I really like David Korten but I think he might have got it slightly wrong about the founders and the framers .
Thom Hartmann wrote this article a few years back .
There’s a myth floating around right now about our Founding Fathers - and the men who wrote the Constitution - the Framers.
And that myth is that America was created by rich white men who wrote the Constitution to protect their own interests and the interests of other wealthy, rich white men like themselves.
It’s a myth that’s conveniently used on the Right - by people who argue for more corporate power in government and more advantages for the wealthy by saying that’s simply a continuation of the intent of the Founders and Framers of the Constitution.
And it’s also a myth used on the Left - especially during times of economic crisis when it seems like the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer - so therefore it must be that our founders set up this problem when they wrote the Constitution.
In fact - this week I had a young Occupy Wall Street patriot on my show echoing this myth:
Joshua Kadrich, Occupy Richmond protester: But the Occupy movement, you find that we’re all a little bit younger, our movement seems to be a little bit more organic and grass roots. And we’re willing to look at the constitution and say, ‘well, hey, maybe this isn’t exactly right, maybe it really was a business model of sorts proposed by the original 1% in America, to try and see how they couldn’t make more profits’.
You know, it’s enticing to think that way.
Especially at a time when nearly half of all the Members of Congress are millionaires - and laws are being passed that exclusively benefit millionaires and billionaires at the expense of the rest of us.
It also seems like it’s always been that way - and there’s some sort of fatal flaw in the Constitution to keep it that way.
But it’s not true - it’s the MYTH of the super-wealthy Founding Fathers.
Of course there were very, very rich people in America at the time of the Revolution - but they were not the ones taking part in the Constitutional Convention.
In fact - all of the truly rich people here in the 1760s fled this new nation during the Revolution - they went up to Canada or back to Britain.
There wasn’t a millionaire - in today’s dollars - living in the United States until the 1790’s - a generation after the Revolution.
George Washington was one of the richest of the founders - but as Kevin Phillips points out in his book - “Wealth and Democracy”:
George Washington…was no more than a wealthy squire in British terms.
In terms of lifestyle, assets, and disposable income - the Founders were upper-middle class at best.
Heck - toward the end of his life - Washington didn’t have enough money to buy the slaves his wife inherited so that he could set them free, which he genuinely wanted to do.
And Jefferson died in bankruptcy.
These guys weren’t bankers - they weren’t rich investors - they weren’t land speculators.
They might have owned a lot of land - but that was about it, and land didn’t have that much value back then.
Historian Forrest McDonald did an exhaustive analysis of each state that ratified the Constitution - and looked at the make-up of the delegates and what they did for a living.
As McDonald found in, for example, Delaware: 77% of the delegates were farmers. And we’re not talking rich farmers.
In fact - 2/3s of those farmers had meager incomes between 75 cents and 5 dollars a week.
Only 23% of the delegates were professionals - people like lawyers, doctors, and judges.
Not one delegate was a banker - not one was a manufacturer - not one was a rich merchant…not one.
The same was true in New Jersey - where 64% of the delegates were farmers.
The point is - the people who hammered out, and then ratified the Constitution weren’t thinking about money.
In fact - they had such a strong feeling of history and destiny that it at times overwhelmed them.
Their writings show that they truly believed they were doing sacred work - something greater than themselves, greater than their personal interests, and even greater than the interests of their wealthy constituents back at home.
That’s why the Constitutional Convention was held in secret, behind locked doors.
And it’s why James Madison didn’t publish his own notes of who said what at the constitutional convention until 1840, just after the last of the other participants died.
Simply put - the wealthier men among the delegates were betraying the interests of their own economic class - and they didn’t want others in their class to know about it.
They were voting for democracy instead of oligarchy.
They were voting to create and maintain a middle class instead of creating a nation of, by and for the rich.
As Thomas Jefferson said:
Experience declares that man is the only animal which devours his own kind; for I can apply no milder term to … the general prey of the rich on the poor.
That liberty [is pure] which is to go to all, and not to the few or the rich alone.
I am not among those who fear the people. They, and not the rich, are our dependence for continued freedom.
Those seeking profits, were they given total freedom, would not be the ones to trust to keep government pure and our rights secure. Indeed, it has always been those seeking wealth who were the source of corruption in government.
Jefferson even warned us that we should never, never, ever, in his words…
be glad to obtain subsistence by hiring ourselves to rivet their chains on the necks of our fellow sufferers.
People, for some reason, think the Constitution said that only rich, white, male landowners could vote - but none of those things are anywhere in the Constitution.
While our new country was far from perfect, in many of the states in our early years women voted, Blacks voted, and even people who lived in the poorhouses that George Washington appropriated federal money to pay for, voted.
Although over time most of the states individually took away many of those rights - the way Scott Walker in Wisconsin is trying to right now prevent students, minorities, and the elderly people from voting in that state - none of that was - or is - in the Constitution.
The Framers were Enlightenment Era idealists who really believed they were creating a better world - for all.
And their decision to create a democracy in America was not easy.
As John Quincy Adams, who fought tirelessly to end slavery in the southern states, said:./p>
Posterity - you will never know how much it has cost my generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make good use of it.
Today - our lawmakers could learn a lot from our Founding Fathers.
These were people who didn’t send others’ kids off to war but fought it themselves - these were people who didn’t give kickbacks to the bankers and robber barons but fought to restrain the power of banksters and business - these were people who didn’t get richer and richer the longer they stayed in office but who usually retired from public office broke.
These were people who risked it all -