Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained

The True Meaning of Democracy

Reading Room: Chapter 8 Summary

Democracy Denied

“… But far within…
The great seraphic lords and cherubim,
In close recess and secret conclave, sat;
A thousand demi-gods on golden seats
Frequent and full …”

When convened and during the course of its deliberations, the Constitutional Convention enjoyed little popular support. For one thing, it seemed to be the doing of a cabal operating in secret. For another, it represented a radical change in direction. Some might say a coup had taken place. Prior to the convention, it was the general understanding that the Articles of Confederation were to remain in force. There had been no groundswell for abandoning one form government in favor of another. Yet that is what happened.  

Aware that the Constitution as written would probably not be adopted without extensive debate and amendments, the organizers did their best to force it through with great haste, insisting that it must be accepted in toto or not at all. As testimony to the weakness of their position and in violation of the thirteenth article of the Articles of Confederation, they required that only nine of thirteen states ratify the document for it to become the law of the land, despite the pleas of Benjamin Franklin for unanimity.

Once agreement was reached on the final document it was up to the states to ratify the Constitution, one at a time. Every effort was made by the Federalists to stifle open debate and force through a form of government for which there was no popular support. Not only did the Federalists tamper with elections, print falsehoods, use intimidation and manipulation to win votes, they also exercised control over the mails, thereby delaying the arrival of critical news and sometimes not delivering the mail at all, always selectively handicapping their opponents.