Citizens of a Common Intellectual Homeland: The Transatlantic Origins of American Democracy and Nationhood 081393804X, 9780813938042

Notions of democracy and nationhood constitute the pivotal legacy of the American Revolution, but to understand their de

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Citizens of a Common Intellectual Homeland: The Transatlantic Origins of American Democracy and Nationhood
 081393804X, 9780813938042

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Citizens of a Common Intellectual Homeland

Jeffersonian America

Jan Ellen Lewis, Peter S. Onuf, and Andrew O’Shaughnessy, Editors

Citizens of a Common Intellectual Homeland The Transatlantic Origins of American Democracy and Nationhood

Armin Mattes

University of Virginia Pre Charlottesville and London

University of Virginia Press © 2015 by the Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia All rights reserved Printed in the United States of America on acid-free paper First published 2015 isbn 978-0-8139-3804-2 (cloth) isbn 978-0-8139-3805-9 (e-book) 1 3 5 7 9 8 6 4 2 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available from the Library of Congress.

Preparation of this volume has been supported by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation.

To my parents, who made it all possible


Acknowledgments Introduction Prologue


1 7

Chapter 1

The Tangled Issue of Equality: The Dialectic of Revolution in the Burke-Paine Controversy 21

Chapter 2

Aristocracy, Constitutionalism, and the Evolution of Modern Conservatism: John Adams and Friedrich von Gentz on Inequality and the Balanced Constitution 63

Chapter 3

Democracy and the Pursuit of Peace: The Domestic and International Sovereignty of the Nation in James Madison’s and Immanuel Kant’s Essays on Perpetual Peace 102

Chapter 4

“The Strongest Government on Earth”: Thomas Jefferson, Destutt de Tracy, and the Formation of the Modern Idea of the Nation 141 Epilogue


Notes 211 Bibliography 239 Index 255


It has been a long way from my first interest in American history as an undergraduate student to the completion of this book. Fortunately, many scholars, advisers, former fellow graduate students, and friends on both sides of the Atlantic have helped me in my endeavor to understand American history in general, as well as to develop my ideas about the founding period and American democracy in particular. At the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen, Udo Sautter sparked my curiosity about American history. His successor at Tübingen, Georg Schild, not only served as the adviser for my master’s thesis but ever since has provided me with invaluable help and advice whenever I returned to Germany for a couple of months or a year. Carl Peterson, during an exchange year at California State University, Chico in 2002–3, first drew my attention to early American history and suggested that I pursue a Ph.D. in that field at the University of Virginia. He has therefore had a greater impact on the course of my career than he probably knows. The number of persons at the University of Virginia to whom I owe thanks in one form or another is too great to mention them all. To some of them, however, I am especially indebted for their contributions to the creation of this book. During the early stages of graduate school, Patrick Griffin took it upon himself to improve my writing skills in English. I have profited enormously from the expertise of John Stagg and Olivier Zunz in the chapter on Madison and my discussion of Tocqueville in the prologue and epilogue. Sophia Rosenfeld has gone out of her way to help me with the sections on the French Revolution. I am very grateful, too, to the members of the Early American Seminar who over the years have read and critiqued, in a very friendly way, more or less polished drafts of all the chapters in this book. My biggest debt of gratitude, finally, is due to Peter Onuf. First as a mentor and now as a friend and colleague, he has always been a model as a scholar and teacher. His dedication to the success and


Acknowledgments intellectual development of his graduate students is amazing, and so was his interest in this project. Without the many discussions we have had on all its aspects, this would be a very different book. As the 2012–13 Gilder Lehrman Junior Research Fellow, I have had the great fortune of completing my manuscript at the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello (ICJS). Beyond the stimulating intellectual environment and the excellent resources provided by the center, Andrew O’Shaughnessy and his colleagues Christa Dierksheide, Gaye Wilson, and Kate Macdonald, as well as the staff at the Jefferson Library and the Retirement Series of the Papers of Thomas Jefferson, also succeeded in making my stay in Charlottesville a very pleasant one. In an ideal world, every author would be able to profit from a manuscript workshop like the one organized by the ICJS during my fellowship. In addition to those whom I have already mentioned in another context, at this workshop I had the pleasure to receive precious input from Max Edelson, Matthew Hale, Nic Wood, David Smith, and Jim Hrdlicka. Jim also very kindly shouldered the burden of line editing the entire manuscript, thus eliminating many of my “Germanisms.” A postdoctoral fellowship at the Kinder Forum on Constitutional Democracy at the University of Missouri in 2014–15 provided me with the time to attend to final revisions. Thanks are also due to Jeffrey Pasley and Carli Conklin for giving me the opportunity to test some of my ideas that now form the prologue at the Kinder Forum’s Society of Fellows Summer Seminar. Dick Holway and the entire team at the University of Virginia Press have done a great job of taking care of all aspects of the publication process. They succeeded in making the experience of publishing a book an enjoyable one for a first-time author. The elaborate reports that I received from the two anonymous readers also were a huge asset to me, and I trust they will find many of their excellent suggestions implemented. Some of the material in chapters 1 and 4 has been previously published as an article entitled “Paine, Jefferson, and the Modern Ideas of Democracy and the Nation,” in Paine and Jefferson in the Age of Revolutions, ed. Peter S. Onuf and Simon Newman (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2013), 95–117. Other parts of chapter 4 have been published in “ ‘Une et Indivisible?’ Thomas Jefferson and Destutt de Tracy on the Idea of the Nation,” in Cosmopolitanism and Nationhood in the Age of Jefferson,


Acknowledgments ed. Peter Nicolaisen and Hannah Spahn (Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2013), 41–73. Since researching and writing a book at times can be an arduous undertaking, my final thanks go to those of my friends and family who made sure that I did not immerse myself too deeply in American history, as well as to those who never failed to inquire “How is the book coming along?” I am grateful to Nic Wood and Will Kurtz for offering me a place to stay whenever I have been in Charlottesville. This book is dedicated to my parents, Ferdinand and Angelika Mattes, whose unfailing support is at the basis of it all.


Citizens of a Common Intellectual Homeland



his book starts and ends with Alexis de Tocqueville. Yet it is not about Tocqueville himself. Rather, Tocqueville features prominently in it because his starting point for writing his best known work has been similar to this project: approaching the origins and nature of American democracy from a European’s perspective. Particularly in regard to the origins and early development of American democracy, however, the interpretation that this book offers differs from Tocqueville’s, who thought that at least protodemocratic conditions existed in all the British colonies in North America—conditions that then had only to be brought to consciousness by the American Revolution. In contrast, this book contends that although notions of American democracy and American nationhood constitute the pivotal legacy of the American Revolution, their emergence cannot be fully understood within a purely American context. The central argument is twofold. First, in America as well as in Europe, modern forms of the concepts of democracy and the nation developed simultaneously and interconnected because they both arose from a common revolutionary impulse directed against the prevailing hierarchical political and social order. Second, this revolutionary impulse, which resulted in the reconceptualization of democracy and the nation, received its decisive form by the French Revolution. To illustrate the simultaneous, transatlantic emergence of modern notions of democracy and the nation during the age of revolutions, the development of these two phenomena will be traced in a prologue, four chapters, and an epilogue. Each chapter considers the works of a pair of intellectuals, one writing in America and the other in Europe on a common topic.


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland The intellectuals and topics are Thomas Paine and Edmund Burke on the “transatlantic revolutions” in the first chapter, John Adams and Friedrich von Gentz on the “mixed constitution” in the second, James Madison and Immanuel Kant on “perpetual peace” in the third, and Thomas Jefferson and Destutt de Tracy on the “nation” in the fourth chapter. Although the writings of the European authors receive an approximately equal attention as those of the Americans, the historiographical emphasis is on American issues. Hence, the analysis of the various topics in each chapter aims to elucidate one specific theme that, by the 1830s, when Tocqueville wrote his essay, constituted an essential element of the American democratic nation. The themes, or elements of American democracy, are “equality” in chapter 1, “constitutionalism” and a resulting modern “conservatism” in chapter 2, “popular sovereignty” in chapter 3, and the “boundaries” of—or “exclusions” from—American nationhood in chapter 4. Taken together, these themes help us to understand the complexity of American democracy as it developed in the age of revolutions, as well as its ambiguities. After all, although American democracy in the early nineteenth century was more egalitarian than most European societies, it nevertheless not only enshrined some traditional inequalities (such as economic inequality) but also created some new ones (for example, hardening gender norms and racial boundaries). In examining the writings of Thomas Paine and Edmund Burke during the time of the American and French Revolutions, chapter 1 introduces the central theme of “equality,” the different ways in which this principle was understood and applied by contemporaries, and its significance for the development of a modern concept of democracy. Both Paine and Burke supported the case of the American colonists. On the French Revolution, however, their opinions differed radically. The major argument in this chapter is that the French Revolution brought their different understandings of “equality” into sharp focus. Paine affiliated equality with a radical idea of the political and social equality of individuals. Burke, on the other hand, applied the notion of equality on a corporate level—for example, among estates or states. Because of this he could advocate the “equality” of Americans in their struggle with Britain in the 1770s but could not approve of the kind of individual equality that French revolutionaries—and Paine—increasingly promoted after 1789. Concentrating on the “mixed constitution theory,” chapter 2 illustrates the evolution of the “aristocratic” position in both America and Europe.


introduction Juxtaposing John Adams’s work with that of Friedrich von Gentz shows how positions that were considered liberal—and, at least in the case of Adams, even revolutionary—in the pre-1789 political spectrum, after the French Revolution became branded as “aristocratic,” and ultimately “conservative.” Basing their ideas about society on the conviction that any stable social order needed to take the natural inequality of human beings into account, both Adams and Gentz contended that an equilibrium between different sorts of people represented in distinct houses of the legislative branches of government needed to be maintained. Thus, they regarded a mixed constitution, which gave distinct powers to different orders of men, as indispensable. Yet especially Adams was no reactionary, and although he rejected the French Revolution, he did so on the basis of a particular set of assumptions about republican government. The successful delegitimizing of Adams’s position as a potential alternative, this chapter argues, proved to be a vital step for Jefferson and his followers in conceptualizing their own “democratic” vision for society, and incidentally contributed to the emergence of a modern (American) conservatism. Another topic of great interest for Enlightenment thinkers was the possibility of “perpetual peace.” The outbreak of the American and French Revolutions intensified the preoccupation with this topic, and thus both James Madison and Immanuel Kant in 1792 and 1795 wrote essays entitled “Universal Peace” and Perpetual Peace, respectively. The analysis of these works forms chapter 3. It is remarkable how Madison and Kant, independently of each other but almost at the same time, came to similar conclusions regarding the possibility of a lasting peace. This chapter contends that Madison and Kant came to similar conclusions nearly simultaneously because the French Revolution prompted them to think more elaborately about the “democratic” principle of popular sovereignty, and what that principle meant for a nation both in domestic and international regards. Since Madison and Kant thus based their ideas about perpetual peace on “democratic” principles, this chapter also serves as the democratic counterpart to chapter 2. Chapter 4 deals with the idea of the “nation.” An examination of Thomas Jefferson’s and Destutt de Tracy’s works on that subject shows how the two concepts of democracy and the nation in a modern form emerged simultaneously and in interconnection. Central to this chapter is how Jefferson, having observed the development of the revolutionary, “democratic” nation in France, applied this concept to the American situation.


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland He thus initiated a change in the meaning of the “American nation” from a relatively apolitical understanding as the entire (white) population living in the territory of the United States to a highly politicized meaning encompassing only that part of the population that supported the principles espoused by his Republican Party. By at least imaginatively excluding leading Federalists from the nation, Jefferson and his followers developed the idea of one, single American people that stood united on basic ideological principles. By thus defining more precisely than ever what it meant to be American, the Jeffersonians, however, also defined specific boundaries of an American nationhood that served to exclude some individuals and groups from the democratic American nation. The prologue and the epilogue, finally, provide a more general framework for the chapters. By accessing a greater range of sources, they also offer a broader description of the historical context in which the individuals, on which the chapters focus, operated. For instance, besides outlining the developments described in detail in the individual chapters, the prologue illustrates the historical background by introducing the history of “democracy” in America prior to the American Revolution. The epilogue serves two purposes. On the one hand, it highlights the connections between the preceding thematic chapters through an examination of Tocqueville’s De­ mocracy in America, thus presenting the outcome of the age of revolutions in America: the modern democratic nation-state and its organization of society. In a second part, the epilogue offers an outlook on the development of American democracy in the 1830s and afterward, arguing that reformers in the 1830s reevaluated the nation’s founding principles such as equality, and found the contemporary state of American democracy wanting in regard to issues of class, gender, and race. Utilizing the conceptions of individual equality, democracy, and the nation as they had developed during the age of revolutions, these reformers could then push for a further expansion of these notions and, ultimately, the inclusion of formerly discriminated groups into American democracy. This book’s methodological approach to the history of American democracy and nationhood is primarily conceptual. Consequently, its prime units of historical analysis are concepts. In dealing with concepts, some of the basic theoretical assumptions of Begriffsgeschichte—the German historiographical variant of conceptual history—are applied.1 For one, Be­ griffsgeschichte, as developed most prominently by Reinhardt Koselleck, concentrates on the changing and contingent meanings of concepts. It


introduction stresses therefore that concepts are not autonomous entities with a life of their own and do not have fixed contents. Accordingly, the following chapters focus on the development of concepts, how they evolved, and why they changed. In addition, the emergence of concepts such as “democracy” and the “nation” with new meanings during the age of revolutions will be presented as results of historical events and processes, thus taking seriously another of Begriffsgeschichte’s central concerns: to avoid detaching the development of concepts from their contemporary social contexts. Paine, Jefferson, Kant, and the other intellectuals dealt with in the various chapters, therefore, were not contributing to the development of “democracy” and the “nation” in a vacuum, or because they had a touch of genius. Rather, specific historical events and their view of them prompted these individuals to think through a new set of problems, and in the process to reevaluate and refine their thoughts about what, for instance, a “nation” was. In one important regard, this book aspires to go beyond the traditional practice of Begriffsgeschichte. Since the most distinguished examples of Be­ griffsgeschichte are two monumental reference works, some scholars criticize that individual concepts are dealt with in relative isolation, detached from the development of other concepts.2 Many of these concepts, however, are closely related and their developments therefore interdependent. To better situate the development of “democracy” and the “nation” not only in their social but also in their conceptual context, this book emphasizes the interconnections between concepts, and discusses their evolution in relation to other concepts important for their development, such as, for example, “equality” or “republic.” Treating concepts and their development as outcomes of historical processes also avoids attributing too much causative power to them, a tendency that is often criticized in most forms of intellectual history. This does not mean that concepts are merely passive reflections of the “real” world. As Gordon Wood has recently put it, “human behavior is of a piece with the meanings or ideas we give it,” hence ideas or concepts “do not exist apart from social circumstances or some more real world” of social or economic conditions.3 Concepts may thus not out of themselves cause action. Yet new meanings of concepts such as democracy or the nation can, for example, be taken up by others and be used as political weapons, and they can also structure the way contemporaries—as well as historians— perceive and make sense of the world. In short, if not causing actions,


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland concepts give actions a meaning and thus are indispensable for our experience of the world. Lastly, there were of course many more individuals than those chosen for this study involved in the American and transatlantic debates about “democracy.” It is therefore not the intention of this book to contend that a Jefferson, a Paine, or the few characters featuring in the chapters taken together changed the meaning of democracy and the nation. Neither was it the case that elites—to which all the characters in this book in one way or another belonged—worked out new understandings of these concepts whose meanings then trickled down the social stratum. On the contrary, ordinary people were involved in the process of conceptual transformations just as well as members of the elite.4 Yet because of their more elaborate and refined publications of thoughts that many contemporaries at least partly shared and could relate to—the only way intellectuals can influence their society in the first place—the individuals presented in the following chapters stood at the forefront of the reinterpretation of contested concepts. Their works—or rather the discourse they and others created—thus both recorded the conceptual changes of the revolutionary era and contributed to them. In addition, the pairing of prominent thinkers from both continents writing on a common topic helps to highlight the significant impact that the French Revolution had on the development of their thought, thus demonstrating that the emergence and early development of modern concepts of democracy and the nation in America were intimately tied to the revolutionary events and processes in the larger Atlantic world.




n the spring of 1840 the French politician and writer Alexis de Tocqueville anxiously awaited the publication of the second volume of his most famous work, Democracy in America.1 When the book finally appeared in late April, it quickly became apparent that his concerns were justified. Despite the eager anticipation of volume 2, created by the great success of the first volume of Democracy in America (1835), the sales of the second volume lagged far behind his and his publishers’ expectations. The main reason for the unpopularity of the book with the broad reading public had to do with the nature of the work itself. More so than in the first volume, Tocqueville used the particular nature and condition of American democracy as he had experienced it during his travels in the United States for an elaborate, often ingenious but also very abstract disquisition on democracy in general. But while this characteristic of his essay resulted in some critical reviews and did not make it a success in terms of sales figures, it still earned him lasting literary fame since other reviewers, such as the English philosopher John Stuart Mill, acclaimed Tocqueville’s analysis of democracy as a masterpiece of political theory and an instant classic. The debate about the merits, strengths, and weaknesses of Tocqueville’s interpretation of American democracy has not ceased since its publication. But in this debate, whether contemporary or current, one point has rarely received any attention: none of his reviewers, whether writing in France, Great Britain, or America itself, objected to Tocqueville’s description of the American political and social system as a “democracy.”2 From our present-day perspective, this “omission” seems quite natural, and the intimation that contemporary reviewers might have questioned


