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How the Federalists forced Pennsylvanians to ratify the 1787 US Constitution -

More from Terry Bouton's book - Taming Democracy: "The People," the Founders, and the Troubled Ending of the American Revolution, pp. 180-181

Link is here:

Taming Democracy

To get the Constitution enacted, however, Pennsylvania Federalists needed to get their barrier against democracy past a public that, by the Federalists' own admission, was dedicated to democracy. In Pennsylvania, the solution was to use the element of surprise and get the Constitution ratified with as little public debate as possible. They would call for a state ratification convention before any oppositon had a chance to organize.

How did they do it?

The first public reading of the new anti-democratic US Constitution - drafted in secret to supercede and replace the Articles of Confederation with a strong, centralized government, because burgeoning democratic, bottom-up policy-making across America was stifling European capitalists' investment in the speculative holdings of wealthy Americans - was Sept. 18, 1787.

Ten days later, on Sept. 28, Pennsylvania Legislator George Clymer called for ratification elections to be twelve days from that date,

barely enough time for a rider to get copies of the Constitution to the western counties, let alone for serious debate over such an important matter.

Representatives from central and western counties stormed out of the assembly in protest. Federalists sent a "posse" after the representatives, where they

"broke down the door of the boardinghouse where the representatives were staying, hauled them out of bed, and carried them through the streets to the statehouse...literally dumping these men in their seats..."

Then the Federalists went on to control communications about the proposed new Constitution.

In particular, the Federalists relied on the fact that they owned most of the state's newspapers - the only places people could get news beyond word of mouth...[they] also attempted to stifle the opposition. The few newspaper editors who came out against the Constitution received swift retribution: merchants pulled advertisements and Federalist readers "withdrew their subscriptions."

Federalists also owned most of the printing shops and taverns - unofficial post offices at the time, so they

turned the mail system into a weapon against the opposition. They "stopped and destroyed" Antifederalists' "Pamphlets and Newspapers..." and "broke" open letters and "selected & published" excerpts of people's mail in newspapers to embarrass them...

Pennsylvania vice-president at the time, David Redick, rightly concluded that all these efforts were

strong evidence that these people know [the Constitution] will not bear an examination and therefore wishes to adopt it first and consider it afterward.

The tactics worked. Although huge majorities opposed the new Constitution in the central and western counties, they had no time to organize themselves, turnout among eligible voters was very small, and the slim Federalist margin was enough to win ratification.

Not the end of the story, of course, nor the beginning. The backlash of the wealthy came in response to successful rabble resistance to oppression during the early 1780s, and the ratification vote was followed by a rabble-led campaign to organize to stop the ratification process from further moving forward.

More later...

Originally posted to Demophilus on Tue Dec 23, 2008 at 07:51 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Without a strong central government (5+ / 0-)

    This country would have fallen to pieces immediately.  

    Who was Bush_Horror2004, anyway?

    by Dartagnan on Tue Dec 23, 2008 at 07:54:50 AM PST

  •  The tone of this diary is odd. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I guess the message is that we've always been living under an oppressive, unbeatable regime so why bother trying now?

    At least that's what I took out of it.

    •  It also contradicts what I've heard from those (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      such as Thom Hartmann, who point out that the US's first millionaire, in modern dollars, occurred in the early 1800s. He's positing a cabal of wealthy capitalists that didn't exist in the country yet.

      •  How much was (0+ / 0-)

        a slave worth in 1787?

        Founder and CFO, The Giddiyap Society.

        by Trotsky the Horse on Tue Dec 23, 2008 at 08:14:13 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  That's actually factored in (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Arken, Trotsky the Horse, iRobert

          And they were depreciating assets with high maintenance costs. So less than one would think.

          •  Not quite "factored" (0+ / 0-)

            if you consider that the argument isn't simply who had the "capital" but how the American ruling class was being "capitalized:" what the sources were, and the investments. Obviously slaves are a collateral of a different type, and manipulated in a different way, than railroads: for instance, if you close off the slave trade, then the production of "capital" is in the, uh, hands of the wealthy male plantation owners, with lubricant jelly as a negligible overhead. Sooner of later, though, the radically different types of capital will come into competition - but I suppose there are still some people on this list who think the Civil War was fought to set them darkies free...

            Founder and CFO, The Giddiyap Society.

            by Trotsky the Horse on Tue Dec 23, 2008 at 08:29:56 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  The great plantations you're referring to (0+ / 0-)

              are a product of the 19th century, not the time of the founders.

              It's true that there did develop a wealthy class, both in agricultural and industrial sectors, in the mid 19th century, but the post is about the end of the 18th. You can't project the wealth of the plantation aristocrats and industrial robber barons back on the period of the founders; the economy of the country evolved quite a lot in the interim.

