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Were the Founding Fathers Democratic Reformers? Essay

After reading both view points of John P. Roche and Howard Zinn, I felt like there were more things to back up the arguments made by Zinn, which is one of the reasons why I think that the founding fathers were not in fact democratic reformers. The founding fathers were wealthy statesmen who worked for the best of their interests to preserve their wealth.

Howard Zinn’s writing discusses the American Revolution, putting military actions in social and cultural context. On one hand, forming a militia quickly was possible because so many colonists were armed. On the other hand, the new nation soon started forcing sailors to join the war, which had been one of the complaints against the British. Period observers noted that military leaders such as George Washington reinforced strict class hierarchies, and the Continental Congress that came together to write the new nation’s laws was overwhelming made up of the rich, leaving the same men in power as had been in charge in the colonies. Once the revolution was won, Americans assumed they could take Indian lands to the west. Many discharged soldiers were not paid, or were paid in devalued currency, and the result was riots.

Roche’s thesis is that the Founding Fathers were essentially good people and that the framing of the constitution was a fairly democratic process that equally addressed state, economical, and political interests. He says that we should give them credit for the great job that they did. The Philadelphia Convention had to work very hard in order to make everyone happy. They had to do their best to achieve political equality for all the citizens while still addressing all the delicate issues necessary.

He goes on to say that although the framers themselves were an elite class of people, they still had the interests of the people at heart. They knew that the Articles of Confederation were too weak and a stronger type of government was needed. They also had to keep all of the states happy. In order to get the states to ratify the constitution, they had to do things to keep them all happy.

First off, many of the founding fathers were wealthy, came from good families and were well educated. Howard Zinn states that the founding fathers based the Constitution off of their own personal experiences without considering the past experiences of the average citizen. That does not mean that they were completely selfish and based the whole Constitution around them, it just means that many of their economic interests were reflected in the Constitution itself.

He goes on about how economic interests were seen in the clauses of the Constitution and the founding fathers had a direct economic interest in forming a strong central government. According to Zinn, the founding fathers thought factions came from inequalities in wealth. Further into the reading he said that the Constitution was meerly the work of certain groups trying to maintain their privilages while giving enough rights and reason to the people to get a majority to support them.

I think that Zinn’s arguments were backed up very well with information or logistic examples. I think that the founding fathers were democratic reformers to a certain extent but in the Constitution, minorities such as slaves, indentured servants, women and men without property were not really mentioned which kind of shows that the Constitution was aimed for more of the elite class, usually all who had plenty of wealth and heald a good social status.

I feel like the Constitution wasn’t written to all types of citizens of America and that economics were the foundation of the Constitution. Zinn’s arguments did show that Shay’s Rebellion was a call for a stronger government. Since the central government was so weak, the founding fathers realized a change had to be made. Zinn also states that the Constitution was a compromise between various disputes but its real purpose was to unite the states to create a great market for commerce.


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