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland Tocqueville’s classification may appear counterintuitive. But the fact that Tocqueville’s reviewers in the 1830s and early 1840s accepted his application of “democracy” to the American situation naturally and as a matter of course is actually rather astonishing. A brief sketch of the history of the idea and the use of the term “democracy” in North America up to the ratification of the Federal Constitution in 1788 illustrates this point. During the colonial era, “democracy” played no great role in the colonists’ thought and appeared rarely in their writings, speeches, and correspondence.3 If it did appear in some tracts of a political-philosophical nature, its meaning was clear. Steeped in the classical tradition of political theory reaching back to Plato and Aristotle, learned American colonists associated the same two meanings with the concept of democracy as Western political thinkers had done for centuries. First, democracy denominated a regime type in which all had a role in ruling the polity. Second, it designated the lowest order or estate within the structure of a mixed government. In this case democracy represented a socio-constitutional category rather than a regime type. Classical authors, however, had not only furnished Americans with a definition of democracy but also with a deep distrust as to its value as a form of government. The ideal type of a pure democracy was Periclean Athens as described by the Greek historian Thucydides. But Thucydides’s account of the Athenian people’s fateful decisions and actions during the Peloponnesian War also provided ample examples of the fickleness of democratic government. In addition, Plato’s rendering of the trial of Socrates demonstrated vividly the dangers to personal liberty inherent in an unqualified rule of all over all.4 Considering such classical cases, it is little wonder that American colonists such as Francis Rawle, a Philadelphia merchant, when discussing “democracy,” assumed that democracies were “generally on the Brink of Confusion, and seldom of long Continuance.”5 During the imperial crisis from 1763 to 1775, too, American Patriots virtually never invoked “democracy” to explain or justify their resistance to the British administration. On the contrary, up to at least 1775 the great majority of Americans remained, often fiercely, committed to the British mixed constitution and their continued existence within the British Empire.6 In their eyes the British constitution had proven to be the only constitution in the world that had developed such a stable and durable balance between the major socio-constitutional forces of society—monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy—that none of them could gain a preponderance


Prologue of power and threaten the liberties of all others. In a world that they saw as full of despotic and arbitrary regimes, many Patriots were thus unwilling to trade their membership in the British Empire for experiments with untried systems. For those Americans, it made no sense to discuss “democracy”—or “republic” for that matter—as a potential alternative to the British mixed constitution. Instead, for as long as possible they demanded a just and equitable place within the empire while professing their loyalty and attachment to the British constitution. The general disregard for “democracy” in the colonies only began to change to a degree with the onset of the American Revolution itself. The decision for independence automatically brought into focus the question of what form independent American states and an American union should take. The last phase of the imperial crisis had resulted in a thorough disillusionment of Americans with the British monarchy in particular as well as with monarchy in general. A titled nobility had never existed in any of the colonies. With monarchy and aristocracy thus out of the question, virtually all American Patriots agreed that any new government in America needed to be a “popular” government, meaning it had to be based on the principle of popular sovereignty. Immediately after declaring independence, however, American revolutionaries had no clearly defined conception of how exactly such a popular government should be constructed. Proposals for the framing of new state constitutions in the late 1770s accordingly exhibited a considerable range of constitutional and institutional arrangements.7 As there existed no consensus on how a popular government ought to be framed, Americans during the Revolution used varying terms to describe their ideas for new political and social systems in the American states. Most widely used was “republic”; others simply used “popular government.” But for the first time there were also some voices who demanded that the new states needed to be “democracies” or “democratic.” For example, in June 1776 an anonymous writer calling himself “Spartanus” argued in the New York Journal that New York now needed to become “a proper democracy,” and those attending a county meeting in Mecklenburg, North Carolina, hoped in late 1776 that the new state constitution would be “a simple Democracy or as near it as possible.” It is important to note that the meaning of “democracy,” as well as that of other concepts such as “republic,” at that time was not in any way fixed or clear. This conceptual uncertainty resulted in “democracy” and


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland “republic” sometimes being used synonymously, as in an article in the Providence Gazette from May 1777 in which the author defines a “democracy” as “that form of government where the highest power of making laws is lodged in the common people, or persons chosen out from them,” only to add that “this is what by some is called a republic, a commonwealth, or a free state.” Others who used these terms might mean quite different things with them. Thus, Alexander Hamilton, who later came to loath anything associated with “democracy,” in 1777 had no problem describing the New York state constitution positively as “a representative democracy.” On the other hand, Thomas Paine, often regarded as one of the most democratic revolutionaries, did not use “democracy” or “democratic” even once in Common Sense, in his Forester’s Letters, or in his Crisis pamphlets. Americans’ widely varying use of terms such as “democracy” and “republic” during the time of the American Revolution thus mirrored the multitude of ideas about the form of new American governments and illustrates the conceptual fluidity that accompanied the experimental nature of the political transformations necessitated by the Revolution.8 As long as the British monarchy provided a common enemy and a clear ideological contrast, American revolutionaries also felt no particular need to clearly define the terms they used for their differing visions of what exactly a popular government should look like. Once independence had been secured in 1783, however, this issue became more pressing and acquired a certain significance in the debates about the ratification of the new Federal Constitution in 1787–88. The “loser” of this debate was “democracy.” To counter Anti-Federalists’ accusations that the proposed constitution paved the way for an aristocratic government, Federalist advocates of the Constitution went to great lengths to demonstrate the draft’s compatibility with the principle of popular sovereignty. One of the major strategies they employed to do so was to construct a clear-cut opposition between a “republic,” which they approved of, and a “democracy,” which they rejected. The best examples of this process can be found in James Madison’s Federalist 10 and 14. Here, Madison countered the Anti-Federalists’ charge that the United States would be too big for a full-fledged national government to remain committed to popular principles with the argument that these charges might be correct in the case of a “democracy,” which he defined as a society in which citizens “assemble and administer the Government in person.” In a “republic,” in contrast, Madison asserted


Prologue that the “scheme of representation” made it possible safely to extend the governmental jurisdiction over a “greater number of citizens, and greater sphere of country.”9 In other words, Madison tried to reassert the classical definition of “democracy,” and on the basis of Madison’s definition, the American state and federal governments could not be described as “democracies” in any way. To be sure, the debate about the ratification of the Constitution did not completely fix the meaning of “democracy” along Madison’s lines. Some people, even some Federalists such as James Wilson, still used “democracy” and “republic” synonymously. In general, however, the Federalists’ efforts at distinguishing a positive idea of a “republic” from a “democracy” with more narrow and negative connotations succeeded, not least because most—or at least the most outspoken—Anti-Federalist leaders did not contest the limitation of the meaning of democracy for the simple reason that theirs was not a struggle for “democracy.” For example, “Brutus,” one of the most able Anti-Federalist pamphleteers, agreed with Madison that “in a pure democracy, the people . . . must all come together to deliberate and decide” and that “this kind of government cannot be exercised, therefore, over a country of any considerable extent.” While thus agreeing with the Federalists that for an American union, and even for any of the states, only a representative government would be possible, Brutus nevertheless asserted that a republic the size of the United States could not remain a “free” republic for long. In short, Federalists and Anti-Federalists in their struggle concentrated on the proper form and size of a “republic” and not on the meaning or character of an American “democracy.”10 This short history of “democracy” and its usage in America up to the ratification of the Federal Constitution shows that Tocqueville’s readers in the 1830s and 1840s might very well have had ample reasons to object to his denomination of the American political and social system as a “democracy.” After all, the Federal Constitution of 1787 had not been altered substantially in the meantime. That virtually no one challenged Tocqueville’s use of “democracy” indicates that the meaning of the term must have changed decisively since the time of the ratification of the Constitution; indeed, instead of the traditional understanding of the direct rule of all, by the 1830s “democracy” had come to be associated with a representational system within a constitutional framework, the separation of powers, and was thought fit for a large territory. But most important, as one scholar has put it, “democracy” no longer meant merely “that we govern ourselves,”


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland but that democracy provided “a framework . . . within which a population can reasonably think of itself over time as living together as equals, on terms and within a set of presumptions, which they could reasonably and freely choose.” Central to the new—and essentially modern—meaning of democracy thus were the idea of popular sovereignty and, maybe even more so, the feeling of a fundamental social and political individual equality, “the determination and longing to be treated with some respect and some degree of consideration,” even if a democracy such as that of the United States, like any other government, demanded obedience from its citizens.11 Most historians agree that this change in the meaning of democracy occurred as a consequence of the American Revolution. Following Toqcueville’s analysis, some historians contend that the American colonies always had been democratic and that the American Revolution merely brought the actually existing “democratic” social conditions to consciousness.12 Other scholars assert that “democracy” was initiated by the common people during the American Revolution but that this democracy was checked by an “aristocratic” elite through the instrument of the Federal Constitution of 1787.13 Rejecting this interpretation, so-called revisionist historians have maintained that the urgent practical need to create new state and federal governments did not restrict democracy. Rather, it was this very process of state building in which “the modern American doctrine of the separation of functioning powers would be created, and the concept of ‘democracy’ transformed.”14 In short, although there exist conflicting interpretations of the precise manner in which a modern American democracy emerged, they all agree that the American Revolution constituted the pivotal event for the emergence of an American democracy in particular and the ultimate change in the meaning of democracy more generally. These historians, of course, have not been oblivious to the fact that most Americans—as well as Europeans—in the 1770s and 1780s did not think of their society and political system as a “democracy.” Many scholars nonetheless took for granted that “democracy” appeared “as a real modern political option . . . in the struggle for American independence and with the founding of the new American republic,” but that it did so “under another name.”15 The American Revolution, according to this view, resulted in the emergence of what Tocqueville called American “democracy” under the name of the American “republic.” This specific system, in turn, over


Prologue time came to be associated with the term “democracy.” This line of interpretation, however, raises one important question: if the American Revolution and the creation of the American constitutions (state and federal) supposedly settled the issue of the “concept” behind the new American social and political system for good, why then did the change in the meaning of “democracy” occur at all? This is not to say that the American Revolution was not a major step in the development of an American democracy. It certainly was. Yet this book contends that American democracy, in the form Tocqueville experienced and described it, was not complete with the adoption of the Federal Constitution; nor did the term “democracy” acquire its new meaning by accident. Rather, American “democracy”—in the meaning of both the usage of the “term” as well as the “concept” it referred to—during the 1790s developed further in important ways, and this new phase in the evolution of American democracy owed much to the French Revolution.16 While the upheavals of the American Revolution had initiated a first phase of conceptual turmoil in which many people used terms such as “democracy” and “republic” to give a name to their often differing visions for the future of their society, the debate about the Federal Constitution had resulted in a contraction and solidification of what such terms could mean. But right at this moment, when a tenuous consensus about the nature of the new American republican forms and the terms to express them seemed to emerge, the French Revolution started—and as it had happened in America, so in France the revolution and the intense debates about conflicting visions regarding a new order accompanying that event generated a new phase of conceptual fluidity and uncertainty. The French Revolution, moreover, was such a momentous historical incident that this conceptual effect did not remain confined to France. It had a similar effect in other states of Europe and also in America. It was in consequence of this effect that the development of the concept of “democracy” in America received a new impetus and that the term “democracy” acquired the new and modern meaning that Tocqueville could use in the 1830s without raising objections.


o illustrate in more detail how in the wake of the American and French Revolutions two distinct phases of conceptual changes occurred that, taken together, resulted in American democracy as Tocqueville described it, this


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland second part of the prologue shows democracy’s development in connection with one of its essential components: equality. Tocqueville himself in the 1830s realized the intimate connection between equality and modern democracy and in the very first sentence of his masterpiece asserted that among all the “new things” he experienced in the United States, “none struck” him more forcefully “than the equality of conditions.” The influence of this principle on all facets of life, mores, and government of the United States seemed so dominant to him that he came to the conclusion that “equality” needed to be “the focal point” in his study of America’s democratic society.17 But although “equality” in Tocqueville’s analysis figured as the principal driving force of history, different people at different moments over the course of the late eighteenth century did not necessarily mean the same thing with this principle or use it in the same way and for the same purpose. Rather, during the age of revolutions, the meaning of “equality” experienced an increasing expansion and radicalization, which, in turn, proved essential for the evolution of “democracy.”18 During the imperial crisis, colonists invoked the principle of equality primarily to justify their resistance against the British administration. From the Stamp Act controversy onward, American Patriots repeatedly pointed out that when their ancestors had emigrated to America, they did so in full possession of their rights as English subjects. As one of the fundamental rights of any free English subject, they regarded the privilege not to be taxed without consenting to the taxes either in person or through representatives. Since American colonists were not—and for practical reasons could not be—represented in Parliament, they asserted that taxes could only be levied by their own colonial assemblies. The proper place of the colonial assemblies within the corporate structure of the British Empire—their equality or inequality with Parliament—thus became a central constitutional issue. Beyond this constitutional, corporate meaning, however, “equality” had as yet little significance. For example, in a 1764 anti–Stamp Act pamphlet the Boston Patriot James Otis demanded the colonial assemblies’ equal status with Parliament within the British Empire. In the same pamphlet, however, he also made clear that he did not advocate the wholesale application of “equality” to the domestic situation of Massachusetts or any other society. Even Thomas Paine in Common Sense did not use “equality” to demand social change in the colonies, but only to reject the distinction of human beings into “kings and subjects,” and thus as a means to attack and denounce monarchy.19


Prologue With independence becoming more and more probable in 1775 and finally a reality in 1776, the constitutional, imperial notion of equality became obsolete. As some of the leaders of the American Revolution such as John Adams had feared from the outset, however, the appeal to “equality” and other abstract natural rights concepts could not so easily be limited to a corporate, imperial meaning. In the debates about the new state constitutions (most notably in Pennsylvania), some ordinary Americans began to criticize the colonial elites’ monopoly on power, and demanded a greater role in the new states’ affairs. For example, a contributor to the Pennsylva­ nia Packet in March 1776 complained that if mechanics “by occupation are to be excluded from having any share in the choice of their rulers, would it not be best to acknowledge the jurisdiction of the British Parliament, which is entirely composed of gentlemen?”20 It is important to note, however, that these demands often were not (yet) advanced on the basis of a comprehensive, universal conception of equality. Rather, many Americans, who had grown up in a society that was built on the assumption of hierarchy and inequality, still only demanded for themselves or their social group to participate more equally in the privileges (or “liberties”) already enjoyed by other parts of society, without necessarily calling the hierarchical nature of society in general into question. The demands for the extension of the suffrage by certain groups such as the mechanics of Philadelphia, and even North Carolina Regulators’ and Massachusetts Shaysites’ claims for stronger representation, can be seen as examples for such reform movements within a generally still traditional, hierarchical framework.21 This does not mean that no one in America during the 1770s and 1780s took the meaning of “equality” to its logical extreme. Yet advocates of a universal and individualistic meaning of equality were still in a minority position. The prevalence of the more limited meaning of “equality,” in turn, helps to explain why contemporaries accepted—and often even insisted on—voting restrictions. It also explains why the traditional elites in the 1780s could sustain their claims to political, social, economic, and military (in short: unitary) leadership. The French Revolution then saw a further expansion and radicalization of the meaning of “equality.” The existence of an entrenched titled nobility fighting to preserve its corporate privileges meant that the French Revolution from the outset had a much more social character than the American Revolution. In particular, the debates surrounding the convocation of the Estates-General in late 1788 and early 1789 made the issue


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland of “equality” central to the revolution’s entire meaning because, unlike in America, the demands from parts of the French elite for an equality of the corporate elements of French society would have resulted in the preservation of at least some of the prerogatives of the privileged orders, and thus would have meant the perpetuation of legal and hereditary inequalities among individuals.22 To counter such claims, revolutionaries in France in the ensuing debates vigorously attacked the corporate sense of equality and instead stressed the necessity of a more universal and individual notion of equality, whose radical political and social implications thus came to the fore and were hotly contested. The situation in France, where the revolution was not primarily directed against a foreign enemy and whose thrust quickly turned against the existing domestic political, social, and economic inequalities, thus resulted in a new, radicalized, and more comprehensive meaning of “equality.”23 Acceptance or rejection of this new, radicalized version of equality increasingly defined one’s position in the revolutionary spectrum and came to be one of the decisive distinctions between revolution and counterrevolution, thus contributing to the evolution of two broad visions of how society should be organized. This development occurred not only in France or Europe but also— and virtually simultaneously—in America. Most Americans initially greeted the French Revolution enthusiastically because they saw the revolutionary stirrings in France directly linked to their own struggle for independence and self-government. The French Revolution also seemed to vindicate the Americans’ most optimistic beliefs that the principles on which they had built their new polity were not just an oddity in an otherwise monarchical world, but the herald of a new era. But although French revolutionaries basically propagated the same key principles such as liberty and equality that had also served as the banners for American revolutionaries a few years earlier, it quickly became apparent that these principles in the French context had more radical implications. Due to the perceived link between what had happened in America and what was transpiring in France, this radicalization, in turn, led many Americans to embrace the expanded notions of key principles of the two revolutions. These Americans then also began to judge their own local situation in light of the degree to which the promise of these radicalized revolutionary principles had been fulfilled—or stymied—in America since independence. In contrast, other Americans soon began to reject the


Prologue increasingly radicalized notions of French revolutionary principles and vehemently denied any fundamental relationship between the American and French Revolutions. In other words, Americans began to reinterpret their political and social situation in the context of the broad framework of revolution and counterrevolution emerging in Europe. As a result, an often bitter and acrimonious struggle ensued.24 As in France, so in America, the meaning of “equality” constituted one of the core issues around which the two sides formed in the young United States. The polarization of positions in the wake of the French Revolution showed that “equality” for some Americans meant only equality of opportunity—that is, a chance for the naturally superior to rise to preeminence without being restricted by a formal, hereditary nobility. Their understanding of equality, however, did not include a repudiation of a social hierarchy with a unitary elite at the top. These Federalist “aristocrats”—as they soon came to be called by their opponents—although having revolted against the British monarchy and rejecting a titled nobility, could not abandon the belief that formed the fundamental basis of the ancien régime: that the reigning principle in the nature of human beings was inequality and that the natural result of this fact was a hierarchical organization of society with due deference paid by inferiors to their superiors.25 As a result, despite widely varying actual social situations on the two sides of the Atlantic, many Americans after 1789 came to perceive that they too, just like Europeans, did have an “aristocracy” and that they too were involved in the same grand struggle between revolution and counterrevolution. In this struggle American democracy evolved into the form that Tocqueville described. It developed in opposition to the endeavors of Federalist administrations to model the American republic according to their basic assumptions about society. Against the emerging Federalist political and social system, a newly formed Republican opposition developed a comprehensive vision of a more egalitarian society. To be sure, for many Americans “equality” still did not fully mean the universal principle we associate with it today. Most conspicuously, women were denied full civic equality and African American slaves even the basic equality of being free. But at least concerning white male citizens, the assumption that relationships in society were premised on equality and not hierarchy— regardless whether this hierarchy was organized legally or on the basis of custom—increased, and over the course of the 1790s achieved ascendancy.


