Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Our Constitution: the people did not speak

The U. S. Constitution is the primary legal and political document in our history, our heritage, our political organization and our culture.

It was written largely by wealthy white men (about two-thirds of them were lawyers), and about 4% of the population voted for the delegates who ratified it.

Vox populi had nothing to do with it, just saying.

“We the People…” is a bit of an exaggeration.

How we got the Constitution is not a well-known story

I guess some folks may imagine that it was originally written on tablets by those mythical great men, The Founding Fathers.

To make a very long story short, the Constitution is a grotesquely politicized document that was conceived more or less on the sly by colonial delegates whose mandate merely was to fix up the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union (ratified 1781).

The Articles of Confederation permitted little centralized power in the brand new republic, and they proved close to useless in the initial efforts to effectively govern the independent colonies, defend their sovereignty and manage their internal trade and civil affairs.

On February 21, 1787, the Congress convened state delegates in Philadelphia for the “sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation" and to “render the federal constitution adequate to the exigencies of government and the preservation of the Union."

Generally, the delegates were the same elite group of men—wealthy and politically connected—who dominated the state legislatures after the Revolutionary War.

They went hog wild and cooked up the Constitution with centralized “federal” powers that were feared by many political and commercial interests. They did back room bargaining and political horse trading in Philadelphia and among the states to ultimately engineer ratification of the Constitution by state legislatures or specially convened assemblies in 11 states in late 1788. North Carolina and Rhode Island finally joined the crowd in 1790.

By the way, there was no popular vote on the Constitution. In fact, only about 150,000 white men voted for the delegates to state conventions that ratified the document. In 1787, the total white population of the 13 former colonies was about 3,671,000.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

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