WEEK FOUR: DISCUSSION QUESTION—US CONSTITUTION
The two questions below have a corresponding paper that seeks to answer each question. Your Assignment this week is to write an analytical critique of paper that answers Question 2 ONLY.
1. Your critique will first require that you READ the paper, carefully research the topic itself (you can use some of its Works Cited to aid you in that effort) and then give careful thought to writing a systematic, logical, and coherent critique of it. Below is the protocol you are to follow for writing your critique. Please ensure that your critique is written in such a way that the established protocol is appropriately worked into it. Please also note that your critique must be appropriately paragraphed when submitted and that no personal pronouns or contractions are used.
Word Count is 250 Words Max.(YOU MUST SHOW WORD COUNT!)
1. Does the author properly establish the scope of the paper so that it captures the essence of what the question asks? How does the author do that?
2. Are the arguments, clear, precise, logical, and coherent? How do they show that?
3. Does the author substantiate claims made with appropriate evidence to support them? How does author do that?
4. How well or how poorly did the author do so?
5. Did the author follow the proper use of the MLA system of citation/documentation? How did author do that?
6. What is your take away from this assignment?
(Please be reminded that contractions and personal pronouns are not allowed nor is use of encyclopedia as a source at anytime) Please also remember that you are NOT assigned to write a paper on Question 2 topic. Rather, you are to CRITIQUE the written paper based on the protocol provided.)
The Founding Fathers claimed in the preamble of the Constitution that “We the people”, suggesting that the people in America at that time ordained and established the Constitution. Yet, history tells us that “the people” did not participate in the formulation of the document. In fact, women were not included in the document and slaves were worth only 3/5 of “other persons.” How do you explain this phenomenon?
How did the Founding Fathers formulate the Constitution to ensure that the minority would always be in charge and that power would never go from them to the masses? Can you cite specific ways in which this was done? For example, by not allowing the masses to directly elect the president, was it the intention of the Founding Fathers to protect themselves from the “tyranny of the majority?” How so? Why would they do this? Did they have something to fear? What was it?
How did the Founding Fathers formulate the Constitution to ensure that the minority would always be in charge and that power would never go from them to the masses? Can you cite specific ways in which this was done? For example, by not allowing the masses to directly elect the president, was it the intention of the Founding Fathers to protect themselves from “tyranny of the majority”? How so? Why would they do this? Did they have something to fear? What was it?
Analysis of Question 2.
The Founding Fathers expressed both classical liberalism and classical conservatism ideologies in their political worldview. They saw humanity at its best as being reasonable and responsible, but also knew that humanity at its worst was capable of being an irrational mob. Consequently, the Founders were adamant in their belief that individual liberty could only be protected from a corrupt majority by a republican government where power rests in the hands of an elite few. As James Madison, the acclaimed “Father of the Constitution” said, “The public voice, expressed by representatives of the people, will be more consonant to the public good than if pronounced by the people themselves.” Through the creation of constitutional limits on mass participation, the Founders ensured that the elite minority was protected from the majority. The supremacy clause in Article VI of the Constitution declares the laws and treaties generated by the federal government as “the supreme law of the land.” With the authority of the national elite declared, the elites relied on tools in the Constitution, like separation of powers, checks and balances, taxation, and a national military, to keep their supreme power in place.
A sincere desire for the continuation and success of the United States as a unified nation is what motivated the Founding Fathers to keep power in the hands of the elite. The 55 Founders were all exceptionally talented and educated, and were already extremely experienced as leaders in their new country. The United States was made up mostly of indebted farmers who neither had the time nor information to actively participate in politics. Also during this time, 20% of the population were indentured servants and another 20% were slaves.(Citation here)
After Benjamin Franklin’s call for a “perpetual union” in 1775, the Articles of Confederation were created in 1777 with the purpose of creating a “firm league of friendship” among the states. In 1785, Alexander Hamilton wrote a report that outlined the defects in the Articles of Confederation and it was agreed that delegates would meet to fix them. In the summer of 1786 before the delegates could meet, Shays’ Rebellion occurred and spurred the elite into action. In Massachusetts, a band of debt-ridden farmers and laborers led by Daniel Shays, a veteran of the battle of Bunker Hill, threatened the propertied and creditor class to repudiate their debts. Though several courthouses and even the city of Springfield were held captive, the rebellion was halted by a small army funded by the wealthy citizens who were afraid to lose their property and wealth. The need for a strong central government grew out of the elite’s fear of acts of radicalism like Shays’ Rebellion, and the Constitution rose out of the failures of the Articles of Confederation to protect individual liberty and the minority.
