Palmer explains 27 those "constituted bodies" The term is meant to include the British and Irish parliaments, the American colonial assemblies and governors' councils, the parlements and provincial estates of France, the assemblies of estates in the Dutch and Belgian Netherlands and the princely states of the Holy Roman Empire, the diets of Sweden, Poland, Hungary, and Bohemia, and the councils of the German free cities and the city-states of Switzerland and Italy.
Al l were different, yet all were in some ways alike. Significantly, such representative bodies were not identified with "democracy. With respect, more specifically, to representative bodies, they were established in every instance by the Crown itself. They were meant to be a place where the monarch and the aristocrats could meet to negotiate, cooperate and clash peacefully. As Bertie Wilkinson 4 stresses, medieval parliamentarism "was not the product of abstract theories of law or of speculations about political theory. Instead, it arose out of the age-long habits and traditions of feudalism, with its ideas of personal loyalties, mutual obligations, and limited power.
As a matter of fact, this event was part of what may be called parliamentarism, i. In short, this struggle was not understood as a democratic endeavour Morgan ch. The American War of Independence and the French Revolution were part of that very broad political movement led by political actors sitting in elected assemblies: the colonial assemblies 45 in America and the Etats generaux in France Palmer 27 and Moreover, Parliamentarians in America and in France were conscious of belonging to a broad and international political movement: the delegates of the Federal Convention in Philadelphia talked about the "German Diet," and in a speech to the Convention, in , the French elected political actor Mounier referred to the Roman and American Senates, and to the British and Swedish elective systems Mounier a: and Farrand, ed.
Regarding "democracy" and the people, the members of parliament openly referred to national or popular sovereignty in order to secure their own legitimacy. They created the fiction of popular sovereignty Benhabib ; Bourdieu ; ; ; Castoriadis ; Morgan , which blind us to the agoraphobic fondations of the so-called "democratic" regimes. The mythical nature of popular sovereignty was acknowledged by several influential political commentators and actors of the time.
Friedrich Schlegel, for instance, stated that every political regime rests on a fiction, and political representation is in all cases a fiction. With regard to the so-called "representative democracy," Robespierre explained how the sovereignty of the people was a fiction, with almost magical or superstitious implications: the elected political actors took on the role of the King who had represented God on earth, and the people took on the role of God as source of legitimacy. Robespierre declared that when the people delegate to the representatives their power to make laws, it is therefore "only by fiction that the law is the expression of the general will" in Jaume 82 [emphasis added].
Praising the people's sovereignty on the one hand, parliamentarians declared on the other that because of the people's lack of political skills, this sacred sovereignty had to be represented Nicolet Thus, parliamentarians were against democracy, i. However, the demos took advantage of the political instability resulting from the struggle between the parliaments and the Crown to enter the fray and promote democracy and egalitarian policies. This happened in the republic of Florence Lefort b: , in England Mougel , the United Provinces Palmer and Tilly , Geneva Palmer , and Belgium Palmer These cases were of course well known by the American and French Patriots and they taught them that the people were very likely to try to take advantage of any political turbulence.
It is worth noting also that the Lower House was sometimes considered the "democratic" branch of a mixed regime, while the Upper House was the "aristocratic" one. Indeed, the idea of a mixed regime implies that monarchy, aristocracy and democracy may be understood as labels for pure regimes as well as components or branches of a mixed regime. Seen in this light, "democracy" is not alien to republicanism.
In fact, a republican mixed regime must integrate, at least partially, the principle of democracy as well as the principles of monarchy and aristocracy. Edward Johnson in Lokken , writing in Massachusetts in the 17th century, expressed just such an idea in discussing the colonial system: "The chiefe Court or supreame 47 power of this little Commonwealth consists of a mixt company, part Aristocracy, and part Democracy of Magistrates. Interestingly, while the parliamentarians disparagingly identified "democracy" with the radicals egalitarian poor and workers , they were themselves condemned by their monarchical or aristocratic opponents for being "democrats" or for seeking to establish an "absolute democracy.
