The New York Comb. Why Political Democracy Must Go Vll.
AVING in former articles traced the failure of the small property holders, Labor and the Socialists to gain control of the Government in America. it is now necessary to indicate how the few great capitalists are able, in the most advanced political democracy of the world, to withstand the pressure of all other classes, either alone or combined in other words, just how political democracy fails to assure a government by the majority.
What Karl Marx said that the modern capitalist state was nothing less than a machine for the oppression of one class by another, and that not less so in a democratic republic than under a manarchy, he made a profound observation, the more remarkable since at that time the origin of political democratic states was still surrounded with a romantic halo of libertarian phrases which still inspired the Forty Eightcrs.
Fortunately, thanks to the work of Beard, McMaster, and others, the origins of the American Republic are today available to all; and they demonstrate with utter clearness that the Government the United States uas designed by its founders to protect the rich against the poor, property against the necessilies life and liberty, and the monopolistic minority against the majority.
Pro Revolutionary society in America was di vided into three very shar ly defined classa: the upper class consisting of e clergy. professional men, merchants, landed proprietors and the great slave holding planters in the South; the middle class, of shop keepers and farmers; and the compartively unimportant lower class, of slaves, poor whites in the South, mechanics, indentured servants and apprentices all of which had no votes. Except among the middle and lower classes, there was no discontent with the political institutions of the British Empire; on the other hand, there was a healthy contempt for Democracy, often expressed, among the well to do and educated.
Until the acts of the British Government began seriously to hamper trade in other wordS, property the upper class in the American colonies was not in any sense revolutionary; in fact, many of the framers of the Constitution had been against the Revolution. In any sense, the Revolution, for the Colonial upper class, was favored only insofar as it promised to protect their material interests. Like all Revolutions, however, it was precipitated and expressed by idealists, and carried through by the masses in this case, the middle class who saw in it the opportunity to establish a government in their own interests. These interests were expressed in the formula, Life, Liberty and the Fursuit of Happiness. which did not refer to slaves and indentured servants at all, but to the vast majority of traders and farmers.
This was the element which wrote the Declaration of Independence, in the heat of the Revolutionary struggle, when, as in all Revolutions. the mass was dictating the slogans of the movement.
The eleven years of the confederation which followed, however, proved that human society was definitely embarked on the capitalist era, which was incompatible with those natural rights that individualistic liberty so fondly embraced by the small property owners. as best suiting their free development in a land of unequalled opportunity.
The middle class whose services in the Revolutionary struggle had made them the dominant clasS in society, were jealous of their freedom and independence. Already the development of capitalism had begun to concentrate wealth in the hands of a few. Great corporations had already tied up immense tracts of land. and the banking interests in the towns had a monopoly of capital; these conditions had made the petty bourgeoisie a debtor class.
The middle class therefore was in favor, as at later periods, of cheap currency, and of the violability of contracts. small group of capitalist! had so cured control of the depreciated Congressional and State obligations issued to pay for the Revolution, and the middle class wished to wipe out this debt. And just as the great capitalists were in favor of a strongly centralized government, which would guarantee their speculative investments and mortgages, and protect this property with federal troops and police, so the middle class feared a centralized government, whose actions it might not be able to control as it controlled the separate state legislatures.
Attempts at oligarchy or dictatorship in each separate state might be opposed, if all other means failed, by a pular uprising. In fact, the elevm years of the onfederation saw many puck insurrection. It is interesting to note bore that than insurrection: were directed against the capitalists, who John Rood had got control of the state governments, by the middle class debtors. The culminating insurrection was Shays Rebellion.
The situation is well described by Mr. Curtis, in his Constitutional History the United States. levelling, licentious spirit, says this old IOaetionary, a restless desire for change, and a disposition to throw down barriers of private rights, at length broke forth in conventions, which first voted themselves to be the people and then declared their proceedings to be constitutional. At these assemblies the doctrine was publicly broached that properly ought to be common, because all bad aided in savin it from confiscation by the power of England. axes were voted to be unnecessary burdens the courts of justice to be intolerable grievances, and the legal profession a nuisance. revision of the state constitution was demanded, in order to abolish the Senate, reform the representation of the people, and make all civil officers eligible by the people.
it was these revolts which furnished the immediate incentive to the adoption of the Constitution.
The work of preparing the country for the capitalist coup etat had been carried on carefully and tactfully for several years by Alexander Hamilton and James Madison afterward President of the United Stats. in calling the Constitutional Convention of 1787, for instance. the leaders did not dare to suggest their real objects; the aim of the Convention, it wtm stated, was merely to revise the Articles of Confederation. It was also care fully arranged that the delegates should not be elected by the people, or even by directly repressiIative bodies, as had been done in the case of the Congress which issued the Declaration of Independence; instead, they were either chosen by the legislatures. or, more otten, appointed by the Governors of the states. And it should be remembered that property qualification for the franchise existed in all the states, so that in no case was the lower, or working class, represented in the Convention, And when the Convention finally met, it did it: work in secret, behind closed doors, like the Peace Conference in Paris; and like the latter, in order to prevent the public from knowing what was going on, it even forced its members to promise not to talk to anyone outside. So that when the Constitution was finally completed, it was issued to the world in such a form that its real meaning, and the forces which produced it, were absolutely unknown to the colonists.