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland In addition, more and more people hitherto excluded from privileges no longer strove primarily to be included in those privileges, but instead attacked the very notion of privileges and their underlying assumption of inequality. As a result, more so than in the 1770s and 1780s, the aspirations of those members of the elite who sought to perpetuate their traditional unitary leadership as the “better sort” came under increasing pressure. The two sides’ views on popular sovereignty exemplify this process.26 Most Americans since the time of the American Revolution agreed that the people at large constituted the sovereign and the source wherefrom all other lawful authority derived its powers. They also concurred that it is desirable that the people elect those who are best qualified to leadership positions. The impact of the radicalized notion of equality in the wake of the French Revolution, however, resulted in diverging interpretations of what popular sovereignty meant. Federalists argued that the people exerted their sovereignty at the time of elections but should otherwise defer passively to the wisdom of their elected leaders. Republicans, on the other hand, contended that it was the duty of the people to actively watch and voice their opinion on the conduct of government. Federalists, therefore, advocated a rule “for the people” by enlightened superiors, while Republicans during the 1790s increasingly presented themselves not as “fathers” but as “friends” of the people—and hence as equals—thus moving closer to Abraham Lincoln’s classic summary of the essence of American democracy: “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”27 The election of 1800 decided the contest between the Federalist and Republican models for society in favor of the latter. Subsequently, the Federalists’ idea of a hierarchically conceptualized society rather rapidly lost its validity in most Americans’ minds; after the War of 1812 it no longer posed a viable alternative to the by then well-established idea and practice of American democracy as championed by the Jeffersonian Republicans. Last but not least, not only the concept of democracy evolved in the conceptual struggles following the French Revolution. It was also during this time that the term “democracy” acquired its new and modern meaning. In the early 1790s, some Republicans began to search for a term to distinguish their more egalitarian model of a republican society from the Federalists’ vision of a republic, and their term of choice was “democracy.” The so-called Democratic or Democratic-Republican societies that emerged in the early 1790s constitute some early examples for the by then positive connotation of the American system with democracy. At the same


Prologue time, Thomas Paine in the second part of his Rights of Man engaged in a similar effort to redefine the term “democracy.” Just like the members of the Democratic-Republican societies, Paine realized that a “republic” could mean many things and that he needed another term to distinguish his egalitarian republicanism from that of more elitist, “aristocratic” republicans. For Paine, too, “democracy” as the antonym of aristocracy was the logical candidate. Of course, it still took considerable time until the new meaning of democracy became generally accepted. But by the time Tocqueville published his work in the 1830s, the new meaning of democracy scarcely attracted any attention anymore. The first steps in this redefinition of democracy, however, occurred in both Europe and America in the wake of the French Revolution, which therefore has been a more significant event in American history than is often acknowledged.


Chapter 1 The Tangled Issue of Equality The Dialectic of Revolution in the Burke-Paine Controversy


n November 1, 1790, several months of tense waiting had come to an end for Thomas Paine. On that day, his friend Edmund Burke finally published his Reflections on the Revolution in France, whose production he had announced in February of the same year, following his first public denunciation of the French Revolution on February 9 in a parliamentary debate. Burke’s fierce attack on the events in France in his speech in Parliament had taken Paine by surprise. Based on his personal friendship with Burke and the latter’s support for the American Revolution, Paine, the great propagandist of both the American and French Revolutions, had assumed that Burke, too, would welcome the radical political and social transformations occurring across the Channel. Just a few weeks before Burke took his public stand against the French Revolution, Paine had even sent him a letter in which he had not only assured Burke that the French Revolution was well on its way to a successful completion, but had also hinted at the possibility that Burke might play a role in bringing about a similar reformation in British society and politics. But while both men had supported the cause of the colonists during the American Revolution, the French Revolution soon brought to light fundamental and irreconcilable differences in their respective political philosophies, ruptured their friendship, and prompted Paine to respond to Burke’s Reflections with his two-volume Rights of Man (1791, 1792).1 Historians often treat the Burke-Paine controversy as the classic expression of the radicalization of revolutionary and counterrevolutionary positions during the years 1790–92. Their debate has even been called “perhaps the most crucial ideological debate ever carried on in English,”


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland with Burke symbolizing the traditional ancién regime and Paine the emergence of modern democracy.2 The arguments and counterarguments in their post-1789 works have, accordingly, been analyzed and interpreted quite extensively.3 Paine and Burke’s apparent accord during the era of the American Revolution, in contrast, has received less attention. The same holds true for the role of the Burke-Paine controversy in the actual development of the concept of “democracy.” This is somewhat surprising because an examination of how Paine’s thinking on the subject developed in his grappling with Burke’s arguments is especially suited to illuminating the evolution of the concept of “democracy,” which—generally speaking— from the late eighteenth to the early nineteenth centuries ceased to mean only the literal rule of all in a polity. Instead, “democracy” began to acquire its essentially modern form as a broad social and political concept based on the ideal of individual equality combined with the rule of law, separation of powers, and a representational system.4 Most Paine scholars agree on one point: Thomas Paine was “a symbol of the struggle for democracy” and his writings were “democratic” in nature.5 This near consensus rests on excellent research demonstrating the ways in which Paine’s position was “democratic” and how his actions and writings contributed to the breakthrough of what we call “democracy.”6 Due to this uniform description of Paine’s writings throughout the age of revolutions as “democratic,” however, scholars have either neglected or been puzzled by the fact that before the second part of Rights of Man (1792), Paine himself rarely used the terms “democracy” and “democratic”—and in the few cases when he did, it was in a different sense than historians now understand and apply the terms.7 For example, one scholar, convinced that Paine “positively identified the [American] Revolution with democracy,” could only make sense of Paine’s “avoidance” of the term “democracy” in Common Sense by assuming that he must have consciously shunned the use of the word out of fear that this could disturb the sensibility of the revolutionary elite. Given Paine’s reputation as someone who never shrank from angering anybody in a public controversy if he thought he was right, this assumption appears unlikely.8 Another scholar, in contrast, sought to explain Paine’s dealing with “democracy” in the second part of Rights of Man by arguing that Paine’s political convictions changed fundamentally after the French Revolution—a notion that Paine himself, who insisted that the principles of his later works were “the same as those in ‘Common Sense,’ ” would have strongly objected to.9


the tAngled issue of equAlity This chapter offers an answer to the question why Paine only after the French Revolution used “democracy” in a systematic way by juxtaposing Paine’s and Burke’s writings on the American and French Revolutions with a focus on the issue of “equality.” A close analysis of Paine’s and Burke’s understandings and uses of “equality” can shed new light on their basic agreement during the imperial crisis of the 1770s, their radical disagreement over the French Revolution, as well as Paine’s sudden interest in “democracy” after the latter. Both American and French revolutionaries invoked the principle of equality to mobilize their supporters and to vindicate their struggles, thus making “equality” into an essential component of any emerging modern concept of “democracy.” “Equality” in the late eighteenth century, however, was no clearly defined notion that was applied in the same way by different persons and at different times.10 For example, opinions among French revolutionaries in 1789–90 differed considerably on what “equality” implied. For some, such as the marquis de Lafayette, it meant civic equality, but not necessarily political equality. Others, such as Maximilien Robespierre, insisted on a more expansive understanding that included political equality. Nevertheless, in the early phase of the French Revolution the question of whether France should continue to be a hierarchically ordered society of estates or a more egalitarian nation of at least in civic regard equal citizens constituted the decisive issue separating revolution and counterrevolution. The issue of equality, therefore, lay at the heart of the revolutionary agitation, and one’s position on this question often determined whether one approved or rejected the French Revolution. Thomas Paine and Edmund Burke are a case in point. Paine, on the one side, linked equality to a radical idea of the political and social equality of individuals. Burke, on the other hand, applied the notion of equality primarily on a corporate level—for example, among estates or states. During the American Revolution, the difference in Paine’s and Burke’s understandings of equality did not yet become apparent and accordingly did not create serious tensions because their meanings worked in complementary ways in the resistance against a potentially tyrannical monarchy. As a result, both Burke and Paine did not see the American Revolution as a domestic social conflict, and even in Paine’s case “equality” did not become a slogan for social change. The question of what equality precisely meant for how people thought of the basic nature of the relationship between members of society therefore was not raised and did not have to


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland be answered in Paine’s vision for an American republic during the 1770s and 1780s. The French Revolution, in contrast, brought their different understandings of “equality” into sharp focus because the implementation of Burke’s ideal of a mixed constitution with equality on the corporate level would invariably have resulted in the perpetuation of legal, individual inequalities. This situation prompted Burke and, in response, Paine to set forth their convictions about the basic nature of society in their famous works, thus becoming the focal points for the development of two incompatible visions for society, the one based on the assumption of inequality and the other on equality. In the process of this dialectic between revolution and counterrevolution, Paine advanced his ideas about republican government stemming from the time of the American Revolution by developing a distinction between his system and all those visions for society that were based on inequality, regardless whether this inequality expressed itself in an official way, as in Burke’s case, or in unofficial ones, as in the case of American Federalists who advocated a rule of the better sort based on deference and thus social inequality. Especially the example of such “republican aristocrats” as the Federalists, finally, convinced Paine that his refined concept could not simply be a “republic,” leading him to initiate the redefinition of “democracy” in the second part of Rights of Man.

Edmund Burke and the British Constitution: The Case for Corporate Equality Claiming that the French Revolution brought Paine’s and Burke’s views on equality into conflict does not mean that their differing views did not exist earlier. In fact, they were—at least with the advantage of hindsight— already identifiable at the time of the American Revolution. Burke, for one, identified at the heart of the imperial problems of the 1760s and 1770s a growing imbalance in the British constitution, that is, a disturbance of the equilibrium between the three great socio-constitutional corporate bodies of Great Britain—the court, the House of Lords, and the House of Commons—which in turn also upset the balance of power within the British Empire at large.11 Burke thus from the outset perceived the imperial crisis in the 1760s and 1770s as a part of the traditional power struggle within the British mixed or balanced constitution and consequently was concerned primarily with “equality” on the corporate level. His proposed


the tAngled issue of equAlity solution within the domestic sphere was to curb the power of the monarchy in order to restore the original constitutional balance between the corporate estates of the realm that had been created by the so-called Glorious Revolution of 1688. To this end Burke, from the 1760s through the 1780s, worked hard to forge a strong parliamentary coalition—or “party”—to enact such legislation as the Economic Reform Bills, which would have reduced the number of government posts and would thus have limited the availability of patronage and influence to the Crown.12 Concerning the position of the American colonists in the imperial crisis, Burke remarked years later that “he always firmly believed that . . . the Americans at that time, and in that controversy, [stood] in the same relation to England as England did to King James the Second in 1688.”13 Consequently, as the solution in the domestic sphere consisted of restoring the balance between the socio-constitutional orders, so Burke regarded the installation of a rough equality on the corporate level within the sphere of the British Empire as the best recipe to solve the crisis with the American colonies. To be sure, the kind of corporate equality Burke had in mind was not perfect. In the domestic sphere, for instance, Burke, although acknowledging the respective powers of the House of Lords and the court in order to preserve a constitutional equilibrium, still regarded the House of Commons as the most important of the British estates. Likewise, Burke on the imperial level insisted that Parliament as the ultimate seat of sovereignty within the British Empire enjoyed a certain supremacy that in practice might be restricted to matters of imperial concern, but that in theory was absolute. But nonetheless Burke, in his speeches and other writings on colonial affairs from 1766 to 1778, expanded his conception of the role of the colonial assemblies in the empire from a mere voluntary abstinence of Parliament from interfering in internal colonial matters over a guaranteed right of taxation in all cases to a plan for a federal union. At first Burke attempted to avoid specifying the exact nature of the respective rights and powers of Parliament and colonial assemblies. In Burke’s opinion, such an undertaking was wholly unnecessary since the “great object” of Great Britain’s empire was “trade” and not the direct control or exploitation of its dependent parts.14 In regard to trade, however, Burke thought that the system created by the various Navigation Acts was entirely sufficient and worked to the advantage of both sides, although most benefiting the mother country. All that Great Britain needed to do,


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland therefore, was to return to its long-established practice of “salutary neglect” and avoid the introduction of new schemes of raising revenue because acts like the Stamp Act of 1765 were bound to produce unrest among a “people . . . of free character and spirit” such as the American colonists.15 Burke’s preference for a policy of “salutary neglect,” however, did not involve any concessions concerning the absolute sovereignty of Parliament. Burke and his party made this point clear when they came to power in 1765–66. On the one side, the Rockingham administration repealed the Stamp Act and thus demonstrated its intention to return to the practice used before 1764. But on the other side, this administration also enacted the Declaratory Act, which stated that Parliament “in her imperial character” would have unlimited power “to bind the colonies and people of America . . . in all cases whatsoever.”16 This parliamentary authority definitely included the right of taxation. Yet Burke maintained that because there was no other way to obtain revenue from Americans “but by their freest and most cheerful consent,” Parliament would not use this power as a source of revenue.17 Thus, during the late 1760s Burke’s thoughts on the relationship between Parliament and the colonial assemblies did not go further than a prudent but entirely voluntary and unofficial policy of noninterference in internal colonial issues by Parliament. If the British government would have heeded Burke’s advice, the American colonies might have continued to accept the merely theoretical supremacy of Parliament “in all cases whatsoever.” But this was not to be. The Rockingham administration fell from power in 1766, and the succeeding Chatham and North administrations resumed efforts to extract revenue from the American colonies. The crisis reached a new height with the Tea Act of 1773, compelling Burke to concentrate his attention again on American matters. His conception of the British Empire at that time was basically still the same as in the 1760s, but the protracted crisis now forced Burke to clarify his position. In his Speech on American Taxation from April 1774, Burke contended that the Parliament of Great Britain had two functions: “one as the local legislature of this island, . . . the other, and I think her nobler capacity, is what I call her imperial character; in which, as from the throne of heaven, she superintends all the several inferior legislatures, and guides and controls them all, without annihilating any.”18 But while in theory Parliament’s powers in the imperial as well as the domestic sphere “must be boundless,” Burke insisted that Parliament should not concern itself with the day-to-day concerns of colonial as-


the tAngled issue of equAlity semblies “whilst they are equal to the common ends of their institution.” Only in the case of emergencies, such as wars involving the entire empire or quarrels between colonies, should Parliament intervene to “effectually afford mutual assistance” and “to aid the weak and deficient, by the overruling plenitude of her power.” But since plans for taxation such as the Stamp Act or the Tea Act did not constitute emergency measures, Burke demanded that Parliament “leave America, if she has taxable matter in her, to tax herself.”19 With the crisis intensifying over the following months, Burke’s conception of empire began to change more profoundly. Realizing that the rigid insistence on abstract rights on both sides had led to an impasse that threatened the very existence of the British Empire, Burke in his famous Speech on Conciliation with America (March 22, 1775) urged his colleagues in Parliament to put the issue of “the right of taxation . . . totally out of the question.”20 Instead of focusing on what “a lawyer tells me I may do,” British policy makers should concentrate on “what humanity, reason, and justice tell me I ought to do” to safeguard the unity of the empire. What ought to be done in Burke’s opinion was “to admit the people of our colonies into an interest in the constitution.”21 For Burke, this meant to grant the colonial legislatures the “justice of a taxation of America, by grant, and not by imposition” and “to mark the legal competency of the colony assemblies for the support of their government in peace, and for publick aids in time of war.”22 In other words, Burke proposed that Parliament enact a law in which it would officially renounce its intentions to tax the colonies and instead would rely on voluntary grants by the colonial assemblies. Such a law, while preserving the supremacy of Parliament, would nevertheless have elevated the colonial assemblies to an equal station with the former in regard to the crucial issue of taxation. Burke’s proposal, however, did not prevail, and instead of conciliation hostilities broke out just a month after he had delivered his speech in March 1775. The start of the American War of Independence and the subsequent proclamation of the Declaration of Independence compelled Burke to further develop his federal conception of the British Empire. In January 1777, he prepared two addresses to the king and the American colonists in which he expressed his hope (however unrealistic at that time) that reconciliation was still possible, but that the relations between the mother country and the colonies had reached such a low point that only clear and far-reaching constitutional guarantees could induce the Americans


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland to remain within the empire. Addressing the American colonists, Burke argued that since the colonial charters “comprehend the essential forms by which you enjoy your liberties,” these charters “ought by no means to be altered at all, but at the desire of the greater part of the people who live under them.”23 Having already advocated colonial autonomy in regard to taxation, Burke now suggested that the colonial charters be put out of the reach of Parliament and the Crown. In effect, Burke proposed to endow the colonial charters with the same constitutional status and sanctity as Parliament enjoyed itself and thus to add the colonial assemblies to the list of the eminent corporate estates of the British Empire. With the status of the colonial assemblies thus enhanced, the Declaratory Act no longer seemed tenable. In his Letter to the Sheriffs of Bristol of April 1777, Burke acknowledged this reality and announced his readiness to repeal this obstacle on the way to the only solution to the American crisis short of full American independence: “We must and ought to treat with [the colonies] on the terms of a federal union.”24 This idea of the empire as a federal union would have virtually granted the colonies internal autonomy and would thus have given them in all internal matters an equal station with Parliament within the British Empire. Burke’s conception of the British Empire as a “federal union,” however, did not quite foreshadow the later British commonwealth of independent nations because Burke could never fully extricate himself from the traditional assumption that sovereignty must ultimately be located in a single body to prevent the whole from dissolving into its parts. Since he regarded the court accountable for the imperial crisis in the first place, Burke could not imagine that this location of sovereignty and bond of union could be the Crown alone instead of the king-in-parliament. He professed that despite his ardent love for the “unity of this empire,” he would “much rather see you totally independent of this crown and kingdom, than joined to it by . . . servitude,” because he was convinced that the court’s victory in America would provide a fateful example of “the possibility of the reduction of a free people to slavery,” an example “of which, in our turn, we might become the victims” too.25 But as a British victory might prove fateful for both America and Great Britain, so Burke also feared the consequences of independence for the colonies themselves. Accordingly, he emphatically warned the colonists not “to listen to the seductions of those who would alienate you from your dependence on the crown and parliament of this kingdom.”26 Burke


the tAngled issue of equAlity contended that the American colonies needed to remain connected to an imperial British Parliament for two reasons. First, “the authority and weight of this great and long respected body” were necessary to preserve “a just and fair equality” among the corporate entities of the empire. Otherwise, the War of Independence might prove to independent American states to be “but a prelude to series of wars and contentions among yourselves.” Second, although “untried forms of government may, to unstable minds, recommend themselves,” Burke assured the colonists that the “very liberty, which you so justly prize above all things,” can only thrive in a mixed constitution, and “none but England can communicate to you the benefits of such a constitution.” Americans, he believed, “not now, nor for ages are likely to be, capable of that form of constitution in an independent state.”27 Burke thus made clear his conviction that the liberty for which Americans were fighting could only be realized within the framework of the British mixed constitution, both in regard to the imperial as well as the domestic structure of Great Britain itself and the colonies. The “equality” Burke had in mind during the time of the American Revolution, therefore, only applied to the constitutional balancing of corporate entities and not to any other meaning in the context of “untried forms of government.”

