberty, capitalism must be regulated by government and shaped in such a way, as to promote the welfare of all Americans and not just the wealthy.

Thomas DeMichele on

Very thoughtful feedback. I find your points compelling, some I agree with outright, some i’ll have to ponder. But I’ll take it all into consideration for updates and clarifications to the page.

One note: I’ll try to use the term “classical liberal economics” when i’m talking about the aspect of classical liberalism which turned away from mercantilism and toward a more free-market as represented by figures like Adam Smith. You are right, certainly, a quick read of the Constitution shows us that the founders weren’t adverse to some amount of regulation and order (less they would have kept the Articles of confederation, not bothered with state law or constitution, and called it a day).

Thanks again for both the kind words and smart feedback. Feedback that makes us have to think and research really helps improve the site over time.

jamesofthecommons on

To be sure, you are probably owed more kind words and less debate. At any rate, thanks for the chance to share my thoughts and thank you also for reading my comment so soon.
For the sake of our imperiled liberalism, and thus any hope for a free society, I believe we must now, more than ever, promote the ideology, spirit of and ultimately the practice of liberalism. Convincing the collective intellect, of our national mind, scared and shaped by cold war and modern corporate propaganda, that to be liberal, is to be patriotic, involves the task of revealing the truth, in modern light, that our nation was born in liberalism and was meant to be a land of liberalism. We will not complete this task, if we, for any reason, disparage modern liberals, liberalism, or mistake for liberalism, the neoliberal dogma, that the so called free market, is the apex and source of human freedom. Any free market that may one day exist, will be but a result of human freedom, not the cause of liberty.
Finally, the tree of liberty must be planted not in the unyielding container of conservatism and thus stunted as bonsai, but rather in the unconfined soil of liberalism and thus allowed to become a great tree, with branches reaching for the even greater sky. Thanks again;

Thomas DeMichele on

Well said. Nice tree of liberty metaphor.

Thomas DeMichele on

To update, after some thought.

I see how the term capitalism can be awkward and not fully correct (especially given some people’s modern understanding of the term)… but here i’m trying to illustrate that the liberals of the American revolution generally favored an individual-driven free-market rather than a state-based or oligarch-based economy.

It isn’t meant to be a comment on them being anti-taxation, or anti-regulation, or not seeing the duty of the state being in the common good (I mean, the fact that some states are named “commonwealth” is a good hint of that).

It is more just a healthy fear of special interests and a respect for individual liberty than any sort of aversion to the common welfare.

Today libertarian-like thinkers act like Barons and oligarchs aren’t a thing and that if anything anti-trust trust busters are bad because, liberty-and-stuff, and that the framers would never dream of using the state for the common good. But this is just modern confusion, doesn’t for me speak to the basic principles of the country, or any historic evidence or texts.

I really just mean, they favored free-market capitalism over mercantilism.

Also, on the semantics about classical liberal. I don’t fully agree, but think your definition:

“It would be much more accurate and honest to say that some of the founders were more liberal than others and that even amongst the most liberal of the founders, differing ideas were held as to how best to assure human liberty.”

…is just as good as any and fits with the overarching narrative. So I want to make sure that is noted. The page could have just as easily been called that. I like the term “classical liberal” because it denotes the difference between the classical liberty-focused kind and the social equality-focused kind… but more-so, I consider liberalism the ideology of liberty AND equality, so more than there are two basic forms, they are all for me liberal. So really, on that part, perhaps it is just somewhat a matter of semantics.

Simon Clute on

I would have to argue that many of them held conservative values such as Thomas Jefferson or James Madison, the author of the Deceleration of Independence and of the bill of rights. Like seriously, for any casual readers reading this who don’t want to pick up a book, listen to Hamilton.

Thomas DeMichele on

Yes, some founders were what today we think of as conservative, but America and the founders were liberal (what we think of as conservative in the west is generally liberal-conservative like Burke; not pro-monarchy classically conservative like Hobbes).

From a simple frame, the federalists were classically conservative and socially liberal, all the anti-federalists were classically liberal and socially conservative. From a more complex frame each party had aspects of the four.

