Lesson 6.1 – Which social class(es) wrote the US Constitution?

In this lesson, we will ask the following guiding question: who wrote the Constitution? And, by “who” we mean “which social class”? This will build on our previous study of social classes, and clarify the fundamental choices and features of our Constitution. For example, why is there an Electoral College, why do we have an unelected Supreme Court?

WATCH – Intro Video

READ – Reading 6.1 – M. Parenti: “Class Power in Early America”

This reading gives a background on the history of how early American society was already deeply shaped by social classes. The interaction of these social classes directly account for the type of document the Constitution turned out to be. Who wrote the Constitution and what ideas were included in it, are key questions that we are interested in thinking about in this module.

COMPLETE – Self-Assessment Exercise 6.1

In preparation for our discussion board, study the following questions, by following the readings closely.

  1. In early America, what was required for someone to be able to vote?
  2. Which social class did most people belong to in early America?
  3. What was Madison’s goal in writing “Federalist #10”?
  4. Why were the people who wrote the Constitution so afraid of democracy? This is an important point that we will discuss in our discussion board next.
  5. What were some of the reasons why the Constitution never abolished the slave trade?

READ – Reading 6.2 – Charles Beard: “Economic Interpretation of the US Constitution”

This reading builds on Reading 6.1 by presenting a bit of a historical overview of what social classes existed in the United States at the time of the writing of the Constitution. Though Beard does not use words like “capitalist” or “working class”, but he is clearly describing the different interests of people who were wealthy vs. those who lack material wealth and had to work to live:

COMPLETE – Self-Assessment Exercise 6.2

In preparation for our discussion board, study the following questions, by following the readings closely.

  1. What does the word “disenfranchised” mean? If you’re not sure, check it out in a dictionary such as https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/disenfranchised
  2. Who were the members of the “Disenfranchised”? What were some common factors shared by members of this group? What social class that we have studied in previous modules is Beard describing here?
  3. Which social class did the “real property holders” and those in “manufacturing, shipping and personal securities” belong to? Why, what makes their class membership clear?

WRITE – Discussion Board 6.1

Head over to Discussion Board 6.1:

Lesson 6.2 – Fundamental Class-Based Ideas in the Constitution

In Lesson 6.2 we continue our discussion from the previous lesson. Now that we have covered which social classes wrote the Constitution and which were excluded, the focus of this lesson is to identify and study the specific ideas that the ruling class of the wealthy put into the Constitution.

READ – Reading 6.3 – “The Federalist Papers #10”

This reading is a classic text in American politics. It shows what the American capitalist class were thinking when forming this new government. Our goal is to read this text and understand how (and why) this social class defined the responsibilities, goals and purpose of American government to be:

COMPLETE – Self-Assessment Exercise 6.3

In preparation for our discussion board, study the following questions, by following the readings closely.

  1. What is a faction?
  2. What are the two methods of controlling factions?
  3. The two methods of removing the causes of factions?
  4. Think about the word faculties. What does it mean?
  5. What is the difference between pure democracy and republic?

WRITE – Discussion Board 6.2

Head over to Discussion Board 6.2

WRITE – Module 6 Response Paper

  1. Here’s an open-ended question: The BLM movement has spawned massive protests across the United States, which have often brought down statues of prominent US politicians who were slave-owners. Others have said that, in addition to targeting such statues because they represented slavery in American history, they should also be condemned for representing the wealthy, capitalist class, whose wealth dependent on having slaves as free workers. What do you think about this additional point of connecting slavery to the capitalist class? (In other words, if we started to make these connections, then the ongoing BLM-related protests would be against capitalism and racism. Would that make them more effective, than protests that focused merely on racism?).
  2. Social class seems to be a major factor in explaining how American government is put together. Do you think this is still true for the American government and politics today? Explain your thoughts and provide an example or two to backup your arguments.

You must log into your BMCC OpenLab account before you can upload a response paper.

WATCH – Module 6 Summary Video