To what extent is the American Constitution an elitist document?Why then did the framers provide for public participation in the political process?

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Gerard Cullen

Student Number: 11425989

To what extent is the American Constitution an elitist document?

Why then did the framers provide for public participation in the political process?

The best way to approach this assignment is to split it into two and answer first to what extent do I feel the American Constitution an elitist document. When this has been answered then it will be possible to move on to try to understand why the framers of the constitution provided for public participation in the political process.

I should begin by saying that I think the Constitution is a very elitist document, but before I elaborate on that opinion I feel that it is necessary to firstly define what an 'elite' is, and also to provide a bit of background information on the Constitution.

An elite is defined by Webster's Dictionary as the best of a class; the socially superior part of society; or a group of persons who by virtue of position or education exercise power or influence. When we talk about elites though we have to bear in mind that they prize order and stability above all else, and if they can preserve the status quo they will, however this is diverting from the main question. It is perhaps the last part of the definition that is most relevant when we come to the American Constitution, and ask ourselves to what extent it is an elitist document. Before I come to that though I feel that it is necessary to explain how the Constitution of the United States of America came into being.

Without going too far back into history, the thirteen North American colonies had rebelled against the British government after coming to see King George III and his colonial governors as tyrants, and also there were disputes over taxes that had to paid both to the colonial legislatures and the British government. These tensions reached a climax in 1775 and the American War of Independence broke out. This war lasted until 1783, when the British granted independence to each of the thirteen colonies. Each of the thirteen states were now independent and bound together under a loose agreement called the Articles of Confederation (AOC).

The Articles of Confederation provided for a unicameral legislature with each state being allotted representatives based upon their total population, but each state had only 1 vote in the legislature. There were many flaws in this arrangement like the fact that there was no executive body; the fact that nine states had to agree to pass legislation; and crucially the AOC could not legislate in the following areas:

* The national government could not levy taxes, only request funds from the states. This resulted in the national government going into debt almost immediately.

* The national government could not regulate commerce and each state had set up tariffs against the other. The result was a building economic recession.

* The national government did not have exclusive control over the money supply. Each state and the national government had its own money supply.
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In the face of these crises, the elites (for want of a better word), of the thirteen states decided unilaterally to revise the AOC, and so the Constitution of 1787 was born.

It is now time to examine to what extent the Constitution is an elitist document.

"We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United ...

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