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My Conversation with the Founding Fathers
My Elaborate -- and Risky -- Plan
I was a little nervous in undertaking this, for lack of a better word, "adventure." After all, messing with the past can seriously undermine the present and the future. I was reminded of the science fiction story whereupon a hunter travels back in time to shoot a dinosaur who was about to die anyway, but the hunter had to stay on a pre-determined path. Somehow he happens to step on a butterfly and, when he returns to his the present, the entire world has changed! This was on my mind as I stepped into the HETTS device and set the time and place instrumentation for Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, May 25th, 1787. (HETTS - Hawking-Einstein Temporal Travel Ship named after the two great thinkers who realized time travel was possible and laid the groundwork for the research and the resulting construction of the device. Part of the genius of the device is to be able to travel to a where as well as a when. It's amazing technology but this is not a technical treatise so I won't get into that!)
My thoughts went back to some weeks ago when I came up with this idea, which would have been an impossible task without the invention of the HETTS machine. It seemed to me that the United States was going down a path which the Founding Fathers would not have recognized, much less approved of. If only they had clarified a few things in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights! Man, I wish I could go back and talk to them, I would let them know about some things they might not have imagined to be possible! Then I remembered the HETTS machine. Well, it costs one million dollars and you have to meticulously document your trip and what you propose to do, which is then approved or disapproved by a committee of eminent scientists. Well, I lied to them, saying I just wanted to dress like a colonial and interview some of the Founding Fathers for a local newspaper and, especially, NOT tell them anything about the future. I knew that if they found out what I was really up to they'd never approve of the trip. I also knew that, if I had the desired effect, there was no way they would know the difference because they changes I wanted would, back in my time, would be the norm!
So I mortgaged a few properties I owned and emptied my savings accounts, knowing it would all be worth it. I had to swear an oath not to deviate and sign all kinds of papers and put all the money up front, etc. (all the while wondering how they could enforce these regulations, but that was not my problem). It took the better part of a year, but finally the day came. One of the rules is you cannot take any items of present technology back with you (computers, cameras of any sort, etc.) if you will be interacting with people. I needed my "smartphone" to convince the people I wanted to talk to that I was who I said I was so I managed to sneak it aboard the HETTS machine before they body searched me. Dumb bastards they hire to do this didn't even see me slip the phone under the seat!
So now the day had come. The time travel coordinators went through all the rules and regulations once again to remind me and went over the procedures for return, including what to do if someone inadvertently discovered the machine (a container with an aerosol version of Versed, a drug that makes you forget), and wished me luck. They closed the canopy over my head, I made the Sign of the Cross, and punched the button.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1787
I have to say, Philadelphia in 1787 was nothing like Philadelphia of today. Unpaved streets, horses everywhere (and horse droppings as well). The dress of the people on the streets was pretty much like you see in the movies and I was dressed accordingly. Like Superman, however, I had other clothes on underneath (to help convince Messrs. Washington, Franklin, et al that I was who I said I was). I found my way to Independence Hall (it was the Pennsylvania State House then) and stopped outside. A gentleman was making his way in and I stopped him. "Excuse me, sir, might I ask you a question?"
"Certainly, my good man, but I am in a bit of a hurry as we are meeting today."
"Yes, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention of which I am one. What is
"I believe you just answered it. Tell me, will Doctor Franklin attend today?"
"As far as I know. Who are you and why do you ask?"
I gave him a fictitious name. "My name is Jeremiah Johnson and I need to discuss some matters of great importance with the delegates." I almost said "Founding Fathers." That would have raised an eyebrow.
"Well, Mister Johnson, we do not just let anyone in. You must be a delegate."
"Do you not wish to hear the sentiments of the citizenry?"
"Of course, and we have done so, believe me. But we simply cannot open the doors to anyone. Have you written your concerns down? I will be glad to look them over." He pulled out a pocket watch and looked at it. "Oh dear, I must get inside."
They were written down all right, on my smartphone! "May I ask your name?"
"I am George Mason of Virginia."
George Mason! The man who wanted a Bill of Rights and just the man I needed to talk to! I decided to go for broke. "Ah yes, the major proponent of the Bill of Rights."
He had started to walk away and stopped in his tracks. "How on earth do you know that?"
I thought "what the hell, why not?". I took out my smartphone and showed him a picture of the Bill of Rights.
He put on reading glasses and stared at the picture. "What sort of device is that? And what is that document?"
"Let me show you what kind of device this is." I pointed it at him. "Smile."
Click! "Look." I showed him a picture of himself. His eyes opened wide.
