Forwarded from Anthony (reply to Charles)
lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Apr 18 09:03:59 MDT 2002
Reply to Charles Brown: The US Articles of Confederation and the US
Constitution, a note on historical accuracy.
Charles Brown's reply to my previous post (Regarding coups in the United
States. Louis Proyect <lnp3 at panix.com> Subject: Forwarded from Anthony
(coups)) is not historicalically accurate. In his reply to this statement
in my post,
"In the history of the United States of America there was one very
important coup d'etat - that was the imposition of the Constitution of the
United States over and against the regime established in the Articles of
Confederation. It didn't simply remove one man from office, it changed the
structure of the state in favor of the commercial bourgeoisie, land owners
and speculators, and slave owners - - and against the interests of small
landowners, tenants, small shop owners, workers, and slaves."
"I agree with what you say , but you are referring to a revolution as a
"coup". Most coups are not revolutions, and "coup" is usually used to refer
to only the overthrow of the state power which is part of a revolution, not
the whole institutional transformation. A coup is specifically a violent
change of personnel, not institutions. The Russian Revolution included a
coup , but its institutional changes were not the coup aspect.
"You suggest that the American revolution was not a revolution. This is
debated by some. Gerald Horne argues your implied position that it was not
a revolution. To the extent that it was a coup, it was not directed at the
slaves, small land owners , workers, Indians, women, who did not have the
state power under the Articles of Confederation. The coup was directed at
the British Imperial state power. This does not settle the issue you
imply, but it's involved if you are discussing the coup d'etat aspect."
( Subject: Regarding coups in the United States. From: "Charles Brown"
<CharlesB at cncl.ci.detroit.mi.us> Date: Thu, 18 Apr 2002 09:36:11 -0400)
I did not suggest that the US revolution was not a revolution. I stated
that the imposition of the US Consitution and the abolition of the regime
established by the Articles of Confederation was a coup d'etat. This
occured AFTER the revolution.
The Articles of Confederation went into effect on March 1, 1781 - five
years after the Declaration of Independence was signed by the Second
Continental Congress on July 4, 1776. The revolutionary war had been going
on even longer, since at least April 9, 1775 (when the battles of Lexington
and Concord took place.)
The last important, and the really decisive battle that sealed the colonial
victory over the British empire was the battle of Yorktown on October 19,
1781. The Treaty of Paris, which officially ended the war was signed on
September 3, 1783. The Articles of Confederation remained in effect until
at least September 17, 1787 when the Constitution was signed.
In other words, it was the Articles of Confederation NOT the Constitution
that was directed against the British.
The British had not been around for six years, and had not even claimed
sovereignty over the US for four years, when the Articles were dumped in
favor of the Constitution.
The Constitution was directed against slaves, small farmers, workers, etc.
that I mentioned in my original post - but it was directed first and
foremost against the Indigenous peoples.
I apologize for the omission.
The Constitution was intended to benefit large landowners and land
speculators, commercial capitalists, and slave owners.
How it did so was to provide for a centralized national government, which
had not existed.
This centralized government was absolutely necessary for expansion westward
in the 'Indian Wars' because you needed to organize, arm and pay for an
army. This was central to the plans of the large landowners and land
Centralized government also allowed for things like slaveowners passing
laws which allowed them to chase and capture escaped slaves in free states
(this came later, but would have been impossible under the Articles of
Slaves, who did not have the right to vote under the new Constitution, were
counted as 2/3s of a human being for purposes of allotting members of
Congress to the various states - thus increasing the political power of the
Anyone who seriously studies the Constitution, what it says, and how it
came into existence, can not possibly conclude anything other than that it
was written against the people, and for the rich.
Without going into all of the details here, I suggest anyone interested
read (or reread) the famous book by Charles and Mary Beard titled something
like 'An Economic Interpretation of the US Constitution.'
As for the imposition of the Constitution, and the abolition of the
confederation being a coup, not a revolution - you need to look at how it
was organized and accomplished. A national convention was organized by
Alexander Hamilton (a Federalist who was a closet monarchist) more or less
legally under the Articles. It had the authority to revise the articles.
Meeting in complete secrecy the delegates - virtually all drawn from the
classes who were to benefit from the new regime, decided to scrap the
articles completely and reorganize the government as a unified Republic -
overriding many of the rights and privileges of the individual states, and
the citizens of those states.
Since the convention did not have the legal authority to do this, I call it
I realize that this does not match Charles' defintion of a coup, but I
think his definition is not very precise. My definition is that a coup is a
'palace revolution' in which changes in personnel or institutions are made
without mobilizing masses of people in political or social struggle.
It certainly was not a revolution, since it did not mobilize any masses to
impose the constitution, instead everything possible was done to prevent
the masses from knowing about the new Constitution.
When they found out, some of them rebelled, you can study that rebellion if
you want, it was called Shays Rebellion (or the whiskey Rebellion).
All the best, Anthony
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