Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Our Founding Fathers-Limited democracy-and It still is!

I was the first Democrat.  Gosh it gets cold in the Blue Ridge Mountains in December.  Congress has gone home; they are  such a group of do nothings.  My slaves keep Monticello warm, but I get lonely.  So, I send a messenger over to Madison's farm  and we meet half way between his farm and Monticello at the Inn.  Dolly gripes about our drinking too much wine, but she fills her time, on her sewing projects.   After a couple of drinks, James and I get talking about if he were too stingy in giving the people the vote.  While we knew for sure that the revolution was not going to produce a new absolute monarchy, too many of the plutocrats were not in the mood for much democracy. We saw to creating a republic,  creating an appointed senate,  supreme court, and electoral college to elect presidents.  That ought to keep the rabble from getting too much control.  Madison would say while a little tipsy that we could never have approved  a constitution if the regular hard working citizens would have an equal say.  The representatives who created the constitution were rich plutocrats  and they were not about to give power to just any person.  As you know I wasn't considered trustworthy since I wanted to write the abolishment of slavery into the Declaration of Independence. I might have been a smooth writer, but my fellow founding fathers were plutocrats and they weren't about to let the profitable ownership of slaves ruin our new republic.  (Secretly, I didn't know how to run Monticello without my slaves as I was always in debt as it was.)
One cold winter Day in December, Dolly went to DC to socialize with friends and James and I stayed over two nights at the Inn. We got into a big argument about just how democratic our republic was.  Madison thought it was sufficient to represent the times. I was furious at him.  Here's the points I made to Madison to understand the state of our democracy
First I made  the point to Madison that only white men could vote and women could not. That eliminated 50% of the vote on the part of women and 18 1/2 percent on the part of slaves. Then I pointed out that in our young nation more than 50% of our citizens were under 21 years of age. That eliminated another 50% of the 32 percent which was left.  I was so tipsy that Madison reminded me that only free, white males who own property could vote.   As all our personal friends (except Sally) are property owners, that did not cross my mind.  We decided that it was likely in an immigrant nations such as ours, that 50% of free white males did not own property.  Wow, now we were down to 16%.  I responded that many of our citizens lived in the wilderness and didn't have access to vote or even know that an election was taking place. We estimated another 5% of those legible would not be able to vote for this reason.  He reminded me that in our FREE nation, we did not require citizen to vote, otherwise we would not be free. I thought that to be some strange logic!  But with only 75% of that 11% wanting to vote, we would be down to about 8% who actual could and would vote.
Madison told me that was a  percentage and qualifications which his plutocrats friends would like.  This was truly a plutocrats type of democracy!  No rabble or nonsense like "one person, one vote" which some centuries later was deemed a reasonable definition for a democracy.  I warned Madison that in the future this model would harm the concept that America was democratic. He thought light of my projections.
I drank too much wine that night.  That night, I dreamed that someday in the future there might be two parties, my party, the Democrats and another party like the Whigs(some would say today's Republicans.)  Sure enough, there was a party which tried to suppress the vote, demanding birth certificates and drivers licenses, and any other documents they could think up, always claiming elections are stolen, wanting to eliminate immigrants no matter how long they are here even if they pay taxes(we founding fathers thought if you were here, you were an American(except for  the Indians), reading tests, long residency requirements, etc.  Anything else too which would suppress the vote!  I was proud to dream that my Democrats were more inclusive, giving each person who makes up this young country have a say in how it is run. 
I woke up late the next morning. Monroe got up early and was gone but  left a note that Dolly would be waiting for him on her return from Washington.   I had another glass of wine sitting by the warm fire and dreamed that America  still had a long way to go before it could  be called a democracy.

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