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September 14, 2007 05:46 PM UTC

A Constitutional question

  • 9 Comments
  • by: Oliver

The US Constitution–as envisioned and authored by our ‘founding fathers’–limits the vote to white male property owners, declares people of African descent as 3/5 human, and does not allow the U.S. Senate to be elected by the people, but by state legislatures. 

All these requirements/provisions have been altered and are no longer in force.

QUESTION–Were the founding fathers wrong in these matters, were they correct, but subsequent changes justified, or were these changes wrong, contrary to the ‘intent’ of the framers and thereby unconstitutional?

 

Comments

9 thoughts on “A Constitutional question

  1. This compromise was actually done to help African Americans and limit slavery.  The ‘3/5 count’ was used to count citizens and divvy up congressional districts.  Southern states wanted African-Americans counted as 1 (because of the enormous and growing African-American population of the south) so that they could receive more congressional representation (which obviously would defend and maybe even attempt to expand slavery as the nation grew).  Northern states wanted African-Americans counted as 0, not because they believed they were not humans, but so that the south wouldn’t have overwhelming power to defend and expand slavery.  Thus the 3/5  compromise, the most misunderstood original provision in the U.S. Constitution. 

  2. I agree, and that is how I remember my civics lessons too. 

    I am trying to understand if the framers intended the U.S. to be a dynamic enough government to adapt from an 18th century agrarian society into a modern 21st century society.  Clearly the demands of the young nation in 1789 were vastly different than of our world empire in 2007.  Some argue on this blog, frequently, that anything beyond the enumerated powers given to Congress is a vast overreach of federal power, others–including the U.S. Supreme Court through the years, Congress, and numerous presidents (along with lower courts) apparently believe otherwise. 

    I would love to hear from Foghorn, Gecko, and others that apparently take the strict constructionist view: were the founder wrong then or are they wrong now (due to changing times, situation, realities-on-the-ground)?

  3. One thing to remember whenwe talk of the US COnstitution’s original form, it was unique among nations at that time. No other county had yet estsablished a government in the form we were doing. There was no model to use.

    So they went by what was considered norms for the times they were living in. The 3/5 compromise was already described so I’ll leave that one alone.

    But women were not considered “able” to participate in government in most cases. Even in the monarchies of Europe, when a women succeeded to a Throne (in the handful of countries that even allowed such things), the real rulers were either her husband, or her male advisors (this was especially true in England where the first woman to truly exert her own authority did not become queen until 1837). So it seemed only natural to our founding fathers to limit the vote to men.

    As for the landed classes, these tended to be the only people who had any education, or could even read or write. I am sure the FF were concerned about letting a largely illiterate populace make decisions which affect the very governance of the country. As very basic education became more commonplace so did the concept that it was okay to allow the general populace to participate the law was changed accordingly.

    So were the founding fathers wrong? not for their time. Were they right? not for our time now. Were subsequent changes justified? yes.

    One of the beauties of the way the US Constitution was written was that where a real need to change it came up, it was able to be done. But trivial wants and desires have are fare more difficult to get in there. The State of Colorado ignored a valuable lesson had from this when writing our Constitution.

      1. Elizabeth Tudor was a very well-loved monarch (by the Protestants anyway). However, the actual rule of the government was carried out by her Privy Council which was all male and usually under the iron control of Lord Burghley.

        Elizabeth was adamant about be aware of what was going on but was rarely consulted ahead of decisions being made.

        1. She reduced the privy council from 39 to 14 to consolidate her power and she even dismissed Parliament at times. 

          Burghley was her most trusted advisor, but to say he ruled the England is a bit of a lark. 

  4. I wasn’t trying to dis the ‘founding fathers’ or imply that they were ignorant.  I’m merely trying to understand (especially from those who regularly cite the Constitution–say, in demanding it prohibits anything beyond the carefully enumerated Congressional powers) where some of the regular posters here are coming from.  I await a satisfactory answer. 

  5. First, all of the above were amended, as the Constitution is supposed to be changed, not just tossed out because someone thought they were “quaint” holdovers from another era. 

    Second, yes, I think direct election of Senators was a *huge* mistake.  Cameroon has a representative with the government in DC.  Colorado does not.  I tend to think that’s a problem.

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