It’s nice to fully agree with you every now and then.
I have often lectured, the five or six people who will put up with my harangues, that the United States constitution was written to achieve three goals:
- ) Keep the British out. If they were ever allowed to reestablish control, just about everyone at the signing could expect an appointment with the hang man’s noose. In order to accomplish this, a national army was required, at the very least. A national navy would also be helpful in that endeavor. And indeed one was created. It composed of several warships which were hybrids of the fast French frigates and the more durable British ship-of-the line. To get all the separate colonies to all agree to pay for this was a momentous challenge.
- ) Keep from killing one another. Because the colonies spread from Massachusetts to Georgia, there was a wide variety of conflicting interests between them. One of the newer conflicts of the time was the growing northern repugnance toward American slavery (even though some northerners still had slaves). In order to prevent severe disagreements from turning into to bloodbaths, a means of settling such disputes had to be devised. It had to have three components: One, it had to be more or less impermanent. This was probably the only way to get the losing side to accept defeat. When defeats are merely temporary, they are not worth killing and dying to prevent. Two, it had to operate within the confines of rules which were understood and accepted by all. This too was a major challenge, primarily because the former colonies were not of equal size or equal population. This made it very difficult to settle such disputes by the chosen method, which was voting. What they settled on was two legislative bodies, with one being based on the population and the other based on simply being a separate state. So, I hope you can see, minority rights are hard baked into our constitution. The smaller states were the minorities of that time. And Three, it had to have a referee body, to make sure everyone was abiding by the rules. Hence the US Supreme Court.
- Keep the money and power where it belonged. That is in the hands of the founders, whom without exception were wealthy white men. I’m not so sure they were even aware of this goal themselves. Jefferson waxed quite poetic about a republic of equals. How he did this with a straight face, being one of the largest slave holders in Virginia, I can’t even begin to fathom. But unstated and even unadmitted goals can be every bit as potent as the other kind. Sometimes even more so.
So America started out with a wealthy aristocracy, the founders themselves.
But I hope I have shown you that the United States constitution was practically born to mutate. And through the centuries, mutate it has. By so doing, it has always stayed just one step ahead of the revolutionary’s bomb and bullet.
I believe that in the present era, which is the decade or two I have left to live, the constitution is bound to mutate again.
This new mutation will have everything to do with maintaining a credible democracy at a time of grotesque disparities in personal wealth.