The Founders knew that a national military was necessary for protection in the event of another rebellion. The Constitution states the power in Article I, Section 8, Clause 15, “To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress insurrections and repel Invasions.” Much of the discussion in Article I, Section 8 is about organizing and supporting armies, and states that the president is the commander-in-chief of the national army and navy and can call any state militia into federal service. This concentrated power of the armed forces keeps in command the elites who run the national government. During the Constitutional Convention, debates and discussions were held in secret because the Founders knew that elite division made them look weak. A national militia gave the appearance of a strong, united elite, which has the ability to be more effective.
Article 1, Section 8, Clause 1 of the Constitution states “The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States.” The national government’s power to levy taxes is its sole means of revenue and survival. In exchange for representation by the elites, taxation is placed upon the citizen masses. This is part of the social contract that keeps the government that the people consented to in power.
The Founder’s best efforts to thwart the “tyranny of the majority” is through the implementation of separating and sharing powers and the system of checks and balances. As outlined in the opening sentences of the first three articles of the Constitution, the national government is separated into three different branches: legislative, executive, and judicial. Article 1, Section 1 of the Constitution states, “All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consists of a Senate and House of Representatives.” The legislative branch is in charge of making the laws. Article 2, Section 1 of the Constitution states, “The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.” The executive branch, made up of the president, vice-president and their cabinet, is in charge of carrying out the laws. Article 3, Section 1 of the Constitution states, “The judicial Power of the United States shall be vested in one supreme court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.” The judicial branch is is in charge of evaluating the laws. With these three branches sharing power and having the ability to interrupt each other’s efforts, it was the intention of the Founders for legislature to become a slow process. Their foresight makes it impossible for the decision-making bodies to all succumb at once to“tides of popular sentiment” (Greenberg 61).
Furthermore, the constitutional limitations put on officeholders kept power among elites. Congress officials, elected by the people, served only two years. This short-lasting term is due to elected officials being subject to public opinion. Senators, appointed to their positions at the time, served a term of six years that allowed them to be more resistant. The Founders had faith that those appointed to their positions by the learned elite would put the interests of the country before their own. This point is further exemplified by how the Founders originally intended for the president to only be appointed by the Electoral College. The Founders feared a popular majority acting on their own self-interests and infringing upon the individual liberties of the minority. In contrast to the short term of Congress officials, members of the Supreme Court serve a term of life. Supreme Court officials are nominated by the president, then the appointments are approved by the Senate. The trust in Supreme Court officials to serve a life-long term is due to the trust in the learned elite who selects them.
The ratification of the United States Constitution was advocated and assisted by The Federal Papers written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay. As mentioned before, Madison is nicknamed “The Father of the Constitution,” and many of his ideas that are applied to the Constitution appeared first in his essays. In the Federalist Number 51, Madison explains the system of separation of powers and checks and balances which is the main device employed against majority factions. Madison believed that “conflict is part of human nature, and ‘controlling faction’ is the principal task of government” (Dye, Schubert, Ziegler 44). Madison, and his fellow Founding Fathers, understood the irony of democracy: “Democracy is government ‘by the people,’ but the responsibility for the survival of democracy rests on the shoulders of elites” (Dye, Schubert, Ziegler 1).
Cornell University Law School. U.S. Constitution. Legal Information Institute, n.d. Web. 11 Oct. 2014.
“The Federalist No. 10.” The Federalist Papers. The Library of Congress, n.d. Web. 12 Oct. 2014.
“The Federalist No. 51.” The Federalist Papers. The Library of Congress, n.d. Web. 12 Oct. 2014.
