The United States is the closest there is to a land of the free because it was founded in uniquely favourable circumstances. Chief among these was the vast expanse of habitable virgin territory coterminous to its borders which with the benefits of modern agriculture could have been settled peacefully by great numbers of immigrants with the ongoing cooperation of the native population. This circumstance gave young, fit, armed colonists the option to resettle virtually at will merely as individuals for a period of over two centuries. At the same time they enjoyed many of the benefits of self government thanks to the incorporation of constitutional provisions in colonial law inspired by the first English revolutions, including the right to trial by jury. American technology similarly developed further the achievements of its British forbears, and quickly assumed the role of world leader in industrial innovation. The revolutionary movement which established the first modern republic was sustained by a people which had acquired technological skills and experienced freedom of thought and action to an extent without parallel, led by representatives of the world's most enlightened intellectual community informed by the most advanced understanding of scientific method and able to apply such learning on a practical basis to the realm of political philosophy. This explains why as stated the American Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights comprise the most concise expression of common sense understanding in modern history.

Nevertheless it is clear that from the outset of the revolution obstacles to further progress due to conservative resistance and the attempts of aristocratic factions to exploit the struggle against monarchy for selfish reasons were only partially overcome. They have continued to limit democratic development to the present day. The origins of Athenian democracy and sortition are not fully known. However it is generally recognised that Greek democracy began with the reforms of Solon - that is to say, with the positive cooperation of the ruling power. The use of sortition may be explained therefore either by the fact that this practice was simply more widespread at the time, or that it was consciously introduced by the ruling power, or both. Whichever of these possibilities occurred, the chief distinctions between this form of democracy and the US representative system remains the same: the former was introduced with the willing patronage of the existing ruling power, the latter was not.

As stated, leadership is necessary for any organisation, and in its early stages of development democracy requires aristocracy in order to function. Athenian democracy could rely more easily on the existing hereditary aristocracy to guide its development. Anglo-American democracy could not, but had instead to develop a revolutionary movement to overthrow a more entrenched form of tyranny. Representative government arose from this circumstance: it combines the role of a new aristocracy to overthrow and replace the old hereditary aristocracy with democracy. It is not democracy as such but a fusion of aristocracy and democracy. As Rousseau correctly observed, the practice of representation - first by appointment, then by election - is a derivation of feudalism, not democracy.

Freemasonry has sought to present itself as such a necessary, virtuous aristocracy in the American revolution, a claim which appears to some limited extent reasonable, when account is taken of its central role in the new republic's army. It became nevertheless very clear that the interests of freemasonry and those of democratic development do not really coincide. The secret factional methods of freemasonry are clearly at odds with sortition. That problematic of leadership is the main reason why representative democracy came into being when 55 American colonists, many of whom, if not all, were freemasons, met at a constitutional convention and deliberated, in secret, with no agreed recorded minutes, on what form of government should be established. There is both circumstantial and anecdotal evidence which appears to confirm this. It has, for example, been suggested that Franklin and Washington discussed at the convention whether the role and influence of Jews in the new republic should be contained, since they have divided loyalties and could not be regarded as true patriots. Charles Beard, perhaps the most widely read radical historian of the American revolution, has sought to refute this claim; his efforts to promote a Marxist view of events at the expense of Jefferson's allegiance to common sense realism should perhaps be taken into account in this regard.

Conflict within the revolutionary movement polarised into a struggle between those who favoured a greater emphasis on aristocratic methods, led by Hamilton, and those who favoured a greater emphasis on democratic methods, led by Jefferson. Madison occupied a rather too flexible, centrist position in this struggle. The US constitution is the agreement reached between these contending forces which would serve as a continuing basis for a united alliance. The subtext of this consensus was that slavery could not be abolished without destabilising the revolutionary alliance, and that an aristocratic form of government by limited consent Hamilton would term 'representative democracy' should be established. Both sides hoped to overcome their rivals in due course: the Right conspired to establish an American constitutional monarchy in alliance with its British cousin; the Left sought to ally with European radicalism, end slavery and promote democratic development in a basically Athenian direction. There are various exceptions and complexities which do not directly match this interpretation, but it is the most adequately comprehensive.

