The Founding Intents of the United States of America.
The United States was founded as a nation where wealthy interests would direct government policy and decide economic development at the exclusion of the general population.
The founders of the United States and their circles of affiliation were the pillars of the economy. They were taxed and regulated by a foreign power who provided them no benefit and hindered their westward expansion. (1) As is now, is the same as it was then, wars were fought for the interests of the wealthy by the members of the poor. After the first six months of the war, the patriots who fought parttime and went home could no longer sustain the war effort. The founders and their affiliates addressed the lack of commitment to the revolution by raising a mercenary force from the most desperate members of the population. Historians wouldn’t call it a mercenary force, historians would contend that Washington made appeals to the wealth behind the independence movement to pay the military, but this is less accurate. The historical narrative implies that the soldiers of the continental army enlisted for the cause of independence and were paid. When in fact, an army couldn’t be maintained to fight in the interest of independence without the promise of payment. Meaning the primary motivation of the American revolutionary was money, not independence. A revolutionary fights for liberation, whereas a mercenary fights for money. At the conclusion of the revolution soldiers were paid in a devalued currency, and many were forced to sell their land grants at fractional value to survive. (2)
1: Office of the US Historian, “Proclamation Line of 1763, Quebec Act of 1774, and Westward Expansion. https://history.state.gov/milestones/1750-1775/proclamation-line-1763
2: Justin Ewers, 6/27/2008, “Why the Patriots Really Fought”. US News. https://www.usnews.com/news/national/articles/2008/06/27/why-the-patriots-really-fought
The American revolution for most of the population didn’t have much impact on their direct interests. The British tyranny didn’t significantly affect the lives of most colonists, which is evident by the necessity to raise a desperate mercenary force, desperate from economic conditions independence had no bearing on, to create a revolution. This obviously isn’t an argument that the American Revolution shouldn’t have happened, it is an argument that the interests pushing for independence, recognized that their class-based interests could establish a central authority to serve that class interest.
Politics today as it relates to the general population is similar to how it was then. The tyranny of taxation without representation is whose cry? Is that the cry of the small farmers who make up a majority of the population, or is that the cry of businessmen paying to an authority that isn’t representing their interests in trade, expansion, and regulation? It’s important to know that quotations from the founding fathers seeming to possess the patriotism of people interested in the liberty of the population, are words they spoke in sincerity as they were heard by one another, and to the population as rhetoric without any effect on their opportunity.
If you’re a democrat would you take the words of Jefferson seriously if they were on the lips of Mitch Mcconnel? Of course not. If you’re a republican, would you take the words of Washington seriously if they were on the lips of Nancy Pelosi? The same as it is easy for democrats to see republican politicians are lying, and republicans can see that democrats are lying, but neither can see who is lying to them, is the same as the founders of this country lied to people about their intents for revolution and the constitution consolidating power in a federal government.
My attention is on the founding intentions, what the founders wanted to accomplish as well as what they accomplished as it relates to what exists today. How they discussed their interests and who the power the government they created was intended to serve. I’m most interested in the creation of the constitution. Bear in mind, I’m not taking anything away from the United States constitution in respect to the rights it guarantees, but the articles that create the function of government and its relationship to the population is something else entirely.
The basic structure of government consists of the executive branch, the legislative branch, and the judicial branch of government.
Legislative branch is composed of the house and the senate. The house consists of proportionate representation of the population, and the Senate is a statically populated body purported to give states representation in government after they relinquished their sovereignty to the federal authority.
Madison wrote in the Federalist Papers Vol 10
…the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society. … ”
At the constitutional convention in 1787 Madison states,
“if elections were open to all classes of people, the property of the landed proprietors would be insecure. An agrarian law would soon take place… Landholders ought to have a share in the government to protect these invaluable interests and to balance and check the other. They ought to be so constituted as to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority poor and this body should be the senate.
States could impose their own requirements for holding office and voting, and Senators were selected by state legislatures. No matter who selects or elects senators, it is still a hindrance to the popular will, because the number of senators is not proportionate to the population. A smaller number of people is easier to influence than a larger number no matter what the means of influence is. If the government was the house only without the senate, it would be very easy once complete suffrage was achieved to popularly elect a majority in the house and a president to facilitate the will of the public.
