By William Hogeland, the author of the narrative histories Declaration and The Whiskey Rebellion and a collection of essays, Inventing American History who blogs at http://www.williamhogeland.com. Cross posted from New Deal 2.0
In 1776, rowdy Democrats fought for equality. But their notions didn’t suit early elites.
“All men are created equal,” the Continental Congress famously announced in the document that came to be known as the Declaration of Independence. These are powerful words — and reflecting on America’s founding struggles over money and finance can give the familiar phrase new resonance. For even as Thomas Jefferson was drafting the Declaration in a small, hot room in Philadelphia in the summer of 1776, the democratic popular finance movement was blooming in America. Throughout the country, ordinary people placed all hopes on America declaring independence from England. Equality was indeed their goal. And by this, they meant economic fairness: A newly level playing field where they could compete for prosperity.
Near the room where Jefferson wrote, the most successful of those democratic movements was coming to fruition in Philadelphia’s Carpenter’s Hall. To the artisans, laborers, mechanics, and militia privates gathered there, declaring independence from England offered an amazing chance for creating a new kind of government, fostering fairness for the less propertied, even the unpropertied; obstructing traditional high-finance privilege; and giving the ordinary people access to representation and economic opportunity. Right down the street from the Pennsylvania State House where the Congress met, supporters of this democratic movement were seizing the moment of crisis with England to bring about an economic revolution in America. And their 1776 Pennsylvania constitution made economic equality into law for the first meaningful time anywhere.
The Constitutional Convention: A Counterrevolution?
By the late 1780s, the economic advances of ordinary Americans were starting to look very successful. So successful, in fact, that in 1787, gentlemen from around the country gathered again in the Pennsylvania State House at what became the U.S. constitutional convention. Their primary goal? To push those advances back. Edmund Randolph of Virginia, who would soon serve as U.S. Attorney General and then as Secretary of State, kicked off the 1787 proceedings in the same room at the State House where the Congress had declared independence. He charged the convention with repairing America’s “insufficient checks against the democracy.”
By “the democracy,” delegates like Randolph meant the popular finance movement that events of 1776 had unleashed. In the 1780s, for example, working people serving in the Pennsylvania assembly had actually gone so far as to shut down a central banking scheme operated for the benefit of America’s fat cat lenders. That kind of democracy sent shock waves throughout elite America.
The elite gentlemen who gathered in 1787 agreed on several points. They believed that a national government should have power to take all significant finance and monetary policy away from the states, which they considered wimpily susceptible to democratic finance pressures — and especially from those like Pennsylvania, which was actually in the hands of “the democracy.” They thought that the national government ought to be able to enforce taxes earmarked for the big public investors and put down debtor insurrections with military force. Southern planters and northern bankers, state sovereignty libertarians and nationalist authoritarians, the men of the convention put aside their differences and formed a nation that would end the democratic paper money agitation, small-scale government lending, foreclosure relief, and debtor insurrection that weakened the investing class’s stability and prevented efficient consolidation and deployment of the country’s wealth.
Their differences lay mainly in how to structure and balance that national government. Those differences were of course deep, and they would go on fighting — from the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions to the Civil War to the New Deal to the Civil Rights Movement and beyond — over what the U.S. Constitution says about the proper role of the federal government.
At the 1787 convention, however, they had a common enemy: economic equality. And they made no bones about their effort to suppress democratic finance.
Given those famous, forthright 1776 words about human equality, it’s been easy for some readers and writers of history — especially progressive ones — to read the U.S. constitutional convention as a kind of counterrevolution. But despite the Declaration’s famous phrase about equality, and despite the elites’ blatant push back in 1787 against democratic finance, the 1776 congressmen really never intended to bring about a social, political, or economic revolution within American society. The State House, where the Congress declared independence, was geographically near — but philosophically far — from Carpenter’s Hall, where popular finance reigned.
