Skip to comments.Walter Williams: Gross Media Ignorance About the Founders
Posted on 07/05/2011 8:53:47 PM PDT by neverdem
There's little that's intelligent or informed about Time magazine editor Richard Stengel's article "One Document, Under Siege" (June 23, 2011). It contains many grossly ignorant statements about our Constitution. If I believed in conspiracies, I'd say Stengel's article is part of a leftist agenda to undermine respect for the founding values of our nation.
Stengel says: "The framers were not gods and were not infallible. Yes, they gave us, and the world, a blueprint for the protection of democratic freedoms -- freedom of speech, assembly, religion -- but they also gave us the idea that a black person was three-fifths of a human being, that women were not allowed to vote and that South Dakota should have the same number of senators as California, which is kind of crazy. And I'm not even going to mention the Electoral College."
My column last week addressed the compromise whereby each slave was counted as three-fifths of a person for the purposes of determining representation in the House of Representatives and Electoral College.
Had slaves been counted as whole people, slaveholding states would have had much greater political power. I agree the framers were not gods and were not infallible, but they had far greater wisdom and principle than today's politicians.
The framers held democracy and majority rule in deep contempt. As a matter of fact, the term democracy appears in none of our founding documents. James Madison argued that "measures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice and the rights of the minor party, but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority."
John Adams said: "Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide."
Stengel's majoritarian vision sees it as anti-democratic...
(Excerpt) Read more at realclearpolitics.com ...
This right here is a distortion. The Constitution came out of Philly intentionally devoid of a Bill of Rights, and James Madison opposed a Bill of Right up until that position became politically untenable.
The framers didn't give us a bill of rights--their opponents did.
Liberals are sickening.
Here's another laugher. The framers sought to expand national power. The federalists trusted the central authority far more than they trusted the states. This is one reason conservatism remains largely ineffective--a basic misunderstanding of our own history:
A national government ought to be able to support itself without the aid or interference of the State governments, ...therefore it was necessary to have full sovereignty. Even with corporate rights the States will be dangerous to the national government, and ought to be extinguished, new modified, or reduced to a smaller scale.-- Alexander Hamilton
" I have well considered the subject, and am convinced that no amendment of the confederation can answer the purpose of a good government, so long as State sovereignties do, in any shape, exist. -- Alexander Hamilton
"I apprehend the greatest danger is from the encroachment of the States on the national government--James Madison
"Conceiving that an individual independence of the States is utterly irreconcileable with their aggregate sovereignty, and that a consolidation of the whole into one simple republic would be as inexpedient as it is unattainable, I have sought for middle ground, which may at once support a due supremacy of the national authority, and not exclude the local authorities wherever they can be subordinately useful."--James Madison
"Under the proposed Govt. the powers of the States will be much farther reduced. According to the views of every member, the Genl. Govt. will have powers far beyond those exercised by the British Parliament, when the States were part of the British Empire."-- James Madison, June 29, 1787
Walter Williams bump!
This 56K dialup FReeper thanks you for linking to the printer friendly page.
The driving force of the 3/5 compromise should not be overlooked; this is often used to show how southerners thought of blacks as less than a person, when in fact it was the north that insisted that they not be treated as individual people because of how it would tilt representation in favor of the slave states.
Not defending slavery here, but facts are facts.
It's a laugher all right, because there were also a huge group of anti-federalists who gave us the Bill of Rights. And Hamilton, BTW, was a traitor who tried to kill the country at it's very birth with enforced permanent debt, de facto banking control of the goverment, and the virtual elimination of States Rights.
The real "framers" knew that the States were the point, but that the Articles of Confederation didn't allow for enough federal unity to deal with foreign powers - and that the BALANCE between the States and the Fed was the real problem, not choosing or favoring one or the other.
Agreed. You had the hard-core antifeds, opposed to the Constitution no matter what (that’s where I would have come down.) Then you had the squishy moderates, sort of the Gang of 14 of their day, who agreed to ratify the Constitution if they could secure a bill of rights. So it’s a mixed bag. We’re probably better off with a bill of rights. But the Constitution, as written, was a mistake, compared to what could have been.
A BTT. It's probably a quibble for which I should apologize, but the Framers include anti-Federalists who did give us the Bill of Rights - Jefferson, for one, who wrote the first one for Virginia. George Mason, who I would certainly consider a Framer. The federalist Madison as well, who first opposed and then embraced and then penned them. I've forgotten more people than I've remembered.
No need to apologize. Quibble away!
Of course you are correct. But understand, the majority of Americans are drooling morons with no understanding at all of what you are talking about. I doubt more than 3% of Americans know what you are talking about.
feeling generous?? :) I would put the number less than 1%
TommyJeff, though, I'd have to call a Framer even if he wasn't physically at the Constitutional Convention. The constitution of the State of Virginia was deeply and obviously the model for the federal one. Well, one of them, anyway.
counting slaves as 3/5ths of a person was a dang sight better than 90% of the world was treating them at the time.
