End of America

What the Founding Fathers really thought about democracy


From Eric Peters:

Consider the words of the Founding Fathers themselves, who — one after another — condemned democracy.

• Virginia's Edmund Randolph participated in the 1787 convention. Demonstrating a clear grasp of democracy's inherent dangers, he reminded his colleagues during the early weeks of the Constitutional Convention that the purpose for which they had gathered was "to provide a cure for the evils under which the United States labored; that in tracing these evils to their origin every man had found it in the turbulence and trials of democracy…"

• John Adams, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, championed the new Constitution in his state precisely because it would not create a democracy. "Democracy never lasts long," he noted. "It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself." He insisted, "There was never a democracy that 'did not commit suicide.'"

• New York's Alexander Hamilton, in a June 21, 1788 speech urging ratification of the Constitution in his state, thundered: "It has been observed that a pure democracy if it were practicable would be the most perfect government. Experience has proved that no position is more false than this. The ancient democracies in which the people themselves deliberated never possessed one good feature of government. Their very character was tyranny; their figure deformity." Earlier, at the Constitutional Convention, Hamilton stated: "We are a Republican Government. Real liberty is never found in despotism or in the extremes of Democracy."

• James Madison, who is rightly known as the "Father of the Constitution," wrote in The Federalist, No. 10: "… democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security, or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they are violent in their deaths." The Federalist Papers, recall, were written during the time of the ratification debate to encourage the citizens of New York to support the new Constitution.

• George Washington, who had presided over the Constitutional Convention and later accepted the honor of being chosen as the first President of the United States under its new Constitution, indicated during his inaugural address on April 30, 1789, that he would dedicate himself to "the preservation… of the republican model of government."

... In light of the Founders' view on the subject of republics and democracies, it is not surprising that the Constitution does not contain the word "democracy," but does mandate: "The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a republican form of government."

These principles were once widely understood.

... By the 20th century, however, the falsehoods that democracy was the epitome of good government and that the Founding Fathers had established just such a government for the United States became increasingly widespread. This misinformation was fueled by...

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