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

Sep 2019
110
Seattle
#51
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.
True...but there was also a difference between "land speculation" and "homesteading." Land speculators would purchase or claim vast tracts of land on the frontiers and then sell it off in smaller sub-divided tracts to the settlers, making enormous profits.
 
Aug 2019
32
Southwest Florida
#52
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 agree with your sentiments but I would argue that the call for the Rights' as Englishmen went beyond tavern talk. Here are the first five grievances from the Stamp Act Congress. If you take the logic as expressed one step to the next, it becomes an anti-tax argument based on the Rights' of Englishmen. (I believe)

Italics are my interpretation of the grievance stated.

Ist. That his majesty's subjects in these colonies, owe the same allegiance to the crown of Great Britain, that is owing from his subjects born within the realm, and all due subordination to that August body, the parliament of Great Britain. I.e. we are Englishmen

2d. That his majesty's liege subjects in these colonies are entitled to all the inherent rights and privileges of his natural born subjects within the kingdom of Great Britain. I.e as Englishmen we are entitled to the same rights

3d. That it is inseparably essential to the freedom of a people, and the undoubted rights of Englishmen, that no taxes should be imposed on them, but with their consent, given personally, or by their representatives. I.e that taxation without representation is an offense to an Englishman

4th. That the people of these colonies are not, and from their local circumstances, cannot be represented in the house of commons in Great Britain. I.e. Virtual representation is not representation

5th. That the only representatives of the people of these colonies, are persons chosen therein, by themselves; and that no taxes ever have been, or can be constitutionally imposed on them, but by their respective legislatures. I.e. only actual representation is the proper representation for an Englishman
 
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Rodger

Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
6,169
US
#53
It's difficult to ascribe today's standards to actions and decisions from nearly 250 years ago, without being anachronistic. With that said, generally speaking, the American experiment was liberal for its day, especially in an age of absolutism. However, by today's standards, whereby the political gamut runs from absolutism to anarchy, with everything in bewteen - including republicanism, democracy, socialism and communism, I would view the American Constitution as leaning toward being conservative. That is, if the Founders were alive today, what kind of polity would they say best represents what they were trying to achieve. For what kind of government would they advocate?
 
Sep 2019
110
Seattle
#54
I agree with your sentiments but I would argue that the call for the Rights' as Englishmen went beyond tavern talk. Here are the first five grievances from the Stamp Act Congress. If you take the logic as expressed one step to the next, it becomes an anti-tax argument based on the Rights' of Englishmen. (I believe)

Italics are my interpretation of the grievance stated.

Ist. That his majesty's subjects in these colonies, owe the same allegiance to the crown of Great Britain, that is owing from his subjects born within the realm, and all due subordination to that August body, the parliament of Great Britain. I.e. we are Englishmen

2d. That his majesty's liege subjects in these colonies are entitled to all the inherent rights and privileges of his natural born subjects within the kingdom of Great Britain. I.e as Englishmen we are entitled to the same rights

3d. That it is inseparably essential to the freedom of a people, and the undoubted rights of Englishmen, that no taxes should be imposed on them, but with their consent, given personally, or by their representatives. I.e that taxation without representation is an offense to an Englishman

4th. That the people of these colonies are not, and from their local circumstances, cannot be represented in the house of commons in Great Britain. I.e. Virtual representation is not representation

5th. That the only representatives of the people of these colonies, are persons chosen therein, by themselves; and that no taxes ever have been, or can be constitutionally imposed on them, but by their respective legislatures. I.e. only actual representation is the proper representation for an Englishman
 
