There is an important point in yesterday’s read that is very important to take note of and I haven’t spent much time on it in my posts: It is the complaint of many whites, that they were tenants to the wealthy and that inflation had greatly affected their abilities to pay rents and they were being punished for their debts - and this was what upset the majority. This is why there was a lack of interest to partake in the Revolution. However, when these suffering white tenants were promised to become “freeholders” of their land if they partook, they went for it.
“During the Revolution, to mobilize soldiers, the tenants were promised land. A prominent landowner of Dutchess County wrote in 1777 that a promise to make tenants freeholders “would instantly bring you at least six thousand able farmers into the field.”” (p85)
It was one portion of the population that the governing elite class managed to appease - to convince to fight for their cause - it was a forward step in appeasing the “the people”, those they required in order to win against the British.
However, (p85) “the farmers found that, as privates in the army, they received $6.66 a month, while a colonel received $75 a month. They watched local government contractors like Melancton Smith and Matthew Paterson become rich, while the pay they received in continental currency became worthless with inflation.”
After the war...(p86) “The new freeholders found that they had stopped being tenants, but were now mortgagees, paying back loans from banks instead of rent to landlords.”
And so after the war was over and the Constitution had been written, these people began to come together. Began to recognize how their ‘well being’ as it was described in the Constitution, was not being respected. So the farmers organized themselves with the Veterans (many of them farmers;) they refused to be punished for failing to pay debts that came as a result of the inflation; a result of the wealthy controlling the sale of goods. They demanded that the Constitution be upheld for all....
A STORY of some heroes of the time; Heroes of the people, in fact, they were the people:
“I have been greatly abused,have been obliged to do more than my part in the war, been loaded with class rates, town rates, province rates, Continental rates and all rates...been pulled and hauled by sheriffs, constables and collectors, and had my cattle sold for less than they were worth...
...The great men are going to get all we have and I think it is time for us to rise and put a stop to it, and have no more courts, nor sheriffs, nor collectors nor lawyers...” spoken by a man, Plough Jugger, around 1887 at one of the illegal conventions that began to assemble to organize opposition against legislature under the new Constitution which had raised the property qualifications for voting.
“The chairman of that meeting used his gavel to cut short the applause. He and others wanted to redress their grievances, but peacefully, by petition to the General Court (the legislature) in Boston.
However, before the scheduled meeting of the General Court, there were going to be court proceedings in Hampshire County, in the towns of Northampton and Springfield, to seize the cattle of farmers who hadn’t paid their debts, to take away their land, now full of grain and ready for harvest. And so, veterans of the Continental Army, also aggrieved because the had been treated poorly on discharge --given certificates for future redemption instead of immediate cash--began to organize the famers into squads and companies. One of these veterans was Luke Day, who arrived the morning of court with a fife-and -drum corps, still angry with the memory of being locked up in debtors’ prison in the heat of the previous summer.
The sheriff looked to the local militia to defend the court against these armed farmers. But most of the militia was with Luke Day. The sheriff did manage to gather five hundred men, and the judges put ion their black silk robes, waiting for the sheriff to protect their trip to the courthouse. But there at the courthouse steps, Luke Day stood with a petition, asserting the people’s constitutional right to protest the unconstitutional acts of the General Court, asking the judges to adjourn until the General Court could act on behalf of the farmers. Standing with Luke Day were fifteen hundred armed farmers. The judges adjourned.”
This was not irrational behavior by people who lacked intelligence, were just violent people or who were lazy...
The governing class continued to search for ways to keep “the people” from having a successful, unified uprising. This is from where the idea to create individual states arose.
The state government was established to keep the people across the country from uniting - to hobble the potential for rebellion. (p97) “So, the real problem, according to Madison, was a majority faction, and here the solution was offered by the Constitution, to have “an extensive republic,” that is, a large nation ranging over thirteen states, for then “it will be more difficult for all who feel it to discover their own strength, and to act in unison with each other...The influence of factious leaders may kindle a flame within their particular States, but will be unable to spread a general conflagration through the other States.”
(p98) “The Constitution was a compromise between slaveholding interests of the South and moneyed interests of the North. for the purpose of uniting the thirteen states into one great market for commerce, the northern delegates wanted laws regulating interstate commerce, and urged that such laws require only a majority of Congress to pass. The South agreed to this, in return for allowing the trade in slaves to continue for twenty years before being outlawed.”
I remember being explained at a certain point in my education that the governing class of this time didn’t think “the people” could make wise decisions for themselves.
(p98) “It was either Madison or Hamilton (the authorship of the individual papers is not always known) who in Federalist Paper #63 argued the necessity of a “well-constructed Senate” as “sometimes necessary as a defence to the people against their own temporary errors and delusions.” Because “there are particular moments in public affairs when the people, stimulated by some irregular passion, or some illicit advantage, or misled by the artful misrepresentations of interested men, may call for measures which they themselves will afterwards be the most ready to lament and condemn.” And: “In these critical moments, how salutary will be the interference of some temperate and respectable body of citizens in order to check the misguided career, and to suspend the blow meditated by the people against themselves, until reason, justice and truth can regain their authority over the public mind.”
I think this belief has been engrained in us about ourselves, or at least, “them”, “the people” or at least “most people.” I hear it said all too often when we talk about “the state of things” in this country and I think we hobble ourselves with that sort of attitude/belief; we keep ourselves separate and weak.