“I wish it were possible, from this instance, to invent a method of embalming drowned persons, in such a manner that they might be recalled to life at any period, however distant; for having very ardent desire to see and observe the state of America a hundred years hence, I should prefer to an ordinary death, being immersed with a few friends in a cask of Madeira, until that time, then to be recalled to life by the solar warmth of my dear country.”
~ a letter that the all-too modern Benjamin Franklin might have written
If the Founding Fathers could be revived from cryonic suspension in 2005, what would they think of America? What would they think of their descendants? How long would they stay out of jail?
Some things would seem familiar, yet improved. A modern bookstore would be a cornucopia to a man from 1790; even a moderate-sized Barnes and Noble would more than equal any library they had ever seen. Amazon.com would truly be a wonder. Whole new fields of knowledge have come into being, and even events in their own times would be more clear with our present-day hindsight. The rest of the Fathers would no doubt be very interested to read about Ben Franklin’s moonlighting job.
After they got done pummeling Franklin, the group might catch up on their political reading. They would find a lot that was familiar. It would not surprise them to read about corruption or special-interest lobbying. It would not surprise them to find that the U.S. President had somehow acquired the power to declare war, print money, or to arbitrarily jail "evildoers" in Cuba. They had always been concerned about the tendency of rulers to accumulate power.
Most or all of them would be glad to see that chattel slavery had been abolished, though not so glad to hear that uniquely in this country it was done with mass bloodshed.
Scientific advances would be very encouraging to them. In their time, there was no certainty that man would ever have engine-powered ships, let alone be able to fly. The proliferation of antibiotics and vaccines would impress them, as would the fact that microscopes allow us to actually see our microbial enemies. But there would be a sense of foreboding when they heard that men had once walked on the Moon, but could no longer do so… and that private citizens are not allowed to own the nuclear rocket engines developed 40 years earlier. Some of them would see the parallel with the abject subjects of the Chinese Emperor of their time.
The change that would separate them irrevocably from we moderns would be our thorough domestication. When told that Americans had been banned from owning handguns in the nation’s capital and elsewhere; that people are given long prison sentences for selling opium, hemp, or cocaine; that the government not only taxed at will but confiscated property at will; they would ask: “Where are the Committees of Correspondence? Where are the rebellious state governments, the rebellious cities, the rebellious people? Where are the Americans?”
Of course we would have to shamefacedly reply that there are no rebels; there are no "Americans." All of us simply allowed the freedoms they laid out in the Constitution to be peeled away one layer at time. Today we all simply accept that the government can print any amount of money it wants and give it to whatever dictatorship it wants; we can’t even know how much of our labor they give away. We accept that incumbent Congressmen are always re-elected. We accept that the Federal government not only maintains a standing army, but maintains it in nearly every country of the world. Washington and Hamilton might even stop kicking Franklin long enough to admit that he was right about one thing: making the Imperial Eagle our symbol was a bad idea.
So, once the Founders were here in our time, what would they do? They were, after all, talented and intelligent, many of them home-schooled; they would have no trouble learning modern skills. Would they get jobs with Halliburton and Archer-Daniels-Midland, and live at taxpayer expense? Or would they go back into politics, and try to promise more free medical care, education, child care, etc. than the next politician?
Somehow I doubt it. I think if Thomas Paine were here to write recruiting webzine articles, and Jefferson, Adams, Ethan Allan, etc. were here to lead, that the Americans of 1790 would prevail over the Homelandians of today. I think the strength and clarity of their thought would rapidly overcome all the technical advantages of the modern Imperium.
Unfortunately, Alcor wasn’t around in the early 1800s when most of the Founders died, so we’ll never know. We’ll have to do the job ourselves.
Bill Walker [send him mail] works as a Research Associate in telomere biology at an undisclosed (thanks to legal threats from his tax-financed employer) location.