MIA: History: ETOL: Newspapers & Periodicals: International Socialist Review: Issue 16

International Socialist Review, February–March 2001

Annie Levin

We The People?


From International Socialist Review, Issue 16, February–March 2001.
Downloaded with thanks from the ISR Archive.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the ETOL.


Annie Levin tells the story behind the birth of the U.S. Constitution

WHEN CONSERVATIVE Supreme Court justices Antonin Scalia or William Rehnquist want to attack abortion rights or affirmative action, they justify their decisions on the grounds that the letter of the Constitution must be adhered to. After all, this 214-year-old document is the foundation of our stable and prosperous democracy, says conventional wisdom. [1] But in December 2000, the Supreme Court showed that when it comes to ensuring the election of one of its own, it is willing to toss the whole document out the window. Bush’s election theft has left millions questioning the legitimacy of American democracy – and the credibility of the Supreme Court and the Electoral College.

How could a democracy hand the election to a candidate who actually lost the popular vote? How could five justices overrule the votes of 105 million people? Taken one way, the Court’s Bush v. Gore decision trashed decades of constitutional rulings on “equal protection” and voting rights. But in another way, the Supreme Court was merely ensuring that the Constitution, which doesn’t give the people the right to elect the president, worked the way it was designed to. Although a democratic revolution gave birth to the Constitution, an antidemocratic spirit pervades it.

“The birthday of a new world”

The American Revolution was the first fully secular, fully successful bourgeois revolution. Its leaders advanced a vision of human liberty that unleashed powerful democratic aspirations around the world. As Thomas Paine, the great pamphleteer of the revolution, wrote in Common Sense, “We have it in our power to begin the world over again ... [T]he birthday of a new world is at hand.”

The American colonies sought to free themselves from the economic stranglehold of the British monarchy, which for decades had drained the colonies of raw materials while simultaneously holding them as a captive consumer market for British goods. The Revolutionary War itself was the final stage in a crisis that had escalated throughout the 1760s and 1770s. During this time, the British effort to impose “taxation without representation” on the colonists brought the masses – artisans, mechanics, carpenters, small farmers, poor laborers – into action. After the Stamp Act of 1765, which taxed virtually all documents and printed material, networks of popular committees sprang up. They organized armed people’s militias and carried out violent resistance to British occupation. These committees burned British property, sank British ships, and led boycotts against British goods.

On April 19, 1775, a clash between 700 British soldiers and Minutemen militia in Concord, Massachusetts, sounded the opening shots of war. On the face of it, it seemed unlikely that an impoverished army of colonists could win a war against the undefeated power of the British Empire. But the British found themselves facing an entire armed population that was inspired by radical ideals and united in its hatred for the oppressor. The colonists could carry out guerrilla warfare on their home territory.

An alliance of Northern merchants and Southern planters, groups that sought to free their economy from British interference, led the revolution. But in order to win the war, this aspiring capitalist class needed to mobilize, organize, and arm the general population. For this, they relied on radical leaders with roots in the lower classes. These leaders, men like Paul Revere and Sam Adams, rose from a class of urban mechanics, artisans, craftsmen, printers. Adams’ newspaper and Paine’s pamphlets brought their campaign to the masses. Their revolutionary committees, such as the “Sons of Liberty” and the “Committees of Correspondence,” helped to organize and spread the resistance. Their radical ideals inspired the whole population. The Declaration of Independence of 1776 expressed these ideals: the equality of all human beings; the right to independence from colonial domination; the idea that government should promote the “pursuit of happiness”; above all, that the people under any government had an inalienable right to overthrow it.

In the revolution, the masses got a taste of what it was like to play a decisive role in shaping their own society. Tens of thousands took part in the political discussions of the day. What kind of society are we fighting for? they asked. How can a government ensuring equality of all people be built? The lower classes, which had played such a decisive role in the victory, were not going to quietly accept a new set of tyrannical masters. A period of government building had begun – but who was going to make the rules?

The “beast without a head”

The Continental Congress, a body composed of delegates from all 13 colonies, directed the revolutionary war against Britain. To give shape to the emerging nation-state, the Congress drafted the Articles of Confederation in 1777. Since the revolutionaries were highly suspicious of centralized federal power, the Articles deliberately created a very weak central government under which the states remained free to draft their own constitutions. Fourteen states adopted constitutions between 1776 and 1780.

