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Gordon Wood Creation of the American Republic Nature of Representation.

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1 Gordon Wood Creation of the American Republic Nature of Representation

2 The Representative Legislature Legislature most important part of any government “it is in their legislatures that the members of a commonwealth are united and combined into one coherent, living body. This is the soul that gives form, life and unity to the commonwealth.” Significant even revolutionary shift of power from executive to legislature (esp. in foreign affairs) In all but 3 states, legislatures bicameral

3 The idea of representation “great English discovery” Saxon? Impossible for whole people to govern, therefore needed representation “feet on which government stands” John Adams— – Legislature “should be in miniature an exact portrait of the people at large”

4 Failure of English representation Commons had become unequally, irregularly and inadequately representative Should have free and frequent elections “Dependence on the people” Long terms = big bribes State constitutions generally failed to include frequent elections [“Inventing the people” Edmund Morgan]

5 A large electorate Representation and suffrage expanded by state governments The fuller the house, the more difficult to corrupt [Whig political science again] Suffrage expansion not so much because most white males owned property and so already voted Right to vote set on path of becoming “very essence of American democracy”

6 Who should get to vote? Independent men, free of “temptation” Iredell – otherwise “lowest and most ignorant” would get involved in public business [but cf. Condorcet jury effect] “For poor, shiftless spendthrifty men and inconsiderate youngsters that have no property are cheap bought (that is) their votes easily procured Choose a Representative to go to court, to vote away the Money of those that have Estates.” – Samuel Adams But growing dissatisfaction with this view

7 Tax liability 2009

8 How to protect from corruption State framers worried about corruption from rich & powerful How to protect Laws against bribery Secret ballot

9 Equality of Representation Most important [ideal] “equal interests among people should have equal interests” in the legislature England’s rotten borough system perpetuated dominance by aristocrats and Court party Rotten boroughs were depopulated areas over-represented under antiquated system

10 Virtual representation Burke – Parliament a deliberative body representing one nation, not a collection of local interests Not bound to take advice of constituents Colonists decisively rejected idea that Parliament virtually represented them But did not completely reject virtual representation among themselves Because British and Americans were not one people Whether they realized it or not, Americans reaffirmed and strengthened Burke and Blackstone – representative must represent the interests of the common weal But virtual rep tended toward elitism (Why?) and in tension with replication ideal. Nearly all states had property qualifications to be assembly members, higher than that for suffrage.

11 Representation, Political obligation and consent If you take actual representation to logical conclusion, people bound only by laws to which they consent via their representative (agents) Medieval practice – corporate representation and consent – town must consent to be taxed [virtual representation of small organic chunks] [Who or what gets represented? – Towns, townships, communities? – Individuals? Selves? – Social classes? Estates?] Americans had not sorted all this out. “In the years after 1776, without necessarily or clearly grasping the implications of what they were saying, many Americans would increasingly press for a fuller realization of these characteristics of actual representation and thereby threaten not only to undo the intellectual foundations of their theory of politics and their republican experiments but also to expose the whole representational process for the fiction that it was.” (188)

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