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The New York Times has begun a major initiative, the "1619 Project," to observe the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe American history so that slavery and the contributions of black Americans explain who we are as a nation. Nikole Hannah-Jones, staff writer for The New York Times Magazine wrote the lead article, "America Wasn't a Democracy, Until Black Americans Made It One." She writes, "Without the idealistic, strenuous and patriotic efforts of black Americans, our democracy today would most likely look very different -- it might not be a democracy at all."
There are several challenges one can make about Hannah-Jones's article, but I'm going to focus on the article's most serious error, namely that the nation's founders intended for us to be a democracy. That error is shared by too many Americans. The word democracy appears nowhere in the two most fundamental founding documents of our nation -- the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. Instead of a democracy, the Constitution's Article IV, Section 4, declares, "The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government." Think about it and ask yourself whether our Pledge of Allegiance says to "the democracy for which it stands" or to "the republic for which it stands." Is Julia Ward Howe's popular Civil War song titled "The Battle Hymn of the Democracy" or "The Battle Hymn of the Republic"?
Founders - Contempt - Democracy - James - Madison
The founders had utter contempt for democracy. James Madison, the acknowledged father of the Constitution, wrote in Federalist Paper No. 10, that in a pure democracy "there is nothing to check the inducement to sacrifice the weaker party or the obnoxious individual." At the 1787 Constitutional Convention, delegate Edmund Randolph said, "that in tracing these evils to their origin every man had...
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