The first testing ground was Pennsylvania. In 1776, the radicals there created the most democratic state constitution of the period. Its republicanism reflected the important role that the lower classes of Philadelphia played in the revolution – and the influence of artisan leaders such as Thomas Paine and Benjamin Franklin. The Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776 rejected all of the tyrannical elements of British rule. It eliminated the position of governor and replaced it with an executive council of 12 members who were to be elected directly by the people. It also rejected a bicameral legislature (a legislature with two houses), because this smacked too much of the British Parliament with its House of Lords and House of Commons. The radicals of 1776 explained, “Just as there was ‘no need for a representative of a King, for we have none,’ so could there be no need of senates ‘to represent the House of Lords, for we have not, and hope we never shall have a hereditary nobility.’” [2]

The Pennsylvania Constitution required the annual election of officials. After four terms, legislators would be sent back home “to mix with the mass of the people and feel at their leisure the effects of the laws which they have made.” [3] Military officials and judges were forbidden to run for political office. Pennsylvania also provided for the broadest suffrage of any of the states. The doors of the assembly were opened to the public, its votes were published weekly, and the press was declared free to examine its proceedings.

Many wealthy property owners reacted with horror to the Pennsylvania Constitution. The press of the day was filled with rants against this “absurd Constitution,” which had “substituted a mob government for one of the happiest governments of the world.” One Philadelphia merchant declared, “[It is] a Beast without a head.” [4] The elite openly questioned whether the broad enfranchisement of the poor would lead to a situation where the ‘rabble’ chose “a Representative to go to court to vote away the Money of those that have Estates.” [5] As if to confirm the elite’s fears, the new Pennsylvania Assembly annulled the charter of the Bank of North America on the grounds that it threatened republican principles.

At the other end of the spectrum, the slave-owning planter class in Maryland adopted the most undemocratic constitution – “the second thoughts and the cool deliberation of men with much to lose” [6] – which enshrined the rule of the slave owners and protected them from the threat of rebellions.

“Defiance of the law ... was everywhere breathed”

When the British blockade was starving the colonies, it was easy for the rich to put aside property distinctions and to emphasize the unity of all classes against the external enemy. But the Pennsylvania Constitution was only one reflection of a new social reality in the states after 1776. As one contemporary put it, “Men of property ... began to sense ‘that the many headed power of the People, who have hitherto been obediently made use of by their numbers and occasional riots to support the claims set up in America, have discovered their own strength and importance and are now not so easily governed by their former leaders.’” [7]

In 1781, with the signing of the Treaty of Paris, the war officially ended. Without having to direct a war and to equip an army, the federal Congress lost its main reasons for being. By the mid-1780s, the federal Congress had all but collapsed, and the Continental Army disbanded. Although the 1780s saw major economic expansion, conditions were brutal for the lower classes. Bitter resentment welled up toward men who had profited from the war. Paper money flooded the country, creating soaring prices. Farmers couldn’t pay their debts and landed in prison. States created their own laws to govern commerce. Many times these laws directly conflicted with similar laws passed in other states.

The 1780s were a time of profound social crisis for the new republic. The situation could not stand still for long. With increasing frequency, the lower classes – farmers, artisans, and the poor – took to the streets to riot against poor conditions. Most dangerously for the rich, the state militias proved themselves totally unreliable forces for keeping order. In fact soldiers sympathized with – and sometimes actively supported – the rebellions. “Committees and associations of the people, given form and sanction by the experience of the revolutionary movement, were spilling out everywhere to voice grievances or to realize political goals,” wrote historian Gordon Wood. [8]


By the 1780s, the upper classes felt that democracy had gone too far. State legislatures had allowed the “wrong sort of people” to get into political office. Reports of riots breaking out across the states filled the newspapers. The rich began to express the opinion that democracy had gone too far. “We have been guarding against an evil that old States are most liable to, excess of power in the rulers, but our present danger seems to be defect of obedience in the subjects,” said Benjamin Franklin. [9]

The upper classes agreed that a stronger, more centralized government was needed. Slave owners in the Southern states wanted federal guarantees for the slave system. Pioneers and land speculators in the West wanted military support to help them invade Indian lands. Northern commercial interests wanted a government that could impose protective tariffs against foreign imports to nurture domestic industry. In addition, they wanted national infrastructure like a postal service and road construction. And questions began to emerge about how the weak confederation would protect itself against Spain and Britain.

