cj#1136,rn> Now online: Fresia’s “Toward an American Revolution”


Richard Moore


I am pleased to announce that Jerry's book is now online,
complete, just as it appears in print.
You can even click on the footnote numbers to jump between
the text and the Notes.  Each chapter is a separate HTML
file, minimizing download delays.  The Index has not been
cross-linked to the text, and if anyone wants to volunteer
for that task, they won't be turned away.

The book is remarkably short; it covers a broad scope of
important material; and I consider it a must-read for anyone
seeking serious social change.  It should make sense to
those both on the left and the right, and I hope the book's
presence on the web will bring it to the attention of those
can benefit from it.  Ordering information is provided so
you don't need to print it out or read it all on the screen.
 I'll also be sending it in serial form to the lists,
interspersed with other postings.  The first installment



                 [Cover of "Toward an American Revolution"]

                 Available from South End Press website, or

           This book is posted on the cyberjournal website with the
             kind permission of South End Press and Jerry Fresia.


                        Toward an American Revolution

                          Exposing the Constitution
                             and other Illusions

                                Jerry Fresia

                              South End Press
                                 Boston, MA

              Copyright © 1988 by Jerry Fresia

              Cover design by Dan Spock
              Produced by the South End Press collective
              Printed in the USA
              First edition, first printing

              Copyrights are still required for book
              production in the United States. However, in our
              case it is a disliked necessity. Thus, any
              properly footnoted quotation of up to 500
              sequential words may be used without permission,
              so long as the total number of words quoted does
              not exceed 2,000. For longer quotations or for a
              greater number of total words, authors should
              write for permission to South End Press.
              Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication
              Fresia, Gerald John.
              Toward and American revolution: exposing the
              Constitution and Other illusions by Jerry
              p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and
              ISBN 0-89608-298-9: $25.00. ISBN 0-89608-297-0
              (pbk.): $10.00
              1. Elite (Social sciences)--United
              States--History. 2. Social classes--Political
              aspects--United States--History. 3. United
              STates--Constitutional history. I. Title.
              JK1788.F74 1988
              306'.2'0973--dc19    8-14784
              South End Press, 116 Saint Botolph St., Boston,
              MA 02115
                           In memory of Malcolm X

              Table of Contents


              Chapter 1:
                 Afraid To Reflect

              Part I: A Constitution that Disrespects its

              Chapter 2:
                  Counterrevolutionay Tendencies

              Chapter 3:
                  The Constitution: Resurrection of an
                  Imperial System

              Part II: A System of Injustice

              Chapter 4:
                  The Lie

              Chapter 5:
                  The Constitution and Secret Government

              Part III: A Song Without Knees

              Chapter 6:
                  When Protestors Become Police

              Chapter 7:
                  The Need for Revolutionaries

              Appendix A: Constitution of the USA

              Appendix B: Federalist Paper #10




              I would like to thank Kenneth M. Dolbeare, Nancy
              Netherland, Richard Mansfield, Sandia Siegel,
              and Bethany Weidner for their criticisms and
              suggestions, and John McGee for his technical
              support. I would like to thank the members of
              South End Press for their work and their
              confidence in me, especially Cynthia Peters
              whose editorial support was helpful in many
              ways. And finally, I would like to thank my
              parents, Armand and Vera, for their long and
              unwavering support, their insights, and their


                   Rise and demand; you are a burning


              Afraid to Reflect

                   What I relate is the history of the
                   next two centuries. I describe what is
                   coming, what can no longer come
                   differently: the advent of nihilism.
                   This future speaks even now in a
                   hundred signs; this destiny announces
                   itself everywhere...For some time now,
                   our whole European culture has been
                   moving as toward a catastrophe, with a
                   tortured tension that is growing from
                   decade to decade: restlessly,
                   violently, headlong like a river that
                   wants to reach the end, that no longer
                   reflects, that is afraid to reflect.1
                   - Frederick Nietzsche, 1888

              Consider certain features of the lives of three
              men. The first was a very wealthy man. In l787,
              many considered him the richest man in all the
              thirteen states. His will of l789 revealed that
              he owned 35,000 acres in Virginia and 1,119
              acres in Maryland. He owned property in
              Washington valued (in l799 dollars) at $l9,132,
              in Alexandria at $4,000, in Winchester at $400,
              and in Bath at $800. He also held $6,246 worth
              of U.S. securities, $10,666 worth of shares in
              the James River Company, $6,800 worth of stock
              in the Bank of Columbia, and $1,000 worth of
              stock in the Bank of Alexandria. His livestock
              was valued at $15,653. As early as 1773, he had
              enslaved 216 human beings who were not
              emancipated until after he and his wife had both

              The second man was a lawyer. He often expressed
              his admiration of monarchy and, correspondingly,
              his disdain and contempt for common people. His
              political attitudes were made clear following an
              incident which occurred in Boston on March 5,
              1770. On that day, a number of ropemakers got
              into an argument with British soldiers whose
              occupation of Boston had threatened the
              ropemakers' jobs. A fight broke out and an angry
              crowd developed. The British soldiers responded
              by firing into the crowd, killing several. The
              event has since become known as the Boston
              Massacre. The soldiers involved in the shooting
              were later acquitted thanks, in part, to the
              skills of the lawyer we have been describing,
              who was selected as the defense attorney for the
              British. He described the crowd as "a motley
              rabble of saucy boys, negroes, and molattoes,
              Irish teagues and outlandish jack tarrs."3

