the quartet orchestrating the second american revolution 1783 1789.pdf

His first assault was aimed at the assumption that

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His first assault was aimed at the assumption that small republics, like the state governments created during the war, were inherently superior to large ones. But the historical record, as Madison read it, contradicted that assumption. The state governments had failed to meet their troop quotas and financial obligations throughout the war, thereby prolonging the conflict by several years, and in several desperate moments putting the eventual outcome at risk. (One could almost see Washington nodding with approval in the background.) Smallness in size, in effect, facilitated the smallness in thinking that had almost proved fatal to the cause of independence. Another long catalog of failures at the state level then ensued, suggesting that the previously described inadequacies of the Confederation Congress were in great part a consequence of the prevalent provincialism and localism within the states. The much-vaunted intimacy between elected representatives and their constituents, it turned out, had a quite deplorable downside, as representatives, in order to appease the voters, told them that they did not have to pay taxes, could settle on land promised to the Native Americans, could confiscate loyalist estates regardless of legal prohibitions against doing so, and were perfectly justified in accepting vastly inflated currency, since it permitted debtors to pay their creditors with money that was nearly worthless. 12 There was in Madison’s critical assessment of the state governments a discernible antidemocratic ethos rooted in the conviction that political popularity generated a toxic chemistry of appeasement and demagoguery that privileged popular whim and short-term interests at the expense of the long-term public interest. Fifty years later such a posture would be regarded as unacceptably elitist. But at the time, Madison felt no need to apologize for his critique, which derived its credibility not from some theoretical aversion to the will of the majority, but from a critical assessment of the popularly elected state governments during and after the war. He harbored an eighteenth-century sense that unbridled democracy was incompatible with the political health of a republic. 13 His second assault was a counterintuitive companion to the first, an argument that large republics were actually more stable and politically accountable than small ones. The core of this claim was that a larger republic increased the number of factions beyond the merely local sphere to create a new kind of political chemistry that generated its own discipline. As he put it in “Vices,” a large republic produced “a greater variety of interests, of pursuits, of passions, which check each other…. So an extensive Republic meliorates the administration of a small Republic.” This also meant that the central fear of the confederationists—namely, that a consolidated national government would tend toward tyranny—was
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