In Brands’s telling, the end of the Civil War brought about the first great uplift in the Founders’ reputation. Twentieth-century jingoism, fueled by war, made criticism of the Founders impolite. And somehow, over time, they’ve become the Ghosts of Democracy Past: courageous, learned, and super-judgey.
If they were resurrected in today’s America, the Founding Fathers would find themselves awash in founders, most notably the never-ending stream of gurus from Silicon Valley encouraging us to fail fast and embrace the maker within. But our reincarnated Founders might find a more fascinating set of peers outside America. Around the world, revolutions are giving way to constitutions and governments, and the makers of these institutions find themselves wrestling with many of the same challenges our Founders faced. What should be the role of religion in our society? What exactly do we mean by “equality,” and who gets to have it?
Of course, they’d also find many new realities.