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Posted by: steve benson ( )
Date: November 16, 2016 02:11AM

I received an email today from a reader who has, in the past, played tag team with his wife in writing to falsely accuse me (among other things) of having been booted from the Mormon Church, as they petulantly peppered their puerile pronouncements with salty sophomoric smugness.

In his latest wind-up windbag wanderings, this frothing fellow managed to reveal not only his ignorance regarding my Mormon experience but also managed to demonstrate his basic lack of understanding when it came to the personal attitudes of America's allegedly “divinely-inspired” Founding Fathers--attitudes that profoundly influenced their construction of the original U.S. Constitution in ways that kept the average American voter in controlled and calculated check.

One of the bedrock realities of the Founders' world was their highly skeptical view of the ability of U.S. citizens, at large, to cast sufficiently informed ballots. To counter what they considered to be the threat posed by this dangerous ignorance to the survival of the American Republic, they put in place a series of mechanisms designed to prohibit U.S. citizens from voting for their national leaders through pure and direct popular democracy.

This did not appear to be a matter that was well understood by the enraged emailer, who wrote:

“As an excommunicated moron you should know that there have been 4 prior elections where the winner did not receive the majority of the popular vote.  You apparently failed your civics class in high school or your political science class at the ‘Y.’  [You suggest] that we should ignore the US Constitution or eliminate the Electoral College.
 “The political elite and you (a non member) are dismal failures.  A good suggestion for you---go get a real productive job and quit demonstrating yourself to be a total asshole.

My reply:

“You are suffering from repeated blurtings of your same complaints, using the same wording.  Robotic. I don’t have a habit of conversing with robots.   Time for you to move on."

But before I let him loose to return to his cul-de-sac party for the perpetually unprepared, I added (yet again) the following:

“By the way, I am not an excommunicated Mormon.  I left the Mormon Church under my own power, terms, choice and timing in October 1993,  despite pleadings by Mormon Church leaders that I remain in its ranks.    

“If you are going to attempt to school me on provisions of the original U.S. Constitution that are seriously outmoded, in all fairness, you need to first school yourself on your Mormon Church history,  It leaves a lot to be desired, quite frankly.”

I then sent him a summary on how the Founders deliberately designed a Constitution that made it essentially impossible for the general electorate to directly vote for their preferred leaders through any institutionalized process of uninhibited popular democracy. In a nutshell, the Founders did not trust the general American public to be adequately informed or intelligent enough to be granted a straight line of voter control over who they got to vote for. So, the Founders purposely placed roadblocks in the Constitution to prevent "We the People" from being able to chart their own destiny to destruction through voting stupidly.

My political geography professor at BYU, Russell Horiuchi (R.I.P.), succinctly summed up this negative attitude of the Founders toward the American masses by writing the following on the blackboard the first day of class:

"The masses are asses."


Not surprisingly, that observation is said to have originated with Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, as noted thusly:

"'The masses are asses.' That is what Alexander Hamilton--one of the most prominent and,arguably, one of, if not the most, brilliant of the Founding Fathers--said in support of his plan to prevent ordinary citizens having too direct a role in the election process. It is not as if Hamilton had disdain for common, everyday folks; he simply did not think they were properly qualified to be entrusted with such a solemn and monumental decision."

(Constantinos E. Scaros, "Understanding the Constitution," under the subhead, "The Electoral College," 24 August 2011, Jones & Bartlett Learning, p. 4;,+everyday+folks;+he+simply+did+not+think+they+were+properly+qualified+to+be+entrusted+with+such+a+solemn+and+monumental+decision.&source=bl&ots=C5WeiS-8nJ&sig=cSXd0_1oNQNX4KijZ9V8KLCdHSM&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjd9cP20qzQAhUHOiYKHVd2DeUQ6AEIHTAA#v=onepage&q&f=false)

Hamilton's lack of respect for, of confidence in, the ability of the average Joe (back then, the average Jane was not allowed to vote) to know what was best for him (or how to achieve it on his own without assistance from the educated elite who smarter than he) would have made Hamilton a good Mormon General Authority. As LDS apostle Hugh B. Brown once told the assembled BYU student body:

"I want to speak about humor for just a minute. J. Golden Kimball is reported to have said that the Lord Himself must like a joke or He wouldn’t have made some of you people. I hope none of you will take that personally."

(Hugh B. Brown, "God is the Gardner," speech at Brigham Young University, 31 May 1968,

But I digress.

Here is what I told my complaining correspondent who had written to declare that I was an excommunicated Mormon who went to the "Y" and who, apparently as a result. didn't know squat about what God hath wrought through the U.S. Constitution:

”Below are some basic facts that are available in any reliable civics or political science textbook.  I strongly urge that you avail yourself of such sources.
“ . . . [T]he Founders, because of their deep lack of trust in the American people, devised and implemented a system to prevent them from having too much personal power vested among themselves to choose their president and vice president through the process of direct popular election.

"Let’s review some pertinent American history for your benefit, if you don’t mind: . . .

**“Efforts have been made to   amend the U.S. Constitution’s provision for the Elector College (originally established by Article 2, Section 1).  The most serious effort to date--designed to actually eliminate the Electoral College--was made during the 91st session of Congress (seated from 1969-1971), where the House voted to replace it with the direct election of the president and vice president, but the Senate fail to ratify that effort.

**”The Founders had a deep anathema toward the idea of direct election by the American people of not only the president and vice president, but also of U.S. Senators.    That injustice was remedied in 1913, when the Constitution was amended to allow for the direct popular vote [election] of Senators.

**”The original U.S. Constitution--in line with the Electoral College’s design to blunt the power of popular voting by the American populace--did not allow African-Americans and other non-whites to vote, until the passage of the 15th Amendment in 1870 (and, even then, it only permitted African-American men to vote).   Indeed, Blacks were originally deemed in the Constitution to be only three-fifths of a person for purposes of the national census count, as enumerated in Article 1, Section 2.

**”The original U.S. Constitution also did not allow women to vote.  That changed in 1920, when the 19th Amendment was added, guaranteeing all American female citizens the right of suffrage.

**”In 1776, only colonists who owned property were allowed to vote.  Property owners at that time were largely white, male Protestants over the age of 21.   The right to vote was expanded to all non-landed white men in 1856, when North Carolina was the last state in the Union to require property ownership for voting.  

**”In 1961, the 23rd Amendment was passed, granting the right to vote to the residents of the District of Columbia but, to this day, those residents are not allowed to vote for a congressional representative of their own.  

**”In 1964, the 24th Amendment was ratified, guaranteeing the right for American citizens to vote in federal elections without being first required to pay any kind of tax.

**”In 1971, the legal voting age was lowered to 18, as mandated by the 26th Amendment.

**”American citizens in the U.S. colonies of Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands cannot, even today, vote in U.S. presidential elections and do not have voting representation in Congress.”

(I went into further, more political detail which is not germane to the purposes of this board, so I did not include it here).

I ended my reply with, “Hope this helps" (although I don’t think it will).

I then blocked this dynamic potty-mouthed duo so that they could spend more time reading up on their American history. After all, if they don't exhibit more informed views, the Founders are likely not to let them vote.

Edited 9 time(s). Last edit at 11/16/2016 05:42PM by steve benson.

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Posted by: Betty G ( )
Date: November 16, 2016 07:29AM

An interesting historic view, but you only relate half of the picture.

It is true, that the real people who chose in a Presidential Election are the electors, and this is because there was a feeling that the population at large would not be able to choose wisely or intelligently enough in such an election.

It was also designed for the same reasons that the US congress is designed.

It allows Larger populated states have more say (as they wanted) but at the same time ensures that the tyranny of the majority (once again, those centers of large population) do not override the desires of the minority.

This was part of the compromise that enabled the US to congeal itself in a unified government, satisfying the smaller populated states that they had equal representation (in the Senate) while the larger populated states had their ideal enshrined in the House of Representatives.

This idea is not entirely converted into the Electoral College, though those two ensured votes overall give the smaller populated states more power per voter, the larger populated states have FAR more power overall in the electoral college. It is currently designed so even if the large population states typically go one way, a candidate still has to win a few of the smaller populated states to win.

One prime example of this is your home state (If, you are, as I assume, the Steve Benson who makes the editorials, unsure of other Bensons).

Some would say it held a rather respectable position in this past election. In a popular vote, your state would have NO position, and have NOTHING to enforce, you would have no way to be represented, as the populations of the centers in California, Texas, Florida, and New England would rule the nation. You and everyone else would have no say in a direct democracy.

Now, you touched upon the other portion of the compromise, which was the 3/5 compromise. Even as smaller states, places like Georgia didn't feel it had enough power (with less than 1/10 of the more populated state/colony). However, this did NOT mean a Black individual had only 3/5 of a vote, but that those who were counted as persons who were enslaved would be counted as 3/5 of a persons in regards to determining how many representatives a state received. This was advantageous to the slave colonies.

Those were typically those of African descent that were held in slavery in the US. However, if one was somehow an Asian in slavery, or even European descent, they would be counted in the same way in theory. Only Native Americans were excluded.

As slavery is now illegal, this is a defunct portion in any case, neither invalidating the original intent of the representation of the smaller verses the larger populated states, but rather invalidating the purposes of the slave holding castes of the South, including Virginia (which was not only a larger populated state at the time, but also greatly benefited from the 3/5 compromise) and their intent to have even MORE representation for their landowners than those who did not engage in the cruel nature of slavery.

This issue was bloodily resolved in the US Civil War. If you note, they could have gone to a popular vote then as well (and it was a topic of discussion among many as well in regards to the resolution in dissolving the practice of slavery which had enabled many of these representative votes to gain power in the Slave States). It should be noted, that despite that, they still kept the Electoral college.

Did you really suggest to eliminate the Electoral college?

I think there are many who suggest that these days, but I suspect that if this was done, there would definitely be another US Civil war in the next generation or two. Right now, the Electoral College and Congress allows people in smaller populated states (like the one where you had your editorials for so long) to at least feel like they were represented and had a hand in the presidential elections.

If you go to a pure popular vote, you would still have the Senate, but anyone who was not located in the major metropolises would feel they had no hand in voting for the US president. This is one of the very principles that the Founding Fathers initially realized (after the Revolutionary War, the uprising after that, and after the equal representation that didn't work of the Articles as well), and specifically targeted in their writing of the Constitution.

It may well be that their idea that democracy of the people was tyranny, and that a pure democracy ruled by the people created a tyranny of the majority is one that many today no longer hold as an ideal, but then...that same idea was one that was held in their day as well, ESPECIALLY by those from the larger populated states.

It was their realization that they needed the smaller populated states, in order to keep the Union whole.

It should be noted, that originally, I would be among those who were not allowed to vote in the fledgling I am not a White Male Land Owner.

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Posted by: GregS ( )
Date: November 16, 2016 08:38AM


The Constitution was written to ensure that both the people and the states retained most of the power in our government. This is reflected by the two houses of Congress: one representing the people (House of Representatives) the other representing the states (the Senate). As such, representatives in both houses were meant to be elected by whom they represented. U.S. Representatives were meant to be elected directly by the people in their districts. U.S. Senators were meant to be elected (or even selected) by the states (in the form of each states' legislatures, which in turn were elected by the people residing in the states). This provided both the people and the states with their own representation in the federal government.

Likewise, the President was never intended to be the direct leader of the people, but of the states included in our federation of states. The states wanted to retain some autonomy within that federation while still enjoying the collective benefits of the United States as a whole. The state legislatures, each elected by the people residing in those states, were responsible for how their states' electors were to be selected. If the people didn't like how their individual state legislators represented them, they were free to elect replacements in the next election.

The beauty of the system, as intended, was that the people had a vested interest in who their closest representatives were and how they were represented by those representatives as they, in turn, selected representatives and electors in the broader state and federal governments. It made local elections that much more important and the form of self-governance envisioned by our founding fathers. The most important decisions of our daily lives were always meant to be determined among our local communities; not by people residing in other parts of the country who may not have the same concerns for our own communities as we do.

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Posted by: steve benson ( )
Date: November 16, 2016 05:58PM

I would strongly recommend the book by Charles A. Beard, "An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States."

Below are some brief reviews of Beard's impressive and ground-breaking research:

"In his famous study, the author turned the hagiography of many earlier American historians on its head. Unlike those writers, who had stressed idealistic impulses as factors determining the structure of the American government, Beard questioned the Founding Fathers' motivations in drafting the Constitution and viewed the results as a product of economic self-interest.
Brimming with human interest, insights, and information every student of American history will prize, this volume — one of the most controversial books of its time — continues to prompt new perceptions of the supreme law of the land."

"A staple for history and economics collections." — Library Journal.

"Replete with human interest and compact with information of importance to every student of American history or of political science." — Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science

In the end, the U.S. Constitution's framework of checks and balances was deliberately, strategically and financially aimed at checking the general populace while improving the balances of those in power.

God was used as a glorious cover for this laser-beamed, bottom-line economic effort. Or, put another way, as the wise old saying goes:

"In God we trust. All others strictly cash."

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/16/2016 06:47PM by steve benson.

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Posted by: steve benson ( )
Date: November 16, 2016 07:03PM

Three Official and Ugly Bigoted Examples from Your Mormon Church's People-Friendly "Prophets":

The U.S. Constitution (as imperfect as it is) should, after all, serve as moral compass in laying down high principles of human justice and equality. In doing so, its call for people steer to their better nature can hopefully serve to influence the hearts and minds of U.S. citizens and elsewhere toward positive change.

Good luck, Mormon "prophets" and their racist church in trying to guide people to a higher sense of self and community with these following boilerplate bigotries officially taught by its founding far-from-God frauds.

LDS Racism in Black & White:

(1) Joseph Smith's Official Support of Southern Slavery

(2) Mormon-Owned Black Slaves in Heaven

(3) Black Slaves in Heaven with Skins Changed to White

In another thread, RfM contributor "lulu" asked:

"Does anyone have some quick quotes and citations?

"A lot of internet posts from TBM's [are] about what an abolitionist J[oseph] S[mith] was.

"I don't think that's quite the way it was,

"He might have been anti-slavery when he ran for pres[ident], but didn't he own slave(s)--Jane Manning?

"Before he ran for pres[ident], wasn't he pro-slavery?

"Are TBMs on the net misrepresenting?

"Can anyone help with the big picture, I think we need to get the details out there."

("Joseph Smith and Slavery," posted by "lulu," on "Recovery from Mormonism" discussion board, 3 March 2012, at:,433528,433528#msg-433528)

The evidence of official Mormon Church endorsement of anti-Black slavery and racism is clear and convincing on at least three basic levels.

Below is the historical proof.

--Exhibit A

Mormon Church President Joseph Smith's Offical LDS Endorsement of Southern Slavery

The Mormon Church's official, documented history of White supremacist racism includes its official, notorious endorsement of Southern-style slavery.

