In this installment of the Political Uses of the Past Project, the revolutionary generation seems to be on the minds of members of the House. In just the few days covered by this batch of statements, the founders have been summoned to address congressional gridlock, white supremacy, abortion, religious tolerance, transparency, education, and the proposed wall on the southern border. In many cases, here and earlier in this project, our elected leaders conjure our founders to show the rest of us how far we have strayed. The founders would have talked through their differences (unlike us). They would never have linked the words “abortion” and “rights.” And even those founders who held slaves wouldn’t have supported a racist like Rep. Steve King.

The reflexive turn to the nation’s founding isn’t at all surprising, even if this is an unusual concentration of references. But what this project hopes to do is watch this and other topics for patterns over time. Who uses these references and for what purpose? And which uses are actually instructive and useful?The list below continues with a series of references to Martin Luther King (these being from just before his birthday), and then to a set of dueling histories about the border wall, which, by the way is certain to work because, as Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) points out, “fences have worked since the beginning of time.”

Rep. Barry Loudermilk: The nation's founders were able to resolve their differences because they kept talking; this Congress refuses to follow their example

Barry LoudermilkOur strength isn’t because we have always agreed. No, we, quite frankly, disagree. And our disagreements go back to the beginning of our Nation. … It happened during the Second Continental Congress, when our predecessors, those who came before us, the representative body that we now represent, were faced with a very critical decision. That decision was whether to vote in favor of declaring independence against Great Britain.

But just as strongly as John Adams was in favor of independence, you had John Dickinson from Pennsylvania who also was as strongly opposed to independence. … But Dr. Benjamin Franklin understood the power of negotiating, the power of compromise, the power of bringing two sides together, and he began to negotiate. He began to bring the sides together. And by the time they took the second and final vote for independence, he had garnered enough votes to actually pass the motion to declare our independence from Great Britain.We are at an impasse here in this historic Chamber today, not because we have a differing opinion, but because we are even refusing to come together to lay out the facts, to lay out the ideas, and to lay out the various solutions to this problem.

–Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-GA), Negotiation is Critical to Ending the Shutdown, House Floor, January 15, 2019

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Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton: 200 years of separation of powers has made tyrannical rule “nearly impossible” but it also puts the onus on Congress

Eleanor NortonAs a suggestion, I ask that the Democrats appoint a subcommittee and that the administration do the same to sit down and hammer out an acceptable compromise. For more than two centuries now, we have operated under a separation-of-powers government to make tyrannical rule nearly impossible. Even Trump is hesitating to declare an emergency to get his border wall. That throws the ball in our camp, we who are Democrats who control this House. I ask that we accept it, use it, run with it, and settle this matter now.

–Rep. Eleanor Norton (D-DC), Government Funding, House Floor, January 15, 2019

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Rep. Morgan Griffith: Speaker Pelosi's questioning of Trump reminds me of John Adams saying that “facts are stubborn things”

Morgan Griffith“Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” John Adams made that statement almost 250 years ago. I recall his words when House Speaker Pelosi, in arguing against more funding for security at the southern border, claimed that President Trump was “manufacturing a crisis.” The facts on the border establish that a crisis exists.

–Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA), The Crisis at the Border, House Floor, January 15, 2019

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Rep. Doug Collins: “The words of our Founders indict anyone who would believe that white supremacy or actions born out of that world view is in any way defensible”

Doug CollinsIn 1807, President Thomas Jefferson–himself a slave owner–publicly supported the abolition of the slave trade, imploring Congress to “withdraw the citizens of the United States from all further participation in those violations of human rights which have been so long continued on the unoffending inhabitants of Africa.” George Washington said, “There is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do to see a plan adopted for the abolition of slavery.” John Adams wrote that “Every measure of prudence, therefore, ought to be assumed for the eventual total extirpation of slavery from the United States … Benjamin Franklin believed “Slavery is . . . an atrocious debasement of human nature.” Alexander Hamilton cited racial prejudice as something that “makes us fancy many things that are founded neither in reason nor experience.” And James Madison wrote that “We have seen the mere distinction of color made in the most enlightened period of time, a ground of the most oppressive dominion ever exercised by man over man.” The words of our Founders indict anyone who would believe that white supremacy or actions born out of that world view is in any way defensible.

–Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA), Rejecting White Nationalism and White Supremacy, House Floor, January 15, 2019

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Rep. Glenn Grothman: If our constituion was, as John Adams said, “meant for moral and religious people,” how can it permit abortion?

Glenn GrothmanThis decision [Roe v. Wade] directly led to the deaths of over 40 million children who should have been living a full life. John Adams said that our Constitution was meant for moral and religious people. How can a country built for a moral, religious people living under our Constitution allow this to happen?

–Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI), In Support of Life, House Floor, January 16, 2019

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Rep. Bruce Westerman: The founders “carefully articulated” our rights; abortion doesn't fit in with them

Bruce WestermanOur Founding Fathers carefully articulated that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are the human rights that encompass the American way and are the logical foundation for freedom. … Abortion is not a human right. Abortion, to the contrary, is death.

–Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR), Right to Life, House Floor, January 16, 2019

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Rep. French Hill: Egyptian tolerance for Copts would fulfill legacy of Camp David, Jefferson's ideals, and Reagan's call for human rights as the “first obligation of government”

French Hill I encourage Egypt to live up to the legacy of Camp David at home, working to achieve what former President Anwar Sadat called “permanent peace based on justice.” Today in America, we commemorate Virginia’s 1786 adoption of Thomas Jefferson’s Statute for Religious Freedom. … All people around the world, regardless of their religious affiliation, deserve the same freedom to practice their chosen religion like we have enjoyed here in the United States of America for more than 200 years. Permanent peace based on justice for the Coptic Christians of Egypt, that is my goal with this resolution. As President Reagan said: “Respect for human rights is not social work; it is not merely an act of compassion. It is the first obligation of government and the source of its legitimacy.” Mr. Speaker, the respect for human rights and religious freedom is fundamental to the American position, and I will continue to promote this issue for Coptic Christians and all Egyptians who take their water from the Nile.

–Rep. French Hill (R-AR), Supporting Egyptian Coptic Christians, House Floor, January 16, 2019

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Rep. Tim Walberg: Founders were committed to education, which “assured the freedom and opportunity of a Nation and the morality of a Nation”

Tim WalbergIn our Michigan State Constitution, Article VIII, section 1, it says: “Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.” That article–that line was taken from the Northwest Ordinance. I think it showed the wisdom of some of our Founders of this great Nation, the greatest in the entire world, that they understood that education and the means of education gave the opportunity, and, in fact, to a great degree, assured the freedom and opportunity of a Nation and the morality of a Nation that understood the wisdom that came even from the centuries and the ages. I think we would all agree that schools should meet the unique educational needs of children, wouldn’t we? … And why, then, would we question the fact that there ought to be choice? Choice in education, even as we seek choice in our daily lives is what makes America great.

–Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI), National School Choice Week, House Floor, January 16, 2019

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Rep. Ben Cline: Greater transparency will fulfill the vision of the founders for liberty and frugal government

Madam Speaker, in 1788, Patrick Henry spoke at the Virginia Constitutional Convention, where he said: “The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.” Transparency in government is an important principle for the preservation of our Republic. … H.R. 150 would require that data on more than $600 billion in Federal grants be standardized and published on a single online portal … helping to fulfill the vision of another Virginian, Thomas Jefferson, who in his first inaugural said: “A wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.”

–Rep. Ben Cline (R-VA), Grant Reporting Efficiency and Agreements Transparency Act of 2019, House Floor, January 15, 2019

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Rep. James Clyburn: Martin Luther King advised that we can't ignore the words of people like Rep. Steve King

James ClyburnI rise today to address what I call the tale of two Kings, one a Member of this body who wondered out loud to The New York Times why the terms “white nationalism” and “white supremacy” are offensive. … I have just introduced a resolution to express this august body’s disapproval of Mr. King’s comments and condemnation of white nationalism and white supremacy in all forms. Today, I denounce the words of Representative Steve King, and I do so invoking the words of another King, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. … Dr. King counseled that: “We are going to be made to repent, not just for the hateful words and deeds of bad people, but for the appalling silence of good people.”

–Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), Denouncing the Words of Representative Steve King, House Floor, January 14, 2019

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Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee: Martin Luther King would want us to address border issues as “a warrior for justice”

Sheila Jackson LeeMore courts and more judges we need to ensure [asylum cases are heard]. So there is a solution. In the name of Dr. Martin Luther King, I would simply say: let us be a peace finder, and let us be a warrior for justice and find the peace and solve the problem.

–Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Open the Government, House Floor, January 15, 2019

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Rep. Roger Marshall: Martin Luther King would want Congress to work together “to find common good civilly”

I have been thinking of this a lot lately, what Dr. King might say if he was here with us today, as he might see the divisive partisanship that lives among these halls, and I think he would deliver one clear message: We must unify to make meaningful changes. We must bridge the gaps that divide our Nation by working together to find common good civilly. It is no secret that division brings pain and disables our capacity to solve problems. As Martin Luther King said in his last speech in Tennessee, “I wouldn’t stop there.”

–Rep. Roger Marshall (R-KS), What Would Dr. King Say?, House Floor, January 16, 2019

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Rep. Judy Chu: White nationalism created the worst parts of the past but has found a new life even in the most “most diverse and representative Congress in our history”

Judy ChuI rise to reject white nationalism and white supremacy. These philosophies divide us, teach fear, and lead to violence. They are to blame for the worst of American history, from slavery and Jim Crow to the fatal shooting of Sikhs at an Oak Creek gurdwara and Jews at the Tree of Life synagogue. White nationalism led to the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act, forcing Chinese immigrants like my grandfather to be condemned to life as a second-class citizen. … This is the most diverse and representative Congress in our history. The message is clear: diversity has a place in Congress, prejudice does not. But white nationalism is finding a home in politics once again through racist rhetoric and xenophobic misinformation aimed at immigrants and others.

–Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA), Rejecting White Nationalism and White Supremacy, House Floor, January 15, 2019

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Rep. Jamie Raskin: It's Democratic Party, not “Democrat” Party. Or, as FDR preferred, “The Democracy”

The first thing I am afraid I need to point out is that certain of our friends on the other side of the aisle are experiencing a kind of a political speech impediment where they are unable to correctly pronounce the name of our party. We are the Democratic Party, not the Democrat Party. I was reading a biography of Franklin D. Roosevelt recently called “Traitor to His Class,” which was very interesting. He said: “If you don’t want to call us the Democratic Party, call us the democracy.” So those would be the two choices that would be the most suitable, at least from our side of the aisle.

–Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), General Leave, House Floor, January 16, 2019

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Rep. Doug LaMalfa: The 1992 barrier in San Diego reduced border crossings by 92 percent

Doug LaMalfa There areas of our border that already have barriers that are significantly better at preventing illegal trafficking. In San Diego, illegal traffic has decreased by 92 percent since a physical barrier was constructed back in 1992. There are few situations that I can think of where 92 percent isn’t seen as a win and as effective. The fact is that these barriers work.

–Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA), Border Security, House Floor, January 14, 2019

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Rep. Chip Roy: “Fences have worked since the beginning of time” and also in the 1990s in San Diego

The truth is, fences have worked since the dawn of time. Currently, we have 46 miles of reinforced fencing along the San Diego sector of the border. Before construction began in 1986, there were 630,000 arrests. Compare that to almost 32,000 arrests in 2016. Fences work.

–Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX), The Crisis at the Border, House Floor, January 15, 2019

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Rep. Glenn Grothman: US population has a higher percentage of foreign-born than since WWI; and use of foreign language at home has doubled since 1980

Glenn GrothmanNow, let’s look where America is compared to historically. We, right now, have a higher percentage of people born in other countries in America than any time since World War I, and those are people who we can confirm. … The number of people who spoke a foreign language at home in 1980 was about 11 percent. It is now 21 percent. Again, these numbers have not caused Donald Trump to ask for a cut in legal immigration. The American people should realize Donald Trump and the people who want a wall are pro-immigration.

–Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI), Border Wall is not Anti-Immigration, House Floor, January 16, 2019

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Rep. Glenn Grothman: Wall construction has been ongoing since Clinton, and Democrats were all for it

Glenn GrothmanI have to wonder why we can only get eight Democrats to appear to say that it is okay to fund the wall. We have to remember that there is a very effective wall in the San Diego area that was built when President Clinton was President. It is well known that when President Bush was President, the second Bush, we built still more of the wall, and at that time prominent Democrats like Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and Chuck Schumer voted for the wall.

–Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI), Border Wall is not Anti-Immigration, House Floor, January 16, 2019

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Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee: Racial wage gaps have grown larger since 1979

Sheila Jackson LeeRaising the minimum wage to just $12 per hour would save $53 billion in SNAP benefits alone. Wage gaps are larger today than they were in 1979. For example, African American men’s average hourly wages were 22.2 percent lower than those of white men in 1979 and declined to 31 percent lower by 2015.

–Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), TANF Extension Act of 2019, House Floor, January 14, 2019

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Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee: Trump team “disregarded the fact that border apprehensions are at a 45 year-low”

Sheila Jackson LeeThe president and his staff have been routinely and repeatedly corrected and rebuked for their attempts to spread false and misleading information about the state of our southern border. … They disregarded the fact that border apprehensions are at a 45 year-low, and have been dropping since 2000.

–Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2019, House Floor, January 16, 2019

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Rep. Katie Porter: “Californians are, for the first time in our country's history, unable to deduct all of their State and local taxes”

This is the first year that taxpayers will be filing after the Republican tax law was implemented. As a result of President Trump’s tax law, Californians are, for the first time in our country’s history, unable to deduct all of their State and local taxes.

–Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA), Government Shutdown, House Floor, January 16, 2019

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Rep. Garret Graves: “Since 1980, we have had about 220 disasters that have caused over $1 billion in damages”

Garret GravesSince 1980, we have had about 220 disasters that have caused over $1 billion in damages. In fact, when you add all that money up, we have spent about $1.5 trillion in disaster recovery, nearly all of that being emergency spending, adding to our deficit.

–Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA), Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2019, House Floor, January 16, 2019

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Rep. Vicky Hartzler: Again points out that last year saw more overdose deaths than the United States saw fatalities during Vietnam

Vicky Hartzler Last year, 72,000 Americans died from a drug overdose. Now think about that. That is more who died of a drug overdose than died during the entire Vietnam war.

–Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), Border Security, House Floor, January 14, 2019

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