Despite the exclusion of Jefferson from the constitutional convention, Paine's refusal to attend it and Madison's flagrant misrepresentation during it of the strengths of Athenian democracy in containing the deleterious influences of faction (as S.E. Finer notes, his claims that Greek 'pure' democracy can offer 'no cure for the mischiefs of faction' are not only '… demonstrably false. Not merely false: they are contre-verities' 1998, Vol 1, p362) republican democracy subsequently secured rights to bear arms and trial by jury on a fully comprehensive basis pertaining to both pre-trial grand jury hearings and virtually all criminal and civil matters. These were important concessions from the American right. The republican democrats went on to eventually rout federal conservatism at the polls, but this victory did not lead to repair of the damage done by Madison's spoiling tactics in regard to sortition. It therefore remains the case that, irrespective of his motives, he bears great responsibility for the failure to incorporate sortition more widely in the federal constitution, most especially when account is taken of the fact that this had already been accomplished to some extent in the Articles of Confederation.

The far sighted wisdom of American revolutionary radicalism lay in its ability to maintain a difficult and problematic alliance with aristocratic factions which sought to exploit the struggle against monarchy for selfish purposes while at the same time laying foundations which might serve to facilitate the ultimate sovereignty and triumph of common sense knowing, very possibly, that even following abolition of slavery much effort and persistence would be needed to achieve final victory. While democratic concessions had been won by radicalism in the constitutional settlement, much ground had been conceded in turn to aristocracy: slavery remained intact, sortition was limited to juries and democratic decision making was accordingly restricted to a narrow elite.

Despite Jefferson's Bill of Rights, Hamilton was able to ensure the American republic bore a closer constitutional resemblance to Rome than Athens. Consequently what had long been acknowledged as the great bane of aristocracy - secrecy, intrigue and factionalism - while to some extent necessary in the pre-revolutionary era, now continued to act as central, determining components of representative democracy, limiting and distorting political progress.

When Jefferson died the relative tranquillity established with the terminal defeat of federal conservatism in the new republic was disturbed by the new, incongruous champion of the working man, the masonic grandmaster, Andrew Jackson. His struggle for the Presidency began in 1824 against John Quincy Adams on various charges of nepotism and corruption, which then developed into a split within the Republican Democrats from which the Democrats and National Republicans emerged the first and second parties in the US.

As regards policy differences, there were none of any ongoing historical significance. It was in that context that Jefferson described Jackson as 'a very dangerous man.' Although Jackson acquired an ostentatious reputation for being in favour of the working man, such inferences were essentially demagogic in character. His approach was in the main to bribe and corrupt white voters by preserving slavery, evicting Indians and stealing their lands.

The 'spoils system' in which electoral victors could award lucrative state posts and contracts to their supporters epitomised the fraudulent nature of Jackson's claim to be more democratic than his rivals. The idea that politics was a pursuit which only the leisured aristocracy could follow in a virtuous manner was a symptom and consequence of the narrowly elitist basis of the decision making process agreed on in the constitutional settlement. This could only genuinely be addressed by correcting Madison's misrepresentation of Athenian democracy, and with this, payment of delegates chosen by random selection. Jackson's spoils system merely substituted one form of aristocratic privilege for another, more obviously corrupt form shorn of all pretence at impartiality.

To borrow an appropriately vernacular phrase, the Democratic Party has, from its foundation to the present day, spoken with forked tongue. After fraudulently laying claim to the Jeffersonian heritage the Democratic Party went on to promote slavery above the Missouri compromise line by allowing new states to establish slavery - the infamous Kansas Nebraska act, which led directly to the civil war. It was in this context that Lincoln subsequently inquired in regard to a commemorative dinner held by his new Republican Party in honour of Jefferson why it should be that 'those supposed to descend politically from the party opposed to Jefferson should now be celebrating his birthday, while those claiming political descent from him have ceased to breathe his name everywhere. I remember once being amused at seeing two partially intoxicated men engage in a fight with their greatcoats on, which fight, after a long and harmless contest, ended in each having fought himself out of his own coat, and into that of the other. If the two leading parties of the day are really identical with the two in the days of Jefferson and Adams, they have performed the same feat as the two drunken men.'