              The life of the third man was more complex, more
              filled with contradiction than the other two. He
              was wealthy. He owned over 10,000 acres and by
              1809 he had enslaved 185 human beings. States
              one biographer, "He lived with the grace and
              elegance of many British lords; his house slaves
              alone numbered twenty-five." Yet slavery caused
              him great anxiety; he seems to have sincerely
              desired the abolition of slavery but was utterly
              incapable of acting in a way which was
              consistent with his abolitionist sympathies. He
              gave his daughter twenty-five slaves as a
              wedding present, for example. And when
              confronted with his indebtedness of $107,000 at
              the end of his life in 1826, he noted that at
              least his slaves constituted liquid capital. He
              had several children by one of his slaves and
              thus found himself in the position of having to
              face public ridicule or keep up the elaborate
              pretense that his slave children did not exist.
              He chose the latter course and arranged,
              discreetly, to have them "run away."4

              Who are these three men? We know them well. They
              are among our "Founding Fathers," or Framers as
              we shall call them. They are the first three
              presidents of the United States, George
              Washington, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson.

              The brief sketches of these men are but glimpses
              into their personal lives, but some of the
              details are significantly revealing. They
              suggest that the Framers, far from champions of
              the people, were rich and powerful men who
              sought to maintain their wealth and status by
              figuring out ways to keep common people down.
              Moreover, I shall present additional evidence
              about the lives of the Framers, the
              Constitution, and the period in which it was
              written which supports the contention that the
              Framers were profoundly anti-democratic and
              afraid of the people. Some of the information
              may be surprising. In 1782, for example,
              Superintendent of Finance Robert Morris believed
              that a stronger central government was needed to
              "restrain the democratic spirit" in the states.
              Eric Foner tells us that Morris's private
              correspondence reveals "only contempt for the
              common people." 5 Benjamin Rush, "the
              distinguished scientist and physician" from
              Philadelphia and Framer (although he was not at
              the Constitutional Convention), would often
              refer to common people as "scum." Alexander
              Hamilton called the people "a great beast."6 Not
              all the Framers resorted to name calling, but it
              is clear that they feared and distrusted the
              political participation of common people.
              Perhaps even more shocking than the personal
              opinions of the Framers, is the process by which
              the Constitution was ratified. As described in
              more detail in Chapter 3, secrecy, deceit and
              even violence played key roles in the
              Constitution's passage. These unsavory tactics
              were used by the Framers and their allies
              because the majority of the people were against
              the ratification of the Constitution. What is
              striking about this historical fact is its
              similarity with public policy and elite
              decision-making today. At times, the interests
              of elites and the public interest coincides.
              When it does not, however, elites tend to go
              ahead anyway. And because so much of what
              corporate-government elites believe to be in the
              national interest violates accepted standards of
              decency, many public policies are formulated and
              carried out covertly. But the point here is that
              covert and anti-democratic measures are not new
              developments. They have been the method of
              guaranteeing class rule ever since the Framers
              decided that they needed the present political
              system to protect their power and privilege.

              It is contrary to everything we've been taught
              about the Framers to hear that they felt
              contempt for common people and that their
              Constitutional Convention was profoundly
              undemocratic. Indeed such accusations sound even
              less familiar in the context of the late 1980s
              when celebrations of the Constitution's
              bicentennial have brought adulation of this
              country's political origins to new and even more
              mindless heights. In its issue celebrating the
              bicentennial, Newsweek gushed, "The educated men
              in post-Revolutionary America," (and one must
              presume that this includes the Framers),
              "embraced the political tradition of
              participatory democracy, the social pretense of
              virtual classlessness and the economic fact of
              absolute equality of opportunity." 7 The
              "Founding Fathers" are always the champions of
              freedom, justice, and democracy. "Reverence is
              due to those men...," states Time magazine in
              its special bicentennial issue. The "Founding
              Fathers" are always the champions of freedom,
              justice, and democracy. "Reverence is due to
              those men...," states Time magazine in its
              special bicentennial issue. The "Founding
              Fathers" are always the champions of freedom,
              justice, and democracy. "Reverence is due to
              those men...," states Time magazine in its
              special bicentennial issue. 8

              The implicit answer is,Books and celebrity
              television specials packed with familiar myths
              and illusions have been churned out by the
              dozens. The Constitution itself is "the greatest
              single document struck off by the hand and mind
              of man" we are told by the the Commission on the
              Bicentennial of the the U.S. Constitution. Thus
              on the 200th anniversary of the completion of
              the Constitution, former chief justice Warren
              Burger, on national TV, led the nation's school
              children and teachers in a recitation of the
              Preamble ("We the people...") and President
              Reagan led the country in a recitation of the
              Pledge of Allegiance. One of the many books
              honoring our Constitution, We The People by
              Peter Spier, begins by stating that the "U.S.
              Constitution is the oldest and most significant
              written document of our history." He goes on to
              say that the Constitution "has come to symbolize
              freedom, justice, equality, and hope for
              American citizens as individuals and as a
              collective, democratic nation. For two hundred
              years the Constitution has provided its people
              with rights, liberties, and a free society that
              people of other nations can only dream of." How
              familiar Spier's words sound to those of us who
              have grown up in the United States. From our
              earliest days we are taught to glorify the
              Framers and the great American "democracy" that
              is their legacy. Even as adults we are still
              expected to accept the same grade-school,
              cartoon-like version of our founding.

