FOREWORD BY RAY SMOCK, PHD
Historian, US House of Representatives (1983–1995)
Director, Robert C. Byrd Center for Legislative Studies
“Tired of people bellowing at you about the founding fathers? Then read Michael Austin's quiet, good-humored, thought-provoking book. Not only is That’s Not What They Meant! a welcome breath of fresh air about a stale subject, it also captures the most important truth about the Founding Fathers—they disagreed with one another, eloquently and even bitterly, about what America should be and about how we should govern ourselves.”
—R. B. Bernstein, distinguished adjunct professor of law,
New York Law School, and author of The Founding Fathers Reconsidered
“That’s Not What They Meant! is a long-overdue critique of partisan distortions of America’s Founding Fathers. Author Michael Austin takes both the Right and the Left to task, but he especially castigates the Far Right for cherry-picking (or proof-texting) various founders’ statements and then attributing their sentiments to the Founding Fathers as a whole, as if the founders were a homogenous group of men who agreed on everything and who, if alive two centuries later, would be in perfect accord with ultraconservatives like Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh. Written with both clarity and elegance, That’s Not What They Meant! is a must read for anyone who wants an objective exploration of the American political and constitutional system.”
— David R. Contosta, professor of history, Chestnut Hill College,
author of Rebel Giants: The Revolutionary Lives of Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin
“Provides a much-needed corrective to some of the craziness being promoted by right-wing extremists these days in the name of the Founding Fathers. . . . The real legacy of those Fathers? A political system. In Austin’s words, it’s ‘a system of disagreement, debate, and compromise...that has kept democracy vibrant in America for more than two hundred years.’”
—Davis D. Joyce
Professor emeritus of history, East Central University, Ada, Oklahoma,
and author of Howard Zinn
In 2011, Glenn Beck released a “modern translation” of the Federalist Papers and a new biography of George Washington. In the same year, Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, published a book in which he argued that the Founding Fathers intended the individual states to be more powerful than the federal government.
Each of these books, and many others published over the past few years, presents the Founding Fathers as a group of wise, philosophically indistinguishable statesmen who spoke about timeless issues with a unified voice. In the place of rigorous history, the authors substitute out-of-context proof texts; in the place of real analysis of the remarkable individuals who created America, they offer us a collective mythology of the founding era.
In That’s Not What They Meant! Professor Michael Austin examines dozens of books, articles, speeches, and radio broadcasts by such figures as Glenn Beck, Mark Levin, Sean Hannity, Larry Schweikart, and David Barton to expose the deep historical flaws in their use of America’s founding history. In contrast to their misleading method of citing proof texts to serve a narrow agenda, Austin allows the Founding Fathers to speak for themselves, situating all quotations in the proper historical context. What emerges is a true historical picture of men who often disagreed with one another on such crucial issues as federal power, judicial review, and the separation of church and state. As Austin shows, the real legacy of the Founding Fathers to us is a political process: a system of disagreement, debate, and compromise that has kept democracy vibrant in America for more than two hundred years.
Austin’s carefully researched and rigorously argued book is essential reading for anyone seeking the accurate historical background to many of the hot-button political debates of today.
Shipping Weight: 1lbs
Michael Austin is the author or editor of six books, including Reading the World: Ideas That Matter. He is provost, vice president for Academic Affairs, and professor of English at Newman University.