Historian Savagely Schools GOP Rep Who Wonders 'What the Founders Would Say' About Stay at Home Orders
Echoing outgoing President Donald Trump's rhetoric, many Republican lawmakers have voiced opposition to precautions designed to slow the spread of the virus that's killed over 300 thousand Americans.
One of the most major points of contention has been regarding community shutdowns and stay-at-home orders requiring non-essential businesses to close their doors or limit capacity and urging private citizens to only leave their homes when necessary.
While no one wants to shut down businesses frivolously, these measures have been components of the most effective strategies for slowing the spread of the virus. Nevertheless, Republicans say these measures are draconian efforts to control Americans and deny them freedoms.
Congressman Jim Jordan (R-OH)—one of Trump's most ardent followers in the House of Representatives—is one such politician.
On Tuesday, Jordan pointed to those affected by shutdowns and implied the founding fathers would have disapproved.
60 million Americans are subject to a stay at home order or curfew.
11 million are right here in Ohio.
What would the Founders say?
— Rep. Jim Jordan (@Jim_Jordan) December 29, 2020
Jordan asked "What would the Founders say?" about issuing stay-at-home measures.
Historian Kevin Kruse had an answer.
There was a massive smallpox epidemic during the American Revolution.
George Washington quarantined the infected, refused to let people from hot spots travel to his army, and even sent a thousand soldiers to Boston to prevent the spread there. https://t.co/WueBNEnnj6
— Kevin M. Kruse (@KevinMKruse) December 29, 2020
Kruse pointed out that American soldiers in the Revolutionary War were fighting the spread of smallpox just as urgently as they were fighting the British, who were largely immune to the disease due to its endemic nature in Europe and the immunity enjoyed by its survivors.
Washington initially quarantined his troops amid the Siege of Boston in 1775 before eventually enforcing mandatory inoculations, writing to future President John Hancock in 1777:
"This Expedient may be attended with some inconveniences and some disadvantages, but yet I trust in its consequences will have the most happy effects. Necessity not only authorizes but seems to require the measure, for should the disorder infect the Army in the natural way and rage with its usual virulence we should have more to dread from it than from the Sword of the Enemy."
People echoed Kruse's point that quarantines and stay-at-home orders are nothing new, even among those living in the times of the Revolution.
This idea that the founders would have laughed at our Covid quarantining measures has been circulating in right wing circles since March.
They need to read up on the Philadelphia 1793 yellow fever outbreak.
— Len (@LenPldaniel) December 29, 2020
I often wonder how many of these people would have survived WWII era restrictions...
"What do you mean I have to ration gasoline? I am an American and I can drive anywhere I want."
— Greg Woods (@diygreg) December 29, 2020
1/ What would the Founders say about millions of people under curfew?
First & most important:
There was no single block of "Founders." There were different people w/different opinions, so they would say a range of things.
There's no simple answer to that question
That said... pic.twitter.com/VPdV3RWuCA
— Dr. Joanne Freeman (@jbf1755) December 29, 2020
"The Founders" WOULD agree on the existence of something called the "common good."
This, too, had no simple meaning.
The "common good" of who?
Even so, they recognized that--one way or another--gov't should protect it in some way
In a way, government is a big "we"
— Dr. Joanne Freeman (@jbf1755) December 29, 2020
And to think I was mildly patronizing about the measures taken by Parliament and the privy council against the plague in Tudor and Stuart England. At least they mastered "quarantines, burning infected bedding, and isolating victims in pesthouses." https://t.co/JXyXSgo6PI
— Claire Berlinski. (@ClaireBerlinski) December 29, 2020
In July of 1776 the entire of city of Boston was closed so they could safely inoculate for smallpox. It lasted months and no one could leave once it began. They did it again in 1778. The Founders would be proud that the government was protecting its citizens from disease. https://t.co/xfiKiWhoga
— Andrew Wehrman (@ProfWehrman) December 29, 2020
The Founders enforced quarantine orders with armed militias to preclude intercity travel during an epidemic, and John Adams used a ten-minute-long State of the Union address to call for expanding federal authority to coordinate epidemic response. https://t.co/DP3CfXLqGd
— tedfrank 😷 (@tedfrank) December 29, 2020
People were grateful for Kruse's and other historians' fact checking.
History Twitter coming though again. https://t.co/8NwvnSsAq5
— Salix Sericea (@Ripple13216) December 29, 2020
Gotta' love a good historian!! https://t.co/CcqBF59tmZ
— I'll breathe deeply 1/20/21 (@Danigirl65) December 29, 2020
I love when the historians show up to teach twunts like Gym. https://t.co/0AK7wYlsgj
— Adi (pronounced 80) (@PrincessAdi12) December 29, 2020
Meanwhile, Jordan's original question was turned on its head by his critics.
You enthusiastically support a President who regularly abuses the powers of his office, believes he's above the law, lies every time he opens his mouth, and is a dangerous authoritarian who is trying to overthrow the will of the people.
What would the Founders say? https://t.co/7H4zlIWQUK
— Joe Walsh (@WalshFreedom) December 29, 2020
Our founding fathers would say “I can't believe Ohio elected a complete idiot to Congress." https://t.co/Mo4AxFRYF9
— David Weissman (@davidmweissman) December 29, 2020
What would the founders say?
“You're embarrassing us, son." https://t.co/vON0MICVor
— Connie Schultz (@ConnieSchultz) December 29, 2020
For the past eight days, the nation has seen over 100 thousand new positive tests a day.