Writing on the rise of a democratic spirit in America during the Seven Years War, and dealing precisely with the power of the Lower Houses, a Crown officer warned that "it will be necessary to check the licentiousness of a democracy, by reducing the present exorbitant power of Assemblies" in Lokken n. This implies that a mixed government is partially "democratic," and that the democratic branch of a government—although having a representative rather than a direct form—is still something to be feared.
Thus, the semantic strategy was to undermine the legitimacy of the Lower House by tagging it with a negative label. As we shall see, such attacks would often be part of a global strategy seeking to increase the power of political institutions such as the Upper House, the Presidency and the executive power. The Founders had, of course, good economic and political reasons to be agoraphobic and not to seek democracy. They were also taught that the plebs were almost by nature less rational and less virtuous than them.
It seems that individuals from the lower class shared this social view. Yet, it is clear that the study of classical history and ancient and modern republicanism fuelled the Founders' 48 agoraphobia. Thus, the new regime was labelled a "republic. People need to find a political tag not only to identify themselves but also to explain what they are doing in order to position themselves on the political scene.
The label "republic" gave meaning and coherence to their thoughts, their actions, their lives and even, in some extreme cases, their deaths. The other labels available at that time were limited: monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy. But all these pure regimes were generally held in contempt by the Patriots, who were seeking to establish what they called a mixed regime in which each of the three orders balances the power of the others so as to prevent tyranny.
Since the majority of mainstream Patriots were also sitting in assemblies, they were seeking to increase the power of the institution they belong to, and consequently, their own power. They had neither philosophical nor political reasons to promote a "democracy," i. The texts—speeches, articles, diaries, personal letters, etc. Conclusion: Manipulating Meanings Both in the United States and France, it was around when political actors started to use the word "democracy" as a panegyric term. Noam Chomsky in Otero argues that "[ljanguage is, after all, a tool for thought.
If you debase the language, you debase the thought. I don't want to exaggerate this element of it, but it is one element, and one that's certainly consciously manipulated in order to introduce confusion and lack of perception. Skinner would 49 probably disagree with some of the boldest assertions of the structuralists for whom the structure of language is so rigid that innovation in language is almost impossible, except perhaps in fictional literature.
Writers are compelled, in a way, to respect the linguistic conventions of their time, but they may try to play with the meaning of words especially within a new linguistic, social or political context. Yet, with regard to the transformation of the normative meaning of the word "democracy" around , it is striking that linguistic manipulation took place without any major transformation of political institutions such as the constitution.
Of course, universal suffrage for males was introduced in France in , and it might explain why people started to identify France with democracy. Yet, to vote is not to rule. Even with universal suffrage, the doors of the modern agora—the parliament—are closed for all citizens save their elected representatives. And we have seen in the current chapter that elections are aristocratic rather than democratic. Thus, I shall argue throughout this dissertation that to name the modern elective regime "democracy" is inconsistent with etymology, ancient history and both ancient and modern political philosophy.
My aim is to demonstrate that the shift of meaning was primarily motivated by political interests. Altering and manipulating a set of terms is the job of what Skinner d: calls the "innovating ideologist": "His concern, by definition, is to legitimate a new range of social actions which, in terms of the existing ways of applying the moral vocabulary prevailing in his society, are currently regarded as in some way untoward or illegitimate. The first consists in effect of manipulating the standard speech-act potential of an existing set of descriptive terms.
The agent's aim in this case is to describe his own actions in such a way as to make it clear from the context to his ideological opponents that even though he may be using a set of terms which are standardly applied to express disapproval, he is nevertheless using them to express approval or at least neutrality on this particular occasion. The point of this 50 strategy is, of course, to challenge his opponent to reconsider the feelings of disapproval or even of mere neutrality which they are standardly expressing when they use these particular terms.
According to John G. Pocock 19 , "a power-structure may survive by successfully transforming its idiom. Thus, the slogan "war is peace" is used in order to deceive people and to gain their support. But one does not have to read novels to find such examples. James Farr 36 [emphasis added] gives historical examples: Mid-eighteenth-century Tories change reference to become 'patriots'; late-sixteenth-century Protestant investors introduce 'frugality' as the new virtue of their practice; American 'blacks ' in the s and s dramatical ly overturn the expression of attitudes by adopting as the i r own a previously denigrated term of colour; 'behavioural ' scientists in the late s emerge to avoid the socialist implications feared to be latent in 'social ' science.