If we use the terms “Conservative” and “Liberal” to mean “like a modern Republican” and “like a modern Democrat” then we can say, in those terms, the founders had aspects of each ideology (plank-by-plank each being more like one major party or another).

The point here is that America is a liberal nation founded on the principles of liberalism rejecting monarchies and embracing democracy.

The Federalists, like Hamilton, wanted a more aristocratic democratic Republic and those like Jefferson wanted a more liberal democratic Republic.

We explain this all in the article, but suffice to say “we Americans are all technically liberals and American is a liberal nation”, right now fascism in its new National Populist right-wing form and Communism in its weakened left-wing populist form are clawing at the edges of global western liberalism.

We must remember what we are defending here and what our founding fathers stood for. We are right-wing conservative liberals and we are left-wing social liberals, and we are centered liberals, and economic liberals, and classical liberals, etc. and we can all be this within the federalist frame of the Republic, but we are not Red Coat Tory Loyalist conservatives and nor were our founders (instead the liberal patriots exiled and otherwise treated them poorly).

We are liberals in the way the Constitution and Bill of Rights are liberal documents. Like this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classical_liberalism

Our founders fought for this and it is why we enjoy freedoms today. When a Republican says they are conservative, they are really saying they are “a conservative liberal”, except in rare cases.

This is somewhat semantical, but in classical terms it is provable and undeniable fact.

To your point though, Hamilton was a total neoliberal conservative (very much like a modern establishment Republican or Democrat).

George Gavaras on

Classical Liberalism is a proper subset of Modern Liberalism at the nucleus of both is John Locke’s Liberal Philosophy. Modern Liberalism is simply the concurrent evolution of Liberalism with the evolution of Society and the evolution of the concept of Freedom.

Regarding “Socialist: A rejection of capitalism and liberalism, ideologically and economically in favor of Marx. A Communist is an extreme socialist who doesn’t want any sort of mixed-socioeconomic system.” Nonsense. Socialism has its roots in Communalism which long preceded Marx. Communism and Socialism are in no way synonyms. End State Communism is very Libertarian in charater.

boolin on

Liberal today means something entirely different from what it use to mean. Todays liberals are *mentally challenged* buffoons. They have ruined the word for all eternity.

Thomas DeMichele on

If we take the time to understand the difference between the classical and social forms of liberalism, and then understand how social liberalism embraced progressive policies in terms of pushing for equality on a cultural, social, and political (to some extent) level, you’ll realize what you are saying is “although I am a classical liberal in most cases, I don’t agree in a big government social liberal solution, I am instead more of a social conservative”.

Something like that.

Our founders were all types of liberals, not all were “social liberals”, although some were.

This group includes some you likely identify with like to some degree Hamilton, Jefferson, Madison, and Morris. If you are against big government solutions, but for liberty and equality otherwise, Jefferson is a great model (but also note that he wasn’t able to really totally avoid “big government” in practice).


Jim Balter on

“Liberal today means something entirely different from what it use to mean. Todays liberals are *mentally challenged* buffoons. They have ruined the word for all eternity.”

So you’re a liberal, then?

Thomas DeMichele on

The best way to say this is “the founders were liberals, they were classical liberals concerned first with enlightened liberal values and human rights and a rejection of kings and a love of small r republican and small d democratic values” today many liberals are social liberals who seek a second bill of rights and are progressive.

The far left progressive wing of America is what you are insulting (as is your right). Some of the founders were this type, but generally they were all types of classical liberals.

Add to this the massive propaganda campaign against social liberals and progressives by the right (explained by the conservative colation vs the new deal coalition and “sixth party strategy” that has indoctrinated a generation against progressives, and things get very complex…. but there is still a real conversation in there.

That aside, what I mean here is that the base foundation is liberal, what all American factions essentially use as a foundation (as represented by the constitution and bill of rights) is “liberal” and not loyalist tory conservative. That is empirical fact.

But yes, Liberal meant something a bit different back in 1789 than it does today where we sometimes use “liberal” as a code for Democratic Party (only part of liberal America), far left social liberal progressive, or establishment neoliberal.

