Wednesday, January 21, 2015
The absence of the word "democracy" in the Declaration of Independence and Constitution ... Note for a Lecture, "E Puribus Unum? What Keeps the United States United"
IN the aftermath of World War I, President Woodrow Wilson set out to make the world safe for democracy. Since then, U.S. Presidents have marched to the drumbeat of Wilsonian idealism. Indeed, most U.S. foreign policy is carried out under the pretext — and in some cases perhaps the genuine belief — that America is delivering democracy to the rest of the world. President Barack Obama’s rationale for foreign engagements is, therefore, neither new nor unusual.
Most people, including most Americans, would be surprised to learn that the word “democracy” does not appear in the Declaration of Independence (1776) or the Constitution of the United States of America (1789). They would also be shocked to learn the reason for the absence of the word democracy in the founding documents of the U.S.A. Contrary to what propaganda has led the public to believe, America’s Founding Fathers were skeptical and anxious about democracy. They were aware of the evils that accompany a tyranny of the majority. The Framers of the Constitution went to great lengths to ensure that the federal government was not based on the will of the majority and was not, therefore, democratic.
The Constitution divided the federal government into legislative, executive and judicial branches. Each branch was designed to check the power of the other branches. The Founders did not want to rely only on the voters to check government power. As a result, citizens were given very little power to select federal officials.
Neither the President, members of the judiciary nor the Senate were elected by direct popular vote. Only the members of the House of Representatives were directly elected by popular vote. Even in this case, the franchise was quite restricted. -- Prof Steve H. Hanke