In short, in order to gain popular support for party policy, or to gain religious acceptance of new economic practices, or to mobilize the political power of ethnic pride, or to gain federal funding for the sciences of social phenomena, a l l in the face of contradictions thrown up by prevai l ing beliefs about partisanship or usury or ethnicity or ideology, concepts may be changed.
In these and a m y r i a d other cases, conceptual change may be explained in terms of the attempt by pol i t ica l actors to solve speculative or practical problems and to resolve contradictions wh ich their criticism has exposed in their beliefs, actions, and practices. However, the task of the innovating ideologist is not easy.
Indeed, to play with words is not an individual, isolated activity. It takes place within relations with other people. It does not follow, however, that individuals are prisoners of a static language. But one would normally need a good deal of time and energy to modify a word's current connotation. Moreover, conceptual changes and political changes are interrelated, as James Farr 32 observes: "in acting politically actors do things for strategic and partisan purposes in and through language; and Consequently, political change and conceptual change must be understood as one complex and interrelated process.
In the case of the word "democracy," as we shall see, the intentions of political actors in redefining it were, first, to seduce 51 electors, and second, to manufacture consent mainly i n France regarding socialist activism. The fact that poli t ical actors started to identify themselves and the reg ime w i t h "democracy" has real poli t ical impacts it helps to w i n elections and to manufacture consent , but one consequence i n particular must not be d o w n p l a y e d : i n adop t ing a pro-democrat ic discourse, poli t ical actors felt the need to promote some popu la r policies because linguistic i nnova t ion i n politics implies a dialectical dynamic.
F ina l ly , m y a i m is also to s h o w that the manipula t ion of the te rm "democracy" was acknowledged b y pol i t i ca l actors and commentators themselves. So political language is political reality; there is no other so far as the meaning of events to actors and spectators is concerned" Edelman ; also Edelman, La justification de cet objectif tient au fait que l'histoire est a la fois la matiere et la forme de la philosophie politique" Rosanvallon In , Francis Bacon also referred to the political power of words.
Commenting on the political life of his time, David Hume declared that the republican discourse was so powerful that even the Tories finally "embraced the sentiments, as well as the language of their adversaries" Hawkes 31 [emphasis added]. See also Dant 56; Wood See also Aristotle Politics, bk. I, ch. Ill, ch. Aristotle's typology of political regimes is inconsistent: see the differences between Politics, bk.
IV, ch. V, ch. Few philosophers offer alternative typologies. Despite different labels, their types of regimes may be divided according to the three mathematical options one, few, all. See Socrates cited by Plato, Republic, bk. Several philosophers have given different names to the pathological variations of the classical regimes depotism for monarchy, oligarchy for aristocracy, and the tyranny of the majority or anarchy for democracy.
See for instance Aristotle, Politics, bk. Ill, chap. That traditional typology respects the etymological root of the word "democracy" a regime in which every citizen has the right to participate in the 5 2 assembly. Mathematically speaking, however, political philosophers forget another possiblity: a political system in which no one holds political authority, i. Established in in New York city and dissolved after the attack against Pearl Harbour by the Japanese forces. Its members included several prominent scholars, including Charles A. Lynd and Clyde R. Miller of Columbia University, and Leonard W.
Doob of Yale University in Jackall, ed. Within a discourse which claims to deal with Truth, ideology still finds its way. In the case of philosophical discourse, ideology is an epiphenomenon — i. Propaganda, on the other hand, should be described as a phenomenon or, more precisely, a form of discourse, whose main function is to defend or to promote an ideology One should not be surprised either to learn that the word "propaganda" comes from the Roman Catholic Church, which established the Congregatio de propaganda in , under Pope Gregory XV.
