Sunday, April 2, 2017

Democracy Is All About Process

All one needs to do to support this claim is consult the deliberations of the Founding Fathers when they signed the Declaration of Independence and the Framers of the Constitution when they met at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia and remained there debating through that hot humid summer of 1787 to establish a set of rules to follow that governed the process of writing the United States Constitution.

Founding Fathers

Plans, rules, goals, objectives, guidelines or however you wish to label them, and whether you agree with their results or not, these agenda and procedural items comprise the process.

During the process of writing the Constitution, the Framers had heated discussions of critical issues facing the brand new nation they were trying to create, such as slavery, indigenous people, indentured servitude, and other racially and sexually charged issues of their day.

Creating the executive, the president, caused as much or more heat before the Framers defined the high office. To limit the powers of the executive, the primary check on executive powers was listed in Article 2, Section 4 of the Constitution: "The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors." Impeachment is a enumerated power of the House of Representatives.

You may question the seemingly dispassionate approach the Framers seemed to take toward issues that are even more controversial by today's standards, but there was plenty of passion in those procedural committee meetings on legislative suffrage, states' rights, private property, and other obscure legal jargon invented for the very occasion and now resides in our system of constitutional interpretation.

Distraction by those political games played to gain advantage over the social issues of that ancient era will prevent a thorough investigation of the process the Framers followed. 

As an observer and student of constitutional development, I--as well as other present-day scholars and some of the Founding Fathers and Framers of the Constitution themselves--find much shame in the bundle of compromises that make up the U.S. Constitution, namely, legal protections the document extended to slavery, oppression of women, and native tribe relocation and extermination. However, among all the complications the document presented, I cannot argue with the Framers' respect for the process they established to create the document. Democracy is all about process. Without adhering to due process, substance cannot legally be considered by the judiciary system, which the Framers wrote into the Constitution.

As flawed as some of the Framers may have been in their thinking on subjects like: the international slave trade, Southern privilege, native tribal rights, class, gender and others, the Framers did fully understand, agree, adopt and participate in the imperative notion that process must be the foundation under the writing of the Constitution for the new government with which they were replacing the old Articles of Confederation.

The 13 original colonies, with the exception of Rhode Island, sent delegates to the Constitutional Convention on February 21, 1787. 

First, let's remember and not become distracted by the fact that the Framers lived in a different era and culture than the one in which we live today, much like the era of the Founding Fathers a bit more than a decade before. No colony had universal suffrage; none respected the property rights of females in their states; and all were either living upon or seeking to secure rights to native tribal lands for the expansion of the nation they were forming. Only one of the original 13 colonies had abolished slavery within its borders at the start of the Philadelphia Convention. That colony was Massachusetts; Vermont soon followed. Although, other northern states had begun to consider emancipation of their slaves, no others had done so by this time.

On Slavery

John Adams
Founding Father
Signer of the Declaration
of Independence

John Adams, Massachusetts, did not own slaves and, in fact, abhorred the institution. Benjamin Franklin owned two household slaves but espoused opposition to the institution of slavery; James Madison was against the slave trade but was a third-generation slave owner; George Washington became a slave owner at age 10 when his father died; and Thomas Jefferson owned nearly 700 slaves at one time. The Founding Fathers understood that human bondage had to be stopped to prevent the future destruction of the nation, but slavery was their heritage, passed down to them from their forefathers to be passed down to their offspring. 

CONSIDERATIONS Framers made in debating the question of slavery under the provisions of the new Constitution: Giving the slave holding states the three-fifths compromise, which meant counting every five non-free persons of that state equal to every three free persons of that state for the purpose of representation in the new national Congress. The three-fifths compromise, which boosted the slave holding states' national representation and presidential electors was considered by some Framers of the Constitution the most embarrassing of all the clauses and compromises they wrote into the Constitution. The sordid compromise to the slave states of counting slaves toward congressional representation actually rewarded those states for importing more slaves, which the Constitution allowed them to do through the 20-year compromise. Later, these compromises increases slave populations cost John Adams, a none slave owner, to lose the presidency to Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and also owner of hundreds of slaves, and perhaps thousands over his entire career and lifetime, although he espoused to deplore slavery.

