The Instigator
Con (against)
4 Points
The Contender
Pro (for)
3 Points

Would our founding fathers of America approve of current government

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/20/2014 Category: Politics
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,370 times Debate No: 55103
Debate Rounds (3)
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Votes (2)




Our founding father envisioned a small government that was primarily responsible for war and foreign relations. However, the federal government has grown to control the retirements, health care and a lot of things that are not allowed by the constitution laws. Do you think the founding fathers would approve?


Hello, happy to be debating this round. My position, for this resolution, will be that the Founding Fathers of the United States, that is, people like George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison, would approve of the current government of the United States writ large, as viewed through the lens of American Constitutional law. I cannot defend every possible objection, of course, but I think through this round I will demonstrate that, on the macro level, the Founding Fathers would accept the current system of governance.

I look forward very much to this debate and to Con's arguments. Let the debate begin!
Debate Round No. 1


The basic theory of American Judicial review is summarized by constitutional legal scholars and historians as follows: the written Constitution is fundamental law. It can change only by extraordinary legislative process of national proposal, then state ratification. The powers of all departments are limited to enumerated grants found in the Constitution.

Health care and social security are not enumerated in the Constitution therefore illegal for the federal government to over see them.


Thank you for this round. I will begin with three contentions, then I will respond to Con's argument.

My first contention is about the philosophical background of the Founding Fathers. The Founding Fathers were quite a varied bunch with regards to policy views and, indeed, the future of the country; for instance, figures like Jefferson envisioned a small government with states' rights and an agrarian society, while Hamilton envisioned a larger, more powerful federal government to regulate the increasingly industrialized fledgling America. As a result of these varied views on the role of the government, when viewed through the context of the Constitution, I find it difficult to generalize about policy; certainly, Jefferson would not be a fan of some policies, Washington others, etc.

However, the philosophical grounding of the new Republic was, primarily, in John Locke's "Two Treatises of Government," which set up basic ideas about rights and governance. Locke's conception of rights centered around the idea that all men are created equal, and have equal rights claims with regards to things like property, etc. We see this enumerated in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, though full actualization of this has been an ongoing process. With regards to governance, Locke envisioned a republic, whereby the citizens would elect representatives, who would then reflect their views in a legislative body. The government would be complete with an executive and a judiciary, who would be able to check and balance each other. So long as this fundamental system remains in play, the Founding Fathers would certainly accept the basic premise of the Federal government.

My second contention will regard Constitutional law; I understand that Con really enjoys the 9th Amendment, but he has not dealt with the multiple other and somewhat conflicting provisions buried within. I will cite two, in particular, that justify actions like health care, social security, etc.

The first of these is the "necessary and proper" clause located in Article I, Secton 8 of the Constitution. It states that, "The Congress shall have Power ... To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof." Essentially, this is a sweeping clause which allows the government to enact laws related to implicit rights in the Constitution, and has been cited since McCullough v. Maryland to enact regulations on the economy, to enact Social Security, etc. What this clause, in effect, does, is to magnify the powers of the federal government beyond those expressly enumerated.

The second of these is the "commerce clause," located in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution as well. It states that, "The Congress shall have Power...To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes." What this means is that the Federal government has wide-ranging powers to regulate economic policies that affect citizens in disparate states. Social Security was also justified along these lines, and a strong argument could be made to support health care.

My final contention will regard reading of the Constitution. I see that my opponent espouses strict construction, but never actually justifies it. I, rather, support a more vivacious reading of the document, that allows the government to change as society changes. I think it necessary to view the Constitution in the manner since many things, including education, health care, the Internet and other technological advances, and changes in social policy necessitate a flexible government. The Founding Fathers could not possibly envision such changes, and surely they would not wish to keep the United States in the 1700s.

Essentially, I am endorsing the living document perspective. In order for the government to even function, it must have a flexible system of laws that can change as the times do. The Founding Fathers foresaw that they could not foresee everything, and, thus, they included provisions, including the ones listed earlier, to account for this. A government, in the 21st Century, could not function is made as small as Con is advocating, and, surely, being the pragmatists they were, the Founding Fathers would recognize this.

Moving on to Con's argument, he states that, essentially, the Tenth Amendment exists. Unfortunately, he never weighs the Tenth Amendment with the other provisions in the Constitution; indeed, the Tenth Amendment is widely perceived as unnecessary, since it is implied that if a power is not granted to the government, it does not have it. However, using the clauses I mentioned earlier, none of the programs mentioned by Con betray this Amendment, as seen through various lower-court challenges.

Con's characterization of judicial review is, plainly, wrong. Judicial review is the concept, enshrined since Marbury v. Madison, that the judiciary, up to the Supreme Court, has the power to rule laws unconstitutional.

