Monday, November 30, 2015

418. Why The Founders Found Confucian Moral Philosophy Irresistible

In his book, The Idea of America; Reflections on the Birth of the United States, Professor Gorgon S. Wood provided his readers his unique insight on the success of the American Revolution. Through reading of his book, one also will understand more clearly on the founders' introduction of Confucian moral philosophy to the Americans. It shouldn't be regarded as a choice of convenience for the founders' efforts to promote the philosophy in the critical time of the nation.

Professor Wood pointed out correctly, the American revolutionaries' view of the ancient past was very selective. They focused "on the moral and social basis of politics and on social degeneracy and corruption." (p.59) Not only the founders, but the planters also "were voicing a growing sense of impending ruin, whose sources seemed in the minds of many to be linked more and more with the corrupting British connection and Scottish factors but for others frighteningly rooted in 'our Pride, our Luxury and Idleness.'" In addition to the planters, the public in Virginia and other colonies "became obsessed with 'corruption' virtue, and luxury." Therefore, in the eve of the Revolution, the remarkable growth of dissent "suggests some sort of social stress." (p.50)

Naturally, the founders were looking for a kind of moral philosophy to help them build new virtue for the new nation. It was in this vital conjuncture of the US history, Confucian moral philosophy was entrusted the responsibility by the founders to start a new virtue for the liberated Americans.

Dr. Wood's research allows us to understand further on the founding father's efforts to bring Confucian moral philosophy over the Atlantic Ocean to the new nation they created. They saw the need of such a moral philosophy.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

417. The Significance of Confucius Portrait at James Madison's Home

James Madison (1751-1836), the father of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, had a portrait of Confucius hanging in his Virginia home

In his 2013 book, The Founders at Home: The Building of America, 1735-1817, Dr. Myron Magnet made his efforts to examine the reasons why the American revolution the only successful revolution. Readers may get the answer from reading his book. For me, one of the reasons was that the founders drew positive elements and received inspiration from other cultures, particularly Chinese culture. 

The below vivid description of Madison's personal experiences in his Virginia home reveals the significance of Confucius portrait at his house. The fourth president "had lived nineteen years in Montpelier, the columned brick Virginia plantation where he had grown up since age nine or ten, where as a young legislator he had pored over history and political philosophy to help fame his plan for the U.S. Constitution". (From The Founders at Home, p.321)

Saturday, November 7, 2015

416. On Time for the United States to Learn from China

In her blog, Asia Unbound,  Elizabeth Economy pointed out that the United States should learn from China. She said that, "The United States has spent over thirty years trying to “teach” China with, at best, mixed results. I think the time is well overdue for a turnabout in roles. We need to start learning from China." Interestingly enough, she called for the United States to learn from China in 2011.

From this blog and Dr. Dave Wang's published works, readers may have learned, the history that the United States learned from China is longer than the history of the United States. Famous colonists, including the founders of this nation, started to learn from China and adopted positive elements from Chinese civilization in the colonial period.

Clearly, the process of learning from China was started by the founding fathers who borrowed much wisdoms from China, including Confucianism in the founding era.

415. American Confucian or American Socrates

For John E. Remsburg, Benjamin franklin was an American Socrates. The following statement from Franklin can be used to support John's opinion,  “The perusal of Shaftesbury and Collins had made me a skeptic; and, being previously so as to many doctrines of Christianity, I found Socrates' method to be both the safest for myself, as well as the most embarrassing to those against whom I applied it. It soon afforded me singular pleasure; I incessantly practiced it; and became very adroit in obtaining, even from persons of superior understanding, concessions of which they did not foresee the consequence" Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography, p. 17)  Clearly, Franklin adopted Socrates method for reasoning and communication.

In moral cultivation, it is more appropriate to say that Franklin was an American Confucian. Through Dr. Dave Wang’s research, we have learned that Franklin loved Confucius moral philosophy since his young age. He organized the youth group to discuss how to improve one’s virtue. He published chapters of Confucius work in 1737. He claimed the Confucius was his example in advancing his and the human beings  virtue in 1749. We have enough reasons to say that Franklin was an American Confucian by 1749.