Shays' Rebellion, summer 1786 to spring 1787. Three years after the fighting ended, poor patriot farmers in western Massachusetts were being thrown into debtors prison, and their lands confiscated, for indebtedness that was beyond their control. They mounted an armed resistance, stopping the elites-favoring courts from making the heinous rulings. The financial elite hired mercenaries to violently end the resistance. Had the wider elites community been sincere about delivering the implied promises of extraordinary American rights given in the Declaration Of Independence, the poor Massachusetts citizens would have been peacefully accommodated. Instead, the predator elites did as they have always done -- money first, ordinary people last.
---------------------------------------------------- First, American colonists reinvented themselves in revolutionary thought and war. They reinvented themselves into an independent nation. This is huge.
Americans fought their chaotic war against England, not just for the traditional rights of Englishmen, but for the extraordinary rights of Americans. Those rights, demanded by most Americans many years ahead of the fighting, were given voice by Thomas Jefferson in the second paragraph of the 1776 Declaration of Independence
We hold these Truths to be self-evident, 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 -- That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient Causes.... But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security.
Most Americans, then and now, see those DOI statements as our founding principles. Initially, they were even more. They were the implied promises, by the governing elite to the sovereign people, of future American governance. Just win, baby, and this is what you get. The DOI was posted and read almost everywhere people would read or listen, throughout the War. Just win.
However, the American elites soon demonstrated that the implied promises of the DOI were nothing more than a deceitful Machiavellian "bait and switch". Bait the commoners with the implied promises of extraordinary American rights -- rights far beyond those held by the English. Get the commoners to fight a War for Independence for those rights. And then dump the commoners into an elitist-controlled popcorn machine of pure representative government, with none of the DOI's extraordinary rights.
The first American reinvention of themselves was doomed from the beginning.
English elites had made American elites into a second-class English elite, greatly reducing the Americans' profits and power. By the 1770s, American elites, entrenched in family arrogance for three to five generations, were at the end of their tether. Independence promised too much. American elitist greed for more than what the English elites allowed was too strong. For too many American elitists -- who lived the same unexamined life of bigoted, predatory elitism as lived by the English elites -- it was all about money and power.
Bait and switch. The seven fundamental governance rights easily derived from the DOI -- rights for which ordinary Americans fought, bled, died, hated, and sacrificed economic well-being -- do not appear in any of the elites-written constitutions.
The first generation of state constitutions should have warned the commoners. Although the DOI had not been written yet, all of its governance principles were being demanded by most of the people. As Jefferson frequently remarked, his voicing the principles only followed what the people had been demanding for years. After the DOI, none of its implied promises were put into the provisions of the nation's first constitution, the 1782 Articles of Confederation. And they do not appear in the nation's second constitution, the 1787 Constitution. Bait and switch, ad nauseum.
But the DOI did not die when it was shuffled aside by the elites. Too many had given up too much for its implied promises. It became the most hallowed living document of the American experience, and remains so today.
The seven fundamental governance rights derived from the DOI are --
- Individual citizens have the fundamental right to be politically equal with all other citizens.
- The sovereign people have the fundamental right to speak for themselves, in their voting majorities.
- The sovereign people have the fundamental right to be their own sovereign masters, democratically and directly electing all of their public servant representatives.
- The sovereign people have the fundamental right to remove any elected representative, for cause, without interference from government.
- The sovereign people have the fundamental right to control the output of legislation by formulating their own, by vetoing law made by government, and by affirming existing law in such a way that government is barred from amending it -- at every jurisdictional level, without interference from government.
- The sovereign people have the fundamental right to alter details of their governance, without interference from government.
- The sovereign people have the fundamental right to protect themselves from themselves by establishing the powers within government to administratively, legislatively, and judicially prevent zealous majorities, greedy corporations, the corrupting superrich, and government itself from violating individual and minority citizen rights, as given in the constitution and laws.
Ejecting those rights from the American reality, dumping the commoners into an elitist-controlled pure rep govt, involved some stutter-stepping. The elites didn't get it right in the 1782 Articles.
The people believed what the elites had spoon-fed them out of the DOI during the War. The people interpreted the Articles broadly, grabbing democratic equality for themselves. The more popular among them grabbed incomes and powerful political positions that the elites saw as belonging only to elites.
Worse, the DOI's extraordinary rights had begun a firestorm over direct democracy. Most commoner Americans knew intuitively that the DOI's extraordinary rights required direct democracy. "Consent of the Governed" did not mean consent of the representatives. Whatever details were given to the representative government, direct democracy had to be in there.
In their lack of education, in their ignorance of Republican Rome's workings, American commoners misunderstood Roman citizen lawmaking. They knew that it had existed, but they did not know the historical details. Still, they reached into direct democracy with the demand that they, the sovereign people, had the right to instruct their state legislatures. Telling the legislature that a particular law must be passed, or that another must be vetoed, was citizen lawmaking enough.