Thomas Paine’s Comprehensive Conception of Equality Thomas Paine’s understanding of equality during the time of the American Revolution, on the other hand, was both more expansive and more radical. It was more radical because Paine made very clear that when he talked about “equality,” he wanted “to be understood to mean” exactly that “perfect equality” that Burke dreaded as a “metaphysical insanity” and wholly out of place in politics.28 It was also more expansive in that Paine did not restrict “equality” to the corporate level but rather started from the assumption of the equality of the individual. This does not mean that Paine did not apply the notion of equality to corporate entities as well. On the contrary, the range of his understanding of equality encompassed equality between generations, between corporate bodies within a state, and between nations in the international sphere as well as individual equality. For example, Paine reserved some of the most passionate passages in his famous pamphlet Common Sense (1776) for the “absurdity . . . of hereditary succession” in defense of the principle of generational equality.29 Paine declared that one generation may well have the


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland right to choose a king if they wish, but not to install a hereditary system of government since “in their choice not only of a king, but a family of kings for ever . . . the right of all future generations is taken away.”30 The right of one generation to choose a ruler, however, could never supersede the equal right of another generation to do the same for itself. In Paine’s opinion, as generations enjoyed equal rights in regard to each other, so did entire nations. In 1781, the French writer Abbé Raynal had published his version of the history of the American Revolution. Although the Abbé took a generally sympathetic position toward the Americans, Paine thought that Raynal’s work contained several misrepresentations that needed to be rectified. In addition to his major criticism—that the Abbé had gotten the real reasons for the outbreak of the American Revolution totally wrong—Paine’s Letter to the Abbé Raynal (1782) complained in particular about Raynal’s objection to the Franco-American alliance as being unnatural since the one partner was a monarchy while the latter had established a republic.31 Paine asserted that “the remark which the Abbé makes on the one country being a monarchy and the other a republic . . . can have no essential meaning” because “forms of government have nothing to do with treaties.” As the rationale for this assertion, Paine advanced that “the governing powers of all countries, be their forms what they may, are relatively republics with each other.” In this capacity, furthermore, all those “republics” were equal. Paine certainly was not blind to geopolitical realities and acknowledged that “antiquity may have given precedence, and power will naturally create importance.” But he ascertained that despite the disproportionate length of existence and power between states, “their equal right” was never disputed.32 According to Paine, in the relations between nations just as between generations, the principle of equality—instead of considerations of power—needed to be applied as a “right” to its fullest extent as well. Concerning the relation between corporate bodies within a state, Paine again argued that equality should be the leading principle. In this respect, Paine expounded his opinion most clearly in a publication entitled Pub­ lic Good (1780) in which he dealt with the question of claims to western land by states with unbounded charters such as Virginia. This issue in the late 1770s threatened the ratification of the Articles of Confederation since states like Maryland with no access to western lands, fearing an ever-growing imbalance of power between the states, refused to sign the Articles as long as Virginia and other states did not cede their claims to


the tAngled issue of equAlity the federal government. Thomas Paine clearly sided with the land-locked states. He asserted that since Virginia had been a royal colony at the commencement of the American Revolution, its charter had not been in effect and its claims to western lands were thus null.33 But Paine regarded this legal reasoning only as secondary. His strongest point against Virginia’s claims was moral in nature. He contended that Virginia’s pretension to lands from sea to sea was “unreasonable in itself ” because Virginia was “doing the rest of the states wrong in point of equity.”34 In his opinion, all the states had—each according to its ability— equally contributed to the war, and thus possessed equal claims to the western domain. Accordingly, this territory should belong to all under the common “sovereignty of the United States” and be used “for the benefit of all.”35 The best way to put the western lands to use without favoring some states while discriminating against others, Paine argued, was to create new states. In a remarkable passage of Public Good, foreshadowing the essential features of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, Paine expressed his hope that as this immense territory became populated, “new states shall be laid off and incorporated with the present” as equals. Paine proposed that the federal government should at first provide a constitution for any new territory since “it must be supposed not to be peopled at the time it is laid off.” But as soon as a new state becomes “peopled to a certain number of inhabitants,” the people of that territory should acquire “the whole and sole right of modeling their government” according to their wishes.36 Next, on the basis of its own freely chosen constitution, the new state should without any further restrictions or qualifications “be immediately incorporated into the union on the grounds of a family right,” that is, on an equal footing with the older states. Regarding the question “whether a new state should immediately possess an equal right with the present ones in all cases which may come before Congress,” however, Paine suggested a probationary period of seven years during which the representatives of new states may “sit, hear, and debate, on all questions and matters” in Congress, “but not vote on any.”37 This temporary provision notwithstanding, Paine’s ideas on how to deal fairly with the western lands demonstrate that his comprehension of equality even on the corporate level aspired more to a principled, full equality than Burke’s notion of balance. Paine’s thoughts on how to preserve the equality between the corporate bodies within the larger national or imperial structure elaborate and


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland substantiate this difference. While Burke could not envisage an empire consisting of corporate bodies without one of them being supreme, Paine had no such reservations. Instead of a predominance of power—both in theory as well as in practice—of one of the parts, Paine preferred a wellengineered federal structure to provide for the states’ “separate as well as their united good.” The problem of the states’ security against foreign threats Paine regarded as solved through the Articles of Confederation. But the “internal control and dictatorial powers of Congress,” Paine thought, were “not sufficiently defined, and appear to be too much in some cases, and too little in others.” To remedy this situation and to guarantee the corporate equality of the members of the young United States, Paine recommended “electing a Continental Convention, for the purpose of forming a Continental Constitution, defining and describing the powers and authority of Congress,” thus giving “additional energy to the whole, and new confidence to the several parts.”38 Paine’s “empire of liberty”—to use Thomas Jefferson’s phrase—needed no metropolis to hold the “whole” together. Instead, the “whole” rested on the perfect equality of its “parts.” Paine thus applied equality on the corporate level as did Burke, albeit in a differing manner. Unlike Burke, Paine did not confine his considerations to the corporate level but extended them to the individual. In fact, Paine’s emphasis of equality between groups, regardless of whether between generations, nations, or corporate bodies, cannot be fully understood without taking into account his understanding of individual equality because the former followed from his basic maxim of the fundamental equality of the individual and was therefore contingent upon the latter. For example, in the case of generational equality Paine in Common Sense stressed repeatedly that no generation had the “power to give away the right of posterity” by establishing a hereditary form of government.39 Paine based this assertion on his conviction that because “all men being originally equals, no one by birth” and no generation as a whole “could have a right to set up his family in perpetual preference to all others for ever.”40 Thus, since all individuals were originally equals and no (male) individual could claim superiority for himself or his offspring over other individuals, it logically followed for Paine that successive generations as aggregations of individuals stood in the same equal relationship to each other. In regard to the relations between nations, Paine argued similarly. His refutation of the Abbé Raynal’s claim that the Franco-American alliance


the tAngled issue of equAlity as a pact between a monarchy and a republic was unnatural rested on his premise “that nations with regard to each other are like individuals in a state of nature.”41 As individuals, nations “are regulated by no fixed principle, governed by no compulsory law, and each does independently what it pleases.” The fact that disparities in power might in reality circumscribe what any specific nation actually could do, in Paine’s opinion, did not alter the essential criterion that all nations were equals just as individuals, regardless of their physical or mental capacities, were equals. The conclusion Paine drew from this line of reasoning was that nations, notwithstanding their forms of government, “which every one explains as it suits him,” could form alliances and federations, just as individuals, despite their differing personal characteristics, could form compacts and societies.42 Concerning corporate bodies, finally, Paine again based his insistence on the application of the principle of equality in their relationships on his axiom of individual equality. He built his argument that a new state needed to be incorporated into the union as an equal on the premise that “the people by whom it may hereafter be peopled will have an equal right with ourselves.”43 Thus, according to Paine’s view, because all human beings in the United States were equal, the various states in which they constituted themselves as societies needed to be equal as well. This reasoning also supplied Paine with an argument why the new states in America—and republics in general—required no metropolis to live together peacefully. The basic problem of monarchical government, Paine maintained, was that “men who look upon themselves born to reign . . . soon grow insolent,” and it was this insolence and “the pride of kings which throw mankind into confusion” through the kings’ striving for preeminence and the resulting frequent wars.44 But republics, “where there are no distinctions,” were immune to this sort of “confusion” since “perfect equality affords no temptation.” Applying these effects of individual equality within a republican society to the dealings of corporate bodies among each other, Paine thought, would prevent any serious problems of interstate relations in the new United States. Consequently, he brushed aside the “fears” of men like Burke that “one colony will be striving for superiority over another” as “truly childish and ridiculous.”45 A belief in the fundamental equality of human beings thus constituted the basis of Thomas Paine’s political and social thought at the time of the American Revolution. The absolute truth of individual equality, Paine regarded as a natural fact. He considered the assumption that “mankind


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland being originally equals in the order of creation”—as he put it in Common Sense—as so obvious that he did not even think it necessary to enter into any elaborate discussion of the subject.46 On the contrary, he argued that “there are some points so clear and definitive in themselves that they suffer by any attempt to prove them.” Specifically, Paine mentioned two such self-evident truths that could only suffer by trying to prove them: the existence of God and “the equality of rights” of the individual. Anything he might have to “offer on the equality of rights,” therefore, would be “not by way of proof but illustration.”47 A close analysis of Thomas Paine’s and Edmund Burke’s writings of the era of the American Revolution thus illustrates that the distinction between Paine’s comprehensive notion of equality on the corporate as well as individual level and Burke’s exclusive application of this notion to the corporate level already existed during that time. Yet this difference did not provoke Burke to write something like the “Reflections on the Revolution in America” to lament the breakdown of a hierarchical social order.48 Nor did he criticize Paine’s Common Sense, one of the most radical and influential pamphlets of the revolutionary era, as dangerous in any way. In fact, although Burke in the 1770s did not mention Paine’s work directly, his allusion to Common Sense in his Letter to the Sheriff ’s of Bristol (1777) was a complimentary one.49 The subsequent personal relationship between Paine and Burke underscores that apparently neither man regarded their differing understanding of equality as a reason to view their respective political thoughts as antagonistic. For example, Paine, after getting acquainted with Burke in 1787, stayed with the latter at his country estate at Beaconsfield for some time and by 1789 boasted of his “pretty close intimacy” with Burke and other leaders of the British opposition party.50 Burke, too, valued their friendship at least enough to announce in a letter to a friend that “I am just going to dine with the Duke of Portland, in company with the great American Paine.”51 Their estrangement therefore did not occur until the French Revolution prompted them to reevaluate each other’s positions.

Edmund Burke’s and Thomas Paine’s Seeming Agreement during the American Revolution Given “the part Mr. Burke took in the American Revolution” and their amicable relationship before 1790, their falling out in the wake of the


the tAngled issue of equAlity French Revolution provoked Paine to charge Burke with changing his fundamental principles.52 Historiography since then, however, has shown that neither Paine nor Burke changed his fundamental principles in the last decades of the eighteenth century.53 The decisive question thus is: why did only the French but not the American Revolution cause Paine’s and Burke’s visions for the proper political and social system to clash when their diverging understanding of equality, which formed a central part of both their political philosophies, already existed during the American Revolution? The cardinal reason why Paine’s and Burke’s different connotations of equality in the 1770s did not spark a controversy lies in the peculiar mode of the mobilization of American resistance against the British Empire. This mobilization ultimately had the effect that their similar views on equality on the corporate level disguised their conflicting assumptions about individual equality. As a result, Paine, Burke, and their contemporaries perceived the two men’s political positions not as antagonistic, but rather as complementary in a struggle against a monarchy displaying despotic tendencies. Burke, for instance, interpreted the entire imperial crisis with the American colonies on the basis of the traditional mixed constitution theory. Accordingly, in his opinion, the colonial assemblies constituted the “aristocratic” part within the mixed constitution theory between the Crown— or in the case of the British Empire, the king-in-parliament—on the one side, and the populace at large, on the other. Considering the quite popular character of virtually all American colonial assemblies, Burke’s supposition may at a first glance seem ill-founded. But Burke might have more of a case than many scholars have acknowledged. After all, certainly during the run-up to the Revolution and arguably well into the revolutionary period itself, most colonists regarded their colonial governments as imitations of the English model. The governor in this instance represented the king, their councils they believed to be the counterparts of the House of Lords, and the assemblies they considered as mirror images of the House of Commons.54 The emulation of the English government, moreover, did not stop with the structure of government. It also included its development. Consequently, the American colonists viewed the steady expansion of the colonial assemblies’ powers over the course of the eighteenth century as mirroring the rise of the eminence of the House of Commons.55 To interpret the gaining of power by the popular branch of government


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland as a sign of an emerging “democracy” in either England or America, however, would be mistaken. To be sure, according to the mixed constitution theory the House of Commons and the colonial assemblies were thought to represent the “democratic” part of the constitution. But in practice, during the entire eighteenth century the House of Commons in England was a cornerstone of aristocratic rule. For instance, a majority of the seats in the House of Commons were either controlled by the great aristocratic families or represented the special interests of corporations such as universities. Moreover, even in those towns and boroughs where a relatively broad suffrage existed, most candidates were members of the upper class and not the common people (the “democracy”). Although in America suffrage was much more widespread and class distinctions less prevalent, the “aristocratic” tendencies of the lower houses of the colonial assemblies were similar. As American assemblies imitated the House of Commons’ claim to power, so “on the whole they tended to imitate the oligarchic rule of the English House of Commons,” and “the result was the development of the colonial assemblies as oligarchies in the Whig tradition.”56 For example, Burke time and again defended the independence of the House of Commons (and thus an “aristocratic” privilege) not only against the influence of the Crown but also against pressure from the people by arguing that a member of Parliament needed to work for the good of the entire people and thus could not sacrifice “his unbiased opinion” and “his mature judgment” to the local concerns of his constituents.57 Accordingly, he defiantly proclaimed that he would never leave it “to the Crowd, to choose for me, what principles I ought to hold, or what Course I ought to pursue for their benefit.”58 In virtually the same manner David Lloyd, the longtime Speaker of the Pennsylvania assembly during the first half of the eighteenth century, asserted that the people at the time of elections delegated their power to their representatives, and once elected, the representatives were completely independent in their exercise of this delegated power.59 Burke’s assumption that the colonial assemblies performed the function of the “aristocratic” middle part in a mixed government analogous to Parliament in England, therefore, was not wholly ungrounded. Crucial for an understanding why Paine’s and Burke’s political concepts did not clash during the time of the American Revolution is that, unlike in other countries, the would-be “aristocratic” colonial assemblies could not rely on their own strength to resist British encroachments upon


the tAngled issue of equAlity their privileges while at the same time asserting their independence from the populace at large. Consequently, the colonial assemblies in their resistance against the British administration did not just insist on their own specific “aristocratic” privileges but rather acted as the defenders of the liberties of the population as a whole. The absence of a formal nobility in the American colonies greatly facilitated the pursuit of this strategy by the Patriot elites and thus enabled a broad mobilization across class lines against the British government while at the same time avoiding, or at least mitigating, domestic social conflicts.60 Burke noticed and emphasized this phenomenon throughout the imperial crisis. For example, in his Speech on Conciliation Burke argued that concessions by the British were necessary because, among other reasons, virtually all the colonists, from the “commonwealth” colonies of New England to the southern colonies with their “high aristocratic” spirit, were united in their opposition to British measures, and Burke did “not know the method of drawing up an indictment against an whole people.”61 The “universal” support of resistance to the Crown “by the actual voice of the people without these assemblies,” as well as “by the constructive voice within them,” legitimized the colonists’ conduct in Burke’s opinion in two important ways. First, since “the only firm seat of all authority is in the minds, affections and interests of the people,” Burke reasoned that “the sense of a whole people . . . never ought to be contemned by wise and beneficent rulers, whatever may be the abstract claims, or even rights of the supreme power.”62 Burke thus affirmed his belief that although government should not be influenced directly by the people, any administration nevertheless held power only as a “trust” and needed to act in the interest of the people; if an entire people disapproved of a government’s policy, the chances were good that this policy was not in their interest and therefore wrong.63 Second, the Americans’ mobilization comprising “all the orders which compose them”—the common people as well as the gentlemen in the “aristocratic” assemblies—vindicated their resistance because it convinced Burke that all that the colonists had in mind was the restitution of their “local, natural, and just privileges” and not a fundamental change in their political structure or social system.64 The participation in the resistance of a great part of the colonial population, combined with the leadership of the movement by the colonial elite in the assemblies, thus demonstrated to Burke that the American Revolution was not a social conflict or a struggle