              As citizens we are supposed to be like the
              nation's school children who are given no choice
              but to stand by their desks and mindlessly
              recite a pledge of allegiance to a flag, a
              pledge that was introduced into schools at the
              turn of the century to counter the influence of
              ideas that immigrant school children had
              received from their parents and from distant
              lands. The fundamental purpose of bicentennial
              ideology, then, is to encourage us not to
              explore competing ways of thinking or to ask
              hard questions about our heritage. We are not
              encouraged to think because it is understood
              that thinking sometimes leads to disagreement,
              or worse, to the challenging of some sacred
              text. Instead we are encouraged to believe.
              Efforts to transform thinking citizens into
              believing citizens, we should point out, really
              began at just about the time that the Framers
              were planning the Constitutional Convention.
              Disturbing symptoms that common people were
              ignoring customs of social deference and were
              beginning to think for themselves led some
              Framers such as John Dickinson to urge that
              political instruments be devised to protect "the
              worthy against the licentious." Benjamin Rush,
              in a proposal entitled "The Mode of Education
              Proper in a Republic," stated: "I consider it
              possible to convert men into republican
              machines. This must be done, if we expect them
              to perform their parts properly, in the great
              machine of the government of the state." And so
              it must be done today, if people are to "perform
              their parts properly." The aim of the
              ideological manager is, in effect, the creation
              of millions of "republican machines."9

              Common sense tells us that people who spend a
              good deal of time either acquiring or protecting
              a vast personal empire or defending a king's
              soldiers against the dispossessed would also
              have believed that the possession of enormous
              privilege was just and that protection of that
              privilege ought to be sought and maintained at
              considerable cost. Common sense should further
              compel us to wonder whether such people could
              write a constitution that would effectively
              transfer power from their few hands into the
              hands of the many, that is, into the hands of
              the poor, the debtors and people without
              property. Brian Price, an American historian who
              has spent countless hours studying early
              American elites' rise to power, asks a similar
              question: "Is it possible for a class which
              exterminates the native peoples of the Americas,
              replaces them by raping Africa for humans it
              then denigrates and dehumanizes as slaves, while
              cheapening and degrading its own working class -
              is it possible for such a class to create
              democracy, equality, and to advance the cause of
              human freedom?" The implicit answer is, "No. Of
              course not."

              There is a more specific purpose to all of this,
              however. If we do accept the illusion - the
              Constitution as sacred, a "shrine up in the
              higher stretches of American reverence" as Time
              magazine put it, then the serious problems that
              we face today would have to be aberrations, or
              deviations from the sacred text. The fundamental
              principles embedded within the Constitution,
              because it is "the greatest single document
              struck off by the hand and mind of man [sic]"
              and probably ordained by God at that, are
              intrinsically good. Only the sins of inept
              bureaucrats and politicians or the zealotry of
              ideologues ever get us into serious trouble. It
              follows from this mythology that there are no
              fundamental connections between the Constitution
              and the current crisis. Solving our problems
              always means going back to the Constitution and,
              not coincidentally, to the power relationships
              and privilege in the private sphere (or economy)
              which the Framers sought to protect.

              For example, as Constitutional celebrations were
              unfolding in the summer of 1987, so too was the
              tale of government drug-running, assassination,
              secret government, and private control of
              foreign policy known as the Iran-Contra affair.
              A documentary produced for the public
              broadcasting system, "The Secret Government: The
              Constitution in Crisis," and which aired in the
              fall of 1987, broke new ground by revealing to a
              mass audience some of the facts regarding the
              role that the federal government has played in
              assassinating foreign leaders and in
              over-throwing democratically elected
              governments. Yet the documentary was quite
              explicit in stating that this "secret
              government," rather than possibly having its
              roots in the distrust and fear of common people
              expressed by the Framers or in their protection
              and elevation of private power, is a violation
              of Constitutional principles. Of course, the
              Constitution was never critically examined.
              Instead, the sense of empowered citizenship was
              invoked as the hallowed words "We the People"
              were dragged slowly and dramatically across the
              screen, patriotic music provided the backdrop of
              sanctification, and Bill Moyers intoned, "Our
              nation was born in rebellion against tyranny. We
              are the fortunate heirs of those who fought for
              America's freedom and then drew up a remarkable
              charter to protect it against arbitrary power.
              The Constitution begins with the words `We the
              People.' The government gathers its authority
              from the people and the governors are as
              obligated to uphold the law as the governed."

              So what is missing? Moyers said not a word about
              corporate power, which the Framers chose to
              insulate from popular accountability and which
              has since grown and become concentrated and
              arbitrary in ways unimaginable to elites of the
              eighteenth century. The failure of the
              Constitution to provide checks against corporate
              (private) power can be directly linked to the
              private control of foreign policy. This defect,
              so obviously undemocratic, has become
              increasingly exposed. Moyer's revelations divert
              our attention away from this essential flaw and
              thus serve as a quite sophisticated, albeit
              ineffective, cover-up. Nor did Moyers tell us
              that some government officials such as the
              Director of Central Intelligence, who may spend
              money "without regard to the provisions of law
              and regulations relating to the expenditure of
              government funds," are not obligated to uphold
              certain laws as are the governed. Could it be
              that by design the Constitution requires that a
              few "considerate and virtuous" citizens check
              and balance the "interested and overbearing"
              majority? Perhaps, but such subtleties tend to
              complicate, if not contradict, what must be
              among the greatest stories ever told, namely
              that the Constitution begins with the words, "We
              the People." Stop there, we are told. Do not go
              any further. For to go beyond the grade-school
              version of our founding is to raise the
              possibility that the Constitution might be
              defective in some fundamental way. Viewers might
              conclude that U.S.-sponsored terrorism may not
              be a deviation from Constitutional principles
              but rather the logical consequence of a system
              which protects the freedom of a handful of
              Americans to control a good deal of the earth's
              resources and, correspondingly, the lives of
              millions of people scattered around the globe.
              Similar connections between our founding ideas
              and the virulent racism that now exists, the
              subordination of women, the massive inequality
              that marks our society, and what some are
              pointing to as irreversible environmental
              degradation could also be made. To move beyond
              the history constructed for us, then, would be
              to admit the possibility that one could expose
              and call into question the legitimacy of the
              Framers and the system of elite rule they
              established through the Constitution. It would
              be permitting citizens of today to become more
              intimately familiar and identified with the
              lives and values of the people - a majority -
              one must emphasize, who opposed the Constitution
              at the time it was given to the states for
              ratification. Of course, if the ideological
              managers were to permit an honest reassessment
              of who the Framers really were and what they
              really did, nothing might come of it. But it is
              the very intensity itself of the ideological
              stranglehold over our own history which suggests
              that it is ruling elites, not you or I, who are
              afraid that if a candid assessment of the
              Framers and the Constitution were to become
              common knowledge, it would help citizens to
              explain their sense of political powerlessness
              and invite the kind of self-discovery that
              underlies effective radical politics. "The
              monopoly of truth, including historical truth,"
              states Daniel Singer, "is implied in the
              monopoly of power."