The purpose of the Senate wasn’t solely an effort to obstruct the popular will, it was also an effort to pander to those concerned about state rights as the states were handing over their sovereignty to a federal authority, which is the way it appears in the constitution, the representative of the states. The Senate is an obstruction to the popular will and was also a tool used to persuade those who resisted a federal union to accept it.
Other arguments for the Senate fall apart. For example, we could argue the senate is necessary to protect geographical interests where one concentration of people could impose on the rest if their state held a majority in the house. The United States is too expansive for any state to accomplish such a feat, so the senate is never a check on that power. The lack of diversity between the states creates like interests between states, meaning no federal legislation can be passed that unduly imposes on the interests of any one state without it also imposing on the interests of other states. For example, legislation wouldn’t be passed that exclusively imposed on the rights of Rhode Island that didn’t also impose on the rights of many other states, therefore, representation by population would suffice to serve and protect the interests of a state.
The executive office of the president is intent on vesting power in an individual to operate the state. The requirement of the president’s approval for legislation is an unnecessary check on popular power, intent on obstructing democratic process, and has nothing to do with his position. The executive’s job is to run the government, to appoint people to agencies and execute legislative ideas that are supposed to reflect the interest of the public. In a world where representatives represent the will of the public, how can a president decide to veto legislation that expresses this interest and claim he presides over a popular form of government?
The other major impediment to democracy is staggered term duration. 2 years for representatives, 4 years for the president, and 6 years for senators, but only 1/3rd of senators elected in any one election. The structure requires for popular interests to become entrenched in government over many elections before they can be represented. Entrenched interests are not popular interests because elections rely on money to promote candidates and messages. Money was just as important then, as it is now in election campaigns. Obstructing the legislative process allows the entrenched interests of wealth to fend off any popular movement that could be adverse to their interests.
People are taught checks and balances on power within government are to prevent the population from passing legislation that either harms the interest of the whole or imposes on the rights of others. This argument doesn’t have much merit because legislation is subject to the judicial oversight of the SCOTUS which ensures the rights of citizens are protected. As to “a number of citizens…united by some common interest, adversed to the… aggregate interests of the community”, the argument falls apart on itself. Madison defines a republic as “the delegation of government to a small number of citizens elected by the rest”. A small number of citizens are elected to represent popular will or intrest. The argument is we should prevent the expression of popular will, because the popular will may be harmful to popular interest. At face value, the argument against democracy, combined with Madison’s idea of a republic, is an argument against government itself, where “we the people” shouldn’t legislate because in doing what we want, we could harm ourselves. That is what is expressed but isn’t what is meant. What is meant is we should prevent the expression of popular will “to protect the minority of the opulent from the majority poor”.
Government is delegated to this small number of citizens for the purpose of efficiency in execution, to execute the popular will through government which is created to advance our common interests. The argument is the will of the people will be harmful to the interests of the people. Madison, as the chief architect of the constitution, wasn’t interested in creating a government that efficiently facilitated the will of people to power but created a system that had the appearance of inclusion that would create democracy for economic elites, at the exclusion of popular interests. If democracy is tyranny by the majority, and therefore we need to obstruct the process to ensure careful deliberation on legislation, then we should see this tyranny across the country right now, since city governments consist of 1 legislative body and 1 executive.
These arguments were not made in a neutral climate as is often implied; where the founders were imagining the merits of political organization absent their interest or perceived threats around them. The same tactics used today in the “manufacture of consent” were used then.
Poor people after the revolution, many of whom were participants in the war, whose pay was often nearly worthless, were subject to increased taxes that benefited the economic elite. What little property they may have had was being seized and people were being sent to debtor jails. In addition to debts, seizure, and jail, there was general dissatisfaction in Massachusetts from the economic conditions, and taxes that exceeded anything the common people had ever seen under the British, and that money (metal) was being used to pay the debt to enrich the elite of the country. (3)
3: History.com Editors, 10/31/2019, “Shay’s Rebellion”. https://www.history.com/topics/early-us/shays-rebellion
Daniel Shay led a group of citizens to shut down the courts through protest not lethal force, because if the courts could not proceed property orders couldn’t be produced to seize property or send people to jail. Without a federal army a militia was financed by 125 merchants to put an end to the resistance. Shay and others with their demands going unattended, attempted to raid the Springfield armory. They surrendered without firing a shot, after being fired on with grape shot by a cannon that killed 4 and injured 20. Hardly a serious threat to the confederation, but the incident was used to create fear among the deciding classes that there could be an armed insurrection, that could be a threat to their property, and even more terrifying, could lead to popular government. The words of Madison in the Federalist Papers and at the Convention in 1787, take place on a backdrop of this kind of propaganda.
