Did the Founding Fathers oppose democracy?

In American political debate, the Founding Fathers are often evoked as the guardians of democracy and human rights. But is this completely wrong? Did these well-heeled gentlemen who framed the US Constitution really want a political system where ordinary people had a say?

The answer is an emphatic no.

A few years ago, I visited the stately home of Thomas Jefferson near Charlottesville, Virginia – a beautiful estate called Monticello. I was attending a conference on democracy where Jefferson had been lauded repeatedly as a father of freedom and rights enshrined in a written constitution. So, you can imagine how faces dropped when our guide sheepishly informed us that Monticello was in fact a slave plantation – and Jefferson not only owned about 100 slaves at any one time but had a slave mistress.

It is true that in 1776, Jefferson denounced the “execrable commerce” in slaves and was instrumental in having the words “all men are created equal” inserted into the Constitution. Early on, some southern states amended that to all “freemen”. And Jefferson himself fell silent on the issue over time. Abolitionists became exasperated at the great man’s silence leading a 19th century Abolitionist, Moncure Conway, to sneer: “Never did a man achieve more fame for what he did not do”.

But it wasn’t just slaves who would find no freedom in the new utopia of the United States. The poor and women could forget any prospect of the vote or having their opinions taken on board.

FIND OUT MORE: Roman slavery and American slavery – what was the difference?

Founding Fathers – no poor or women in our democracy

John Adams was appalled at the idea of those without property having the vote. “Few men, who have no property, have any judgement of their own,” he wrote. Instead, the propertyless will always be manipulated by those with property – so best they don’t get the vote!

As for women:

“…Why exclude women?  Because their delicacy renders them unfit for practice and experience, in the great business of life, and the hardy enterprises of war, as well as the arduous cares of state. Besides their attention is so much engaged with the necessary nurture of their children that nature has made them fittest for domestic cares.”

Not that his attitude towards women being involved in politics was much different to any other privileged male of the time. And in fairness, female suffrage was still in the far distance in Europe as well as the United States.

The very idea of a Republic was a rejection of rule by the mob. Foreign Policy magazine has just published an interesting opinion piece on this. James Madison, for example, despised the notion of a hereditary monarch and rule by an aristocratic dynasty. But he sure has hell didn’t want to see it replaced with rule by the masses. Individual liberty was as much to do with wealthy individuals being protected from the rabble as it was to do with freedom of expression.

Which is why many of those who think they are acting in the spirit of Founding Fathers are doing completely the opposite. The 2021 Capitol Hill rioters may have cited the Founding Fathers in defence of their action but what they did is everything the Founding Fathers feared. In fact, the US Constitution was framed exactly in anticipation of such direct intervention by the mob in political affairs.

Madison believed direct rule by the people – such as existed in ancient Greece – unleashed populism over rationalism. He wrote in The Federalist Papers:

“In all very numerous assemblies, of whatever characters composed, passion never fails to wrest the sceptre from reason.”

He hoped that America’s sheer size, even in his day, would prevent the people from being able to organise effectively to put pressure or even threaten the government. Of course, there were media outlets back then – newspapers – but they were run by the same class of people as sat in the Senate. Little could Madison have anticipated the democratic and anarchic horror of social media – with its power to organise over vast areas.

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President-for-life – yes, this was actually proposed!

Alexander Hamilton was lionised in a recent musical production that mocked the supposed tyranny of King George III of England. But Hamilton rather undemocratically thought that both the President and the Senate should be elected for life. Once in power, they would never have to face the people again. He thought this would lead to a better quality of decision making.

George Washington recognised the need to give the people a voice in the system. He didn’t mind the House of Representatives letting off steam on behalf of the electorate because, as he put it, things would cool off in the “Senatorial saucer”.

The Senate would be key to stopping the people running things. It would be an august assembly of the finest citizens (for which read white slave owning men). And similar types of people would sit in the electoral college and choose the President after the masses had going through the charade of making a choice.

Before 1913 and the passing of the 17th amendment, the Senate strictly speaking wasn’t even directly elected. State legislatures chose their two senators and sent them to Washington DC. Two of the Founding Fathers, Roger Sherman and Elbridge Gerry, thought the House of Representatives shouldn’t be directly elected either.

People power and democracy as we understand it was about as far from the Founding Fathers’ vision as you could get. They viewed themselves as an educated and rationally minded elite making the best decisions for an unruly nation. What they would make of the United States today is anybody’s guess.

American populism

People’s Party – American populism before Trump

President Trump has been accused of populism but there’s a long tradition of this kind of politics in the United States. Take for example the People’s Party – a prime example of American populism.

I’ve been glued to the TV and social media like the rest of you watching the torture of the 2020 American presidential election. What struck me was how so many rural and rust belt communities voted for Donald Trump. To many outside the United States – this seems inexplicable. Why would poor people vote for a TV reality chat show millionaire?

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But there’s a long history of American populism that has done surprisingly well in rural and poorer areas of the country. Take for example the late 19th century People’s Party – also referred to sneeringly as the Populists – who won four states in the 1892 presidential election.

