In Book XI of The Spirit of the Laws, Charles de Montesquieu touched on the nature of liberty and representation in republics. While the term ‘liberty’ is somewhat ambiguous, he ascribed to it tranquility of mind arising from the opinion each person has of his safety. In order to have this liberty, it is requisite the government be so constituted as one man need not be afraid of another.
To foster liberty, free men send representatives to deliberative bodies to craft laws on their behalf. The great advantage of reps is their capacity to discuss public affairs in the course of making laws, a process for which the people at large are extremely unfit. Montesquieu’s representative was not a simple talking-head repeater of his constituents, for whom he executed general orders on specific issues. While the best men of the community chosen as reps certainly had to be aware of constituent attitudes, they were to exercise their judgment in public matters. With the exception of those in so mean a condition so as to have no will of their own, electors of reps should constitute the adults in the district.
A great fault in most of the ancient republics was the people’s right to participate in making active resolutions, such as require some execution. Montesquieu did not elaborate, but active resolutions could encompass a declaration of war, blanket forgiveness of debt, mob justice . . . any directive to the executive or judicial to perform a particular act.
In sum, the people’s capacity is limited to identifying local men of character; their participation in government should extend no further than choosing their representatives.
Most men with a positive stake in society know they are not qualified to govern others. However, they are decent judges of character and will naturally use their judgement to find and appoint local men qualified to represent them in the popular branch of the lawmaking body. However, this qualification is limited. The yeomanry have no business directly electing leaders of political entities extensive in territory (statewide or nationwide) because not only can they not know the character of distant men, they will be subject to the spells of demagogues.
Ignorant people can always be swayed by demagogues. Independent men, free-holders are not the sort to be won over. Even in this self-reliant condition, Thomas Jefferson didn’t trust men to actually participate in government beyond their localities. Beyond local government, representatives were needed, and the sturdy yeoman could generally be trusted to elect men of good character, wisdom and virtue to handle complex governing affairs. The best form of government encourages the selection of these natural aristocrats to the offices of government.
It was precisely to facilitate the selection of the natural aristocrats (genuine elites), that Jefferson again and again emphasized the importance of educating the people and of fostering a way of life conducive to the development of virtuous and deferential citizenry.
Experience and the works of respected philosophers guided the Framers’ wise design. The people’s input was required in house elections, absent in senatorial appointments, and unfortunately left up to the states regarding presidential electors. Today, Leftists clamor for ever more democracy. If their schemes come to fruition, the only branch of government not popularly derived will be the scotus.
From the ancients to today, history proves that increasing the democratic element only ensures the rise of demagogues. Bernie & The Beast is not a children’s book. Together, Bernie and Hillary represent the epitome of republicanism gone bad, in which many, including federal judges, erroneously equate voting and majoritarian democracy with freedom.
Let’s strive to educate our fellow citizens in free government, that happy condition wherein government respects and protects the unalienable, Natural Rights of the nation, and makes no law without its consent.
We are the many; our oppressors are the few. Be proactive. Be a Re-Founder of the American Republic. Join Convention of States. Sign our COS Petition.