Fuzzy notions that the independence Congress sought included social equality, or that the Constitution contradicts the Declaration, distract us from the real significance of surprising relationships — strikingly salient for our political and economic struggles today — between the genteel men of the State House and the rowdy democrats of Carpenter’s Hall in the great year of 1776.
Jefferson Didn’t Mean “Economically Equal”
To see how men of the Continental Congress differed from men of Carpenter’s Hall in thinking about equality, it’s important to remember that Jefferson drew the remark “all men are created equal” from 17th-century high-Whig philosophy. In using the expression, Jefferson wasn’t suggesting government has a responsibility to foster equality. “Created equal” describes men in a natural state, before governments are instituted in order to, as the Declaration says, secure the unalienable rights with which all men are endowed by their Creator. The Congress was appealing to ideas widely accepted among gentlemen about representative rights, which the 1776 congressmen — just like the 1787 convention delegates — would inevitably have believed are held by property owners, not by poor, laboring, and other ordinary people. The last thing the Congress would have announced to the world in the Declaration of Independence is a smashing of the connection between property and rights. Indeed, the Declaration complained about the King precisely for violating property rights.
In that sense, the concerns of the men of the 1789 convention were analogous to those of the men of the 1776 Congress. They feared both what they saw as tyranny by the decadent king and what they saw as tyranny by the unpropertied mob. There was no 1787 counterrevolution in American society because, as far as the 1776 Congress was concerned, there had been no revolution in American society.
Genteel Congressmen and Rowdy Democrats: the Strangest Bedfellows of 1776
It’s nevertheless true that at the very moment when Jefferson was drafting a socially conservative Declaration, vigorously democratic and deeply American ideas about equality in money, finance, and rights were coming to life right down the block. A seething, conflicted, secret, and highly creative relationship prevailed in 1776 between some of the gentlemen in the Congress and some of the democrats on the Philadelphia street. Long buried by history, the intensity of that relationship may be glimpsed in the antipathy of Thomas Paine and John Adams (Adams called Paine’s “Common Sense” a “crapulous mass”). Antipathy finally came down to a shouting match between the two at Adams’ rented Philadelphia rooms, in the spring of 1776, over what Paine saw as Adams’ snobbish elitism and what Adams saw as Paine’s egalitarian ignorance.
Yet even as they shouted, the men shared a goal: American independence. In fact, they were striving tirelessly together, Paine from the street and Adams in the Congress, to bring independence about by any means necessary. Coordinated in secret by John Adams’ second cousin Samuel Adams, the two enemies worked behind the scenes to overturn the elected government of Pennsylvania, which favored reconciling with England and held sway over the middle colony bloc. They schemed to replace it with a new Pennsylvania government favoring independence. The new Pennsylvania government would tip the balance in the Congress, bringing about a resolution for independence on July 2. That government would also break the connection between property and rights and pass laws restraining wealth.
So in Philadelphia in 1776, economic elites and economic democrats worked together, albeit in secret and albeit with animosity, on a great task. The compromises were extreme and painful. To achieve American independence, Adams was willing to turn Pennsylvania over to the economic democracy he scorned as mob rule. And Paine, working for an economic revolution in Pennsylvania (and one day, he hoped, in the whole world), collaborated with the very men whose privilege he hoped to disable. Without that strange bedfellow alliance between elite privilege and democratic uprising, America would not have come into independent existence in July of 1776.
Understanding issues confronting both ordinary and elite Americans in founding era finance, and assessing their continuing impact on our lives today, means moving away from the simplistic “Declaration vs. Constitution” binary, which obscures more revealing founding alliances and arguments over the role of American government in ensuring economic fairness. What do we — not Jefferson — mean by “equality”? Pulling our real, and really fraught, founding alliances and arguments out of the shadows, and coming to terms with their hopes, conflicts, and contradictions, might help us start to answer that question.
Yes, and appointing a Black man to complete the job of tyranny for Americans is cynical beyond belief.