              Three Obstacles to Effective Radical Politics

              The central theme of this book can be summarized
              as follows: We live in an undemocratic system
              that is a major source of terror and repression,
              both at home and around the world. In large
              measure this is due to the tremendous
              concentration of unchecked corporate power. Our
              responsibility, as citizens and as a people, is
              to challenge the structure of power within our
              society, particularly the private power of the
              corporate-banking community. The Constitution
              prohibits this. In fact, the Constitution was
              intended to ensure that only a few people would
              run the government and that they would be the
              few who would run the economy. The crisis
              confronting us, in other words, demands
              effective radical politics and a departure from
              many Constitutional values, assumptions, and
              principles. Effective radical politics, however,
              is inhibited by our acceptance and glorification
              of the Constitution and the Framers who
              engineered its ratification. It is as if we
              believe the IBM ad which stated, "The
              Constitution is a political work of
              art...and...It's also the most important
              contract of your life." We shouldn't have to
              depend upon or live by IBM's conception of
              justice today anymore than we should have to
              depend upon or live by the conception of justice
              articulated by rich and powerful white men, many
              of them slaveowners, who lived 200 years ago.
              Our values are not their values. The government
              of the United States does not, in its policies,
              express the decency of its people. It lacks
              legitimacy. And we need to confront that fact.

              Ideologically, then, there are three obstacles
              to effective radical politics. They are 1)
              respect for the Constitution as a fair and
              equitable and democratic document; 2) the
              underlying belief that the U.S. government is
              fair, acts justly, or would under ordinary
              circumstances; and 3) a reluctance on the part
              of most citizens whose values are at odds with
              those expressed by corporate and state policy to
              engage in confrontation. In Chapters 2 through
              4, I discuss why the Constitution is not a fair
              and equitable document, why it impedes rather
              than encourages democracy, and why it is,
              ultimately, a constitution that disrespects its
              people. In Chapters 4 and 5, I explain why I
              believe that the government of the United
              States, in order to meet its obligation of
              protecting the private empire of corporate
              elites, cannot meet its obligation to promote
              the common interest of the majority of its
              people and cannot, therefore, act justly under
              ordinary circumstances. I argue in this section
              that we live in a system of injustice. Finally,
              in Chapters 6 and 7, I argue that each of us as
              citizens must develop a sense of self-respect
              and self-confidence that necessarily challenges
              the role set for us by the Framers as obedient
              and dependent "republican machines." We need, as
              I explain below, to learn a "song without
              knees." Before moving on, let us discuss each of
              these obstacles a bit further and then briefly
              review the lives of the "founding fathers" so
              that we get a better sense of just who they

              A Constitution That Disrespects Its People

              I have been suggesting that at the very heart of
              our political institutions, at the very core of
              our way of doing politics is fear and distrust
              of the political activity of common people. As
              we explore more deeply the vision of the Framers
              and the historical context of their work, we
              shall find that the Framers repeatedly expressed
              what they felt was the need to check and balance
              the political expression of people who were not
              like themselves, who were not involved in the
              market economy, who did not own much property,
              and who were not very rich. John Adams believed
              that "Men in general...who are wholly destitute
              of property, are also too little acquainted with
              public affairs to form a right judgment, and too
              dependent on other men to have a will of their
              own."10 In fact, when the Framers used the term
              "the people" they had in mind the "middling"
              property owning people or, generally speaking,
              the middle class. It is the political expression
              of this middle class which they also distrusted
              but which they felt they had to permit if
              property owners were to be free from government
              interference. The Framers were thus willing to
              permit the limited participation (through the
              House of Representatives - remember that the
              Constitution did not permit the direct election
              of the Senate and we still do not elect the
              president directly) of white males who met state
              property qualifications.

              The political expression of classes below the
              middle class property owners, women, or people
              of color, indentured servants, or people with no
              property - in short, the "people in the first
              instance" as Charles Pinckney called them, or
              the majority, was simply "nonsense" and "wrong."
              Political expression by these groups was not
              permitted and as we shall note, the Constitution
              was purposefully made to be anti-majoritarian in
              several ways. Representatives were to be of and
              among "the better people" who would have a
              material stake in society, who would be less
              given to some common impulse of passion, and who
              would be able to tell us what our real needs and
              interests are. Amendments have broadened the
              definition of "the people" to include most of
              those who were excluded in 1787. But the
              Constitution's very design, its processes, and
              its structure still gives life to the eighteenth
              century elitist belief that rich and powerful
              people ought to rule. The Constitution still
              disrespects the political wisdom of most people,
              of workers, particularly people of color, of
              women, and of those who happen to be poor.

