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The Elitest Constitution Essay

1764 words - 8 pages

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 ...view middle of the document...

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 too democratic; in that political experience was open to all. The states body politic saw nothing wrong with interfering with the economy if it benefited the members of said body politic. This complicated trade. The British economist Adam Smith had argued that "as wealth increased in scope, government would have to perform still greater services on behalf of the propertied class."From a commercial point of view there was no standardised currency with states issuing their own paper money subject to fluctuating exchange values. The state legislative was run for the benefit of each state first and then other members of the Confederation. Added to this was the militancy of the often heavily indebted agrarian class who had taken to disrupting sales of foreclosed lands, freeing their peers from debtors prison and the occasional food riot. The most famous of these incidents being Shays Rebellion.The delegates at Philadelphia decided to design a new system. According to one Maryland delegate 21 out of 55 initially favoured some form of monarchy but that would never get past popular opinion. The writings of Montesquieu on the separation of powers (that he mistakenly saw in the British government) inspired the Philadelphia convention to adopt a structure where the national executive, legislative and judiciary where totally separate. No one branch of government could act without the co-operation of another. Also the division of power was such that no branch could expand its authority without infringing on that of another branch thus encountering fierce resistance. In Madison's words, cited by Leas(1983) p36, "Ambition must be made to counteract ambition".Then within the federal government power was diffused vertically by the people granting certain powers to the state and others on to the national government. National power would be checked by State power and vice versa. With the people holding ultimate power over both.Apart from the fact the people could not apply this ultimate power. Only the house of Representatives was democratically appointed by the people. Ousting a senator would require control of that states legislative when that senator came due for re-election. By putting political time locks into the system national politicians were immune to the immediate demands of the electorate.This diffusion of power was to prevent the corruption of the system by majorities seeking to impose a new social, economic or political order based on the whims of the day. It would be impossible for one group to seize all the reigns of power and tyrannise the minorities.But who was this minority that the delegates...

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