James Weaver and James Field ran for the presidency and managed to bag the electoral college votes of Colorado, Kansas, Idaho and Nevada. They got additional votes from North Dakota and Oregon. Their political platform, under the People’s Party banner, was left-leaning populism including demands for a graduated income tax, public ownership of key industries and the unlimited supply of silver coinage – sold to the government by miners of silver.

This wave of American populism brought together a number of parties and groups such as the Farmers Alliance, Greenback Party and the Knights of Labor. There was a strong influence of socialist ideas and a call for monopolies to be broken up. The influence of this strand of politics was felt in both Democrat and Republican circles – that felt obliged to acknowledge and respond to the alarming levels of support the People’s Party was achieving.

FIND OUT: Fear in history – what has scared us in the past?

This wave of American populism eventually died out. But as we know today, there have been successive waves of populism across the United States ever since. Normally viewed as something malign, it maybe should be seen as exposing the deficiencies and shortcomings of the two-party system. In ‘normal’ times, Democrats and Republicans get to divide up the political spoils only interrupted by the inconvenience of elections every four years.

But every so often, the voices of the dispossessed insist on being heard. And those voices may articulate a rational program of ideas or just be an inchoate howl of rage. The Trump phenomenon seems to be more of the latter. And some dark forces are undoubtedly lurking in the wings. Such is the nature of today’s American populism.

Lizard people – our reptilian overlords

Of all the strange conspiracy theories that bedevil our time – the idea that we’re being ruled by lizard people has to be the oddest.

An article in The Atlantic in 2013 estimated that 12 million people in the United States believe that lizard people run their country. That’s small beer compared to the 66 million who think that aliens landed at Roswell in 1948. But it’s still a very significant number.

Lizard people and David Icke

Conspiracy theorist David Icke has been a leading proponent of the idea that reptiles have gained access to the levers of power. The Icke sympathetic ufochick.com site explains how lizards can take over human bodies with compatible DNA.

They have apparently been doing this for centuries targeting people in positions of power – who then intermarry to preserve the reptilian bloodline.

Apparently, lizards might also go for humans who “live in a state of negativity, fear, anger, violence, aggression and or abuse of drugs or sex”. A form of invisible grooming takes place to lower the individual’s guard.

This allows the lizard to “hop into the human energy field” manipulating the subject’s emotional state to change their “vibrational energy”, which allows the lizard to mount a full takeover.

Lizard people – aliens breeding with humans!

Lizard people theorists seem keen to emphasise that they are not talking about shape shifting. It’s something way more subtle and long established. Icke claims that reptiles came from the constellations of Orion, Sirius and Draco and interbred with humans long ago – though not physically. They did it by altering human DNA.

Basically, to put it crudely, there’s a bit of lizard in all our brains but not all of us have embraced our inner reptile. You can tell those who have by certain traits such as eye colour, scars, mannerisms, etc.

Anyway, that’s the theory in a nutshell.  There are, needless to say, some famous lizards in human guise. Queen Elizabeth II is one. Several US presidents. Global corporate executives. And…of course….the Illuminati and Freemasons.

Lizard people in history

Reptiles as super-powerful people and deities is a recurring theme in many mythologies throughout history.  For example, Kekrops – the founder of the city of Athens – was reputedly half-man and half-snake. He established the cult of the goddess Athena and dedicated her shrine on the Acropolis.

Another half-man, half-snake was Fu Xi, the first mythological emperor of China. He was also the creator of mankind. After a huge flood, Fu Xi and his wife Nu Wa – who were brother and sister – married and repopulated the planet. Both had snake bodies.

The name of Fu Xi’s wife Nu Wa is similar to Noah and some have wondered whether the flood story was shared between China and the Hebrews. Anyway, the bit that should interest us is that this couple, our common ancestors, were 50% reptile. And the idea of reptile gods recurs in many cultures from the ancient Egyptians to the Aztecs.

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Madame Blavatsky and her theory on lizard people

In the 19th century, the mystic Elena Petrovna Blavatsky – known commonly as “Madame Blavatsky” – claimed knowledge of a long lost land called Lemuria. The Lemurian culture had existed 14,000 years ago and the Lemurian people were a race that could lay eggs, had psychic powers and were bisexual. They were wiped out by a huge catastrophe that also engulfed Atlantis.

In 1983, the notion of reptiles from another galaxy coming to Earth and taking over humans was popularised in the science fiction series V.  The “visitors” claim to come in peace but a small band of plucky humans see through their lies and heroically resist. V was remade in 2009 though failed to make the same impact the original series did in the 1980s.

Social media has heralded a revival in lizard people theory

Today, largely thanks to social media, we are witnessing a surge in the belief that lizard people run our society. A few years ago, I found myself arguing with somebody convinced that a well known celebrity was a lizard because their eyes flickered “unnaturally” in a YouTube video. I tried to explain the concept of pixelation but got nowhere.

I can only conjecture that as people feel less in control of their surroundings and lives, theories that claim alien reptiles are running the show seem increasingly plausible.