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We The People?

Updated on July 4, 2011

Men of The People?

Today, we celebrate the day in 1776 when a group of British Colonists took an act that would truly be revolutionary.  They signed a list of grievances against the King of England and declared themselves to be an independent nation. 

While the courage of these men cannot be questioned, the idea of them being "Men of the people" is something that can be challenged. John Hancock, Thomas Jefferson, and the other signers of the Declaration, where essentially a landed gentry.  They were far removed from the small farmers and merchants that made up the majority of the colonies, and did so much of the fighting against the British Regulars. 

When freedom was won, and a Constitution was drafted, the idea of a government of the few was evident.  Voting was a privilege, reserved for those White, Males, who held enough wealth to pay the poll taxes that were required to vote.  At the time of the Constitution's ratification, Senators were chosen not by the vote of the people, but the State Legislatures. 

But our Founding Fathers made the Constitution flexible through Amendments;  and the number of Amendments that relate to voting shows that over time, the people made demands for greater public power; expanding the right to vote to African-Americans, to Women, and to 18-year-olds, electing Senators by a popular vote, and allowing residents of the District Of Columbia to vote.  

Many of these gains came in struggles that mirrored the fight for independence, especially the struggles and sacrifices that African-Americans made. 

Of course, the idea of power being in the hands of a few may be why so many Conservatives favor such a strict approach to the Constitution.  The idea of keeping the power in the hands of a small few may appeal to those who so often speak for the elite. 

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    • profile image

      Stu From VT 

      7 years ago

      TPC,

      I must disagree with the points made here.

      "While the courage of these men cannot be questioned, the idea of them being "Men of the people" is something that can be challenged." - It's true that many of the Founders were wealthy farmers, but merely being wealthy does not make one evil. The Founders fought and died for principle, the eradication of tyranny. While these men were admittedly the elite of society, they had the interests of the people at heart.

      "When freedom was won, and a Constitution was drafted, the idea of a government of the few was evident. Voting was a privilege, reserved for those White, Males, who held enough wealth to pay the poll taxes that were required to vote." - This does not really reflect "a government of the few." It reflects the morals of the time. And although they did not have the political will to fight it, a number of Founders have spoken that slavery was a great blight on the nation.

      "At the time of the Constitution's ratification, Senators were chosen not by the vote of the people, but the State Legislatures." - This is true, and it was done so that states would have adequate representation at the federal level. Many states demanded such representation as a condition of joining the union. It is wrong for both houses of Congress to be chosen by the people, because both the people and the states are subject to federal rule.

      "Of course, the idea of power being in the hands of a few may be why so many Conservatives favor such a strict approach to the Constitution." - Conservatives favor constructionism to prevent tyranny, the exact opposite of wanting power being in the hands of a few. Activism leads to arbitrary fiat rulership by mini-dictators at all levels and branches of government, especially federal. Strict constructionism serves to limit federal powers to those enumerated in the Constitution, permitting the states to be the primary locus of power. Activism leads to illegal federal power usurpation at the expense of the states and the people, and high debt because the federal government always overfunds these powers (due to it's ability to print money and issue enormous amounts of debt).

      Stu

    • weholdthesetruths profile image

      weholdthesetruths 

      8 years ago from Western Flyover Country

      Wow, nice propaganda. You must have years of experience at trying to throw out red herrings, warped perspectives, and ensuring that you never put out the WHOLE truth. After all, if you did, you'd invalidate your own ideology completely. Besides, who wants to live around such hateful, spiteful, mean, nasty, and insulting people like you?

      We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

      Whoa, was that all about the preservation of absolute power in the hands of the few? No, it wasn't. And then, those mean nasty powermongers went and wrote a constitution that so incredibly limited the federal government, by giving it only a few specified tasks, and then prohibiting it from ANYTHING ELSE! Just so that power could NOT accumulate in Washington DC. Yes, liberals wish to spread the fiction that the founders wanted big and powerful, self serving government. That's so they are justifed in promoting big, powerful, self serving government. Except that it's a big, fat, bald-faced lie. And it's justified, of course, with other lies, other distortions, and of course, doing their utmost to discredit anyone and anything that lies in the path of absolute power.

    • Jaggedfrost profile image

      Jaggedfrost 

      8 years ago

      lol It probably looks like the government of the few that Conservatives believe in from a Liberal point of view but then Liberals like the concept of Democracy even if they only teach ignorance amongst the masses so that regardless of the opinions of the masses power stays in the same place amongst the same ideals.

      Conservatives who know what they are talking about don't believe in Democracy. They believe in a Republic that responds to the will of the people. Right now, the way government is structured the ends of this bit of hair splitting ends up about the same. Some times I think that Republicans have decided that they can live with the Liberal version of Democracy as it has made a large number of Republicans who call themselves Conservatives as ignorant and wild eyed, even zealot like as anyone in the Progressive Caucus.

      Idealist or not, it must be observed that a great majority of the poor decision of government regardless of your point of view have had those decisions ratified or not resented due to a lack of education and general indifference by people in General. C-Span is the most unloved channel that keeps running on Cable.

      Some of the ways the Early Republic chose to decide who should vote and who shouldn't was blatantly unfair. It is laughable however that many of the new legal immigrants who get citizenship the old fashioned way, know more about our dying republic then a majority of Americans do.

    • Mr. Happy profile image

      Mr. Happy 

      8 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Viva la revolucion!

    • American Romance profile image

      American Romance 

      8 years ago from America

      I wish it was like that now! Just think.......if only those with jobs could vote! Wow then we could put people in place that worked for the working man! Too bad we allow illegals and those on entitlements to choose where our country is heading! If only those with jobs could vote, Obama wouldn't be anywhere close to the white house. and sir if you don't believe the above men had the best interest of this country, you should study how they died and how they suffered after the war was over!

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