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland between competing political concepts or social orders such as “aristocracy” and “democracy.” Instead, this mode of resistance caused him to interpret the conflict as a traditional power struggle within the theoretical framework of the mixed constitution in which the assemblies protected their corporate liberties—and by extension those of the whole people as well as the individual—against a power-hungry monarchy. Burke accordingly never regarded the American War of Independence as a “revolution” but always as a “civil war.”65 Burke’s interpretation of the American Revolution in the framework of the mixed constitution theory concealed for contemporaries the implications of the difference between his and Paine’s understandings of individual equality. For example, when Burke in his Address to the Colo­ nists applauded the American revolutionaries for upholding “by a manly perseverance . . . the rights of mankind,” it seemed obvious to assume that Burke meant the same “natural rights of all Mankind” that Paine extolled in Common Sense, when in fact Burke meant not at all the equal, “natural” rights of the individual that Paine had in mind but only the specific, traditional liberties that Americans enjoyed under their corporate charters.66 In the same manner, Burke’s argument that “the only firm seat of all authority is in the minds, affections and interests of the people” could easily be mistaken as an approval of the definition of popular sovereignty that the American colonists developed during the imperial crisis. Last but not least, Burke’s reluctance to enter into “metaphysical speculations” about the exact nature of such “abstract” notions as equality further contributed to disguise the differences between him and Paine. It would, however, be a mistake to assume that Paine and other later “democrats” merely misunderstood Burke’s intentions. With hindsight it is possible to discern the fundamental differences that led to their estrangement in the wake of the French Revolution. This, however, was not the case at the time because the American Revolution did not yet raise the issue of the exact meaning and the implications of the universal understanding of individual equality over which Paine, Burke, and most other contemporaries later diverged. Instead, because of the peculiar mode of mobilization during the American Revolution, Paine’s and Burke’s concepts of individual and corporate equality still appeared to most Americans as inextricably linked in a traditional contest to preserve their liberties— both corporate and individual—against a potentially tyrannical monarchy. The broad, cross-class mobilization of American resistance against


the tAngled issue of equAlity monarchical Great Britain, finally, also can account for why the American Revolution did not trigger a reconceptualization of basic concepts of political theory such as “democracy.” To be sure, Paine, in contrast to Burke, never considered the American Revolution merely as a “civil war” to recuperate the rights and positions that the colonies had enjoyed within the British Empire before the start of the controversy in 1763. Instead, he repeatedly assured his American readers of the historic momentousness of their situation. The “cause of America,” he declared, “is in great measure the cause of all mankind.”67 Paine based this fairly self-assured conviction on the reasoning that Americans had it in their “power to begin the world over again” if they “learn . . . from the errors of other nations” and “begin government at the right end.”68 For Paine, this most of all meant forming “the noblest purest constitution on the face of the earth.”69 Since “virtue” and wisdom are “not hereditary,” such a pure constitution, in Paine’s opinion, could not include a hereditary monarchy or aristocracy. Unlike Burke, Paine and many other American revolutionaries thus undoubtedly did view the American resistance against Great Britain as a real revolution involving radical political and social transformations. But just as Burke interpreted the American mobilization of resistance against the British king-in-parliament across class lines as a sign that this resistance did not involve an internal social struggle between “aristocracy” and “democracy,” so too did Paine. This is the more remarkable as Paine experienced the commencement of the American Revolution in Pennsylvania, a colony in which a large part of the elite openly or at least tacitly rejected independence. As a result, more than in any other colony, in Pennsylvania the mobilization against Britain acquired an additional character as a social conflict against a domestic “aristocratical junto,” as some revolutionary pamphleteers labeled their opponents.70 Yet despite the sometimes bitter quarrels about the issues of independence and especially the new Pennsylvania state constitution of 1776, Paine during the time of the American Revolution did not perceive any domestic “aristocratic” threat. One reason for Paine’s calmness regarding the potential danger of an American “aristocracy” was that he thought that the sheer size of the United States and the accompanying abundance of land made an aristocracy in America all but impossible. He was convinced that should “any of the States of America . . . form a constitution with such distinctions of rights” typical of an “aristocratical government,” then the “poor” would simply move “into other States, and the rich will soon supply their places


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland by becoming poor themselves, for where there are none to labor, and but few to consume, land and property is [sic] not riches.”71 In a young country such as the United States, therefore, a constitution “that . . . was a good one for a poor man” was “for that very reason . . . the best government for a rich one” as well because only such a constitution could draw “purchasers, tenants, and laborers, to the landed interest, and consumers to the merchants.” Paine thus asserted that if the matter were properly understood, the constitutional interests of the rich (the “aristocracy”) and the poor (the “democracy”) were actually not in conflict at all. Instead, he maintained “that the true interest of one is the real interest of both.”72 This does not mean that Paine disregarded or neglected the importance of economic inequality. Rather, at the time of the American Revolution, Paine still regarded political and economic inequality as two absolutely distinct issues. “Rights,” he argued, “are permanent things, fortune is not so; therefore the uncertainty and inequality of the latter cannot become a rule to the certainty and equality of the former. Freedom and fortune have no natural relation. They are as distinct things as rest and motion.” Due to this line of argumentation, in which he approached the relation between rich and poor not “as a political question” regarding “government, but naturally as to consequences . . . that will follow, whether men think of them or not,” Paine came to the conclusion that in the American situation, the age-old distinction between the haves and the have-nots, at least concerning constitutional issues, was a false dichotomy.73 Accordingly, Paine strongly objected to the factional strife surrounding the decisions about independence and the drafting of a state constitution in Pennsylvania. At several times during 1777 and 1778, Paine thought “it necessary to pay some regard to the peace and safety of the State I live in,” because he feared that through their internal quarreling, Pennsylvanians might ultimately “disturb the peace of other States as well as our own.”74 He deplored “that a little squabbling spirit should at this ill chosen time creep in” when all the strength was required “against the common enemy.”75 The internal “contentions of this State” Paine considered the more onerous since in the light of his ideas about the common interest of rich and poor, they lacked any substance and thus were totally “unnecessary.”76 Consequently, Paine thought that Pennsylvanians ought to stop their unfounded “wrangling” about their constitution and instead follow the example of the other colonies in closing their ranks in the mobilization against Britain to settle the more important question “whether we shall


the tAngled issue of equAlity have” a constitution “of our own forming, or whether the enemy shall form one for us.”77 Because Paine could not see any real political or ideological discrepancies between the supporters and critics of the Pennsylvania state constitution, he regarded that state’s internal quarrels as an anomaly and professed that he just could “not think men serious” who “get into parties, and suffer their tempers to become soured by opposition” and called each other “with the most opprobrious names.”78 Rather, Paine suspected that the Pennsylvanians’ quarrels displayed “a little spirit of revenge and resentment” by individuals and that therefore “the whole matter is more personal than political.”79 In other words, because of his conviction of the fundamental accord of the interests of both the rich and the poor in their resistance to Britain, the opposition of “aristocracy” and “democracy” during the time of the American Revolution for Paine was just not an issue. Since the domestic issues did not pose an ideological challenge, Paine developed his vision for an American republican system not in contradistinction to a domestic “aristocratic” alternative, but against a foreign, “monarchical” enemy. He explained the basic difference between the old British and new American systems in his Dissertations on Government (1786). “Every government,” Paine explained, “contains within itself a principle common to all, which is that of a sovereign power.”80 The seat of this power, in turn, defined the form of government. In hereditary governments, sovereignty resided in one or a few persons; for instance, “in despotic monarchies this power is lodged in a single person.” But if this power “remains where nature placed it—in the people,” then such systems formed “republics, such as those established in America.”81 In Paine’s opinion, the absence of hereditary offices, especially that of a king, therefore constituted the essential feature of a “republic” and the distinguishing mark compared to “despotic monarchies” as well as the English mixed constitution. Paine’s vision of a “republican” United States also contained other elements that would feed into the modern American concept of democracy, such as a federal organization, separation of powers, and a representational system. Yet because he did not perceive a domestic threat to his ideas, Paine felt no need to define exactly what “equality” meant in the American context beyond a strictly political “equality of rights.” As a result, the question of social inequality—which would play a central role in the struggles of the 1790s in America—did not play a role in the republican


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland alternative that he was developing in distinction to the British monarchy in the 1770s and 1780s. Paine’s stress on internal American cohesion thus helped to mitigate the impact of his and Burke’s different understandings of equality and ultimately prevented the full development of a new concept of “democracy” during the American Revolution.

The Rupture over the French Revolution: Edmund Burke’s Reflections The onset of the French Revolution, in contrast, created tensions around the central issue of equality that ultimately resulted in the evolution of a modern concept of “democracy.” Unlike in America, France in 1789 possessed a strong and self-conscious nobility that itself initiated the early phase of the revolution in order to preserve, if not to enlarge, its privileges.82 The actual positions assumed by the French nobility in their resistance to the monarchy varied greatly. But many of them agreed that in whatever way the French monarchy should be reformed, the separation of French society into legally distinct corporate bodies—and thus the social and political preponderance of the nobility and clergy—needed to be maintained.83 Any such proposal, even if it called for equality on the corporate level between the first two and the third estates within a mixed constitution framework, would thus inevitably mean the perpetuation of inequality on the individual level. As a result, revolutionary mobilization in France did not proceed across but rather along class lines and gave the French Revolution much more a character of a class conflict than had been the case in the American Revolution. This does not mean that the fault line in France in 1789 neatly separated the legal nobility on the one side and the common people on the other. Many nominal nobles—the marquis de Lafayette constitutes the most famous example—supported the revolution, just as some common people fought to preserve at least parts of the ancien régime. Rather, the decisive issue in the debates leading up to—and in the weeks after—the convocation of the Estates-General in May 1789 was the question whether society should be structured on the premise of a general, civic equality or on the basis of distinct corporate estates. This basic question made the issue of “equality” central to the revolutionary struggle and led to the formation of broad revolutionary and counterrevolutionary sides. With the debate about the precise meaning and implications of equality and


the tAngled issue of equAlity inequality now at the center of the revolutionary struggle, Burke’s idea of corporate balance and Paine’s assumption of abstract corporate as well as individual equality came in direct conflict—and thus triggered their famous controversy, which exemplified the emerging opposition between revolution and counterrevolution. The development of Burke’s enmity toward the French Revolution demonstrates the significance of the opposition between the visions of a national, egalitarian or corporate and hierarchical structure of society. Initially, Burke’s attitude toward the French Revolution was neutral and indecisive. In fact, it is remarkable just how little attention Burke paid to the early events of that revolution. The calling and convening of the Estates-General in late 1788 and early 1789—occurring, after all, for the first time in 175 years—solicited scarcely a remark from him.84 It is, however, not all that surprising that these events did not startle Burke since what these developments seemed to accomplish was to bring the French constitution closer to the model of the British mixed government that he venerated so much. The storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789, finally, caused the first doubts about the events across the Channel. On August 9, Burke wrote to the Earl of Charlemont that England was “gazing with astonishment at a French struggle for liberty, and not knowing whether to blame or to applaud.”85 Applause, he thought, was due because “the spirit it is impossible not to admire,” but he also showed considerable concern over “the old Parisian ferocity” that had “broken out in a shocking manner,” leading him to the conclusion that if such uncontrolled and extralegal popular outbursts should show themselves to be the “character” of the revolution “rather than accident, then that people are not fit for liberty.”86 The breakdown of the old administration and the spread of disorder from Paris to the provinces in July, as well as the abolition of all aristocratic privileges and the adoption of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen by the National Assembly in August 1789, did nothing to alleviate his fear that the French might indeed not be “fit for liberty.”87 Burke’s mounting discontent with the way events proceeded in France is palpable in his first elaborate statement on the French Revolution, his first letter to Charles-Jean-François Depont. Depont, a young Frenchman who had visited Burke some time earlier, had asked Burke in a letter from early November 1789 whether he could “assure him that the French are worthy of being free” and that “the revolution now begun will succeed.”88 Burke answered politely that the French, like people from any other nation,


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland of course deserved to be free. But this freedom all people were entitled to, he ascertained, was “not solitary, unconnected, individual, selfish liberty” but only “social freedom.”89 Social freedom, in turn, he defined as “that state of things in which liberty is assured by the equality of restraint, ascertained by wise laws, and secured by well-constructed institutions.”90 In short, Burke lectured his young friend that liberty, properly understood, did not consist of the individual equal rights doctrine of the French revolutionaries but could only be found in a constitution that took specific social contexts into account, balanced the various interests in society, and safeguarded them by the rule of law. This form of liberty, Burke believed, could best be achieved in a mixed government that carefully preserved “the equality of restraint” between individuals and corporate bodies, as in the example of the English constitution, which thus not accidentally had so far enjoyed a “monopoly of fame for a practical constitution.”91 But as France since the creation of the National Assembly, the fall of the Bastille, and the abolition of aristocratic privileges had moved ever farther away from the British model, Burke doubted that France would soon join England in the enjoyment of liberty. He therefore had to tell Depont that until “I shall learn that, in France, the citizen . . . is in a perfect state of legal security, with regard to his life” and “to his property . . . I must delay my congratulations on your acquisition of liberty. You may have subverted monarchy, but not recovered freedom.”92 Because Depont, as a supporter of the revolution, had likely expected a different assessment of French prospects, Burke qualified his criticism by adding that if the “new order” in France could meet the standards of liberty he had mentioned, he would not withhold his approval even if France should constitute a “Democracy,” which Burke, schooled in the classical maxim of the incompatibility of democracy and a large territory, expected would soon fall apart into “a collection of Democracies.”93 The prospect of a French “democracy” actually securing his ideal of freedom, however, Burke assessed negatively. The French “people, along with servitude, have thrown off the yoke of laws and morals,” he wrote to his fellow MP William Windham, and he doubted “whether in the End France is susceptible of the Democracy that is the Spirit, and in a good measure too, the form, of the constitution they have in hand.”94 This suspicion Burke saw confirmed in December 1789 when the National Assembly ordered the seizure of the property of the Gallican Church.


the tAngled issue of equAlity Although already pessimistic about the development of events in France, Burke hitherto had still given the revolution the benefit of the doubt. But the systematic attack on the property of one of the former estates of France demonstrated to him that, as he had always feared, an unbalanced constitution was unable to guarantee the “legal security . . . to property” to all of societies’ components and would inevitably result in the expropriation of one class by another. Unlike in the case of the America Revolution, Burke in late 1789 thus began to regard the French Revolution as a social conflict in which the common people, led by unscrupulous demagogues and renegade aristocrats such as Lafayette, attempted to erect a “democracy” at the expense of the other orders of society. Although Burke thus already toward the end of 1789 considered the French Revolution as a failure, he may nevertheless have chosen to keep his concerns to himself had not two events caused him to apprehend that the revolution might spread to Great Britain itself. The first of these events occurred in November 1789 at the occasion of the British Revolution Society’s annual commemoration of the English Glorious Revolution of 1688 when—inspired by a sermon in which the influential dissenting minister Dr. Richard Price had praised the French Revolution—this society sent a congratulatory address to the French National Assembly, expressing its “satisfaction” that France through its example had encouraged “other nations to assert the unalienable rights of Mankind, and thereby to introduce a general reformation in the government of Europe.”95 This incident alerted Burke to the fact that apparently even among the better circles of British society some people were ready or even eager to restructure the British political and social system on the basis of the French revolutionaries’ ideology of individual and equal rights. Burke’s sense of the danger of the spreading of French revolutionary ideas was enhanced by a second event, a letter he received on January 17, 1790, from Paris, written by none other than Thomas Paine himself. Paine, who in early 1790 still entertained hopes of finding in Burke an ally for furthering political change in Britain, wrote Burke to inform the latter that the revolution in France was successfully completed and that the new constitution was “in a fair prospect of being so.”96 What horrified Burke more, however, were Paine’s quotes from a letter Paine had received from Thomas Jefferson in which the latter had praised the “determination” of the National Assembly “to set fire to the four corners of the Kingdom and


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland perish with it themselves, rather than relinquish an Iota of their Plan for a total Change of Government,” as a result of which “the executive and the Aristocracy are at their feet.”97 These vivid descriptions of the destruction of what Burke regarded as essential estates of a well-ordered constitution, Paine topped by adding that “the Revolution in France is certainly a Forerunner to other Revolutions in Europe” and by hinting that Burke might play a part in this spreading of revolutions by putting all this information to good use when “France will on some occasion be introduced into the debates of your Parliament this Meeting.”98 If Paine had hoped to bring Burke to take a stand in favor of the French Revolution, then he achieved the exact opposite. His letter provided Burke with the proof that his worst suspicions about the revolution in France were true. Not only did this letter reveal clearly that the goal of the revolutionaries was nothing less than a “total Change in Government,” but it also demonstrated to him that a band of international revolutionary agitators such as Paine and Jefferson were actively involved in attempting to carry the revolutionary ideology of liberté and egalité into other countries, and most notably to Great Britain. Together with the realization that in Britain some people, like the members of the Revolution Society, were susceptible to the French Revolution’s credos, Paine’s letter caused Burke to make his concerns over the revolution and its principles public. He did so on February 9, 1790, during the parliamentary debates over the Army Estimates, less than three weeks after he had received Paine’s letter. In this remarkable speech, which he had printed immediately afterward, Burke outlined the major themes that he would take on in greater detail in the more famous Reflections. To stress the significance of a mixed constitution, Burke contrasted the French Revolution with the Glorious Revolution of 1688. The English in 1688, Burke explained, only “settled doubtful questions” and “corrected anomalies.”99 But in the “fundamental parts of our constitution we made no revolution . . . nor any alteration at all.” Thus, the “church was not impaired” nor did the English “impair the monarchy,” and “the nation kept the same ranks, the same orders, the same privileges . . . the same rules for property . . . ; the same lords, the same commons, the same corporations.” In short, in 1688 the “Aristocratic leaders” of the country rose “to defend its ancient constitution, and not to level all distinctions.” It was due to this preservation of the English mixed constitution, Burke was convinced, that “the state flourished” and “Great Britain rose above the standard, even of her former self.”100 Burke thought


the tAngled issue of equAlity that if the French would have followed the English example, they might have achieved the same result. But instead of erecting an English-style mixed constitution, Burke bemoaned, the revolutionaries took another road and “made and recorded a sort of institute and digest of anarchy, called the rights of man.” 101 By doing so, he argued, they had displayed “such a pedantick abuse of elementary principles as would have disgraced boys at school.” The problem was that as used by the French revolutionaries, “this declaration of rights was worse than trifling and pedantick,” because “by this mad declaration they subverted the state,” and under its “name and authority they systematically destroyed every hold of authority by opinion, religious or civil, on the minds of the people.”102 By February 1790, therefore, Burke had come to the conclusion that the French Revolution constituted a different phenomenon than any preceding changes in government such as the English Glorious Revolution of 1688 or the American Revolution. The crucial difference, according to Burke, was that the French revolutionaries aimed at the complete destruction of the previous social and political system in order to build a “new order” based on the abstract, philosophical doctrine of the “rights of men.” Since the “rights of men” in turn rested on the “elementary principle” that all human beings were intrinsically equal, it followed that any system based on these “rights of men” would inevitably be incompatible with the traditional structure of society composed of corporate bodies, which, by its very nature, presumed the existence of social, political, and economic inequality between individuals in society. The issue of “equality” and its consequences for the relationship between human beings in society thus became a central topic of the revolutionary debate. The centrality of “equality” is apparent in Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France, where it constituted the very first topic he discussed when turning his attention to the French Revolution.103 Commenting on “the composition of the National Assembly,” Burke complained that it consisted mostly of petty village lawyers, “a handful of country clowns,” and a “number of traders who . . . had never known anything beyond their counting house.”104 The irony in Burke’s view was that the French, blinded by the revolutionary credo of individual equality, gloried in the very ordinariness of the members of the National Assembly. But he assured his readers that the French revolutionaries were “at war with nature.” Despite whatever the revolutionaries might fancy, for Burke it was beyond


