I knew virtually nothing about the framing of the US Constitution when I first read this book. Fortunately Fresia's writing style is clear and elegantly simple - which is ideal for the politically uninitiated. He lays out how the Constitutional Convention was actually a secret meeting of rich property owners and merchants who saw that their business interests (greater economic development, expanded trade and accumulated personal wealth) threatened by smaller landholders who had seized control of the legislatures of 12 out of 13 of the original colonies. The smaller farmers, like farmers everywhere, depended on an economy based on credit and bartering. The merchant class, on the other hand, wanted a centralized economy based on hard currency - which they needed to advance their exceedingly lucrative trade with Great Britain and the West Indies.
George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and the others who met in secret to draw up a Constitution which would tranfer power from relatively autonomous state assemblies to a centralized federal government, agreed from the outset that what they wanted was a system more like Great Britain. They didn't want a king, but they did want a system of government in which the business elite could use government authority to promote the expansion of a private economy independently of what the common people might think was in their best interest.
Fresia describes how the Framers created the so-called "checks and balances" of the three branches of government - not to protect the interest of the common people - but to ensure that property interests retain a greater voice than ordinary people. He also reminds us that the Senate, in which a tiny state like Rhode Island ends up with the same number of votes, as an enormous state like California is given far more power in the Constitution than House (with longer terms, as well as the power to approve treaties and all presidential appointees).
He then describes the dirty tricks the Framers used to get 11 legislatures to ratify the Constitution (they set it up so they only needed 9), in the face of overwhelming opposition from the majority of enfranchised American voters.
The second half of Towards an American Revolution fast forwards to the twentieth century to demonstrate how the US has continued to be ruled by a secret political elite with a specific agenda of suppressing democracy when it interferes with their business interests. The examples Fresia gives include America's "secret police" force under the FBI's Cointelpo operation, the role of President Herbert Hoover and US industrialists (represented by Wall Street lawyer Allen Dulles) in financing the rise of Hitler, the subsequent appointment of Dulles to head the most powerful secret police appartaus in history (the CIA) and his incorporation of Nazi war criminals into US intelligence networks, the role of "secret government" in the assassination of JFK, the corruption of our democratically elected representatives by corporate lobbyists and Reagan's illegal war in Nicaragua.
By Dr Stuart Jeanne Bramhall, author of THE MOST REVOLUTIONARY ACT: MEMOIR OF AN AMERICAN REFUGEE