              •  In the first place, (0+ / 0-)

                Washington and Jefferson were doing A-OK last time I looked. And let's not even talk about the rice and indigo crops in the Carolinas.

                In the second place, we're off the point again, which was not whether anyone had piles of money in America in the 18th C, but whether some had, or had their eyes on considerably more capital than others and were considering its present and future use through investment by foreign entities. That is, whether their political decisions were based in no small part on their considerations of capital as capital, whether that capital was land, slaves, or a docile urban or rural workforce. Or even money.

                That fantasy about the small-town values and the sturdy yeoman and all that - sorry, it's a fantasy. It was a fantasy for Sarah Palin, it was a fantasy in the nineteenth century and, as so much research has shown, it was a fantasy in the eighteenth.

                Now, if you're prepared to take on the degree to which it wasn't as much of a fantasy in the late eighteenth this could make for a nice discussion, but I'm afraid you and I would be over our heads, since that's precisely where the serious academic thought on these topics is, these days.

                Founder and CFO, The Giddiyap Society.

                by Trotsky the Horse on Tue Dec 23, 2008 at 10:15:54 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Jefferson's and Washington's assets (0+ / 0-)

                  in today's dollars, would be in the hundreds of thousands. Certainly well-off professionals, but not rich. And they died deeply in debt.

                  Your thesis requires a wealthy investor class. It's my understanding that said class did not exist for decades after the time period you're discussing.

                  The question of whether or not the Constitution may or may not have been ramrodded is another one, and interesting indeed.

                  •  Yes it does: (0+ / 0-)

                    and that wealthy investor class, as the diary makes clear, was foreign - and BTW - continued to be foreign into the 1870s. The wealthy investees, however, were local.

                    As to "class" not existing - you don't want to go there.

                    Founder and CFO, The Giddiyap Society.

                    by Trotsky the Horse on Tue Dec 23, 2008 at 10:31:36 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                  •  FDR's wealth was less than 600,000 and yet he was (0+ / 0-)

                    considered rich.  His cousin Jane Delano financed the entire women's army corps of nurses with her inheritance of 250,000 which was apparently a lot of money in 1910s.

                    Non productive wealth like the stock market was unheard of.  If you read the books from the Dutch and British East Indian Companies--capitalization was money invested in hard assets.

                    Credit reports have done away with the concepts of assets and liabilities.  Part of the problem.

                    •  "Non-productive wealth" (0+ / 0-)

                      was unheard from, you mean: the fact that nobody wanted to listen to what their slaves had to say didn't make the owners any less wealthy.

                      As to slaves or land being "just part of the landscape:" cue the Hudson River School paintings. Cue the shtick about the Kind Slave Master. Yes, it's Morning in America, folks. Off to the cotton, boy.

                      Oh - and as to your argument about what was or was not considered non-productive in the eighteenth century: does the word "Physiocrats" ring a bell?

                      Founder and CFO, The Giddiyap Society.

                      by Trotsky the Horse on Tue Dec 23, 2008 at 11:01:51 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

      •  The British were still here..the royalists were (0+ / 0-)

        still among us..they did not go away...what was to come rather soon after this period of time were the opium wars instigated by the British in China but fortunes were made in the opium trade by people in this country.  Princeton University was financed with money from the opium trade as was Yale.

  •  and look how poorly the Republic has done! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Arken, Dartagnan, Otteray Scribe


    "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others." - G. Marx

    by Skeptical Bastard on Tue Dec 23, 2008 at 08:01:02 AM PST

  •  Thanks! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    At last, someone's doing History on DK that actually reflects recent scholarly (and progressive), thought instead of the usual Whiny Wigs rehashing "common knowledge."

    Founder and CFO, The Giddiyap Society.

    by Trotsky the Horse on Tue Dec 23, 2008 at 08:10:11 AM PST

    •  "Scholarly" thought involves multiple sources (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      and a lot of research, not quoting one person's book.

      •  Then why don't you? (0+ / 0-)

        How do the conclusions Demophilus draws from Bouton gibee with, say, Appleby's research on capital formation in the Early Republic?

        Shit or get off the pot, Arken.

        Founder and CFO, The Giddiyap Society.

        by Trotsky the Horse on Tue Dec 23, 2008 at 08:22:13 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Well, by my reckoning (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Arken, RubyGal, Trotsky the Horse

        a few books were read in the writing of the book that was quoted, so maybe you can grant him a scholarly one step removed.