Shay’s rebellion, although modestly armed, many with clubs and pitchforks, for what little it accomplished materially, began as a group of protestors, until the state refused to adequately address their demands. What was interesting is the response to it. As would be expected today, pretexts were manufactured for the justification of policy intent on protecting state interests; which as they are today, are the same as the interests of the economic elite. Samuel Adams claimed the British were behind inciting the citizens which was a pretext used to justify the suspension of habeas corpus, allowing for people to be put in jail and remain there without appearing before a judge. In addition to making insignificant concessions and the suspension of habeas corpus, the legislature also granted sheriffs the power to kill insurgents, while a proposal created by John Adams prescribed execution for anyone taking part in protests. Even though the execution policy wasn’t enacted, it is still a form of legislative terrorism, as the threat of the policy aims to persuade the population not to participate in acts of civil disobedience, for fear of being executed. (4)
4:Wikipedia “Shay’s Rebellion”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shays’_Rebellion Execution of protestors consideration and British tampering pretext. Source: Zinn, Howard (2005). A People’s History of the United States. New York: HarperCollins. Pg 93 125 Merchants gave money to raise militia to stop Shay and protestors. Source: Szatmary, David P. (1980). Shays’ Rebellion: The Making of an Agrarian Insurrection. University of Massachusetts Press. Pp 84-86
Samuel Adams is quoted
“Among the natural rights of the colonists are these: First a right to life, secondly to liberty, and thirdly to property; together with the right to defend them in the best manner they can.”
Except when the liberty of the colonist could threaten the property of the state or the elite, then the right to appear before a judge, to protect the right of liberty, is no longer the right of the colonist. Or when the colonist attempts to defend his right to property, he can be deprived of his right to life by the sheriff.
Another Samuel Adams quote
“How strangely will the tools of a tyrant pervert the plain meaning of words!” (5)
5: American History Channel Staff, 8/27/2019 “Sam Adams Quotes”, R. Squared Communications LLC. http://www.americanhistorycentral.com/entries/samuel-adams/view/quotes/
Like the tool of a pretext to suspend habeas corpus, to pervert the words colonist rights to liberty, life and property. I don’t know the context of the quotes, but the quotes are cited in numerous places without context, so their meaning is taken by most who see them at face value. This was pre-constitution, and the point is to show an example of contrast between the words of politicians and the actions of politicians during this time. Adams was opposed to the constitution, having participated in drafting the Massachusetts constitution and being an important state figure where the consolidation of power did not benefit him.
Robert A Mcguire and Robert L. Ohsfeldt used a quantitative analysis technique called Multivariate Logistic Regression to determine the interests that determined what issues were important at the convention, as well as the voting tendencies of delegates and how those tendencies reflected the delegates economic interests, and the interest of their constituents.
“The types of economic interest that mattered for the choice of specific issues were likely to have counted for a substantial portion of the overall wealth or represent the primary livelihood of the founders… Had there been among the ratifiers, fewer merchants, more debtors, more slave owners, more delegates from among the less-commercial areas,… there would have been no ratification of the constitution…The modern evidence suggests that constitutions are the product of the interests of those who design and adopt them.” (6)
6: The Political Economy of the Constitution, by Robert A. McGuire, University of Akron, pp 23,26, and 29.
If most people’s interest was not the same as the interests of those who voted to ratify the constitution, and if those interests would have decided the fate of the constitution, they would have decided it differently; then the constitution is a product of an economic elite agenda responsible for its creation as McGuire states. The issues that were important during the constitutional convention were the issues of people with business interests distinct from the interests of the general population. There were no substantial considerations concerning how the poor small farmer would develop his land, pay off his debt to avoid being thrown in jail, or any other issue important to people struggling to maintain or in need of opportunity. Most of the country was small farmers, craftsmen, and poor laborers, and their interests were unattended and unimportant at the constitutional convention of the United States.