              A System of Injustice

              The vision of the Framers, even for Franklin and
              Jefferson who were less fearful of the politics
              of common people than most, was that of a strong
              centralized state, a nation whose commerce and
              trade stretched around the world. In a word, the
              vision was one of empire where property owners
              would govern themselves. It would be a nation in
              which ambitious industrious (white Anglo-Saxon)
              men would be finally free from the Crown and
              from the Church to do with their property as
              they pleased and as their talents permitted. It
              would be a nation organized around private power
              where there would be freedom to acquire wealth
              and the function of the state and of its
              executive would be to protect these freedoms and
              opportunities, defined as natural rights.
              Meanwhile, it was perceived that the only real
              threat, to paraphrase Madison, to the rights of
              the few virtuous citizens and therefore to the
              "common good," would come from the overbearing
              majority, the people without property. For it is
              the less virtuous and less industrious people,
              the people in debt for example, who would seek
              to redistribute property and invade the rights
              of others.

              There is a tension, then, between the elite who
              privately own productive resources and the
              multitudes who are made dependent, who, as Karl
              Marx noted, must sell their lives in order to
              live. Within this relationship of power, the
              Constitution protects the power of the more
              powerful. It does this because the Framers
              believed that it was the right of a few "better"
              people to own and control much of the earth's
              resources. And it does this because the Framers
              believed that the lives of women, people of
              color, and the poor ought to be defined in terms
              of the desires and interests of the rich.
              Resistance to this tyranny, from the Whiskey
              Rebellion of 1794 to the revolutionary leaders
              of today who are genuinely committed to
              directing meager resources to the majority poor
              in the Third World, are and have been brutally
              repressed because the national army created by
              the Constitution is directed by that document to
              preserve these relationships of disparity. Of
              course, relationships of disparity are not
              referred to as such by elites. They would prefer
              to call them "our rights" and "our freedom."
              Thus "our" concepts of rights and of freedom are
              interwoven with the Framers' vision of conquest
              and empire and privilege.

              A "Song Without Knees"

              Eric Foner writes that in the minds of the
              "founding fathers" was a "view of human nature
              as susceptible to corruption, basically
              self-interested and dominated by passion rather
              than reason. It was because of this natural
              `depravity' of human nature that democracy was
              inexpedient: a good constitution required a
              `mixed' government to check the passions of the
              people, as well as representing their
              interests." We should add that the "founding
              fathers" were less worried about checking their
              own passions. They did not see themselves as
              depraved. Only common people were depraved.11

              We are the legacy of that warped view. Thomas
              Ferguson and Joel Rogers point out that none of
              the major initiatives of the Reagan
              administration (tax cuts for the rich, budget
              cuts in social programs, and increased
              militarism, particularly increased funding for
              nuclear weapons and the sponsorship of terrorist
              armies such as the Contras) followed popular
              initiatives. Instead they were initiated by
              business elites.12 Ours is a system, as Noam
              Chomsky regularly reminds us, of elite
              decisionmaking with occasional ratification by
              an irrelevant public. When one studies the views
              of the Framers, one discovers that it was never
              intended to be otherwise. The larger problem,
              however, is that we have become used to playing
              a subservient role. We live, politically, on our

              Martin Luther King, Jr. at times stated that
              perhaps one of the greatest accomplishments of
              the Civil Rights movement was that blacks, who
              had been brought to America in "darkness and
              chains," had learned to "straighten up their
              bent backs." "We won our self-respect," he said.
              An inner sense of dignity had been acquired.
              Stephen Oates, a King biographer, writes with
              regard to one particular woman in the movement:

                   For her and the others who
                   participated, the movement of 1965
                   became the central event of their
                   lives, a time of self-liberation when
                   they stood and marched to glory with
                   Martin Luther King. Yes, they were
                   surprised at themselves, proud of the
                   strength they had displayed in
                   confronting the state of Alabama,
                   happy indeed, as Marie Foster said, to
                   be "a new Negro in a new South - a
                   Negro who is no longer afraid." And
                   that perhaps was King's greatest gift
                   to his long-suffering people in Dixie:
                   he taught them how to confront those
                   who oppressed them.......13

              In so many ways all of us live in chains and
              darkness. Writes Starhawk, "Women, working-class
              people, people of color, and people without
              formal education, are conditioned to think of
              their opinions and feelings as valueless. They
              are taught to listen to an inner voice that
              murmurs, `You shouldn't say that. You only think
              that because something is wrong with you.
              Everybody else knows more about things than you
              do.' "14 We have yet to learn to straighten our
              backs. We wish to believe that confronting those
              who disrespect us is somehow bad or itself
              disrespectful. But we need to learn that proper
              confrontation is a source of dignity and a
              necessary first step to politics. Otherwise
              politics becomes draining. For without a sense
              of confidence and purpose we play by the rules
              the Framers set down, rules that were designed
              for the "depraved."