This congregation was composed of missionaries who embraced the duty "to reconquer by spiritual arms, by prayers and good works, by preaching and catechising the countries Mark Goldie [ ] shows the logical ties between the concepts of ideology and religion. Under the Nazis and the Communists, thought control was employed to give an appearance of legitimacy see Klemperer and Faye Herbert Marcuse remarks that i f consent was the trademark of democracy, "then consent to a fascist regime and one may speak of a genuine consent to such a regime would be a democratic process.
See also Tim Dant 5 : "Analysis using the 'particular conception of ideology' always speaks from a position of superiority, assuming that its own perspective is not socially situated. Mannheim's 'total conception of ideology' incorporated the recognition that all perspectives were ideological and socially situated. Ideology is less a matter of the inherent linguistic properties of a pronoucement than a question of who is saying what to whom for what purposes.
In , John Thayer explained that it is easy to "fascinate the ignorant and unwary" with "the charm of the word Liberty". Here, from: "tant que les hommes n'auront que des mots pour exprimer leur pensee, il faudra peser ces mots. D'ailleurs puisque les mots font les lois, ce sont les mots qui gouvernent les hommes.
Je demande ou doit-elle s'arreter? Bannissez, proscrivez ces mots affreux d'aristocratie et de democratie; ils servent de ralliement a des factieux. This quest for recognition was. Noah Webster maintained that until Independence, the desire to send children to study in England was "an appropriate reflection of our servile station in the British Empire" Yazawa See also Bolivar Yet, Carl J. Richard 2 remarks that "Bailyn cited Charles F. Mullet for the term 'window dressing,' neglecting to note that Mullett had applied it only to a few isolated instances.
Mullett had emphasized the numerous cases in which the classics had exerted real influence. Wood states that "[t]he writings of classical antiquity provided more than window dressing for educated Englishmen on both sides of the Atlantic; they were, in fact, the principal source of their morality and values. Public morality was classical morality. Gummere expresses a similar opinion, stating that "[t]he delegates to the Constitutional Convention They dealt with fundamental ideas and considered them in the light of their applicability"; Aristotle, Cicero and Polybius especially inspired them Gummere, ; see also Gummere 5.
Referring implicitly to this debate over "window dressing," Meyer Reinhold declares that "It is clear that the precedents, analogies, and lessons Madison and others quarried from antiquity were not mere window dressing or 'pedantry in politics,' but solemn exercises in comparative political institutions and history. If the issue of that day had been different, the Britons and the Saxons might still have been wandering in the woods"! Saxonhouse 21 3 0 A s a matter of fact, members of the American elite offer almost endless examples of the influence of the classics, not only in politics, but also in culture.
Horses and slaves were given classical names. See also pp. Jefferson's classical conditioning also influenced American public architecture G. Wood : Americans chose the names of Roman republican institutions—the Capitol and the Senate— and, as Richard 50 observed, they "adopted the Roman eagle as the national bird, and embellished their seals and currency with Latin mottoes. They even named the tiny stream running through Washington D.
Lutz, eds. Their indexes include a large number of classical references like "Aristotle," "Cicero," "Athens," "Rome," etc. For the French case, see for instance Nicolas Bergasse References and comparaisons to antiquity were a way for the French to make sense of their own experiences.
Lafitau, who in wrote Moeurs des sauvages ameriquains comparees aux moeurs des premiers temps, and Volney in his Legons d'Histoire , equated the Mohawks to the Spartans see Hartogl 42 and n. In the few decades before the Revolution, influential authors such as Mably, Montesquieu and Rousseau referred very often to the classical world. They had even written books dealing exclusively with ancient history Montesquieu, for instance, wrote Dissertation sur I a politique des Romains dans la Religion.
In , and after travelling to Italia, he also published Considerations sur les causes de la grandeur des Romains et de leur decadence. D'Alembert declared that Montesquieu should have named his book "Roman History for Statesmen and Philosophers" ["son livre, Histoire romaine, a I'usage des hommes d'Tltat et des philosophes"]. See Ehrard Yet, this vogue of antiquity clearly reached its climax during the revolutionary years. References to the ancient world were common in newspapers, even in widely distributed publications such as the Vieux Cordelier.