"My good sir, how did you do that? Is this some kind of magic?"
"No, Mr. Mason. It is a device from the future, over two hundred years into the future, as a matter of fact."
He frowned. "I have no time for this trickery, Mr. Johnson. Good day."
"Mister Mason, you ignore me and what I have to say and you guarantee major problems in this country in years to come. And I mean major problems."
He turned back to me. "What is it you want of me?"
"Bring me in there and let me address the Convention. Let them hear what I have to say."
He seemed unconvinced. I had to convince him. "Look, the Bill of Rights which you are fighting for will eventually be incorporated into the Constitution and that is a wonderful thing. But I am here to tell you that if you just change the language a bit and add a few more amendments, then you will be fixing things in the future that you could not possibly foresee."
"For instance, the virtual elimination of religion from public discourse, the dissolution of the American family, the murder of unborn babies, homosexual marriage, the assault on the right to bear arms. Shall I go on?"
What a look on his face! "Are you daft, man? Homosexual marriage? Please go away!"
"Sir, tell you what. Let me show you one more thing." I quickly dialed up one of the videos I had preloaded and showed it to him. A newscaster discussed gay marriage while pictures of men marrying men and women marrying women were shown. The newscaster was speaking: "Several states have now approved gay marriage and the smart betting is that it will soon be the law of the land. Additionally, there is pressure to allow gay couples to adopt and raise children." I stopped the video.
Confused, he said "'Gay marriage?' What is that?"
"In my time 'gay' has become a euphemism for homosexual."
"Why not just call them 'sodomites?'"
"Because it is not 'politically correct.' Please, Mr. Mason, let me address the delegates and all will become clear. I beg of you."
He looked me over for a moment. "Follow me."
The Founding Fathers
Finally! Inside, I found several men sitting around a table in the Assembly Room. There they were, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and a couple I did not recognize. I must say the paintings of these men I had seen many times were quite accurate!
Washington spoke first. "Good morning, Mr. Mason. May I ask who that is with you?"
"Sir, this is Jeremiah Johnson. He claims to be from the future and has important items to discuss with us with regards to our nation's future."
This brought several guffaws. Benjamin Franklin looked over his glasses. "Mister Mason, have you been fooled by a snake oil salesman?"
"No, Dr. Franklin, I have not." He turned to me. "Show them what you showed me."
Before I could respond, Washington stood up. "Mr. Mason, you know we are meeting here in secrecy for good reason and are not to bring someone in. Show the man out now please." He certainly had a commanding presence.
"Wait, gentlemen. Please give me a minute or two. I promise you it will be worth your while."
Washington held up a finger. "One minute, sir, and that is all."
I changed my smartphone into a video camera and aimed it at each of them. "Please say your name as I point this toward you."
"Why on earth for?" It was Washington.
"That will do. Doctor Franklin?"
He smiled and said "Why not? I am Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania."
I turned toward Hamilton. "I am Alexander Hamilton and I fail to see why we are wasting our precious time!"
Washington spoke up again. "Young man, that is quite enough."
I sighed. I replayed the video and held up the phone. Their mouths dropped open as they saw and heard themselves. Franklin spoke first. "How in the name of God is that possible?"
"I told you I am from the future and what I just demonstrated is quite commonplace." I started to remove my eighteenth-century clothing. This brought a few protests but I held up one hand. "Don't worry, I am fully dressed." A minute later they looked upon me in my twenty-first century suit, something I was sure they had never seen anything like. Ever the scientist, Dr. Franklin leaned over and touched the fabric.
"A blend with some synthetic fiber. But that is not important." I turned toward Washington. "Sir, please let the Convention hear me out. I have spent all the money I had and have risked everything to address you today."
Washington turned to the others. "Gentlemen, what say you?"
A few nods and "Why nots" and they turned their attention to me. Washington sat back down. "The floor is yours, Mr. Johnson, but I must warn you, if this is just trickery and you waste our time, I will have you ridden out of town on a rail."
I swallowed hard. He obviously meant it! "Gentlemen, as you well know, you are here to write on one of the most momentous documents in human history - the Constitution of the United States. What you do here in this convention will have repercussions for centuries to come. However, there are negative effects as well, many of them quite serious." I paused. It was clear I now had their rapt attention.
"Go on," said Hamilton.
