Class Conflict: The Pursuit and History of American Justice by Gregory C. Leavitt.

Author:Friedman, Barry D.
Position:Book review

Leavitt, Gregory C. Class Conflict: The Pursuit and History of American Justice. New Brunswick, N. J.: Transaction Publishers, 2013. 249 pages. Cloth, $49.95.

Americans tend to imagine that the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia was a heavenly ordained event at which an assortment of demigods facilitated the American destiny, wrote the divinely inspired Constitution, and saved the United States from the chaos of the Articles of Confederation. This book makes a compelling argument that the convention was the centerpiece of a remarkably well-orchestrated conspiracy by American Whiggery--i.e. the gentry--to hijack the accomplishment of independence from Britain and to institutionalize elite advantage. Calling themselves the Federalist faction, the elites continually misled the public by insisting that they were committed to the primacy of the state and local control that the public cherished. The Federalists gladly welcomed the collaboration of the unwitting democrats Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, who would emit egalitarian rhetoric on behalf of the Federalists and leave the impression with the public that the Federalist agenda featured inclusive participation. The Federalists also manipulated the ambitious, clueless George Washington and the over-the-hill Benjamin Franklin into fronting for a single-minded effort to establish a hierarchical society. Contrary to their promise to confine the Philadelphia convention to the drafting of amendments to the Articles of Confederation, they immediately closed the meeting, agreed to write in secret a new constitution that would strip the states of their sovereignty, and devised a ratification process that simply set aside Article XIII of the Articles of Confederation, which required the approval of all thirteen state legislatures to change the law of the land. Then they hurriedly organized the state ratification conventions, packing them with wealthy landowners and businessmen. The members of the Anti-Federalist faction were caught by surprise by the well-organized Federalists' devious, illegal machinations. In not much longer than the blink of an eye, the Federalists had transferred sovereignty to the national government, made state policymaking subordinate to national policymaking, and designed two and a half unelected branches out of the national government's three branches. School history books paint a portrait of an American electorate that welcomed the draft constitution with...

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