Leftists love to compare them with todays values
None less than John Hancock refused to be a part of the Constitutional Convention, famously stating that he "smelled a rat." It's important to remember, I think, that the founders worked under battle conditions. Great Britain wasn't clueless - Hamilton & Co. were sending steady reports, and the infiltration and subversion of the Convention process was being intensely pursued. That's why they sealed up their hall and sweated in the heat and humidity of a Philly summer to try to dodge the spies.
Philosophically, however, even with all the time in the world and air conditioning (rather than inventing it's practical application for the first time in the history of the world while facing down guns), how exactly does one express the concept of negative rights? Legally it's STILL difficult without adding several thousand pages of philosophy to the actual statements of law, which, by their very purpose, would be fairly concise. So while I can see why the BOR was initially left out, I can also see why real-world necessities almost forced their inclusions. YET - those very inclusions have given the impression of positive law even to this day, and caused no end of troubles as a result.
When Franklin declared, "a republic, madam, if you can keep it," he wasn't just indicating a defense by arms - but also education. For without an educated public, the philosophical underpinings of negative rights would be lost, and with it, the country. Which is EXACTLY why the Left has so massively invaded acadamia.
And look at the horrific results.
It's true the federal constitution was modelled to some degree on various state constitutions. But the "mixed sovereignty" (a total mistake, imo) of the US Constitution was novel, and is the crux of the matter.
The ways in which the national constitution resembles various state constitutions are trivial. The import of the national constitution was centralized, consolidated power at the expense of the states. I personally think it's no coincidence Jefferson was (conveniently) in Europe at the time. Had he been a VA delegate, I'm not sure he'd have stood for what was adopted.
A fascinating statement. I don't know the answer, I'll have to give it a little research.
I think you meant Patrick Henry, but I get the point. I also get the point that a Bill of Rights presents its own set of problems. I think on the whole, if we were going to be stuck with the mega-republic created by the Constitution, we were better off with a BoR and its problems, than we'd have been with the federal leviathan and no declared rights. And I trust those who advocated for it (the antifederalists) a hell of a lot more than their adversaries (the federalists.)
Jefferson could also be a little hard to figure. I have to think that had he been there, his instincts would have run counter to federalist intention. But between Washington, Madison, and Hamilton, the fix was in.
LOL, you're right. That's what I get when I wave my arms and type at the same time : )
don't worry you dummies, just get a guy like Obama in and he will solve all these silly constitutional problems!!!
re: Jefferson and “coincidence”
Thomas Jefferson went to France in May 1785 to serve as Minister to France. Between that time and the very beginning of the Constitutional Convention there was no expectation anywhere that I’m aware of that Jefferson should return by summer 1787 or that anyone before the spring of 1787 really expected to write a constitution to completely replace the Articles of Confederation.
Madison is probably the only person (given his aims) who might conceivably have written to Jefferson urging him to sail home before the summer of 1787, except that Jefferson was occupying a distinguished and important position for the young USA and there’s no plausible scenario that would have brought Jefferson home in time to help create a new constitution in that year (in the eyes of his peers Jefferson would have been throwing up a vitally important public appointment to meddle in an unknown, unforeseen, and uncertain process).
Whether one calls it coincidence or accident, no one (least of all Jefferson himself) saw TJ as in the mix to be debating and writing a new constitution in the summer of 1787.
I'm with you on this, brother.
I understand what the BOR was trying to do, but it equated to letting the Tyranny Camel's nose under the tent.
It's intent has been has been reversed (perversed?) by the hoi polloi into a statement of what we are allowed, not what the government is allowed.
They tried to fix it with the 10th....but oh what a can 'o worms!
"Had slaves been counted as whole people, slaveholding states would have had much greater political power."
counting slaves as 3/5ths of a person was a dang sight better than 90% of the world was treating them at the time.
Leftists love to compare them with todays values
True enough, but it was nice to read the real reason for the 3/5th compromise, not the usual nonsense about prejudice.
Yes, it was Patrick Henry who reportedly said he “smelled a rat” and wanted nothing to do with the convention (which was billed as a meeting to merely revise the Articles of Confederation).
Hancock was supposed to attend as a delegate from Massachusetts but stayed home due to ill health, I believe.
Hancock did become the presiding officer over the Mass. ratifying convention, and although he did have misgivings and stayed mostly silent on the issues (perhaps also due to his failing health), he did give a speech near the end solidly supporting ratification. Massachusetts only ratified by a narrow margin and Hancock’s support of ratification is said to have been crucial. Hancock had reservations but did not at any time oppose drawing up or ratifying the new constitution, so far as I’ve ever read.
