If the Constitution truly had the built in protections to prevent opportunistic politicians from abusing it, we would not be in the mess we are today. There is a very good reason the Patriot who said, give me liberty or give me death refused to sign that document.
The Constitution itself was created when members of the ruling elite found that the Articles of Confederation did not give them the power of coercion needed to dictate their wishes to the masses.
Farmers, many of whom had fought in the war of Independence from England, rebelled at having to pay exorbitant taxes and face debtors prison if they could not. Many, including George Washington himself, saw by Shayss rebellion that it would require a stronger central government and a standing army to enforce its dictates.
Contrary to those who linked their fortunes with a strong central government, Thomas Jefferson expressed his thoughts on Shays Rebellion to James Madison in a letter on January 17th 1787. I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical it is a medicine necessary for the sound health of government."
Several members of the ruling elite in Massachusetts had to ante up their own resources to provide the force/troops necessary to put down the rebellion of those who saw taxation as slavery. This inspired those who adore government and its trappings to move to insure government would use the resources/lives of its citizens to enforce the will of the ruling elite in the future.
Leonard L. Richards, a Professor of History at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, says Shays's Rebellion, though seemingly a local affair, was the revolution that gave rise to modern American democracy. This has proven to be a true statement, as this was the beginning of the move that took us from a constitutional republic, to that of a democracy.
All of the state apologists historians (is there any other kind now?) dote on "democracy" and forget that Jefferson called democracy mob rule. George P. Fletcher of Columbia Law School, and journalist Garry Wills, praises Abraham Lincoln for severely perverting the Constitution in order to bring us the wonderful democracy we enjoy today.
With the power to coerce firmly in hand, granted to them by the new Constitution, the government had the force necessary to put down another tax revolt just a few short years later when the citizens rebelled against the tax on whiskey. (Whiskey Rebellion)
This tax, ostensibly to pay for a war against the native people (Indians), who were fighting against the advancement into their lands, was actually a grand scheme by Alexander Hamilton and his rich cronies to increase their financial holdings. Hamilton was pushing and politicking all he met for his Assumption act. This act ensured that the federal government would assume the debt incurred by the states during the revolution. Although this sounds like a wonderful plan, the actions of Hamilton and his rich cronies, most of who were serving in politics, must be examined.
When Hamiltons plan was first announced, the price of the script that had been issued as payment for war debts began to rise in value. C.M Ewing wrote of this in his work of 1930 on the Whiskey Rebellion.
Many were ignorant of this advance, especially in the more remote sections, taking advantage of this situation, the money bags of the east, many of whom were members of Congress, sent agents into every state, town and country neighborhood to buy up this paper before the people gained knowledge of its value. That none should escape their slimy grasp, couriers and relay horses were used to reach the most isolated sections, thereby making complete the greatest financial atrocity in our national history. The price they paid was five, and even so low as two shillings in the pound. Immense sums were thus filched from the poor and ignorant. The rich were made richer and the poor made poorer.
The federalists saw the tax on whiskey as the way to bring 21 million dollars to the coffers of the federal government, which could then be used to buy back this script at face value from their cronies.
Examining the ideals of Alexander Hamilton, a leading advocate of a strong central government, (Federalist) one can find the origins for what is basically the belief that this country should be run by an aristocracy. By early 1789, Hamilton was the treasurer of the U.S. and continually used all his influence to work toward an aristocracy. According to Hamilton, only the "well bred and rich" as he expressed it, were to be recognized in governmental circles. "Lower" people, as he called them, were to have little or no part in government and would be held in check by "coercion of laws and coercion of arms". Looking at our government today one must admit the desires of Hamilton have been met.
Farmers and those who had chosen to settle in the western portions of Pennsylvania, Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina (Hamiltons lower people) were of an independent nature and did not wish to have their lives dictated to and controlled by those in power in the east. They felt those in power were too far removed from and had no idea or concern about their lives, just their money. Money used not for the benefit of the citizens but money used to enrich the ruling elite.
Tax collectors in these areas were often tarred and feathered when they tried to open tax offices.
