One nation, under slavery
The United States Constitution never represented “we the people.”
In 1787, 55 wealthy white men, predominantly slavers, met secretly to draft a constitution. When 39 men signed it, they excluded 94 percent of the population from representation, according to the Colorado-based election reform group Best Democracy.
There were about 3.9 million people in the U.S. in 1787. Now there are 329 million. In 1787, 18% of the population was enslaved.
In 1772, Lord Mansfield, presiding over the King’s Bench, found no legal basis for allowing slavery in England. Four years later, 13 American colonies declared their independence. Seventy-three percent of the men who signed that declaration were slaveholders.
Ten of the first twelve U.S. presidents held slaves.
Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, held over 600 slaves. James Madison, a prime architect of the United States Constitution, held more than 100 slaves. George Washington held over 300 slaves.
James Madison said: “Our government … ought to be constituted as to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority.”
In a letter to Madison, Thomas Jefferson argued that a constitution should expire within one generation, which he estimated to be 19 years.
Corresponding with Samuel Kercheval, Jefferson wrote:
“Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, and deem them like the arc of the covenant, too sacred to be touched. They ascribe to the men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human, and suppose what they did to be beyond amendment.
“But I know also that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also and keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.”
In 1776, John Adams wrote that a “representative assembly … should be in miniature an exact portrait of the people at large. It should think, feel, reason and act like them.”
In 1994, South Africa’s Bishop Desmond Tutu said: “The system of proportional representation ensures that virtually every constituency in the country will have a hearing in the national and provincial legislatures.”
The national election reform group FairVote reports that 89 nations now use proportional representation to secure fair, inclusive representation for diverse populations in their parliaments. Another 34 nations mix proportional representation with some winner-take-all elections.
Fourteen political parties now hold seats in post-apartheid South Africa’s National Assembly. That parliament is elected by a party list system of proportional representation. Only two parties are represented in the United States Congress under our winner-take-all voting system.
We still live under an archaic system of government designed by slaveholders to preserve slavery and exclude people from representation. We are more than 200 years overdue for a new constitutional convention to design a modern system of representative government.
Gary Swing, Denver
Good news on climate change solutions
Everyone seems to be aware of the problems our nation faces today. The Post and the Daily Camera focused on solutions (Aug. 2). A big thank you to the Post’s Bruce Finley, who wrote “Members of Congress ask what U.S. can do to assist local governments,” and the Daily Camera published, “Climate crisis committee hears calls for urgent action at first-ever field hearing.”
It is a deep relief to read about our representatives seeking council and listening to scientists and community leaders about the big and lasting solutions we need and have to solve our climate crisis. Rep Joe Neguse initiated the House’s Select Committee on the Climate Crisis’ visit to Colorado. He also co-sponsored one the most effective bills introduced in Congress to solve the problem: HR 763, The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act.
The news just keeps getting better! Another local politician said: “We … have an economic imperative to lead the global clean energy revolution.” By “we” he means Colorado. We are the cutting edge, with four of our nation’s best resources to solve this climate crisis/opportunity: NREL (the National Renewable Energy Lab), NOAA (North American Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration labs), NCAR (National Center for Atmospheric Research) and the University of Colorado in Boulder.
Washington, D.C., is coming to Colorado for answers, and increased money to Colorado will most likely follow. My congress member, Rep. Jason Crow, is hosting a forum on our climate crisis in two weeks. I plan to be there bright and early. Whoever thinks the news is all negative these days isn’t paying attention to the news about the solutions.
Lesley LeFevre, Centennial