“I believe it to be a fact that the great body of yeomanry (small farmers) are in decided opposition to it (constitution). I may say with confidence, that for 19 counties adjacent to each other 9/10ths of people are conscientiously opposed to it…You have not solid reality, the hearts and hands of the men who are to be governed. Have gentleman no respect for the actual dispositions of the people in the adopting states?” (7)
7: The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution Digital Edition, ed. John P. Kaminski, Gaspare J. Saladino, Richard Leffler, Charles H. Schoenleber, and Margaret A. Hogan. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2009. Canonic URL: http//rotunda.upress.virginia.edu/founders/RNCN-02-10-02-0002-0013-0001 [accessed 11 Feb 2013] Original source: Ratification by the States, Volume X: Virginia, No. 3
Aside from the general interests of the revolution related to trade and expansion was another interest of great importance. States issued bills of credit to finance the government which were used between colonists as a form of currency. The state paid the bills off allowing them to be used to pay taxes. The bills of credit lost value as more bills were issued than were collected in taxes. During the period after the revolution until the establishment of the constitution, these bills of credit were purchased by investors for fractions of their value, and many of the creditors of this debt were involved in arguing for the new federal government to assume this debt. The federal government did assume and pay this debt in full in 1790. (7)
7: Wikipedia “The Funding Act of 1790”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Funding_Act_of_1790
“quantitative studies contend that the Constitution was neither drafted nor ratified by a group of disinterested non-partisan demigods motivated only, or even principally by high minded political principles to promote the nation’s best interest”. (8)
8: McGuire pg 22
“Many others question an economic interpretation because they question whether the founders were really attempting to solely, or even to principally, enhance their personal wealth, or the wealth of those they represented, as a result of adopting the Constitution. Of course, the founders were not.” (9)
9: Ibid pg 31
I do not see how this is obvious? If an individual’s votes can be largely predicted based on his economic interest, then his economic interest is demonstrated to be a governing principle; and since this principle carries more weight than other principles, then principally, how were the founders attempting to do anything other than enhancing their personal wealth (and protecting it) through the adoption of the Constitution?
Bills of credit were issued by states for spending that largely excluded benefit by the public, and these were governments that were not representative of the public in consideration of limits on suffrage. These notes circulated among the public and could be used to pay taxes, therefore the value of these notes was determined by the relationship between owed taxes and notes in circulation. As the proportion of notes increased, the value of the notes declined, leaving people with accumulated surpluses. Currencies became devalued and sometimes worthless because people selling goods would not sell goods for certain currencies. People sold this currency for a fraction of its value, to have something of value rather than nothing. The people who buy it, buy it because they believe it will be paid, but take a risk in it not being paid. Most people who sold the bills of credit were obviously people who were most in need, and naturally those who purchased the debt were not in need. After investing, those who purchased the notes were the same people or were affiliated with people who created the constitution. They bought the debt from poor people for a fraction of the cost, and then ensured that the bills of credit were paid in creating a central authority in the federal government
Oliver Ellsworth for example, had invested in, argued for, and voted for articles that had a direct effect on his personal investments. Ellsworth stated “U-S heretofore entered into Engagements” (by Congresses) “who were their agents” (10) and “will hereafter be bound to fulfil them by their new agents.” In other words, the states elected by their constituents issued bills of credit, and the formation of the new federal government, has an obligation to pay these debts.
10: The Heritage Guide to the Constitution https://www.heritage.org/constitution/#!/articles/6/essays/132/debt-assumption
Ellsworth held states debt, then argued for and voted for an article in the constitution for that debt to be assumed by the federal government and paid to him from the taxpayer. (11) Ellsworth also forecast the economic realities for most people in this country with the following quote arguing against southern states importing slaves: “As population increases, poor laborers will be so plenty as to render slaves useless”. (12)
11: Beard 1921 pg 88,89, “he appears in December, 1791 with 1330.50 in deferred sixes, 2660.98 in funded sixes, 1995.75 in 3 percents.” Source: MS. Treasury Department: Connecticut Loan Office Ledgers A, B, and C. Folio 21 in each volume.