If you decide liberal means your cartoon version of social justice warrior, then of course it will be less virtuous, enlightened, and great than i suggest. But this is a difference in what we are truly speaking of. I speak of masters of thought like Locke and Mill, you speak of some guy dressed in black protesting at a trump rally. Of course we are butting heads a bit, we haven’t defined our terms well enough (largely due to modern right wing propaganda corrupting the term “liberal”, but still.)

As for it being a mental illness… that is an opinion based I think on the above and party politics.

My opinion is the true threat to the west is the social conservative neo fascists who support the euro ethnic state spray tan anti-globalization agenda. They are the ones who for me stray the furthest from our enlightened liberal values.

The rhetoric and propaganda are heavy these days, read Machiavelli, Jefferson, Locke, Madison, Rousseau, Hamilton, Montesquieu, Paine. They all agree with me, as we are all of the same cloth, liberal and enlightened (or trying at least to mimic those values). Thus we necessarily stand on the same side…. the side of western liberal republics for the people and against tyranny. I know modern conservatives often do too, but they have been swayed by fascist thought (and fascists hate liberals and western democracy and republicans… so keep that in mind. To be fair; so do far left communists, who we must also stand against and who I assume is what you are really trying to stand against somewhere deep in your logic and heart.

That is my rebuttal, thanks for the comment; all opinions welcome, i am not the final say, although my work is well researched.

If you catch yourself saying “liberalism doesn’t work” and “liberalism is a disease” realize that you share planks with Hitler, Stalin, and Putin. If you say, I love liberalism in its classical form, but stand with mises against big government (or something like that) then we just have to turn to reasoned debate and find a common center for our republic. You are free to take any stance (our liberal bill of rights first amendment rights ensure this), but I suggest you stand with the founders to some degree.

Or stand with Plato, or with Cicero, or consider Machiavelli’s Livy (the republican manifesto where he describes how to create a liberal republic.)



DJ on
Doesn't beleive this myth.

Looking at the word liberal certainly meant something solid at one point and time. The false message of today is that the word liberal means progress, while the word “conservative” means lack there of. “Liberals” of today are generally Democrats, that is bigger government and less freedom, while “conservatives” generally stand for smaller government and more freedoms. This is rather simplistic I know, but I contest that the words have been twisted and intertwined so heavily with politics and for personal gain, that they no longer have any meaning relating to the original definition. When freedom of speech is attacked by so called liberals, you know the word has outlived the definition.

Thomas DeMichele on

Glad you brought this up.

When we use the word liberal to describe “a Democrat of any type in 2017” then we really sully the world “liberal” and confuse things.

The Democratic party holds a wide array of views, just like the Republican party does.

We should not let those parties steal the words liberal, conservative, progressive, republican, democrat, federalist, or anything else.

Those words are all at the heart of our true shared American values, while modern party politics represent a sort of schizophrenia of the human condition manifesting through a distorted and polarized lens.

If you do a search on our site for: liberal, conservative, progressive, republican, democrat, federalist you’ll see our many pages on each.

I don’t fully agree with the nuance of what you say about big government / small government (as each party is big or small on certain issues, each taking freedoms here and spending and taxing there)… but that is almost an aside. The point here is that the core concepts of an ideology like classical liberalism ARE American values and I’d much sooner abandon a political party than those core concepts.

SEE: http://factmyth.com/what-is-progressive-centrism/ (that is a term I use to describe an ideology that respects all the concepts noted).

Michael on
Doesn't beleive this myth.

The term Liberal has a completely different meaning today than it did 200+ years ago. Just like prior to the 1960’s the term Gay had nothing to do with being homosexual. The founding fathers were conservative by today’s standards as they supported everything modern liberals oppose.

Thomas DeMichele on

I 100% understand you saying this, but it really isn’t true.

Although the term liberal wasn’t used until the 1800’s (hard to give an exact date, but for insight, when I read old texts it is in full usage by the mid-1800’s, but uncommon in earlier periods), the concept of liberalism has been implied and discussed since Plato using terms like liberty, equality, and democracy.

With that in mind, I would say the term liberal (or its equivalents) have always meant the same thing, that is: a range of beliefs between classical liberal and social liberal, or between democracy and aristocracy. One who doesn’t want to be fully ruled by kings and one who values individual liberty (generally a small d democrat or small r republican; which is essentially why those are the party names http://factmyth.com/where-do-the-terms-democrat-and-republican-come-from/).