        Certainly I think the re-examination of the Federalist era is worth pursuing. I don't think there's much doubt that the largely agragian members of the states found a Federalist constitution a one sided boon to those with money and a potential shakedown to those without it. So there was a class element. The constituion also provided for a standing army in peace time which I believe we have  since learned to regret. But the biggest problem with the constitution as it was attempted to be shoved through  by the Federalist originally was its glaring lack of the Bill of Rights.

        The gents who pushed this through were not 'Democrats' with a large D or a small d and there's no reason we should be unduly hagiographic about them. They were pretty much the oily businessmen of their day and they wanted a central bank and centralized authority for all the illuminating reasons that people always want more power and control. Talk to Dick Cheney if you are confused on the point.

        Lots of bright and truly honorable people thought he constitution, as proposed by the Federalists, was a bad idea--Patrick Henry, George Mason. Jefferson only argued for it in order to secure the inclusion of the Bill of rights saying something to the effect that 'half a loaf' was better than none.

        We can thank Jefferson, Mason and Madison for the rights we have (namely, the inclusion of the Bill ofi Rights)--Hamilton--a thoroughly patrician banker, Federalist and something of a monarchist-- was stridently opposed.

        DelicateMonster a slightly left of center reading experience

        by DelicateMonster on Tue Dec 23, 2008 at 08:33:14 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  "Oily businessmen" who risked their wealth and (0+ / 0-)

          lives for this country.

          The constituion also provided for a standing army in peace time which I believe we have  since learned to regret.

          I don't regret that.  Kaiser Wilhelm regrets that.  Not me.

          And ironically it was Hamilton who opposed slavery and Jefferson who was boffing them.  Making the Federalist into devils and Jefferson into a hero seems short sighted to me.  Both did good and bad, but in the end help set a a reasonably good system of governance, certainly an enduring one.

          •  A few million Vietnamese regret it (0+ / 0-)

            so do a few million Laotians, Cambodians and on the other side of the world and a few decades later, Iraqis.  Not to mention the ancillary benefits our 'standing army' brought to such areas as the Philipines during our little imbroglio down there when we decided that truly becoming an empire was just dandy. The muslims in the Philipines who stood in the way got bullets dipped in pig's blood from our courageous 'standing army'. Of course, this goes without mentioning the many benefits our 'advisors' have brought to such notoriously congested areas as Nicarauga, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. Population control has always been our military's prime benefit. Of course, you'd have to have read some history to know that.

            You might not have learned to regret our standing army but most of the educated world has--perhaps even including Kaiser Wilhem who I presume now safely resides in the military and majestic heaven of all Good Germans who never questioned their own 'standing armies' until it was well too late.

            DelicateMonster a slightly left of center reading experience

            by DelicateMonster on Tue Dec 23, 2008 at 02:15:27 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I've read as much history as you, monster, though (0+ / 0-)

              I don't subscribe to the black and white Howard Zinnified version of it you do.  But I have long sense learned arguing with pacifists and radicals is a waste of time.  So have a nice Christmas in the simple world you inhabit.

              •  Stated like a perfectly Good German (0+ / 0-)

                iRobert. You've discounted the deaths of millions  with a dismissing wave, ignoring or ignorant of ideas and thoughts that span centuries and that underly nearly all the major religions.

                Nicely done. Kaiser Wilhelm would be proud--apparently the only person you've actually learned from.

                DelicateMonster a slightly left of center reading experience

                by DelicateMonster on Tue Dec 23, 2008 at 06:33:00 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  You've already dismissed (0+ / 0-)

                  the millions that didn't die, or suffer incredibly, because of our standing army, Monster.  One good turn deserves another.  And the Kaiser taught me a lot about why a mustache is a bad fashion choice, but not a lot about standing armies.

                  •  If I thought you were a better student of logic (0+ / 0-)

                    than you are of history, I'd mention the problem with proving a negative.

                    But, apparently, both disciplines evade your limited reach.

                    Don't fret, though, iRobert.  At least you  were right about the moustache.

                    DelicateMonster a slightly left of center reading experience

                    by DelicateMonster on Tue Dec 23, 2008 at 08:28:17 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  I don't know where I've asked you to prove a (0+ / 0-)

                      negative.  However I think considering the likely results of the last 200 years without the US as a military power on the course of world history is legitimate.  To deny counterfactual scenarios is to suggest ANY imaginary solution to any problem is better than the current course of action.  It starts to get ridiculous.

          •  Oh, and your little (0+ / 0-)

            Jefferson dig re: Sally Hemmings not withstanding, I would hope that you have the sense to know that 'boffing' --as you so charmingly put it--an afro American woman or not is hardly a claim to political or moral authority--one way or the other.
            That no one has tied Hamilton to a particular incident of 'boffing' a black woman may have as much to do with the fact that he might have well been a homosexual 'boffer'... But who knows, maybe you could dig a little and discover he was, in fact, 'boffing' a black man. It would neither increase nor decrease his political authority one iota.