12: Slavery and Sectional Strife in the Early American Repbulic, 1776-1821. 2010 Gary John Kornblith
No need to import slaves, because the system we are creating will lead to a mass of poor people who will be desperate for work. The labor market will be so advantageous, that it will cost less to pay a man wages for work than it will be to take care of him. Something that is literally true today, as many working poor people receive state benefits because their wages are unable to provide for their needs. (13)
13: CBS News, 11/20/2020 “Millions of Full Time US Workers Receive Federal Healthcare and Food Assistance”. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/millions-of-full-time-u-s-workers-receive-federal-health-care-and-food-assistance/
The most revealing statement about what the system of American government was designed to represent, is written in a letter from James Madison, the chief architect of the constitution, to Thomas Jefferson.
In 1791, Madison wrote to Jefferson, “The subscriptions (state debt) are consequently a mere scramble for so much public plunder. It pretty clearly appears, also in what proportion public debt lies in this country, what sort of hands hold it, are by whom the people of the United States are to be governed.” (14)
14: http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-20-02-0266 Madison to Jefferson, July 10th 1791
This is a clear admission that the government was designed intent on being controlled by wealth. How else do we interpret the acknowledgment that those who held public debt would be financially enriched, and the next statement “in what proportion public debt lies in this country… are by whom the people of the United States are to be governed”? An admission of governance by wealth, from the chief architect of the system. These are the kinds of statements that cause the intentions this country was founded on inconsistent with a republic, democracy, or liberty in opportunity for all. Otherwise, the financial enrichment of a few through the federal government assuming and paying off state debt, would have nothing to do with “whom the people of the United States are to be governed”, unless you were establishing a system to be governed by wealth; then the fortune they made through “public plunder” qualifies them as the governors of the plutocracy.
It is important for the American people to know that what they see today where money decides matters of the state, is not an innovation on a system created by the people for the people where the people is inclusive of all classes. The United States is the product of an economic elite agenda to create a strong central government to advance their economic interests, where divergent economic interests could be settled democratically through their (not your) government. It should come as a surprise to no one, that at every point in this country’s history moneyed interests have directed the power of the state.
Every government, having either the façade of a popular form or an overt tyranny, exists by way of collective consent. Power ultimately depends on the ability to effectively distribute information that has the appearance of credibility to manipulate the values of the population. This ability to disseminate information the same as is today, was then, and was in between those points, determined by money. In democratic governments money decides elections. The structure of American government is designed to prevent popular interests from being represented by obstructing democratic processes through the separation of legislative authority, where popular movements can be discouraged, fragmented, and ultimately dissolved.
The constitution is designed to maintain the basic structure and functions of branches of government, where solutions like dissolving the senate, stripping the senate of the ability to legislate, or striping the president of veto power isn’t feasible without throwing the whole thing out. As far as basic rights are concerned the founders did a good job protecting individual rights, not because they were concerned with your rights, but because they had to protect their own. The last thing they would want to do is to create a system of government that became popularly controlled and was then used against them. They did well to protect individual liberty, because they were individuals.
One way to weaken the influence of money in politics would be to increase the number or representatives, by tripling or quadrupling the number of districts. This would create addressable challenges in legislating but would reduce the impact of money in politics as campaigns would be more dependent on direct local interaction. Individual races become less important, and there are only so many hours in a day to persuade public opinion through advertising and media. The constitution guarantees states the right to equal suffrage, so in addition to potentially quadrupling the size of the house, the senate would also need to be increased in size, perhaps instead of two senators from each state we would expand it to 8. The president’s veto would be addressed through this expansion, as a popular government where the representatives and senators were truly representative of the popular interest, by refocusing their attention on local campaigning and creating a reliance on the public, would allow the president’s veto to be overruled more easily than it is presently. Of course, this may not achieve the desired result because money could just as well focus all their efforts behind the senate and the president to protect their interests.
I don’t recommend this course of action because I believe no matter how the legislature is constituted; money will decide matters of the state. I know of no example at any point in history in democratic governments where this hasn’t been true. This is why I believe Centers for Economic Planning are the only way to achieve democracy, through an institution, possessed of assets, under the firm control of the public, possessed of the means to participate in investment politics on behalf of the citizens.