Yes, but a hundred years prior, Bacon’s Rebellion (1676) began the tyranny of the colonial elite against the unwashed masses (indentured servants, poor farmers, slaves and women). As a consequence of their insurrection, laws were passed that criminalized “Negro” slave uprisings (rather than punishing uprisings in general).Thus began the divide & conquer of the working classes in the colonies. “Whites” were first formalized as a distinct racial class by law in 1691, and from there laws were passed that began the institutionalized white privilege in the colonies. No matter how poor the white male was, he had status above “slaves and savages” in the New World. Since then, it’s been complicated for class consciousness to develop from this foundation for the working classes.
A lot of truth in that.
As W.E.B. Du Bois said, on the launch of his groundbreaking 1903 treatise The Souls of Black Folk, “for the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color-line”—a prescient statement.
As always, great stuff from William Hogeland.
I’d just like to embellish on a couple of Hogeland’s statements.
• He charged the convention with repairing America’s “insufficient checks against the democracy.”
The way I have always heard this phrased is that most of the Founding Fathers feared an “excess of democracy.”
The Founding Fathers were children of the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment philosophy relies upon a highly simplistic model of human nature. This model entails humans being rational actors—-that is it assumes they will act in a way to maximize their individual material self-interest. Operating under this assumption, the fear of (one must keep in mind that at that time extending the franchise to the hoi polloi had never been tried before) an “excess of democracy” seems to be a totally “rational,” “logical,” or “reasonable” expectation.
But this is an instance of where what is rational, logical or reasonable departs from reality. In practice, there has never been an “excess of democracy” in America. In fact, just the opposite can be said to be true. There has always been a deficiency of democracy in America.
The reasons for this are myriad. The rich have always excercise inordinate power through their control of news outlets, lobbyists, campaign contributions, the revolving door, the education sytem, tradition, custom, etc.
But the underlying assumption of the Founding Fathers has also been demonstrated to be false. As Jason Brennan documented in The Ethics of Voting, “survey data shows that most voters do in fact try to choose the party that they think will best serve society, rather than just their own narrow self-interest.”
So the underlying assumptions and operating hypothesis of the Founding Fathers, while seeminly “rational,” when put to the test have proven to be false.
•The Congress was appealing to ideas widely accepted among gentlemen about representative rights, which the 1776 congressmen — just like the 1787 convention delegates — would inevitably have believed are held by property owners, not by poor, laboring, and other ordinary people. The last thing the Congress would have announced to the world in the Declaration of Independence is a smashing of the connection between property and rights. Indeed, the Declaration complained about the King precisely for violating property rights.
This goes to highlight just how radical the Roberts Supreme Court is. It has taken the rights of property way beyond what even the Founding Fathers imagined. For the Founding Fathers, people with property should have rights. For the Roberts Supreme Court, property in and of itself—-that is corporations—-should have the same rights, if not more rights, as human beings do.
The Roberts Supreme Court has taken us into unchartered territory, to a place where property rights trump human rights.
If by “radical” you mean REACTIONARY then we are in agreement.
As far as “uncharted territory” goes that remains to be seen. If in ruling that “corporations” are indeed persons/individuals with inalienable rights and the freedoms of individuals, are they subject to the same responsibilities that come with those inalienable rights and freedoms held by individuals? If this were to become the case, then individual corporations might not find their new-found responsibilities/obligations to their liking.
No, this would be way too much to ask of the Robert’s Court, but down the road… who knows? I’m sure attorneys more versed in constitutional law would have more informed comments in this regard and would proffer them.
Also interesting will be the legal hoops this Court jumps through in their efforts to justify how corporations have the same inalienable rights and freedoms as individuals but none of the responsibilities. If I can’t yell “fire” in a theater will they be able to do so? This is a can of worms that these individuals [corporations] with their new found freedoms may come to regret. Only time will tell…
“For the Roberts Supreme Court, property in and of itself—-that is corporations—-should have the same rights, if not more rights, as human beings do.
The Roberts Supreme Court has taken us into unchartered territory, to a place where property rights trump human rights.”
I knew we would eventually find something about which we could agree!