More importantly, Con never gives us any framework or real arguments to weigh; he merely asserts his opinion on the matter. I hope to see more substantive arguments next round.
Debate Round No. 2


"allows the government to change as society changes".

I don't see a government with constantly changing laws is a good government. If laws are made to be changed at will, why make it at the first place. Laws are not there for convenience, but for order.

The founding father would want a smaller government, not a government that resembles the controlling British parliament.

In America, we value liberty, what that means is free from government intervention.

As for health care, we should encourage self sufficiency and not government free hand outs. Every one has to work for their living.


Thank you for this interesting and lively debate. I will start with an overview, and then move on to conclude along my three contentions.

Con has, once again, failed to give us any real argumentation. Many things are claimed, from "laws are not supposed to change," to "The Founding Fathers would want a smaller government," to "we should encourage self-sufficiency." Unfortunately, we have neither sources nor argumentation behind these claims; without either one, I think we can simply disregard these on face, though I will discuss them later on. All in all, when you compare the clear framework and argumentation that Pro has provided with the assertions that Con has offered, this round becomes quite clear before I even post a third round.

1. Philosophical Justification

I have argued that the Founding Fathers had quite varied and disparate views regarding policy, especially along the Federalist/Democratic-Republican rift. Thus, I argue, it is quite difficult to actually weigh policy proposals in any meaningful manner; rather, if I have proved that the philosophical grounding of the system of governance and the constitutionality of most laws remains intact, then I win this round.

I have argued that, most importantly, the background of the Founding Fathers was Locke's "Two Treatises on Government," which sets up an ideal republic, which was emulated by the Founding Fathers. Con has given us no reason to think that this system has been compromised in any manner. Provided this is the case, that there are still checks and balances, elections, and debates, the Founders, even if they disagreed with policy, would still approve of the system of governance, which is far more important than petty policy proposals.

The only real counter we get here from Con is the idea that Americans like liberty, which means being free of governmental intervention. Firstly, no source or argument, just assertions here. However, I will dispute this on face; liberties are enumerated in the Constitution, meaning that, sometimes, the government can interfere, without impinging the civil rights and liberties agreed upon in the social contract. Since, later, I will assure that the Constitutionality remains intact, than these rights are not being impinged, and liberty is not being blocked in any meaningful way.

2. Constitutionality

Con literally never engages with my discussion of constitutional law, so I will keep things brief here. However, the "necessary and proper," and "commerce" clauses of the Constitution give the federal government wide-ranging powers to regulate, to legislate, etc. Health care reform, social security, etc. all fall under this umbrella, and Con has given us no reason to think otherwise. Provided these provisions ARE constitutional, and have been approved as such by the Supreme Court, the Founders would surely, even if disagreeing with some policies, have no issue with the government writ large.

Here, I would also like to engage with my opponent's argument that health care is a handout. The Affordable Care Act is that: a law to make health care more affordable and accessible. The only people getting care for free are those who are poor and eligible for Medicare/Medicaid. Giving these people free health care is beneficial; greater access to preventative care lowers medical costs down the line, leading to lower prices for everybody. Moreover, in the United States, even if one is without insurance, medical facilities MUST give care, meaning that is paid for by the taxpayer anyway. Unless Con truly advocates a country where people are dying in the streets because they are trapped in the cycle of poverty, this point is irrelevant.

3. Spirit of the Law

I have argued that the Constitution must be flexible to meet changing societal needs. Con argues that changing laws is bad, because laws are not meant to be changed so as to provide order. I do not think I really have to explain how little sense that makes, but I will expound further.

Many parts of our society today the Founders could not have anticipated: for instance, the Internet. New laws must be made to reflect this new change in society. Thus, the Constitution must be open, for instance, to protecting privacy rights, even on the Internet, though this is not enumerated in the Constitution. Changing laws are necessary to provide order, therefore; imagine a world where there are no traffic laws, environmental laws, etc. They are not in the Constitution, but they are absolutely necessary for the government to maintain order and carry out its powers.


Absent significant argumentation on Con, Pro should win this debate on face. However, even when evaluating arguments, I have conclusively shown that the philosophical grounding of the republic remains intact, that new laws are constitutional, and that the Constitution must be flexible. If I have proved any of these, than I win today's debate; the Founders had varied views, but they were united in their belief in a Republic and in a Constitution. I uphold all of these.

I urge a Pro vote. Thank you.
Debate Round No. 3
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Vote Placed by the_unknown_debator 2 years ago
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Total points awarded:40 
Reasons for voting decision: Con made the better argument.
Vote Placed by FuzzyCatPotato 2 years ago
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro backed up his claims.