The Mormon Church's inventor, Joseph Smith, went on record defending slavery against the opposition of abolitionists, declaring it to be a true principle which found support in the Bible and in the teachings of Jesus.

*Smith, in fact, said that slavery was a divinely-decreed “curse” imposed on Blacks by the command of God and warned against attempts to interfere with its practice.

In the LDS Church publication, the “Messenger and Advocate" (vol. 2, pp. 289-301, April 1836), Smith asserted that slavery as practiced by the Southern states was ordained by God and in keeping with the “gospel of Christ”:

“After having expressed myself so freely upon this subject, I do not doubt but those who have been forward in raising their voice against the South will cry out against me as being uncharitable, unfeeling and unkind--wholly unacquainted with the gospel of Christ.

"'It is my privilege, then, to name certain passages from the Bible and examine the teachings of the ancients upon this matter, as the fact is incontrovertible that the first mention we have of slavery is found in the holy Bible, pronounced by a man who was perfect in his generation and walked with God. And so far from that prediction's being averse from the mind of God, it remains as a lasting monument of the decree of Jehovah, to the shame and confusion of all who have cried out against the South in consequence of their holding the sons of Ham in servitude!

“'And he said cursed be Canaan: a servant of servants shall he be unto this brethren. And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant--God shall enlarge Japheth and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.' (Gen. 8: 25-27)

“Trace the history of the world from this notable event down to this day and you will find the fulfillment of this singular prophecy. What could have been the design of the Almighty in this wonderful occurrence is not for me to say, but I can say that the curse is not yet taken off the sons of Canaan, neither will be until it is affected by a great power as caused it to come; and the people who interfere the least will come under the least condemnations before him and those who are determined to purse a course which shows an opposition and a feverish restlessness against the designs of the Lord will learn, when perhaps it is too late for their own good, that God can do his work without the aid of those who are not dictated by his counsel."

Smith then proceeded to counter claims that the Bible was not talking about Ham-lineaged, cursed Black slaves brought under control by the command of God to be used as forced labor:

"Some may urge that the names, 'man-servant' and 'maid-servant' only mean hired persons who were at liberty to leave their masters or employers at ant time. But we can easily settle this point by turning the history of Abraham's descendants, when governed by a law given from the mouth of the Lord himself.

"I know that when an Israelite had been brought into servitude in consequence of debt, or otherwise, at the seventh year he went from the task of this former master or employuer; but to no other people or nation was this granted in the law of Israel. And if, after a man had served six years, he did not wish to be free, then the master was to bring him unto the judges, bore his ear with an awl and that man was 'to serve him forever.'

"The conclusion I draw from this is that this people were led and governed by revelation and if such a law was wrong God only is to be blamed and abolitonists are not responsible."

After quoting from Ephesians 6:5-9 and 1 Timothy 6:1-5 (which admonishes that "servants be obedient to them that are your masters" and that they "are under the yoke [of] masters worthy of all honor"), LDS Church president Joseph Smith concluded that "[t]he scripture stands for itself and I believe that these men were better qualified to teach the will of God than all the abolitionists in the world."

(cited in Lester E. Bush, Jr., complilation of notes on history of Blacks in the Mormon Church, pp. 18-19, copy in my possession)

In the same treatise, Smith warned that if Blacks were freed from slavery and the South was militarily defeated, Blacks might overrun the country and degrade societal morals:

“ . . . I am aware that many who profess to preach the gospel complain against their brethren of the same faith who reside in the South and are ready to withdraw the hand of fellowship because they will not renounce the principle of slavery and raise their voice against every thing of the kind.

“This must be a tender point and one which should call forth the candid reflection of all men and especially before they advance in an opposition calculated to lay waste the fall States of the South and set loose upon the world a community of people who might peradventure overrun our country and violate the most sacred principles of human society, chastity and virtue.”

Smith advocated that no one had the right to tell others not to engage in the business of human trafficking:

“I do not believe that the people of the North have any more right to say that the South shall not hold slaves, than the South have to say the North shall.”

Smith stated that slave owners should retain final say over the condition and future of their human property and that slaves, should unconditionally & meekly obey their masters:

“. . . [W]e have no right to interfere with slaves contrary to the mind & will of their masters. In fact, it would be much better & more prudent not to preach at all to slaves, until after their masters are converted: and then teach the master to use them with kindness, remembering that they are accountable to God and that servants are bound to serve their master with singleness of heart, without murmuring.”

Smith taught that slavery was condoned by scripture and that Mormons had no right to foment resistance to Southern slavery:

“I do most sincerely hope that no one who is authorized from this Church to preach the gospel will so far depart from the scripture as to be found stirring up strife and sedition against our brethren of the South.”

Smith said that freeing the slaves would only cause trouble for people not accustomed to seeing Blacks (the latter whom Smith labeled as inherently lazy, professionally unemployable and childish):

“. . . [W]hat benefit will it ever be to the slave for persons to run over the free states & excite indignation against their masters in the minds of thousands and tens of thousands who understand nothing relative to their circumstances or conditions? I mean particularly those who have never traveled in the South and scarcely seen a negro in all their life.

“How any community can ever be excited with the chatter of such persons-boys and others who are too indolent to obtain their living by honest industry & are incapable of pursuing any occupation of a professional nature, is unaccountable to me.”

(Joseph Smith, letter to Oliver Cowdery, published in “Latter-Day Saints Messenger & Advocate,” vol. 2. no. 7, Kirtland, Ohio, April 1836, pp. 289, 291)

Moreover, during the presidency of Joseph Smith, the Mormon Church desperately came out in favor of preventing the immigration of freed Black slaves into Missouri and against allowing Blacks to join the Mormon Church:

"In an attempt to defuse the explosive situation before another anti-Mormon meeting scheduled [by slave-holding Missourians] for July 20, 1833, could take place . . ., an 'Extra' edition of the [Mormon cnurch's] "the Evewning and Morning Star . . . frantically tried to explain:

"'Having learned with extreme regret, that an article entitled, 'Free People of Color,' in the last number of the 'Star,' has been misunderstood, we feel in duty bound to state, in this 'Extra,,' that our intention was not only to stop free people of color from emigrating to this state, but to prevent them from being admitted as members of the Church."

(authored by W.W. Phelps in behalf of the Mormon Church, published in "History of the Church," vol. 1, pp. 578-79; Phelps was an assistant president of the Mormon Church in Missouri, a scribe for Joseph Smith, and an LDS Church printer/editor; Phelps' "Star" editorial cited in Richard Abanes, "One Nation Under Gods: A History of the Mormon Church," Chapter 6, "No Rest for the Righteous" [New York/London: Four Walls Eight Windows, 2002], p. 114)

While some Utah historians continue their faithful efforts at minimizing the historical reality that the Mormon Church officially endorsed slavery and its legalized practice, it is an undeniable that the Mormon Church did exactly that.

Indeed, Mormons were led in their slave-owning beliefs and practices by the bad example of none other than Mormon Church president Brigham Young (who did so with LDS Church apostle support), In the historical context of LDS Church under the leadership of Young, Mormon settlers brought Black slaves to the Salt Lake Valley:

"24 July [1847]: [Brigham] Young enter[ed] Salt Lake Vally with the rest of the pioneer company, and officially decree[d] this as the new Mormon headquarters. Among these pioneers [were] three plural wives and three Black slaves. Young's attitudes toward African-Americans differ from the founding prophet's [*Note: This is not exactly accurate, as demonstrated by Smith's own words, quoted earlier], and UTAH WOULD BECOME THE ONLY WESTERN TERRITORY WHERE AFRICAN-AMERICAN SLAVERY AND SLAVE-SALES WERE PROTECTED BY TERRITORIAL STATUTE" [emphasis added].

(D. Michael Quinn, "The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power," Appendix 7, "Selected Chronology of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1830-47" [Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books, in association with Smith Research Associates, 1994], p. 659)

It is noteworthy that the names of Mormon-owned Black slaves actually appear on a prominent downtown Salt Lake City monument honoring Mormon settlers of the area:

"Although the practice was never widespread, some Utah pioneers held African-American slaves until 1862 when Congress abolished slavery in the territories.

"Three slaves--Green Flake, Hark Lay and Oscar Crosby--came west with the first pioneer company in 1847 and their names appear on a plaque on the Brigham Young Monument in downtown Salt Lake City. The Census of 1850 reported 26 Negro slaves in Utah and the 1860 Census 29; some have questioned those figures.

"Slavery was legal in Utah as a result of the Compromise of 1850, which brought California into the Union as a free state while allowing Utah and New Mexico territor'es the option of deciding the issue by 'popular sovereignty.' Some Mormon pioneers from the South had brought African-American slaves with them when they migrated west. Some freed their slaves in Utah; others who went on to California had to emancipate them there.

"The Mormon Church had no official doctrine for or against slave-holding and leaders were ambivalent [*Note: This is not true. As documented above, Mormon Church founder Joseph Smith officially endorsed slavery as the law of God. Furthermore, Mormon Church president Brigham Young officially endorsed slavery in a 5 February 1852 address to the Utah territorial legislature].

"In 1836 Joseph Smith wrote that masters should treat slaves humanely and that slaves owed their owners obedience. During his presidential campaign in 1844, however, he came out for abolition.

"Brigham Young tacitly supported slave-holding, declaring that although Utah was not suited for slavery, the practice was ordained by God. In 1851 Apostle Orson Hyde said the Church would not interfere in relations between master and slave.

"The Legislature formally sanctioned slave-holding in 1852 [This came under Young's terriotiral governorship] but cautioned against inhumane treatment, and stipulated that slaves could be declared free if their masters abused them. Records document the sale of a number of slaves in Utah."

(Jeffrey D. Nichols, in "History Blazer," April 1995, cited on "Utah History to Go: Slavery in Utah," under "Pioneers and Cowboys," at:

Mormon Church president Brighm Young (immediate successor to Smith) openly endorsed slavery, as well as officially invoked the anti-Black doctrines, teachings and practices of the Mormon Church as laid down by Smith.

This fact is clearly evident in Young's 5 February 1852 speech to the Utah terrirtorial legislature. In that address, not only did Young support Smith's Bibically-sanctioned position in favor of Black slavery, he declared that Blacks should have no position in government telling White people what to do. (In the same speech, Young also officially endorsed blood atonement and anti-Semitism):

" . . . My remarks in the first place will be upon the cause of the introduction of slavery.

"Long ago Mama Eve, our good old mother Eve, partook of the forbiden fruit and this made a slave of her. Adam hated very much to have her taken out of the Garden of Eden and now our Old Daddy says I believe I will eat of the fruit and become a slave, too. This was the first introduction of slavery upon this earth; and there has been not a son or daughter of Adam from that day to this but what where slaves in the true sense of the word.

"That slavery will continue, until there is a people raised up upon the face of the earth who will contend for righteous principles, who will not only believe in but operate with every power and faculty given to them to help to establish the Kingdom of God, to overcome the Devil and drive him from the earth, then will this curse be removed. This was the starting point of slavery.

"Again after Adam and Eve had partook of the curse, we find they had two sons. Cain and Abel, but which was the oldest I cannot positively say; but this I know--Cain was given more to evil practices than Abel but whether he was the oldest or not matters not to me. Adam was commanded to sacrifice and offer up his offerings to God, that placed him into the garden of Eden. Through the faith and obedience of Abel to his Heavenly Father, Cain became jealous of him and he laid a plan to obtain all his flocks; for through his perfect obedience to Father he obtained more blessings than Cain; consequently he took it into his heart to put able able of this mortal existance. after the deed was done, the Lord inquired to Abel and made Cain own what he had done with him.

"Now, says the Grand Father, I will not destroy the seed of Michael and his wife; and Cain I will not kill you, nor suffer any one to kill you but I will put a mark upon you.

"What is the mark? You will see it on the countenance of every African you ever did see upon the face of the earth or ever will see. Now I tell you what I know; when the mark was put upon Cain, Abel's children w[ere] in all probablility young; the Lord told Cain that he should not receive the blessings of the priesthood, nor his seed, until the last of the posterity of Abel had received the priesthood, until the redemption of the earth.

"If there never was a prophet or apostle of Jesus Christ spoke it before, I tell you, this people that are commonly called Negroes are the children of old Cain. I know they are; I know that they cannot bear rule in the priesthood, for the curse on them was to remain upon them until the residue of the posterity of Michael and his wife receive the blessings the seed of Cain would have received had they not been cursed; and hold the keys of the priesthood, until the times of the restitution shall come and the curse be wiped off from the earth, and from Michael's seed. Then Cain's seed will be had in remembrance and the time come when that curse should be wiped off.

"Now then, in the Kingdom of God on the earth, a man who has has the African blood in him cannot hold one jot nor tittle of priesthood. Why? Because they are the true eternal principles the Lord Almighty has ordained; and who can help it? Men cannot, the angels cannot and all the powers of earth and hell cannot take it off; but thus saith the Eternal I Am, What I Am: 'I take it off at my pleasure,' and not one particle of power can that posterity of Cain have, until the time comes th[at] says he will have it taken away. That time will come when they will have the privilege of all we have the privilege of and more.

"In the Kingdom of God on the earth, the Africans cannot hold one particle of power in Government. The subjects, the rightful servants of the residue of the children of Adam and the residue of the childre--through the benign influence of the Spirit of the Lord--have the privilege of seeing to the posterity of Cain; inasmuch as it is the Lord's will they should receive the spirit of God by baptism; and that is the end of their privilege; and there is not power on earth to give them any more power.

"You talk of the dark skin, I never saw a White man on earth. I have seen persons whose hair came pretty nigh being white,but to talk about white skins, it is something entirely unknown-- though some skins are fairer than others. Look at the black eye and the jet black hair we often see upon men and women who are called white; there is no such things as White folks. We are the children of Adam who receive the blessings and that is enough for us if we are not quite White.

"But let me tell you further: Let my seed mingle with the seed of Cain; that brings the curse upon me and upon my generations -we will reap the same rewards with Cain.

"In the priesthood I will tell you what it will do. Were the children of God to mingle their seed with the seed of Cain. it would not only bring the curse of being deprived of the power of the priesthood upon themselves, but they entail it upon their children after them and they cannot get rid of it.

"If a man in an unguarded moment should commit such a transgression--if he would walk up and say cut off my head and kill man. woman and child--it would do a great deal towards atoning for the sin.

"Would this be to curse them? No. It would be a blessing to them; it would do them good that they might be saved with their brethren. A man would shudder should they here us take about killing folk but it is one of the greatest blessings to some to kill them, although the true principles of it are not understood.