IIRC, the idea of corporate personhood started as a legal convenience so that a corporation could participate in lawsuits as a single entity. That seems reasonable. It’s the subsequent evolution of the idea that’s strange.
Interesting. Here in Thailand the legal code, created by King Rama V as one tool in fending off the colonizing powers, was based on the Code Napoleon plus some of the traditional avenues of corruption. The term used in the English language press, when referring to corporations, political parties, and other organizations which are treated legally as entities, is “juridical persons.” Maybe if someone arguing before the Supremes could introduce that terminology it would help. Naw, I guess not, Roberts and Alito have their own agenda, and, yes, it’s reactionary but it’s also radical, in the sense that Bush was a radical destroying long established norms.
‘They believed that a national government should have power to take all significant finance and monetary policy away from the states.’
Exactly. And so the Articles of Confederation, which would have allowed Pennsylvania to keep its populist-leaning constitution (not to mention its sovereignty) was denounced by the Framers as weak and feckless. This paved the way for the 1787 constitution, ostensibly a charter for limited government. But as we see today, the formerly ‘federal’ government (formally ended in 1913 with Amendment XVII) has turned into a vast, micromanaging Leviathan.
Odd, isn’t it, that the radical litany of individual rights enshrined in Amendments I-X (now mostly suspended by the USA Patriot martial law Act) was grafted onto the charter for an unlimited central government which would eventually nullify each and every one of those alleged rights.
At least one can’t criticize our megalomaniacal overlords for lacking a twisted sense of humor.
Needless to say, when the current state of U.S. insolvency morphs into illiquidity, the 1787 constitution will properly be consigned to history’s dustbin as an utter failure.
Your not getting it at all. The problem with the articles was that it was strong enough to create a independent country. The fact is, the “US” was falling apart. Some states wanted to return to England, others were beginning to dabble in “socialism”. It was anarchy and the economy was collapsing.
Hence the Constitution the freemasons document.
Nothing is Ever True Until the Fat Lady Stinks
If any of you bleeding hearts road the new Select Bus in Manhattan you’d see what Adams was talking about.
There is such a thin thin line between trembling piety and genocide. YOu get on the bus and the pressing and squeezing takes about 5 minutes to get you psychotic.
And then some very very fat woman who smells bad tries to squeeze on and somehow fits herself through the door and you’re pressing up against a pole and your shoulder bag is in someone’s face.
If there were guns there’d be shooting. And you realize you’d be shooting. And all of this has taken 5 minutes. And 5 minuites before, you were dreaming of the Lord himself and the piety and wonderous rapture of everything.
And then you wonder why God made man, man the miserable violent stench-ridden animal, that can’t wait it’s turn for the next bus.
No, Adams had a point. And so did Paine. It’s all a dialectic, and you’re in the middle. Half angel. Half animal. bouncing back and forth.
Consciousness did not arrive out of a vacuum, neither has class distinction.
The first two years in human life are directly attributable to future out comes.
Skippy…and you see invisible hands, angels, animals…lol…eugenics by any other name. Look in the mirror some time, you are what you make of others…eh.
The point is that neither piety nor rage is the ‘true’ nature of humanity. The point is that the conditions excite the reactions. I’d go so far as to say there are no actions, only reactions. There is no uncaused cause. Society has been ‘built’ around the Money God for thousands of reasons, its constituents’ reactions/behaviours are the many-coloured consequences of that governing priority.
Agreeing to change cultural direction on purpose is harder than steering an ocean liner with your legs while standing on deck in a force 10 storm, but that doesn’t make the basic observation inaccurate. We react to the environment, which reacts to us, then we react to that reaction, and you get the drift.
And then some very very fat woman who smells bad tries to squeeze on and somehow fits herself through the door and you’re pressing up against a pole and your shoulder bag is in someone’s face. craazyman
So she’s fat. And maybe a fractional reserve banker is thin and has a helicopter shuttle him to work where he drives people into poverty and despair such as one of his predecessors may have done to that fat woman.
But let’s have an honest money system and we shall see what class distinctions are genuine, shall we?