Sep 2019
110
Seattle
#56
The Stamp Act was, of course, repealed before the outbreak of the revolution. But, it was replaced by the Declaratory Act of 1766, which upheld the British opinion that Parliament was superior to the local colonial assemblies. Thus, it left standing the American claim of "no taxation without representation." In 1767, the Townshend Acts were passed, returning "taxation" to the list of grievances. In March 1770, all of the taxes were withdrawn largely because they disrupted trade without any meaningful collection. One tax, however, remained...the tax on tea...leading, of course, to the Boston Tea Party, which in turn led to the British imposition of the "Intolerable Acts" and, in Canada, to the "Coercive and Quebec Acts." The latter expanded Quebec and established a new government led by a Crown appointed Governor and Council, without a local popular assembly. Fear that the British would impose similar laws in the American colonies led to the Committees of Correspondence and the First Continental Congress, in 1774. The colonists, at that point, may have still hoped to resolve the issues and remain a part of the British Empire, but they issued a Declaration of Rights and a List of Grievances and announced a boycott of British goods . In response, the British declared the Massachusetts Colony to be in a state of rebellion. The response was the Second Continental Congress, the Declaration of Independence and revolution. [Note: That "summary" was taken mostly from "Taxation In Colonial America," Alvin Rabushka, Chapter 24, "British Politics, Imperial Governance, and Colonial Government and Politics, 1763-1775, but th facts and sequence may be found in almost any book on that period in American history.]
Rabushka also notes that at the time of the Revolution, Englishmen in Great Britain, were taxed on average 10X what the average colonist was being taxed.
I'm not discounting the impact of the taxation issue as a principal cause of the Revolution, but suggest it was largely used to incite popular support for independence and was equally driven by colonial elites, who simply felt they'd be better off on their own, and without subjugation to either the British Crown or Parliament.
 

Code Blue

Ad Honorem
Feb 2015
4,088
Caribbean
#58
conservativism needs something to conserve and liberalism needs a benchmark to measure against.
And liberals needs to liberate something? I don't believe that the term conservative came into existence through some observed correlation to conserving things. And today, I think are too many exceptions for such a rule of thumb. The US has its status quo, its norms, its institutions. And the current benchmarks are lines that one side wants to push in one direction and the other side wants to push in the other direction - both liberal? And on some issues (like Roe), which side wants to "conserve" that implacably and in perpetuity? I feel like Potter Stewart. I can't define them perfectly, but I know them when I see them. lol I also think there is some truth in the idea that yesterday's radical is tomorrow's conservative.

I note that the title to the thread was whether the act of amending the first articles of union was conservative or liberal, but the opening post switched to asking with Anti-Federalists and Federalists were conservative or liberal. The responding posts went to the latter not the former.
 
Sep 2019
110
Seattle
#59
And liberals needs to liberate something? I don't believe that the term conservative came into existence through some observed correlation to conserving things. And today, I think are too many exceptions for such a rule of thumb. The US has its status quo, its norms, its institutions. And the current benchmarks are lines that one side wants to push in one direction and the other side wants to push in the other direction - both liberal? And on some issues (like Roe), which side wants to "conserve" that implacably and in perpetuity? I feel like Potter Stewart. I can't define them perfectly, but I know them when I see them. lol I also think there is some truth in the idea that yesterday's radical is tomorrow's conservative.

I note that the title to the thread was whether the act of amending the first articles of union was conservative or liberal, but the opening post switched to asking with Anti-Federalists and Federalists were conservative or liberal. The responding posts went to the latter not the former.
The Constitution was far more than "amending the Articles of Confederation." I think most historians would agree that the attendees to the Constitutional Convention understood that the Articles would need to be completely replaced. While there were elements of both conservatism and liberalism in the Constitution, it was most likely a conservative reaction to the revolutionary era that had, in the opinion of the federalists, run amok. Not too surprising. Most "revolutions" eventually come full circle...that's why they're called "revolutions."
 
Likes: Abraham95
Jul 2019
555
New Jersey
#60
The Constitution was far more than "amending the Articles of Confederation." I think most historians would agree that the attendees to the Constitutional Convention understood that the Articles would need to be completely replaced. While there were elements of both conservatism and liberalism in the Constitution, it was most likely a conservative reaction to the revolutionary era that had, in the opinion of the federalists, run amok.
That was the first major dispute of the Convention - whether they were amending or scrapping the Articles. By the end of the first day of Committee of the Whole (May 30, iirc), the Convention agreed that they were scrapping the Articles and creating a new government, as expressed in that day's resolution no. 3, which replaced the Virginia Plan's stated goal of amending the Articles with the following:

That a national government ought to be established, consisting of a supreme judicial, legislative and executive.

'Supreme' was the operative word, as the proposed government would be able to overide any given state's legislative objection.
 
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