MUST BE 5 PAGES!!!!The essay question: Discuss and analyze the varying view points concerning the motives behindthe making of the constitution. You basically contrast or review the three view points that represent the main points of view. Youtrace the method in which each scholar proves their point and you use 2-3 examples to support each view point. Then you state which scholar won the argument and why and what is your opinion about the ideas of the constitution.
the_analysis_essay_concerns_the_three_articles_that_handed_out_last_time___and_the_lecture_outline_w__1_.doc
the_founding_fathers___hofstadter_1_.pdf
roche_reading.pdf
charlesbeard1.pdf
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The analysis essay concerns the three articles that handed out last time and the lecture outline
which was about the constitution. I handed out all the articles and handouts.
The 3 articles to be analyzed are: 1) The Charles Beard essay regarding an economic analysis of
the foundation of the constitution ( a Marxist analysis), the John Roche article titled reform caucus
in action, and the Richard Hofstadter article called the founding fathers an age of realism. Each
one is approximately 20 pages long. The outline that I provided explains the main points.
The essay question: Discuss and analyze the varying view points concerning the motives behind
the making of the constitution.
You basically contrast or review the three view points that represent the main points of view. You
trace the method in which each scholar proves their point and you use 2-3 examples to support
each view point. Then you state which scholar won the argument and why and what is your
opinion about the ideas of the constitution.
In summary:
1) Charles Beard states that the founding fathers were a wealthy elite. Regardless of the
geopolitical differences (north vs south, rural vs urban, business vs agriculture), what the
founders had in common was a distrust of the poor majority – the have nots as Rousseau said.
They created a very conservative document-the constitution in order to protect the rights of the
rich minority against the poor majority. The proof was that they entered the Contract Clause, the
Commerce clause that directly protected the rich property owners by limiting the power of the
majority from regulating contracts or property rights. They created the Senate which was selected
by the state legislatures and not by the people and the Presidency which was elected by
electrorals and not by the people. They got together to replace the Articles of Confederation by
the Constitution because of the Shays rebellion. They fear people like Shays that represented a
mob of the majority that did not want to pay his mortgage to the creditors (rich minorities) and was
able to get a way without forclosure by rebelling. So the rich founders wanted to strengthen the
federal government against the states and the people so that this rebellion by the poor wont
happen again.
The position taken by John Roche is that the founders did not have an agenda (this is the pluralist
position). He believed that they wanted to reform the constitution and make it a document that will
united the country and work. So they were primarily pragmatic men. They came from very
different backgrounds (north, south, rural, urban, industrial agricultural, small states big states
etc.) Thus, in order to succeed and create one country out of 13, they had to compromise. Hence
the constitution is a bundle of compromise representing pluralism. Many groups getting together,
no one takes over and they cancel each other out. The great compromise creating a bicameral
legislature, the 3/5 compromise regarding representation of slaves in the lower house of
representatives and the compromise creating the bill of rights which was a compromise in favor of
anti-federalists who wanted states rights and weaker central government are john Roche’s proof.
3) The founding fathers an age of realism by Richard Hofstadter contends that the founding
fathers did have an agenda. The agenda was to create a balanced government ( his thesis starts
on page 11 of his essay) The balanced government taken from the Enlightenment ideas of
Montesquieu intends to show distrust of the rich minority and the poor majority. Thus, the
constitution added sufficient numbers of checks and balances to limit the power of any special
interest. Examples:
1) Contract and commerce clauses indeed strengthen the central government in order to defend
the property rights of the rich against the poor.
2) The bill of rights defends individuals against the powerful government.
3) The House of Representatives represents the people (poor majority) against the rich minority.
The house is given an advantage because all money related bills must originate from the house.
4) The President represents the nation as a whole and can veto bills by the legislature. He is
selected by the electoral system and not directly by the poor majority.
5) The Senate was selected by the states so it represents the states against the national
government. It particularly gives more power to smaller states by making them equal to bigger
population states (great compromise).