I don’t believe that a society can have an honest money system without an honest and inclusive collective consciousness.
Because money is an expression of the communal consciousness of a society, and if that consciousness is fouled by deceit, so will be its money. Whether the money is gold, paper, or sea shells.
and because money = property like wave = particle, and the so-called “prices” of things are the collapsing of the money wave on the observation of the property being exchanged, and this wave is only a probabilistic function that possess a considerable degree of randomness, and collective consciousness does not fluctuate in random probability waves when it is pure and clear (if it has ever been). but this is theory, anyway. At least it is to me when I ride the bus and stare out the dusty window and start channeling.
Give me what he’s having.
I think the loop is that one gives rise to the other. Mind and world arise together. Particle is wave. Analog is digital. Matter is consciousness, or what we can see of it. Money is part of the story of reality as we understand it, and we understand through the story. As our understanding changes, so does the story, and so does money. Because change is now global in reach, the resistance is enormous, ossified, institutionalized. But I do see money as the gateway to a very different way of social organization. And even though I agree with you on ‘the oneness of it all,’ there are gateways and gatekeepers, and money is the biggest bitch of all.
I don’t believe that a society can have an honest money system without an honest and inclusive collective consciousness. craazyman
I misspoke. The last thing we need is a “money system”. Except for the government’s fiat there should be no system and no standard. And even the government should limited to just spending and taxing. Nothing else. Period.
… and formed a nation that would end the democratic paper money agitation, small-scale government lending, foreclosure relief, and debtor insurrection that weakened the investing class’s stability and prevented efficient consolidation and deployment of the country’s wealth. William Hogeland.
The solution to satisfy both the democratic idea of paper money and the investor class’s desire for stability is simple – separate government and private money supplies per Matthew 22:16-22.
And let’s end the argument about “fair”. A single government enforced monopoly money supply for private debts (be it fiat or gold )is not even honest, much less fair.
We are in an idealogical battle and people are coalescing around fascist (the gold standard) and socialist (Ellen Brown) ideas on how to manage a single, government enforced monopoly money supply. But that is absurd. We need government money for government debts, taxes and fees, and any number of private currencies for private debts.
I have always enjoyed the phrase in the Declaration of Independence where Jefferson wrote “We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable”
What? Doesn’t sound right? That’s because Ben Franklin when editing Jefferson’s draft wanted to press home the point that the rights of man were not granted by a supernatural being but a product of man’s reasoning ability. So Franklin back-slashed out “sacred and undeniable” and wrote in “self-evident”.
The draft with Franklin’s edits still exists incidentally.
interesting. If you hum the syllables to yourself without the words, just the sound and rhythms, Franklin’s is more musical and more forceful.
It’s the classic 10-beat meter.
I think that accounts for part of its persuasive power.
“Jefferson Didn’t Mean “Economically Equal””
No, but he did write about the merits of progressive taxation.
You know, as I think about this, I don’t even think “democratic” Tom Paine promised an economic rose garden. If I recall, Common Sense is all about *political* equality and evinces libertarian economic sentiments as well as a preference for small government– unless “that government is best which governs least” is not meant to apply to Paine’s proposed unicameral dictatorship of the proletariat.
Certainly many today believe that political/economic equality and economic libertarianism/small government are in fundamental contradiction.
Paine may go on to say other things, having a long literary career, but “economic equality” is not a major idea in the highly popular Common Sense that is most associated with his career in the US, which I believe was mid-wifed by Pennsylvanians Ben Franklin and Benjamin Rush, a physician. The latter went on to write quite a bit about the need to educate people for citizenship in a “self-governing republic” and engaged in prison and psychiatric reform. But he didn’t exactly empty the Bastille.
The oligarchs may have wanted to break the back of “democratic finance,” but was the back they broke a means of generating “economic equality” or was the back they broke an incipient rival oligarchy? ie., “We’ll let Lehman fail.” Were they not concerned with the potential for political fragmentation that they believed could undermine the maintenance of independence? This is not to say many among them weren’t out to derive personal benefit from nation building financial (and security) arrangements, but what evidence is there that the new money men in PA are more pure?