              In Nicaragua, there is a song called "Song
              Without Knees." It tells of life under the
              dictator Somoza and how the revolution was a
              process in which people learned to get off their
              knees, learned to stand up and express
              themselves as healthy and creative people. Here
              in the United States we too need to learn a
              "Song Without Knees" so that we can create space
              for a politics without knees, a politics which
              is rooted not in the fear and distrust of common
              people, but one which departs fundamentally from
              the myths and illusions of the founding period
              which hold many of us hostage in a state of
              comfort, denial, and unfortunately,

              The "Founding Fathers"

                   These 35 Framers were considered the
                   most active. Unless otherwise
                   indicated, the following information
                   was drawn from chapters 5 and 7 of
                   Charles Beard, An Economic
                   Interpretation of the Constitution of
                   the United States (New York: The
                   Macmillan Company, 1948); Chapter 8 of
                   Clinton Rossiter, The Grand Convention
                   (New York: The Macmillan Company,
                   1966); and Page Smith, The
                   Constitution (New York: William Morrow
                   and Company, 1978).

              Abraham Baldwin of Georgia

              He was a wealthy lawyer who possessed a few
              thousand dollars worth of public securities. He
              wanted the Senate to be composed of men of
              property so that they could check the House of
              Representatives which was apt to be composed of
              men of less substantial wealth and therefore
              closer to the common people.

              Gunning Bedford of Delaware

              He was the son of a "substantial land owner," a
              lawyer, and was eventually elected governor of
              his state. He was in favor of a more democratic
              Constitution than the one we have now which he
              felt checked the "Representatives of the People"
              more than was necessary.

              William Blount of North Carolina

              He was born into a substantial planting family
              and was very deeply involved in land
              speculation. He enslaved human beings.

              Pierce Bulter of South Carolina

              He enslaved thirty-one human beings. He also was
              a stockholder and director of the first United
              States bank. He felt that no congressional
              representatives should be directly elected by
              the people, that the Senate ought to represent
              property, and that slavery ought to be
              protected. He was responsible for the
              Constitution's fugitive slave law and he also
              "warmly urged the justice and necessity of
              regarding wealth in the apportionment of

              George Clymer of Pennsylvania

              He possessed a large fortune, held public
              securities, and helped create the Bank of
              Pennsylvania. He believed that "a representative
              of the people is appointed to think for and not
              with his constituents." And later as a member of
              Congress "he showed a total disregard to the
              opinions of his constituents when opposed to the
              matured decisions of his own mind."

              John Dickinson of Delaware

              He was a member of one of the established landed
              families of the South, a lawyer, and he married
              into one of the wealthiest commercial families
              in Philadelphia. He wanted a monarchy and
              refused to sign the Declaration of Independence.
              He seems to have constantly worried about the
              "dangerous influence of those multitudes without
              property & without principle."

              Oliver Ellsworth of Connecticut

              He was the most successful lawyer Connecticut
              had yet known with a fortune "quite uncommonly
              large." He held public securities and invested
              in the Hartford Bank and the Hartford Broadcloth
              Mill. He was also regarded, perhaps more than
              any other member at the Convention, as someone
              who feared "levelling democracy." He argued that
              voting be limited to those who paid taxes.
              Regarding slavery he said, "As slaves multiply
              so fast...it is cheaper to raise than import
              them....[But] let us not intermeddle. As
              population increases; poor laborers will be so
              plenty as to render slaves useless."

              Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania

              He was a printer, scientist, author, diplomat
              and land speculator who had accumulated a
              "considerable" fortune. More than anyone at the
              convention, he was sympathetic to meaningful
              self-government. Because of this he was known to
              have serious doubts about the Constitution but
              signed it anyway. Charles L. Mee, Jr., in The
              Genius of the People, states, "Franklin disliked
              the document, thinking it cheated democracy."

              Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts

              He was a Harvard graduate and a merchant with a
              considerable estate. In reference to the
              political unrest at the time of the Convention,
              he complained that "The evils we experience flow
              from the excess of democracy." He did not want
              any members of the new national government to be
              elected by popular vote, having been taught the
              "danger of the levelling spirit." Although he
              was quite active at the Convention, Gerry had
              numerous objections to the final draft and he
              refused to sign it.

              Nathaniel Gorham of Massachusetts

              He was a successful merchant who was involved in
              land speculation on a large scale. He expressed
              what was then the general attitude about the one
              chamber that was popularly elected (given the
              restricted franchise) when he said, "All agree
              that a check on the legislative branch is
              necessary." He was sympathetic to monarchy and
              during the Convention secretly wrote to European
              royalty in hope of involving someone with royal
              blood in governing the United States.

              Alexander Hamilton of New York

              He was an eminent lawyer who perhaps more than
              any other delegate was responsible for
              organizing the Convention, and later, as
              Secretary of the Treasury under President
              Washington, for implementing the Constitution
              and institutionalizing its relation to the
              private economy. He greatly admired monarchy and
              time and again emphasized the need to check "the
              amazing violence and turbulence of the
              democratic spirit." Hamilton believed that
              government ought to be an instrument in the
              hands of creditors, financiers, and bankers.
              When he later sought to create a national bank,
              he said that it would help unite "the interest
              and credit of the rich individuals with those of
              the state."15 His statement at the Convention
              concerning the relationship between government,
              the rich, and the poor deserves to be quoted at
              length because it represents what was then a
              very common attitude among elites:

                   All communities divide themselves into
                   the few and the many. The first are
                   the rich and well born, the other the
                   mass of the people. The voice of the
                   people has been said to be the voice
                   of God; and however generally this
                   maxim has been quoted and believed, it
                   is not true in fact. The people are
                   turbulent and changing; they seldom
                   judge or determine right. Give
                   therefore to the first class a
                   distinct, permanent share in the
                   government. They will check the
                   unsteadiness of the Second....Can a
                   democratic assembly who annually
                   revolve in the mass of the people, be
                   supposed steadily to pursue the public
                   good? Nothing but a permanent body can
                   check the imprudence of
                   democracy....It is admitted that you
                   cannot have a good executive upon a
                   democratic plan.16

              William Samuel Johnson of Connecticut

              He was a wealthy and successful lawyer and
              graduate of Yale who refused to help in the War
              of Independence because he could not
              "conscientiously" take up arms against England.
              Clinton Rossiter describes him as "the nearest
              thing to an aristocrat in mind and manner that
              Connecticut had managed to produce in its 150
              years." He was one of the few northerners at the
              Convention who simply did not worry about
              slavery or the slave trade.

