Audrey Hofstadter Summary: The Founding Fathers: The Age of Realism Essay

Audrey Hofstadter Summary: The Founding Fathers: The Age of Realism Essay

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Audrey Hofstadter Summary: The Founding Fathers: The Age of Realism

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The reasoning behind the Constitution of the United States is presented as 'based upon the philosophy of Hobbes and the religion of Calvin. It assumes the natural state of mankind in a state of war, and that the carnal mind is at enmity with God.' Throughout, the struggle between democracy and tyranny is discussed as the Founding Fathers who envisioned the Constitution in Philadelphia in 1787 believed not in total democracy, but instead saw common man as selfish and contemptuous, and therefore in need of a 'a good political constitution to control him.' Being a largely propertied body, with the exception of William Few, who was the only one who could honestly be said to represent the majority yeoman farmer class, the highly privileged classes were fearful of granting man his due rights, as the belief that 'man was an unregenerate rebel who has to be controlled' reverberated.

However, the Fathers were indeed ?intellectual heirs? of the seventeenth-century England republicanism with its opposition to arbitrary rule and faith in popular sovereignty.
Thus, the paradoxical fears of the advance in democracy, and of a return to the extreme right emerged. The awareness that both military dictatorship and a return to monarchy were being seriously discussed in some quarters propelled the Constitutional framers such as John Jay to bring to attention.
Consistent to eighteenth-century ethos left the Constitution-makers with great faith in universals. They believed in an inexorable view of a self-interested man. Feeling that all me were naturally inclined to be bad they sought a compromising system of checks and balances for government. This was bolstered by the scientific work by Newton, ?in which metaphors sprang as naturally to mens minds as did biological metaphors in the Darwinian atmosphere of the late nineteenth century.? Therefore Madison and others thought to squelch the possibly dangerous majority by setting up a large number and variety of local interests, so that the people will ?be unable to concert and carry into effect their scheme of oppression.? And thus, chief powers went to the propertied.

Constitutional format was a series of ironical statements, as it stands in ?direct antithesis to American democratic f...

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...anced. Governeur Morris understood that, ?Wealth tends to corrupt the mind and to nourish its love of power, and to stimulate it to oppression. History proves this to be the spirit of the opulent.? Therefore as seen with the second quote, Hofstadter is emphasizing the compromise in leaving a form of representative government as well as having a strong federal government in that ?its several constituent parts may, by their mutual relations, be the means of keeping each other in their proper places.? Therefore they saw it as in their form of a small direct democracy the unstable passions of the people would dominate law making; but a representative government, as Madison stated, would ?refine and enlarge the public views by passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizens.? John Adams finally pointed out in Defence of the Constitution of Government of the United States that the split in assembly would stop the rich from ?plundering the poor, and vice versa,? with an impartial executive armed with the veto power. Thus, what radiates from such actions was the achievement of neutralization.


Hofstadter, Richard. The American Political Tradition.

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