The aristocrats in the east decided on another course of action. They allowed themselves, and others of their persuasion, to actually purchase the land the farmers had homesteaded and lived on for years. In addition, Hamilton, without the consent of congress, started forcing those reluctant to pay the state imposed taxes to come all the way back east for trial. This brought on a hardship many of them could not endure, as they were needed to keep their crops and animals in good condition and to defend their homes against raids by Indians. A great majority just refused.
A member of the presidential commission looking into the matter, a General William Irvine, sent a note to Washington after examining the facts in western Pennsylvania in which he stated "I do not mean now either to condemn or justify the proceedings here, but I may safely venture to say, that people on the west of the mountains labor under hardships, if not grievances that are not known, or at least not understood, in other parts of the United States, in more instances than the excise; but in this particular it can be demonstrated that they labor under particular hardships, for instance, carrying a man to Philadelphia or York to be tried for crimes, real or supposed, or on litigations respecting property, perhaps under the value or forty shillings: THIS IS INTOLERABLE."
Hamilton was now able to use his position and his close association with George Washington to implement a show of force against those who sought their own determination and wanted nothing to do with paying hard earned money to a government they did not need. In August 1794, George Washington began mobilizing forces to move into the areas of dispute and force the recalcitrant to adhere to federal policies.
Ironically, the leader of these forces was General Lighthorse Harry Lee, whose son Robert E., would some 86 years later, be the commander of forces that sought to disassociate themselves from a government they saw as tyrannical -- in that it cared more for the collection of revenues than it did liberty, freedom and self government.
Washington, Hamilton and the aristocrats were trying to replicate the main features of the British colonial and mercantile system from which they had just freed themselves.
This history reveals that the true patriots of the time were totally correct in their failure to support the Constitution. George Mason plainly stated these positions in his Objections to this Constitution of Government. He and Patrick Henry knew all too well that when the individual states became subservient to the behemoth that would be central government, the hard fought for liberty would cease to exist.
Patrick Henry refused to attend the Convention in Philadelphia where the Articles of Confederation were to be revised, stating he smelt a rat. It was at this convention the Articles were abandoned in favor of a Constitution that had at its core a strong central government. Henry mustered all of his oratorical skill in an attempt to defeat the proposed Constitution.
In June of 1788, Virginia held her ratification meeting at Richmond. Mason and Henry were both in attendance. 8 of the required 9 states needed to ratify the Constitution had already voted in favor of the document. Patrick Henry was quick to admonish those in attendance "You are not to inquire how your trade may be increased, nor how you are to become a great and powerful people, but how your liberties can be secured; for liberty ought to be the direct end of your government."
Henry was most concerned with the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution. He pointed to the absurdity of having bills "to defend you against the state government, which is bereaved of all power" without a similar guarantee against the power of the federal government. By doing so you "arm yourselves against the weak and defenseless, and expose yourselves naked to the armed and powerful."
Mason supported Henry's thoughts in stating that "the question then will be, whether a consolidated government can preserve the freedom and secure the rights of the people." Mason challenged his fellow Virginians to do what the Philadelphia Convention had refused to do--to create a new government if and only if the rights of the people were guaranteed. Henry prophetically added that the "tyranny of Philadelphia may be like the tyranny of George III."
James Madison, in an attempt to counter the challenges of Henry and Mason, stated that "the powers granted by the proposed Constitution are the gift of the people, and may be resumed by them when perverted to their oppression, and every power not granted thereby remains with the people." Eighty-five years later, one Abraham Lincoln would prove this statement to be totally false.
Those who love power and its trappings and are willing to kill as many as necessary to have that power, will never allow themselves to be restrained by the Constitution.
Mason and Henry, through their efforts, were able to obtain a Bill of Rights added to the Constitution. Our greatest problem is: the Constitution has allowed those in government to be the arbiters of these rights. This is analogous to allowing the Mafia to amend criminal law.
For those of us who seek freedom and liberty, we must come to the realization that our Constitution will never allow us those most cherished rights. It was never designed for that purpose.