A Skeptics Guide to American History
Episode 3 The Constitution Did Not Create a Democracy
Dr Mark A Stoler
I find it extremely ironic how little I know about early US history despite studying it every year in social studies between age 10 and 16. In fact, I was surprised how much new information I gleaned from this presentation.
On the downside, Stoler isn’t nearly as skeptical as I had hoped. While he reminds us that the most democratically minded of the founding fathers (Patrick Henry, Sam Adams and Thomas Jefferson) were excluded from the secret 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, he fails to mention that the men who wrote the Constitution were merchants, bankers, traders and land speculators with the primary goal of protecting their business interests.
Between 1776 and 1781, the Second Continental Congress governed the newly independent US. From 1781-89, the country was governed by the Congress of the Confederation, whose founding document was the Articles of Confederation. The Articles were first were presented to the states in 1777. However owing to early colonists’ extreme distrust of central government, they weren’t fully ratified (by the required nine states) until 1781.
Under the Articles of Confederation, the new government successfully negotiated the Treaty of Paris (ending the War of Independence) in 1783 and passed the Northwest Ordinance. The latter provided for all federal land west of the Appalachians, east of the Mississippi and north of the Ohio River to be surveyed and sold for $1 per acre and required the new territories to guarantee trial by jury, freedom of religion and to prohibit slavery.
Stoler claims the main weakness of the Articles was their failure to give the Congress of the Confederation the authority to issue money, tax or establish a standing army.* In arguing the importance of a standing army, he seems to side with the imperialist ambitions of wealthy merchants and land speculators eager to seize western lands occupied by Native Americans.
He acknowledges that Shay’s Rebellion was the likely the main impetus behind the Constitutional Convention. However he also implies the farmers (the vast majority of the population) who participated in the rebellion as “anarchists” who “threatened tyranny from below.” In fact, he makes no mention whatsoever of the corrupt banking practices that led to Shay’s Rebellion,**
*In my view these are strengths, rather than weaknesses. Thomas Jefferson (deliberately excluded from the Constitutional Convention) strongly opposed the creation of a standing army during peacetime. See http://thomasjeffersonleadership.com/blog/thomas-jefferson-on-the-danger-of-a-standing-army/
**When the Revolutionary War ended in 1783, the farmers who served in the Continental Army returned home to find their discharge pay (in British pounds) was worthless. All 13 states were on the verge of economic collapse, due to heavy war debts they owed European banks. 80% of the prison population in Western Massachusetts (where Daniel Shay had his farm) were there for non-payment of debts. Determined to keep their economies from collapsing, many states issued paper money to allow trade to continue. The colony’s bankers, fearing the inflation risk of paper money, demanded, above all, that the new constitution immediately strip states of the power of money creation. Ironically, although the US Constitution gives Congress the sole power to create money, Congress quickly handed this power over to private banks – where it remains to the present day.
The film can be viewed free on Kanopy.
Makes you think we might’ve been better off staying in the Empire.
Too true, Saxo. Especially as the British decision to ban slavery (in 1772) and the British ban on settlement of Native American lands west of the Appalachians were primary triggers of the colonies’ decision to declare independence.
The period after the Revolutionary War, up until the travesty of the three-month secret meeting that generated the Constitution in 1787 is a period of special interest to me. In the first place, neither Thomas Jefferson nor John Adams were in the country, so they couldn’t attend the constitutional convention, as it has come to be known. John Adams was in Britain trying to obtain loans for the new government-to-be, and Thomas Jefferson was in France, trying to do the same thing. He went to replace Benjamin Franklin, who was suffering from old age and other health problems. Apparently, James Madison kept Jefferson informed of the secret meeting’s progress.
George Washington was president of the convention, and Alexander Hamilton was a delegate from New York. Hamilton ran the other New York delegates off early in the meeting.
In mentioning the bankers, it is noteworthy that Hamilton was heavily involved in the banking industry, having been mentored by Constitution signer Robert Morris, who was the founder of first chartered bank, the Bank of North America, in 1781. Hamilton helped to start the Bank of New York in 1784, then as Treasury Secretary under Washington, later arranged for the Bank of New York to lend money to the new US government. To pay interest on the loan and other federal debts, Hamilton called for an excise tax on liquor in Congress ion December 13, 1791. The next day, December 14, 1791, he called for a central bank, the Bank of the United States. The excise tax on liquor led to the Whiskey Rebellion, because cash-strapped farmers supplemented their incomes by distilling whiskey. George Washington himself was a major whiskey distiller.
Sorry to be so long-worded, but this piece of history is significant, since central banker conspirators (for lack of a gentler term), used the same tactic in 1913, to created the Federal Reserve System we have now. This time they instituted the income tax to pay perpetual interest on federal debt, with presumptive money generated out of thin air by acts of Congress.
This is the situation we are in now, with the Biden administration creating as much debt as possible to prop up the Ponzi scheme we have inherited with the US government.
And we all have front row seats to this psychodrama.
Thanks for filling out some of this history, Katherine. It sheds important light on what really happened.