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland question that it was the nature of human beings to be unequal in almost every respect and that “those who attempt to level” could therefore never succeed to “equalize.”105 Consequently, he averred that “in all societies, consisting of various descriptions of citizens, some description must be uppermost.” Having thus proclaimed his conviction of the natural necessity of a hierarchical social order, Burke expanded his argument and asserted that not just any “description” could be the uppermost. To make the lawyers in the National Assembly or “the association of tailors and carpenters, of which the republic (of Paris, for instance) is composed” uppermost, for example, would only “pervert the natural order of things.” Burke would agree that “such descriptions of men ought not to suffer oppression from the state.” But he made equally clear that he thought that “the state suffers oppression if such as they, either individually or collectively, are permitted to rule.” In Burke’s opinion, the fact of individual inequality thus disqualified most persons and occupations from high political offices.106 In his understanding of “the natural order of things,” Burke did not only have a clear idea which descriptions of men should be barred from office but also about which one should supply the executive and legislative leaders of a nation. To “secure a steady and moderate conduct” in any legislative assembly, he argued, the members needed to possess “natural weight and authority” stemming from “permanent property” and “education.”107 Of the two, property in particular Burke regarded as an indispensable prerequisite for a person aspiring to public office. Burke argued that property deserved a special consideration in any social system because “the power of perpetuating property in our families” constituted that principle “which tends the most to the perpetuation of society itself.” Permanent property, in conjunction with the hereditary “distinction which attends hereditary possession,” therefore figured so prominently in Burke’s constitutional thought because together they formed “the natural securities” for the continued existence of society itself.108 But just as Burke regarded inequality as the quintessence of human nature, so he maintained that “out of the combined principles of its acquisition and conservation . . . the characteristic essence of property” as well “is to be unequal.” Since Burke also thought that property “must be represented in great masses of accumulation” in order to be “rightly protected,” his ideal statesman thus could only come from the class of the landholding elite whose “permanent property” gave him the necessary “natural weight”


the tAngled issue of equAlity and also the possibility to pursue an education that enabled him to serve his country in high offices. In short, a country should recruit its leaders from its landed, hereditary aristocracy. Burke, however, was no uncritical lackey of the nobility. He emphatically avowed that he did not “wish to confine power, authority, and distinction to blood and names and titles.”109 Being himself an Irishman and a commoner, he ascertained that “there is no qualification for government but virtue and wisdom.” Since human beings were innately unequal, a noble title could not guarantee virtue, and any country that “would madly and impiously reject the service of the talents” of common people would suffer from such a course. Burke therefore recommended that “everything ought to be open . . . to every man.” But Burke also warned that offices should not be open “indifferently.” He feared that pure “ability,” as “a vigorous and active principle,” might, if disconnected from property, conspire to “invade” the rights of property, which he viewed as “sluggish, inert, and timid.”110 Accordingly, “the road to eminence . . . from obscure condition” should not be made impossible but also “ought not to be made too easy, nor a thing too much.” Thus, since Burke regarded landed aristocrats as less dangerous to the security of property, he preferred them to a natural aristocracy of talent. “At the very worst,” he argued, the “large proprietors” were “the ballast in the vessel of the commonwealth.” But through their position they also had the greatest chances “of being among the best,” and for this reason Burke believed that “some preference (not exclusive appropriation) given to birth is neither unnatural, nor unjust, nor impolitic.”111 Great Britain, Burke explained to his readers, had wisely given such a “preference” and constitutional role to the hereditary “possessors of family wealth.” He argued that “the House of Peers is formed upon this principle” because “it is wholly composed of hereditary property and hereditary distinction.” But not only the House of Lords, “the House of Commons, too, though not necessarily, yet in fact, is always so composed, in the far greater part.” Not the least due to its composition by the landed elite and augmented by talented commoners of “military, civil, naval, and political distinction,” Burke believed, the British Parliament had shown itself “able to preserve its greatness” and to protect the liberties of British subjects. Burke’s ideas about the ideal nature of holders of public office thus can account for his shock at the discovery that the representatives of the third estate included lawyers, traders, and some peasants but none “of what we call the natural landed interest of the country.”112


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland For Burke, the problem did not stop with the composition of the representation of the third estate. Even “supposing . . . that the House of Commons should be composed in the manner with the Tiers Etat in France,” Burke contended, it could not do too much harm because “the power of the House of Commons” was always “counterpoised by the House of Lords” and “at the discretion of the crown.” In other words, the House of Commons—however composed and with whatever political inclinations—would always be “circumscribed and shut in by the immovable barriers” of a mixed constitution.113 Accordingly, Burke reasoned that as long as in France “the orders were to act separately” as in Great Britain, the exact composition of the third estate would not “be of much moment.” The French, however, on the ideological basis of the equality of mankind, rejected the “advantages” they possessed in the form of their “ancient states” to change their absolute monarchy into a mixed constitution and instead “chose to act as if ” they “had never been molded into civil society and had everything to begin anew.” But at the very moment when “the three orders were to be melted down into one,” the “due composition” of the third estate became of “infinitely the greater importance” since even “the power of the House of Commons . . . is as a drop of water in the ocean, compared to that residing in a settled majority of your National Assembly.” “Since the destruction of the orders,” and thus the rejection of a mixed constitution, the National Assembly, Burke argued, had “no fundamental law, no strict convention,” and “no respected usage to restrain it” from descending into tyranny.114 The tragedy as Burke saw it was that all this had been totally unnecessary. Tying in with his major argument from his Speech on the Army Estimates (February 1790), he reproached the French for failing to erect a mixed constitution although “you had the elements of a constitution very nearly as good as could be wished” because “in your old states you possessed that variety of parts corresponding with the various descriptions of which your community was happily composed.” Even if the French, due to their long existence under an absolute monarchy, had become “diffident of yourselves and not clearly discerning” the foundations of the “noble and venerable” constitution they possessed, they still could have looked to their “neighbors in this land who had kept alive the ancient principles.” “By following wise examples” and introducing a mixed constitution, the French could then “have given new examples of wisdom to the world.” Instead of a tyranny of the many, the French in that case would have


the tAngled issue of equAlity achieved a “free constitution” by balancing the various corporate entities of France, namely, “a potent monarchy, a disciplined army, a reformed and venerated clergy, a mitigated but spirited nobility,” and a “liberal order of commons.”115 But out of blind adherence to the notion of individual equality, Burke concluded, the French had committed the double folly of abolishing the structural units in the form of the three estates, which could have given stability to society, and of sending to the Estates-General a majority of deputies who were unfit for their duties. If the French revolutionaries were so concerned about equality, Burke finally observed, they should have followed the English model all the more. Only the rough equality of power on the corporate level, he argued, could guarantee the real sense in which every individual was equal. With this he meant the recognition by a “satisfied, laborious, and obedient people” that “happiness is to be found by virtue in all conditions” into which birth or talent had placed one. In this realization that virtue could lead men to find happiness in whatever station of life they found themselves, Burke insisted, “consists the true moral equality of mankind,” and definitely “not in that monstrous fiction” of individual civil, or even political and social, equality. On the contrary, since those “false ideas” contradicted nature itself, they could only serve “to aggravate and embitter that real inequality which it can never remove . . . by inspiring . . . vain expectations into men destined to travel in the obscure walk of laborious life.” 116 For Burke, it was inexplicable how any thinking human being could not see this. But he nevertheless realized that the revolutionaries’ propagation of the fiction of equality was crucial. What Burke identified as the ultimate driving force of the revolution was exactly this attempt of the revolutionaries in France—as well as their sympathizers in other countries—to change the mindset of the people by attacking the philosophical premise of the traditional order, the belief in the justification of a hierarchical social order necessitated by the natural inequality of human beings. It was because of this attack on the “ancient principles and models of the old common law of Europe” that Burke so vehemently denounced the French Revolution and the actors involved in it.117 There had been revolutions and revolutionaries before, but none had attempted what the revolutionaries in France tried to do. Earlier revolutionaries such as Cromwell might have destroyed the existing political system of their countries, but they did not challenge the validity of a hierarchical organization of society built on the premise of human inequality


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland and therefore still operated within the bounds of the same philosophical tradition. The French Revolution, Burke thought, was different. Not content with merely changing the political system of France, the revolutionaries “attacked the fountain of life itself,” and by attempting to supplant the traditional belief in inequality with their credo of the equality of mankind they put in motion “a revolution in sentiments, manners, and moral opinions.”118 But by toying with the basic mindset of the people, the French revolutionaries threatened to destroy the bonds of loyalty, deference, and honor that had characterized the unequal relationships between individuals and “which made power gentle and obedience liberal.” Burke lamented that “all the pleasing illusions” that held the traditional society together “are to be dissolved by this new conquering empire of light and reason.” The problem with this “barbarous philosophy” was that since in an egalitarian society loyalty and deference had no place, only force was left to keep society from falling apart. Henceforth, he predicted, “laws are to be supported only by their own terrors” and “the gallows.”119 This line of argument led to Burke’s prediction that France would first descend into anarchy and terror and ultimately spawn a military dictatorship, which to contemporaries and later scholars alike seemed prophetic. But for Burke himself it was obvious that all the events and consequences of the French Revolution, as he acridly concluded, were in the end the results “of the new principles of equality.”120

Thomas Paine’s Reply: Rights of Man and the Redefinition of Democracy Just as Burke concentrated his critique of the French Revolution in his Reflections on the revolutionaries’ notion of equality, so Paine, in his reply to Burke in the form of the first part of Rights of Man, based his defense of the revolution on this principle. In Common Sense, Paine had still more or less taken it for granted that all men were “originally equals.” But in 1791 he recognized the need to clarify his understanding of equality as the basis of his political philosophy. He started by carefully deducing his assumption from his theological convictions.121 Burke, Paine charged, would like to infer the inviolable rights of the composite parts of the British mixed constitution from the settlement after the Glorious Revolution. Paine argued that by doing so, Burke committed the error of all theorists


the tAngled issue of equAlity “who reason from precedents drawn from antiquity,” namely, “that they do not go far enough into antiquity.” Instead of going “the whole way,” people like Burke “stop in some of the intermediate stages of an hundred or a thousand years, and produce what was then done as a rule for the present day.” But Paine asserted that “this is no authority at all” because one could easily find in history all sorts of political and social arrangements, many of which would express “a direct contrary opinion” to another. Thus, it would be historical “authority against authority,” none of which could claim preeminence.122 Instead of looking to history, Paine directed his attention to God. He assured his readers that there existed one “source of authority” where “our enquiries” into the rights of men and proper government “find a restingplace.” This authority he termed the “maker,” and he had no doubt that “when man came from the hand of his maker . . . man was his high and only title, . . . by which I mean that man is all of one degree, and consequently that all men are born equal.” About this, Paine believed, there could be no doubt since “every history of the creation, and every traditionary account, whether from the lettered or unlettered world,” as well as “all the religions known in the world . . . so far as they relate to man . . . all agree in establishing one point, . . . the unity or equality of man.” “The equality of man,” Paine declared in an effort to give the revolutionary insistence on individual equality a divine justification, “so far from being a modern doctrine” was therefore rather “the oldest upon record.”123 Since all men were born equal, Paine could see no reason why they should not also be born “with equal natural rights.” It seemed obvious to Paine that later generations of human beings enjoyed the same natural rights as the “first generation” because “every child born into the world must be considered as deriving its existence” in the same mode from the same maker. “The world” was thus “as new to him as it was to the first man that existed, and his natural right in it is of the same kind.” Paine was aware that intellectuals hostile to natural rights theories such as Burke might object that his reasoning was futile because even if all individuals possessed equal natural rights in an abstract state of nature, those theoretical rights had nothing to do with the actual rights of human beings living together in society. Paine, however, disagreed. He ascertained that “the one originates out of the other” because “every civil right has for its foundation some natural right pre-existing in the individual.” Members of society even retained some natural rights in their original form. Among


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland these Paine counted “all those in which the power to execute is as perfect in the individual as the right itself.”124 This definition applied particularly to what Paine called “the intellectual rights,” and here, most important, to religious freedom. But while any human being might always be able to execute control over his or her own thoughts, many would not be able to take care of their personal security. For this reason they formed society and gave up the right to judge in their own cause so that a government could better take care of their “security and protection.” In this way, “every man” became “a proprietor in society,” and because everybody had given up the same portion of rights from their equal natural rights, everybody could “draw on” the power of society “as a matter of right” and to an equal amount. It therefore followed for Paine that as everybody possessed equal natural rights, so everybody possessed equal civil rights in society. Otherwise, he concluded, society would not even exist, because nobody would “enter into society to become worse than he was before, nor to have less rights than he had before, but to have those rights better secured.”125 Individual equality and equal rights deriving therefrom thus constituted, in Paine’s opinion, the natural norm for human beings without and within society. Having thus clarified early on in Rights of Man, Part One how and why individual equality constituted the sole basis for any lawful government, Paine subsequently devoted much of his energy to attacking those forms of government that were not built on this ideal. In Common Sense, Paine had concentrated primarily on monarchy as the enemy of free government. Since it was one of his major goals in that pamphlet to convince the American colonists to sever their political and emotional ties to the British Crown, his focus on monarchy was understandable.126 In Rights of Man, however, Paine significantly broadened—and to a degree also changed—his target. To be sure, “monarchy” still constituted an object of criticism for Paine, but only if a monarchy derived its powers independently from the people through the sole authority of hereditary right. If, on the other hand, the monarchy held its authority as a delegated power from the people, Paine did not disapprove. Paine explained his distinction by contrasting the situations of England and France in 1791 (the time when he wrote the first part of Rights of Man). Paine argued that “the executive power in each country is in the hands of a person stiled, the king.” But there was a crucial difference because “the French constitution distinguishes between the King and the


the tAngled issue of equAlity Sovereign.” The French thus considered “the station of King” as an office “and place Sovereignty in the nation,” while the British regard the king as “the fountain of all honour.” In Great Britain, therefore, the king was the law whereas “the French constitution puts the legislative before the executive; the Law before the King.” 127 In other words, although Paine personally did not think much of any form of monarchy, he did not have a fundamental problem with such an institution as long as it was not a traditional monarchy but a constitutional one whose powers derived from and were specified by a written constitution. This change in Paine’s attitude toward monarchy is of some significance because it signals the advancement of Paine’s political thought in the context of the emerging opposition between revolution and counterrevolution in the early phase of the French Revolution that was based on the decisive issue of the acceptance or rejection of civic equality as the basis of social organization. Whereas in Common Sense Paine had rejected monarchy out of hand as incompatible with a government of the people, in the first part of Rights of Man he accepted a constitutional monarchy because it held its powers in concurrence with a constitution that itself was based on the will of the nation in its capacity as a collection of equal individuals. While “monarchy” in the form of a constitutional monarchy could thus be on the egalitarian side of the revolutionary struggle, “aristocracy” could not because to elevate one group of human beings permanently above the rest would inevitably imply some sort of inequality in the nature or rights of the groups involved. Accordingly, whereas “aristocracy” had played only a minor role in Common Sense, it featured more prominently in Rights of Man and replaced “monarchy” as the main target of Paine’s attacks. In its “nature and character,” Paine declared, “aristocracy . . . is a monster.” Its existence in his opinion violated “every law of nature.” The first and essential bone of contention of an aristocracy was that it rested upon the “law of primogeni­ turship.”128 By privileging the eldest child (usually the eldest son) above all the rest, this law directly contradicted the ideal of individual equality and hence could have no justification. Since the law of primogeniture constituted the principle on which any nobility relied, Paine believed that all that was needed to be done “to exterminate the monster Aristocracy” was to prohibit such laws “and aristocracy falls.” In addition to the principle of primogeniture, Paine enumerated six further reasons why a titled nobility was incompatible with a political and social philosophy based on the


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland equality of mankind. In most of these accusations Paine pointed out the impracticability and injustice of hereditary institutions. For example, he castigated “as absurd . . . the idea of hereditary legislators” or “hereditary judges” since wisdom was not hereditary.129 But Paine in his indictment of “aristocracy” went beyond criticizing the existence of a hereditary nobility. He also struck at all other institutions of the ancien régime that stood in contrast to his ideal of individual equality. For example, Paine argued that the entire structure of a kingdom like Great Britain with its chartered regions, towns, and trade monopolies, with their different and thus unequal privileges, meant that “an Englishman is not free of his own country.” In fact, he asserted, if one looked closely one could only come to the conclusion that within the traditional order, “every chartered town is an aristocratical monopoly in itself.”130 Paine thus began to broaden the meaning of “aristocracy” from its narrower traditional meaning of the ruling class or persons of a country (in short: the traditional socio-constitutional meaning) to a notion that included all the elements of the traditional structure of society that stood in contradiction to the ideal of individual equality. In this way, “aristocracy” became a synonym for the entire traditional order and thus the denomination for the counterrevolutionary side of the dichotomy emerging in the wake of the French Revolution. The traditional socio-constitutional meaning of “aristocracy,” in turn, lost its validity. In this process Paine in Rights of Man, Part One again was one of the premier agents. Paine, on this point concurring with Burke, thought that a change in the mindset of the people was crucial. He argued that “it is common opinion only that makes” titles “any thing, or nothing.” Thus, as long as people believed in the efficacy of titles, titles had real power and influence. But if most people should cease to accept their reality, “all their value” will be “gone.” Consequently, Paine did his best to expose nobility as a “fancy, and . . . a chimerical non-descript.” He reasoned that “when we think or speak of a Judge or a General, we associate with it the ideas of office and character” such as “gravity in the one, and bravery in the other.” “Titles,” on the other hand, “are but nick-names,” and “through all the vocabulary of Adam, there is no such animal as a Duke or a Count; neither can we connect any certain idea to the words.” All noble titles, therefore, belonged to that category of “characters” such as “centaurs, satyrs, and down to all the fairy tribe” to which only “imagination has given figure.” Hence, Paine thought, it could be no wonder that


the tAngled issue of equAlity “the patriots of France,” believing in the basic equality of mankind, had “discovered in good time, that rank and dignity in society must take a new ground” and accordingly had abolished titles of nobility.131 The great lesson of the French Revolution in Paine’s opinion thus was that it had shown that many people had gained the knowledge that political and social inequality among human beings had no natural justification. This knowledge led them to realize that “if there really existed in the world two or more distinct and separate elements of human power, we should then see the several origins to which those terms would descriptively apply.”132 But “as there is but one species of man,” no such basic difference between human beings could be found, and as a logical consequence more and more people became aware that “monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy, are but creatures of imagination.” Unlike in Common Sense, Paine in the first part of Rights of Man thus not only attacked the idea that these orders merited separate representation in a political system, but on the basis of the radicalized idea of the fundamental equality of the individual flatly denied their existence in their traditional understanding as the socio-constitutional orders of the one, the few, and the many. Paine’s relegation of the traditional orders of society into the realm of imagination had far-reaching consequences. Most important, in the opinion of revolutionaries like Paine, it superseded the traditional political theory of six forms of government (monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy, and their negative counterparts tyranny, oligarchy, and anarchy), which had been dominant since Aristotle’s and Polybius’s times. Paine’s and other revolutionaries’ rejection of the idea of different orders of human beings also deprived the mixed constitution theory—which during the eighteenth century had come to be regarded by many as the best way to combine the three good forms of government—of its theoretical foundation because if in reality no such orders exist, none could justifiably be balanced against each other. Thus, Paine concluded that “a mixed government becomes a continual enigma,” and he had only ridicule for “Mr. Burke,” who “appears highly disgusted, that France . . . did not adopt what he calls ‘A British Constitution.’ ”133 Paine’s reinterpretation of political theory ultimately resulted in the reduction of possible visions for a political and social system to two incommensurable alternatives. In the conclusion of the first part of Rights of Man, Paine introduced this dichotomy. He asserted that instead of six forms of government, there actually are only “two modes of Government


