Our revolutionary Constitution violated two accepted truths of 18th century political science: stable republics require small territories, and external commerce was detrimental to republics.
As to the first, any government that depends on the direct or indirect participation of the people requires a certain commonality in traditions, religion, and culture. This was thought possible only in city-states or across small territories. Yet, not only history, but our experience after 1776 had shown that even small republics had to guard against majoritarian tyranny. All forms of direct or indirect democracies were prone to the rise of factions that would put their interests ahead of the common good. State governments under the Articles of Confederation largely exemplified this troubling pathology.
Second, at our founding, commerce was regarded as debasing. Its promotion spurred inequality, avarice, selfishness, vanity and undue consumption in the pursuit of luxury. The resulting tensions and suspicions in a society of otherwise equals promoted the rise of factional interests opposed to the common good.
James Madison and our Framers rejected both of these accepted truths. In so doing, they redefined republicanism.
To combat the destructive effect of existing factions that our early state governments could not arrest, our Constitution set up a complex system of divided powers and checks among institutions designed to implement the natural functions of any government: legislative, executive and judicial. Only the House of Representatives was popularly derived. The rest of the government was either federal in nature (Senate, Electoral College, and Article V), or even further isolated from the people through the judicial nomination and appointment process. Taken all together, our 1787 Constitution was purposely anti-democratic.
To thwart the formation of factional interests, Madison theorized that an extended commercial republic would encourage the rise of so many diverse interests that none could become strong enough to threaten the republic. By replacing divisions over the amount of property with divisions over the kinds of property, the ages-old conflict between rich and poor could be largely overcome.
The security of these guardrails to free government no longer exist. Separation of powers is a distant memory. Instead of working to minimize the corrosion of faction, one political party in particular is devoted to enflaming every possible societal, racial and economic division. Toward what purpose? Their own parasitic power. Our government has become a factional interest of its own. It is willing to destroy that upon which it depends, a healthy republic composed of a civil society attentive to personal industry and devoted to liberty.
We can wish and imagine all we want that our existing Constitution still serves its designed purposes to “. . . establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity . . . “
But it doesn’t. How much longer shall we fantasize that those who feed from its corruption will reform it? Our Constitution needs improvement.
We are the many; our oppressors are the few. Be proactive. Be a Re-Founder. Join Convention of States. Sign our COS Petition.
Peacock, Anthony A. How to Read the Federalist Papers. Washington, DC: The Heritage Foundation, 2010. Book.