Abstract

At the Constitutional Convention, both Elbridge Gerry (on May 31) and Alexander Hamilton (on June 18) identified the principal problem facing the United States in the aftermath of the Revolutionary War as an "excess of democracy." In short, the American Revolution had gone too far. Although prominent modern scholars tend to echo that judgment, we will never fully understand the context in which the Constitution was created until we give serious consideration to the people who took the contrary position that the Revolution had not gone far enough. They demanded annual elections, the right to instruct their representatives, small legislative districts, an ample money supply, low farm taxes, lower-house legislative supremacy, and a roughly equal distribution of property. Their diverse tools for obtaining these objectives included conventions, committees of correspondence, rhetorical broadsides accusing their opponents of lacking the natural human capacity for fellow-feeling, efforts to harmonize divergent proposals using the printed word, insurrections (and, much more commonly, appeals to public officials' fear of rebellion), and, perhaps most strikingly, the deliberate withholding of assembly representatives. In many ways, their critique of the Framers' elitist economic and political ideas was considerably more fundamental than the issues raised by the Framers' next (and considerably better-known) round of adversaries, the Anti-Federalists.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1553-0620
Print ISSN
0275-1275
Pages
pp. 339-382
Launched on MUSE
2005-10-17
Open Access
No
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