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland which prevail in the world,” one “generally known by the name of republic,” and another “by that of monarchy and aristocracy.” These “two distinct and opposite forms,” Paine claimed, were founded on “two distinct and opposite” principles. The first constituted a “Government by election and representation,” the second “Government by hereditary succession.” 134 (Absolute) monarchy and aristocracy, in Paine’s analysis, thus no longer identified socio-constitutional orders, but in the meaning of the rule of the one or the few—which violated the principle of equality—came to be regarded as expressions of the counterrevolutionary side to which the French Revolution had given birth. Their common characteristic was their adherence to a hierarchical structure of society that rested on and enshrined the inequality of human beings. Opposing the champions of hierarchy and balance on the corporate level such as Burke, Paine developed a revolutionary countermodel whose unifying principle was the endorsement of a social order based on the premise of at least civic, and increasingly also political and social, equality. Thus, because of their opposition based on the by then decisive issue of equality, Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France and the first part of Paine’s Rights of Man epitomize the evolution of revolutionary and counterrevolutionary visions of society in the wake of the French Revolution. The emergence of the new binary political theory, finally, required a new political language and thus generated a redefinition of the most basic terms of political theory. The most significant of these transformations concerned the question of how to describe the two sides of the dichotomy. Paine, by reinterpreting the meaning of “aristocracy” from its narrow meaning of a privileged class to a social and political system that contained features of inequality (such as corporations, privileged regions, and trade monopolies) in the first part of Rights of Man, had already identified a denomination for the counterrevolutionary side. But although Burke liked to call the new regime in France a “democracy,” Paine in Rights of Man, Part One did not yet begin to attach any new meanings to the term “democracy.” Like Burke, Paine in Rights of Man, Part One still used “democracy”—on the few occasions he used the word at all—in its literal meaning of the direct rule of all. Instead, Paine in the first part (and as in Common Sense) termed the egalitarian side a “republic.” In the second part of Rights of Man, however, Paine grappled with Burke’s labeling of the new French system as a “democracy,” and in the process engaged in the first step of the redefinition of this term. Paine de-


the tAngled issue of equAlity voted the entire third chapter of Rights of Man, Part Two to a comparison between “the old and new systems of government.”135 At the beginning of this chapter he reaffirmed his conclusion of part one that basically only two “systems of government” existed and that “the first general distinction between those two systems, is, that the one now called the old is hered­ itary, . . . and the new is entirely representative.” But unlike in part one, Paine no longer called the egalitarian side a “republic.” The debates about forms of government caused by the conceptual turmoil created by the French Revolution had resulted in Paine reaching the insight that “what is called a republic, is not any particular form of government.” Rather, he argued that the “res- PublicA” characterized the “matter, or object for which government ought to be instituted,” namely, “the public good.” In this sense a “republic . . . is not necessarily connected with any particular form” of government and could very well be aristocratic in nature. Holland presented a good example for this phenomenon as it called “itself a republic” but in its nature was “chiefly aristocratical.” American Federalists such as John Adams or Alexander Hamilton and their elitist ideas for an American republic—which Paine’s friend Thomas Jefferson at the same time began to denounce as “aristocratic”—provided another example. Paine by 1792 thus thought it impossible to continue to use “republic” as a denomination for the revolutionary side of the binary.136 Neither, however, was Paine inclined simply to accept Burke’s labeling of “democracy.” He reasoned that since the defining feature of the new system of government was representation, it could not just be called a “democracy” because “representation was a thing unknown in the ancient democracies.” Paine therefore charged “Mr. Burke” with being “so little acquainted with constituent principles of government, that he confounds democracy and representation together.” Representation for Paine was such a novel and crucial feature that he argued that “what is now called the representative” constituted a new and distinct form of government. Similar to the case of “republic,” however, the problem was that legislative bodies in countries with a monarchical, aristocratic, or mixed constitution thought that they were representatives of the people just as well.137 To solve the problem, Paine claimed that a real representative system needed to rest on a basis of individual equality. Proceeding from his argument in part one that monarchy and aristocracy were founded upon inequality, he denied the compatibility of representation and either of the two. Hence, Paine stated that “to connect representation with what is


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland called monarchy” would be “eccentric government” because “representation is of itself the delegated” sovereignty “of a nation.” The same applied to “the aristocratical form” because “it has the same vices and defects with the monarchical.” Consequently, the only basis for a representative system could be “the original simple democracy.” A “simple democracy” was “unwieldy and impracticable” in any country of some size and population, but Paine maintained that it nevertheless “affords the true data from which government on a large scale can begin.”138 Simple democracy, because of its compliance with the principle of equality in Paine’s opinion, thus constituted the only legitimate fundament for a good government. But because simple democracy was defective due to its limitations concerning territory and population, it needed a corrective, and Paine believed that “the representative system naturally presents itself; remedying at once the defects of the simple democracy.” For Paine in 1792, democracy and representation thus were two different forms of government, but it was the combination of the two—“ingrafting representation upon democracy” as Paine himself famously described it—that he identified as the best description of his revolutionary social and political vision.139


he general transformation of the meaning of “democracy,” of course, was not completed after Paine’s efforts in Rights of Man. For instance, although Paine’s formula of “representation ingrafted upon democracy” sounds very much like our modern definition of a representative democracy, for Paine they still constituted two different forms of government. Nor were Paine’s specific ideas about “democracy” immediately shared by many contemporaries. While for some time enjoying great fame in France—in 1792 he received honorary citizenship and in the same year was even elected to the National Convention—his positions were increasingly seen as too moderate, and not even two years after the publication of the second part of Rights of Man Paine was imprisoned as an enemy alien and barely escaped execution during the Terror. On the other side of the Atlantic, his fate was similar, only in reverse. In America, his attacks on revealed religions in the Age of Reason (1794), his vituperation against President George Washington (for not pressing for his release from prison), as well as his increasing concerns with not only political and social but also economic equality in the second part of Rights of Man and Agrar­ ian Justice (1795), tarnished his reputation as a dangerous radical. Thus, as


the tAngled issue of equAlity “democracy” in America developed over the course of the 1790s and early 1800s, Thomas Paine found himself and his ideas increasingly cast out of its mainstream variant.140 Nevertheless, within the general conceptual fluidity generated by the French Revolution, Paine’s Rights of Man provides one of the earliest examples for the development of an egalitarian system that rigorously set itself apart from all forms of social and political systems built on assumptions of inequality and hierarchy and that also connected such a conception with the term “democracy.”141 Most important, Paine’s works of the age of revolutions show not only the development of features such as a written constitution, separation of powers, and a federal structure, which became integral parts of the modern understanding of “democracy,” but also highlight in particular the increasing importance of a fundamental notion of individual equality for the evolution of this concept, an importance that is reemphasized by Alexis de Tocqueville, who in the 1830s singled out “equality of conditions” as American democracy’s defining characteristic.142 As Paine’s broadening of the meaning of “aristocracy” illustrates, the process of the evolution of “democracy” proceeded in an intimate relationship with the development of its revolutionary counterpart. As “aristocracy” acquired new meanings as the primary label for the counterrevolutionary side, so “democracy” developed as its foil, and the more the details of the aristocratic position became apparent, the more clearly the new idea of democracy emerged. In short, democracy evolved in dialectic with its counterrevolutionary opposite. Interpreted in this light, it makes sense that Paine would only deal with the concept of democracy in a systematic way in Rights of Man: because it was one of the very first steps in this dialectic reconceptualization. The incommensurable essence of the two emerging visions for the proper political and social structure of society was the divergence over the belief whether society should be structured hierarchically or be egalitarian. This essential feature characterized the struggles in the various countries of the Atlantic world. Due to the differing, specific local circumstances out of which the ideologically polarized struggles of the 1790s arose, the two sides assumed varying forms in different countries. For example, whereas Burke in Europe defended a hierarchical society based on legal titles of nobility and corporate privileges, the Federalists in America advocated an informal social hierarchy based on deference. But in America as well as in


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland Europe the question of what “equality” exactly meant and what its implications for the organization of the social and political system should be became decisive, and was also the reason why especially those sympathetic to the revolutionary movements after the outbreak of the French Revolution perceived their domestic struggles as parts of one great transatlantic contest between revolution and counterrevolution. Since Burke’s Reflec­ tions and Paine’s Rights of Man exemplified the two beliefs, their debate presents a visible starting point for the dialectic and can thus be used to historicize the emergence of a modern concept of democracy.


Chapter 2 Aristocracy, Constitutionalism, and the Evolution of Modern Conservatism John Adams and Friedrich von Gentz on Inequality and the Balanced Constitution


uring late spring 1791 John Adams, then vice president of the new United States of America, was irritated. Given Adams’s irascible nature, this was not unusual, but this time he had plenty of reason to feel angry. In May 1791, he had learned that his old friend Thomas Jefferson, at that time secretary of state, in the preface to the first American edition of Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man, had, in an only thinly disguised fashion, charged him with “political heresies” and antirepublican sentiments. Confronted by President George Washington, Jefferson confirmed that with the “political heresies” he had indeed meant Adams’s Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America and his Discourses on Davila, which Adams had published in 1787–88 and 1790–91, respectively. Jefferson also told the president explicitly that due to these latest writings he regarded Adams as an apostate “to hereditary monarchy and nobility.”1 At a first glance, Jefferson’s charges seem perplexing. Adams, after all, had been one of the most ardent advocates for American independence from the British monarchy. In addition, he had written Thoughts on Gov­ ernment (1778), which served as a guidebook on the drafting of republican constitutions for many of the first state constitutions. Adams had also been the principal drafter of the Massachusetts state constitution. In short, Adams could exhibit an impeccable record as a republican American patriot, revolutionary, and statesman. Accordingly, Adams—never hesitant to engage his critics directly anyway—vehemently denied any charges of having changed his political principles, demanded to know from Jefferson “what heresies” he had committed, and challenged him to “produce Such a passage and quote the Chapter and Verse” from his writings where he


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland had endorsed monarchy and aristocracy.2 Jefferson evaded a clear answer, and as a result the close friendship between two of the leading American statesmen ended for the time being.3 Yet although Jefferson may have been one of the first to accuse Adams of lapsing from republicanism, he was by no means the only one to label Adams a monarchist and aristocrat. Throughout the 1790s especially, members of the emerging Republican Party and its press dubbed Adams a “mock monarch” and consistently asserted that he intended to create hereditary aristocratic and monarchic institutions in America. For example, in the run-up to the presidential election of 1796, which pitted Adams and Jefferson against each other, the Republican Committee of Pennsylvania explained to its readers the choice they had: “The contest is between a tried republican and a vowed aristocrat . . . thomAs jefferson and john AdAms . . . the uniform advocate of equal rights among citizens, or the champion of rank, titles and hereditary institutions, . . . the steady supporter of our present republican constitution; or the warm panegyrist of the British Monarchical form of government.”4 For the historian, this raises the question of why many contemporaries in the 1790s regarded Adams as an aristocrat and monarchist. One possible explanation could be that these charges were mere rhetoric in a time of intense factional strife. To a certain degree, this explanation is correct. The hyperbole in the Republican press was grossly exaggerated, and most contemporaries probably were aware of that. Yet this cannot explain why men like Jefferson and his close political ally James Madison should have expressed the same sentiment with the same rhetoric in their private correspondence. If there had existed a disjunction between rhetoric and reality—even perceived reality—there would have been no need to carry on the rhetoric in private. This indicates that Jefferson, Madison, and their followers in the 1790s sincerely believed in an aristocratic threat posed by John Adams and those professing similar convictions. To better understand Adams’s classification as an “aristocrat” by many of his countrymen during the 1790s and early 1800s, Adams’s writings— with a focus on his constitutional thought—are paired in this chapter with those of Friedrich Gentz (later von Gentz). Employed in the Prussian civil service during the 1790s, Gentz, who later became Metternich’s adviser and right hand, was one of the most outspoken and influential European critics of the French Revolution. A comparison of the two men’s works of this decade yields interesting insights in several regards. First, they both


AristocrAcy, constitutionAlism, And modern conservAtism provide examples of political thinkers who, although sympathetic to the American Revolution, came to reject the French Revolution. Second, the fact that John Adams’s son, John Quincy Adams, translated Gentz’s The Origin and Principles of the American Revolution, Compared with the Origin and Principles of the French Revolution into English and published it in America in the context of the hotly contested presidential election of 1800, which once more saw Adams competing against Jefferson, highlights the transatlantic dimension of the factional strife in America during the 1790s. Finally, the relegation of thinkers such as Adams and Gentz to an “aristocratic” side in the wake of the French Revolution is a prime example for the reordering of the political spectrum occurring after that event as well as of the attempts to delegitimize the positions of the respective opponents. As such, this process also can provide new insights concerning the formation of a modern conservatism. Scholars of conservatism largely agree that a modern, conscious conservatism—in distinction to mere traditionalism—“came into existence as a reaction to the French Revolution” and that this tradition began with the publication of Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790).5 This conclusion is based upon many well-founded considerations. For instance, the French Revolution was arguably the first great revolution whose participants from early on consciously set out to completely remodel the existing political, social, and economic order on the basis of theoretical blueprints that were based on philosophical a priori assumptions. A conscious, modern conservatism could thus only emerge in reaction to such a fundamental threat to basic traditional structures and habits—just as the idea of an ancien régime only makes sense in hindsight and presupposes the existence of a new, ideological alternative.6 Proceeding from such considerations, it also makes sense to regard Burke’s Reflections, which constituted the first principled and sustained critique of the French Revolution, as the “fountainhead” of modern conservatism.7 This traditional view on the emergence of modern conservatism is nonetheless problematic. For one, the statement that modern conservatism “came into existence as a reaction to the French Revolution” may seem to imply that in response to the French Revolution, a largely new body of thought emerged or developed to counter the revolutionaries’ theories and programs. This notion has long been challenged by research showing that already in the decades leading up to the French Revolution, ideas and positions had developed that consciously and explicitly rejected the progressive,


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland radical programs and proposals of the Enlightenment.8 Historians also have shown that Burke in his Reflections defended the same system and set of ideas he had advocated—and defended against encroachments from the British monarchy—throughout his long parliamentary career.9 Conscious “conservative” thought thus preceded the French Revolution. In the light of this line of research, modern conservatism may appear as nothing new at all, but rather as a mere defense of the traditional political, social, and cultural system, raising the question of why one should call this sort of defense “modern” at all.10 Finally, the concentration on Burke as the “fountainhead” of modern conservatism who “almost singlehanded turned the intellectual tide” has in the perception of many scholars to some degree overdetermined the nature of the conservative response to the French Revolution as “aristocratic” in a Burkean sense.11 Both regarding the early nature of modern conservatism in general and the respective role of the French Revolution in terms of its evolution in particular, a transatlantic comparison of the works on the American and French Revolutions by John Adams and Friedrich Gentz can provide new insights.12 Regarding the character of an emerging modern conservatism, a study of Adams’s and Gentz’s constitutional ideas makes clear that those who simply subsume the critique of the French Revolution under the label of a “Burkean” conservatism underestimate the philosophical range and complexity of the conservative response to this revolution. Even a cursory comparison of the political philosophy of these three authors illustrates that the matter is not so simple. Concerning individual liberty, natural rights theory, and the right of revolution, to name just a few, the three differed substantially. As the differences especially between Burke and Gentz show, this was not just a contrast between European and American conservatism either. The rational mode of reasoning based on the scientific standards of the late Enlightenment exhibited by Adams, and even more so by Gentz, also calls into question the assumption that the fundamental basis of modern conservatism was the rejection of Enlightenment rationalism.13 In addition to providing a more complex and detailed picture of the nature of modern conservatism, an examination of the two authors’ works also helps to gain a more nuanced understanding of the precise role of the French Revolution in modern conservatism’s genesis. One characteristic that Adams and Gentz—as well as Burke for that matter—had in common was their commitment to liberty and their criticism of arbitrary


AristocrAcy, constitutionAlism, And modern conservAtism power and absolutist regimes, which, for example, manifested itself in their support for the American Revolution. Up to the French Revolution, both were therefore seen as proponents of a broad liberal, enlightened reform movement. Their concern for liberty and their ideas how liberty could be achieved and secured, however, also played a key role in determining their opposition to the French Revolution. Adams as well as Gentz believed that the preservation of liberty required a proper understanding of human inequality and how this inequality needed to be reflected in the constitution of government.14 Consequently, once the revolutionaries in France raised the banner of individual equality as one of their central demands, their convictions for the need of a constitutional structure that took into account inequality led both men to reject the revolutionaries’ reasoning.15 To demonstrate why even a republican revolutionary such as Adams in the wake of the French Revolution became branded as an “aristocrat” just like Burke and Gentz, this chapter focuses on the central belief they shared with each other: the belief in the inequality of human beings and the consequences for society arising from this condition.16 It will be shown that due to specific political and social circumstances in America, the question of the ultimate meaning of individual equality had not to be defined precisely during the American Revolution, as a result of which Adams, Gentz, and also Burke could support that revolution. The increasingly social character of the radicalizing French Revolution, however, caused the emergence of an opposition between a “democratic” revolution and an “aristocratic” counterrevolution whose demarcation line was marked by the approval or rejection of the notion of individual equality. Accordingly, Adams and Gentz found themselves relegated to the same “aristocratic,” and ultimately “conservative,” camp as Burke.17 As the examples of Adams’s and Gentz’s rejection of the French Revolution thus illustrate, the French Revolution was decisive for the development of modern conservatism due to its radicalization of important questions of the time, such as the issue of “equality,” which in turn resulted in the subsumption of the constitutional thought of otherwise quite distinct intellectuals such as Adams, Gentz, and Burke under the enlarged, revolutionary label of “aristocracy”—the form and label under which modern conservatism first emerged.18 The French Revolution thus provided the crucial impetus for the formation of a comprehensive, conscious, modern conservatism, which due to the specific local situations in which men like Adams and Gentz (and, of course, also Burke) found themselves and were shaped by, expressed itself in varying


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland forms throughout the Atlantic world. While the essential significance of the French Revolution is most clearly demonstrated in Gentz’s case, the fate of Adams’s journey from “revolutionary” to “aristocrat,” finally, can shed new light on the process of the development of a position deemed “conservative” after 1789, but progressive, even revolutionary, in the pre1789 framework, and how and why Adams developed such a position in the 1780s and thus already before the French Revolution.

