Constitutional History of
Our Democratic Federalist Republic

Our Founding Fathers Feared Direct Democracy
Political Discussions Had Five Recurring Themes 

Three Continuing Questions Developed

Did You Know
See Building America's Constitution

Our Founding Fathers Feared Direct Democracy

17th-century Liberalism came during the Age of Enlightenment from philosopher John Locke. He argued that each man had natural rights of equality, liberty, property, the necessity of consent, and limited government. These beliefs began U.S. political discussions which centered on minimal state liberalism (today's conservatism) vs. active state liberalism (today's liberalism).

The US constitution was seen as very important because republican government had not succeeded due to an inability to limit majority power. Out Founding Fathers designed the constitution to promote political stability and control majority factions. Change would not be easy.

Controls included a Separation of Powers with authority among three branches of government, the legislature, the President, and the courts. Within the legislature power was again separated such that the Senate could stop a bill passed by the House of Representatives and vice versa. The President could veto a passed Congressional bill, Congress could override said veto with a 2/3 vote, and the Supreme Court could stop the President and Congress by declaring a law unconstitutional. These checks and balances between the branches were to protect minority rights from majority factions.

The Electoral College was another control over concentration of power. Some founder/delegates to the Constitutional Convention feared Direct Democracy. What became known as the Electoral College was a compromise between a true Republican election by the people and an electorate consisting of more qualified citizens. But there were other reasons. Slave states with large populations but far fewer eligible voters wanted a compromise like the one used to determine  state House of Reprehensive representation. This  3/5 comprise counted some slaves as population for representation purposes.  High population states like Virginia's which had many House of Representative members would also have a large number of Presidential electors. House members were not used as electors because maintaining presidential independence would be difficult if a small continuingly elected group like Congress electing the President.

Maintaining our Republic Required Compromise

Americas Democracy had a difficult political beginning after violence and anarchy of the French Revolution 1789-99 made many Americans uneasy about their republican democracy. During this period the Federalist and their active state liberalism ruled.

Taxes caused the first of many major controversies It came when
Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton orchestrated the 1789 import  tax and many blamed

 

. Many believers in minimum state liberalism were unhappy. The tax revenue was needed to pay Revolutionary War debt of both state and federal governments. Relative to GDP, it was the largest federal debt to exist until 1933 when revenue collapsed causing D3 (deep-do-do). Thus Hamilton began the continuing practice of increasing taxes (though not enough) to pay for war. Repayment t of resulting long-term debt was spread over many years allowing repayment in cheaper dollars due to inflation. This minimized the Nation's financial sacrifice.

A new practice of refinancing principal with new bonds to pay  maturing bonds began after WWI. Some call this passing debt to our children but it has been 75 years and none has been paid so far. In terms of today's dollars the WW2 created debt is minimal.

The practice of lowering taxes during war began when Bush II as he cut taxes while starting two wars. He also expanded the social safety net by creating Medicare Part D. This added to our largest future liability because changing demographics will solve potential SS liabilities.

Hamilton (to the dismay of  Jefferson) also began the practices of the federal government paying state debt with many states  showing their appreciation by telling the federal government to stay out of state business. Source      

Change, which would happen often  It began with Jefferson who believed in minimal state liberalism. Others followed with A Jackson being the most notable. Lincoln used a strong federal government to preserve the Union and which lasted until the end of reconstruction when limited government helped by the Supreme Court fostered the Gilded Age. It did so by making owner property rights more important than worker personal liberties.

The new century brought Progressivism from Teddy Roosevelt and Windrow Wilson who were active state liberalist. The First Red Scare and unionism following WW I brought back minimal state liberalism. The Great recession allowed FDR to use active state liberalism to tame our Greatest Depression. Active state

liberalism ended with by a Second Red Scare. The Korean War and The Cold War contributed to the feeling  we needed security more than individual liberty. The 1962 Kennedy assassination gave LBJ's the ability to use active state liberalism to pass The Great Society anti-poverty programs. Stagflation of the 1970's allowed Ronald Regan to again reverse course. He blame active state liberalism for creating  excess government regulation which slowed the economy.

Another new century brought Active State Liberalism First another Scare, this time from terrorism, meant personal liberty had to yield to maximize public safety. Active State Liberalism t continued with the Great Recession which required government corporate bailouts and health care expansion 

Political Discussion Had Five Recurring Themes

1) American Exceptionalism exists because the country was formed at a unique time and place. This allowed America to be special with a responsibility to provide an appropriate government example

2) The dynamic flexibility of America Liberalism has allowed concepts concerning individual rights to adjust as required by evolving circumstances.

3) The reconstitution of American government first with Jefferson, then after  the Civil War, and following the New Deal though other less significant though important reconstitutions have been beneficial though controversial. Think Kennedy, Reagan, and Trump.

4) An expansion of "we the people"   from white men of property, to white men, to all men, to all citizens, and recently continued with the addition sexuality. 

5) Geographic Space
allowed for the separation of individuals from oppressive government, religion, and other potentially tyrannical organizations. Some feel modern America has lost some of this space.
Source Cycles of American Political Thought  
See  
The Founders Constitution
 for writings about the U.S. constitution.

Three Continuing Questions Developed

1) Property vs. individual rights was won by property until excesses of the Gilded Age caused much public reaction leading to worker protection.

2) What degree should government get involved with the protection of which individual's natural rights.

3) Amount of property taken through taxes should be used to foster equality?

 

Did You Know

Democracy and a Republics are often used interchangeably though they represent two different political philosophies. A Republic has "power controlled by the people." A "Democracy begins with Majority Rule."

 Founding father Madison said ...defines a faction as "a number of citizens, whether amounting to a minority or majority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community".

Federalist George Cabot of Massachusetts feared ..."the terrible evils of democracy," and felt Jefferson was unstoppable,..." From p368 of Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, 2012 a biography by Jon Meacham as summarized by Walter Antoniotti

5 Times the Electoral College Went Against the Popular Vote

 

Source

 

 
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