The U.S. "Founding Fathers" Were Enemies of "We the People"
April 18, 2019
[Click here to read "U.S. Constitution: Help or Hindrance?"]
Instead of relying on what we were taught in school about the Founding Fathers, I suggest reading--to start with, at least--three excellent academic (meaning based on real documentary evidence) history books:
1. Shays's Rebellion: The American Revolution's Final Battle, by Leonard L. Richards
2. An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States, by Charles A. Beard
3. The Whiskey Rebellion: Frontier Epilogue to the American Revolution, by Thomas P. Slaughter
If you read these history books you will learn things you were not taught in school:
George Washington and the 'Founding Fathers' wanted to rule what became the United States instead of allowing King George III to rule it. In order to mobilize an army to fight King George's British military force and achieve "American independence" George Washington told the subsistence farmers, whom he needed to join his "Revolutionary Army," that the "War for Independence" was a war for equality and for things like "no taxation without representation" democracy. The subsistence farmers (who made up the vast majority of the population) were inspired by Washington's noble rhetoric and joined the Revolutionary Army in huge numbers.
These small farmers made a huge economic sacrifice when they joined the army because it meant not planting and harvesting the crops that they relied on to earn any money. General George Washington paid these farmer/soldiers with pieces of paper that promised that the United States government would "pay to the bearer" an indicated number of dollars, plus accrued interest, in the future when the new United States government was independent. Essentially these pieces of paper were IOUs, sometimes referred to as "securities."
After the Revolutionary War when independence had been won, the former soliders--now extremely poor and financially desperate small farmers--hoped that they would finally be paid for their "service to their country." But no! The Founding Fathers said the government had no money to pay the debt on those IOUs.
Guess what happened then? The small farmers realized that their IOUs were essentially worthless.
And guess what happened next? Rich people (many of the Founding Fathers like George Washington who was a big time slave and land owner and their upper class friends) said to the desperate farmers, "I'll buy your IOUs."
And guess how much the rich people offered to pay for those IOUs?
But "practically nothing" was more than nothing, so the desperate farmers sold their IOUs to the rich people and tried to make a life as a small farmer as best they could.
But you'll NEVER guess what happened next (if you've only been "educated" by the American ruling class's school system and mass media). What happened next is mind-boggling awful.
The rich people and their Founding Father buddies came up with a brilliant idea. (It was apparently Alexander Hamilton's idea, God bless him, although somehow the Broadway play, Hamilton, curiously neglected to include this deed among all the deeds for which it praises the man to such wonderful music!)
What was Hamilton's brilliant idea?
Like all brilliant ideas, it was simplicity itself. Here we go. Fasten your seat belt.
Have the state government of Massachusetts (at first; later they used the new national government) TAX the poor farmers to get the money to pay back the IOU debts to the "bearers" of those IOUs (who just happened, now, to be the rich buddies of the Founding Fathers.)
But wait! There's more! Have the government pay the bearers of the IOUs not only the amount of dollars specified on the IOU, but ALSO the accrued interest for the years since the end of the Revolutionary war until the present.
Guess how the poor farmers felt about this? "Furious!" would be an understatement.
In central Massachusetts the farmers refused to pay the tax, and when the Massachusetts state government tried to collect the tax, the farmers organized a military rebellion against the state goverment that came very close to seizing the state's armory at Springfield and thereby overthrowing the government of the rich. This rebellion is named after one of the several leaders of it, a man named Shays:
The Shays's Rebellion consisted of small farmers and included the better-off small farmers in their ranks. Of note, the renowned poet, Emily Dickinson's great-grandfather was one of the leaders in the rebellion, joined by many other Dickinson family members at the time, and the Dickinson's--though only small farmers--were the leading family in Amherst, Massachusetts at the time.
While you're enjoying that Sam Adams beer you might want to pause between gulps to think about this. Sam Adams called for the Shays's rebels to be hung! Oh the Founding Fathers--gotta love em, uh?
George Washington helped mobilize a private army of rich people and mercenaries to attack the Shays's Rebellion farmers, and--due in large part to chance--it defeated the Rebellion. But history is written by the victors. The Founding Fathers and their descendants have declared that the Shays's Rebellion rebels were just a bunch of low-lifes who refused to "pay their debts." (Who says that G.W. Bush's WMD lie was the biggest lie ever told by rich Americans?)
In 1794 the Whiskey Rebellion broke out in western Pennsylvania. It was a rebellion of the poorest people against a federal tax that was destroying their ability to live, a tax that aimed to further enrich the richest Americans.
"At one point 7,000 western Pennsylvanians advanced against the town of Pittsburgh, threatened its [rich] residents, feigned an attack on Fort Pitt and he federal arsenal there, banished seven members of the community, and destroyed the property of several others. Violence spread to western Maryland, where a Hagerstown crowd joined in, raised liberty poles, and began a march on the arsenal at Frederick. At about the same time, sympathetic 'friends of liberty' arose in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and back-country regions of Virginia and Kentucky. Reports reached the federal government in Philadelphia that the western country was ablaze and that rebels were negotiating with representatives of Great Britain and Spain, two of the nation's most formidable European competitors, for aid in a frontier-wide separatist movement."
In response, what did President George Washington do?
"President Washington nationalized 12,950 militiamen from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia--an army approximating in size the Continental force that followed him during the Revolution--and personally led the 'Watermelon Army' west to shatter the insurgency." [Quotations are from the book about the Whiskey Rebellion cited above.]
George Washington, the "Father of our country," was the first president (after the Constitutional Convention) selected (oh come on now, hardly any poor people could vote then!) under the new Constitution. That Constitution was, to those who actually read it, obviously designed to make sure that ordinary people would never prevail against the very rich.