Whether or not said practices in “democratic finance” would live up to their press is one of those things we can’t know maybe, but ideals of economic equality *per se* still seem sort of scarce to me in this period. Most state declarations of independence used the phrase “pursuit of property,” which says nothing about outcomes. The phrase may issue from the relatively privileged, but how many people were really politically challenging the relatively privileged as opposed to working their butts off “in pursuit,” and only challenging them when thwarted?
“Understanding issues confronting both ordinary and elite Americans in founding era finance, and assessing their continuing impact on our lives today, means moving away from the simplistic “Declaration vs. Constitution” binary, which obscures more revealing founding alliances and arguments over the role of American government in ensuring economic fairness.”
In order to do this, it also seems to me that we need to move beyond the binary “ordinary people/democratic” and “elite/oligarchical” and consider the role played by an incipient libertarian ideology that was not viewed as being in contradiction with the ideals of democracy, and which was frequently championed by “ordinary people.”
It seems to me that’s the US 19th century in a nutshell, agrarian populists notwithstanding.
Some socialists were called libertarian in the 19th century
Me: “Jefferson Didn’t Mean ‘Economically Equal.'” @JTFaraday: “No, but he did write about the merits of progressive taxation.”
Yes, I meant TJ when drafting the Declaration for the Congress in 1776. He went all over the place throughout his career (sometimes to a degree that perplexes all of us), but my point in the post is that there’s no way that the “created equal” idea in the Declaration represents some sort of government support for political or economic equality, later supposedly betrayed by the Constitution.
@JTFaraday: “You know, as I think about this, I don’t even think ‘democratic’ Tom Paine promised an economic rose garden. If I recall, Common Sense is all about *political* equality and evinces libertarian economic sentiments as well as a preference for small government– unless ‘that government is best which governs least’ is not meant to apply to Paine’s proposed unicameral dictatorship of the proletariat.”
Well, this is indeed the big issue. No rose gardens: 18th C. popular-finance types seem largely to have wanted fair access to economic development, not a government-directed paradise, and while some (like Paine’s pal Thomas Young) did want to go so far as to cap by law the amount of property any one person could own, and actually did envision something not unlike a “dictatorship of the proletariat,” most wanted to level the playing field, not results. And it’s true that nobody, least of all Paine, would have equated political or economic equality with bringing in a big, sprawling, self-feeding bureaucracy bent, in the libertarian view, on stifling liberty! “Governing least” has never necessarily added up to “small,” but Paine, like most people at the time, did of course want a government sharply restrained by law, promoting liberty.
But for Paine — as not, say, for John Adams — true liberty *equated* with political equality, and by “political equality,” Paine did mean “economic equality.” The purpose of breaking the old, hallowed (economic) connection between property and the right of representation was precisely to enable the less- and un-propertied to vote and hold office, thus to pass laws promoting what they saw as the interests of those constituencies. Which actually happened in PA after 1776, in large part thanks to Paine. I’ve noted elsewhere that in CS, Paine calls only for a broad franchise in a new, hyperrepresentative American government, not for what they used to call full “manhood suffrage” (CS is pretty unrestrained, but that idea might have freaked out too many of the people Paine was trying to reach). In his later writings, though, in support of the PA constitution, and more importantly in his tireless, daily political activities in PA throughout 1776, Paine fought hard for a radical break between property and rights (and unlike most of his fellow “democrats,” would espouse women’s rights too). There’s more on CS, B. Rush’s 1776 *un*-radicalization, etc., in my book “Declaration.”
@JTFaraday: “The oligarchs may have wanted to break the back of ‘democratic finance,’ but was the back they broke a means of generating ‘economic equality’ or was the back they broke an incipient rival oligarchy? ie., ‘We’ll let Lehman fail.’ Were they not concerned with the potential for political fragmentation that they believed could undermine the maintenance of independence? This is not to say many among them weren’t out to derive personal benefit from nation building financial (and security) arrangements, but what evidence is there that the new money men in PA are more pure?”
