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Distribution of Power Under The 1787 Constitution

The founding fathers at the Philadelphia Convention in 1787 all represented propertied interests, wealthy white males such as George Washington, James Madison, Edmund Randolph, Benjamin Franklin and Governour Morris, "the elite of the American elite" (Stewart et al. American, 56). None of them believed in pure democracy, direct rule by the majority, which Madison said in Federalist No. 10 would lead to rule by faction and a tyranny of the majority. Instead, they believed in strengthening the powers of the national government, as needed to preserve national independence, develop the economy and protect private property rights. They devised a constitutional framework in which power would be limited and diffused as a safeguard against direct majority rule and against tyranny. The result they called republican government. They acknowledged that the ultimate legitimacy of government lay in the consent of the governed, but in their view the wishes of the majority could best be implemented and interpreted by elected representatives, rather than by direct votes by the majority on the issues, because they believed that only the propertied and well-educated classes could keep the national interest foremost.


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