"Here is what will happen in years to come." I told them about the attempts to construe virtually every public religious display as contributing to the establishment of a state religion. I told them of the assaults of free speech by the "politically correct" crowd. I told them about "gay marriage," abortion, profligate federal spending, huge deficits, and the assault on the right to bear arms. I showed them videos of politicians demanding these things, along with videos of massive demonstrations demanding gay rights, a woman's "right to choose," banning private possession of weapons, and so forth. I showed them a judge being prosecuted for having the Ten Commandments on the courthouse wall. I told them of trillions of dollars in national debt (this brought about cries of "Preposterous" and so forth but then I showed them another video depicting the national debt and to whom it was owed. Many of them shook their heads in disgust. ) I spoke of the (then) upcoming Bill of Rights, which some of them opposed. And then I paused. "And that, gentlemen, is what I implore you to preclude today."
Silence. Finally, Madison spoke up. "What do you propose we do?"
Here we go - make or break time. "First of all, when you finally write the amendments to the Constitution, I suggest the following: insure that the definition of establishing a state religion be written in such a way as to insure no one can use these words to, for instance, remove the words "In God We Trust" from our currency. Write an amendment mandating the government balance its budget every year. Write another stating that marriage shall be defined as between one man and one woman. And yet another stating that the banning of certain medical procedures be left to the individual states and not at the federal level. And when you write the amendment concerning the bearing of arms, I suggest language such as this:
An armed citizenry being the best guarantee against tyranny, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."
Madison, one of the authors of the Federalist Papers, stroked his chin. "I would think the necessity of having a well-regulated militia would take care of this."
"I am afraid not, Mr. Madison. Language such as that will be used to claim only members of an organized militia, police force, or the military can keep weapons, effectively removing them from ordinary citizens. And, I might add, insure that only criminals will own firearms, given that criminals, by definition, do not obey the law."
I noticed that Franklin and a few others were writing furiously as I spoke. Franklin stopped writing for a moment. "Young man, are there actually men marrying other men in, er, your time?"
"Men marrying other men, women marrying other women, people marrying animals, and even inanimate objects."
"Oh, come on." Mason spoke up. "I can believe homosexuals wanting to do that perhaps, but animals? Inanimate objects?"
I dialed up another video with a commentator stating that gay marriage could indeed begin the "slippery slope," with farmers demanding to be able to marry sheep, and an article depicting a woman who "married" a stone wall.
Franklin smiled. "Indeed. But, since in your time you obviously have the capability to record events on that device of yours, how do we know what you showed us is accurate? How do we know you and others like you have somehow contrived those - what did you call them, 'videos?' to suit your purposes?"
Good question. "Sir, I could show you literally hours of video footage to prove my point but, in the final analysis, you will have to trust me. Besides, what could it possibly hurt to better define these rights and help preclude some of the disturbing trends I have shown you?" I paused but no one spoke as they considered my words. "Oh, there is one other matter I am a bit reluctant to bring up because it will undoubtedly be controversial to say the least."
Washington gestured with his hands. "I do not know what could possibly be more controversial than what you have told us, but, please, speak."
I took a deep breath. "If you do not address the issue of slavery, and soon, in a few decades the nation will be torn asunder in civil war. In the long run, the slaves will be freed, but at a great cost. And the bitter legacy left by slavery will be felt far into the future and will have repercussions you cannot even imagine. Besides it is wrong and is an affront to human rights. Yes, I know some of you own slaves. That is all I have to say on that matter."
Again, dead silence. And a few red faces. Washington stood up. "Sir, you have presented us with a list of issues which we have gather here to address, although you have raised some matters that we have not, and possibly could not, foresee. I thank you for your input and now if you would please remove yourself, we will deliberate. And I promise you we will take your words into consideration. Concur gentlemen?" Nods all around. "And with that, we thank you."
I shook Washington's hand. "No sir, it is I that thank you. And thank you Mr. Mason for trusting me. One more thing, all of you, and few that are not here today, especially Mister Jefferson, will forever be known as our nation's Founding Fathers." I noticed Hamilton's eyebrows raise at Jefferson's name but I did not want to get into that! I gathered my belongings and donned my "old clothes" so I would not stand out when I went out of the building. At the door, I spoke once more. "God bless you all and what you do and God bless the United States of America!" I took my leave.
"Back To The Future"
The sun was hot and blinding as I strode out of the building, especially as the delegates had the curtains drawn to ensure privacy. I could only imagine what was now going on inside that hall! Nobody paid much attention to me as I made my way back to the HETTS machine. Insuring there was no one around to see me, I pulled the machine out of the bushes where I had hidden it and got in. I wondered what I had wrought on this day. I cannot imagine that what I did and how it may change the future could possibly be any worse than what my country was turning into in my time. Would it be any better? Will I recognize what I find? Hell, could it be any worse?
With that thought, I pushed the Return button.