Is that fascinating, or what? I suppose by the late 1790s it was already too late. By then we already had that sick system of rich guys buying influence from politicians who were themselves becoming rich guys.The Founding Fathers and great wealthIn a letter to Joseph Milligan on April 6, 1816, Thomas Jefferson explicitly suggested that if individuals became so rich that their wealth could influence or challenge government, then their wealth should be decreased upon their death. He wrote, "If the overgrown wealth of an individual be deemed dangerous to the State, the best corrective is the law of equal inheritance to all in equal degree..."
In this, he was making the same argument that the Framers of Pennsylvania tried to make when writing their constitution in 1776. As Kevin Phillips notes in his masterpiece book "Wealth and Democracy: A Political History of the American Rich," a Sixteenth Article to the Pennsylvania Bill of Rights (that was only "narrowly defeated") declared: "an enormous proportion of property vested in a few individuals is dangerous to the rights, and destructive of the common happiness of mankind, and, therefore, every free state hath a right by its laws to discourage the possession of such property."..
In "Wealth and Democracy," Kevin Phillips notes that: "George Washington, one of the richest Americans, was no more than a wealthy squire in British terms." Phillips says that it wasn't until the 1790' s - a generation after the War of Independence - that the first American accumulated a fortune that would be worth one million of today's dollars. The Founders and Framers were, at best, what today would be called the upper-middle-class in terms of lifestyle, assets, and disposable income.
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