Good thought. To me, purity isn’t the issue here, and on the high-finance side, the self-dealing of a Robert Morris is less interesting to me than Hamilton’s (highly cogent and I think perfectly uncorrupt) ambition for the U.S. to become a financial empire to compete with England’s. Those who opposed that plan had a wide range of interests, including the pursuit of state-oriented oligarchies of their own. But that wasn’t the goal of Paine, Young, James Cannon, Christopher Marshall, Timothy Matlack, and the PA militia privates in 1776. What would have happened to their and others’ principles had Hamiltonian finance and high federalism *not* triumphed over them? Nobody knows. IOn 1776, Marshall was already accusing his ally Young of wanting to start a Young oligarchy in PA. But Paine’s career, though tragic and probably in many ways badly misguided, shows no failure of *principle* on finance and democracy.
@JTFaraday: “… we need to move beyond the binary ‘ordinary people/democratic’ and ‘elite/oligarchical’ and consider the role played by an incipient libertarian ideology that was not viewed as being in contradiction with the ideals of democracy, and which was frequently championed by ‘ordinary people.’… It seems to me that’s the US 19th century in a nutshell, agrarian populists notwithstanding.”
Don’t agree about the 19th C., but that’s too much to get into here. Ultimately, I do agree with the premise. That’s in part why I referred to understanding the struggles on both the elite and non-elite sides. I’m busy over-correcting the stubbornly ground-in, nearly universal, and utterly mistaken notion that goals of economic equality were not widespread in the founding period (precisely *in contradiction* to most of the state constitutions!), and it doesn’t look as if my efforts will pay off any time soon, so in 1000-word blog posts there will to some sacrifice of nuance and complexity. Ultimately, thouugh, one of the most interesting issues of the period is the way in which liberty was *not* in conflict with equality, as far as the egalitarians were concerned. It’s true that everybody talked the high-Whig talk — even the rioters for democratic finance that real high Whigs wanted locked up.
Orwell, harshly criticizing tactics and attitudes of his fellow British socialists in “The Road to Wigan Pier,” suggested that they stop alienating people with dogma and blather and start framing their arguments in terms more of liberty than of equality. Smart idea. Anyway, thanks for these comments.
In response to JTFaraday & Hogelands comments about political economy.
Ben Franklin 1750: “That what we have above what we can use, is not properly ours, tho’ we possess it.”
Franklin 1776 during the Pennsylvania constitutional convention: “That an enormous portion of property vested in a few individuals is dangerous to the rights, and the destruction of the common happiness, of mankind; and therefore every free state hath a right by its laws to discourage the possession of such property.”
“Ben Franklin” by Edmund S. Morgan
Yes — and Franklin presided over the 1776 Pennsylvania convention that resulted in the economically egalitarian constitution. But look how he hedges his bets (as I think he almost always did in PA politics): “That an enormous portion of property vested in a few individuals is dangerous to the rights, and the destruction of the common happiness, of mankind” is just a common trope of high-Whig thinking. The emphasis is on “enormous.” What the democrats in PA were doing went far beyond that gentleman’s platitude of the era, and Franklin apeared to support them, more or less, in his next clause. But his mind was really on other things (some said he snoozed through most of the convention). Franklin got credited with writing the PA constitutuon, because many people couldn’t imagine artisans and workers writing something like that themselves. But he didn’t write it, and wouldn’t have.
OH, please. Money is choice.
OT…hows the book, and per your earlier statements, yes she could have as many do, but, it would have been as it is, a shallow exercise.
Skippy…some times I am asked when *I’ll COME HOME*. Funny how some build their structure, mentally as well as physically…denied of one and they lose the other, poor engineering in my book.
oooooh -its among the neglected. Thanks Skippy.
I think it got categorized as recreational what with all this current stuff like nuclear going on to keep up with. The Manhattan sky has been heavily polluted for a month now. Its not official. So, I must be crazy.
