"The land of the free and the home of the brave." When Francis Scott Key penned those famous words, he captured the feelings of generations of Americans to come: that the United States is a land of unparalleled rights and freedoms. And while Mr. Key did share in these great rights and freedom, many in this new nation were intentionally excluded from these self-evident natural rights, which are believed to be protected by this nation's revolutionary founding documents. It is in these documents that the founders’ intent for our nation’s government can be found, and the truth can be rooted out. While this nation's framers fully intended to create a revolutionary and democratic government, they failed due to the deeply embedded biases of the time. This failure is most obvious in the treatment of women, the poor, and anyone not considered white.
The preamble to the United States Constitution proclaims to protect the rights and liberties of “we the people”, but for much of this nation’s history “we” was narrowly defined within a context of patriarchy and white supremacy. Under these conditions marginalized groups have agitated, demonstrated, and died in their endeavors to force the United States to live up to its ideals. While the achievement of full democracy has not been fully realized, the struggle to obtain it may not have begun had the Constitution’s authors not at least laid a framework for democratic governance. Although the framers’ notion of democracy was flawed—they protected the institution of slavery failed to enfranchise women —they did intend to create a government that was revolutionary and democratic for its time. Their intentions are best evidenced by the ability of some citizens to participate in government, the Bill of Right’s protection of civil liberties, and Jefferson and Madison’s tendency to lean toward majoritarianism and the expansion of the franchise.