The Founders are a major citizen faction and political party in the United Republic of Columbia. Their name relates to the fact that they see themselves as the true founders of the city, and they attempt to model their ideals after the Founding Fathers of the United States. The party promotes ultra-nationalism, religious zealotry in the divinity of Father Zachary Hale Comstock, jingoism, militarism, elitism, anti-semitism (although as the party grew more moderate in their views, they eventually gave up this part around the same time that they gave up on it's Homophobia and Ultra-religious zeal) and extreme xenophobia, and is at war with the anarcho-communist resistance group known as the Vox Populi. Central to their ideology is the belief that Elizabeth will lead them to an apocalyptic cleansing of the world below, remaking it to Columbia's image. They also believe that a "False Shepherd" will attempt to lead her astray. Columbia's police force and military are both aligned with the Founders before the Civil War. as of now, the Founders is one of the many major political factions found in Columbia.
In 1890, Booker DeWitt distinguished himself at the battle of Wounded Knee by scalping and burning alive a large number of Native Americans; thus, earning the nickname, "The White Injun." While Booker was seen as a hero among his fellow soldiers, he was personally disgusted with himself. He then sought to be baptized to start a new life. In one universe, Booker rejected this baptism. In another, he accepted and renamed himself Zachary Hale Comstock. Comstock, now a born again Christian, also had a good political reputation for his service at Wounded Knee. Between 1890 and 1893, he convinced Congress to fund the construction of his visionary city of Columbia. With the support of Washington and Rosalind Lutece's floating atom theory to levitation it, Columbia would officially launch in 1893.
Comstock, with a growing ego and public persona, spawned a cult by declaring himself a prophet and claiming an angel named Columbia had given him the vision of the city. He cemented his followers' devotion through the use of Tears. Using the Lutece Device, he would look into another dimension and see a future outcome. Comstock would then make a prophecy, and when it occurred the astonished citizens were fooled into worshiping him. He claimed that the Founding Fathers George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin were saints in the Angel Columbia's eyes. In Honor of this, his followers named themselves the Founders.
In addition to their fervent devotion to Father Comstock, the Founders also embraced his extreme beliefs, notably aggressive white supremacism and classism. White, middle- to upper-class Protestant citizens had access to all of the city's privileges, while non-whites and Irish Catholics were segregated into much poorer conditions. This underclass generally only appeared in proximity to the Founders population in positions of servitude. Various forms of propaganda reinforced this class division. History was rewritten from the Founders' viewpoint to justify Comstock's ideology and his seizing control of the city. This included the events of Columbia taking part in crushing the Boxer Rebellion in China, and Comstock's decision for Columbia to secede from the United States. Children were indoctrinated into these beliefs, and Founders' children were encouraged to enter the city's military force at a young age.
The Founders embraced their women's equality, allowing them to join the city's militia, army and police force. They were progressive in adopting advanced technology, namely the city's quantum-based levitation system and the body-warping Vigors. Rosalind Lutece, a brilliant female scientist, was still not exempt from sexist jokes, but she was still largely respected as the most eminent scientist in all of Columbia. Elizabeth, following the passing of Father Comstock, was expected to lead Columbia and deal with the world below.
The Founders, aside from being a political party, have different branches ranging from manufacturing conglomerates to cults and militants. The main manufacturing and goods producing company in Columbia, Fink Manufacturing, is a Founder owned company. The Fraternal Order of the Raven is a shadowy sect dedicated to enforcing Founder beliefs in racial purity. The city's police force and military are headed by Founders.
For 1912, Columbia's military and police forces are forward-thinking as far as sexual equality is concerned. Women are allowed to serve in front-line duty alongside men, and to reach ranks at least as high as commissioned officers. The military standard issues both semi and fully automatic weapons to their troops. This is novel, as armies at the time were reluctant to do so because early self-loading firearms were unreliable, and commanders were concerned that soldiers would "waste ammo."
The Founders' primary recruitment source is Columbia's White Protestants. The Founders are supported by the majority of Columbia's middle and upper-class citizens, with the affluent district of Emporia being the center of their power. The party's leaders are all extremely wealthy, and are supported by Columbia's business elite. One, Jeremiah Fink, is allegedly among the wealthiest men in the city. The Founders indoctrinate Columbia's young, to create future loyal supporters, and recruit them into the police and army to uphold the Founder ideology. Elaborate propaganda pieces, such as Soldier's Field, are employed for this purpose.
The Founders' ideology heavily incorporates symbolism, most of it associated with the United States' Founding Fathers. The city's three main symbols are as follows:
- The Sword, championed by George Washington. It exemplifies strength, courage and military prowess. Following the death of Lady Comstock, the Sword also grew to symbolize vengeance against Columbia's enemies.
- The Key, championed by Benjamin Franklin. It symbolizes wisdom, and is occasionally used among the population to signify intelligence.
- The Scroll, championed by Thomas Jefferson. It represents justice, righteousness and moral guidance.
Other factions and individuals within the Founders also developed symbols of their own: for example, the Fraternal Order of the Raven, tasked with avenging Lady Comstock, worship the raven (so that they may watch over the city) and the coffin (for their self-perceived failure to protect Lady Comstock) alongside the Sword. Jeremiah Fink splits society into lions (the elite), cattle (workers) and hyenas (dissidents), going so far as decorating his Beast contingent's armor with golden lion heads.
In addition to these symbols, the Founders also worship certain individuals: Most notably, Father Comstock, their leader, whom they see as a divine prophet. Lady Comstock is seen as a saint, especially following her death. Elizabeth is worshipped as the Lamb of Columbia, and is Comstock's planned successor. Elizabeth's jailor Songbird is viewed as a guardian of the city. Even Monument Island, where Elizabeth is initially held captive, is held to be almost sacred, which caused great distress among the population when it was partially destroyed. Conversely, figures opposed to Comstock are demonized: Daisy Fitzroy and the Vox Populi are associated with the Devil, whereas Booker is hunted down for being the False Shepherd, a figure who Comstock prophesied would arrive to corrupt Elizabeth. Abraham Lincoln is vilified because of his acts against the Founder's racial beliefs.