"The Constitution was a carefully crafted charade constructed to obfuscate the true nature of power and politics in the Republic. " The framers of the American Constitution espoused the philosophy of Thomas Hobbes and the religion of John Calvin; these ideological dispositions strongly influenced the purpose of the Constitution. The Hobbesian view of man as an inherently selfish creature and the strong Calvinistic belief in the wickedness of man synthesize into an acutely cynical distrust of the unchecked common man.
Frequently invoked as the source of American democracy, the Constitution in its entirety is the converse: It is an essentially conservative device for the maintenance of the status of the gentry. The progressive historian Richard Hofstadter asserts in The American Political Tradition that democratic ideas lack appeal in the burgeoning privileged class (7). The members of the Constitutional Convention were, for the most part, privileged and affluent. Elbridge Gerry considered democracy "the worst of all political evils" (Hofstadter 6).
Gouverneur Morris, a leading figure of the Convention, held a clearly scornful view of the populace: "The mob begin to think and reason. Poor reptiles!… They bask in the sun, and ere noon they will bite, depend on it. The gentry begin to fear this" (Hofstadter 7). The framers did not have social and economic freedom in mind; they sought instead a "balanced government" in which vice must necessarily oppose vice for the sake of neutral order, however frustrated. The concept of checks and balances is likely to trigger mental associations with justice among the many Americans who equate the Constitution with democracy.
The system, however, was transplanted from Britain where it was enacted in such a way that the King, a House of Lords, and a House of Commons had to all consent before any legislative action. Britain has parted with this system and has left the House of Commons with the legislative influence. In the Constitutionally enacted system of checks and balances, radical legislative change is highly restricted; the framers bore this in mind, seeking to preserve the laws that economically favored them. The framers expected that the Federal government would curb the sweep of the popular majority.
This is clearly reinforced in the conservative structure of the Senate. Until the Seventeenth Amendment's passage into the constitution in 1913, senators were elected not by popular vote but by state legislatures. Each state is represented by two senators, effectively bringing about highly uneven representation with regard to population. This disparity regardless, the Senate is invested with great power in the American government: It is wholly and compulsorily decisive in the confirmation of the President's cabinet and judicial appointments.
The popular election of the President, furthermore, is confounded by the Electoral College, which often allows for the highest voted candidate to fail to be elected as President. The nationalist James Madison who has acquired the appellation of "the Father of the Constitution" made the intentions of the Constitution manifest in his Journal of the Philadelphia Convention. On June 6, 1787, he wrote: Where a majority are united by a common sentiment, and have an opportunity, the rights of the minor party become insecure.
In a republican government the majority, if united, have always an opportunity. The only remedy is to enlarge the sphere and thereby divide the community into so great a number of interests and parties that, in the first place, a majority will not be likely, at the same moment, to have a common interest separate from that of the whole, or of the minority; and, in the second place, that, in case they should have such an interest, they may not be so apt to unite in the pursuit of it.
Madison is clearly opposed to rule by majority, yielding only when the consent of the majority is in accord with the minor factions. The constitutionalists' concepts of government were based solely on property. In the eyes of the framers, the yeomen's possession of modest plots of property gave them adequate financial dedication to society to be responsible, governed citizens. Hofstadter writes: "…
When they spoke of the necessity of founding government upon the consent of 'the people,' it was only these small property-holders that they had in mind" (18). The inherently conservative structure behind the Constitution – observable in the system of checks and balances and in the disproportionate influence invested in the Senate – coupled with the aristocratic prejudice of its framers reveal the document to be less an instrument of democracy than one of economic opportunism and social control.
"Yet, curiously, their general satisfaction with the Constitution together with their growing nationalism made Americans deeply reverent of the founding generation" (Hofstadter 19). As a result, Americans have increasingly failed to notice the flagrant discrepancy between the values of the crafters of the Constitution and those of the American political mainstream regarding democracy.