May 14, 2015

Today in History: Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia (1787)

John RobsonResident Historian

On May 14, 1787, Philadelphia saw one of the most remarkable gatherings in human history as 55 delegates convened to write what would become the U.S. Constitution.

Men of vision but not visionaries, men of intellect but not intellectuals, drawing on history and theory with a deep understanding of human nature and the needs of the day, working in secret without public petitions or pressure, they created a document that, for nearly a quarter of a millennium, has been the basis of one of the best systems of government  the world has ever seen.

Could we furnish such a gathering today?

And if we could, would we understand, appreciate and endorse its work?

If not, we should not be too smug about the supposed dazzling enlightenment of the present and our superiority to the benighted past.

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commented 2015-05-19 02:42:16 -0400
We don’t actually have democracy. We have elected governments. While that is not the worst system, it is hardly democracy and it inevitably becomes dictatorship of the unelected judiciary.
commented 2015-05-18 01:34:13 -0400
Your perspective is informed, simple and deep, John. As always.
commented 2015-05-16 01:06:32 -0400
@ron & @glenn, you are right democracy is a farce.
After the Wall St Meltdown of 2008, or thereabouts, I came to the conclusion that the US Constitution failed to protect “We the people” from Louis 14 and Marie Antoinette, as it was supposedly design to do. To protect the people from Money and Power. Wall St and the White House colluded to steal $billions from Taxpayers, “Let them eat cake.” We in Canada are enslaved to our governments, too. Your tenth or twentieth generation grand kids will still be paying off the Debt, plus all the unfunded liabilities. Tell me I’m wrong.
commented 2015-05-14 16:58:50 -0400
Glenn If you are right then democracy is just a farce.
commented 2015-05-14 16:05:17 -0400
Democracy is not a tyranny of the majority…it is an oligarchy of those who bother to attend meetings and sit on committees…the majority just tags along.
commented 2015-05-14 12:42:43 -0400
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commented 2015-05-14 12:01:08 -0400
Also remember that in Africa many terrorists such as the ANC, SWAPO and ZANU swept to power sponsored by capitalist governments such as the UK, Canada and the USA. What goes around comes around as James Madison would say today.
commented 2015-05-14 12:01:08 -0400
Also remember that in Africa many terrorists such as the ANC, SWAPO and ZANU swept to power sponsored by capitalist governments such as the UK, Canada and the USA. What goes around comes around as James Madison would say today.
commented 2015-05-14 11:54:38 -0400
Peter – I would put it another way.

Socialists of modern ilk exploit greed and ambition to secure compliance with corruption by violent, sociopathic organized crime war lords, including terrorist-funded drug/arms/human traffickers.
commented 2015-05-14 10:52:13 -0400
I think you are right there Peter. Also greedy capitalists usually share some of the spoils with the workers whereas socialists keep everything for themselves and their self appointed elite. Both America and Canada are pretty well socialist countries now.
commented 2015-05-14 10:39:56 -0400
“built on an understanding of human frailty”

This paraphrased phrase spoken by John is to me a fundamental failure in the socialist system of governance as presented in academia today. My understanding of one of the main human frailties is that of greed, coupled closely with ambition. The socialist system does not account for the greed and ambition of the people. As a result a socialist system ends up with the greedy and ambitious ruling over the rest, whereas the capitalist system seems to account for that greed and ambition.

Of course, I could be all wrong on that.
commented 2015-05-14 10:36:16 -0400
The concern is that the best system of government is about to disappoint James Madison. He worried that popular rule was not all that it was cracked up to be. The tyranny of the majority seems upon them now. The great experiment is all but gone.