              Rufus King of Massachusetts

              He was born into and married into wealthy
              families, was a Harvard graduate, and had
              extensive mercantile and other business
              interests. He was also a large holder of
              government securities and was later director of
              the first United States bank. King argued in
              favor of a strong unimpeachable executive and
              urged that the judiciary be permitted to check
              the political tendencies of common people whom
              he felt would use legislatures to attack the
              privilege of property owners. He was responsible
              for the clause which prevented any state from
              passing any law "impairing the obligation of
              contracts." This clause greatly helped the rich,
              as we shall see.

              John Langdon of New Hampshire

              He was "uniformly prosperous" and a "man of
              great wealth and pressing commercial interests,"
              the "leading merchant" from Portsmouth. He was a
              large creditor of the new government (the third
              largest holder of public securities among all
              the Framers) and a strong supporter of a
              national bank.

              James Madison of Virginia

              He was a descendant of one of the old landed
              families, studied law at Princeton, and at one
              time enslaved 116 human beings. He has been
              called the "most active of all the moving
              spirits of the new government." For this reason
              he is acknowledged as the "Father" of the
              Constitution. He greatly feared that the
              majority of people with little or no property
              would take away the property of the few who held
              quite a bit. He very much liked the Constitution
              because he believed that it would check the
              majority from establishing "paper money," the
              "abolition of debts," an "equal division of
              property," or other "wicked projects." And in
              general it would prevent the majority from
              "discovering their own strength" and from acting
              "in union with each other." His defense of the
              Constitution in Federalist No. 10, found in the
              Appendix, is the most concise and clearest
              example of the political thought that undergirds
              our political institutions. Because his role in
              the design of the Constitution was so central, I
              shall quote him frequently; his political
              thought weighs heavily upon us today.

              Luther Martin of Maryland

              He was a successful lawyer and graduate of
              Princeton, but his fortune was never large. He
              enslaved "only" six human beings. He was in
              sympathy with poor debtors generally and argued
              that the government ought to protect the debtor
              against the "wealthy creditor and the moneyed
              man" in times of crisis. He refused to sign the
              Constitution, given its protection of creditors,
              and fought hard against its ratification.

              George Mason of Virginia

              He was a speculator in land, owning some 75,000
              acres. He also owned $50,000 worth of other
              personal property and he enslaved 300 human
              beings. Like many large slaveowners, he feared a
              strong national government and a standing army.
              He was a strong proponent of the right of
              individuals to own property without government
              interference. Given the lack of a Bill of Rights
              and the strong central power sanctioned by the
              Constitution, Mason feared that the new system
              would result in "monarchy or a tyrannical
              aristocracy"; he refused to sign it. Mason is a
              classic example of a Framer for whom "rights"
              meant the protection of private power and
              privilege. Mason did not object to the
              anti-democratic features of the Constitution,
              rather he objected to the fact that a national
              government might someday interfere with his
              individual freedom as a property owner, that is,
              his "rights."

              John Francis Mercer of Maryland

              He enslaved six human beings. He also held a
              moderate amount of public securities. He stated
              that "the people cannot know and judge of the
              characters of candidates. The worst possible
              choice will be made." He left the Convention
              early, and strongly opposed the ratification of
              the Constitution.

              Gouverneur Morris of Pennsylvania

              He was a lawyer who was born into the landed
              aristocracy of New York. A rich man, he helped
              establish the Bank of North America. He was "an
              aristocrat to the core," once stating that
              "there never was, nor ever will be a civilized
              Society without an Aristocracy." He believed
              that common people were incapable of
              self-government and that poor people would sell
              their votes. He argued, "Give the votes to
              people who have no property, and they will sell
              them to the rich who will be able to buy them."
              Voting should be restricted to property owners.
              He shaped the Constitution more than most men at
              the Convention (he made 173 speeches, more than
              anyone) and was responsible for the style in
              which it was written.

              William Patterson of New Jersey

              He was a lawyer, graduate of Princeton, and
              attorney general of New Jersey who was born in
              Ireland. He resisted the creation of a strong
              central government and left the Convention

              Charles Pinckney of South Carolina

              A successful lawyer, and a considerable
              landowner, he enslaved fifty-two human beings.
              Taking the side of the creditor against the
              debtor, he had been among the Congressmen who
              were critical of the Articles of Confederation
              and sought the creation of a centralized
              national government. At twenty-nine, he was the
              youngest member of the Convention. He believed
              that members of government ought to "be
              possessed of competent property to make them
              independent & respectable." He wrote to Madison
              before the Constitution was ratified, "Are you
              not...abundantly impressed that the theoretical
              nonsense of an election of Congress by the
              people in the first instance is clearly and
              practically wrong, that it will in the end be
              the means of bringing our councils into

              General Charles C. Pinckney of South Carolina

              A successful lawyer who worked for the merchants
              of Charlestown, he was also a large landowner in
              Charleston, and he enslaved human beings. He
              felt that the Senate ought to represent the
              "wealth of the country," that members of the
              government ought to hold property, and according
              to Clinton, believed in the need "for stiff
              measures to restrain the urges of arrant

              Edmund Randolph of Virginia

              He was a successful lawyer who owned 7,000 acres
              of land. He enslaved nearly 200 human beings. He
              held considerable public securities. He believed
              that the problems confronting the United States
              at the time were due to the "turbulence and
              follies of democracy." The new Constitution,
              therefore, ought to check popular will. He
              thought that the best way of doing this would be
              to create a independent Senate composed of
              relatively few rich men.