Greenberg, Edward S. The American Political System: A Radical Approach. New York: Longman, 1989. Print.
Schubert, Louis, Thomas R. Dye and Harmon Zeigler. The Irony of Democracy. 16 ed. Boston: Wadsworth, 2014. Print.
“Spending Clause.” The Heritage Guide to The Constitution. The Heritage Foundation, 2012. Web. 12 Oct. 2014.
The University of Virginia Press. The Papers of James Madison. The University of Virginia, 12 Dec. 2012. Web. 12 Oct. 2014.
“U.S. Federal Government.” Usa.gov. The United States Government, 8 Oct. 2014. Web. 12 Oct. 2014.
The Founding Fathers claimed in the preamble of the Constitution that “We the people”, suggesting that the people in America at that time, ordained and established the Constitution. Yet, history tells us that “the people” did not participate in the formulation of the document. In fact, women were not included in the document and slaves were worth only 3/5 of “other persons.” How do you explain this phenomenon?
Analysis of QUESTION 1.
When elites of the American Union felt threatened and unprotected by the Articles of Confederation and the Continental Congress, they united and discussed how to protect what was most dear to them; their property. As the Constitution was being created opinions such as protection against ‘leveling’ tendencies were suggested by James Madison. The influential John Jay shared the notion that the people owning the country should be the ones to govern it. It was less about democracy as it is known today and more to do with protection of property, security, and power for those who owned the assets.
It seems there was a real fear that the masses, comprised of common folks, would restructure the way government functioned, thus changing the way lands, businesses, and moneys were handled. These possibilities put such fear into that faction of men who had significant assets at the time that the Constitution was created to protect such a travesty from occurring. Tyranny, brought about by the passions of the masses, could not affect the minority of property holders when the system was built in such a way to limit the voices of the masses. The Constitution not only left out any power, voice, or place for women and slaves, it also put severe restraints on the lower class common folk: the debtors, non-property owners, working class. It is not just the obvious racial and sexist discriminatory document, rather it is an overall power play by the property-owning elites, for the elites.
A major reason why women and slaves were not mentioned or protected in the Constitution at that time was because they too were considered property to those wealthy white men. Just as no power is bestowed upon livestock, the same treatment was given to these groups. The constitution was written by highly educated elites who had three main reference points: the Protestant Bible, the Old World’s government, and political scientists such as John Locke. In the end something resembling a religious doctrine based on divine right was created, intended to bestow power and protection to those deserving and provide laws of the land for all to follow. It is no wonder then, that women were not counterparts within the document since the protestant views at the time laid heavily on the women belonging to the father or husband, doing what was requested. Women were supported in the role of domestic affairs, where a women’s job was to raise and nurture the future men of the nation, free of opinion, power, and education. The notion that women belonged in the position of housewife was further emphasized by the Cult of Domesticity in the 1820s. It was not until 1848 at the Seneca Falls Convention, that changes began to take place, including women being added to the Declaration of Independence and the creation of the Declaration of Sentiments.
As for slaves, it would have been thought ridiculous to bestow power upon a life form, which, at the time, was considered less than human, uneducable, and a piece of property meant for work. There was simply no purpose to add slaves to the Constitution with any position of power because it did not benefit the elites in any way. Slave labor was an integral part of commerce and the key factor to the cotton trade functioning well. Unfortunately, even as freedom came into question, it was more about saving the Union than freeing a people subjected to servitude, when President Lincoln wrote up the Emancipation Proclamation. In 1862, the year prior to issuing freedom to slaves, Lincoln wrote, “My paramount objective in this struggle is to save the Union. If I could save the Union without freeing any slaves, I would do it; if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that.”
By using money and power, America’s small population of elites were able to create the Constitution which reflected their desires and concerns. Those concerns did not include bestowing the power to vote, hold office, or own property to women and slaves. It seems the document which is looked at in a democratic light in the twentieth century, was at the time, lacking any democratic luster in its creation.
Greenberg, Edward. The American Political System: A Radical Approach. 5th ed. Boston: Scott, Foresman and Co, 1989. Print.