There have always been many different flavors of this liberal identity, even long before those names were denoted as liberal aspects of classical and social liberalism and conservativism.

What we didn’t have in early America was a lot of progressive social liberals who were so far toward social liberal that some might accuse them of being socialist. That really doesn’t come about until the reformers of the 1800’s and the pre-Marx Commune-ists.

Still, we didn’t have red-coat tories and kingsmen who wanted the absolutist rule of church and state.

What we had was liberals with varying degrees of what we would now call socialist and conservative values.

The more I research the founders, the more I realize that neither party can fully claim their spirit, and that they were as diverse in their views as modern Americans, and that still, even today, America has very few true conservatives (and very few true liberals).

Even today every American is still essentially a type of liberal, as they value liberty, individuality, and freedom (disagreeing on the governments role in that process).

We can go back as far as Plato and see hints of the concept of liberalism, or we can look to Machiavelli’s Livy where he speaks of the liberal prince.

The term in its very modern usage implies social liberal American Democrats, but the term liberal in its constant historic and current true meaning implies what it alway has, and this is the definition under which I would confidently place almost every American of note from the founders to the prominent members of the current factions.

So, 100% get your view, and would have agreed more at one point, but given what I know now, I do not agree and do contest this idea.

If I can add one last thought, it is that the usage of conservative and liberal to slander the American left and right is nothing short of unfortunate. It really confuses vital historic concepts and loads these enlightened terms with modern political emotion that borders on propaganda.

I could go on, and I do on the site, so if you want more insight just put “liberalism” or “conservatism” into the search bar.

TIP: Also the parties switched and some ways and didn’t in others. The social conservative spirit of the modern Republicans is more like the old solid south democrats and republican/whig know-nothings mixed with the old federalist conservative tories. Meanwhile the social liberals are like the progressive socially liberal federalists, whigs, and republicans (called radical republicans in their day) mixed with the old democratic party “reformers”. Meanwhile, both parties of today have some positions that harken back to the old Virginia dynasty anti-federalists. We may think of the Republicans as a small government party, but their big tent is not purely small government or even classically liberal. It is socially conservative, pro business, and classically liberal on some issues. Likewise, we may think of democrats as big government, and they are in that old socially liberal whiggish way, but they are fairly classical liberal on many issues of liberty and right. I fully get what you are saying, and for sure it is hard to say simply, but if we go issue by issue we can see that each party of today is a mash-up of different positions found in both old parties. The parties did “switch” in many ways, but not in all ways (and even in those old days each party was a big tent of factions). In all cases, almost every position then and today is a type of liberal position (with the exception of those who want a King and Church state).

Richard Cannarella on
Doesn't beleive this myth.

Oops. Look how many times Jefferson says Conservative here. And look at this quote:

“The wisest conservative power ever contrived by man, is that which our revolution and present government found us possessed”

Guess good ol Thomas proves you wrong here cause he mentioned our revolution and form a government here


Mouser on
Supports this as a Fact.

Everyone here is getting mired in details and historical vs. contemporary definitions. Liberal and progressive is an open kindness and belief in finding and implementing better more equitable policies and strategies. ( pardon my inability to communicate my thoughts better) the founding fathers were liberal for their times and if they were alive today with the knowledge and history of today would be liberals today.

Jerry Ramey on
Supports this as a Fact.

The founding fathers of the USA were NOT Classic Liberals or Libertarians. The did not support free market capitalism – They believe and understood that government creates markets NOT people or “rich people”.

Thomas DeMichele on

I would argue that the founders were mostly classical liberals… but that some probably have a slightly off definition of classical liberalism today due to certain Republicans and Libertarians in American culture calling themselves “classical liberals” (and sort of redefining the term in their own image).

Jefferson, for example, was basically a classical liberal in the way we mean it today AND he was a liberal in that classical era, which semantically makes him such.

Classical / Social is a more modern distinction to illustrate the difference between an FDR and a Jefferson (for example). Between a big government progressive and a small government liberal.

It is really a complex discussion with each classical and social type existing in a spectrum.