"I will ha[ve] one thing more: It is not in the power of a man on the face of the earth to take more life than he can give; that is a proper son of Adam. How many times I have heard it said, and how many times has it been reiterated in my ears and in yours, that to take a life is to take what you cannot give? This is perfect nonsense; what do I do by taking a man's head off after he is condemned by the Law? I put an end to the existence of the mortal tabernacle but the life still remains. The body and the spirit is only separated; this is all that can be done by any mortal man upon the face of the earth.

"Can I give that life? I can. I can make as good tabernacles as any other man; if you do not believe it, go and look at my children; therefore, that saying is nonsense. We form the tabernacle for the eternal spirit or life that comes from God. We can only put an end to the existence of that tabernacle; and this is the principle of sacrifice.

"What was the cause of the Ancients drawing up hundreds and thousands of bullocks and heifers and lambs and doves and almost every other creature around them, of which they took the best and the fattest and offered them up as sacrifices unto the Lord? Was it not for the remission of the sins of the people?

"We read also in the New Testament that a man was sacrificed for the sins of the people. If he had not shed that blood which was given to him in the organization of his body or tabernacle, you and I could have had no remission of sins. It is the greatest blessing that could come to some men to shed their blood on the ground and let it come up before the Lord as an atonement. You nor I cannot take any more life than we can give.

"Again to the subject before us, as to the men bearing rule: Not one of the children of old Cain have one particle of right to bear rule in Government affairs from first to last> They have no business there. This privilege was taken from them by there own transgressions and I cannot help it; and should you or I bear rule we ought to do it with dignity and honor before God.

"I am as much opposed to the principle of slavery as any man in the present acceptation or usage of the term, [if] it is abused. I am opposed to abusing that which God has decreed, to take a blessing, and make a curse of it.

"It is a great blessing to the seed of Adam to have the seed of Cain for servants; but those they serve should use them with all the heart and feeling, as they would use their own children, and their compassion should reach over them, and round about them, and treat them as kindly and with that humane feeling necessary to be shown to mortal beings of the human species. Under these circumstances there blessings in life are greater in proportion than those who have to provide the bread and dinner for them.

"We know there is a portion of inhabitants of the earth who dwell in Asia that are Negroes and said to be Jews. The blood of Judah has not only mingled almost with all nations but also with the blood of Cain and they have mingled their seeds together. These Negro Jews may keep up all the outer ordinnances of the Jewish religion; they may have their sacrifices and they may perform all the religious ceremonies any people on earth could perform; but let me tell you that the day they consented to mingle their seed with Canaan, the priesthood was taken away from Judah and that portion of Judah's seed will never get any rule, or blessings of the priesthood until Cain gets it.

"Let this [Mormon] Church which is called the Kingdom of God on the earth. We will summon the First Presidency, the Twelve, the High Council, the Bishopric and all the Elders of Israel. Suppose we summon them to appear here and here declare that it is right to mingle our seed with the Black race of Cain--that they shall come in with us and be partakers with us of all the blessings God has given to us.

"On that very day and hour we should do so, the priesthood is taken from this Church and Kingdom and God leaves us to our fate. The moment we consent to mingle with the seed of Cain the [Mormonm] Church must go to destruction--we should receive the curse which has been placed upon the seed of Cain and never more be numbered with the children of Adam who are heirs to the priesthood until that curse be removed.

"Therefore, I will not consent for one moment to have an African dictate [to] me or any Brethren, with regard to [Mormon] Church or State Government. I may vary in my viewes from others and they may think I am foolish in the things I have spoken and think that they know more than I do, but I know I know more than they do.

"If the Africans cannot bear rule in the [Mormon] Church of God, what business have they to bear rule in the State and Government affairs of this Territory or any others?

"I[n] the Government affairs of States and Territories and Kingdoms, by right God should govern. He should rule over nations and control kings. If we suffer the Devil to rule over us, we shall not accomplish any good. I want the Lord to rule and be our Governor and and Dictator--and we are the boys to execute.

"I shall not consent for a moment to give way to a Gentile Spirit of contention, which is the cause of ang[er]--difference to the alienations of every good feeling. It is for you and I to take a course, to bind our feelings together in an everlasting bond of union inasmuch as we love the Lord, which we ought to do more than selves.

"Consequently I will not consent for a moment to have the children of Cain rule me nor my Brethren. No, it is not right.

"But say some, is there any thing of this kind in the Constitution, the U.S. has given us? If you will allow me the privilege telling right out, it is none of their damned business what we do or say here. What we do . . . is for them to sanction and then for us to say what we like about it. It is written right out in the Constitution, 'that every free White male inhabitant above the age of 21 years,' etc.

"My mind is the same to day as when we where poring over that Constitution; any light upon the subject is the same; my judgement is the same, only a little more so.

"Perhaps I have said enough upon this subject. I have given you the true principles and doctrine. No man can vote for me or my Brethren in this Territory who has not the privilege of acting in [Mormon] Church affairs. Every man and woman and child in this Territory are citizens; to say the contrary is all nonsense to me.

"The Indians are citizens, the Africans are citizens and the Jews tha[t] come from Asia that are almost entirely of the blood of Cain. It is our duty to take care of them and administer to them in all the acts of humanity and kindness; they shall have the right of citizenship, but shall not have the right to dictate in [Mormon] Church and State matters.

"The abolitionists of the East have cirest them [?] and their whole argument [is] calculated to darken counsel, as it was here yesterday. As for our bills passing here, we may lay the foundation for what? For men to come here from Africa or elsewhere by hundreds of thousands? When these men come here from the Islands, are they going to hold offices in Government? No. It is for men who understand the knowlege of Government affairs to hold such offices and on the other make provisions for them to plow and to reap and enjoy all that human beings can enjoy and we protect them in it.

"Do we know how to ameliorate the condition of these people? We do. Supose that five thousands of them come from the Pacific Islands, and 10 or 15 thousands from Japan or from China. Not one soul of them would know how to vote for a Government officer. They therefore ought no in the first thing have anything to do in Government affairs.

"What the Gentiles are doing, we are consenting [for them] to do. What we are trying to do today is to make the Negro equal with us in all our privilege.

"My voice shall be against all the day long. I shall not consent for one moment. I will call them a council. I say I will not consent for one moment for you to lay a plan to bring a curse upon this people. I[t] shall not be while I am here."

("Curse of Cain? Racism in the Mormon Church," Appendix A: Speech by Gov. Young in Joint Session of the Legislature, [Territory of Utah] . . . Giving His Views on Slavery," 5 February 1852, in "Brigham Young Addresses," Ms d 1234, Box 48, folder 3, LDS Church Historical Department, Salt Lake City, Utah, typescript by H. Michael Marquardt, corrected here for spelling, grammar and punctuation, original uncorrected version at:

The spinning and downplaying by LDS apologists of Mormon Church-sanctioned and -practiced slavery (along with its politically-calculated and conveniently-timed flip-flopping on the matter) is concisely countered by RfM poster "oddcouplet":

"[Joseph] Smith and the early [Mormon] Church waffled quite a bit on slavery. Generally, they were against it when they were headquartered in a free state such as Ohio and Illinois, and supportive of it when they were in a slave state such as Missouri. The generally pro-slavery Missourians were very sensitive about this and the suspicion that the Mormons were predominantly abolitionist was probably one of the factors that contributed to the friction in Missouri.

"Utah was a different story. The Kansas-Nebraska Act permitted each territory to decide whether or not it wanted slavery. UTAH WAS THE ONLY TERRITORY THAT VOTED TO BECOME A SLAVE TERRITORY [emphasis added].

"At any one time during the period from slavery's adoption by the [Utah] territorial legislature in 1852 until its abolition by federal order in 1862, there were about 30 African-American slaves in Utah. There were many more enslaved Indians, though there's no way to be sure of the exact number."

("Re: 'Joseph Smith and Slavery,'" by "oddcouplet," on "Recovery from Mormonism" discussion board, 5 March 2012, at:,433528,434315#msg-434315)

--Exhibit B

A Blessing from the Bigots: Black Mormon-"Owned" Slaves in Heaven--Only the Best for the "Cursed"

One such Mormon-"owned" slave was Jane Elizabeth Manning James--otherwise known among her Mormon friends and White overseers as "Aunt Jane."

Aunt Jane was a faithful Black Mormon convert who worked in the household of Joseph and Emma Smith. After years of faithful belief and devotion to clean-up duty, she had the audacity to repeatedly petition the leaders of the Mormon Church to be sealed via temple endowment to her husband, but was denied her request by the Quorum of the Twelve.

Instead, she was made to settle for her White "owner," Joseph Smith--as his slave for time and all eternity:

"The Territory of Utah gave up the practice of slavery along with the slave-holding states; however, the fact that they countenanced it when it was being practiced shows how insensitive they were to the feelings of black people. Even after the slaves were set free the Mormons continued to talk against blacks. In the year 1884, Angus M. Cannon said that 'a colored man . . . is not capable of receiving the Priesthood, and can never reach the highest Celestial glory of the Kingdom of God.' ('The Salt Lake Tribune,' October 5, 1884)

"The idea that Blacks were inferior and should only be servants to the Whites persisted in Mormon theology. In fact, Mormon leaders seemed to feel that Blacks would still be servants in heaven. On August 26, 1908, President Joseph F. Smith related that a Black woman was sealed as a servant to Joseph Smith:

"'The same efforts he said had been made by Aunt Jane to receive her endowments and be sealed to her husband and have her children sealed to their parents and her appeal was made to all the Presidents from President Young down to the present First Presidency. But President Cannon conceived the idea that, under the circumstances, it would be proper to permit her to go to the temple to be adopted to the Prophet Joseph Smith as his servant and this was done. This seemed to ease her mind for a little while but did not satisfy her, and she still pleaded for her endowments.' ('Excerpts From The Weekly Council Meetings Of The Quorum Of The Twelve Apostles,' as printed in 'Mormonism-Shadow or Reality?,' p. 584).

"The idea that a Black is only worthy of the position of a servant has deep roots in Mormon theology. Mark E. Petersen, . . . [former] Apostle in the church, once said that if a 'Negro is faithful all his days, he can and will enter the celestial kingdom. He will go there as a servant, but he will get celestial glory.' ('Race Problems-As They Affect The Church,' a speech delivered at Brigham Young University, August 27, 1954)."

(Jerald and Sandra Tanner, "Changing the Anti-Black Doctrine," Chapter 10, Part 1, in "The Changing World of Mormonism," Utah Lighthouse Ministry, at:

Jane Elizabeth Manning James (1813-1908)--even in faith, a victim of Mormon bigotry, RIP:

"Jane Elizabeth Manning was born in Wilton, Connecticut, one of five children of Isaac and Phyllis Manning, a free black family. Although Jane was a member of the local Presbyterian Church, she remained spiritually unfulfilled until 1842 when she heard the message of a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints . . . .

"Soon afterwards she joined the Mormon Church. One year following her conversion, Jane Elizabeth and several family members who had also converted decided to move to Nauvoo, Illinois, the headquarters of the Mormon Church. After traveling by boat to Buffalo, New York, the African-American Mormons, unable to pay additional fares, began an eight-hundred-mile journey by foot to Nauvoo. In Nauvoo, Jane lived and worked in the home of Joseph Smith, Jr. the founder of the LDS Church and his wife, Emma.

"Following the 1844 murder of Joseph Smith, Jr. and his brother Hyrum in Carthage, Illinois, Mormon leaders under Brigham Young decided to abandon Nauvoo and look for a safe haven in the West away from forces hostile to the LDS Church.

"In the fall of 1847, Jane, her husband Isaac James whom she married in 1841, and two sons traveled across the plains to the new home of the LDS Church in the Salt Lake Valley. They were the first free black pioneers in the Mormon settlement and Jane would spend the remaining fifty-one years of her life in Utah. They shared the hardships of their fellow Mormons and engaged in the spirit of mutual aid and cooperation that characterized LDS pioneer life.

"By the 1880s Jane became increasingly concerned about her place in the afterlife. Well aware of the LDS Church's proscriptions that prohibited Blacks from full participation in the rituals that were prerequisite to being eligible for a place in the celestial kingdom, she nonetheless argued for an exemption because of her faith.

"'Is there no blessing for me?,' she asked Church leaders for more than a decade. Those leaders refused her requests. They attempted to pacify her by authorizing her limited participation in LDS rituals.

"Through it all, Jane Manning James remained a devout Mormon and is generally recognized in LDS history for her unwavering faith. Jane Manning James died in Salt Lake City in 1908.

"A special monument to her is located in the Salt Lake City Cemetery, close to her gravesite, to commemorate her life and faith."

(Ronald G. Coleman, "'Is There No Blessing for Me?': Jane Elizabeth Manning James, A Mormon African American Woman," in Quintard Taylor and Shirley Ann Moore Wilson, eds., "African American Women Confront the West," 1600-2000 [Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press 2003], at:

Ahhhhh, how sweetly described--and deceptively presented.

That "limited participation in LDS rituals," as it is euphemistically described above, is more fully laid out on pp. 152-157 of Coleman's biography of "Aunt Jane." There it is painfully detailed how, despite her faithfulness--and only because of her so-called "cursed" race--she was relentlessly denied her personal plea for access to the Mormon temple for her own family sealing endowment.

The First Presidency also rejected her request to be adopted, via temple sealing, into the family of Joseph and Emma Smith, in whose home she faithfully worked as a servant.

The First Presidency eventually, out of the kindness of their white-and-delightsome hearts, did permit her to be eternally sealed to Joseph Smith as his servant.

(Tracking note: Google search "Ronald G. Coleman Manning." Up will come "African American Women Confront the West, 1600-2000 -Google Books Result." Click on that and Coleman's article will appear).

More on the patronizing treatment "Aunt Jane" received from the Mormon Church:

" . . . [H]ave you wondered why Jane walked to Nauvoo? It was because white Mormons would not allow her to ride with them or assist her in paying for passage. And once she arrived in Nauvoo the Beautiful, that 'Zion on the Mississippi,' she was either rebuffed or ignored by her fellow Saints, until finally someone pointed out Joseph Smith's home to her.

"Once she finally did meet Smith, he made Jane his house servant, and when Smith was murdered in 1844, Brigham Young then took in Jane James as his servant as well. Despite her faithful service to the Church and its wealthy presidents, she lived most of her life in abject poverty.

"She arrived in the new Zion of Utah among the first of the Saints in September 1847, the first free Black woman in the territory, only to find that slavery was already being practiced there. Mormon Apostle Charles C. Rich owned slaves in Utah, which must have been a great trial of her faith. The only Western State or Territory to practice slavery was Utah.

"She wished to be 'sealed' to her loved ones for all eternity just like the white-skinned members of the congregation were allowed to be. For all of her sacrifice, the highest eternal blessing the Mormon church could offer Joseph Smith's former house servant was to 'seal' her to Joseph Smith as his servant forever.

"The words recited at this ceremony were that she was 'to be attached as a Servitor for eternity to the prophet Joseph Smith and in this capacity be connected with his family and be obedient to him in all things in the Lord as a faithful Servitor.'

