Stengel says: "The framers were not gods and were not infallible. Yes, they gave us, and the world, a blueprint for the protection of democratic freedoms -- freedom of speech, assembly, religion -- but they also gave us the idea that a black person was three-fifths of a human being, that women were not allowed to vote and that South Dakota should have the same number of Senators as California, which is kind of crazy. And I'm not even going to mention the Electoral College."
My column last week addressed the compromise whereby each slave was counted as three-fifths of a person for the purposes of determining representation in the House of Representatives and Electoral College. Had slaves been counted as whole people, slaveholding states would have had much greater political power. I agree the framers were not gods and were not infallible, but they had far greater wisdom and principle than today's politicians.
The framers held democracy and majority rule in deep contempt. As a matter of fact, the term democracy appears in none of our founding documents. James Madison argued that "measures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice and the rights of the minor party, but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority." John Adams said: "Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide." Stengel's majoritarian vision sees it as anti-democratic that South Dakota and California both have two senators, but the framers wanted to reduce the chances that highly populated states would run roughshod over thinly populated states. They established the Electoral College to serve the same purpose in determining the presidency.
Katrina vanden Heuvel: "MS, WI, TX, ND, AR, Have Become States of Misogyny of Bigotry" | Greg Hengler