As in British America, references to the classics were even visual: in front of the hall of the Convention were placed the busts of classical major figures such as Solon, Lycurgus, Demosthenes, Plato, Brutus and Cincinnatus. Moreover, David, among other, produced paintings representing classical topics, such as Le Serment des Horaces , Socrate buvant la cigue and Les Licteurs apportant a Brutus le corps de ses fits Mosse ; Robert 9 and ; Vidal-Naquet 16, 22 and Gummere 3 4 Q n federations and leagues, see the references to the Amphictyonic League in Gummere See also Richard The example was also used by Luther Martin of Maryland to defend the idea that every state must send the same number of delegates to the Senate, to make sure that the smaller states would not be the underrepresented.
Gummere and The classics provided military examples to which Americans referred simply for the sake of comparing their experiences with those of the Ancients, or even in order to develop their own strategies.
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Jefferson maintained in that the march of Benedict Arnold's troops to Quebec through the woods of Maine resembled the retreat of Xenophon's army from the Persian empire in BC. We must have a fighting, enterprizing Spirit conjured up in our Army. The Army that attacks has an infinite Advantage and ever has had from the Plains of Pharsalia to the Plains of Abraham.
Two hundred years before that she appeared in still other guises; as the ideal aristocratic republic, for example, practically indistinguishable from Venice" See also Gummere Change the names and every anecdote will be applicable to us. C'etaient les jacobins d'Athenes" in Mosse See also Robespierre, who claimed in his "Rapport du 18 floreal" May 7, , that "La liberte et la vertu se sont a peine reposees un instant sur quelques points du globe. Sparte brille comme un eclair dans des tenebres immenses.
Robespierre answered Camille Desmoulins' attacks stating, on Pluviose 17 February 6, : "Nous ne pretendons point jeter la republique f rancaise dans le moule de celle de Sparte; nous ne voulons lui dormer ni l'austerite ni la corruption du cloitre" in Vidal-Naquet See also p. Until then, archaeology was more a matter of collecting interesting artifacts, mainly statues, with no systematic thought of analysing and understanding the past Rachet Thus, the historian Mogens H. Hansen distinguishes "survivals" from "accounts," the former being texts produced as a result of political activities decrees, discourses, archives, treatises while the latter are texts produced by commentators on political life historians, philosophers, writers of plays and poetry.
Consequently, my aim here is not to describe how democracy was experienced in the age of the classics, but rather how Americans and French believed it was. For those who are interested in knowing more about real Athenian democracy, I suggest Hansen , Ober and Sinclair For those who want to know more about politics in general in ancient Greece, see Finley and Meier Finally, for those who want to know if thinking about ancient democracy might be relevent for our modern politics, see Finley , Castoriadis ch.
With regard to Rome and democracy, see Rouland The case of Carthage is disputable, although some Americans believed it was a direct democracy Kriegel He was the first to use the word "democracy" in his Histories VI, ch. He had already discussed bk. On the differences between "democracy," "isonomia," isegoria," and "isomoiria," see Resnick Alexander Hamilton also openly admitted his distrust regarding ancient Cities, when he wrote in his Federalist Paper number IX that "It is impossible to read the history of the petty republics of Greece and Italy without feeling sensations of horror and disgust at the distractions with which they were continually agitated, and the rapid succession of revolutions by which they were kept in a state of perpetual vibration between the extremes of tyranny and anarchy" in Idem.
Ce fut ainsi que le peuple de Rome depouilla le Senat, et que les tyrans depouillerent le peuple d'Athenes et de Syracuse" in Mosse and in Rouland On Rousseau and antiquity, see also Leduc-Fayette Rousseau's fourth book of his Contrat social is devoted to the Roman republic. However, Rousseau was also an admirer of Sparta see Mosse 40 , a fondness also shared by Mably, who declared, in his Observations sur I'histoire de la Grece, that Sparta, like the Roman republic, enjoyed a balanced political regime Mosse See also Hartog John Adams wrote to his friend Jefferson that after studying Plato's works in , and comparing all the Latin, French and Greek versions, he reached the conclusion that the Republic and the Laws were " a bitter satyre upon all republican government," in Gummere an idea that Leo Strauss would express centuries later, suggesting that Plato's Republic was obviously too Utopian to have been considered a serious political project by Plato himself.