"In essence, an eternal slave, bound to service a white master for eternity."

(For more on this final above account, along with a photograph of Jane Manning, see: "Nauvoo Pageant 2007: Just Who is Jane Manning?," in "Mormon Home Evening: Official Blog of Mormon Missions Midwest Outreach," 17 July 2007, at:

--Exhibit C

The Mormon Church's Celestial Kingdom Entry Requirement for Blacks: If You're Good, We'll Let You In--As Servants--but Only If Your Skin Color is Beautifully White

President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles Joseph Fielding Smith, in his book, “Answers to Gospel Questions,” declared:

“ . . . [I]f a Negro joins the [Mormon] Church through the waters of baptism and is confirmed by the laying on of hands and then he remains faithful and true to the teachings of the Church and in keeping the commandments the Lord has given, he will come forth in the first resurrection and will enter the celestial kingdom of God. . . . The Negro who accepts the doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is entitled to salvation in the Celestial Kingdom of the highest heaven spoken of by Paul.

"'It is true that the work of the ministry is given to other peoples and why should the so-called Christian denominations complain? How many Negroes have been placed as ministers over white congregations in the so-called Christian denominations? It appears that a great deal of noise has been made over a problem that does not really exist or is not peculiar to the Latter-day Saints.'

"' . . . Mormons. . . can do more for the Negro than any other church on the face of the earth.'"

(Jospeh Fielding Smith, "Answers to Gospel Questions," vol. 2, p. 55, quoted in John Lewis Lund, “The Church and the Negro: A Discussion of Mormons, Negroes and the Priesthood,” Chapter VII, “What is the Status of the Negro in the Mormon Church?” [John Lewis Lund, copyright 1967], pp. 58-59)

What Mormons conveniently fail to note, of course, is their deep-seated, ugly belief that even if Mormons of African descent attain the highest level of the LDS Celestial Kingdom, they will only manage to do so through a mandatory process that involves their skin color being changed to white in order for them to reside among Mormon Whites and their White Mormon God.

Lund, in a chapter in his book headlined, “Church Leaders Speak Out on the Negro Question,” points to the case of Black Mormon convert Jane Manning James as an example of a Mormon of African descent making it to heaven--but only after having been turned White, literally.

As noted above, Jane Elizabeth Manning James (aka, "Aunt Jane") was a house servant to Joseph and Emma Smith in Nauvoo who--despite her unswerving faithfulness of 65 years to Mormonism--was denied the right by the White racists in the Mormon Church's First Presidency to be temple-sealed to her own family; instead, they had her officially sealed to Joseph Smith as his servant throughout eternity.

But being celestialized came with a catch: “Aunt Jane” first had to be "sanitized" because, according to White supremacist Mormon church doctrine, she had been born into a “cursed” lineage.

In order for her to be with Smith in the highest Mormon heaven, this Black woman would first have to have her "cursed" skin bleached white. The edict of Mormon church president Wilford Woodruff was clear, as Lund explains:

“Wilford Woodruff said about the Negro, 'The day will come when all that race will be redeemed and possess all the blessings that we now have,'"

Lund explains how this color-cleansing would work before this Black woman would be allowed into Mormon heaven to be Joseph Smith's forever slave:

“In [Matthias F.] Cowley's book, 'Wilford Woodruff' [p. 587], the following story is told:

“'There is one peculiar characteristic noticeable in the journal ow Wilford Woodruff., . . . [He] love to dwell upon the good deeds of others . . . . . He said in his journal of o of October, that year [1894], that 'Aunt Jane,' the colored sister, had been to see him She was anxious to go through the Temple and receive the highest ordinances of the Gospel. President Woodruff blessed her for her constant, never changing devotion to the Gospel but explained to her her disadvantages as one of the descendants of Cain.

“”In after years, when President Joseph F. Smith preached the funeral sermon of this same faithful woman, he declared that she would, in the resurrection, attain the longing of her soul and become a white and beautiful person.”

(John Lewis Lund, “The Church and the Negro: A Discussion of Mormons, Negroes and the Priesthood,” Chapter IX, pp. 85-86; see also, William E. Berrett, “The Church and the Negroid People,” historical supplement, in John J. Stewart, “Mormonism and the Negro: An Explanation and Defense of the Doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Regard to Negroes and Others of Negroid Blood” [Orem, Utah: Bookmark, a Division of Community Press Publishing Company, 1960], p. 16 of supplement)

The primitively racist comments of Mormon apostle Mark E. Petersen speak for themselves. On 27 August 1954 in an address to a BYU convention of LDS religion teachers entitled “Race Problems--As They Affect the Church,” he informed the audience that "[i]f that Negro is faithful all his days, he can and will enter the celestial kingdom. He will go there as a servant, but he will get a celestial resurrection."


These days one does not often see Mormons openly pointing out that, according to their Church's top “prophet, seer and revelator,” any faithful Mormon Black person will, in the end, “enter the Celestial Kingdom” as “a white and beautiful person.”

Perhaps even for the Mormon Church's most abject apologists, this might be too racist to strut in front of decent company.

Don't put it past them, though, to tenderly harbor it in the bigoted recesses of their white-and-delightsome hearts.

Options: ReplyQuote
Posted by: GregS ( )
Date: November 16, 2016 07:25PM

"During the 1950s, historian Forrest McDonald did a more thorough study of the Founders and discovered what can most generously be described as errors in research and, less generously, as fraudulent research. McDonald traveled to archives throughout the original 13 states and meticulously compiled data on thousands of men involved in the debate over the Constitution. After systematically studying the lives of the Founders and the state convention delegates, McDonald wrote We the People, which debunked Beard completely."

Options: ReplyQuote
Posted by: steve benson ( )
Date: November 17, 2016 04:24AM

Summary Statement from Conclusion of the Paper Posted Below:

. . . "[Beard's] questions and basic premise labeling the Constitution as an 'economic document' remain. This claim regarding the Constitutional drafting continues to find articulation, but in many respects, is not done proper justice by those hoping to disprove 'Beardianism.' . . .

"Scholars note that some prefer to say that economics was the deciding factor and motivation, some say that it was political, and some say it was some social motivation for voting and drafting at the convention. The truth is that not one of these studies wants to admit that which seems most likely to me. Admittedly idealistic in some sense, it appears to me that the drafting of the Constitution was motivated by all three aforementioned motivations working together."

Now, the reasons, in detail, for the above conclusion:

"The Debate Over an Economic Interpretation of the Constitution: Where Has Beard Taken Us and Where are We after McGuire’s “New” Interpretation?"

by Joseph E. Silvia

I. Introduction.

Since 1913, developing a complete analysis on the creation of the American Constitution necessarily requires a thorough consideration of economics. Until Charles A. Beard published his An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States (1913), the standard account of the Founding Era was that the Framers acted out of idealism – a disinterested, public-regarding impulse to promote democratic ideals for which the Revolution was fought and the American Republic was founded.1 Beard challenged this idealistic view of the Framers that had, since the adoption of the Constitution, been the accepted understanding of the beginning of America. Beard offered a harsh, more realistic understanding of the framing of the American Constitution that to this day is regarded as labeling the Framers’ motives “anti-democratic” and Charles A. Beard as a “Marxist.”

For roughly forty years, Beard’s economic interpretation reigned supreme. It became accepted that the Founding Fathers acted out of “selfish class interests” when drafting the Constitution.2 Not until the 1950’s, after the 1913 publication of An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States, and the subsequent 1935 edition, did the economic and historical academic communities rushed to critique Beard’s analysis and offer their own; each claiming a more developed understanding and interpretation. In the last fifty years, some of the more outspoken academics on the subject have included scholars such as Gordon Wood, Forrest McDonald, Shlomo Slonim, and Robert McGuire.

This paper will first develop an understanding of where the debate began, where it has been, and finally where it currently stands. More importantly, this paper will provide an understanding as to how the debate progressed and where and in what form Beardianism currently stands. Section I of the paper introduces Beard’s analysis and understanding of the creation of the Constitution as the beginning of economic considerations in the context of the Founding Fathers. Section II provides an evolution of the debate through some of the competing theories of the economic interpretation of the Constitution with an overview of the Beardian approach. Section III examines the new economic interpretation from Robert McGuire in his book To Form a More Perfect Union (2003). Section IV considers a response to

1 Sharfman, Keith, The First Economic Analyst of Law?: Our Debt to Charles Beard: S. Slonim, Framer’ s Construction/Beardian Deconstruction, Peter Lang 2001, 6 Green Bag 2d 99, 99 (2002)
2 Slonim, Shlomo, Forum: The Founders an the States: Motives at Philadelphia, 1787: Gordon Wood’ s Neo- Beardian Thesis Reexamined, 16 Law & History Review 527, 527 (1998)

McGuire’s new interpretation as it fits into the debate among scholars. Section V considers where “Beardianism” is left after McGuire’s new interpretation and what is left of Beard’s original thesis. Finally Section VI evaluates Beard’s true impact on the debate and whether Beardianism is truly “dead.”
My contention is that Beard’s classic thesis - that the contest over the American Constitution reflected a conflict between economic interest groups that were affected in differing ways by the adoption of the Constitution3- in its most vulgar form is “dead” as many scholars believe, but Beard’s questions and analysis have retained importance at the core of a highly controversial debate about the motivations of our beloved Framers at Philadelphia. That is to say that his original claim that the Framers’ intentions and considerations in drafting the Constitution were motivated self-interest remains at the core of the debate.

II: Evolution of the Economic Interpretation Debate

“An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution remains one of the most provocative and controversial books ever written by an American historian.”4 Prior to Beard’s economic interpretation, the authority of the Constitution hinged on the assumption that it was a “neutral document rendering objective judgments” based on religious principles and natural law.5 However, Beard labels the Constitution as an “economic document” drafted by men in certain economic classes6 and groups of personal property interests.7

Writing during the Progressive Era of American History, he consolidated the existing scholarly views of the Constitution; and in the process, offered what has become “the” economic interpretation of the Constitution. Beard argued that the formation of the Constitution was a struggle based upon competing economic interests- both of the proponents and the opponents. He claims that the nationalism was created by a welding of economic interests that cut through state boundaries.8

3 McGuire, Robert A. & Ohsfeldt, Robert L. , Economic Interests and the American Constitution: A Quantitative Rehabilitation of Charles A. Beard, The Journal of Economic History, Vol. 44, No. 2, The Tasks of Economic History, 509 (1984)
4 Diggins, John Patrick, Law and Political Culture: Class, Classical, and Consensus Views of the Constitution: An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States. Charles A. Beard, 55 U. of Chicago Law Review 555, 555 (1988)
5 See Id. at 556
6 Id.
7 Beard, Charles A., An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States, 31 (1935 ed. Free Press 1986)
8 See Id. at 30

Beard contends that “those in favor of ratification and drafting of the Constitution were individuals whose primary economic concern was personal property.” He claimed that the Federalists were the group advocating the personal property interests and mainly consisted of merchants, shippers, bankers, speculators and private public securities holders.9 Consequently, the Anti-Federalists, according to Beard, had their interests tied up in real property and were made up primarily of the “more isolated, less commercial farmers”, debtors, and Northern planters on the Hudson River.10

Beard’s Thesis

The Constitution is essentially an “economic document.” He suggested that the Framers, who had been held near divinity since the drafting, were not “high-minded men dedicated to the ideals of justice, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – the conventional wisdom – but were rather consolidated economic groups who had dealt in money, public securities, manufacturing, or trade and shipping.”11 Beard argues that these groups worked together to ensure the benefit deferred to their interests, dominated the ratifying conventions, and that these groups “played a decisive role in the decision to scuttle the Articles of Confederation.”12

Beard characterized the self-interest of the Framers by dividing them into two categories of property holders – personalty and realty – and sought to explain the Constitution as the result of the dominance of the former over the latter.13 This was where Beard’s analysis is called into question because of the simplicity of the division between the two interests. However, “it is the exercise not the results that makes Beard’s book special.”14

In Beard’s view, the Federalists were the dynamic, innovative element that set the US on the broad path of capitalist development and promoted the transformation of the country into a giant industrial power.15 He believed the Federalists to be manifestly concerned with revising the Articles of Confederation and with correcting the deficiencies of the federal government that prevented it from coping with national problems plaguing the Union.16 However, Beard was clearly unsympathetic to the Antifederalists whom he deemed hidebound, bent on preserving the agrarian character of the country and

9 Robert A. McGuire, To Form a More Perfect Union: A New Economic Interpretation of the United States Constitution, 16; (1st Ed., Oxford 2003) (Citing Charles A. Beard , An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States, 31-51 (1935 ed. Free Press 1986)
10 Id. (citing Beard 26-30)
11 Diggins at 556
12 Id.
13 Komesar, Neil K., A Symposium Commemorating the Bicentennial of the United States Constitution: Paths of Influence – Beard Revisited, 56 Geo. Wash. L. Rev. 124, 124 (1987)
14 Komesar at 124
15 Slonim at 530
16 Id.

on thwarting the entry of the US into the industrial age.17 Meanwhile, he claims that the Federalist desire to draft a new Constitution for the United States was “a product of the severe frustration felt by the entrepreneurial class engaged in trade and commerce, who, because of the absence of an effective national government, suffered most from the chaotic economic conditions that plagued the country in the 1780s.”18
However, Beard’s economic interpretation of the Constitution is often described as “Marxist” because of the analysis of the conflict between the “dichotomous and homogenous classes as he categorizes personalty and realty interests.”19 This Marxian claim against Beard has never quite been removed and continues to be an influential label of his work. His analysis may also be an indictment of the Founding Fathers for “lining their own pockets”20 as they sought to preserve personalty and capitalism.
Neil Komesar notes that “Beard’s argument is noteworthy in at least two ways. First, it reflects his understanding that individual self-interest cannot explain societal outcomes without a transformation from the individual to the societal level.”21 Secondly, Beard emphasizes the strength of concentrated interests and the ability of the concentrated minority of the Framers to “organize political activity.”22 Beard’s analysis is “a political model easily comparable in historical pedigree and modern appeal to majoritarianism. It underlies such contemporary notions as special interest legislation and the so-called economic model of regulation.”23
The First Challenges

Beards thesis did not face serious scholarly challenge until the 1950’s.24 The most detailed and influential challenge to Beard during the 1950’s was from Robert E. Brown and Forrest McDonald who have had a lasting impact on the study of the Constitution.25
Brown’s 1956 critique dismisses an economic interpretation as utterly without merit, attacking Beard’s conclusions in their entirety. Brown argues that the society was fundamentally democratic, not undemocratic as Beard portrayed, and that economic factors did not explain the movement toward the

