In America's bid for independence, most rightly give credit to Founding Fathers George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin for sowing the seeds of our great nation.
But bitter partisan disputes over matters that still ring familiar today, including taxation and wealth distribution, divided camps into radicals and conservatives, and it was conservatives who saved the American Revolution, says author and historian David Lefer.
Lefer stakes his claim on a lesser-know group of conservatives who were united in their quest to preserve capitalism and tradition. Among them: Robert Morris, John Dickinson, Phillip Schuyler, and John Rutledge.
"The idea that the revolutionaries, the Founding Fathers, were divided into radicals and conservatives was actually well established at the birth, at the start of the 20th century," Lefer told Newsmax in an exclusive interview. "No one has ever written a book about the founding conservatives, who saved the American Revolution."
Lefer has done just that. His new book “The Founding Conservatives: How a Group of Unsung Heroes Saved the American Revolution,”
traces modern conservatism back to the American Revolution.
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This group of courageous conservatives kept radicalism in check, and focused on a strong military and a stabilized economy.
"The radicals really pushed for a fast, rapid push for independence, and really predicted a much faster war; they thought it'd be over in a few months," Lefer said. "Conservatives were the ones during the revolution who said, This is going to be a long, drawn out conflict; we're fighting the most powerful military machine in the entire world, the British military, and we need to be better prepared."
This group delayed the push for independence, making the country better prepared, Lefer laid out in “The Founding Conservatives."
Then, once war began, the men bolstered troops with weaponry parlayed from France.
Each man had a crucial role to play:
- "Robert Morris founded the first bank in the United States," Lefer said. And it was Morris who fought ferociously to preserve personal freedom. "The radicals in the revolution actually came close to passing a law; they took over the government of Pennsylvania, and they came close to passing a law restricting the amount of money anyone could possess. If you possess more than a certain amount of property, the government would come in and seize it. And conservatives said, You are not going to do that, and they fought tooth and nail."
- Morris "basically, singlehandedly financed the American economy after it fell off a cliff, and, out of his own pocket, he paid Continental soldiers who were mutinying. They actually refused to march toward Yorktown and he broke open these casks of gold and silver coins to pay them because in many cases they hadn't been paid in months or years,” according to Lefer.
- "You have John Dickinson who penned the Articles of Confederation. Without Dickenson, many of his contemporaries said Americans would not even have opposed British oppression in the first place," he said of Dickinson.
- Lefer said it was Phillip Schuyler's practical input that aided Americans in the battlefield: "Phillip Schuyler engineered the crucial victory at Saratoga."
- Lefer added it was John Rutledge who became a savior for South Carolina: "John Rutledge [who was] the governor of South Carolina, basically became South Carolina's one-man government in exile after the government took over, and he rallied the forces, which eventually drove the British from the state."
It's clear conservatism began during the American Revolution, Lefer added: "Most histories trace the birth of conservatism back to Edmund Burke, the British statesman who attacked the excesses of the French Revolution. I discovered through my research that the founding conservatives said the exact same things as Burke and held very similar positions.
"They said it about a decade and a half before Burke . . . Conservatives and liberals alike should not look to Europe for the birth of the conservative tradition. We have our own legitimate, homegrown conservative tradition that we need to look to."
The implications for modern conservatives are critical: "One of the most important lessons the founding conservatives can offer modern conservatives is that one thing was changing drastically during the American Revolution and that was greater equality . . . you had groups who had never had the right to vote or even to run for office before suddenly gaining immense political power, and conservatives had to learn, they had to craft a new message so they could appeal to these new voters."
The Republican Party of today could learn a thing or two from Robert Morris and crew: "If you look at today, modern conservatives are also facing a radically changing electorate. The demographics of the United States are changing, and the modern conservatives have to look back to what the founding conservatives offer, which allowed them to stay in power. And what they offered was prosperity.
"They said, If you follow us, if you follow our belief in free market capitalism, as opposed to the price restrictions and controlled economy that the left wanted during the revolution, we will lead you to greater prosperity.
"And that's a message that can appeal to all Americans no matter what the era."
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