The Massachusetts Constitution of 1780 codified the new antidemocratic tide. To the wealthy, this new state constitution seemed “to have recaptured some of the best elements of the British constitution that had been forgotten in the excitement of 1776.” [10] Most significantly, the Massachusetts Constitution established a bicameral legislature with a House of Representatives and a 40-member senate and placed property qualifications on those who would be eligible for office. Bicameralism was explicitly described as a check on the lower classes. As revolutionary general-turned-politician Benjamin Lincoln put it, “Men possessed of property are entitled to a greater share in political authority than those who are destitute of it.” [11]

For the ruling classes, the “final straw” came with Shays’ Rebellion in 1787. Daniel Shays led 1,500 armed western Massachusetts farmers – most of them Revolutionary War veterans – in a march on Boston. The farmers protested the state legislature’s refusal to issue paper money to help them pay off their debts. Marching through one town after another, the Shays rebels broke open debtors prisons and won local militias to their side. As one participant said, “I have been greatly abused, have been obliged to do more than my part in the war ... The great men are going to get all we have and I think it is time for us to rise and put a stop to it and have no more courts, nor sheriffs, nor collectors, nor lawyers.” [12] With the state doubting the loyalty of the militia, Boston merchants raised a private army to crush the rebels and hang several of their leaders. Shays’ Rebellion epitomized the deepest fears of the upper classes. More than any other event, it provoked the Constitutional Convention of 1787. As James Madison, one of the framers of the Constitution, later wrote, “The tempestuous situation from which Massachusetts has scarcely emerged evinces that dangers of this kind are not merely speculative.” [13]

Convention in Philadelphia

Throughout the 1780s the federal government was perilously weak. Congress had the power to make war and peace, but it had no power to tax or to enforce its will. The Articles of Confederation required legislatures in nine states to approve policy decisions. It required the consent of the legislatures of all 13 states to make any changes in them. Western migration exploded after the war, which raised the question of how new states would be included in the union. Adding to the problems, Vermont had declared itself an independent state from New York but was not recognized by Congress (or by New York!). Congress had no power to adequately fund the army, provoking a wave of mutinies and a near military coup d’état in 1783.

In 1785, commissioners from Virginia and Maryland met at George Washington’s home in Mount Vernon, Virginia. Ostensibly they met to negotiate the status of the Potomac River. Instead, they decided to call a conference of delegates from all states to address the crisis of their government. At the conference in Annapolis, Maryland, in 1786, delegates moved to call a convention the following year in Philadelphia. That meeting would aim to amend the Articles of Confederation. James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, who envisioned a new federal government with strong powers over the states, spearheaded the effort to amend the Articles. Hamilton, who came from the New York commercial world, and Madison, a slave-owning planter, represented wings of the upper class that wanted an end to “present anarchical confusion prevailing almost everywhere.” [14]

By the standards of the Articles of Confederation, the Constitutional Convention that met in Philadelphia was illegal. Twelve out of thirteen states attended, with Rhode Island boycotting. Of the 55 men who drew up the Constitution, the majority were wealthy lawyers, merchants, and slave owners. [15] They were determined to build the kind of state that would nurture their class interests and allow them to become a force in the world. To realize these goals, they knew that a centralized national government was essential. If this meant overturning some or all of the democratic measures of the revolution, then they were willing to do it.

When the convention opened in June, Madison seized the initiative with his Virginia Plan, which in effect would eliminate the Articles of Confederation. The Virginia Plan proposed a national government with a bicameral legislature; a lower house elected by popular vote and the upper house chosen by the lower. Congress would choose the president and judges. The federal government would have the power to veto all decisions of the states. The governor of Virginia defended the plan as “a strong consolidated union in which the idea of states should be nearly annihilated.” [16]

Delegates from the smaller states who feared their sovereignty would be swallowed up by Madison’s plan rallied behind William Paterson’s New Jersey Plan. Paterson’s plan preserved more state sovereignty. On the far right of the spectrum, Alexander Hamilton presented a plan that would have nearly turned the new government back into a monarchy. Hamilton proposed a president and a senate who would hold their positions for life. Justifying this arrangement, Hamilton claimed, “All communities divide themselves into the few and the many ... Can a democratic assembly who annually revolve in the mass of the people be supposed steadily to pursue the public good? Nothing but a permanent body can check the imprudence of democracy.” [17] The convention defeated Hamilton’s plan. But it was not so far out of synch with some upper class thinking at the time.