17 Id.
18 See Id. at 529-530 19 McGuire at 30
20 Id.
21 Komesar at 125
22 See Id. at 126
23 See Id. at 126
24 McGuire at 17
25 See Id. at 17-18

Constitution. Yet Brown presents little empirical evidence and no statistical analysis to support his conclusions.26
In contrast, “McDonald’s 1958 study empirically examines the wealth, economic interests, and votes of the framers at the Philadelphia convention and of the delegates to the 13 state ratifying conventions.”27 One supported contention of McDonald is that a "large" percentage of the delegates who owned public securities were Antifederalists. From his casual statistical analysis, McDonald concludes that "anyone wishing to rewrite the history of those proceedings largely or exclusively in terms of the economic interests represented there would find the facts to be insurmountable obstacles.28

“With respect to the ratification of the Constitution, he concluded, “on all counts, Beard’s thesis is entirely incompatible with the facts.”29 However, unlike Brown, McDonald did not argue that economic interests had no influence on the Constitution. He argues instead that the issue is too complex to put into Beard’s dichotomy of “personalty” versus “realty” or into any other set of specific economic interests. McDonald emphasized that public securities could not have been the “dynamic element within the dynamic element in the ratification, as Beard claimed, because there were as many public securities holders among the opponents of the Constitution as among its supporters.30

To this day Brown and McDonald are credited with giving the fatal blows to Beard’s economic interpretation of the Constitution31 and are often credited with proving that economic interests had no impact on the vote on the Constitution, but neither actually made such a categorical claim.32
Brown and McDonald’s studies are used by scholars in offering a “definitive debunking” of the Beardian interpretation, but not without some criticism. Lee Benson suggests that neither Brown nor McDonald possesses sufficient understanding of Beard's thesis to criticize it successfully.33 Benson suggested in 1960 that Beard can be more accurately understood as proposing that the economic interests of the citizens and not the Framers can help explain the movement toward the Constitution.34 Benson notes that the economic interests of the states and the citizens must be examined for the true understanding of Beard’s issue.35
Jackson Turner Main and Robert Schuyler contend that in some instances McDonald's data does not support his conclusions. Main also implies that McDonald's data may be systematically biased against

26 McGuire & Ohsfeldt at 511-512 27 See Id. at 511
28 McGuire at 110
29 See Id. at 18
30 Id.
31 See Id. at 19
32 McGuire & Ohsfeldt at 512 33 McGuire at 19
34 McGuire at 19
35 Id.

the Beard.36 According to Robert McGuire, while both Main and Benson believed in an economic interpretation of the Constitution, neither presented any formal analysis of their own.37

An examination of the economic interests was seldom the primary objective of most constitutional studies during the 1960s.38 Writers in the 1960s looked more closely at the revolutionary nature of the Founding Fathers and labeled the struggle as one between “inertia and energy.”39 Jensen, writing in 1964, suggested that it was the interests of the states and their own regions that came into conflict even though their main goals were the same for the nation.40

In a continuation of his earlier work, McDonald in 1965 concluded with observations that are similar to those made in his 1958 piece. That is that specific economic interests were not aligned on one side of an issue with other interests aligned on the other side. However, McDonald again does not dismiss a general economic interpretation.41 Nowhere does McDonald categorically consider economic interests to have been unimportant to the creation and adoption of the Constitution. As a point in fact, he notes that the economic interests did matter to the Framers, just not in any manner he believed would be “consistent with an economic interpretation of the Constitution.”42

At the tail end of the decade, neo-Beardian Gordon Wood came out with his “widely acclaimed and monumentally influential study of the American founding” in which he concluded that it is nearly impossible to identify the supporters or opponents of the Constitution with specific economic interests from the historical record. He concluded that the “quarrel was fundamentally one between aristocracy and democracy.” Wood never categorically denies that the economic interests of the founders were unimportant, simply that they were not important in any fundamental manner or consistent pattern. Later, in 1987, Wood comes to the conclusion that the founders could not have acted easily upon their own self- interests.43

Recent Challenges to Beard

Many historical studies since the late 1960’s have been highly skeptical of the importance of economic interests. They propose that economic interests have been overemphasized and more importantreasons for the adoption of the Constitution neglected.44

36 McGuire & Ohsfeldt at 511-512 37 McGuire at 19
38 See Id. at 20
39 Id.
40 Id.
41 See Id. at 20-21 42 Id.
43 See Id. at 21
44 Id.

It is this sentiment that dates back to the days before Beard so eloquently described the Framers as employing anti-democratic motives at the Philadelphia convention, as well as the ratifying conventions.

Modern political scientists generally emphasize the importance of political principles and ideologies among the delegates in Philadelphia and the ratifying conventions, but downplay the importance of partisan economic interests in designing or adopting the Constitution.45 However, the neo- Beardian school of thought begs to differ and continues to analyze the economic interests of the Framers in relation to their voting in greater detail with each study conducted.

Shlomo Slonim and Gordon Wood are two of the foremost scholars on the subject and remain on opposite sides of the debate. Slonim argues that, “while Wood dismisses Beard’s interpretation as too narrow, he credits him with asking the right questions and being on the right track in his quest for answers.”46 Wood also differs with Beard about whether the Constitutional Convention was brought together in order to remedy issues on a national or state level.47 According to Wood, the Federalists were convinced that “only by the arena of reform to the federal level ...could the evils of American politics be finally remedied.”48 Furthermore, Slonim claims that Wood sees the Antifederalists as the “progressive, modernizing component in the debate that arose over the adoption of the Constitution,” and were the men who actually shaped the Constitution.”49
Slonim contends that Beard saw the Federalist desire to draft a new Constitution for the United States as a “product of the severe frustration felt by the entrepreneurial class engaged in trade and commerce, who, because of the absence of an effective national government, suffered most from the chaotic economic conditions that plagued the country in the 1780s.”50 He also criticizes Beard’s reliance almost entirely on extrinsic historical evidence such as property records without support of evidence of what transpired at the Convention itself – the constitutional provisions initially proposed, the debates concerning and votes taken on each, and the drafting histories of the provisions that finally were adopted.”51

Wood’s thesis differs from other approaches in that “it posits the Founding Fathers’ preoccupation not with the property factor as such, but rather with intrastate extravagance and the breakdown of social values.”52 It is in this sense that Wood sees the Constitution as “an Aristocratic remedy” to “the excesses of American democracy” in the states. However, “nothing in the Convention

45 McGuire at 23
46 Shlomo at 528
47 See Id at 530-531 48 See Id. at 531
49 See Id at 529
50 See Id at 529-530 51 Green Bag at 101 52 Slonim at 550

records substantiates his claim that reforming the social condition of the states was the central purpose of the delegates, Madison included, or of the Constitution that they produced.”53 Moreover, Slonim notes that Wood maintains that “the struggle over the ratification of the Constitution can also be best understood as a fundamental debate over social designs.”54
Wood responds to Slonim by stating that, “his [Slonim’s] conception of what he calls “the Wood thesis” is a figment of an overheated imagination.”55 Wood claims that Slonim strives to make his case for the foresight of the Federalist Founders, but evades contradictory advice. Wood, contrary to what Slonim believes, has never suggested that “a new constitution was unnecessary” for the changes in the social design.56 Wood claims that Slonim has a basic misunderstanding and misreading of his arguments. All Wood ever said, regarding the Federalists, was that the “Federalists sought to create institutional mechanisms that might evade or mitigate the effects of localist democracy in the states.”57 Furthermore, Wood simply states that Slonim, in dealing with Woods’ arguments, has “created straw men in order to more easily blow them away.”58

Slonim presents his case that neither fear of democracy nor a desire to protect property significantly influenced the Framers’ behavior and thinking at the Convention.59 Slonim contends that “if, as Wood acknowledges, Beard’s thesis, with its narrow economic analysis, is found wanting as an explanation for the adoption of the Constitution, his own thesis, with its rigid social dichotomy between aristocracy and democracy to define the events of the Constitutional Convention, is no less so.”60
Slonim claims that the revolution that the Founders sought to institute was neither economic, as Beard suggests, nor social, as Wood posits, but that it was political in that it was a “reordering the division of powers between the central and state governments so as to render the federal constitution adequate to the exigencies of Government and the preservation of the Union.”61 Only by consideration of “the Federalists’ social perspective, their fears and anxieties about the disarray in American society,” can one appreciate “how they conceived of the Constitution as a political device designed to control the social forces the Revolution had released.”62

53 Id.
54 See Id. at 532
55 Wood, Gordon, “Motives at Philadelphia”: A Comment of Slonim, 16 Law & Hist. Rev. 553, 553 (1998) 56 See Id. at 554-555
57 See Id. at 559
58 See Id. at 553
59 Green Bag at 102
60 Slonim at 552
61 Id.
62 See Id. at 532

“The Federalists aimed for something far more ambitious and grandiose.”63 They hoped to institute reform that would “revamp the entire gamut of republican government in the US” by focusing not so much on the politics of the Congress, but rather the politics of the states. Slonim argued that “the Framers did not act at the Convention out of class-based-self-interest but rather out of loyalty to the states from which they came, and that the critical struggles at Philadelphia in 1787 were not between the economic classes, but rather between the large and small states.”64

To the Federalists, the move for the new central government became the ultimate act of the entire Revolutionary era; it was both a progressive attempt to salvage the Revolution in the face of its imminent failure and a reactionary effort to restrain its excesses.65 It was the “frenzied pursuit of wealth by the masses” that disturbed the Federalists, prompting them to insist on a powerful new central government that would help contain the headlong rush for wealth and luxury. “Promotion of entrepreneurial interests by ordinary people was what truly frightened the Federalists.”66

Slonim contends that “it is to the credit of the Federalist Founders that they had the foresight and the tenacity with which to promote the realization of their vision, so that the US could emerge from the crisis of the Critical period capable of assuming its rightful place ‘among the Powers of the earth.’”67

III: McGuire’s “New” Interpretation

What Robert McGuire strives to achieve is to answer some fundamental and very specific questions of the motivations behind the decision-making at Philadelphia and the state ratifying conventions. According to McGuire, he attempts to address the following questions in his To Form a Perfect Union:
“Were specific economic, financial, and other interests split over supporting the Constitution or supporting specific clauses in the Constitution? Did debtors tend to support or oppose the Constitution? Did slaveholdings significantly influence a delegate’s stance on particular clauses in the Constitution? Did private and public securities holders (private and public credit holders) tend to support or oppose the Constitution or particular clauses? Were regions of the country split over the Constitution based upon their commercial interests? Was support for the Constitution divided by religious beliefs or

63 See Id. at 531
64 Green Bag at 101 65 Slonim at 531
66 See Id. at 533
67 See Id. at 551

ethnicity? Were older delegates more likely to oppose the Constitution? And were delegates who served in the Revolutionary War or in the Continental Congress aligned one way or another?68
McGuire claims that there is “one unambiguous conclusion that can be drawn from the present study: There is a valid economic interpretation of the Constitution.” As Beard before him, McGuire notes that the idea of self-interest can explain the design and adoption of the Constitution; which to McGuire means that the pursuit of one’s interests both in a narrow financial sense and in a broader, nonpecuniary sense can help explain the drafting and ratification.69 McGuire summarizes his new interpretation accordingly:

“The supporters of particular provisions of the Constitution and the supporters of ratification anticipated that the costs imposed on them by the behavior of others would have been greater under the Articles of Confederation than under the Constitution and the provisions in it. They expected collective decisions under the constitution and the specific provisions in it to reduce these expected eternal costs. Consequently, they expected to benefit from the Constitution and its provisions. The opponents of particular positions in the Constitution and the opponents of ratification anticipated that the external costs imposed on them by the behavior of others would have been greater under the constitution and the specific provisions in it. They expected collective decisions under the Articles of Confederation to impose lower external costs on them. As a result, they expected to benefit from the Articles of Confederation and the particular provisions in it.”70
McGuire employs a sort of cost-benefit analysis to say that “the drafters included provisions in the Constitution only if they expected the benefits from its inclusion to exceed the costs. They rationally weighed the expected costs and benefits of the decision to ratify.”71 He contends that his evidence, as presented in To Form a Perfect Union indicates that the economic interests of the Framers can be identified with one side or the other on an issue, despite the prevailing view’s contrary opinion.

68 McGuire at 10 69 See Id. at 4
70 See Id. at 207 71 See Id. at 5

Furthermore, even when the framers were deciding the basic design of the Constitution and how to best strengthen the central government, their economic and other interests had significant influence.72

However, in the aggregate, McGuire’s modern evidence appears to support Beard’s central thesis that the Framers’ choices were still consistent with self-interested and partisan behavior.73 The “strongest findings are for the ratifying conventions, in terms of both the number and the magnitude of the significant effects. Both broadly and narrowly defined economic interests had large significant influences on the ratification votes of the delegates.”74

“The overall findings of the study suggest that it is unlikely that any real-world constitution would ever be drafted or ratified through a disinterested and nonpartisan process”, claims McGuire.75 Furthermore, “Constitutions are the products of the interests of those who adopt them.”76

Many of the differences b/t the findings of McGuire and “those found in the existing literature are a mater of the approach taken, as well as the questions asked, rather than a matter of arriving at fundamentally different answers to identical questions.”77 The conclusions of this study are fundamentally different from the conclusions found in the existing literature; the primary reason being that the statistical technique employed in the reexamination yields estimates of the separate influence of a particular economic interest or factor on the founders’ behavior, taking into account and controlling for the influence of other interests and factors of their behavior.78
Conclusions McGuire reaches differ from earlier studies because his study asks how a particular interest influenced the delegates’ voting behavior taking into account all the influences of any other factors on those delegates’ voting behavior.79 McGuire argues that Beard’s economic interpretation has not been refuted, but rather that the issues have not been properly tested. Earlier studies did not have the benefit of modern economic methodology and systematic statistical analysis.80

This study offers a dispassionate, almost antiseptic analysis of the founders: it does not offer a special approach to the behavior of the founders because of the unique position reserved for them in our nation’s history.81 However, perhaps this special approach is what one would expect for a “new” interpretation to be just that. Here, McGuire treats the founders as political actors; seemingly to control the most variable of considerations inherent in the study of constructing the Constitution and its

72 Id.
73 McGuire at 5 74 See Id. at 6 75 See Id. at 8 76 Id.
77 Id.
78 See Id. at 8-9 79 See Id. at 9 80 Id.
81 See Id. at 10

ratification. Yet many individuals tend to look at our Founding Fathers through rose-colored glasses. They often place the founders on a pedestal, treating them as demigods. Many contend that the founders were motivated primarily, if not solely, by high-minded political principles “To form a More Perfect Union.”82

“A compelling lesson that can be drawn from this reexamination of the design and adoption of the Constitution is that our Founding Fathers responded rationally to the incentives they faced when determining their votes during the drafting and ratification of the constitution.”83 They responded to the costs and benefits they and their constituents expected as a result of their votes. McGuire suggests that this modern economic interpretation can explain the Constitution’s framing and adoption.”

