Friday, October 9, 2009

The Founding Nobel

Ok, all the talk on the "blogosphere" is centered on President Obama's big Nobel Peace Prize. And yes, this has nothing, absolutely NOTHING to do with our blog.

But I thought this might be kind of a fun, mindless question to pose to you all: If the Nobel Prize existed in the 17th and 18th centuries, who would you nominate and why? Perhaps we need a few parameters as preface: you can only select one founding father, one pastor, one British citizen, one person from continental Europe and one "wild card."

Have at it!


Brad Hart said...

Ok, since I posed the question I might as well give my answers.

Founding Father Nobel winner: Thomas Jefferson. The Dec. of Ind. pretty much makes him a lock, not to mention his presidency.

Pastor: Still not sure on this one. I'll get back to you.

British citizen: Sir Isaac Newton.

European continent: Montesquieu. His "Spirit of the Laws" was extremely influential to the formation of the United States...and the French republic.

"Wild Card:" John Locke.

Gregg Frazer said...

Not to be contentious -- but rather CURIOUS -- why mention Jefferson's presidency?

It seems to me that his only achievement was the Louisiana Purchase (which he thought to be unconstitutional, at that). Much of his presidency strikes me as dismal failure -- the NonImportation Act, the Embargo Act, sending something like 1/8 of the national treasure to the Barbary pirates as tribute, etc.

He didn't think his presidency important enough to put on his own epitaph!

I ask not to start a fight, but because it's become commonplace among scholars to rank Jefferson in the top 5 of presidents -- but I don't understand why. Perhaps someone could enlighten me?

I know -- it's a rabbit trail, so never mind if everyone wants to ignore it. But the post was introduced as non-germane, so ....

Brad Hart said...

Good question, Greg. I like Jefferson's presidency for one reason: it overturned John Adams' presidency. Adams, like many Federalists, wanted to see the gentry class dominate American politics. Jefferson (at the very least) opened the door for those outside such a class.

Douglas Kennedy said...

My pick for founding father would definitely go to Alexander Hamilton, who defined the function of our federal government, wrote more than half of the Federalist Papers, and brought the United States out of its first depression. An impressive resume for any founding father.

I really have to think about pastor.

British citizen would definitely be Isaac Newton.

My continental European citizen would be the Marquis de Lafayette who helped construct the Declaration of the Rights of Man.

My wild card is a tie between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.

By the way I am doing a study of past republics that will soon start on my blog so check it out.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I share Gregg Fraser's general disdain for Jefferson, who happened to get the D of I right, but little else. And Jefferson himself wrote that he wasn't innovating, merely putting to paper "the American mind."
Even Brad's praise is ironic per Obama's Nobel, in that his greatest praise is for winning an election, not actually accomplishing anything. Jefferson, like Obama, accomplished far more in the rhetoric game than in real life.

As for Jefferson defeating the George HW Bush of his era, John Adams, shows that then as now, America is seldom presented with great men to choose from for the top job.

As for Brad's puzzler, I can think of only the anti-slavery hero William Wilberforce from Britain, and perhaps Edmund Burke for his support for and attempts to reconcile the American colonists' rightful grievances with the British parliament, thereby avoiding war.

And of course for his opposition to the French Revolution, altho the Nobel is given out to Jacobins, not to opponents of the bad guys. Neville Chamberlain could win, but not Churchill.

Ouch. I wish I were kidding...

Oh, and from America, let's throw in [via Wiki]:

The principal organized bodies to advocate this reform were the Society of Friends, the Pennsylvania Antislavery Society and the New York Manumission Society. The last was headed by powerful Federalist politicians: John Jay, Alexander Hamilton and Republican Aaron Burr. Thanks to the considerable efforts of the NYMS, New York abolished slavery (gradually) in 1799.