Party differences, it might appear, were so marginal in American politics that one party could slip into the role of another almost by accident. If, however, account is taken of the possibility that, as Lincoln clearly implied, all is not as it appears in the transition to government by consent, a different set of possibilities emerges. A fuller picture of the real state of affairs in US political development can be gained when consideration is given to the problem of freemasonry. John Quincy Adams was the only openly antimasonic President in US history. During his administration the American Anti-Masonic Party was formed following exposure of the vast conspiracy to protect the murderers of Captain William Morgan, a high ranking freemason who took steps and openly threatened to expose masonic secrets in a publicly systematic way. It won 37 Congress seats in the radical, northern states with the support of the lower classes and quickly became the third US party. The possibility therefore emerges that Jackson's Democrats were in some way promoted in response to this gathering threat to masonic interests.

In the following decades 'American' freemasonry suffered the most catastrophic decline in its history. Lincoln's opponents, it has been claimed, were all freemasons. The official masonic standpoint in the civil war was of an 'agreement to differ.' Unofficially it has been suggested that high ranking masonic generals on both sides colluded with the Democrats to increase Union losses in order to topple Lincoln. His secretary of state, William Seward, had led the American Anti-Masonic Party. The operation to kill them (Seward was attacked in a different place but simultaneously with Lincoln) was, it has been claimed, planned and executed by means of a confederate masonic conspiracy that had international backers, including from within the British ruling class.

These are mere conjectures, not facts. Nevertheless taken against the background of the central role of freemasonry in the history of the American republic they should be taken account of. On this understanding American history can be viewed as that of a dynamic, much of it conspiratorial, between genuinely democratic aspirations and aristocratic duplicity, with the latter seeking to present its own interests as those of common sense in order to better impede realisation of such aspirations, but in so doing risking exposure and defeat through those powers granted to ordinary reason by the constitution. This can be seen in the self evidently contradictory relation between the Declaration of Independence, slavery, and the right to trial by jury, which duly found expression in the widespread rejection and nullification of Fugitive Slave law by juries. Eight decades after the revolution this contradiction laid bare the arbitrary, treasonous standpoint of mainly Democrat supreme court justices when, in order to deprive Dred Scott of freedom they wilfully and deliberately ignored the fact that black men in five of the original States had been full voting citizens dating back to 1776.

The American 'civil war' was in that sense a war against both treason and slavery: from the standpoint of common sense secessionist claims to confederate legitimacy were nonsense from beginning to end, but even so still supposedly confused 'anarchist' radicals such as Lysander Spooner. This example of entrenched supreme court irrationalism shows that though giving accurate expression to the general democratic interest in the transition to government by consent the American revolutionary achievement has been slow to fully realise due to the intransigence of conservatism, the subversion of democratic progress by narrow aristocratic interests, and the consequent confusion these difficulties have generated in the camp of radicalism. As a result, although democratic progress has been made since 1776, it has been relatively slow, and sometimes has been reversed.

Fraudulent arguments have been deployed by aristocratic forces to prevent exercise of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the federal constitution, including the invocation of state sovereignty. As US supreme court justices said at the time in 1857, what worried them most about the Dred Scott case was the implication that blacks as citizens would be entitled to the right to bear arms. By such means this right was denied to blacks in Dixieland, both before and after the 14th amendment. The supreme court has since effectively refused to discuss defence of second amendment rights when attacked either by racist state legislation in the 19th century or soft totalitarian gun control state legislation enacted by the leftist 'interpretivist' school of judicial activism in the late 20th century. Today career radicalism purports to fear the urban mob and employs arguments used by the American slaveowners of 1783 and 1865 who sought to restrict the right to bear arms to forces under state control for fear of the black mob, while the revolutionary northern colonies sought to both oppose slavery and emphasise the individual right to bear arms (which, as with randomly selected jurors vs state judges, is what alone makes sense - or, more precisely, common sense - in regard to the relation between the state and the people). Reason has shown itself the slave of short-sighted passions for racists and postmodern radicals alike in this regard.