Thomas Jefferson Signer of the Declaration of Independence

Thomas Jefferson
Founding Father
Signer of the Declaration
of Independence

Incidentally, John Adams and some other Founding Fathers were not present during the Constitutional Convention. Adams was serving as a European Diplomat at the time. Perhaps, had Adams been at the Convention his status as a non slave owner may have led the process to different conclusions; and perhaps not, him being outnumbered by those of a different persuasion toward slavery. 

Lives were grounded in the tradition of slavery that offered benefits few were anxious to release.

Evaluating slavery, the Framers considered the economies of Colonial America and burgeoning territories, all deeply dependent upon slavery. Moreover, the colonies were still at war on many levels internally and externally for independence, while the wealthy and educated Framers formulated the doctrines of the new nation, founded on freedom and the equality of its citizens, a group that did not include women, slaves, Native Americans or poor white men. Absence of process spawns confusion and chaos. Depending upon who is in charge of the process, established systems cannot save themselves from inevitable difficulties. 

For a variety of reasons the Convention did not attempt to solve or even discuss the problem of slavery. It is not that the subject of slavery never came up. The process gave them a method of avoiding the subject of slavery that loomed over the proceedings, and dominated many debates. In the end, the words slave and slavery were not written into the document for reasons that included: the Founding Fathers were not comfortable with a Constitution that endorsed slavery in writing. 

The process governing the Convention had a definite purpose: to conclude with a final document to take back to their respective states for ratification. If slavery had been a major topic written into the document, either no document would have been produced or if a document containing slavery were produced, it would not have been ratified. The main reason was that no slave state would approve a document that relinquished to a national government the particular states' right of it citizens to own slaves. 

Hence: Democracy is all about the process of progressing to a desired conclusion.

Requiring the same process of generating rules is the process of scientific investigation. Many of the Founding Fathers were involved in areas such as agronomy, astronomy, botany, medicine, mathematics, zoology and others. Taking into account their varied experiences and their need for order, the first thing those men did when they arrived at the Philadelphia Convention was to set up a framework--the process--for writing the Constitution.

Men representing northern states--Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania--and those representing southern states--Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia--had to first agree on the process that would guide their ultimate agreement on the final document.

"We the People" U.S. Constitution Wikipedia Commons
U.S. Constitution
Wikipedia Commons
Democracy is all about process. Due process of law, which the Framers wrote into the Constitution's Fifth Amendment of the Bill of Rights states that: 

"No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; not shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; now shall private property be take for public use, without just compensation."

Due process applies qualifications to the gathering of material to be presented in court. Without due process of law substance cannot be legally gathered or admitted into a court of law as evidence. Without due process, what is the status of the evidence, the substance of the material gathered?

Process establishes the viability of natural law.

Duplication of an experiment--which is what the Framers called the new form of government they were creating under the Constitution--depends on being able to reproduce the same result by following the established process. To this end, they created a living breathing document of processes they hoped would live long beyond their years; and would prove itself viable by demonstrating to their posterity how to duplicate results and, by doing so, how to improve upon the processes of their experiment. 


Sunny Nash
    Bigmama Didn’t Shop  At Woolworth’s  Sunny Nash

Hard Cover

Amazon Kindle
Sunny Nash, former nationally syndicated newspaper columnist, is the author of a nonfiction book about life before and during the Civil Rights Movement with her part-Comanche grandmother, Bigmama Didn’t Shop At Woolworth’s, selected by the American Association of University Presses as a Book for Understanding U.S. Race Relations, and recommended by the Miami-Dade (Florida) Public Library System for Native American Collections.

Sunny Nash earned a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism & Mass Communication, Texas A&M University; Postgraduate Media Studies Certificate, Cronkite School of Journalism & Mass Communications, Arizona State University; Postgraduate Diploma, Instructional Technology, University of California, San Diego; Constitution Studies, James Madison’s Montpelier Center for the Constitution; and Postgraduate Digital Literacy Certificate, Simmons College Graduate School of Library & Information Science, Boston. Sunny Nash’s international studies include Intellectual Property Law, World Intellectual Property Organization Academy, Geneva, Switzerland; Diplomacy, Culture and Communication, United Nations; Research Methodology, Digital Preservation, Online Archival Information Systems, University of London; and Archival Data Governance, National Archives of Australia, Melbourne. 

© 2017 Sunny Nash. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. 
~Thank You~

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.