What the Founding Fathers knew

Of all the interesting programming on Minnesota Public Radio this week, David Rubenstein’s story of the Declaration of Independence has to be the near the top of the list:

Good programming inspires debate and at Casa News Cut, we’ve been debating some of Rubenstein’s points that he made in his 2009 speech at the Aspen Ideas Festival. Like these assertions:

— The Founding Fathers didn’t considered the Declaration of independence a piece of propaganda.

— Thomas Jefferson didn’t say a word at the convention. And never gave a single speech as president. He would rather write than speak.

— Jefferson got the writing gig because he was from Virginia. John Adams might have gotten the assignment had he not been from Massachusetts, a state considered too much in favor of independence. Virginia was not. (This seems like an odd assertion, given that the point of the exercise was to declare independence.)

— “All men are created equal.” The Founding Fathers didn’t really believe it, as evidenced by the fact several slaves accompanied Jefferson to Philadelphia. “Whenever someone says ‘it’s not about the money,’ it’s about the money,” Rubenstein said. “And when they say something is self evident, it’s not.”

— Ben Franklin was asked to edit the Declaration but did so lightly because he knew Jefferson was fairly prissy about being edited. It was Franklin who changed the language to say “self evident.”

— July 4th has no particular significance. The agreement to decare independence was actually made on July 2nd, but officials forgot to celebrate the date a year later, until July 4th.

We made one mistake in preparing the Midday Web page for this broadcast, however. We didn’t say who David Rubenstein is. He’s not a historian. He runs a private equity firm.

At the same event, he spoke about the economy and said the Great Recession would be over by early 2010. After this week, the jury is still out on that one.