The right to trial by jury and with this the limited role of sortition in the constitution has not been advanced since the revolution, but on the contrary has been curtailed by means of judicial interference to levels below those stipulated in the Bill of Rights. The 14th Amendment, supposed to protect fundamental rights against state encroachment, has, as shown, been ignored in regard to the right to bear arms and actually been interpreted as a way of curtailing the use of grand juries in misdemeanour crimes. The purpose of trial by jury, as the Supreme Court itself has noted, is to prevent "oppression by the government." To perform that role, jurors must act independently and conscientiously, and they must be prepared to "just say no" if they believe that a conviction would be unjust. Non-cooperation with injustice was a social imperative that had led, in part, to the American revolution. Juries are not always or immediately the most wise depositories of the public interest but in the long view they are the safest. If there is any component part of the US federal constitution that has demonstrated its ultimately reliably democratic character it is the right to trial by jury and the nullification powers of the jury to refuse to convict law breakers when enforcement of the law does not measure up to the standards of common sense. Jurors regularly refused to enforce both the Alien and Sedition Act and the Fugitive Slave Act.

Jefferson's confidence in the right to trial by jury has therefore been completely vindicated, but so also has his distrust of the legal profession. Just as Jefferson forewarned, judicial aristocracy - in both conservative and soft totalitarian form - has shown a tendency to deny the constitutional role of juries when their own prejudices and the interests of their allies are at stake. In 1872 the woman's suffrage campaigner Susan B. Anthony was denied the right to trial by jury for illegal voting. Toward the end of the 19th century courts began to restrict the role of juries. In 1895 the Supreme Court held that trial courts were not required to inform jurors of their power to refuse to convict, or to convict on lesser charges, if they believed a conviction on the facts proven at trial would be unjust. In the years since, American courts have misinterpreted that ruling as a blanket prohibition on informing jurors of their discretionary prerogative to "check" unjust laws. The result has been that juries have been restrained from exercising their veto. While it is true that white racist juries have taken decisions which do not accord with truth, it is the role of the jury in the federal constitution as a whole, and with this, world history, that has vindicated Jefferson's trust in the people.

The common sense understanding that inherited wealth should be subject to redistribution for egalitarian purposes and that inheritance tax is the most socially just form of taxation was well known to American revolutionary radicalism. Jefferson and Paine made plain their firm grasp of its importance in advocating the principle that 'the earth belongs to the living' as a constitutional provision. Franklin similarly argued the state had a duty to prevent large concentrations of wealth as a threat to the welfare and happiness of the people. As with slavery, however, this concession was not going to be easily won from aristocracy. Although Jefferson abolished primogeniture in his own lifetime and an inheritance tax was established in 1797 no stable progress in over two centuries has since been made in regard to this principle.

During the 19th century the campaign of genocide conducted against the American Indians ensured vast areas of new land were made available for frontier settlers, a crime which violated the principle that the earth belongs to the living and so directly undermined radicalism on this question. Jefferson had placed the interests of the world's first modern democratic republic higher than those of the American Indians - and he was right to do so - but, as antimasonic writers made clear, the campaign of genocide subsequently conducted against them was totally at odds with his approach on this matter, which upheld the standards of common sense and rested on the assumption that westward settlement would take many centuries and develop in a relatively harmonious manner.

This heritage of genocide is consequently now integrally connected to this limitation in the development of American democracy, and together with inheritance tax now comprises one of the most important constitutional issues continuing to face the oldest modern republic in regard to the principle that the earth belongs to the living, rivalled in significance only by the failure to incorporate sortition more fully in the electoral system.

Of relevance here is that the American Indian Iroquois federal constitution had incorporated sortition. By the close of the 19th century therefore the American republic had abolished slavery but bore little further resemblance to Jefferson's hopes in regard to democratic progress. His vision of development towards a flexible, participatory democracy similar to that of the Athenian polis organised about the principle that the earth belongs to the living and able to effect review of the constitution on a regular, long term cycle had been subverted and frustrated by the prejudices, interests and intrigues of aristocratic factionalism. Progress towards a more participatory, non-partisan political system had long been forestalled in favour of the unrestricted accumulation of vast fortunes by a new aristocracy of wealth. Correspondingly segregation had in any case been institutionalised in the south and the American Indians had been virtually exterminated.

