the quartet orchestrating the second american revolution 1783 1789.pdf

Structured in such a way to manage the inevitable

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structured in such a way to manage the inevitable excesses of democracy and best serve the long-term public interest? 17 Madison’s one-word answer was “filtration.” He probably got the idea from David Hume’s Idea of a Perfect Commonwealth (1754), an uncharacteristically utopian essay in which Hume imagined how to construct the ideal republican government from scratch. Ordinary voters would elect local representatives, who would elect the next tier of representatives, and so on up the political ladder in a process of refinement that left the leaders at the top connected only distantly with the original electorate and therefore free to make decisions that might be unpopular. A republic under this filtration scheme was a political framework with a democratic base and a hierarchical superstructure that allowed what Madison described as “the purest and noblest characters” to function as public servants rather than popular politicians. 18 Some semblance of the filtration idea was already embodied in several of the state constitutions, where the upper house was elected by the lower house, and in a few instances the governor was chosen by the upper house. Even Jefferson, perhaps the most democratically inclined member of the founding generation, implicitly accepted the filtration principle, acknowledging “a choice by the people themselves is not generally distinguished for its wisdom, that the first secretion from them is usually crude and heterogeneous.” 19 Madison’s aversion to unfettered (or unfiltered) democracy was less theoretical than practical. The state governments created during and after the war for independence were the closest thing to laboratories for democracy ever established beyond the local level in recorded history. And there was little doubt in his mind that these political experiments, Virginia’s included, were demonstrable failures, clear examples of how easily demagogues could manipulate popular opinion and provincial prejudices, thereby rendering any considerations of the larger public interest impossible. His argument about the inherent advantages of a large republic represented his way to bring demography and geography to the rescue by enlarging the political arena. His argument for filtration represented his attempt to achieve a similar goal—that is, to harness the raw energies of that semi-sacred thing called “the people” while simultaneously controlling and refining its inevitable excesses. A large and properly layered republican government, therefore, would have a popular foundation and a meritocratic infrastructure, which was the political equivalent to having your cake and eating it too. These were Madison’s major goals, key ideas, and core convictions on the eve of the Constitutional Convention. It is difficult to imagine a lawyer more fully prepared to prosecute a defendant, which in this case was the moribund Articles, or to defend a client, which here was a fully sovereign government of the United States.
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