For Jefferson, Plato's Republic is a work of "whimsies, puerilities and untelligible jargon" letter to J. Adams, July 5, Wilstach, ed. And Adams replied July 16, : "I am very glad you have seriously read Plato; and still more rejoiced to find that your reflections upon him so perfectly harmonize with mine" Wilstach, ed. Greek and Roman authors were well known to the colonial mind. From Cicero, Aristotle, and Polybius, all widely read in America, notions of a higher law as well as constitutional arguments for mixed and separate powers in a stable government could be found.
Wood and , Wootton Regarding Plato's and Aristotle's influence over Montesquieu and Rousseau, see Nicolet 61, 71 and ch. In the same vein but with liberty in mind instead of rationality, Josiah Quincy wrote in his will, in "I give to my son, when he shall arrive at the age of fifteen years, Algernon Sidney's works,—John Locke's works,—Lord Bacon's works,—Gordon's Tacitus,—and Cato's Letters.
To be legitimate, the government must be, not one with the Sovereign, but its minister. C'est une forme de gouvernment dans lequel la souveraine autorite est entre les mains du peuple en corps, ou seulement d'une partie du peuple. Si dans une republique le peuple en corps a l'autorite souveraine, c'est une democratie. The expression was still in use several centuries later: Thomas Jefferson mentioned "the republic of letters" in a letter writen in Indeed, he studied the same books and he even travelled to Paris.
In every real democracy, magistracy is not an advantage, but a burdensome charge which cannot justly be imposed on one individual rather than another. The law alone can lay the charge on him on whom the lot falls" Rousseau, The Social Contract [bk.
For rhetorical reasons, he agreed that "The word representation is a metaphor" "Le mot representation est une metaphore" in Royer-Collard a: See also b: and : "hors l'election populaire et le mandat [imperatif], l a representation n'est qu'un prejuge politique qui ne soutient pas l'examen, quoique tres rependu et tres accredite.
This maner of gouerbance was called in greke Democratia, in latine Populis potentia, in englisshe the rule of the comminaltie. Until the 17th century, "democracy" was mainly a learned word, referring specifically to a classical type of regime. Its use was consistent with the intellectual definition of the term, informed by etymology, history and philosophy. It was used by writers such as Robert Filmer, Thomas Hobbes and William Temple, who shared a quite negative opinion of the political value of democracy.
Hobbes also referred to "democracy" when discussing the traditional typology of regimes. Other kind of Common-wealth there can be none: for either One, or More, or All , must have the Soveraign Power which I have shewn to be indivisible entire. In De Cive, Hobbes's definition of the three regimes is almost identical to the foregoing, although he specified that the democratic assembly is constituted of the bourgeois Hobbes Hume, however, praised neither democracy—"Democracies are turbulent" d: —nor Athens: "The ATHENIAN Democracy was such a tumultuous government as we can scarcely form a notion of it in the present age of the world" b: Still writing about Athenian democracy, he remarked b: : it is well known, that popular assemblies in that city were always full of licence and disorder, notwithstanding the institutions and laws by which they were checked: How much more disorderly must they prove, where they form not the established constitution, but meet tumultuously on the dissolution of the ancient government, in order to give rise to a new one?
How chimerical must it be to talk of a choice in any such circumstances? William Blackstone's work offers what seems to be the sole example—for that time—of a link between democracy, representation and election: "in a democracy there can be no exercise of sovereignty but by suffrage, which is the declaration of the people's will In England, where the people do not debate in a collective body, but by representation, the exercise of this sovereignty consists in the choice of representatives" Lobrano 57 n.