The majority of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were Revolutionary leaders, men representing the small property holders; while the majority of the framers of the Constitution were the bankers, speculators in the land and money, and the merchants. Many delegates to the Constituent Convention who had signed the Declaration of Independence refused to sign the Constitution, denouncing it as a conspiracy. among these was Benjamin Franklin.
James Madison, afterward, President of the United States, who was chiefly responsible for the Constitution whicb he described as having the form and spirit of popular government while preventing imajority rule expressad in 1785 the theory of economic interpretation in politics. He wrote. The most common and durable source of factions (parties, classes. has been the various and unequal dialribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever armed dialinct interest in society. Thou who are creditors, and those who are debtors, fall under like discrimination. landed interest, a manufacturing interest, a memntile interest. a moneyed interest, grow up at necessity in civilized natinua and divide them into diflerenr Clam actuated by diflerent senIirnenla and views, The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation. and involves the spirit at party and action in the necessary and ordinary operations of the government.
It will be seen by this that before the end of the eighteenth century the American capitalist class had discovered, and applied for its own advantage, what Karl Marx discovered more than sixty years later.
Listen once more to Madison, speaking before the Constitutional Convention, advocating that the vote be give. to the propertied classes alone. uture times a great ma orft. of the le will not only be without landed, bull any «Again a property. These will either combine under the influence of their common situation; in which case, the rights of eproperty and the public liberty will not be occur in their hands, or, which is more probable. they will become the tools of opulaaoe and ambition.
Elbrid a Cary declared that all the evils experience by Confederation flowed from the excess of democracy. Edmund Randolph said. that the general object was to provide a cure for the evils under which the United States labored; thate in Inc lug these evils to their origin, every man had fmd it in tbeturbulanoe andfolliea of dunocracy; that some check therefore was to be sought for against this tendency of our government.
Alexander Hamilton, in urging a life term for Senators, said that all communities divide themselves into the few and the many. The first are the rich and well born, and the other the mass of the people who seldom judge or not right. Gouverneur Morris, of New York, wanted to check the precipitancy, changeablcness and excess of the representatives of the people, by the ability and virtue of great and established property aristocracy; man who from pridr will support consistency and permanency. Such an aristotratic body will keep down the tnrbulanoe of democracy. Gonvemeur Morris showed the capitalist viewpoint of the Convention, when he boldly stated, Life and liberty were generally stated to be of more value than property. An accurate view of the matter would, nevertheless, prove that property was the main object of society. property, then, was the main object of government, certainly it ought to be one measure of the influence due to those who were to be attested by the government. And finally, Mr. Madison again. An increase of population will of necessity increase thc proportion of those who will labor under all the hardships of life and secretly sigh for a more equal distribution of its blessings. These may in time outnumber those who are placed above the feelings of indigence. The poor may outnumber the rich. According to the equal laws of suffrage, the power will slide into the hands of the former.
No agrarian attempts have yet been made in this country, but symptoms of a levelling spirit, as we have understoood, have sufficiently appeared, in a certain quarter (Shays Rebellion. to give notice of a future danger.
Madison further advised the Convention that in framing a system which they wished to last for ages, they must not lose sight of the changes which the ages would produce in the arms and dirwibw (ion property.
The Convention did not. It finally framed a Constitution, which, while appearing to preserve popular government. in reality secured the rights and property of the minority against the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority.
Liberals and parliamentary Socialists in this country are always pleading for the minority rights guaranteed by the Constitution. But the minority which the Constitution guarantees is not the one they are talking about; it is the pennanent ca italist minority, and it is guaranteed against e will of the majority.
This is accomplished through the called check and balance system. by which the President is indirectly elected, the members of the House of Rep»
resentatives are elected in one way, the Senate in another, and finally, the most powerful body of all, the Supreme Court, is no. mooted at all, but appointed. These various bod.:e check each other action, so that no opular majority can control the processa of legis ation, except after a long and tedious process. Today even this possibility is removed, by the fact that the collossal financial interals absolutely own and control the government.
it is fascinating to study the history of these times 40 discover, for instance. that most of the signers of the Constitution derived immediate per sonal wealth from its proclamation; that there was a conspiracy among the upper class of the colonies, in case the Convention failed, to organize an insurrection to overthrow democracy by force of arms; that out of the sixty odd delegates elected only thirty nine signed the document, many withdrew from the Convention altogetha, and an immense Inga shook the middle class when it discovered.
loo late. what the Constitution meant; that the middle class had to threaten to refuse ratification before the first ten amendments, which constitute the Bill of Rights, were added to the document; and that the diHermt state legislatures were persuaded to ratify the Constitution through the most shamaless corruption by the capitalist imam going to the extent of The first act of the new vernment established by the Constitution, as was to be was the funding of the public debt that is to say, an arrangement to ay the badly depreciated state and Congressional obligations at their face value This debt amounted to more than 76. 0900. The holders of the depreciated bonds and notes mod of which they had purchased for a song were vai in exchange bonds of the new Government afltho United States, which then proceeded to levy taxes upon thedmiddle mill waking classes to pay the interest an principa. us at the be of our Government, the little clique mm speculators who framed the Constitution was gimavnfonunqthe aymntofwhidirednoed (Comb nod. page 6)