6) The election method to the Senate 1/3 staggered every 2 years prevents the majority from ever
taking over the government.
7) The Supreme Court appointed for life- protects the rights of individuals and unpopular
minorities against majority attitudes.
8) The Congress can override presidential veto by 2/3 majority. This protects the majority against
the minorities by passing popular bills against Presidential disagreement.
9) Its hard to amend the constitution. This protects the minorities against the angry power of the
majority.
10) The acceptance of the power of judicial review- declaring laws unconstitutional supports the
minorities against the majority.
11) Having a large house of representatives in which every group is represented but can not take
over is a principle of pluralism.
Overall this represents the idea of checks and balance.
_______________
IN the Thesis paragraph to the essay include the following:
In the past century, there has been a growing debate as to the motives of the founders of the
republic and as a result the nature of our constitution. While Marxist analysts such as Charles
Beard contended that the founders were wealthy elite that ultimately created a conservative
document intended to weaken the poor popular majority, other scholars like John Roche believed
that the fathers had no such agenda. Pluralists, such as Hofstadter, believed that the
constitutional insistance of checks and balances intended to create a slow political process in
which no interest can completely win and oppress other interests over a long period of time.
Whereas scholar X makes a strong defense of his argument, it appears, based on the
constituional document and historical analysis that scholar Y provided a more accurate portrayal
of the founding fathers.
Paragraph 1: Beard
Paragraph 2: Roche
Paragraph 3: Age of Realism
Critical analysis of strenghts and weaknesses of the arguments.
Conclusion
The Founding Fathers: An Age of Realism
By
Richard Hofstadter
Wherever the real power in a government lies, there is the danger of oppression. In our
Government the real power lies in the majority of the community………..James Madison
Power naturally grows………because human passions are insatiable. But that power
alone can grow which already is too great; that which is unchecked; that which has no
equal power to control it.
John Adams
Long ago Horace White observed that the Constitution of the United States “is based upon the
philosophy of Hobbes and the religion of Calvin. It assumes that the natural state of mankind
is a state of war, and that the carnal mind is at enmity with God.” Of course the Constitution
was founded more upon experience than any such abstract theory; but it was also an event in
the intellectual history of Western civilization. The men who drew up the Constitution in
Philadelphia during the summer of 1787 had a vivid Calvinistic sense of human evil and
damnation and believed with Hobbes that men are selfish and contentious. They were men of
affairs, merchants, lawyers, planter-businessmen, speculators, investors. Having seen human
nature on display in the market place, the courtroom, the legislative chamber, and in every
secret path and alleyway where wealth and power are courted, they felt they knew it in all its
frailty. To them a human being was an atom of self-interest. They did not believe in man, but
they did believe in the power of a good political constitution to control him.
This may be an abstract notion to ascribe to practical men, but it follows the language
that the Fathers themselves used. General Knox, for example, wrote in disgust to Washington
after the Shays Rebellion that Americans were, after all, “men—actual men possessing all the
turbulent passions belonging to that animal.” Throughout the secret discussions at the
Constitutional Convention it was clear that this distrust of man was first and foremost a distrust
of the common man and democratic rule. As the revolution took away the restraining hand of
the British government, old colonial grievances of farmers, debtors, and squatters against
merchants, investors, and large landholders had flared up anew; the lower orders took
advantage of new democratic constitutions in several states, and the possessing classes were
frightened. The members of the Constitutional Convention were concerned to create a
government that could not only regulate commerce and pay its debts but also prevent currency
inflation and stay laws, and check such uprisings as the Shays Rebellion.