But Blackstone's attempt to link democracy to the concepts of representation and election was exceptional. In Leviathan, Hobbes brushed off the idea of a represented popular sovereignty: "it is absurd," maintained Hobbes, "to think that a Soveraign Assembly, inviting the People of their Dominion to send up their Deputies, with power to make known their Advise, or Desires, 61 should therefore hold such Deputies, rather than themselves, for the absolute Representative of the people" Hobbes The first speakers of English who settled in America were the Puritans who arrived in Massachusetts in It seems that for the majority of them, democracy had a major flaw: it is not a type of regime mentioned in the Bible.
John Winthrop declares in that "If we should change from a mixe aristocratie to a mere democratic, first, we should have no warrant in Scripture for it; there was no such government in Israel. Democracy, I do not conceive, that ever God did ordain as a fit government either for Church or commonwealth. I f the people be governors, who shall be governed?
Abraham Lincoln and Public Opinion
As for monarchy and aristocracy, they are both of them clearly approved and directed in Scripture, yet so as referreth the sovereignty to Himself, and setteth up theocracy in both as the best form of government in the commonwealth as well as in the Church. In the Puritan mind, democracy generally referred to chaos, irrationality and meanness. This was so because Puritans did not trust a free people, having in fact a pessimistic view of human nature.
Nathaniel Ward, one of the first Puritans, claimed to be "neither Presbyterian nor plebsbyterian," thereby making a strong statement against the plebs and betraying his agoraphobia. Cotton Mather's diary contains expressions such as "tumultuous people," "fickle Humors of the Populace," "silly people," "foolish people," "people strangely and fiercely possessed of the Devil" Laniel It is worth noting that according to republicanism, mixed government is a necessity precisely because human nature may not be trustworthy.
Roger Williams, for instance, arrived in Massachusetts in and was banished in He went on to found Rhode Island. This event is important, since it led to the first recorded pro-democratic declaration in America. Indeed, the Constitution of of Rhode Island in Swindler, ed. The Colonial Records of Rhode Island contains the following statement made in "It is agreed, by this present assembly thus incorporate, and by this present act declared, that the forme of Government established in Providence Plantations is Democraticall; that is to say, a Government held by ye free and voluntarie consent of all, or the greater parte of the free inhabitants" Laniel 49 and Jensen John Wise, from the town of Ipswich, Massachusetts, was another openly pro-democratic person.
But this did not prevent Wise from writing that "if Christ has settled any form of power in His church, He has done it for His church's safety and for the benefit of every member. And it is as plain as daylight, there is no species of government like a democracy to attain this end" Adler, ed. Donald Trump can be impeached based on any partisan accusation, irrespective of what the Framers thought and American constitutional history indicates. A number of disturbing thoughts come to mind with these recent happenings.
First, when confrontations and even physical assaults increase as a way to further political objectives—and prominent political figures give their approval—the rule of law is at stake. The activists and politicians should think about the implications of this; it means that the door is opened to arbitrary and even absolute rule.
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The rule of law—applicable to everyone—is the way that repressive, arbitrary government is prevented. The leftists in the streets decry fascism, but this is the same behavior that characterized the European fascists of the third and fourth decades of the twentieth century. Those who have the most power become the ones who rule. Those who are tempted to join the mobs in the streets should reflect on how great an achievement the rule of law principle has been for mankind.
One can understand why Lincoln called for citizens to not just obey the laws but to have reverence for them—almost as if they were religious precepts. What it says is that we know better, and will not tolerate any challenge to the way we think. It is an exercise in modern-day Gnosticism—we simply know better, no matter what. It is curious that these political Gnostics—despite the all-knowing aura that they try to project—display a striking mindlessness, devoid of deep and extensive reflection.
This uncertainty worried and vexed him. The importance of such a vocation, for a republican conscious of examples, reflected a belief in the contagious nature of virtue and vice. Such qualities spread infectiously when individuals and societies stand for something, either good or bad. What the nation exemplified, to a world witnessing the American experiment, was crucial for Lincoln.
To stand for freedom in the eyes of the world, the United States would need to avoid dismemberment even as it struggled to outlaw a form of domination that violated its ideals. Kateb wants these facts to register fully in our consciousness, without mitigation or minimization. It is clear that in his view, the positive legacy of the war is more limited, the picture more mixed, than Americans have traditionally been taught in school.