From the elites' point of view, the rabble's right to instruct legislatures would have limited the world of the elites intolerably.
It became the new nation's first national debate. It was an eleven-year-long fight, 1776 to 1787, with arbitrary rulings by elitist judges holding the line against the steadily threatening sovereign people.
For information on the 11-year debate, see especially, Gordon S. Wood's 1969 book for the Institute of Early American History and Culture at Williamsburg, VA, The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787, chapter 9, "The Sovereignty of the People", section 3, "The Disintegration of Representation", pp. 363-372.
Obviously, representation did not ever "disintegrate". Wood is extremely biased in favor of the elites. Exaggerating what might happen if the people ever had their way is a knee-jerk avocation for Wood. As with all "Madisonian scholars", distortions, omissions, and falsehoods are the only way for Wood to prop up the facade and incompetence of pure representative government (i.e., repocracy).
However, reading his text judiciously, and with some knowledge of Republican Rome's citizen lawmaking, the reader can get both information on the eleven-year debate, and, at the same time, a demonstration of the wide-spectrum dishonesty of the elites and their judges -- then and now. From Wood's text, pp. 370-371 (emphasis supplied) --
"Judge Alexander Hanson, emerging as the principal opponent of legislative instructions, repeated this same line of argument throughout the spring and summer of 1787. 'All power indeed flows from the people,' conceded Hanson; 'but the doctrine that the power, actually, at all times, resides in the people, is subversive of all government and law'.... This in effect, said Hanson, gave the people-at-large a lawmaking capacity outside of the legislature, making them literally 'masters; of their 'servants' in the legislature, an idea that was 'one of the most incongruous and absurd, that ever entered into a human brain'.
Not only did the Roman plebs have full-time citizen lawmaking and law vetoing powers, they also had tribunes, who recommended laws to the people for passage -- and who were free to wander anywhere, carrying with them the vetoing authority of the sovereign people.
"By a persistent enlargement of their original ius auxilii on behalf of oppressed plebeians, the tribunes of the fifth and fourth centuries [400s and 300s, BCE] had brought the actions of all the magistrates, the resolutions of the Senate and the bills submitted to the various popular assemblies within the scope of their veto. Nay more, they had established an unquestioned prescriptive right to exercise this veto at discretion. By simply pronouncing the magic word intercedo, any of the ten tribunes became legally entitled to hold up any business of state (save for a few specified exceptions)."
M. Carey, The History Of Rome. London: MacMillan, 2nd edition, 1967, p. 116, emphasis supplied.
All educated persons of the 1770s and 1780s -- including Judge Hanson -- can be held responsible for knowing about the 400 years of citizen lawmaking in Republican Rome. They can be held responsible for knowing that Rome's citizen lawmaking was a leading factor in the Republic's development of the eternally-surprising and majestic Greco-Roman culture.
The idea of sovereign citizen lawmaking mixed with rep govt, far from absurd, is historical fact yielding greater honors for humankind than pure rep govt centered in elites' greed and corruption has ever produced.
Citizen lawmaking limited the profits and power of the rich, but it advanced culture in many dimensions. And when Roman greed had collapsed the Republic and rampaged on for another five hundred years, the Empire perished in its own abyss between superrich and the very poor. It was the abyss that had once been firm ground for the vast middle classes. It was the abyss from which the dark ages monster of feudalism would drag its victims for hundreds of years.
Madisonian scholar Wood can be held responsible for repeating Judge Hanson's distortions and lies as if they were truth. Keeping the rabble down and the right people up is a full-time job for men like Wood -- in ancient Rome, new-nation US, or Nixon-Reagan-Bush Amerika.
Finally, in September 1786, Hamilton and his ilk stumbled onto the notion of a "Federal Convention" -- a constitutional convention -- to correct the failings of the Articles. State governments agreed, and the convention's delegates were appointed -- of, for, and by the elites, of course.
The 11-year-long debate over the people's right to instruct legislatures would be snuffed in one fell swoop, in Philadelphia, May to September, 1787.
Some of the Federal Convention's delegates refused to show up for Hamilton's charade. (He was, after all, an unsavory character -- a Caribbean island bastard whose fawning financial views had got him access to the highest circles of the predator elites in American society. Covering all around him in a hypocrisy of moral self-righteousness, while lying about almost everything, he would later be gunned down by Burr for his unethical machinations.) Other delegates bolted the convention as soon as the predator elites majority showed that they were going to overstep their instructions and overthrow the Articles. Arguably, a few left the convention for family emergencies.
Sixty-four prominent leaders in their own right where chosen in the states as delegates to the federal convention. Nine refused to attend. Fifty-five delegates attended. Thirty-nine attendees signed the Constitution. Sixteen of the fifty-five attendees did not sign.