I’m not saying our founders were all like Ron Paul, or like a Republican who calls themselves “classical liberal,” I am more saying the founders were generally government of the people over kings and government of enlightenment over the church pro republic and democracy liberals of this classical era of the age of liberalism and enlightenment (and as such were in many ways in the political sphere we might generally label as classical liberal).

The page above is much longer than this short argument though, because how one would understand the character of each founder and other details isn’t easy to sum up in a few words.

For more reading, see the link below:


James Smith on
Supports this as a Fact.

Yes, they were classical liberals, which would be conservatives and libertarians today. I know that the Founding Fathers didn’t all have the same views, but by today’s standards they would all be in the conservative Republican – Libertarian range.

Thomas DeMichele on

In some respects I agree, in others respects I don’t fully agree. Libertarians are often taking a classic liberal view, but conservatives often take a classical liberal stance heavily augmented by social and classical conservativism… meanwhile the left in America just as often takes a classical liberal view augmented by classical conservativism and social liberalism.

Do you get to choose your bathroom and gender, that is the left offering liberty, should you have less regulation, that is the right offering liberty.

Should you do both, based on principle? That is the true libertarian being a classical liberal.

Now to be fair, as I discuss to some degree, the classical liberal category is itself a big tent which has room for its own left right spectrum. So in this sense there is room for more than one type.

Irminsul on
Supports this as a Fact.

You need to do better research. There were no “Democrats” during the founding of this nation, as the party of Andy Jackson wasn’t founded until 1828.

Thomas DeMichele on

Very true the two founding factions were federalists and anti federalist. Anti federalists essentially because the democrats and federalists republicans.

Jamie Price on
Doesn't beleive this myth.

If the Founding Fathers saw todays liberals they would have implemented a rule to make sure that todays Liberals/Socialists/Communists would never see any sort of power, but they didn’t think that far ahead. This was their biggest failure to America and it’s not an opinion, it’s an undisputable fact.

Thomas DeMichele on

Totally disagree that this is not an opinion and disagree that they didn’t foresee or would have done much differently. For one, they allowed slavery and some founders were pretty darn socialist in their philosphy. Two they did a lot to protect against tyranny because they knew political history. They wanted to protect against the tyranny of the left and right, and I think they did their best.

Utopia Enslaves on
Doesn't beleive this myth.

“Liberalism and the Religious Views of the Founders”

The words ‘separation of church and state’ were mentioned only once and that was in a private letter by Jefferson. Why didn’t you mention this salient fact?

Jefferson’s concern was that “The State” would soon enough again attack the tenets of the faith (as we have been seeing for nearly 60 years now): that the very religion; that had allowed the spread of civilization because of the creation of the idea of required personal responsibility and virtue based on the authority of ‘The Word’, the religion that replaced Tiberius-like tyranny with things like, the House of Lords, Commons and the Courts, and was based entirely on the first histories ever written about and dedicated to the teaching of just one Man that are the most published documents in all of written history, Christianity, would be stormed and burned down.

Jefferson knew of the coming attacks by liberals on Christianity today. Look around. If you have the eyes to see, it should be plain enough to you. Liberal thought is now defended in US courts by the ‘Temple of Satan’.
Makes sense, threw that in just in case you hadn’t read who is taking Texas to court on the latest Liberal Roe vs. Wade, black-baby genocide for the sake of fearful and crocodile teared, white liberals for the creation of their beloved MRNA medical device that tracks you. Look up Graphene Oxide if that’s not too much effort for a liberal afraid of the truth.

Since the words ‘separation of church and state’ were only written ONCE in a private letter, where do you get off titling this section of your hit piece on conservatism, with the words “Liberalism and the Religious Views of the Founders” FOUNDERS? Please provide documentary evidence that OTHER Founding Fathers used the words, wrote them anywhere else or at least show where the words are discussed among them at any time. You won’t be able to and, if you are as educated as you like to paint yourself, please correct your heading for this section. In light of the unwarranted bias of the complete article and other intentional omissions, your editing won’t help any but this section, of course, was your most egregious expedition into convincing me you’ve read all of Zinn and called it history and brought about this flurry of words.

