By Mark E. Smith
We’ve all been taught in school that the Founders of the United States of America fought a revolution that freed the colony from British rule. That much is true. They even drew up a list of complaints to explain why that revolution was necessary, which was published as The Declaration of Independence. In it they clearly enumerated the instances of tyranny that the colonists would no longer passively endure, but also laid out the principles of democracy they wished to establish:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by the 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.”
The lie we were taught to believe is that the Constitution of the United States of America established such a government and was the legitimate result and continuation of the revolution. It was not. It was a counterrevolutionary document and it totally betrayed the revolution.
It was not at all self-evident to the Framers that all men are created equal. In the Constitution they counted some men as equal but others as only three fifths persons. This was done to placate the slave-holding states into ratifying the Constitution.1
The Framers not only didn’t secure the unalienable rights of Blacks to liberty, but denied those rights by allowing slavery, which is the opposite of liberty, to continue.
Although the Founders stated clearly that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, the new Constitution didn’t bother to ask for the consent of the majority of the governed. Blacks, Native Americans, indentured servants, women, and landless workers were certainly to be governed under the new Constitution, but they were not granted the right to vote. White male landowners were allowed to vote, but to ensure that the United States would be a plutocracy where those who owned the country ruled it, even their votes were not granted the decisive role they would have in a democracy. They were prohibited from voting for Senators or for President and Vice-President, and the Constitution made Congress, not citizens, the sole “Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members…” There was no guarantee that the popular vote even had to be counted, no less taken into account, and it could be overridden by the Electoral College, Congress, or the Supreme Court.
The revolution, fought to establish equality and democracy, had been betrayed by a Constitution that condoned inequality and established a plutocracy.
But the Framers didn’t stop there. In their counterrevolutionary zeal, and against the wishes of Thomas Jefferson and other delegates, they gave an unelected body, the Supreme Court, the power to make decisions that could not be appealed. Such totalitarian power in the hands of unelected people is contrary to the most basic principles of democracy. This was exactly the sort of power that King George had and that the colonists revolted against. They were able to, and frequently did, petition the king for redress of grievances, but they had no vote in his decisions and his edicts could not be appealed. In establishing the Supreme Court, the Framers once again betrayed the revolution and established an undemocratic distribution of power that the Founders had shed blood to rid us of.
There are many more examples, some of which I’ve mentioned in my other writings, but these should suffice to demonstrate that the Constitution of the United States of America was a counterrevolutionary document and a betrayal of the democratic principles set out in the Declaration of Independence.
1Slavery’s Constitution: From Revolution to Ratification, by David Waldstreicher