Cribbing and confining the popular spirit that had been at large since 1776 were
essential to the purposes of the new Constitution. Edmund Randolph, saying to the Convention
that the evils from which the country suffered originated in “the turbulence and follies of
democracy,” and that the great danger lay in the “democratic parts of our constitutions”;
Elbridge Gerry, speaking of democracy as “the worst of all political evils”; Roger Sherman,
hoping that “the people….have as little to do as may be about the government”; William
Livingston, saying that “the people have ever been and ever will be unfit to retain the exercise
of power in their own hands”; George Washington, the presiding officer, urging the delegates
not to produce a document of which they themselves could not approve simply in order to
“please the people”; Hamilton, charging that the “turbulent and changing” masses “seldom
judge or determine right” and advising a permanent governmental body to “check the
imprudence of democracy”; the wealthy young planter Charles Pinckney, proposing that no
one be president who was not worth at least one hundred thousand dollars—-all these were
quite representative of the spirit in which the problems of government were treated.
Democratic ideas are most likely to take root among discontented and oppressed
classes, rising middle classes, or perhaps some sections of an old, alienated, partially
disinherited aristocracy, but they do not appeal to a privileged class that is still amplifying its
privileges. With a half-dozen exceptions at the most, the men of the Philadelphia Convention
were sons of men who had considerable position and wealth, and as a group they had advanced
well beyond their fathers. Only one of them, William Few of Georgia, could be said in any
sense to represent the yeoman farmer class which constituted the overwhelming majority of the
free population. In the late eighteenth century “the better kind of people” found themselves set
off from the mass by a hundred visible, tangible, and audible distinctions of dress, speech,
manners, and education. There was a continuous lineage of upper-class contempt, from preRevolutionary Tories like Peggy Hutchinson, the Governor’s daughter, who wrote one day:
“The dirty mob was all about me as I drove into town,” to a Federalist like Hamilton, who
candidly disdained the people. Mass unrest was often received in the spirit of young
Gouverneur Morris: “The mob begin to think and reason. Poor reptiles! …..They bask in the
sun, and ere noon they will bite, depend upon it. The gentry begin to fear this.” Nowhere in
America or Europe—-not even among the great liberated thinkers of the Enlightenment—did
democratic ideas appear respectable to the cultivated classes. Whether the Fathers looked to
the cynically illuminated intellectuals of contemporary Europe or to their own Christian
heritage of the idea of original sin, they found quick confirmation of the notion that man is an
unregenerate rebel who has to be controlled.
And yet there was another side to the picture. The Fathers were intellectual heirs of
seventeenth-century English republicanism with its opposition to arbitrary rule and faith in
popular sovereignty. If they feared the advance of democracy, they also had misgivings about
turning to the extreme right. Having recently experienced a bitter revolutionary struggle with
an external power beyond their control, they were in no mood to follow Hobbes to his
conclusion that any kind of government must be accepted in order to avert the anarchy and
terror of a state of nature. They were uneasily aware that both military dictatorship and a
return to monarchy were being seriously discussed in some quarters—the former chiefly
among unpaid and discontented army officers, the latter in rich and fashionable Northern
circles. John Jay, familiar with sentiment among New York’s mercantile aristocracy, wrote to
Washington, June 27, 1788, that he feared that “the better kind of people (by which I mean the
people who are orderly and industrious, who are content with their situations, and not uneasy in
their circumstances) will be led, by the insecurity of property, the loss of confidence in their
rulers, and the want of public faith and rectitude, to consider the charms of liberty as imaginary
and delusive.” Such men, he thought, might be prepared for “almost any change that may
promise them quiet and security.” Washington, who had already repudiated a suggestion that
he become a military dictator, agreed, remarking that “we are apt to run from one extreme to
the other.”
Unwilling to turn their backs upon republicanism, the Fathers also wished to avoid
violating the prejudices of the people. “Notwithstanding the oppression and injustice
experienced among us from democracy,” said George Mason, “the genius of the people is in
favor of it, and the genius of the people must be consulted.” Mason admitted “that we had
been too democratic,” but feared that “we should incautiously run into the opposite extreme.”