“Tyranny of the majority”

The constitution drafted by the Philadelphia convention was a far cry from the ideals of 1776. It set up a powerful executive branch, a bicameral legislature, an unelected Supreme Court, and the appointment of judges – all steps away from direct rule by the people. In the legislative branch, senators were not directly elected by the people but chosen by state governments to serve six-year terms. This was designed to insulate them from popular pressure. Only members of the House of Representatives were to be directly elected, but the House too was removed from popular control. It would meet in the country’s new capitol, far from public view, and initially have only 65 members.

Not only did the Constitution foster a caste of politicians separated from their constituents, but it also set out to block the popular will. The Constitution’s system of “checks and balances” and the separation of powers between the three branches of government – executive, legislative, and judiciary – accomplished this. As described in high school civics textbooks, these elements brilliantly preserve government and social stability. They are said to prevent any one “interest” or “faction” in society from being able to push its agenda at the expense of everybody else.

But the Framers were not concerned primarily about a minority imposing its views on society.

In his famous Federalist Paper #10, Madison argued that the greatest danger to the democracy was not the tyranny of the minority in government, but the tyranny of the majority. As Madison wrote in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, “Wherever the real power in a Government lies, there is danger of oppression. In our Governments the real power lies in the majority of the Community, and the invasion of private rights is chiefly to be apprehending, not from the acts of Government ... but from the ... major number of the constituents.” And then, getting straight to the point: “Only a minority can be interested in preserving the rights of property.” [18]

The great compromise

The overwhelming majority of the Framers were united on the need to restrict popular democracy. But they disagreed sharply on the relative influence that each of their states would have on the national government. Small states worried that if population became the measure of representation in the new federal government, then they would lose influence. But the real issue at the heart of this debate was not population, but slavery. Virginia, South Carolina, and Maryland sought protection for the barbaric slave system. Specifically, they wanted slaves counted as part of the general population, which would give those states a major advantage over Northern states in terms of the representation they would receive. Northern delegates, such as Robert Morris, opposed representation for slaves, fearing that Southern landowners would have more influence in government than Northern commercial wealth. The delegates had hit an impasse. “It seemed now to be pretty well understood that the real difference of interests lay, not between the large & small states but between the North & South States. The institution of slavery & its consequences have formed the line of discrimination,” Madison, the convention’s chief historian, wrote. [19]

The slaveholders won out. On July 12, the convention adopted the infamous formula that counted slaves as three-fifths of a person for purposes of representation in Congress. Later the convention added clauses in the Constitution that assisted masters in catching runaway slaves and forbade interference with the slave trade for 20 years. Historians believe that these pro-slavery “compromises” rested on a behind-the-scenes deal between North and South. In exchange for the constitutional protection of slavery, the Continental Congress adopted the “Northwest ordinance” forbidding slavery north of the Ohio River. [20]

The Electoral College

Two convention aims – insulating the government from popular will and protecting slaveholders’ power – came together in the constitutional procedures for choosing the president. Instead of electing the president by a national majority vote, each state would receive a certain number of “electors” based on population. These electors, forming the Electoral College, would choose the president. When the Electoral College was too divided to choose a president – which the Framers assumed would be the case “nineteen times out of twenty” – then the House of Representatives would pick the president. [21]

Hamilton and Madison offered two basic arguments in support of the Electoral College. First, they argued that the general population was not capable of deciding who was qualified to lead the country. Even though only a small percentage of the population could vote – white, property-holding men – Hamilton still considered the electorate untrustworthy. “It was desirable that the sense of the people should operate in the choice of the person to whom so important a trust was to be confided ... It was equally desirable that ... a small number of persons, selected by their fellow citizens from the general mass, will be most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to so complicated an investigation,” he wrote. [22]

Second, institutions like the Electoral College would assure Southern support for the national government. Once the convention agreed to the “three-fifths” compromise, the South would be guaranteed a disproportionate influence in government. “The federal Constitution, therefore, decides with great propriety on the case of our slaves, when it views them in the mixed character of persons and of property,” the slave owner Madison wrote. “Could it be reasonably expected that the Southern States would concur in a system which considered their slaves in some degree as men when [taxes] were to be imposed, but refused to consider them in the same light when advantages were to be conferred?” [23]

So George W. Bush climbed into office on the back of an Electoral College that was set up to benefit slave owners!

Who supported the Federalists?

