5 Answers | Add Yours
At the time the constitution was passed, the only people who could vote were land-owners, and land-owners were white men. Since the framers of the constitution were also land-owning white men, they expected the democracy they were creating to be a wealthy, educated, white man’s democracy. That being said, they also wrote into the constitution an amendment process, so it could be a living document and grow and change with the times.
From the elites' point of view, the Constitution was written to protect everyone's interests. You might think it was to protect only the elites. But really, they would say, what was good for the elites was good for the country as a whole. If the government implemented policies that were good for the elites in the short term, the economy as a whole would be able to grow. This would be good for everyone. It is hard to argue that they were wrong.
The Constitution was written to protect the rights of the minority from the tyranny of the majority. The elites were a minority, so in effect they were protecting themselves, along with other minorities. Obviously, not all minorities were treated fairly: African-Americans and Native Americans suffered horribly.
The Beards argued long ago that this was the case, and while many of their arguments were discredited long ago, most scholars would probably agree that the Framers of the Constitution wished to curtail much of what they saw as the excessive democratization of state governments. In particular, they were alarmed by the actions of state legislatures who issued paper money and provided other means of debt relief. Many of the delegates hoped to create a document that would severly curtail the powers of the states. They were not entirely successful in doing so, but this was certainly their aim, and read in the context of American political thought in the 1780s, the document they produced was fairly reactionary and geared toward elite interests. I'm a little uncomfortable with the idea that "it is hard to argue that they were wrong," because that presumes that the one knows which way events would have gone otherwise. We can only know what the terms of the debate were then. In any case, there is a host of scholarship on this very issue, and I would recommend, among others, two relatively recent books: Terry Bouton's Taming Democracy: "The People," the Founders, and the Troubled Ending of the American Revolution; and Woody Holton's Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution.
Yeah, I think it was. The evidence is simply that while (at least in the US) government was busy declaring the rights of man, they were exploiting racialized slaves to litterally build the country. The Constitution didn't protect man, it protected really rich white guys. In fact, in several states, slavery, the dominion of a man over his slave was written in the Constitution (see The Carolina Constitution). I don't know any Constitution that could scream elitist interest any better. Lastly, notice that while the rights of man were being declared, private property of the means of production was still in place. The Constitution therefore had the effect of protecting the elite de facto, despite making universal declarations de jure--without the material means, to be granted rights is an insult.
That's my view...
We’ve answered 288,540 questions. We can answer yours, too.Ask a question