The ironic sublimity of our founding fathers’ words juxtaposed against the reality of their actions in regards to minorities and women is a stark example of the need for a full incorporation of the very principle they themselves devised in having “checks and balances” built into America’s governing model (Tindall & Shi, 2007, p. 182). Having so recently thrown off the British imperialistic tyranny, and having desired to avoid the abuses of power resident in the few, our white founding fathers fell right into something else they feared: “the tyranny of the majority” (Tindall & Shi, p. 180). Not a majority of numbers measured against all women, African Americans, Chinese, and Indians, but a majority of might by pedigree and learning that—although initially unavoidable—was not fair in the long run when all the wrongs of subjugation could have been righted. Perhaps, like speaking words of affirmation before corresponding habits are formed, so our nation had to speak well before it performed well. Before any habit takes, there are many intervening starts and stops—intermittent periods of vacillation—before another war solidified the hearts and immortalized the words about the equality of all men. Only when acknowledgement is made that the words written in blood are the words of all mankind, to include women and men of all colors, do the words begin to blazon and crystallize.
Our founding fathers understood sinful human nature, and to prevent the corrosive effects of too much power falling into too few hands, they crafted a government that would prevent this from happening. Starting with the fundamental fact of sin as the foundation, they erected a governmental philosophy that never lost sight of this fact. The only problem was that they too shared in this sinful human nature. These “checks and balances” ingeniously ensured the division of “sovereignty within the government” (p.184). This revolutionary idea of “vesting ultimate authority in the people” was about finding a way to exist around a still needful central power to rally people (p.184). The compromises that had to be made created a healthy tension between the two predominant yet opposing ideologies of Federalism and Republicanism. There was a definite need to centralize certain functions of the newborn government after the mold of the Federalist mind; likewise there was a need for democracy to grow outward after the mold of the Republican mind. There were strengths and weaknesses inherent in both ideologies; by absorbing the best of both, the compound ideology that emerged was stronger than either separate ideology could have ever developed into by itself.
Despite the omission of “charity to all” that was a later addendum to our country—that took Lincoln and a civil war to accomplish—our founding fathers were best suited to originate the revolutionary idea of self-governance. They were the superior minds of their day—in no small part because of the education they were able to obtain by being white and male. This is not to say they were inherently smarter than women or those of color, but they were, for wrong or right reasons, the educated, and thus, the serviceable minds of their day. The government they built had learned the lessons about the abuses of power and by establishing a government that lay upon more than a few white men’s shoulders they inadvertently laid the foundation for transferring it to all shoulders in the future. By the time Andrew Jackson came into power in 1828, our independent spirit began to fully democratize our governmental conventions, but as Jackson once said: “Equality of talents, or education, or of wealth cannot be produced by human institutions” (p. 278). Though human institutions could not produce equalities, they certainly could produce inequalities, however, and women and minorities were perpetually kept subjugated and voiceless. Into the void that their silent voices created is today’s sound; like a Joel’s army of unprecedented impact, so minorities are mounting the loudest and shrillest war cries. Where will the balancing checks and the checking balances take us?
Tindall, G.B. & Shi, D.E. (2007). America, a narrative history. New York: W.W.
Norton and Co.