Wealthy landowners and commercial traders who wanted to see the creation of a national bank and the development of industry led the campaign in support of the Constitution. In Maryland, the “Federalists,” as supporters of the Constitution called themselves, were the same planters who had drawn up that state’s conservative constitution in 1776. But the Federalist cause also drew the support of military officers and diplomats who were frustrated with the condition of the military. A federal government could regulate interstate trade, end state tariffs, create a national money system, enforce patents and copyrights, and guarantee credit. But Madison knew that the Constitution also had to be sold to the public as “a republican remedy for the diseases most incident to republican government.” [24]

The Federalists mounted a highly orchestrated campaign to win ratification of the Constitution in the states. First, they sent it to states that were sure to ratify it: Delaware, Georgia, and New Jersey. These states supported a strong federal government because they depended on interstate commerce or had been damaged during the war. The unanimous ratification of the Constitution in these states gave the campaign a sense of momentum. Pennsylvania and Connecticut gave the Constitution quick approval. Maryland, South Carolina and Massachusetts provided narrower victories. After Massachusetts, the Framers needed only one more state for the Constitution to become official. Rhode Island had rejected ratification. North Carolina appeared hostile to the Constitution. Virginia and New York – the most populous and economically important states – wavered. The Federalists knew that winning support in Virginia and New York was crucial. If these states ratified, others would have little choice but to go along. To aid the ratification campaign in New York, Madison, Hamilton and John Jay published The Federalist Papers, 85 essays defending the Constitution. These essays were an impressive achievement. They took a fundamentally undemocratic Constitution and repackaged it as the crowning achievement of the American Revolution.

Without a doubt, the Federalists won their case in the general population. The new Constitution had massive support among the artisan class that had played such a decisive role in the revolution. After the war this class had suffered from the rampant inflation, economic depression, and social chaos. Artisan leaders saw in the new Constitution the promise of economic stability and commercial prosperity. The background to this support was an economy in 1789 that was “rapidly emerging from the effects of postwar depression; commerce and shipbuilding were reviving; and the demand for American agricultural products was increasing sharply as a result of poor harvests in Europe. Public and private enterprise was beginning to transform the face of the country.” [25] In one parade in Philadelphia – the stronghold of radical republicanism – thousands of artisans, mechanics, pilots, carpenters, merchants, traders, and watchmakers marched in support of the new Constitution. They carried a banner that read: “The death of anarchy and confusion shall feed the poor and the hungry.” [26]

Rural areas provided the backbone of antifederalism, as small farmers tended to oppose the new Constitution. The crushing of Shays’ Rebellion taught them the limitations of the riot as a method for winning their demands. However, they still rejected any laws that would strengthen the market that had ruined so many small farms. They were suspicious of any kind of return to strong government. They favored laws that protected the ways of communal rural life, which seemed to be dissolving around them. But altogether this class was not capable of preventing the Federalist winds of change from sweeping through.

The Bill of Rights

Amazingly, the Constitution in its original form included no Bill of Rights, which had been the bedrock of the state constitutions. The Framers argued, somewhat cynically, that no Bill of Rights was needed in a “people’s government.” But behind this assertion was a fear that opening the door to amendments would weaken the federal power of the Constitution. And indeed, the state ratifying conventions produced 210 amendments. Many of these called for thoroughly backward measures, such as religious tests to keep Jews out of government. Others tried to limit the power of the federal government to levy taxes.

The Federalists used the addition of a Bill of Rights as a bargaining chip to win ratification of the Constitution. “If we can make the Constitution better in the opinion of those who are opposed to it without weakening its frame ... we act the part of wise and liberal men to make such alterations as shall produce that effect,” Madison said. [27] In order to win the Anti-Federalists to the new government, Madison made sure that the First Congress’s first act was drafting the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights stated on paper many of the revolution’s principles, such as freedom of speech and freedom of the press. But the Tenth Amendment, which states that “the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited it by the states, are reserved to the States respectively,” would later become a bedrock for the states’ rights advocates in the South. And as historian Howard Zinn points out, the early presidential administrations were very selective in deciding how to enforce the Bill of Rights. For example, the First Amendment did not prevent passage of a Sedition Act against French and Irish revolutionaries in the U.S. In 1798.


