The Constitution: A Democratic Document?
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Upon the opening words of the Constitution, “We the People…do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America,” one must ask, who are these people? While the American Constitution provided its citizens with individual rights, many members were excluded. Elite framers manipulated the idea of a constitution in order to protect their economic interests and the interests of their fellow ‘white land and slave owning men’ by restricting the voices of women, slaves, indentured servants and others. Therefore, the Constitution cannot truly be considered a “democratic document.” However, because it is a live document, malleable and controllably changeable according to the interest of congress, it has enabled us to make reforms overtime. Such reforms that have greatly impacted America, making us the free, independent nation that we are today.
The elite opted to prevent rebellions which voiced the opinions of disregarded members of society such as women, slaves, indentured servants, and men who didn’t own land, by intervening and taking them into their own hands because they wanted to preserve their power. In 1780, Shay’s rebellion, led by Daniel Shay, a veteran of the Battle of Bunker Hill, allowed farmers who were unable to pay their mortgage, to speak out. Creating chaos amongst the peaceful streets of Springfield, armed farmers were stopped by state militia. Shay’s rebellion led way to the Philadelphia Convention in which fifty-five men representing twelve states congregated on 1787, in proposal of drafting a new constitution. Through the occurrence of the American Revolution, they were aware of the power that their people were able to execute and wanted to stabilize the government by creating a new Constitution. Members included James Madison, Robert Morris, and Alexander Hamilton. Delegates met in secret, excluding the response of the people.
According to Charles Beard, “A majority of the members [of the Constitutional convention] were lawyers by profession.
Most of the members came from towns, on or near the coast
Not one member represented in his immediate and personal economic interests the small farming or mechanic [artisan] classes.
The overwhelming majority of the members [of the Constitutional convention], at least five-sixths, were immediately, directly, and personally interested in the outcome of their labors at Philadelphia, and were to a greater or lesser extent economic beneficiaries from the adoption of the Constitution.
[Of the 54 delegates:]
40 were holders of public securities (holders of Continental and state debt)
24 were creditors (lenders of money)
15 were southern slaveholders
14 were involved in land speculation
11 were involved in manufacturing, commerce, and shipping” (Doc S)
One of these members included Robert Morris, a wealthy elitist who believed in fact, that perspective of lower classes were invaluable and unimportant and should be ignored. As state governor of Philadelphia, he exercised much political influence. Upon many other framers, he wanted to preserve his wealth. Robert Morris notes that, “The time is not distant, when this country shall abound with mechanics [artisans] and manufacturers [industrial workers] who will receive bread from their employers. Will such men be the secure and faithful guardians of liberty?… Children do not vote. Why? Because they want [lack] prudence, because they have no will of their own. The ignorant and dependent