Jefferson knew that one day ‘religion’ his ‘faith’, whether that faith be Quaker, or Calvinist, Lutheran or Methodist, or even Anglican or Catholic, would come under assault from liberal humanists such as Locke and I imagine, yourself. Though you may refer to yourself instead, as so many ‘liberals’ do, by many pronouns or by many faiths? Perhaps you would chic-ly call yourself a Sufi, Buddhist, Christian? Which of course is no Christian at all. I’m guessing you are Post Modern and believe that there is no Truth. Stand for nothing, fall for anything, right? I don’t know, being only human, death kinda strikes me as a Truth. So much Common Sense is missing in the world today due to ‘liberal’ thinking.

Christianity guided history from its Birth during the slavery of Rome, slowly mitigating slavery to the serfdom of Europe, and on to the rise of democracy. These days, post-modern thinking seems to have driven liberals onto “The Road To Serfdom. Today? Look around and see the return to serfdom in the faces of the welfare state, socialism and communism, common and beloved ‘idee fixes’ of the current liberal/fascist mindset and also, those three are a perfectly natural progression that “liberals” love and espouse.

I fear, based on your words, that you may also very likely believe that Muslims, whose faith tells them there will be No Peace On Earth till ALL are Muslim and who have been commanded to convert the Infidel by any means possible even unto murder, can, because of your widely abused and misinterpreted ‘separation of church and state’ complete lie, assimilate into a Constitutional Republic and still call themselves Muslims. Yet you encourage the immigration of Constitution Haters blindly and ignorantly. Muslims are accepted by today’s liberals as if be-headings were the most natural thing in the world, liberals who seem to be ignorant of the practice and tenets of Sharia Law which is in total opposition to the freedoms of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. That, of course, is liberal delusion. You yourself, let me guess, support Muslim immigration? Have liberal women or you (perhaps that’s how you identify), ever researched the current number of Sharia Courts in the US? Can liberals even repeat the phrase ‘intentional Balkanization of the US so as to facilitate complete control over it’s citizens after liberally collecting everyone’s guns due to rampant terrorist violence?” Oh, in case you need a clue, that’s why there’s the 2nd Amendment that liberals are currently attacking morning to night.

Jefferson avidly devoured history and was full aware how Henry VIII had what? Henry, with the stroke of a pen and, yet again, another sex-driven whim, literally and liberally just began his own religion and changed Christianity to fit the King’s/State’s needs. Jefferson knew liberal, forward thinking, leaders would gain a throne one day since Virtue is not hereditary and Power remains Power. He knew that the driving greed for power and money that grows in men and women who get a taste of money and power, would again say the State was the giver of men’s rights and not God. You mention none of this in your Marxist/Leninist teachings.

Jefferson knew this could happen again unless accounted for. With his letters he guided the birth of this nation with his philosophy and his ability to honestly teach others by understanding all sides, possible outcomes to decisions, and relating those outcomes understandably and succinctly. Nowhere in any of the founding documents of the USA is ‘separation of church’ and state mentioned, though self-proclaimed teachers such as yourself, always imply it is somewhere in the Founding Documents and SHOUTED from the rooftops by every signer of EVERY document: carved in stone tablets, in italics, bold and underlined high point type.

Please stop. I notice how you carefully withhold, like a crooked lawyer, any exculpatory evidence. Jefferson knew that that every humanist monarch thinking “I’m God” could and would bastardize God to suit The State’s needs. A foundation built on documents of paper by man can be easily burned. Documents based on a cornerstone, a rock, do not. You are no defender of The Constitution. You are no defender of the Christianity that sustains the freedoms it protects..

God is the giver of men’s rights. Otherwise the Declaration, Constitution and Bill of Rights have no foundation and are useless. That couldn’t be stated more explicitly in the founding documents. Locke as most others you mention was a Humanist, as I imagine you may be and almost all liberals today are. That is why you will never hear a liberal say “God”, without rolling their eyes or snickering. Liberals are more interested in license than liberty and confuse the two all the time since they believe “What the heck! Rights are only man made! I’m a man, so screw everyone else’s rights cause I can give rights as well as anyone else!” Humanism is the road to collectivism and The Borg. Again, think Post-Modern driven liberalism. It’s not liberal at all.