            One thing that does matter...that Hamilton 'opposed' slavery is one of his few upsides. Note the quotes. Generously speaking, he 'opposed slavery' only because he was afraid the British would raise the spectre of liberating the slaves as a military manuever which they had practiced in other places. In truth, He may have owned household slaves himself and he did buy and sell them on behalf of others. He supported a gag rule to keep divisive discussions of slavery out of Congress, and he supported the compromise by which the United States could not abolish the slave trade for twenty years.

            Have a great holidays.

            DelicateMonster a slightly left of center reading experience

            by DelicateMonster on Tue Dec 23, 2008 at 02:37:29 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  What's the point... (6+ / 0-)

    Mostly, the point is the tired cliche - "past is prelude."

    What we're going through now is not new, and our non-gentry ancestors did some things that worked, but we've mostly lost access to what they were up against and what they were up to - how they fought, and what for.

    Some days I do think - "Why bother?"

    Other days, I think "Boy, it's aggravating that we came so close 200 years ago. Let's build some networks that can bring us that close again, and maybe sustain bottom-up decision-making for more than a few months."

    I agree that quoting one book is not a scholarly work. As for whether there were literal millionaires in 1787, it seems irrelevant. There was certainly a small, wealthy class of men interested in maintaining their privileges, and irritated at the presumptions of the ordinary working class who wanted to level the playing field they'd just fought to win away from despotic British rule, rather than subserve to a new (same old despotic) American rule.

    Overall, the post is just a sharing of Bouton's exhumation of lost history, hopefully prompting some blog readers to read the book in its entirety and/or excerpt other books that shed light on the historical roots of our present dilemmas, and the historical roots of our resistance/revolutionary potential.

    And I continue to read and think, and share when I think what I've read is worth sharing...

    •  Thanks Demophilus (0+ / 0-)

      I loved to see more posts like this. The tension between the Federalists and anti-Federalists is well worth examining. As you say past is prelude. Another way of saying that is if you do not learn from your own history you are doomed to repeat it.

      DelicateMonster a slightly left of center reading experience

      by DelicateMonster on Tue Dec 23, 2008 at 08:37:10 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Interesting diary & comments (0+ / 0-)

    It is good to reflect upon the past, and the many compromises which were made by the founders. All governments lie, all politicians deceive and the founders did their share of deceiving. I think that it is too simplistic to speak of the elites and the yeomen as the only factions involved in drawing up the Constitution. There were very substantial differences between the New England elites, the Virginians and those of other states. Furthermore, I note that Patrick Henry and George Mason, who supported the yeomen majority, were quite hypocritical about slavery, which they publicly conceded was morally wrong. Jefferson in many ways was the most hypocritical and contorted about slavery, but was of course smarter than all get out. As Secretary of State, he installed proslavery people into many posts along the frontier. John Adams was asked to write a draft of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 but refused, saying that a Virginian should do this. Jefferson produced a draft which included this complex and interesting paragraph,

    "He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life & liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the CHRISTIAN king of Great Britain. Determined to keep open a market where MEN should be bought & sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce: and that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, & murdering the people upon whom he also obtruded them; thus paying off former crimes committed against the liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another.."
    Adams wrote that he was pleased by this condemnation of Negro slavery, but knew that it could never come to pass, i.e. it was for show.

    Why then did Jefferson omit the paragraph in the famous "rough draught" that he preserved among his papers or not say that he wished that something could have been done about slavery? Even in 1820, Jefferson said that it was unsafe to release the slaves and wrong to continue with the practice of slavery "...we have the wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go. Justice is in one scale and self-preservation in the other..."

    Plantation slavery was not suited to New England, so it was easy for those from New England to condemn slavery or publicly burn the Constitution as William Lloyd Garrison loved to do- this was a form of show, like Jefferson’s deleted paragraph.

    The Bill of Rights was a very positive thing, but I fear that Americans will let it go by the wayside. All that politicians must do is talk about 9/11 and terrorism. Also, if you look at the papers of Patrick Henry, his intent in backing the second amendment had to do with strong state militias rather than a federal army, not with individual misanthropes owning assault rifles. Our forefathers could not face up to the slavery issue. What is the analogous issue that we can’t face today?

    •  Bush' administration can be erased, our rights (0+ / 0-)

      restored..if we so choose.

      The Bush family is an odd anomoly who sold their souls long ago and tried to steal the soul of the American people but we are stronger than they can even imagine.

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