The American Political Tradition and the Men Who Made It

Topics: Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States, Slavery Pages: 20 (7032 words) Published: October 12, 2010
Great American Political Thinkers
In the year of 1776, the United States became an independent country. At that moment, the great men who fought for its independence began to create the government and shape American politics. In Richard Hofstadter's The American Political Tradition and the Men Who Made It, he identifies twelve of the most influential men and the political traditions they created, including the Founding Fathers who started it all. Additionally, Hofstadter informs the reader of other significant government officials including Andrew Jackson and his democracy, the progressive, trustbuster Theodore Roosevelt, and ending with Franklin D. Roosevelt and his programs of the New Deal. Richard Hofstadter's ideas are brilliantly elucidated with his stunning choice of words and information. He begins the background with none other than the original American politicians - the Founding Fathers. The Founding Fathers, the men who began American government, created the basis of politics that future leaders would adhere to. Richard Hofstadter focuses, in this chapter, on ideas that shaped policy. He does not necessarily focus on certain men, although the most common of the Founding Fathers are James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Alexander Hamilton. Another key father was John Jay who believed that "the 'better kind' will be led by their own insecurities" on their social and political positions. While building the basis of American government, the Founding Fathers made decisions of what the government should consist of, created devices for check and control, and linked liberty directly to property.

Although the Founding Fathers were creating a government for the first time, they knew that it should consist of a democracy. They trusted it should be a government between anarchy and tyranny, to please the majority of the country. John Adams believed that they should strive for government that would naturally come. The Founding Fathers thought that the power of the government should lie in the hands of the people. One difficulty was that they did not trust man to form reason or think in a sophisticated manner. They truly believed that the nature of man was set in stone, that they are contentious, selfish, and an unchangeable being of self-interest. The men creating the government decided then, that they must control the Americans with leaders, but still have the majority make the decisions. James Madison trusted that “In our government the real power lies in the majority of the community”. These politicians did not want to violate the prejudices of the people, so in keeping them happy, they controlled all men using one tactic of which they all believe in. Another difficulty in creating the government was class differences. James Madison thought that “mutual relations will help people keep each other in their respective places”, and all of the men considered all men to be created equal. Unfortunately, there is always the socially higher, wealthier class over the poorer uneducated farmers. After their decision to put the government in the hands of the men in a democracy, the next step was to assure that no one part of government attained too much power.

To achieve balance of power between the levels of government the Founding Fathers created devices for check and control. Maintaining order against popular uprising or majority rule was one of these devices. This would force the minority to unite against the opposer and quiet it. Maintaining order was important because many government officials feared majority taking over in money, jobs, mobs, rebellions and oppression. Another device was representation. This protected small regions affected by unstable passions as well as large regions. It was mainly used as a source to keep the majority happy and satisfied in the large regions. Hamilton believed that Congress needed more and higher expectations. He was concerned that...
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