Economic Constitution Essay, Research Paper
“The Constitution of 1787 was written solely to advance the economic interests of the upper classes of the United States.”
At the time the Constitution of 1787 was written, America had just won its independence from the monarchy of England. In England, the king and the aristocracy controlled the land and the money at the expense of the people. This limited the people’s chances for economic advancement. When these oppressed people broke away from English rule, the newly founded country was based on the principle “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” (Declaration of Independence, Page 100 in Documents of American History). With freedom from England, Americans now had the chance for economic equality. However, the more educated and prosperous Americans now controlled an unequal amount of land and money. As a result, they wanted to keep their wealth and not be overly taxed for the sake of democracy. This situation posed a dramatic contradiction in that these rich Americans were acting in a very similar manner to the English aristocracy which they had fought against to eventually gain their independence. These Americans were the same people who wrote the Constitution of 1787 of the United States. However, they wrote the Constitution in such a way that they would confuse the common people and allow the wealthy to constitutionally retain their riches.
Among these wealthy Americans were men such as James Madison and Alexander Hamilton. To defend their economic interests, they issued essays to convince the majority of Americans, lower class than themselves, that they should have their wealth protected. These essays were known as the Federalist Papers, and one in particular expressed their economic interests through the fog of preserving liberty and avoiding “the violence of faction” (The Federalist No. 10, Page 283). Madison knew that the Articles of Confederation failed and that some power needed to be given to a central government. His main concern, however, seemed to be that as a member of the upper class, he could retain his personal wealth.
The upper class needed to use their influence to keep their money and land, while convincing the majority that everyone is free and equal like the Declaration of Independence says. There are two ways that Madison proposed to do this. First, he says that there should be less power given to the federal government and therefore no central taxation. By giving the states the power to tax, the upper class could use their influence more effectively locally, rather than nationally. The second strategy Madison used to defend the wealthy class is by explaining that it is very easy in a democracy for the majority to oppress the minority. “Either the existence of the same passion or interest in a majority at the same time, must be prevented to concert and carry into effect schemes of oppression.” (The Federalist No. 10, Page 285) He knew that with a democracy, the majority will win what is in their best interest through voting. Therefore he had to convince the “majority” (i.e. poor people) to avoid over taxing the “inferior number” (i.e. rich people). “The apportionment of taxes on the various descriptions of property, is an act which seems to require the most exact impartiality; yet, there is perhaps no legislative act in which greater opportunity and temptation are given to a predominant party, to trample on the rules of justice. Every shilling with which they over-burden the inferior number, is a shilling saved to their own pockets.” (The Federalist No. 10, Page 285) He further had the audacity to say that the main purpose of the Constitution is to safeguard the “liberty” of the accomplished people to retain their assets: ” the protection of unequal faculties of a acquiring property is the first object of Government.”
Madison also slyly proposed that there should be state representatives, which allow the government to protect the people from themselves. ” to refine and enlarge the public views, by passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country, and whose patriotism and love of justice, will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partial considerations the public voice, pronounced by the representatives of the people, will be more consonant to the public good, than if pronounced by the people themselves ” (The Federalist No. 10, Page 286) I feel that through this long, drawn out proposal is truly concealing his motives that by having state representatives, the upper class can influence the representatives better, or even that they themselves will get elected as representatives.
It is apparent that the Federalist Paper is defended the upper class, but during the Debate in the Virginia Ratifying Convention, George Mason expressed a similar emphasis for levying taxes by emphasizing state’s rights. He first states that by giving the federal government the right to tax, it is diminished the state government power and thus created one central, “despotic” government. “The assumption of this power of laying direct taxes does, of itself, entirely change the confederation of the states into one consolidated government The very idea of converting what was formerly a confederation to a consolidated government, is totally subversive of every principle which has hitherto governed us. This power is calculated to annihilate totally the state governments.” (Debate, Page 290). Mason also went on to say, “by history there never was a government over a very extensive country without destroying the liberties of the people monarchy may suit a large territory, and despotic governments over so extensive a country, but that popular governments can only exist in small territories.” (Debate, Pages 290) Through this statement, he implied by having separate state governments in the government it was harder for the central government to evolve into a monistic body.
Article I of The Constitution basically states all of the legislative powers in the Congress. Section 8 of The Constitution of the United States says, “The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;” Through this statement, The Constitution is basically stating that Congress has the power to control the economy of the country. By saying the Congress, which is the Senate and the House of Representatives, the Constitution states what both Madison and Mason wanted, the state representatives have influence on the economy of the United States.
The Federalist papers were written by some of the same people who helped establish the Constitution of 1787. Federalist Paper No.10 outlined the wealthy authors’ economic interests. Therefore, the Constitution of the United States also includes the interests of these upper class Americans. However, as seen in the Virginia Ratifying Convention, Mason emphasized the same Republican conclusion: give the states the right to have a small group of representatives, some from each state, which vote for the large groups of people in those states. So the Constitution, finally, appears to form a compromise between the economic interests of the majority and of the minority. Therefore, the Constitution displays the least democratic way of controlling the economy, but still appearing to be in the best interest of the common man.