US policy in the new century could consequently be described as democratic in only a limited and provisional manner, in that it could be affected by election of one or two main parties. This needs to be taken into account in regard to economic policy, and in particular, the role of banking and finance. The conservative wing of the American republic made plain from the outset their desire to emulate as closely as possible the British example of constitutional monarchy and with this to establish a National Bank and a National Debt, aims for which they were unsurprisingly supported by the banking fraternity. Alexander Hamilton, a man of Jewish descent experienced in the realm of finance, led his federalist supporters in this cause. American radicalism had consistently opposed this demand throughout most of the 19th century. Despite this and after having somehow survived most of its first century without deliberate deficit spending and yet still emerged as the pioneer of mass production and accordingly the world's leading industrial power the American republic nevertheless eventually succumbed to the long advocated strategies of the banking fraternity. In 1913 The Federal Reserve Act formally established the central role of capitalist banking and finance in US economic affairs. The National Debt was zero in one single year, 1834, when the Anti-Masonic Party held 37 seats in Congress. It is now over $9 trillion, much of it due to war. Hence banking, debt and war are related. Eisenhower's curious warning about the 'military industrial complex' might actually have been better directed against banking.

In 1916 the US constitution was amended to establish income tax on a federal basis, half of which revenue is now spent paying the interest on the National Debt. Whether this colossal debt actually serves the real interests of the people is and has always been an open question, since the political system has never facilitated processes of democratic decision making on a systematically popular, non-partisan foundation, in which self evident truth and its derivatives can be properly distinguished and subject to the judgement of common sense. Even so freedom of speech has been upheld in many parts of America: in 1900 it was still (and has remained) the most advanced republic in world history. Given sound leadership and some good fortune it was possible that the Jeffersonian path could have been rejoined and genuinely democratic constitutional provisions based on the self evident truths of common sense could accordingly have been formulated, promoted and incorporated.

New difficulties however had in the meantime emerged with the failure of revolutionary movements throughout Europe which had operated on strategic assumptions derived chiefly from the French example. In this process the tenuous relation between common sense, political philosophy and social progress, competently grasped by American revolutionary radicalism, had been weakened and fractured. Democracy in its non-partisan Athenian meaning was probably less understood in 1900 than in 1800 by academics, leave alone voters. Madison and his murky colleagues had well and truly sown the dragon's teeth of confusion in this regard.

By 1900 Kautsky, following Hegel, had declared Athenian democracy to be 'immature,' and the party system to be the 'mature' form of 'bourgeois democracy.' This fake radicalism served to bamboozle the Left and at the same time strengthen longstanding conservative prejudices against Athenian democracy and so further remove sortition from the realm of academic study and public discussion. Common sense realism, the guiding philosophical tradition of Anglo-American radicalism, suffered a similar fate and was likewise overshadowed in the academic world, verbally and in print, by the idealist and scholastic traditions of European social theory. In June 2003 an officially witnessed computer search at the British Library showed that none of the first fifty books on the subject of democracy contained reference to sortition in title, chapter heading, or index. It is only very recently &endash; in the last decade or so, that Thomas Reid's work on common sense realism has begun to gain recognition for its true merit, after a period of over a century in which this tradition has been virtually excluded from serious academic consideration. This has been the background against which the erroneous and unscientific postulates of European idealism and Marxism ultimately informed the methodological assumptions of anarchism, Marxism, socialism, postmodern liberalism and totalitarianism. No library today consequently contains any works other than those of this author suggesting the application of sortition in electoral process (and including payment of randomly selected delegates) on the basis of common sense realism to deal with the problems of masonic and cold war factionalism in the context of James Madison's misrepresentation of Athenian democracy and the failure of subsequent US legislators to incorporate the principle that the 'earth belongs to the living' in taxation policy.

Next: France
Previous: Britain
Back to Conference Index