The Constitutional Convention consisted of men who were, and who in their correspondence admitted to being, terribly frightened by the fact that just a few months before the Convention the Shays's Rebellion damn near overthrew the rich in the state of Massachusetts, and the rebellion was sparked by a tax designed to make poor farmers suffer so that the richest Americans--like the guys at the Constitutional Convention--could get even richer. To cover up the thoroughly anti-democratic essence of the new Constitution one of the convention delegates had a great idea, "Let's give it a preamble saying, 'We the People, in order to' bla bla bla." And the rest is history.
Anybody who thinks that President Trump, with his use of federal armed thugs against BLM protesters, is somehow acting fundamentally differently from the supposedly good George Washington is simply not informed about the historical truth. A very rich upper class has been running the United States, using whatever violence is necessary to suppress ordinary people, since the very beginning.
So please, let's not use phrases such as "Our democracy is at risk" that wrongly imply we ever had a genuine democracy, OK? We have always had a dictatorship of the rich. We need to remove the rich from power to have real, not fake, democracy with no rich and no poor.
The U.S. Constitution
When the Founding Fathers gathered to write the U.S. Constitution (to replace the Articles of Confederation) guess what dominated their concern, as evidenced by their correspondence?
Fear that the Articles of Confederation did not give the national government the power it needed to suppress future Shays's Rebellions. The new U.S. Constitution was largely a response to the Shays's Rebellion that occurred just before the Constitutional Convention. The Founding Fathers stuck that famous "We the People" line in the preface to the Constitution to cover up the reality that it was a document designed by and for "We the Rich People." Read more about the Constitution here.
One of the most important Founding Fathers when it came to the writing of the Constitution was James Madison. Madison and Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, writing as "The Federalist," wrote a series of published essays about what the Constitution needed to do. In The Federalist No. 10, Madison made it very clear that the Constitution needed to prevent the majority from depriving a minority of its rights. Specifically, Madison's concern was quite clearly to prevent the majority who were not owners of a lot of property from depriving the minority of large property owners of their right to possess much more wealth than ordinary people--the "right of property."
Richard Kreitner, in his Boston Globe article (December 13, 2015) titled, "The Constitution requires inequality," explains what Madison wrote this way:
“Complaints are everywhere heard from our most considerate and virtuous citizens,” Madison writes near the beginning of the essay, gesturing, as he does throughout The Federalist, to the fallout from Shays’ Rebellion, “that our governments are too unstable, that the public good is disregarded in the conflicts of rival parties, and 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.”
That majority, it slowly becomes clear, are the debtors and small landowners, those more recently designated the 99 percent. “The diversity in the faculties of men,” Madison explains, leads to different “rights of property,” and this difference represents “an insuperable obstacle to a uniformity of interests” in the political community. “The protection of these faculties is the first object of government,” he adds.
The main purpose of the new Constitution, then, was to preserve inequalities among individuals and the inequalities in the distribution of property among them. “Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society,” Madison observes. Ever had it been, and ever under the Constitution would it be. The division of wealth and political power, between the haves and the have-nots, between (as the new Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan has put it) the makers and the takers, was to be carefully maintained. For Madison, in Federalist No. 10, the question was how to do so while at least nominally “preserv[ing] the spirit and the form of popular government.”
The Whiskey Rebellion
After the rich Americans had their new strengthened national government and George Washington was its president, another tax--this time national--was levied against the poor farmers in states south of Massachusetts that included the Appalachian mountains. These poor farmers could only obtain money for their crops by distilling some of it into whiskey and selling the whiskey. The U.S. government, in order to pay back the interest on loans made to it by rich people, decided in its infinite wisdom (again, largely the wisdom of Mr. Alexander Hamilton) to get the money by taxing this whiskey.
This led to the Whiskey Rebellion, which forced George Washington to suppress it with another private army of rich people and mercenaries that he organized--an army of "12,950 militiamen...an army approximating in size the Continental force that followed him during the Revolution" against King George III! Washington just happened to own ten thousand acres of prime land in these western regions, in addition to the land back east where he owned slaves. But never mind--poor farmers, not the likes of George Washington, would have to pay the rich the interest on their loans to a government of, by and for the rich.
The Whiskey Rebellion rebels understood perfectly that the rhetoric about equality and no taxation without representation was just rhetoric, and that the new rulers of the "independent" American government did not intend to honor that rhetoric at all.
This is the real history of We the People. Read these books and you'll learn how the United States has been a dictatorship of the rich right from the beginning. When people ask, "When did we lose our democracy?," the answer is that we never really had it.
The Haitian Slave Rebellion/Revolution
In 1804 the slaves of Haiti succeeded in their revolution and achieved independence. As Wikipedia writes of this slave revolution, "It was the only slave uprising that led to the founding of a state which was both free from slavery, and ruled by non-whites and former captives." Thomas "All men are created equal" Jefferson was president from 1801 to 1809, so he had enormous ability to help the newly freed slaves in Haiti, or harm them. What did he do? The same Wikipedia article says this:
"The American President Thomas Jefferson—who was a slaveholder himself—refused to establish diplomatic relations with Haiti (the United States did not recognize Haiti until 1862) and imposed an economic embargo on trade with Haiti that also lasted until 1862 in an attempt to ensure the economic failure of the new republic as Jefferson wanted Haiti to fail, regarding a successful slave revolt in the West Indies as a dangerous example for American slaves."
With friends like this, We the People don't need enemies!
Let's pick up where We the People left off back in the days of the Shays's and Whiskey Rebellions.
To read some ideas about how we can do that, please visit www.PDRBoston.org .