              George Read of Delaware

              A successful lawyer who "lived in the style of
              the colonial gentry," enslaved human beings, and
              was a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
              He was in favor of doing away with states and
              wanted the President to be elected for life and
              have absolute veto power.

              John Rutledge of South Carolina

              He was a very successful lawyer who also owned
              five plantations. He enslaved twenty-six human
              beings. He said that the defects of democracy
              have been found "arbitrary, severe, and
              destructive." We see in Rutledge a clear
              expression of the notion that the general
              welfare is, in essence, economic development and
              accumulation. With regard to the issue of
              objections to slavery, he stated: "Religion &
              humanity had nothing to do with this question.
              Interest alone is the governing principle with
              Nations. The true question at present is whether
              the Southern states shall or shall not be
              parties to the Union. If the Northern States
              consult their interests they will not oppose the
              increase of Slaves which will increase the
              commodities of which they will become the

              Roger Herman of Connecticut

              He was a shoemaker, storekeeper, farmer who rose
              from poverty to affluence and he also owned
              public securities. A signer of the Declaration
              and drafter of the Articles of Confederation,
              Sherman was not terribly enthusiastic about a
              strong national government. But nor was he
              enthusiastic about popular sovereignty. He said,
              "The people immediately should have as little to
              do as may be about the government. They want
              information and are constantly liable to be

              Caleb Strong of Massachusetts

              He was a lawyer and Harvard graduate. He owned
              public securities and seems to have accumulated
              considerable wealth. He was in favor of more
              frequent congressional elections than what the
              Constitution eventually mandated. He left the
              Convention early and went home.

              George Washington of Virginia

              As we have noted, by several accounts Washington
              was the richest man in the United States and he
              enslaved hundreds of human beings. He made only
              one speech at the Convention and seems to have
              had no particular theory of government. He
              distrusted popular democratic tendencies and
              viewed criticism of the government, as Beard
              notes, as "akin to sedition." He also feared the
              growth of urban populations, stating that "The
              tumultuous populace of large cities are ever to
              be dreaded. Their indiscriminate violence
              prostates for the time all public authority."

              Hugh Williamson of North Carolina

              Educated as a medical doctor, he inherited a
              great trading operation. He also speculated in
              land and owned public securities. He wrote
              Madison following the Convention that he thought
              an "efficient federal government" would in the
              end contribute to the increase in value of his
              land. He sided with creditors against debtors in
              his state. At the Convention he was generally in
              favor of shifting power away from the states
              toward the national level.

              James Wilson of Pennsylvania

              Born in Scotland, he was a successful lawyer
              whose clients were primarily "merchants and men
              of affairs." He was one of the directors of the
              Bank of North America. He was involved in the
              corrupt Georgia Land Company and held shares "to
              the amount of at least one million acres." He
              later became a member of the Supreme Court. He
              was apprehensive, as were most of his
              colleagues, about the opportunity that common
              people would have to express themselves
              politically though legislatures. But he also
              believed that the judiciary would be a
              sufficient check on popular will. He, therefore,
              was in favor of more popular participation in
              the selection of government officials (popular
              election of the President and the Senate) than
              the Constitution permitted.


              Chapter 1

              1. Frederick Nietzsche, The Will to Power (ed.)
              Walter Kaufman and (tr.) Walter Kaufman and R.J.
              Hollingdale (New York: Random House, 1967), 4.

              2. Charles A. Beard, An Economic Interpretation
              of the Constitution of the United States (New
              York: The Macmillian Company, 1948), 144, 145.

              3. Howard Zinn, A Framers History of the United
              States (New York: Harper & Row, 1980), 67.

              4. Fawn M. Brodie, Thomas Jefferson (New York:
              W.W. Norton & Co., 1974).

              5. This statement was made in a lecture at the
              Evergreen State College, Olympia, Washington, in
              October 1987.

              6. Eric Foner, Tom Paine and Revolutionary
              America (New York: Oxford University Press,
              1976), 190. Here I am using the term Framers
              broadly. It refers not only to those who wrote
              the Constitution but to others such as John
              Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Rush, Robert
              Morris and others who played leading roles in
              shaping our political and economic institutions.

              7. Newsweek , May 25, 1987, 47.

              8. Time, July 6, 1987, 35.

              9. John F. Kasson, Civilizing the Machine (New
              York: Penguin Books, 1976), 31,32.

              10. Foner, 123.

              11. Foner, 90.

              12. Thomas Ferguson and Joel Rogers, Right Turn:
              The Decline of the Democrats and the Future of
              American Politics (New York: Hill and Wang,

              13. Stephen B. Oates, Let the Trumpet Sound (New
              York: Harper & Row, 1982), 361.

              14. Starhawk, Dreaming the Dark (Boston: Beacon
              Press, 1982), 101.

              15. Wilfred E. Binkley, American Political
              Parties (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1943), 40.

              16. Max Farrand, ed., The Records of the Federal
              Convention of 1787 (New Haven: Yale University
              Press, 1966), 288.
              Go on to Chapter 2 | Table of Contents |
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Richard K Moore
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Citizens for a Democratic Renaissance 
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