10 American Founding Myths

Before logging in here, I took another glance at the YouTube video, “10 American Founding Myths” by The Cynical Historian.

The primary wish that I had as a result of watching that video was that there would be an article or book to provide the same information presented in the video. I have not done a lot of research but so far have found nothing like that. However, at least the video provides 'chapters' so one can skip to one of the ten myths rather that than rewatch or just scan by speading to find something to be re-watched.

I researched “The Cynical Historian” to learn his name, Joseph Hall-Patton, and his age 34, along with the fact that he is working on a Ph.D. at the University of New Mexico. The tentative title of his dissertation is “Great Excitement: Incidents of Violence in the American Southwest, 1848-1919.”

The other aspect is a list of all the books and articles on which the video is made. I just counted that list – it is eight, most of which are books but two are just articles. At the end of the text notes linked to the video is the following:

The ten misconceptions addressed in his video:

  1. Founders wanted Judeo-Christian values

  2. Founders were fully original thinkers

  3. Our government/revolution began in 1776

  4. Slavery drove the Revolution

  5. Independence birthed a modern nation

  6. It was a conservative revolution

  7. The constitution is flawless

  8. Founders were like-minded men of the people

  9. Patriots rebelled primarily because of taxes

  10. Liberty means small government

The big help of the video is that it makes it clear how the history of our country's founding is far more complex than most of us think about it. A simple example that was cited was July 4 as a national holiday. The Declaration on which that holiday was based was actually completed on July 2 – and the signing of it was not completed until sometime in August – and July 4 was not adopted as a holiday until June 28, 1870 – after the Civil War!

One of the chapters – I do not remember which one – also indicated that the USA really only became a nation as a result of the Civil War – I don't remember exactly what the point was, but it was true that apparently that residents of some states – maybe all – viewed the state as their 'nation' not the United States under the constitution – they may have viewed that as just a cooperation to defend against the British empire – I'm not sure.

Several chapters do a good job of making it clear that the current campaign by Christian fundamentalists to establish the US as a Christian nation – or, in their thinking, to simply re-establish what was a basis of the founding. The facts about the thinking and believing of the founders, of course, makes it clear there was no such consensus about the formation – and nothing in the Declaration or the Constitution says anything that supports the fundamentalists' assertions.

Good job on putting slavery into context as well – to disprove a common current argument that slavery drove the foundation of the US. No, it did not – yes, it was present in the country but rejected by a Civil War – and other states had rejected slavery much earlier. A quote from online: “July 2, 1777. In response to abolitionists' calls across the colonies to end slavery, Vermont became the first colony to ban it outright. Not only did Vermont's legislature agree to abolish slavery entirely, it also moved to provide full voting rights for African American males.” That is amazing to those of us who hear that slavery was so much a part of the entire nation.

I also liked the chapter on the 'conservative revolution' assertion – Joseph does a good job of making it clear on what that assertion is based – and what is incorrect and incomplete about that view of the foundation.

Also the assertion that the constitution is perfect – to be honest, I haven't heard that assertion very much – if ever – but I do not doubt that Joseph puts that up there because some number of our citizens probably do have that view – sadly, in my opinion, because they don't bother to read the constitution or any history about its creation.

Anyway, “10 American Founding Myths” is a video I will likely refer to occasionally – and perhaps even one or more of the eight sources referred to in the associated text. I also noted that Joseph has a very long video discussing – among other subjects, the book “Myth America: Historians Take On the Biggest Legends and Lies About Our Past”. For me, it is just easier to get the free sample provided by my Kindle – which I am now reading.