Yes, freeing the slaves brought a particular form of domination to an end in a particular time and place. It did not however free those persons or their descendants from the lasting effects of slavery or from the lingering vices of race prejudice and hatred. The reckoning was complex, and remains so. Both the human beings who would have been slaves if Lincoln had not acted, and the human beings who have been or will be crushed by the forces Lincoln unleashed, ought to count for something.
Kateb will not let us forget that each and every one of those lives matters. For it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh! Is that really what Lincoln implies? I do not see it. The implied answer is no. Indeed, it sounds like the opposite. The implication can be restated in explicitly republican terms: Southern vice and Northern vice jointly brought the woe of civil war on the nation. Slavery harms the innocent slave directly, but also—morally and otherwise—harms the slave trader, the slaveholder, the complicit consumer of cotton and sugar, the idealist who is too pure to take effective action against slavery, and the soldier or commander who does what he thinks he must.
Vice begets vice, and a plague of vice begets woe. That is how the world works. The natural tendency of grave injustice is to rend the common good, thereby making the entire society suffer. The rending is its own retribution; a just God has no need to pile on. Lincoln has led his fellow citizens into a purgatory of ethical self-recognition, and he leads them out again by pleading for mutual charity.
Mercy is the path from purgatory to reconciliation. The Second Inaugural uses immanent criticism in the conditional mode to focus attention on the need for reconciliation.
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If Lincoln wished to stand for republican virtue rather than theological skepticism, that is how the speech must go. And that is how it does go, as far as I can see. It is concerned with marrying ideals to powers and with who exemplifies what and how. It expresses and cultivates piety for the admittedly imperfect constitutional framework, the public virtues, and the sacrifices on which a society of free and equal citizens depends.
One of those sacrifices turns out to be the abandonment of any theology that inhibits the work of reconciliation after a terrible civil war. In the end the horrors of that war cannot be fully explained. Lincoln neither claims knowledge of a providential plan, nor exempts himself from responsibility for the suffering. But the war had lasted too long and cost both sides too dearly for a one-sidedly chauvinistic theodicy to be true.
That much is certain. What Kateb really wants to know is why offenses need come in the first place. Lincoln is a riddle because, in our politics, we are a riddle to ourselves. We are his heirs, for good and for ill. All legal protections are, by definition, enforced coercively.
No coercion, no law. No law, no security against domination. The sort of freedom worth having is to live in a society of justly and wisely chosen, justly enforced laws. That is why most of us continue to take politics seriously, why we cling to the hope for emancipation from arbitrary power. On the other hand, the very political edifice we invented to provide security against domination evidently tends to produce a massive apparatus of coercion, surveillance, and violence that no one any longer knows how to control.
Our laws are enforced in a spirit of lawlessness. Some of our politicians pander to billionaires, while another seems to be a Caesar exploiting popular anger in an attempt to seize power. The legal mechanisms we have devised as means of protection from domination were from the beginning the spoiled fruit of a wicked compromise with slavery.
And they have unleashed bureaucracies, markets, and empires that have thus far defeated all attempts to tame them. Lincoln commands our attention because our politics exhibits these two prongs of his legacy. There are few writers since Emerson who have even attempted this sort of thing, let alone succeeded at it. But Kateb refuses to simplify.
The words in his book both bleed and provoke; his double-edged honesty cuts repeatedly against his own druthers, as he says what idolaters and debunkers alike wish not to hear. George Kateb has added a splendid and bracing chapter to Representative Men. Jeffrey Stout is professor of religion at Princeton University. Please email comments to letters commonwealmagazine. Lincoln's Religion. An Ambiguous Legacy. By Jeffrey Stout. Election Share Share Twitter Print.
He continued in words that permit us to glimpse the prescience and rhetorical power of the future president: Whenever this effect shall be produced among us; whenever the vicious portion of the population shall be permitted to gather in bands of hundreds and thousands, and burn churches, ravage and rob provision stores, throw printing presses into rivers, shoot editors, and hand and burn obnoxious persons at pleasure, and with impunity; depend on it, this government cannot last. Published in the June 3, issue:.
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