National Humanities Center. “America in Class: The Cult of Domesticity.” North Carolina State University. Web. 24 Apr. 2015.
http://americainclass.org/the-cult-of-domesticity/ (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.
Schubert, Louis, Thomas Dye, and Harmon Zeigler. The Irony of Democracy: An Uncommon Introduction to American Politics. 16th ed. Boston: Wadsworth, 2014. Web.
Smith, Duane. “An Introduction to the Political Philosophy of the Constitution.” Department of Political Science. University California. Web. 25 Apr. 2015. http://www.civiced.org/papers/political.html
West, John. “Religion and the Constitution.” In God We Trust? Religion and American Political Life. Ed. Corwin Smidt. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001. Web. 25 Apr. 2015. http://www.discovery.org/f/5201 (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.
WEEK FOUR: DISCUSSION QUESTION—US CONSTITUTION
MondayJan 27 at 3:14pm
The author properly establishes the scope of the paper by answering the question by using the clause in article 6 where is states that constitution declares laws and treaties as “the supreme law of the land.” Also the constitution has separation of powers, checks and balances, taxation, and a national military to keep the government balanced. Yes, the arguments are clear, precise, logical, and coherent because the paper is straightforward and provides citations from secure sources. The author shows this by citing sources and explaining why the founding fathers had to protect themselves from “tyranny of the majority.” The paper states that “the founding fathers feared a popular majority acting in their own self-interests and infringing upon the individual liberties of the minority. Yes, the author substantiate claims made with appropriate evidence to support them by explaining how the ratification of the United States Constitution. The author gives a lot of information by using sources that are valid. The author made a few errors on the MLA citations by not use commas after the authors last name and the author forgot to write page (pg) and a period before the number. From this assignment I took away that the founding fathers wanted to create a government that the people could have rights while the Elites kept it alive but the implement of checks and balances along with separation of powers kept the government in control so that all the powers is balanced between the three branches of government.
Word Count: 248
YesterdayJan 28 at 8:02pm
The author of the paper for Question 2, explained that the majority would have the three branches to protect the rights of the minority. The scope of the paper focuses on the founders by analyzing the Constitution to protect the minority. The author provides evidence of the ideal that the Constitution by listing articles that was built on by shared power, so that the president would not have all the power that a king would. The author stayed on topic with their scope from explaining that there are representatives of each state for the minority to have a voice to relaying the message of the government should be decided by the people and not entirely the president.
The argument the author tried to make shows evidence through citations to show that they did not come up with the ideas and got the information from somewhere else. The author quoted specific articles of the Constitution to be able to support their argument and explained the quote after by analyzing the meaning. MLA format was shown well by the work cited page being in order alphabetically and the citation being placed next to the information at the end corresponding to the information being cited. There was one part of the citations that said, “(citation here)” which is not the correct way to cite even if it’s forgotten. This assignment taught that the Constitution tried to balance between all three powers for the democracy model that America was envisioned to follow.
Word Count: 247
6:06amJan 29 at 6:06am
The author establishes a well thought-out path for the reader to quickly comprehend which path the essay would be going in the thesis. Arguing that the Founding Fathers formulated the Constitution to ensure that the elites stayed in power and were protected from unruly masses (majority). For example; the second sentence the author wrote “They saw humanity at its best as being reasonable and responsible, but also knew that humanity at its worst was capable of being an irrational mob.” Here the author is defending his argument of why the Founding Fathers (elite minority) wrote the Constitution the way it is read—that the majority at times can not be trusted and no single man should have absolute rule over the masses.
Furthermore, the arguments in the essay are clear and in logical, coherent order. All years (dates) of events fit in chronological order. Points are lucid and not confusing when read. I applaud the author for taking the time and laying out this well researched—well corroborated—backed with facts and details, regarding how the U.S. Constitution was written to serve and protect the elite minorities. However, the only flaw I can see of this essay is its MLA formatting of paragraphs—(MLA) requires every new paragraphs to be indented (1.5 in.) and double spaced (not single spaced). Overall, this assignment was quite enjoyable; by reading and critiquing this essay—I became aware of the many errors in my own writing and I will correct accordingly.
(Word Count: 247)
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