Lies About American History

One of the things, I learned the hard way while studying history was that my American History classes in junior high and high school were woefully incomplete and sometimes flat out lies.  Since I detest that we continue to propagate these lies, I’m sharing a few that have come to mind lately.

  1. The Founding Fathers intended the US to be a Christian country when they founded it. – *insert annoying buzzer sound*  The majority of our founding fathers were not religious at all they were atheists.  The big three that weren’t; Jefferson, Washington, and Franklin still weren’t Christians.  Jefferson and Franklin were deists which is a religious belief that there is an omnipotent power, but it mostly ignores humans.  Washington was pantheistic which just means he saw God in nature and was more likely to worship a tree than at Church… Oh, he also didn’t believe any one religion was right or any one religion was wrong.  Payne was what we today would call an alienist.  He believed that what most religions referred to as a god or God was actually an alien.   The majority of our founding fathers (there were more than a hundred of them) wanted to keep religion out of the US as much as possible.
  2. The Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth Rock were Puritans.  – Puritans were a fringe religious sect from England that were pretty universally hated.  The Pilgrims were basically Church of England folk not Puritans.  However, Puritans really liked to write about themselves, a lot, and seemed to have the time to do it (which is odd given the whole hard work thing), as a result we just have a better picture of Puritan Life in the early years of Puritans than we do most people who came to colonize the colonies.
  3. The Founding Fathers Worked Together Seamlessly to build the US.  – I don’t know what Kool-Aid this idea came from, but if you think a group of a hundred or so men was harmonious in trying to figure out how to run a country, you have never watched C-Span on a Senate Voting Day.  The Founding Fathers were a lot of things, but harmonious wasn’t one of them.  Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, Thomas Payne, and John Adams were all bitterly divided about how to do things.  Ben Franklin was fond of starting drama and watching it unfold around him while he tried to stay out of it because while he liked watching drama he didn’t want to be involved in it.  Also, Washington was despised for a lot of reasons by his fellow founding fathers.
  4. Pocahontas & John Smith – Everyone seems to know where this lie came from and it was John Smith.  Pocahontas was kidnapped by British settlers and eventually did marry a Brit, but his name was John Rolfe and most psychiatrists think she suffered from Stockholm Syndrome.  She eventually traveled to Britain and toured the country as something of a novelty to gain interest in the American colonies.  It was after she reached some level of fame in Britain that John Smith began to smear her reputation talking about how they had a love affair while he was in the Colonies.  And it worked, because Smith made some money off his so called association to Pocahontas.  Interestingly, Pocahontas didn’t have a clue who John Smith.  There is some evidence to support the idea that Smith wasn’t even in the colonies at the same time as Pocahontas (she may have already been on a ship to England when Smith departed England for the colonies).  Thanks for force feeding us that lie Disney… And my apologies to anyone who calls that movie their favorite, but it’s just not true no matter how much money John Smith and Disney made off of it.
  5. The famous US Inventor Thomas Edison – This story is a little sad really.  Thomas did a lot of good things for the world, but it didn’t include the telephone or the light bulb.  It did involve working at the Patent Office and stealing patents he was supposed to be filing.  This myth was perpetuated because of Nikolai Tesla.  Knowing that Edison was mostly just a thief, left a void and nature abhors a void as does the American Government.  You’d think the government would just give the honor of greatest US inventor to Tesla, but Tesla wasn’t born in the US.  He lived in the US most of his life, but he was a naturalized citizen not born here.  So the government couldn’t give the title to Tesla, who was actually ten times the inventor that Edison was.  But Tesla was sadly American via birth in Hungry and Edison was born in the US.  So Edison won the popularity contest.  For the record, it isn’t just historians that recognize Tesla was a much better inventor and helping hand to the US than Edison, scientists, governmental scholars, and other countries agree with historians that Tesla got a bum deal.
  6. Ben Franklin gained fame for his electricity experiments – the key on the kite is such a staple of young kids everyone, I almost hate to ruin it.  In his day, Ben was known for a lot of things and like Edison, it wasn’t for his inventions or scientific prowess… It was for his drunken debauchery.  Ben really liked his prostitutes and sex and seductions of married women in his circle, and drinking, and drinking, and drinking some more.  Yep, our Founding Father was a lech of the highest order, which is why no one raised eyebrows at the time when he stayed with a friend in England and that friend was the organizer of the Hellfire Club, a secret society best remembered for orgies.  Franklin was so busy drinking and fornicating that he didn’t attend all the continental meetings he was supposed to attend while they were drafting the Declaration of Independence, not that I think the other members minded much, since Franklin was pretty happy watching his fellow founding fathers brawl over little things.
  7. Racism – Most people believe the US has always had a significant degree of racism embedded in it.  However, when they were drafting the Declaration, Race wasn’t even a real thing and people of all nationalities, were allowed to own land.  As a matter of fact, slavery wasn’t an issue in the US until the need for workers was bigger than the workforce.  And Africans were not the first choice.  Most Americans actually wanted to enslave the Irish and Scottish first.  However, they settled on enslaving the Natives, which was a disaster.  The Native Americans still outnumbered the amount of Europeans on the Eastern side of the US when they adopted widespread slavery, which is why it was abandoned.  Native Americans were not okay with Europeans kidnapping their women and children and fought back ferociously… So much so that the idea was scrapped.  Eventually a deal was struck with some European colonies in Africa and the African slave trade was born and out of this grew racism in the US.  Huh, managed to bust two myths with that.
  8. Native Americans were decimated by the first European Settlers – Native American populations were diminished by Europeans moving into the English colonies, but not so much they couldn’t fight back and with the exception of a very small handful, our founding fathers were fine with letting Native Americans be, as long as they were slowly civilized (which is all sorts of wrong).  It wasn’t until our 7th President Andrew Jackson that we began to systemically exterminate the Native American population in what would become the US.  Also, tons of Native American tribes had contact with Europeans long before Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
  9. Finally, we have this notion of individual achievement – We work hard and carve out a name and money for ourselves through our individual achievements like the Founding Fathers… Who has seen at least a copy of the Declaration of Independence?!  I ask because if you look, there are a whole lot of signatures at the bottom.  Jefferson didn’t write it alone, he had tons of help from the Continental Congress members who are the Founding Fathers of the US.  The majority of the men in the Continental Congress didn’t make their wealth through hard work, they inherited it.  Because only rich men had time to hang out with other rich men and talk about a republic.  As a matter of fact, there wasn’t a single self-made millionaire in the group.  Most added to their wealth, even during the time of the Continental Congress, but that is just more proof for something we already know, rich white dudes who don’t go to prison for embezzlement tend to stay rich white dudes regardless of what else they do with their time.
  10. BONUS: Our Founding Fathers were attempting a democratic government – remember the buzzer sound from the first one, repeat it here.  Our Founding Fathers had little use for democracy.  We got lucky they built a republic instead of an oligarchy.  What they didn’t want was for every Jane, Elizabeth, and Mary to vote… Or every Tom, Dick, and Harry, for that matter.  They thought only rich people were smart enough to rule, because they were rich which meant they had leisure time to think about the problems the nation faced and pass laws to solve those problems.  Hence why only land owners were allowed to vote for a long, long time.

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