I would argue that 19th century populism meant specifically the following:
Producerism: a defense of endangered crafts(including the craft of framing).
Opposition to a new class of public creditors and to the whole emerging industry of modern finance.
Opposition to wage labor–the idea that true freedom was not consistent with hired labor–and support for the principal of property ownership and the personal independence it confers as being an essential precondition for citizenship.
Sounds like the colonial elite needed the great unwashed masses for most of the actual fighting (just like today)…..
You are in right, Jefferson didn’t support “”Economically Equal” BUT AARON BURR DID !
Burr was Enlightened, he believed and acted upon Economic Equality as well as the Equality of the Races and Gender Equality. Those are the reasons way he is the most hated man in American history.
In 1799 Burr created the Manhattan Company to bring clean water to New York City and to give loans to the working classes. Burr was a radical in the French Jacobin tradition, but without the Jeffersonian hypocrisy toward slavery and the working classes. In addition to a Clean Environment and Micro Financing, Burr allowed the working classes to own shares in the Manhattan Company, giving them input into how the company conducted business. This threatened not only Alexander Hamilton’s banking monopoly in New York but also the National Bank (think Corporate Capitalism).
And if that weren’t enough, Burr was a proto-socialist. He created land co-ops so that more people could become property owners and thus vote. This was a direct threat to Madison’s Constitution, which disenfranchised over half of the American population.
These actions made Burr the champion of the Daughters and Sons of Liberty, patriots and veterans of the Revolutionary army, many of whom were disenfranchised by the Constitution. It is also why Hamilton’s Bankers along with Jefferson & Madison’s Slave-owners attacked him ruthlessly. Hamilton & Jefferson hired scoundrels like James Callender and James Cheetham to destroy Burr’s reputation by creating outrageous lies, yes even before Fox News.
But before the 1800 election, Jefferson & Madison went to New York to persuade Burr to run as Jefferson’s vice president. They knew Jefferson could not win the election without northern support and the Burr was one of the nations most popular politicians, finishing fourth in the 1796 presidential election. Based on his reputation as a champion of the people and the great success of the Manhattan Company, Burr tied Jefferson for the presidency and after a divisive Electoral College election, served as Jefferson’s vice president. Immediately after the election Jefferson & Madison began plotting to undermine Burr’s political base and reputation because he was against slavery and stood in the way of Madison & Monroe’s succession to the presidency.
Burr represented a different choice for a young nation founded on the revolutionary ideals of the Enlightenment: a philosophy that was originally based on the principles of the consent of the governed and the greatest good for the greatest number. After the Revolution, there were at least four armed Rebellions against War Bond speculation and Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton’s two-tiered economic and tax polices. Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson said that these policies created a Wall Street Aristocracy. Jefferson eventually resigned because of his conflicts with Hamilton but Senator Burr went back to New York and started the Manhattan Company, which combined environment with social and economic justice.
The Aaron Burr Society believes that the principles of the Manhattan Company are as relevant today as they were in 1800. Ron Paul and Conservative Libertarians want to close the Federal Reserve Bank (FED). Progressive Libertarians want to Nationalize the FED and put a branch in every state in order to give direct loans to the people, not Wall Street. Instead of Hamilton’s government subsidies to large corporations, we want to give subsidies to local communities in order to clean the environment and create local commerce.
At first this might seem Absurd, but think about it. All societies are based on fictional constructs. History, mythology, religion represent our vision for the future, not just our view of the past. This is how societies build a consensus. Today the vast majority of Americans and people from around the world understands that something is seriously wrong when Wall Street and International Monetary Fund insist on cutting government programs and changing our way of life. The former Soviet Union and China rejected antiquated social and economic systems but instead of looking forward they chose an equally antiquated and bankrupt system of fraudulent Free Markets and Free Trade. And now this parasitic system has also imploded, leaving America and the World with the Tyranny of Wall Street which is worse than the Kings our Founders rebelled against.
the Aaron Burr Society