This economic view of our Founding Fathers holds not only that they had preferences over material, pecuniary objects, but also that they had preferences over intangible, nonpecuniary desires, including their beliefs, ideologies, and principles; and they made choices that satisfied these broadly defined preferences given any constraints they faced.84 “A contention often found in the literature, especially among those scholars who argue that economic interests certainly mattered, is that such interests, nonetheless, cannot account for any divisions among the supporters and opponents of the Constitution because the framers and ratifiers were like minded men who represented similar economic interests.”85

“The intensive statistical analysis of McGuire appears to indicate that a delegate’s occupation, assets, and wealth did significantly influence his votes during the drafting and ratification of the Constitution. Furthermore, the magnitudes of the impact on voting of many of the economic and ideological interests were quite large.”86

What does this mean in terms of the historiography of the Constitution? “This modern evidence claims to indicate that an economic approach to explaining the creation of the constitution deserves a much expanded role in discussions of the issue.”87 McGuire’s findings appear to support a new economic interpretation of the Constitution. The findings offer support in a broad sense for a “Beardian” view of the founders- but only in that broad economic interests influenced the founder’s behavior. The findings do not support a narrow “Beardian” view of the founders -- that the founders can be separated into dichotomous classes, representing “personalty” and “realty” interests.88

82 Id.
83 McGuire at 207; 84 See Id. at 207-211 85 Id.
86 See Id. at 208-209 87 See Id. at 211
88 Id.

Even if the Framers had personal motivations, to correctly understand contemporary political behavior, the personal economic and ideological interests of contemporary political actors, in addition to the interests of their constituents, must be taken into account. McGuire suggests that the interests of the political actors involved in any constitutional change will influence significantly the choices they make.89
Rational political actors with economic, personal, and political interests will always be self- interested and partisan and thus, constitutions are the products of the interests of relevant players at the constitutional framing.90 McGuire and Ohsfeldt note that “a careful reading of Charles Beard's An Economic Interpretation suggests the Beardian view is that political institutions are not formed purely on the basis of political or ideological principles, but that the self-interest of individuals involved in the formation of new institutions will influence the character of those institutions.”91 Also, that “an individual whose political preference was to favor the Constitution would have been less likely to do so if his personal economic well being was significantly and adversely affected by the Constitution, and vice versa.”92
Despite the specific interests, many general aspects of the Constitution do not appear to have been overtly influenced by partisan economic interests; which explains the perspective of not only most Americans but also much of the world, believing that our constitutional government is greatly admired and is not viewed as overly self-interested. The real issue for any society involved in designing, or reforming, a constitution is, if possible, to structure constitutional deliberations to prevent individuals involved from personally benefiting from purely partisan self-interested behavior.93

However, the overall consensus among most economic historians is that the primary reason for the movement to a strong national government under the Constitution was to create more favorable economic conditions for the country as a whole by correcting the inadequacies of the weak central government existing under the
Articles of Confederation.94

IV: Response to McGuire’s “New Interpretation”

Cathy Matson’s review of Robert McGuire’s book claims that “the book seeks to refute ideological and cultural interpretations that have dominated scholarship since the 1950s and to revive the

89 Id.
90 Id.
91 McGuire & Ohsfeldt at 516-517 92 See Id. at 513
93 Id.
94 See Id. at 509-510

Beardian “interests” thesis that prevailed for nearly fifty years before that.95 Ms. Matson states that McGuire’s argument that “economic interests, even narrowly defined” significantly influenced the kind of document created in Philadelphia, and that the framers “rationally weighed the expected costs and benefits” of ratification on an individual level, departs significantly from Beard’s emphasis on certain founders’ political ideology and economic vision.96

Beard’s economic “interests” were not manifested as the particular individual choices that are marshaled in McGuire’s exhaustive statistical analysis, but rather about the “forces” influencing broad swaths of Americans and the alignments of “personalty” and “realty” at the Philadelphia convention.97 Perhaps the detailed statistical analysis of the sixteen votes considered by McGuire is “new” because of its high level of sophistication.98

McGuire’s account is “new” because it fits squarely within modern public-choice and institutional economics scholarship.99 McGuire’s evidence from complied roll call voting at Philadelphia and the state ratifying conventions may very well be indicative of a more modern and more intensive study on the rational economic choices made by individuals, but, as Matson notes, this does not address the economic issues in play.
It is McGuire’s contention that within the larger generalizations about delegates’ interests there were important distinctions of individual interests. For example, although most slaveowners voted to enlarge the authority of a national government, property in slaves pre se was sometimes less important than other economic interests in influencing many planters’ support for the Constitution.100 However, McGuire fails in explaining to readers what the other possible economic interests are; nor does his statistical analysis explain the public and private debate about slavery or the compromise at Philadelphia on slavery.101 Consider why neither the words “slavery” nor “slave” appears in the document.

In short, although “new” statistical analyses may point toward our need to reexamine certain dynamics of the constitutional discussion, they do not affirm or revise previous interpretations until they are given a broader context and put under the scrutiny of social scientists’ good sense.102 McGuire fails to offer the broad context for a thoroughly “new” economic interpretation as much as he seems to offer the first half of the “new” interpretation, in that analysis must be done regarding the cultural and societal

95 Matson, Cathy, Book Review: Robert A. McGuire, To Form a More Perfect Union: A New Economic Interpretation of the United States Constitution, 23 Law & History Review 468, 468 (2005)
96 Id.
97 Id.
98 Id.
99 Id.
100 See Id. at 469 101 Id.
102 See Id. at 470

regimes influencing the decisions where complex statistical analysis cannot. The debate is necessarily broader than the individual voting at Philadelphia and the state ratifying conventions.

“Although specialists across the social sciences will appreciate McGuire’s meticulously constructed tables and appendices which yield several “new” ways to understand what empirical decisions were taken by delegates at the constitutional and ratifying conventions, they will need to look elsewhere for explications of why delegates made those decisions, and how interests won and lost important issues in this momentous drama, both in and out of doors.”103 A more intensive query has begun, but where we go from here is to be determined.

McGuire states that “Constitutions are the products of the interests of those who adopt them.”104 While this is quite a broad statement, if there is in fact a definitive statement with no other explanations of constitutional drafting or a more clear understanding of the specific interests McGuire discusses, then why has the American Constitution succeeded where others have not for over 200 years? Is it enough to claim a “new” economic interpretation, supply a detailed statistical analysis of individual economic interests whilst holding all other interests constant, and then offer a broad statement that seems self- evident? What does McGuire’s intricate analysis add to the debate?

V. Where does Beardianism Stand Now?

McGuire acknowledges that it is difficult for many scholars and students of the Constitution to accept that the founders’ behavior could be explained through such a “simplistic” perspective. This is a core bone of contention between the neo-Beardian school of thought and the school of thought believing that the motivating factors of our beloved Founding Fathers must have been more principled, as well as more complex, than simple economic interests.105

What we are left with, after McGuire’s new interpretation and others like it, in answering Beard’s questions is a progression of Beard’s analysis that will continue to persist into virtual perpetuity. True enough is the contention that Beard’s conclusion, in its purest form, is dead and has fallen into disrepute. However, his questions and basic premise labeling the Constitution as an “economic document” remain. This claim regarding the Constitutional drafting continues to find articulation, but in many respects, is not done proper justice by those hoping to disprove “Beardianism.”

Both neo-Beardian, and anti-Beardian commentators have conducted vivid and intricate studies, but commit the same sin as predecessors in that their studies are too narrow. Claims about “new”
103 Matson at 470 104 McGuire at 8 105 Id.

interpretations and a neo-Beardian school of thought fail to consider all factors necessary for a true understanding of the drafting. Even McGuire claims a broad interpretation, but notes at the outset that he does not consider the political contentions of other commentators as an influence on the Framers. Scholars note that some prefer to say that economics was the deciding factor and motivation, some say that it was political, and some say it was some social motivation for voting and drafting at the convention. The truth is that not one of these studies wants to admit that which seems most likely to me. Admittedly idealistic in some sense, it appears to me that the drafting of the Constitution was motivated by all three aforementioned motivations working together.

Economics, politics, nor social considerations can, by themselves produce a satisfactory treatise on the motivations at Philadelphia. The outlook is not as idealistic as it was before Beard, but neither is it as dark as it was after he created the controversy. Rather, it is a mixed understanding of rational human behavior that, while motivated by selfish interests, social utility, and political survival, the Founding Fathers were able to create the longest standing democratic Constitution in history. Previous commentators, including Beard, committed a fatal sin in underestimating the Framers and limiting them to single subsets of motivation.

Beard’s considerations and controversy has progressed through Wood, McDonald, Slonim, and McGuire to where it stands now; sanding as an ideology necessarily considered in any legitimate attempt to offer a definitive understanding of personal motivations, rational action, and ultimate choices of a group of highly regarded, intellectual men seeking to draft a document to ensure the survival of a newborn nation after winning a revolution they never should have won. Any attempt to label their motivations as purely economic, or political, or socially utilitarian; or any attempt to discount any one of these considerations will necessarily produce a study with more questions than answers found wanting.

We must admit that there is more to this debate than is possible to understand. These were some of the greatest men in World history, and not just in idealistic terms. Perhaps one must consider that if greatness in foresight, motivation, and thinking could be definitively reduced to a list of motivations and considerations, we could all achieve it. This is not so.

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 11/17/2016 04:27AM by steve benson.

Options: ReplyQuote
Posted by: steve benson ( )
Date: November 16, 2016 06:11PM

. . . I have no choice but to share with RfM readers the remainder of my reply to my friendly neighborhood naysayer of ex-Mormon/"moron" editorial cartoonists. It is a perspective based on historical case studies for doing away with the Electoral College entirley in favor of direct popular vote by the American citizenry at large:

"There have been five cases where the presidential candidate who won the popular voted lost the presidency because of the Electoral College system: Andrew Jackson (1824); Samuel Tilden (1876); Grover Cleveland (1888); Al Gore (2000): Hillary Clinton (2016). . . .

"The U.S. Constitution’s antiquated, outmoded and unjust Electoral College—like other portions of the original Constitution that have either been amended or eliminated—needs to be repealed and replaced.

"Read below as to why this is so:

“'10 Reasons Why the Electoral College is a Problem'
by Eric Black
16 October 2012

“'Sticking with the Electoral College system, but not yet plunging into the surprising too-little-discussed history of why the Framers put it in the Constitution, I want first to dash off a quick list of ten problems and potential problems with the Electoral College system:

“'Problem No. 1

“'It creates the possibility for the loser of the popular vote to win the electoral vote. This is more than a theoretical possibility. It has happened at least four times out of the 56 presidential elections, or more than 7 percent of the time, which is not such a small percentage, and it created a hideous mess every time. The most recent occurrence was 2000.

“'Problem No. 2

“'It distorts the presidential campaign, as alluded to yesterday, by incentivizing the parties to write off the more than 40 states (plus the District of Columbia) that they know they either can’t win or can’t lose. Among the states that, in recent history, don’t get campaign visits (other than for fundraising) or TV ads (which is most of what all that fundraising pays for and the main method by which the campaign and their ‘independent,’ ‘uncoordinated’ allies seek to persuade the persuadable voters in the persuadable states) are the three most populous states (California, Texas and New York, which among them make up more than 25 percent of the U.S. population), the geographically biggest state (Alaska) and the best state (Minnesota, which, despite missing out on the ads and the campaign visits, usually leads the nation in voter turnout anyway, so there).

“'Problem No. 3

“'The Electoral College system further distorts the presidential campaign by causing the candidates to grant extra weight to the parochial needs of the swing states. If you have to carry Florida to win, it elevates the already ever-present need candidates feel to pander to elderly voters, Cuban-Americans, orange-growers and any other group that can deliver a bloc of Floridians. The same thing with Iowa and ethanol subsidies and other agriculture-friendly policies, except even more so because Iowa is not only a swing state over recent cycles but has become since 1976 the key first state in the presidential nominating process. (But that last bit about the nominating process, of course, is not rooted in the Constitution.)

“'Since the selection of Paul Ryan as Mitt Romney’s running-mate, how many stories have you read that said Ryan’s controversial plan to change Medicare could be especially costly to the ticket because so many of the swing states have above-average portions of senior voters? Pandering to large groups of voters is not a pretty aspect of democracy, but pandering to groups just because they happen to be concentrated in ‘swing states’ is even uglier. Who can explain how this can be a good thing?

“'Problem No. 4

“'For the same reason, it distorts governance. A first-term president who expects to have a tough reelection fight (as they all at least expect to) but who wanted to establish diplomatic and trade relations with Cuba (broken in 1960) would have to consider the possibility that such a policy might cost him Florida and therefore a second term. Perhaps this helps explain why long after Washington normalized relations with the Soviet Union, China and other governments that formerly or presently call themselves Communists, Cuba remains on the do-not-call list.

“'Problem No. 5

“'The Electoral College system further distorts the one-person, one-vote principle of democracy because electoral votes are not distributed according to population. Every state gets one electoral vote for each member of its delegation to the House of Representatives (this by itself would be a rough measure of its population) and each state also gets two “bonus” electors representing its two senators.

“'This causes significant overrepresentation of small states in the ‘College.’ In the most extreme case, using 2010 Census figures and the new distribution of House seats based on that census, an individual citizen in Wyoming has more than triple the weight in electoral votes as an individual in California. Yes, you read that right. In fact, it’s closer to quadruple than triple. Can this be a good thing?

“'If we could do nothing more than allocate the electoral votes on a population basis, it would make the system substantially more democratic. But we can’t do that, at least not without amending the Constitution, because the apportionment formula is embedded in the Constitution as one more inducements that the Framers felt was necessary to attract support of small states for ratification.

“'Problem No. 6

“'The Electoral College creates the possibility of a 269-269 tie vote, and in almost every recent election there has been a relatively credible scenario for such an outcome. (Here’s a recent CNN piece going over the ways that we could end up there this year and a Nate Silver article on the same subject.) The rules of the Electoral College system for dealing with a tie are bizarre and scary and create a fairly plausible scenario by which no one would be elected president in time for Inauguration Day.

"'The only tie in Electoral College history was in 1800, a totally bizarre situation, in the days before formal tickets, and back in the days when several states still did not even hold a popular vote in the presidential selection process. (The Constitution did not and still does not require that any popular vote be conducted for president.) In that 1800 election, Thomas Jefferson tied with his own running mate Aaron Burr. Better not try to cram that whole saga in here right now. It led to the 12th amendment (ratified 1804), which changed the Framers’ original language so that each elector could indicate which candidate they supported for president and which for vice president, thereby eliminating the possibility that any presidential candidate will end up in a tie with his own running mate. But that didn’t solve the serious problems inherent in the tie scenario.