Of the total of sixty-four delegates appointed in the states, a total of twenty-five seasoned leaders did not sign. That's thirty-nine percent not signing. Still, a majority would be thirty-two plus one. And the predator elites had their majority -- thirty-nine.
So the predator elites usurped the Articles and ejected the DOI's extraordinary rights from the American political reality. In the vagueness tradition of the Roman "Twelve Tables" (Rome's first codification of law, circa 351 BCE) -- giving patrician judges the ambiguity they needed to arbitrarily rule in favor of the elites -- the Constitution's over-vague provisions opened the door wide for elitist judges. The Constitution's vagueness favored wealth- and class-driven corruption by elitist representatives and judges, while removing the people from approval or rejection of anything governmental. (Roman plebs had held the power to approve or reject anything governmental for the nearly 500 years of the Republic.)
And then, to top off their many deceits, the majority of the convention's delegates wrote-in the unconstitutional and illegal procedure by which the Constitution would be ratified as the nation's fundamental law. The procedure directly violated the Articles of Confederation, the USA's standing, inviolable constitution.
The Constitution's authors concocted the special ratifying conventions that would give them time and the best possibility of ratification. They needed time to convince the wider elites community that this government could control the rabble forever.
Provisions stating the inviolability and means of amending the Articles are found in that document's Article XIII. They're very clear.
... And the Articles of this Confederation shall be inviolably observed by every State, and the Union shall be perpetual; nor shall any alteration at any time hereafter be made in any of them; unless such alteration be agreed to in a Congress of the United States, and be afterwards confirmed by the legislatures of every State.
The Articles Of Confederation are available online at the Constitution Society's Liberty Library at http://www.constitution.org/liberlib.htm
On the day the predator majority of federal convention delegates completed and signed the Constitution, 17 September 1787, it was legally only a package of amendments to the Articles. Given the existence of the Articles, the Constitution could have no other legal standing.
However, the Articles were simply ignored. The Constitution's last article reads --
Article XII. The ratification of the conventions of nine States, shall be sufficient for the establishment of this constitution between the states ratifying the same.
The Constitution is online at the Constitution Society's Liberty Library at http://www.constitution.org/liberlib.htm.
The Constitution was unconstitutionally ratified by special conventions, which were isolated from Congress, the state legislatures, and the civil society. The special ratifying conventions were creatures of the elites. Ratifying convention delegates in all the states were swayed by the Constitution's implied promises of class exclusivity, corruption-fed wealth, and sustainable political power over the mob.
The majority of those delegates were guided by the sophistries, vacuous arguments, and historical falsehoods of their ratification bible -- The Federalist Papers. The ratification bible was another exercise in what William Greider has recently identified as "the elitist channels of discourse". Between the lines, the public bible was privately saying, Pay no attention to what's written here being wrong. This is the plan. If everyone sticks to the plan, we will win.
That is, 220 years ago, the gentlemen authors of the Constitution and the wider elites community proved that they would not be bound by any inviolable law that conflicted with their superiority over the rabble. The natural law of wealth and power trumps any man-made law -- then and now. Greed wins. Goddess Nemesis will have to wait.
The predator elites had consolidated their power. The Americans who had reinvented themselves from colonists to free men found that the bloodletting had merely exchanged one set of bigoted tyrants for another. The servile didn't care. The dissidents were branded "Anti-Federalists".
In today's complex systems theory, the American Revolution was a partially successful, partially failed microshift (Ervin Laszlo's term). It succeeded in gaining independence from England. It failed to gain the the DOI's extraordinary rights.
As we've seen, the Revolution's failure cannot be sustained. The extraordinary rights of Americans keep coming back around.
Another microshift loomed in the Civil War. Through Lincoln's waving off Biblical slavery with the Constitution's freedom from religion and overlaying the DOI's "all men are created equal", the Emancipation made the Civil War another partially successful microshift. It gained African-American equality for a fleeting moment.
However, it too became an elites-caused partial failure, when Northern elites allowed Southern elites to win the Reconstruction for the benefit of their mutual profits and power. A secret agreement between Republicans and Democrats -- a hidden part of the "Compromise of 1876" -- suppressed the 15th Amendment's federal enforcement. The secret accord allowed white supremacists to lynch uppity African-Americans for another fifty years and 12 presidential administrations before the 15th Amendment's first enforcement in the 1930s under the FDR administration. And, of course, the KKK-driven lynchings and "race-riots" went on long after that.
Constitutional rights of the rabble are nothing but excessive democracy and intolerable limits on profits and power to the men of money-power -- then and now.
And still another microshift loomed -- the Reform Era. A political system re-do was coming, again with the DOI's extraordinary rights as objectives. And, again, Americans would reinvent themselves. And, again, the microshift would partially succeed and partially fail in the anti-constitutional governance by predator elites.
Violation of our constitutions by public officials, judges, corporate predators, racial and religious bigots, and the superrich is the single largest political problem in our nation's history.
© 2007 by Stephen Neitzke