Was the adoption of the U.S. Constitution a liberal or conservative act?

Jul 2019
555
New Jersey
#41
Ok, sorry, but isn't normal and expected that any political views and policies from the 18th century would be considered conservative nowadays?
My point was that the question was poorly worded. You make my point. American Conservatives don’t wish to preserve some Throne and Altar politics, they wish to preserve the Classical Liberal ideals of the founding.

That makes the founders classical liberals but also closer to today’s American Conservatives.
 
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Aug 2019
32
Southwest Florida
#42
While some see the OP (liberal vs. conservative) as a false binary maybe an easier question to answer would be to ask if the Constitution is a revolutionary or reactionary document. Then again maybe that is not so easy a question to answer either.
 
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Sep 2019
110
Seattle
#44
And before the Revolution had finished, most of the States adopted Constitutions sanctioned religion by establishing religion or religious tests for office. Sometimes I wonder if the US has written history, or it's just a grab-bag of ideas.

The OP is a hard question to answer. What do those terms mean? Liberal and conservative? Based on what most people believe those terms mean today, ask yourself, which group likes the Revolutionaries, admires their work, and quotes them fondly?
Conservatism is by definition less revolutionary than liberalism...but each has its own spectrum. Liberalism or Progressivism may range from a "cautious approach to change" to revolution. Conservatism may range from a reluctance toward change to an acceptance of whatever authoritarianism is necessary to maintain the status quo.
 
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Sep 2019
110
Seattle
#45
While some see the OP (liberal vs. conservative) as a false binary maybe an easier question to answer would be to ask if the Constitution is a revolutionary or reactionary document. Then again maybe that is not so easy a question to answer either.
"Revolution" literally means "coming full circle." In order to complete the circle, the last phase of revolution must be "counter revolution" in itself. I see the Constitutional Convention as the coming of full circle and counter-revolutionary...certainly borne of mixed motives, but with the fear of anarchy and collapse being a primary driver...a desire for more law and order...and, in that sense, a conservative reaction. The end of the revolution begun with the Declaration of Independence.
 
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Code Blue

Ad Honorem
Feb 2015
4,088
Caribbean
#46
Conservatism is by definition less revolutionary than liberalism...but each has its own spectrum. Liberalism or Progressivism may range from a "cautious approach to change" to revolution. Conservatism may range from a reluctance toward change to an acceptance of whatever authoritarianism is necessary to maintain the status quo.
That's fine. Very generic. When I think on those lines, I say radical instead of liberal, and that the conservative many not want any change to status quo. But that surely isn't the common usage of these terms in the US today.

Even in your simple form, it is hard to put the Founders squarely in one group. Everyone focuses on different aspects, but a key issue for me is that they want what they were supposed to have already, the already-accepted rights of British citizens.
 
Sep 2019
110
Seattle
#47
Hmmm...perhaps not. I've been in both major Parties and consider myself conservative on some issues, liberal on others and moderate overall. I consider people such as George Will, Bill Kristol, and the late William Buckley as "conservative." Limbaugh and Hannity...not so much. I would call them "radical."
I think you are certainly right regarding the popular conclusion on the American colonialists feeling mistreated and wanting the "rights of Englishmen." I would agree that was an issue at the time. But, if you look closer at their situation, I think you'll find most of that was "tavern talk." There is a good book that looks at the colonial economies and taxation that shows the American colonies had the fastest growing economies on earth at the time of the Revolution and that their tax burden was actually less than their fellow citizens living in England. ["Taxation In Colonial America," by Alvin Rabushka, Princeton University Press, 2008]. Although there were people in Parliament who spoke for the colonialists, most probably felt they were behaving as spoiled children and complaining about having to pay for their own defense. The British had spent a lot of money fighting the French and Indian War. The pre-Revolutionary taxes were imposed primarily to meet the anticipated costs of maintaining an Army in the colonies, which would protect the frontiers and discourage any future excursions by other European powers. The British government estimated this cost at around 2 million pounds/year, taxation never achieved more several hundred thousand pounds/year (from the book, although I'm going from memory).
I suppose you could draw a comparison with our problem with NATO today, with perhaps Germany today being in the position of the colonies then and ourselves today being in the position of Great Britain then. The revolutionary "spark" was probably in Massachusetts and the Boston taverns. And, once the fire started, more rushed to spread the fire, than to extinguish it, for a variety of reasons ranging from the political theories of the Enlightenment to personal greed.
 