“'Problem No. 7

“'Although our system, as evolved, makes it very hard for third parties to win elections and almost impossible for a third party to win the presidency, the Electoral College system makes it quite possible for a small third-party showing in a single state or two to change the outcome of the whole national election.

“'This happened in 2000, when Ralph Nader, running as the Green Party nominee, finished third in the popular vote with just 2.74 percent, and received just 1.6 percent in Florida, but those votes (plus a number of other weird factors about which some people are still arguing) probably shifted the state from Democratic nominee Al Gore to Republican George W. Bush. And, because of winner-take-all, that one state also tipped the outcome of the national election.

“'In most recent cycles, there has been at least one halfway credible scenario under which a small third party can tip a key state and perhaps the whole election. Here’s a Fox News piece about the possibility that Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson could play that role in 2012. Johnson, by the way, will be on the ballot in 48 states. (According to this New York Times piece, Republican state officials in Michigan "blocked Mr. Johnson from the ballot after he filed proper paperwork three minutes after his filing deadline, and Romney campaign aides participated in unsuccessful efforts to keep him off the ballot in other states as well.)

“'There’s an even weirder scenario in which former Congressman Virgil Goode, the nominee of the tiny, right-wing Constitution Party, costs Mitt Romney the presidency by drawing votes in Virginia (which happens to be the state Goode represented in Congress, so he has a name there). Although the Constitution Party doesn’t even show up in national polls, when Goode’s name is included in Virginia polls this year, he has scored as much as 9 percent. I doubt he’ll get anywhere near 9, but Virginia is considered very close and has been designated a key swing state worth 13 winner-take-all electoral votes. Maybe that’s why a couple of lefty parties helped Goode get the signatures he needed to get on the ballot in Virginia.

“'Of course, even in a pure popular vote system (unless you have ranked choice voting) minor parties have the potential to change the outcome. But the Electoral College, paired with the winner-take-all aspect, greatly increases the leverage. I’m not predicting that any of these scenarios will come true in 2012, but the Electoral College system makes such shenanigans possible, and they happen more often that you might realize. (And by the way, if the name Virgil Goode rang a bell but you can’t place it, Goode was the congressman who made the biggest fool of himself objecting to both the election of Minnesota U.S. Rep Keith Ellison – first Muslim ever in Congress -- and to Ellison’s decision to take his oath of office on a Qu’ran. The Qu’ran, by the way, had belonged to Thomas Jefferson.)

“'Problem No. 8

“'The Electoral College system prevented Dick Cheney from “becoming vice president. Well, no, it actually didn’t, but it would have if we had taken the letter and the intention behind the words in the Constitution seriously.

"'The Constitution says that an elector cannot vote for a presidential and vice presidential candidate both of whom come from the same state as him/herself (the elector, that is). This rule actually made sense when the Framers put it in there but stopped making sense almost immediately. (To explain this, we’ll eventually have to get to the story of how the Framers thought this contraption was going to work.) But it’s still in there. George W. Bush was a Texan. In 2000, when he became Bush’s running mate, Cheney had been living and voting and paying taxes for five years in Texas where he eked out a living as CEO of Halliburton.

"'If you had to say which state he ‘inhabited,’ at that point in his life, you could not say anything other than ‘Texas.’ This became awkward when the Bush-Cheney ticket carried Texas. The Constitution (in both the original and as changed by Amendment XII) technically prohibit the Texas electors from voting for both Bush and Cheney. And the electoral vote was so close that without the Texas votes, Cheney would not have had a majority.

“It’s true that shortly before the election, Cheney obtained a Wyoming driver’s license and put his Dallas home on the market (he had a vacation home in Wyoming, which is the state he used to represent in Congress). And the courts decided that was good enough to make him a non-Texan for electoral vote purposes. It would have been silly to disqualify Cheney over this, but the issue is at least one more bizarre legacy of the Framers’ contraption and the fact that we are still (wink, wink, nod, nod) bound by the rules ratified in 1789 and 1804.

“Problem No. 9

“In case of a tie, or if no candidate receives a majority of all electoral votes cast for president, the choice of president is thrown in the House of Representatives but the election is conducted on a one-state one-vote basis. (Yes, Wyoming – population 563,000 in the 2010 census -- would have equal say in the selection of the president with California – 37 million.) And to win, a candidate must receive the support of an absolute majority of states.

"'But states that have an even number of House members may deadlock. (Minnesota, with its current delegation of four Democrats and four Republicans, would be a good candidate for this fate.) A deadlocked state cannot vote at all for a presidential candidate. But, to produce a winner, one candidate would still have to win 26 states, even though several states would presumably be deadlocked.

“'If no presidential candidate can get to 26, there is no constitutional mechanism for producing a winner. The vice president (whose selection in this scenario would be thrown into the Senate) could serve indefinitely as acting president. This has never happened, although it has come close. If we wait long enough, it will happen someday.

“'Problem No. 10

“'And here’s a really crazy part, which sort of underscores the craziness of our practice of abiding by the Framers’ language. When the Framers put that crazy structure, where the presidential election would be thrown from the Electoral College into the House for a one-state one-vote choice of the next president, they believed this would actually happen on a regular basis. Which is why you need to come back here tomorrow for the installment on what the Framers thought they were doing when they came up with the Electoral College system (which, as I’ve already mentioned, had pretty much nothing to do with how it has turned out).'”


So, there you have it: Yet another "half of the picture."

Don't say I didn't warn ya. :)

Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 11/16/2016 06:45PM by steve benson.

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Posted by: steve benson ( )
Date: November 17, 2016 04:42AM

Read above the second half of my original email to the detractor with whom I had the exchange on the topic.,1905713,1905926#msg-1905926

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 11/17/2016 04:46AM by steve benson.

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Posted by: invinoveritas ( )
Date: November 16, 2016 10:17AM

Well, I learned something reading through this post, great stuff Betty G and Surprenant. Lot's of thought and wisdom went into our present system to try and make the representation fair and equal to all. It seems a compromise between larger and smaller states, probably the best the could be done at the time. It seems the art of compromise has been lost in today's present political climate--I'm not sure a Democracy can survive without it.

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Posted by: michaelsa ( )
Date: November 16, 2016 11:47AM

constitutional republic

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Posted by: Babyloncansuckit ( )
Date: November 16, 2016 04:05PM

Revolving-door haven for plutocrats and self-imagined philosopher kings.

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Posted by: Brother Of Jerry ( )
Date: November 16, 2016 11:32PM

Oh, that tired line again?

It's a democracy, and a constitutional republic. They are not mutually exclusive terms. The representatives are not appointed, nor do they inherit their position. They are elected by the people. That's democracy. All those ballot measures that we vote on, also democracy, in fact, direct democracy.

Democratic republic, or republican democracy -take your pick. But it is indeed a democracy.

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Posted by: michaelsa ( )
Date: November 16, 2016 11:38AM

you don't understand the thought behind the constitution.

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Posted by: helamonster ( )
Date: November 16, 2016 01:30PM

If you think the Constitution is sacrosanct, perfect and should never be altered, then you are anti-modernity, and might fit in better in a third world country.

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Posted by: GregS ( )
Date: November 16, 2016 02:25PM

I don't think anyone is saying the Constitution can never be altered. The Constitution itself allows for changes to be made, per Article V. I think where people have objections to changing it is when its meaning, and not just the text, is altered without going through the proscribed process, which involves public debate and buy-in by 3/4 of the state legislatures through ratification. That expectation is not anti-modernity, merely a respect for the Constitution and its precepts.

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Posted by: steve benson ( )
Date: November 16, 2016 06:19PM

The post at the top of this thread listed a host of solid reasons why the U.S. Constitution has needed changing--including what, in some particularly noteworthy cases, resulted in major revision or wholesale rejection of key, integral and original notions that the Founders originally signed off on.

If the Founders were going to live by the amendments, then they were certainly prepared to see some of their supposedly "untouchable" ideas die by the amendments.

Welcome to U.S. Constitution 101.

Edited 6 time(s). Last edit at 11/16/2016 06:48PM by steve benson.

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Posted by: Uo ( )
Date: November 28, 2017 01:33AM

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Posted by: MrRobot ( )
Date: November 16, 2016 11:43AM

Wait. Current Benson is back?


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Posted by: saucie ( )
Date: November 16, 2016 03:27PM

"The masses are asses"...

I was in a horrid mood today until I read this post.

Thank you, your posts have been missed.

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Posted by: dagny ( )
Date: November 16, 2016 03:37PM

I learned some good stuff in this thread!

Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard. H. L. Mencken

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Posted by: GregS ( )
Date: November 16, 2016 04:07PM

I like that. Another favorite of mine is "Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on dinner plans."

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Posted by: Kentish ( )
Date: November 16, 2016 04:09PM

Excuse this interloper but what is democratic about a candidate who garners the most votes losing the election? Either the US is a Republic or it is democracy. Don't want to get into the politics of the latest election, but which is it? There appears to be confusion here.

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Posted by: Nightingale ( )
Date: November 16, 2016 05:00PM

This is blatant politics so I will prepare myself to be nuked momentarily but somewhat the same at least perceived effect occurs in Canada. We have a "first past the post" system (based on Britain, go figure).

In federal elections, we can only vote for one of the local candidates running in our district. Whichever of those candidates wins the most votes just in our boundary gets a seat in Parliament (Ottawa). The federal party with the most seats wins the election. Thus, I cannot directly vote for the PM, except by strategically voting for or against the local candidate that represents him or her. Certainly, vast majorities in various regions can vote for different candidates/leaders than those who win and feel their votes "don't count" if they don't like the result or the system.

Too, due to the three-hour time zone difference across our country (it's later in the east than in the west) we in the west can routinely know the results of the election before we have even voted. It definitely leads to feeling what does it matter, especially if our preferred party doesn't win, which happens often, due to the densely populated regions in central Canada that don't necessarily speak for those of us on either coast or in the territories but which have a greater influence on results due to their much bigger populations. (Those regions get more political attention from the federal government because of the massive voting pool, or at least that is the perception of "The Rest of Canada"). I complain that the national weather forecast rarely includes Western Canada but instead focuses on Central and Atlantic Canada. Is it because our weather hasn't happened yet when they are doing the forecast or because their weather is more interesting than our predictable rain, rain, rain? Not sure. But between the way elections work and the frequent incomplete weather reports it's easy to feel neglected over here.

Not sure if I explained the system accurately or understandably. But 3-2-1, this post will be gone soon anyway. Bottom line: it's harsh to feel like you have no voice and yes, "electoral reform" is a cry from millions, at least in this blessed country of Canada (see? it ain't perfect - yet).

NB: Edited for a bit of clarifying punctuation, a couple of minor fixes and a few additional comments. I did not change the previous core remarks. And yes, I'm surprised to still be here. :)

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/16/2016 07:05PM by Nightingale.

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Posted by: steve benson ( )
Date: November 16, 2016 06:30PM

, , , how the allegedly "divinely-inspired" U.S. Constitution was, in reality, not cut into undefilable sacred stone tablets-- and, as a result of its internal operative system of self-repair that was inserted into that Constitution by the hands of its original human creators, has since been reworked, reworded, readjusted and remodeled in several significant ways since it was first adopted over 200 years ago.

Who knows? What you folks do in Canada may help someday in further repairing the work-in-progress Constitution just south of you.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/16/2016 06:49PM by steve benson.

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Posted by: Tevai ( )
Date: November 16, 2016 08:21PM

Thank you, Nightingale, for this incredibly clear and understandable explanation!!!

Despite the fact that I have been in different parts of Canada several times during my life (never east of Montreal, though), I have never understood the Canadian system...and now...

I do!!!!!!

Many thanks from all of us in the "lower 48."

:) :) :)

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Posted by: Nightingale ( )
Date: November 16, 2016 10:27PM

Thanks Tevai. So I will add a bit more.

Our "civil servants" (federal govt employees) do not change after every election where the governing party is defeated. They are not political appointees but hirees whose jobs are safe.

The incoming Prime Minister (if a party change occurs post-election) appoints his/her Cabinet Ministers (responsible for major portolios/areas such as Defence, Environment, Medicare, Aboriginal Affairs, Business, etc). The PM also gets to appoint new senators (also not an elected position, the topic of some discord among the masses). I think the PM also chooses his/her own office staff and personal assistants.

But basically it's not a big upheaval. One PM leaves the office, the next one enters the same office and it's done. They may get a new desk, may redo the wallpaper. Life goes on.

For many of the main policies and areas, things are settled and may not change much (eg: all parties agree with universal health care/govt pay and generally with environmental protection and basic trade agreements, etc). We have two main parties that rotate in power and one party that has never formed the federal govt but would dearly like to as well as a much smaller environmental party that doesn't really have a hope although they have some good policies that many agree on.

The leaders would likely disagree but both parties have similar takes on major issues and not much changes whichever one is in The Office. At least from the average Canuck's viewpoint, in my experience. PMs come and PMs go and I still have my healthcare and all the California fruit I can eat. What's not to like?

Of course there are problems and I don't want to make light of that. But the basic system is one that fairly guarantees a lot of checks and balances and stability.

We had a female PM back in the 80s (who didn't last long as she became PM by default and then didn't make it through the next election). Now we have a kid PM whose father was PM in the 70s. It's all perhaps vaguely interesting to some inhabitants of this land. To many of us, local issues are much more into our lives, of course, and that's what tends to get the most attention.

We on the West Coast are a Very. Long. Way. From. Ottawa.

But it's a nice place to visit.

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Posted by: GregS ( )
Date: November 16, 2016 05:16PM

We must disabuse ourselves of the notion that the people elect the President. They don't and never did; the states do, and they merely use the popular vote of their citizenry to determine how each state will vote via its selected slate of electors.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/16/2016 06:43PM by surprenant.

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Posted by: Alexander Hamilton ( )
Date: November 16, 2016 06:15PM

Uh, sorry "kentish," but the only confusion here lies with you. The United States was never established as a popular democracy. The Constitution, if you will take the time to read it, clearly establishes a democratic republic. "The Federalist Papers" will also assist in understanding the political theories behind it.

The US has never had direct election of its President, an extraordinarily powerful position that is both Head of State and Head of Government.

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Posted by: steve benson ( )
Date: November 16, 2016 06:41PM

. . . the United States had not granted the right of federally-recognized suffrage to Black Americans or allowed them to hold public office.

If it wasn't for those fundamental changes in the America's core birthing document and associated case law, the nation's Head of State would have never been an African-American elected to that extraordinarily powerful position (despite Brigham Young's 1852 false prophesy to the Utah territorial legislature that such an event would never happen).

(See, Nightingale, we are on topic). :)

Edited 6 time(s). Last edit at 11/16/2016 07:11PM by steve benson.