To historian Edward Countryman, “The Constitution marked a ‘repudiation of 1776’ in its rejection of radical democracy. To that extent, it marked not only the end of the revolution but also a reaction against it. Yet politically conservative though the Constitution was, it was also fully in tune with the needs of what were then the most progressive economic forces in the world. The structure it created would serve those forces well.” [28] If the Constitution had not been ratified, creating a centralized United States, it is likely that the new nation would not have survived. The European absolutist powers might have re-conquered it. In helping to establish a limited democratic republic, the Constitution consolidated the historic gains of the revolution. On the other hand, the creation of a new centralized state laid the groundwork for a whole new set of horrors: 80 years of compromise on slavery, the organized genocide of Native Americans, the development of industrial centers that brutally exploited millions of workers, the rise of the U.S. as an imperialist power.

In 1787, the only remaining barrier to capitalist expansion, the institution of slavery, was postponed for resolution at a later date. Though the Federalists liked to paint a picture of their government as a moderating force balancing between the conflicting “interests” in society, it quickly became clear that the new government would not be neutral in the class struggle. Its laws, its legislatures, its courts, its police, and its armies served the needs of the capitalist class. The U.S. Constitution has prevailed not because of its inherent greatness, but because it has continued to meet the needs of the class that wrote it.

It has taken more than two centuries for excluded groups – from working-class men, women, Blacks, and young people to fight and win the right to vote. Only in the 1970s did the United States attain a society that was fully enfranchised, although the outcome of Election 2000 raises doubts about that, too. [29] When it came to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” all of those excluded by the Constitution – workers, Blacks, Indians, women, immigrants – found that they would have to fight for the rights and ideals the American Revolution promised. We are fighting for them still.

Thanks to Lance Selfa, Geoff Bailey, Jason Yanowitz, and David Zirin. Several works in addition to those cited here provide valuable information on this subject. See, for example, Eric Foner, Tom Paine and Revolutionary America (London: Oxford University Press, 1976); Megan Trudell, Who made the American Revolution? International Socialism Journal 73 (Winter 1996); Herbert Aptheker, The American Revolution: 1763–1783 (New York: International Publishers, 1960).

Annie Levin teaches English in Lynn, Mass., and belongs to AFT Local 1037 and the International Socialist Organization

* * *


1. A recent speech at the National Archives is a perfect example of some of this overblown rhetoric: “The Framers gave us a document durable and flexible enough to take us from the agrarian land of the eighteenth century ... to the country we know today, of the Internet and the human genome and a thousand different cultures living together in one nation like a glittering mosaic ... For twenty-one decades ... [t]he Constitution has sheltered each American generation from public dangers like dictatorship, anarchy, famine, civil war, political corruption, fascism, Communism, despair.” (Remarks by Dr. Michael Beschloss, September 15, 2000, National Archives Building, Washington, D.C.)

2. Gordon S. Wood, The Creation of the American Republic: 1776–1787 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998), p. 231.

3. Wood, p. 231

4. Wood, p. 233.

5. Wood, p. 168.

6. Edward Countryman, The American Revolution (New York: Hill and Wang, 1985), p. 126.

7. Wood, p. 322.

8. Wood, p. 324.

9. Wood, p. 432.

10. Wood, p. 215.

11. Wood, p. 220.

12. Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States (New York: Harper Perennial, 1990), p. 91.

13. Zinn, p. 97.

14. Wood, p. 476.

15. Zinn, p. 89.

16. Countryman, p. 187.

17. Zinn, p. 95.

18. Wood, p. 410.

19. Countryman, p. 190.

20. Countryman, p. 188.

21. Countryman, p. 192.

22. Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, The Federalist Papers, ed. Clinton Rossiter (New York: Penguin Putnam Inc., 1999), Federalist Paper #10, p. 380.

23. Hamilton, Madison, and Jay, Federalist Paper #55, p. 312.

24. Hamilton, Madison, and Jay, Federalist Paper #10, p. 379.

25. John C. Miller, The Federalist Era: 1789–1801 (New York: Harper and Row, 1960), p. 3

26. Countryman, p. 215.

27. Miller, p. 12.

28. Countryman, p. 212.

29. Alexander Keyssar’s book, The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States (New York, Basic Books, 2000) contains a great anecdote. Back in the eighteenth century, Benjamin Franklin poked fun at the ludicrous property qualifications with this fable: “There was once a man who could vote in one election because he owned a $50 jackass, but afterward the animal died. The man continued to gain experience, making him a more qualified voter, but because the jackass was dead, he could not vote again. ‘Now gentlemen,’ asked Franklin, ‘pray inform me, in whom is the right of suffrage? In the man or in the jackass?’”

Last updated on 7 August 2021