Short counting slaves also kept the slave states from mob ruling their will onto the non slave states.
yes, it was the slave-holders of the south who WANTED to count slaves as “whole persons” (without any votes or rights for the slaves, of course) in order to give the southern states more representation in the House of Representatives.....
It was the generally anti-slave north which wanted not to count slaves at all in order to limit the political power of the southern states.
Thus the 3/5 compromise was nothing but numerical compromise.... ZERO would have been better for the anti-slavery position over time (although the most critical balancing was usually in the Senate which of course had 2 votes/Senators per state), so the people who whine about “3/5 of a person” are simply silly and ignorant. The best anti-slavery position at that time would not have counted the slaves at all toward allocating representation in the House.
Stengel is an ass.
The greatest problem with the Constitution is that no written document can prevail against the ill will of a majority who wish to subvert it. And certainly by the 1930s, that ill-educated and unthinking majority existed.
Just a bunch of “dead white guys” in their minds.
Excellent point. Just another way the left lies.
Could you explain why you find some of their life spans curious?
“But the Constitution, as written, was a mistake, compared to what could have been.”
Probably true of any human endeavor—even the really successful ones.
Don’t forget, most of the modern constitutional mischief has been caused by the enthusiasm of the post-civil-war congress to enforce reconstruction on the South. The post-civil-war amendments were very broadly worded instead of being phrased in terms of their intended scope—wiping out slavery. If they are read literally (and not in the context of wiping out slavery), a lot of the 14th amendment makes no sense whatsoever (the “equal protection” clause comes to mind). This broad wording allowed liberal justices since the 40’s to remake America in their image. Overall, I think the constitutional scheme, as imperfect as it may have been, would have survived but for the 14th Amendment.
There's little that's intelligent or informed about Time magazine editor Richard Stengel's article "One Document, Under Siege"It wasn't an article, it was an op-ed.
Yep considering there was no computers at the time, it was amazing that Constitution convention did what needed to get done and prevent spies also.
What can I say? I live out in the country. Only connection available here is dialup. I ain't happy, but I am resigned :)
I would have thought DSL could be had anywhere dialup could be had. I’m surprised.
DSL is limited to 5 miles from the ISPs equipment.
I’m at 4.9 miles, with marginal service.
The saving grace is that it contains within itself the means for its own modification.
That's true. They set the bar pretty high though. And once a government is created, even with an amendment process, the advantages all lie with the government.
In between 1776 and 1787, they went from "whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it" to whenever you can get 2/3rds of both houses to propose an amendment, or 2/3rds of the state legislatures to call a convention and propose an amendment, and once you can get 3/4ths of the state legislatures to ratify it, THEN you can alter--but not abolish--the government.
Quite a few lived very much beyond not only the actuarial expectations of the time but beyond those of ours as well - John Adams (91), Jay (84), Madison (85), Franklin (84), Jefferson (83), Charles Thomson (94)...HERE is a Wiki article that details some of the others. Take a look at the age distribution. Mind you, it's (1) a small sample size, and (2) its members wouldn't be members if they hadn't already lived to adulthood, but it is interesting, no? Sort of makes you think about what effect infant mortality had on the population count in those days.
There is, of course, the famous case of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson dying on the same day, which was the 4th of July, 1826, fifty years to the day from the signing of the Declaration. I wouldn't bother trying to draw any deep significance from this stuff but it's fun to consider.
Your hatred of our Constitution is well known. Less known is your opinion as to what should be in its place.
So, with what would you replace our beloved Constitution?
As if you give a rip.
How many proposed amendments to the Articles of Confederation were ratified?
A determined minority may have precisely the same effect upon the rule of law anywhere men are otherwise too burdened with life's cares to notice their freedom being taken from them. The process toward such an end has been perfected by the Left, and follows a formulaic path (my own theory here): deconstruct, discredit, distract, divest, and then defend.
Essentially: radicals first seek to uncouple a target law or social structure from its purpose or function, then they attack its foundation and supporters (often through the use of ad hominem arguments); they employ further means of deceit to confuse the opposition (such as accusing them of what the are themselves doing); then they use simple majorities to expand power beyond their true authority, and finally use public institutions over which they have gained control (media, bureaucracies, the academy) to build a firewall preventing reversal of their gains. And, all the while the same process continues on other fronts.
Do you think it might be somebody rewriting history? Or maybe some sort of... higher intervention?
“I doubt more than 3% of Americans know what you are talking about.”
Too many eligible voters today understand nothing of the original intent of the founders, or what made their ideas so radically different from Europe; that is why they can elect this foreign Muslim in the White House now.