THE DOCTRINES OF THE AMERICAN DEMOCRATIC FAITH
THE GROUP OF ANXIOUS MEN who assembled at Philadelphia in 1787 to frame a constitution for the new United States had almost universally that confidence in human reason which stemmed from Newton's scientific achievements and those of other scientists of the century before. Barring the Quakers, there was no social or religious mysticism in their thought. True to the Enlightenment, of which they were in fact a part, their social philosophy emphasized atomism. They centered their interest on the individual man. Democracy is the appropriate political expression of the atomistic social emphasis, yet many of the Founding Fathers had a healthy skepticism of democracy. To some it suggested the triumph of mediocrity, to others the substitution of the rule of passion for that of reason. But the United States was committed to the principle of democracy by the logic of the Revolution and, as a consequence, the delegates at Philadelphia founded their government, in frank Lockean style, upon the consent of the governed. But because they saw outside the windows of the convention hall the disturbing specter of the possible tyrant seizing power and enslaving the people, the framers hedged about and balked political power, by whomever exercised, with their famous system of checks and balances. In the drawing up of their great document they were both rationalists and empiricists. When they had finished, they properly looked upon themselves as initiating a great experiment in popular government.