Lundberg on the Founders

jonathan flanders jon_flanders at
Sun Nov 12 20:29:04 MST 2000

I haven't read Ferdinand Lundberg for a long time, but picking up the
Hutchison book on the Constitution reminded me again of his brilliant
polemical style. Here he takes the Founding Fathers down a peg or two.

Jon Flanders

"For one thing, the myth of great originality on the part of the
constitutional convention of 1787 goes right down the drain for the reader
of this book. The reader of Hutchison readily sees that except for a few
original touches here and there-not all of them exhilarating by any means,
such as the underwriting of slavery and giving the slave states
representation in Congress for three-fifths of each slave!-the convention
turned in what was basically a scis-sors-and-paste job, an editorial
compilation of old English materials.

So, if the convention is due for high praise, as one gathers from the
always undiscriminating constitutional cultists, it is for its selections
rather than its creativity or even technical expertise. As Prof. John Roche
has styled it, the convention was little more than a reform caucus. Its
reforms, moreover, related mostly to what had been hastily slapped together
under naive revolutionary auspices by the American states since 1776. The
reforms, indeed, were neither historically sweeping nor deep, and aimed
mainly at achieving
 something resembling the American status quo ante the Declaration of
Independence. Indeed, the inception of the Constitution represented
something of a Restoration. The document was, in fact, taken by many of its
supporters as a Restoration Constitution, with the central government
replacing the British government and many of its members comporting
themselves like British grandees.

Individuals at the convention, too, shrink to more ordinary  proportions in
the light of this book, which shows that they did not develop the main
constitutional ideas in their own minds.  All this was apparently enough to
earn the disinterest of those who screen devious political operations by
inflating and hymning the status of the framers, the convention, and the
document. The  convention was by no means a gathering of masterminds
excogitating constitutional wizardry right and left, although it was
fortunate in having a bare handful of keen mentalities present (who,
incidentally, were often overruled, and on quite original suggestions, by
the entrenched politicos, as the convention record clearly  shows)."

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