An Elitest Constitution
Uploaded by jmurdoch on Nov 11, 2001
Did the American Constitution embody the principles outlined in the Declaration of Independence? The prima facie answer would be yes. Looking deeper and remembering that during the Age of Empires the world ran on money, force of arms and enlightened self-interest, that the answer is now it depended on who you were. Application of the occasional Machaivellian twist to some of the Founding Fathers decisions will be used to support this view point.
The Declaration of Independence said that “men were entitled as a Creator given right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. And that as long as a government did not infringe upon these it could have the obedience of the people. The document was influenced by philosophers such as Montesquieu and Thomas Paine - notably his “Common Sense”. The famous phrase “life liberty and the pursuit of happiness” was inspired by the “Second Treaties on Government” writen by the English jurist Locke. Although in Locke’s version, the last word was one more in keeping with reality than revolutionary rhetoric it was “property”.
In 1787 representatives of the 13 states met in Philadelphia to revise the articles of confederation. These representatives were mostly from towns on or near the coast and also ranked amongst the financially successful of the time. Indeed 40 out of the 55 were owed money by the treasury department. Instead they created a new totally new national government And the democratic society that Americans had fought for on the War of Independence was to shortly become an elitist capitalistic republic.
So what was wrong with the Confederation and also the colonial system they had just broken away from ?
Madison said, referring to the Confederation, "A government which relies on thirteen independent sovereignties for the means of its existence, is a solecism in theory and a mere nullity in practice" cited by Mitchell(1975)
Under British rule the founding fathers had seen the effects where any one branch of a government managed to wield too much power and wanted they to create a system where such ministerial abuse would be impossible. Contrasting this was how to balance the freedom of the citizen from interference from central government while maintaining a system that protected the rights of minorities from an abuse of majority rule in a republican structure without exposing the government to the dangers of mob rule.
The delegates considered that the states of the Confederation were...