Founding Fathers wrote Constitution for all the people
TRACKSIDE © by John D’Aloia Jr. March 4, 2003
A letter-to-the-editor writer in our local paper had this to say: "Our Founding Fathers, who wrote the Constitution, may have been brilliant and courageous souls but they were also elitists who were not particularly enamored of the idea that ordinary citizens ought to have any direct role to play in governance. Hence, they created an electoral college and made no mention of a right to vote (that did not come until the 1870s). The point is that they distrusted the ability of the average citizen to participate in the political decisions that affect their lives." I do believe the writer was trying to deconstruct history and reconstruct it to suit a personal agenda. Knowingly or not, he took a communist party line used in its attempt to destabilize our government: "Discredit the American Founding Fathers. Present them as selfish aristocrats who had no concern for the ‘common man.’"
You have to have blinders on to be able to ignore the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal ... 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 ..." The Founders believed that to maintain freedom, they had to implement what some authors call "People’s Law," a system of law based on a pyramid, the base foundation of which was the entire citizenry, forming families, forming communities, forming counties, forming states, forming the federal government. Their system collapsed if the entire citizenry was not involved in the political process. They recognized that when the elite controlled the process, tyranny followed. One of our problems today is that there is in fact an elitism dominating our governments, the elitism of narrow interest groups controlling legislation and policy, the stuff of which many a Trackside has been written. Ecofascists come immediately to mind, daily eroding the property rights that are one of the cornerstones of our freedom.
It is hard to ignore these words from George Washington’s first inaugural address: "The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the republican model of government, are justly considered deeply, perhaps as finally, staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people." He didn’t say to the hands of Boston merchants or Virginia planters, he said to the hands of the American people.
Creation of the electoral college had nothing to do with trying to keep citizens from being heard and everything to do with developing a system that would elect a president who had broad support across the nation, who was not the selection of the most populous state, and who was not beholden to special interest groups.
Alexander Hamilton put great importance on the citizenry in fact being directly involved in the election of the president. He wrote: "Another and no less important desideratum was that the executive should be independent for his continuance in the office on all but the people themselves...This advantage will also be secured, by making his re-election to depend on a special body of representatives, deputed by the society for the single purpose of making the important choice..." To ensure that the base of the process remained with the people, to ensure that a cabal of government officials did not control the electoral college, the Founders included in the Constitution a provision that prevented a Senator, a Representative, or anyone who occupies an office of trust or profit in the government from being eligible to serve as an elector.
The right to vote? The Founders believed that the right to vote was inherent in the republican form of government they created. Thomas West, in "Vindicating the Founders," stated that "...the electorate in the founding era was the most democratic of any large nation in history. It included about 85 to 90 percent of free males." (West noted that in New Jersey, women voted regularly in the 1790s, and that the "ground for the eventual total abolition of slavery was laid in the establishment of the equality principle at the center of American polity by [...the leading Founders.]")
If the letter writer was really concerned about disenfranchised citizens, he should look no further than Topeka. Today’s elitists are introducing bills that strip citizens of the ability to vote for several state officials. On Legislative Day One, they proposed a measure that would take the state school board out of the voters’ hands and give it to the Governor. The message: "You are dumb."
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