Liberalism was birthed in “The Enlightenment”. “Kant’s placing of the rational human subject at the center of the cognitive and moral worlds”, seemed to replace ‘Attunement with the Divine’ with Narcissism. Kant’s ideas led to the belief Kant himself was agnostic, which he was not. This misunderstanding and casting away of Christianity by his, of course, liberal followers, led naturally to Engels, Marx and finally Lenin: A perfectly liberal path that actually did happen and continues to spread globally.

Honestly, I’m tired of your diatribe and care for no more interaction with liberals since liberalism is a disease that does not allow one to step outside the limited confines of their weak post-modern philosophies and therefore accompanying weak emotional states. In other words, minds like a steel trap, “Snapped closed and rusted.” Yes, it’s a frightening world out here so just plug your ears and keep repeating “Nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah! I can’t hear you! Nyah,; nyah, nyah, nyah, I can’t hear you.

I’m tired of your jabber and honestly believe you haven’t considered a word I’ve said, nor would you ever in the future. Yes, I’m ‘profiling’ you. You are currently a liberal and engaging a liberal in conversation is like running out of gas on West Lake street under the ‘L’ in Chicago, and having to walk a mile for gas. Best to not interact. If at all possible, just sit in your car and call the cops. I won’t be wasting my time visiting this Obama modified use of the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 ever again.

Do you also write for CNN and MSNBC, act as a spokesperson for Rachel Maddow in your spare time? Get lost and take your tripe with you. Once I identify propaganda, good-bye and so, goodbye for good to all your trash. Forgive any errors in grammar or spelling, I’ve wasted enough of my time on you.

Thomas DeMichele on

I would I’m sure make more money editing Maddow’s writers’ editors than writing for this blog. But no, I work only for myself and the glory of the internet.

Really appreciate your long comment though. You too now know what it feels like to work solely for the appreciation of the internet <3

(I am honestly not joking, thank you for the comment to be clear. I won't debate you. Let's just let our two works stand side-by-side).

Mark The Bassist on

I’m sorry — you lost all credibility with your apparent belief in the debunked “Graphene Oxide” conspiracy theory. Everything you wrote after that was — well — vitriol. The trouble with today’s conservative minds is that they don’t realize that it is they who epitomize “a trap snapped closed and rusted”. In case you missed the earlier post (January 27, 2017) from jamesofthecommons:

“The tree of liberty must be planted not in the unyielding container of conservatism and thus stunted as bonsai, but rather in the unconfined soil of liberalism and thus allowed to become a great tree, with branches reaching for the even greater sky.”

bernard baruch carman on

Thank you Thomas DeMichele for addressing this most worthy issue.

Because of my somewhat unique view regarding this matter, I cannot exactly accurately vote here one way or the other. Perhaps elaborating a bit will explain why.

What is the earliest historical writing which uses the words “liberal” and/or “conservative” as referring to political ideologies? Please cite specific references.

Did the American founding fathers ever use the words “liberal” and/or “conservative” as referring to political ideologies? Please cite specific references.

Because I’ve yet to find any indication of the usage of these words, which is now common, until sometime in the 1900’s. For example, Frederic Bastiat’s The Law published in 1850 never refers to either “liberal” or “conservative” as political ideologies.

If one is going to make the claim that at the time of America’s founding, people considered the words “liberal” and/or “conservative as referring to political ideologies, one ought to be able to cite the usage of such words accordingly.

My view is that the reason why the American founders were at that time thought of as “liberals” is due to the fact that besides proportioning, the word actually refers to one’s propensity for change, rather than having to do with any political ideology whatsoever. In contrast, the word “conservative” refers to one’s propensity for no change. These words can then be applied to any given specific matter.

To perhaps better illustrate the proper usage of these words in practical application, consider: was Prohibition in the 20’s a liberal or conservative event? While one who refers to these words as being political ideologies may call it conservative due to 20th century political science indoctrination, the fact is that among societies/nations throughout all of human history there hardly ever existed any national prohibition against the consumption of alcohol. Thus, Prohibition in the 20’s was definitely a major change, and therefore can only accurately be considered to be liberal.