Jul 2019
555
New Jersey
#48
Hmmm...perhaps not. I've been in both major Parties and consider myself conservative on some issues, liberal on others and moderate overall. I consider people such as George Will, Bill Kristol, and the late William Buckley as "conservative." Limbaugh and Hannity...not so much. I would call them "radical."
I think you are certainly right regarding the popular conclusion on the American colonialists feeling mistreated and wanting the "rights of Englishmen." I would agree that was an issue at the time. But, if you look closer at their situation, I think you'll find most of that was "tavern talk." There is a good book that looks at the colonial economies and taxation that shows the American colonies had the fastest growing economies on earth at the time of the Revolution and that their tax burden was actually less than their fellow citizens living in England. ["Taxation In Colonial America," by Alvin Rabushka, Princeton University Press, 2008]. Although there were people in Parliament who spoke for the colonialists, most probably felt they were behaving as spoiled children and complaining about having to pay for their own defense. The British had spent a lot of money fighting the French and Indian War. The pre-Revolutionary taxes were imposed primarily to meet the anticipated costs of maintaining an Army in the colonies, which would protect the frontiers and discourage any future excursions by other European powers. The British government estimated this cost at around 2 million pounds/year, taxation never achieved more several hundred thousand pounds/year (from the book, although I'm going from memory).
I suppose you could draw a comparison with our problem with NATO today, with perhaps Germany today being in the position of the colonies then and ourselves today being in the position of Great Britain then. The revolutionary "spark" was probably in Massachusetts and the Boston taverns. And, once the fire started, more rushed to spread the fire, than to extinguish it, for a variety of reasons ranging from the political theories of the Enlightenment to personal greed.
I saw a good analysis of this problem in Lawrence Henry Gipson's The British Empire Before the American Revolution (although I can't recall whether it was at the beginning of vol. 10, 11, or 12).In his analysis, Gipson went through all the different proposals for colonial representation in parliament and crunched the numbers and showed how none of the proposals actually added up. I believe his point was that the British weren't acting in bad faith; there was just no possible solution to the problem save for independence. The set is way out of print, though, and I've been unable to find it for ages.
 

Fiver

Ad Honorem
Jul 2012
3,741
#49
I tend to agree...but there is also an underlying question regarding whether or not its "humanistic bias" was merely a "tool" for colonial elites objecting to the King's prohibition against westward expansion (a number of the "founders" were also land speculators in the west) and used a rather mild tax (the colonialists were taxed less than those in England overall) as a rallying cry for a popular uprising? And, couldn't the same thing be said about the development of English democracy and the earlier Glorious Revolution of 1688, but just a different rising new elite?
While some wealthy colonists stood to profit more from westward expansion, a strong majority of colonists favored westward expansion. Homesteading to the west was riskier, but property was also a great deal cheaper.
 
Sep 2019
110
Seattle
#50
I saw a good analysis of this problem in Lawrence Henry Gipson's The British Empire Before the American Revolution (although I can't recall whether it was at the beginning of vol. 11 or 12).In his analysis, Gipson went through all the different proposals for colonial representation in parliament and crunched the numbers and showed how none of the proposals actually added up. I believe his point was that the British weren't acting in bad faith; there was just no possible solution to the problem save for independence. The set is way out of print, though, and I've been unable to find it for ages.
Interesting. I was thinking primarily of Edmund Burke. I still owe you a reply on reasons for eliminating the EC today, but it may have to come later in the week. Thinking this morning that a primary difference between those who wrote the Declaration of Independence (as the symbolic beginning of the Revolution) and those who wrote the Constitution, may have just been age. Revolutions tend to be a "young people's game." We tend to grow more conservative with age. Washington's military career began as a young militia officer, serving with the British, during the French and Indian War (20-26 years old). He was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, in 1775, at the age of 43 (middle age). He was 55 when selected as President of the Constitutional Convention and served as President from 57 to 65 years old.

Perhaps we're making too much about nothing? Perhaps the difference between the Revolutionary furor of 1776 and the conservatism of 1789 was due primarily to the simple aging of veterans of the Revolution?