Why demagogues were the Founding Fathers’ greatest fearRoundup
tags: Founding Fathers, presidential history, impeachment, Trump, founders
Eli Merritt is a visiting scholar in the department of history at Vanderbilt University. Twitter: @elimerritt
There has been much talk lately among both Democrats and Republicans of the intents of the founders in the writing of the Constitution, especially involving the powers of impeachment and removal from office.
What has been sorely lacking from this conversation is an awareness of the framers’ overwhelming conviction that there was nothing more poisonous to constitutional democracies than demagogues — which to them meant a very specific kind of threat.
Less than two weeks after the start of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, George Washington wrote to his friend, the Marquis de Lafayette, on June 6, 1787, explaining that his critical purpose in attending the convention was to prevent a demagogue from gaining power in the politically unstable young nation and thus destroying it.
Washington described how he was pulled out of retirement by an urgent risk to the United States. “Anarchy and confusion” were threatening the security of the American people and the rule of constitutional law. But this was only half the danger.
comments powered by Disqus
- Josh Hawley Earns F in Early American History
- Does Germany's Holocaust Education Give Cover to Nativism?
- "Car Brain" Has Long Normalized Carnage on the Roads
- Hawley's Use of Fake Patrick Henry Quote a Revealing Error
- Health Researchers Show Segregation 100 Years Ago Harmed Black Health, and Effects Continue Today
- Nelson Lichtenstein on a Half Century of Labor History
- Can America Handle a 250th Anniversary?
- New Research Shows British Industrialization Drew Ironworking Methods from Colonized and Enslaved Jamaicans
- The American Revolution Remains a Hotly Contested Symbolic Field
- Untangling Fact and Fiction in the Story of a Nazi-Era Brothel