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Question

After reading 2 of the articles by Holton, write a 3-5 page essay 12 point font, 1 inch margins that does the following:

1. Summarize Holton’s argument for why the constitution was written.
2. Analyze the argument. Where do you think it is strong? Where do you think it is weak? Why do you feel it is either weak or strong?

In this essay, be sure to make reference to Holton’s arguments and to address them specifically.

Answer

Analysis of Holton’s Argument on the Constitution of 1797

In Holton’s argument, focus is on an analysis of the US Constitution in terms of its origin. On this basis, there are myriad arguments and assertion as to why it was structured and implemented. They differ from one analyst to the other. As such, this essay will primarily focus on the perspectives presented by Woody Holton. It will address his arguments as to why the Constitution was written in addition to closely examining their strengths and weaknesses. In tackling this subject, I will review the information presented in two journal articles: ““From the Labors of Others”: The War Bonds Controversy and the Origins of the Constitution in New England” and “Did Democracy Cause the Recession that led to the Constitution”, both of which were written by Woody Holton.

            To begin with, Holton argues that the Constitution was solely written to create a favorable ground for investment that would appeal to potential investors. According to him, economics played an integral role in driving framers to come up with the Constitution. This in turn resulted into the American government becoming less autonomous. It can be argued that the framers of the Constitution were becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the increasingly powerful leaders of the American Confederation. This compelled them to summon a constitutional convention that sought to control and limit the power held by the American people (Holton, 444). Holton strongly holds the view that the founding fathers of the Constitution were majorly concerned with revolutionizing the democratic system to counter the involvement of debtors and taxpayers by introducing paper money.

            Additionally, the need to safeguard the interests of creditors and property rights is believed to be a great contributor for the emergence of the Constitution. Article 1 Section 10 of the Constitution outlawed all states from issuing anything else other than gold and silver for legal tenders and business-related matters especially in trade affairs. However, Holton believes that most founders held this part of the Constitution in high regard since it eradicated the existence of all financial instruments that were deemed undemocratic. This ensured that the government would not create a replica of a dissolute democracy.

            Moreover, Holton asserts that the Constitution focused more on coming up with more sound and apt measures that would settle all private debts as well as bridge the gap between taxpayers and investors. It was noted that during wartime, the US was swarmed by debts since it defaulted on its contractual interest payments on loans borrowed from France to cover its expenditure (Holton 445). However, this situation took a toll on the citizens since they had heavy levies and taxes imposed on them so as to raise revenue required to pay off the accrued interest on state and federal governments’ financial instruments brought by speculators (Holton 276). Holton points out that these speculators were in fact the beneficiaries of such reforms which were put in place as a result of the economic recession that bombarded the country at that time. On the other hand, farmers felt that the current state was far more oppressive and as such, they forced action and pushed for reforms.

            All in all, I hold the view that the arguments presented above by Holton have some weaknesses. Firstly, he points out that the constitutional convention that discussed the constitutional provisions disregarded several anti-democratic proposals which greatly abridged the chances that states would endorse the Constitution. He further states that quite a number of the proposals enlisted had to be dropped or substituted with more viable elements since they placed the endorsement process in danger. He does not explore these proposals further to support his assertion.

            Secondly, he continuously refers to the framers of the Constitution as discriminatory and anti-democratic while portraying the common citizen as victims. In my opinion, he is kind of biased in his arguments in the sense that he leans more towards the side of the ordinary citizen at the expense of the framers. As a substitute to this approach, he should have opted to strike a balance between the two factions in terms of respective interests and contribution to the country’s prevailing problems to better support his arguments.

            Thirdly, he argues that the farmers were entirely responsible for forcing action and campaigning for subsequent reforms prior to the constitutional convention yet he does not acknowledge their role and impact after the convention. The point that comes to mind is that they had challenged the proposed Constitution mainly because of its negative implications on the power held by citizens. This view contradicts Holton’s argument regarding why the Constitution emerged. In addition to this, the fact that he acknowledges that some proponents of the Constitution were in fact debtors and not creditors further refutes his earlier arguments on the written constitution’s aim.

            Nonetheless, Holton’s arguments have some strengths especially in view of the explanation regarding the role economics played in the framing of the Constitution. He believes that economics was the force that drove the structuring and writing of the Constitution to give rise to a new system of government. He addresses factors such as paper money, government bonds and imposed taxes, all of which were imperative to the development of the Constitution. He gives an in depth insight into these factors, further supporting his arguments and according them a deep sense of credibility.

            In conclusion, Holton’s arguments are riddled with numerous weaknesses that far outweigh the strengths. As such, I hold the opinion that he overemphasized the negative implications of the Constitution while neglecting arguments in favor of its merits. His portrayal of citizens as mere victims on the one hand and framers as the only major beneficiaries appears inaccurate. In fact, the Constitution masterminded the shift from a nation drowning in debt to a sovereign one that was able to sustain itself by paying off its bills and to protect the interests and rights of the American citizens in the long run, something the Confederation had immensely failed to achieve.

Works Cited

Holton, Woody. “Did Democracy Cause the Recession That led to the Constitution.” The Journal of American History, 5.2 (2005): 442-469.

Holton, Woody. “From the Labours of Others: The War Bonds Controversy and the Origins of the Constitution in New England.” The William and Mary Quarterly, 612 (2004): 271-316.

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