04 July 2017

Fourth of July Like You’ve Never Seen It Before!

by Mike Ferner

"Slaves weren’t included in 'We the People,' they were only the property of their owners."

A historically critical article about the American Revolution would typically discuss how the democratic promises of the Declaration were left hanging at war’s end, followed by a decidedly undemocratic constitution six years later.Examples of that would include abandoning ideals stated in the Declaration like: “all men (sic) are created equal” and have unassailable rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” It could cite that: 

Slaves weren’t included in “We the People,” they were only the property of their owners. Because this human property, unlike a bale of cotton, could plan to run away, particular attention was paid to securing it. “A person (the indelicate word “slave” never appeared) held to service or labor in one state…escaping to another…shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due.” (Art. IV, sec. 2 [1])

To appease Southerners interested in gaining the maximum number of seats in the new House of Representatives, the Fathers of Our Country declared, in writing, that these “other persons” would each count as three-fifths of a human. (Art. I, sec. 2 [1])
Women did not have the right to vote, nor did Catholics and Jews in some states. White, Protestant, men had to own qualifying amounts of property. Thus, only about 6% [2] of the new nation’s population was eligible to vote in the first presidential election and only 1.3%, or 38,818 [3] people actually did. 

Even those so privileged didn’t actually vote for a presidential candidate. They voted for “electors” pledged to vote for certain candidates and even then, four of the state legislatures picked [3] those electors, not voting citizens.
State legislatures, not citizens, chose U.S. Senators until the Constitution was amended in 1913 [4].

Clearly, there are reasons to ask what the Founders of Our Country were up to and what our fireworks every Fourth of July about.

But this year, let’s investigate further: was war the only or even the best way to achieve what we now see was more limited than what we were taught?

Who better to proffer that question than the people’s historian, Howard Zinn?




Frederick Douglass on the Fourth of July