The Founding Fathers


The Founding Fathers Essay, Research Paper

William Hung

Political Science 1

March 5, 2001

The Founding Fathers: An Age of Realism

In the work of The Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes, he illustrated that any

government must be accepted in order to avert the anarchy and terror of a state of nature. After the Declaration of Independence and the failure of the Articles of the Confederation, the Founding Fathers needed a government to control the people, but not just any government. The Fathers wanted a government capable of protecting both liberty and order. Also, according to Hofstadter, the purpose of the Constitution was to simply stabilize the Hobbesian War and make it less murderous (21). The Fathers could not possibly eliminate men s self-interest. Since any other form of government other

than republicanism would lead to a continual unrest in the future, Hofstader s opinion is valid with the exception of the unregulated monopolies in the nineteenth century.

Hofstader is most likely to agree with the philosophy of Thomas Hobbes,

although he explicitly stated it requires more than just any form of government. It was essential to create a balanced government instead of an extreme concentration of power. Hofstader demonstrated the need for constitutional devices to force various interests to check and control one another (12). There were three ways to accomplish this goal of the Founding Fathers.

First of all the federal Constitution was capable of maintaining order against popular uprisings or majority rule. Hofstader explains one method of prevention when he writes, In a single state a faction might arise and take complete control by force; but if the states were bound in a federation, the central government could step in and prevent it. (12). In addition, as Madison argued in the Federalist number 10, a majority would be the most dangerous factions that might arise, for the majority would be the most

capable of gaining ascendancy. If the political society were very extensive, however, and embraced a large number and variety of local interests, the citizens who shared a common majority interest must be rendered by their number and local situation, unable to concert and carry into effect their schemes of oppression. The chief propertied interests would then be safer from a rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal division of property, or for any other improper or wicked project.

The second method to control one another is the mechanism of representation itself. In a small direct democracy the unstable passions of the people would dominate lawmaking; but a representative government, as Madison said, would refine and enlarge the public views by passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizens. Representatives chosen by the people were wiser and more deliberate than the people were themselves in mass assemblage. Hamilton frankly anticipated a kind of syndical

paternalism in which the wealthy and dominant members of every trade or industry would represent the others in politics. Hamilton expected that Congress, with too few exceptions to have any influence on the spirit of the government, will be composed of landholders, merchants, and men of the learned professions.

Third characteristic of the government the Fathers were designing was John Adams pointed out that the aristocracy and the democracy must be made to neutralize each other. Each element should be given its own house of the legislature, and over both houses there should be set a capable, strong, and impartial executive armed with the veto power. This split assembly would be capable of self-control under the governance of the executive (13). The whole system was to be capped by an independent judiciary. The

inevitable tendency of the rich and the poor to plunder each other would be kept in hand.

The United States Constitution was successful in keeping control of the general public right after the Constitution went into effect. Nevertheless, the Constitution was based on the unchanging Hobbesian human nature. The rigidity of these laws created tremendous difficulties in amending the Constitution and adding new laws, hindering the ability to handle crisis (Wilson 42). For instance, Hofstader mentioned the Constitution succeeded under the competitive capitalism of the nineteenth century America and

continued to be an arena for various grasping and contending interests (21). On the contrary, the number of robber barons arose drastically. A significant number of monopolies grew to dominate individual industries and trust-busting was ineffective. In fact, one of the primary goals of the Progressive Era turned out to end the corrupt alliance between businessmen and politicians (Wilson 159). Overall, with the Article V of the

Constitution to amend, it had adequate flexibility to adapt itself for handling future problems. In addition, the 9th and the 10th amendment both granted rights for the states to make changes in laws or add new laws whenever necessary (as long as the state gets enough votes).

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