So, I also view the American founders as having *liberal* ideals only due to the fact that they were offering a major change in governance, from a monarchy to a Democratic-Republic — that is, a system of governance which incorporates democratically elected representatives, under a Constitution designed to protect the individual Natural Rights of all.

However, they also had a great many *conservative* ideals. For example, when the British Crown demanded firearm confiscation, they adamantly disagreed… then went to war. Many believe this was the camel’s back breaking straw. They had been owning and using firearms and were not planning on giving them up. Therefore, in this area of principle they could certainly not be thought of as anything other than conservative.

My suggestion for everyone is to dispense with using the terms “liberal” and “conservative” because they really are phony terms with regard to political philosophy/ideology. We would be far better off even dispensing with the entire false “left” vs. “right” political paradigm, as it causes only confusion. For example, Hitler and his NAZI party are often called “right wing” by the largely ignorant social media masses, while they were really always a Socialist and therefore “left wing” political party (using the false political paradigm).

It would be far more accurate to equate any point of political agenda or principle with one of two categories: 1. Collectivism (dishonoring individual free will), and 2. Individualism (honoring individual free will). Then perhaps more individuals would better recognize that all such collectivist forms of government (Socialist, Communist, Fascist, etc.) cannot ever serve to maximize peace, prosperity, and liberty the way Individualism can, so long as a society’s Civil Law incorporates Natural Law in honoring the individual Natural Rights of all.

Regardless, it’s all food for thought.

In liberty,


bernard baruch carman
∞ ∞ ∞

Thomas DeMichele on

Really appreciate the thoughts. The founders for sure had a lot of liberal and conservative ideals, even to the degree of federalists (more classically conservative) and anti-federalists (more classically liberal) embodying this. Then you have social liberalism (FDR or Bernie let’s say) and social conservatism (Pence let’s say; this one is trickier to avoid argument and triggering). I consider NAZIs to be a mix, they are collectivist (social liberal) hierarchical and traditionalist, and authoritative (classical conservative) socialists (socially liberal). They are for sure in most ways not classically liberal. Gets nuanced and for sure people get confused, and I do like also talking about individualism and collectivism on their own, but I think they are only some of the planks that we can consider to have left and right qualities. Since there are more I prefer to categorize and clump them and create a model from that. I think in this sense a 4 point spectrum (similar to some popular ones) is best. I have an article on my take on this, here it is http://factmyth.com/the-left-right-political-spectrum-explained/

bernard baruch carman on

Thank you for replying Thomas, but I’ve yet to find evidence of the words “liberal” and/or “conservative” being thought of as political ideologies/philosophies prior to the 1900’s. Therefore, I remain most curious to discover…

— — —
“What is the earliest historical writing which uses the words “liberal” and/or “conservative” as referring to political ideologies? Please cite specific references.”

“Did the American founding fathers ever use the words “liberal” and/or “conservative” as referring to political ideologies? Please cite specific references.”

“Because I’ve yet to find any indication of the usage of these words, which is now common, until sometime in the 1900’s. For example, Frederic Bastiat’s The Law published in 1850 never refers to either “liberal” or “conservative” as political ideologies.”

“If one is going to make the claim that at the time of America’s founding, people considered the words “liberal” and/or “conservative as referring to political ideologies, one ought to be able to cite the usage of such words accordingly.”
— — —

I would imagine with all the scholarly claims of the American founders being “liberal”, there must be some kind of evidence that such words used so commonly today actually had anything whatsoever to do with a political ideology or philosophy. Otherwise, such an opinion certainly cannot be considered as a “FACT”, no?

Thomas DeMichele on

Montesquieu’s 1748 Spirit of the Laws and Rousseau’s 1762 Social Contract I think pretty clearly express the current political ideologies we call liberal and conservatives. And lots of even older works discuss democracy, republic, monarchy, etc as these are written about as far back as Plato’s Republic. So while the specific terms may not trace back as far, the concepts are all there before the founding of the country and were being discussed during the founding. I think in this sense we can say the founders were mostly liberals. In that they were democrats and republicans rebelling against monarchs and tyranny. And this is what we today know of as liberal. That said, I would consider both major US parties to be liberal and republican in spirit today. The only real thing is how they lean on certain issues that separates them.