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Posted by: Nightingale ( )
Date: November 16, 2016 06:57PM

Eek, you said 'birthing'. :)

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Posted by: steve benson ( )
Date: November 16, 2016 07:06PM

. . . in Kenya being allowed to become president.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/16/2016 07:06PM by steve benson.

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Posted by: Nightingale ( )
Date: November 16, 2016 10:30PM


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Posted by: kentish ( )
Date: November 17, 2016 10:40AM

No problem. I admit to confusion along with the vast majority of Americans. I accept that a person can become president despite the fact that a majority might not want that person as president. As the sage said: It is what it is.

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Posted by: kentish ( )
Date: November 28, 2017 12:10PM

I do understand that. The confusion for me comes when the terms democratic and republic appear to be used interchangeably as if they necessarily mean the same thing.

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Posted by: summer ( )
Date: November 16, 2016 07:24PM

I'm starting to think that perhaps Mormon church authorities should instruct their members on the difference between being ex'ed and resigning. It would clear up a lot of the confusion.

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Posted by: steve benson ( )
Date: November 16, 2016 08:14PM

. . . but they do manage to strike a monotone theme that they then beat relentlessly (you know, like Mormons doing baptisms for the dead).

Judging from their peculiar word choices, it sounds like they may know some Mormons, may have lived among them, or at least are somewhat familiar with the Mormon faith and its latter-day lingo.

They certainly seem to have no love lost for Mormons, appearing to genuinely dislike them because of their loony LDS faith (probably mixed in with their personally concreted political views that they think are right, as opposed to cartoonists' views which, of course, of are the Devil).

They naturally fail to realize the parallels here, but they're just as loony as their out-of-faith Mormon foes, given that they, too, are immune to facts, are short on basic historical knowledge and repeat simplistic mantras like chanting temple monks for Elohim.

Edited 4 time(s). Last edit at 11/16/2016 08:18PM by steve benson.

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Posted by: azsteve ( )
Date: November 16, 2016 11:39PM

The last thing the church leaders want you to find out is that you can leave the church with dignity. In their minds, there is no such thing as resignation. Either you live up to their demands, or they kick you out. If you don't break any rules and simply want to leave, you're still an apostate who needs to be excommunicated.

But.... there are courts of law. The courts try to keep things fair, and to recognize your inalienable rights, and to protect your rights. Thank god the church is too-often forced by the courts to recognize your rights. The church leaders don't choose to do it on their own. They have to be forced by real Judges to do the right thing. Eventually when the church got tired of losing lawsuits and paying-up, they started respecting people's rights. One of those rights is that they can't kick you out for quitting.

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Posted by: Tall Man, Short Hair ( )
Date: November 17, 2016 01:05AM

Pragmatically speaking, under our current map there's zero chance we'll see any change to the Electoral College. As noted by other posters, we are by design and direct intent a republic, not a pure democracy. The Electoral College grants greater representation to small population states, and it's very unlikely any of them will work against their best interests to pass a Constitutional amendment that surrenders what little political influence they have on the national stage.

Like it or not, most of America are not entranced by the idea of having the citizens of New York and California be the only relevant voters for President.

The "masses are asses" is a cute saying but has nothing to do with this discussion. They tyranny of the majority is something that is a real danger. How quickly our OP seems to forget that 31 states held popular votes that banned gay marriage before the SCOTUS stepped in. Is that the sort of democracy you're looking for?

There's just no reason why the population of two or three states with huge population concentrations should have sole control over a single office that governs the entire country. Such a politician would need only to woo the allegiance of those specific voters from those locations to be in power. There would be no repercussions to ignoring virtually every other state in the union, and no incentive to take any actions to their benefit. If you're this President and you're given a choice between sending federal stimulus funds to California or Montana, which one will you choose? Why would you _ever_ sign a bill that benefits a state that has no influence over your reelection? Those 2 or 3 populus states would hold complete control of this office, and all others would be little more than vassal states. This is why we must have the Electoral College.

Federalist 68 is a quick read, and you'll find it never once refers to the masses as "asses." It does cite the wisdom of a representative election.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/17/2016 02:18AM by Tall Man, Short Hair.

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Posted by: steve benson ( )
Date: November 17, 2016 04:37AM

. . . a stand-out leader among the Constitution's Framers and a prominent defender of the Electoral College. whose statement was made in the context of the debate over the concept of an Electoral College:

"'The masses are asses.' That is what Alexander Hamilton--one of the most prominent and,arguably, one of, if not the most, brilliant of the Founding Fathers--said in support of his plan to prevent ordinary citizens having too direct a role in the election process. It is not as if Hamilton had disdain for common, everyday folks; he simply did not think they were properly qualified to be entrusted with such a solemn and monumental decision."

(Constantinos E. Scaros, "Understanding the Constitution," under the subhead, "The Electoral College," 24 August 2011, Jones & Bartlett Learning, p. 4;,+everyday+folks;+he+simply+did+not+think+they+were+properly+qualified+to+be+entrusted+with+such+a+solemn+and+monumental+decision.&source=bl&ots=C5WeiS-8nJ&sig=cSXd0_1oNQNX4KijZ9V8KLCdHSM&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjd9cP20qzQAhUHOiYKHVd2DeUQ6AEIHTAA#v=onepage&q&f=false)

More on Hamilton's Constitutional Convention move to protect America's early elites from those asses, the masses:

"The Electoral College is a historical anomaly. No other democratic system has a group of electorates with the power to completely counteract the votes of citizens. We have this idea that the Electoral College serves as a protective buffer between citizens and the presidency. Alexander Hamilton, in its defense, said that 'the masses are asses.' Here’s the thing--never in the history of the United States has the Electoral College protected the rights of minorities from the oppression of the 'masses.' In fact, it has only done the opposite.

"The Electoral College was designed to protect the interests of Southern white males. On November 8th, it did exactly that.

"Let me explain. The creation of an Electoral College was one of the most hotly debated topics at the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Northerners and Southerners were fighting tooth and nail to establish a system that would benefit their side of the Mason-Dixon line. This was when 'states’ rights' quite literally meant 'slavery.'

"The establishment of the Electoral College was a concession to Southerners. Wealthy slave-owners like Thomas Jefferson understood that they were outnumbered in the polls and sought to protect the 'economic institution' that exploited human beings. On top of that, we had people like Alexander Hamilton who just thought that the majority of Americans were not intelligent enough to choose their own leader. He believed that the nation would be better off in the hands of educated elites.

"Mix those two together, and you get the Electoral College.. ..

"The Electoral College has 'protected' us from nothing. It has only served to harm people that are already marginalized. The malapportionment of the Electoral College dates back to the Jim Crow era. Under the Three-Fifths compromise, slave-states were granted more electors, ensuring a Southern majority in presidential races despite the disenfranchisement of every other voter outside of white males. Today, minorities are still severely underrepresented by electors.

"Why do we cling to an undemocratic system that was originally designed to maintain institutionalized slavery? To that, I have no answer.

"After Gore lost in 2000, many concerned citizens called for the abolition of the electoral college.'National Popular Vote' became the organization championing the anti-Electoral College movement. Unfortunately, the institution is so deeply rooted in the foundation of our government, abolishing it is close to impossible. Editing the Constitution is no easy task, and it’s not about to happen with a Republican president, Congress, and Supreme Court. . . . "

("The Electoral College was Designed for Trump’s Constituency," by Becky Gardner, George Washington Univesity, 11 Novemr 2016,

If you think Hamilton's "masses are asses" statement is irrelevant to this discussion, Hamilton would certainly disagree with you.

Edited 6 time(s). Last edit at 11/17/2016 11:44PM by steve benson.

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Posted by: Tall Man, Short Hair ( )
Date: November 17, 2016 12:21PM

I've missed you Steve. I never really learned the reason for your long absence, but it's great to have you back as your almost-old-usual self. It was a bit bizarre seeing you float about for so long as a mere asterisk.

But to the topic at hand.

Would you please provide the original source for your Hamilton quote? My searches all seem to indicate it is an unsourced claim by your author, Scaros. It appears to be his personal parsing of Hamilton, not an actual quote. Imagine if you will some conservative or Christian offered an unsourced claim of a quote by one of the founders. Treat this quote that same way. Return and report once you've completed your research, and I'll gladly concede the point if you can locate the original source.

If you like, I'll save you a bit of time. Hamilton (and most of the other founders) were very concerned about direct democracy. And for good reason. Much like socialism, there's just no great evidence that such a political system has any staying power. Most historic examples of socialism and pure democracy evolve into something that lends itself to tyranny.

The Electoral College is a natural extension of a republic. Citizens never have any direct say over any federal legislation. We elect representatives to vote on our behalf. See how that works?

And a couple of other points. You seem most concerned with shoring up the claim that Hamilton thought "the masses are asses," but made no effort to address any of the other substance of my post. Would you care to do so now?

But there's really no reason for either of us to waste our precious time. Abolishing the Electoral College is Never. Going. To. Happen. The masses may be asses, but they're not stupid. The majority of states benefit from the influence granted by the Electoral College, and there's no reason they would ever choose to eliminate it. The only people who might hesitate to allow New York and California to seize control of an entire branch of the government are the citizens of the other 48 states.

There's a genius to the Electoral College that is always lost on those who win a popular vote, but lose with in the Electoral College. To offer a variation of the popular analogy, "Two cannibals and Steve Benson decide to vote on what's for dinner ..."

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Posted by: steve benson ( )
Date: November 17, 2016 11:43PM

The source of "the masses are asses" has, in fact, been credited to a wide variety of individuals, from the distant past to the present. As one still-inquiring commentator has noted:

"I have seen this quote attributed to Voltaire, Karl Rove, Alexander Hamilton and H.L. Mencken. I have not seen any good evidence that the attribution is accurate,"

Below are proposed non-Hamilton sources that "[t]he 'Masses Are Asses' can refer to":

-"A 1974 play by Pedro Pietri

'"A 1997 song by the female punk rock group 'L7,' appearing on the album, 'The Beauty Process: Triple Platinum'

-"A phrase used by Karl Rove (in the negative) during his July 29, 2006, address to the graduating class of the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University

-"A phrase in the poem 'St. Tammany and the Nabobs,' on p. 272 of the book, 'Poetical works of Charles G. Halpine,' published in 1869 by Harper and Brothers, New York

-"6 January 1893, 'Cleveland (OH) Plain Dealer,' p. 4:
'The masses are asses and we are their natural riders and guiders,' is a condensed statement of the Republican position.

-"29 January 1903, Lucifer the light-bearer (KS), 'Parry and Thrust,' p. 17: 'To count ears instead of votes would prove that the masses are asses.'

-"'Google Books', 'Uncle Sam and His Revenue: Some Observations by a Kansas Farmer,' by Loyd Knight Kistler [Waterville, KS: L. Kistler, 1910], p 71: 'In political science the masses are asses and being more or less abused by their master.-, the ruling classes, it is time to speak.'

'"'Time] magazine, HOUSING: "Up from the Potato Fields,"
Monday, July 03, 1950: 'Bill (Bill Levitt, founder of Levittown—ed.) cared little for school or books, quit New York University after his third year because “I got itchy. I wanted to make a lot of money. I wanted a big car and a lot of clothes.” In those years his favorite phrase was: “The masses are asses.”'

"'Google Books', 'The American Political Process," by Charles Raymond Adrian and Charles Press [New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 1965], p, 46: 'A minority argue that “the masses are asses” and should not be permitted to choose the rulers.'

("Entry from September 15, 2011: 'The masses are asses,' posted by Barry Popik, 15 September 2011"

I focused on the perspective that explicitly cited Hamilton as the actual author, the likely author, the reported author, the alleged author or the presumed author.

The reason why I did so is that--given Hamilton's well-known view that the general American populace was unfit to render informed judgments on vital issues necessary for the survival of a constitutional republic and therefore required a Founder-imposed filter to blunt that collective ignorance (the filter being the mechanism of the Electoral College)--it seems reasonable enough that Hamilton was either the direct source of the quote or at least that he harbored anti-"masses" views that were in alignment with that quote.

Noted below are further attributions to Hamilton as the source of the quote:

"’The masses are asses': So announced the political science professor to our class on American government, back in the late 1980s.   . . .Are the masses asses? . . . He [the professor] was echoing Alexander Hamilton, who wrote: ’All communities divide themselves into the few and the many. The first are the rich and the well-born; the other the mass of the people ... turbulent and changing, they seldom judge or determine right. Give therefore to the first class a distinct, permanent share in the Government . . . Nothing but a permanent body can check the imprudence of democracy.’ . . .

“There are many analyses and criticisms of Hamilton's words here.  As they were spoken at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787 and documentation is spotty, it's hard to be sure exactly what Hamilton meant.  The debate came soon after Shays' Rebellion of 1786, and in 'Slavery, Capitalism, and Politics,' John Ashton notes that John Adams was also among those who feared a ‘tyranny of the majority’ as much as he did a tyrannical government.

“Adams and Hamilton couched their arguments in terms of ‘the passions of the majority usurping the rights of the minority,’ and those arguments have most commonly been cited on issues like religion, free speech, and later civil rights.  But the overall context of the debate suggests the ‘rights of the minority’ that Hamilton and Adams argued so passionately to protect may have been the property rights of the wealthy. . . . I suggest this is the telling question: People who argue ‘the masses are asses’ are always, somehow, not among those ‘masses of asses.’ Hamilton exempted "the rich and the well-born," which conveniently included himself. . . ."

(“Morning Feature: The Masses are Asses? Not Exactly.... (Non-Cynical Saturday),” by “NCrissieB,” “Daily Kos,” 14 February 2009,

“The summary view of reactionaries is that the masses are despicable. ‘The murdering and thieving rabble of the peasants,’ was a phrase Martin Luther used. . . . Alexander Pope said that ‘[t]he people are a many-headed beast.’ . . . A Founder of the United States, and hero to modern conservatives, Alexander Hamilton, seconded that view: ‘The people--that great beast!’. . . And, lastly, we have that bit of ‘brilliant’ doggerel so popular with recent generations of conservative American college students: ‘The masses are asses.’"

(Alexander Hamilton (1759-1804), quoted in Laurence J. Peter, op. cit., p. 395. Above noted in “The Mass Line and the American Revolutionary Movement: 33. Traditional Reactionary Attitudes Toward the Masses.” by Scott Harrison,

“What Alexander Hamilton said in his day--‘the masses are asses’--was a mere echo of a famous Yiddish folk saying ‘Der oylem iz a goylem.’ The golem, one recalls, is that brutish being incapable of independent thought, and keyed to the will of its master. Alas, the more things change, the less anything in the Jewish world does. The oylem, the Jewish audience,”

(“Don’t Say You Weren’t Warned About Sharon,” by Rabbi Meir Kahane., 17 March 2004,

Edited 4 time(s). Last edit at 11/18/2016 05:22AM by steve benson.

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