James Madison, who has quite rightfully been called the philosopher of the Constitution, told
the delegates: “It seems indispensable that the mass of citizens should not be without a voice
in making the laws which they are to obey, and in choosing the magistrates who are to
administer them.” James Wilson, the outstanding jurist of the age, later appointed to the
Supreme Court by Washington, said again and again that the ultimate power of government
must of necessity reside in the people. This the Fathers commonly accepted, for if government
did not proceed from the people, from what other source could it legitimately come? To adopt
any other premise not only would be inconsistent with everything they had said against British
rule in the past but would open the gates to an extreme concentration of power in the future.
Hamilton saw the sharp distinction in the Convention when he said that “the members most
tenacious of republicanism were as loud as any in declaiming the vices of democracy.” There
was no better expression of the dilemma of a man who has no faith in the people but insists that
government be based upon them than that of Jeremy Belknap, a New England clergyman, who
wrote to a friend: “Let it stand as a principle that government originates from the people; but
let the people be taught…….that they are not able to govern themselves.”
II
If the masses were turbulent and unregenerate, and yet if government must be founded
upon their suffrage and consent, what could a Constitution-maker do? One thing that the
Fathers did not propose to do, because they thought it impossible, was to change the nature of
man to conform with a more ideal system. They were inordinately confident that they knew
what man always had been and what he always would be. The eighteenth-century mind had
great faith in universals. Its method, as Carl Becker has said, was “to go up and down the field
of history looking for man in general, the universal man, stripped of the accidents of time and
place.” Madison declared that the causes of political differences and of the formation of
factions were “sown in the nature of man” and could never be eradicated. “It is universally
acknowledged,” David Hume had written, “that there is a great uniformity among the actions
of men, in all nations and ages, and that human nature remains still the same, in its principles
and operations. The same motives always produce the same actions. The same events always
follow from the same causes.”
Since man was an unchangeable creature of self-interest, it would not do to leave
anything to his capacity for restraint. It was too much to expect that vice could be checked by
virtue; the Fathers relied instead upon checking vice with vice. Madison once objected during
the Convention that Gouverneur Morris was “forever inculcating the utter political depravity of
men and the necessity of opposing one vice and interest to another vice and interest.” And yet
Madison himself in the Federalist number 51 later set forth an excellent statement of the same
thesis:
Ambition must be made to counteract ambition……It may be a reflection on human
nature that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government.
But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?
If men were angels, no government would be necessary ………In framing a government
which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must
first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to
control itself.
Political economists of the laissez-faire school were saying that private vices could be public
benefits, that an economically beneficent result would be providentially or “naturally”
achieved if self-interest were left free from state interference and allowed to pursue its ends.
But the Fathers were not so optimistic about politics. If, in a state that lacked constitutional
balance, one class or one interest gained control, they believed, it would surely plunder all
other interests. The Fathers, of course, were especially fearful that the poor would plunder the
rich, but most of them would probably have admitted that the rich, unrestrained, would also
plunder the poor. Even Gouverneur Morris, who stood as close to the extreme aristocratic
position as candor and intelligence would allow, told the Convention: “Wealth tends to corrupt
the mind and to nourish its love of power, and to stimulate it to oppression. History proves this
to be the spirit of the opulent.”
What the Fathers wanted was known as “balanced government,” an idea at least as old
as Aristotle and Polybius. This ancient conception had won new sanction in the eighteenth
century, which was dominated intellectually by the scientific work of Newton, and in which
mechanical metaphors sprang as naturally to men’s minds as did biological metaphors in the
Darwinian atmosphere of the late nineteenth century. Men had found a rational order in the
universe and they hoped that it could be transferred to politics, or, as John Adams put it, that
governments could be “erected on the simple principles of nature.” Madison spoke in the most
precise Newtonian language when he said that such a “natural” government must be so
constructed “that its several constituent parts may, by their mutual relations, be the means of
keeping each other in their proper places.” A properly designed state, the Fathers believed,
would check interest with interest, class with class, faction with faction, and one branch of
government with another in a harmonious system of mutual frustration.
In practical form, therefore, the quest of the Fathers reduced primarily to a search for
constitutional …
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