John Adams’s Constitutional Thought during the American Revolution Throughout both the American and French Revolutions, liberty and equality were two of the most frequently invoked concepts. But although many contemporaries saw them as linked in some way, in many cases the relationship between these two ideals underwent great changes during the age of revolutions. A study of John Adams’s application of the concept of equality in relation to liberty with a special consideration of the differing political and social environments of America and Europe from the 1770s to the early 1790s can illustrate both why for many observers it seemed as if Adams had substantially changed his political and social preferences from republicanism to the order of the ancien régime and why he himself denied any such charges. Liberty was the great constant in Adams’s political philosophy. Liberty for Adams meant primarily self-government in all its meanings.19 On the one hand, it meant freedom from other individuals, and in this sense liberty presupposed the existence of society and government to guarantee an individual’s rights against potential threats from other individuals. In a second meaning, Adams associated with liberty the freedom from arbitrary governmental actions, which means that liberty also required the rule of law. Liberty, in Adams’s definition, however, also operated on the collective level and designated the freedom from foreign domination and thus necessitated government by the consent of the governed. Particularly in regard to the second and third meanings, Adams saw liberty in the American colonies endangered in the imperial crisis of the 1760s and 1770s. In Adams’s opinion, the specific acts that provoked American resistance such as the Sugar Act of 1764, the Stamp Act of 1765, and the Townshend Acts of 1767 did not constitute the major threat. Although they certainly were obnoxious and violated Adams’s second level of liberty—the


AristocrAcy, constitutionAlism, And modern conservAtism freedom from arbitrary governmental actions—he regarded them merely as the symptoms of a greater danger: Parliament’s insistence that it possessed an unlimited sovereignty and thus legislative supremacy over the colonial assemblies “in all cases whatsoever,” as expressed most forcefully in the Declaratory Act of 1766. Since it was the colonial assemblies that, by consent of the governed through elections, regulated and protected colonists’ liberties, loss of autonomy in internal affairs of the assemblies would entail the loss of liberty for individual colonists as well. The claim to absolute sovereignty by the British Parliament thus struck at the roots of colonial self-government and if upheld could, ultimately, mean the potential elimination of colonials’ participation in and control over colonial government. The cardinal issue during the imperial crisis, Adams noted, was thus not just about taxation but “the foundations of the constitution” itself.20 Since Adams regarded the struggle between colonies and the mother country as a constitutional one, he also sought a solution within the framework of the British balanced constitution. Adams started from the assumption that colonials, just like all human beings, possessed certain natural rights. These rights, he argued, were “antecedent to all earthly government” because they “derived from the great legislator of the universe” and hence “cannot be repealed or restrained by human laws.”21 He proceeded with the basic Lockean argument that in order to protect their rights, individuals form society and set up governments. The protection, however, could only be effective if those whose rights were concerned could also participate in government. Since Americans could not participate in Parliament’s government, Adams considered Parliament’s claim to sovereignty as a violation of the colonists’ inviolable natural rights and thus unconstitutional. Moreover, the liberty to consent to and participate in government belonged to everyone equally. To deny Americans the rights that Englishmen at home enjoyed would relegate Americans to an inferior status with the result that “king, lords, and commons” in England would together in the imperial context “constitute one great oligarchy.”22 Such an oligarchy was by definition incompatible with a balanced constitution. As the solution to protect the liberty of American colonists, Adams regarded the restoration of the constitutional balance by recognizing the colonial assemblies as—at least in internal matters—equals to the British Parliament. In other words, equality on the corporate level constituted Adams’s remedy to the threat to American liberty. Adams presented his


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland thoughts on the constitutional struggle underlying the imperial crisis in their most elaborate form in his Novanglus letters. He wrote these letters in 1774 as a reply to a series of letters appearing in the same year under the pseudonym “Massachusettensis,” which had defended Parliament’s claim to sovereignty.23 Daniel Leonard, the author behind “Massachusettensis,” argued that the American colonies stood in exactly the same relationship to the mother country as any other territory acquired by England in earlier times, such as Wales, Ireland, or the Channel Islands. Since all of these territories were subject to Parliament—even if they, like Ireland, possessed their own legislative assembly—so were the American colonies. Adams responded by arguing that Leonard might have had a point if the American colonies had come into the possession of the English state in the same manner as Ireland or Wales, which had been conquered. But America, Adams contended, “is not a conquered but a discovered country,” and for such a case there simply “is no provision in the common law, in English precedents,” or “in the English government or constitution” that would substantiate Leonard’s and Parliament’s claims.24 Adams continued that if the situation of the colonies could be compared to that of another part of the British Empire, it would be Scotland before the Act of Union in 1707. From the ascension of James I as king of England and the unification of the English and Scottish crowns in 1603 to the Act of Union, England and Scotland were united under one crown, but each part retained its independent legislature. Because of this special arrangement, Adams maintained that “the allegiance of an Englishman to” James I “did not imply or infer subjection, to his political capacity as king of Scotland.”25 Coincidentally, most of the American colonies were established in exactly the period from 1603 to 1707. Since there never had been an Act of Union for the American colonies, Adams believed that the colonies and their assemblies stood to the British Parliament in the same relation as the Scottish legislature stood to the English between 1603 and 1707: as independent entities that were sovereign in their respective territories. This also meant that just as no Englishman in 1603 had owed James I allegiance in his capacity as king of Scotland, so no inhabitant of Massachusetts or any other colony in 1774 owed George III allegiance in his capacity as king of England. For these reasons, Adams concluded that the colonies were not “part of the Kingdom, and consequently not subject to the Legislative Authority of the Kingdom.” Instead, each colony constituted an independent domain, and George III was not only king of


AristocrAcy, constitutionAlism, And modern conservAtism Great Britain but also “king of Massachusetts, king of Rhode-Island, and king of Connecticut.”26 The only link between the various entities in the so-called British Empire was thus the person of the king, and each colony represented a distinct and separate balanced government of its own with George III at its head and the various colonial assemblies as the perfectly equal counterparts of the Parliament of Great Britain.27 This argument also enabled Adams to circumvent one of the major theoretical issues raised by Loyalists and British officials during the imperial crisis, the so-called imperium in imperio problem. Eighteenth-century political theory considered the idea of dividing sovereignty within a state as absurd. Virtually all authorities, whether ancient or contemporary, agreed that for a polity to be stable, sovereignty must rest in one ultimate center. Supporters of the governmental position used this maxim to contend that because of the impossibility of an imperium in imperio, sovereignty within the British Empire must rest somewhere and that Parliament was the only logical candidate for this place.28 Adams concurred with the impossibility of a divided sovereignty. But since the colonies in his opinion were not part of Great Britain, the question simply did not apply to the colonial situation. Rather, because the colonies and the mother country were sovereign equals, he thought that the matter was very obvious: there was “a line fairly drawn between the rights of Britain and the rights of the colonies, namely, the banks of the ocean, or low-water mark, the line of division between the common law and civil or maritime law.”29 The sovereignty of Parliament thus ended at the shores of the ocean. The ocean, however, although dividing the various realms in regard to sovereignty, also united them politically and economically. Concerning maritime law, Adams acknowledged “that parliament being the most powerful legislature in the dominions, should regulate the trade of the dominions.” But Adams averred that “the authority of parliament to regulate our trade” was founded exclusively “upon compact and consent of the colonies” and certainly “not upon any principle of common or statute law, not upon any original principle of the English constitution, not upon the principle that parliament is the supreme and sovereign legislature over them in all cases whatsoever.” For the common benefit of the colonies and the mother country, the former had thus voluntarily accepted “and ever will consent” to the regulation of trade by Parliament.30 But according to Adams, this never implied that Parliament and the colonial assemblies were any less than equals. In Adams’s interpretation of


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland the British constitution, the person of the common king, mutual interests, and consent created a union of equals. Parliament’s attempts to assert its sovereignty over the other constituent parts of this union, however, threatened to destroy its balance. At the risk of using slightly anachronistic terminology, the imperial crisis for Adams was much more a question of how to structure the empire constitutionally in a federal way than a social issue, and the solution to the crisis lay in the application of the principle of equality on the corporate level. Due to the nature of the American colonial societies, Adams’s concern for equality on the corporate level did not generate serious tensions with ideas about individual equality and liberty. In the context of American resistance against Great Britain, the assemblies could not be bastions of aristocracy in opposition to the monarchy and the people, as those bodies usually were in the European context.31 Instead, even though the colonial assemblies were mostly composed of the colonial elites (the “natural aristocracy”), these assemblies largely acted as the protectors of the liberty of all Americans, a strategy made necessary by the need to mobilize the greatest support possible to counter British encroachments on the assemblies’ privileges.32 The absence of any hereditary nobility that possessed, and felt compelled to defend, privileges in opposition to common people made this revolutionary inclusion of all social elements of society in the abstract concept of the “people” that resisted British tyranny the easier.33 The specific circumstances of American resistance against the British Empire thus enabled Adams and other revolutionaries to regard the defense of the rights of the corporate institutions such as the assemblies within an imperial constitutional order as synonymous with the defense of the liberty of individuals. As a result, the relationship between equality on the corporate and individual levels did not come under closer scrutiny, and their specific meanings did not have to be defined precisely.34 This does not mean that the American Revolution had no social dimension or that contemporaries in general and John Adams in particular did not recognize that resistance to Britain might mitigate but not obliterate the potential for class conflict in the colonies. Quite to the contrary, the debates surrounding the adoption of the Pennsylvania state constitution of 1776 demonstrated the existence of a socially radical component of the American Revolution, and few were as alert to the threat that the revolution posed to social stability as John Adams. In April 1776, for example, Adams reported to his wife, Abigail, that “we have been told that our


AristocrAcy, constitutionAlism, And modern conservAtism struggle has loosened the bonds of government everywhere; that children and apprentices were disobedient; that schools and colleges were grown turbulent, that Indians slighted their guardians, and negroes grew more insolent to their masters.”35 To prevent a further loosening of the bonds of government, Adams began to turn his attention to the proper organization of the political system of the emerging new states, as soon as it became more and more obvious in 1775 that independence might be the ultimate consequence of the resistance movement. Since independence would mean the end for the balanced constitution of the colonies within the British Empire, Adams demanded that new balanced constitutions be erected in the new states in order to protect all Americans’ liberty. Despite the lack of legally separated orders or estates in the colonies—which political theorists traditionally had regarded as the constituting parts of society that needed to be balanced—Adams considered a constitutional balance indispensable to counter “the efforts in human nature towards tyranny.”36 Adams believed that such inclinations toward the domination of others were innate in human nature, applied to groups as well as individuals, and could only be checked by a countering force. The conclusions he drew from this assumption in regard to constitutions, Adams summed up in his Thoughts on Government, which he wrote in January 1776 upon the request for a blueprint for the constitution of republican governments by several members of the Continental Congress. First, legislative, executive, and judicial power needed to be separated, and to prevent the legislative from simply giving itself undue additional powers, the executive had to be equipped with “a negative upon the legislative.” This separation of powers, in Adams’s opinion, was not yet sufficient. He feared “that if the legislative power is wholly in one assembly, and the executive in another, or in a single person, these two powers will oppose and encroach upon each other, until the contest shall end in war.” “To avoid these dangers,” Adams thought it necessary that “a distinct assembly be constituted, as a mediator between the two extreme branches” of government.37 In other words, only with a second legislative chamber similar in function to the House of Lords in the British constitution would the balance be complete. During the American Revolution, Adams thus already recognized the potential danger that the Revolution itself and the creation of new forms of government posed to social stability. To safeguard the liberty of all Americans, he recommended the same measure he had


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland proposed to resolve the imperial crisis: establish an equilibrium on the constitutional level. In the wake of the Declaration of Independence, most of the newly independent American states heeded Adams’s advice and created political systems with bicameral legislatures. The relative social cohesion in the new states during the War for Independence as well as the unrest in the most prominent colony that did not follow Adams’s propositions and erected a unicameral assembly (Pennsylvania) confirmed in Adams’s view his assumptions and vindicated his conclusion that the key to securing “happiness, to the greatest number of persons, and in the greatest degree,” lay in the application of the principle of equality on the constitutional level.38 The successful defense of Americans’ liberty by the people led by the elites in the assemblies, however, had the result that Adams was not forced to define precisely who would be represented in the two legislative chambers. The lack of a hereditary nobility in America, in particular, had the effect that the composition of the second chamber, which in the context of the mixed constitution theory was traditionally an “aristocratic” upper house, remained open to debate. But although Americans during the era of the Revolution hotly discussed the issue, the specific American situation did not force an immediate resolution of the matter. Accordingly, during the 1770s the issue of “aristocracy” did not play a crucial role for Adams.39

John Adams and the Problem of “Aristocracy” The nature and significance of “aristocracy” as well as the precise meaning of equality in its corporate and individual variations began to acquire a much more prominent place in Adams’s thinking as soon as he was exposed to European reform debates between November 1779, when he arrived in Europe, and 1788, when he returned to America. Especially among the circles of enlightened and reform-minded thinkers and nobles in France, events in America received great attention.40 American successes against monarchical Great Britain and the introduction of republican governments seemed to confirm the reformers’ enlightened assumptions about the need to reform their own social and political systems, and at the same time raised their hopes of being able do so successfully. Adams agreed wholeheartedly with the reformers’ general goals of abrogating French absolutism and abolishing feudal remnants in order to procure a greater


AristocrAcy, constitutionAlism, And modern conservAtism degree of liberty for the French people. But the methods by which many of his French acquaintances sought to attain and secure liberty alarmed him. While Adams suggested that France should transform its absolutist monarchy into a mixed monarchy along British lines in order to achieve the constitutional balance that he regarded as essential for preserving liberty, a majority of French reformers considered it essential to concentrate authority in one, single national assembly.41 The reason why men like the Baron Anne Robert Turgot, one of the leading advocates of reform in France during the 1770s and early 1780s, came to the conclusion that a single assembly was indispensable had to do with the specific structure of the French polity. Unlike the American colonies, France possessed a strong and deeply entrenched titled nobility that vigorously defended its privileges. The instruments to defend their privileges were the parlements in the various regions of France, which, as corporate bodies, guarded not only social but also regional privileges. As long as these basically judicial bodies, which had to register and announce the king’s laws and edicts for them to became official, directed their attention primarily toward potential encroachments on their privileges by the Crown, they often had the support of French public opinion. But reformers, and Turgot in particular, had already realized that the parle­ ments and the nobles sitting in them by hereditary right did not have the interests of the people at large but primarily their own advantage in mind. For example, from 1774 to 1776 Turgot had served at the French court as Louis XVI’s controller-general. To reduce the already staggering budget deficit, he had prepared a far-reaching reform program that would have resulted, among other things, in the end of tax exemptions for the clergy and nobility.42 To protect their tax privileges, the nobles of the parlement of Paris enforced his dismissal. The lesson that Turgot and his followers drew from this episode was that the nobility and clergy, who defended their privileges through the corporate bodies of the parlements, constituted the real obstacle to a thorough reform in France.43 Proceeding in their thinking from the situation in their own country, “aristocracy” in the form of legal, social, and regional privileges in Turgot’s and like-minded people’s opinions became the great enemy to reform not only in France, but to any enlightened order anywhere. This tendency to extrapolate the problems posed by the privileged orders in France to a general problem had not only to do with the Franco-centrism of French intellectuals but had deeper roots in the preoccupation with “universals”


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland in Enlightenment thinking. Starting from the Newtonian notion of a physical world governed by general natural laws that could be discerned through reason, the great majority of intellectuals in the late eighteenth century—including John Adams and the French reformers—subscribed to the belief that since human beings were part of the physical world, generally applicable natural laws governing human behavior and their relationships could also be deduced.44 The great textbook from which such universal laws could be learned was history. Although enlightened reformers contended that privileged elites were the products of violence and thus not part of the natural order of things, human history certainly taught that the emergence of permanent privileged elites constituted a recurring theme. In the 1770s and 1780s, the republican states in America constituted the only polities in which a social and political order based on rational and enlightened principles had been established. But given the historical facts and the prevailing universalist mode of thinking of the time, many contemporaries feared that Americans, just like other peoples before them, might not possess sufficient virtue to sustain their self-government based on popular sovereignty. For this reason, French reformist intellectuals were very apprehensive regarding remnants, or any signs of the emergence, of “aristocracy” in America, lest this one hope for the successful introduction of a new order should fail. The best examples for such fears were the heated debates in French intellectual circles surrounding the founding of the Society of the Cincinnati and the new American state constitutions. After the War of Independence had ended in 1783, officers of the Continental Army created the Society of the Cincinnati. This society would include former American and French officers who would meet periodically and be distinguished by special badges. But most ominously, membership in the Society of the Cincinnati would be hereditary.45 The news of the founding of this society evoked an outcry among pro-reform intellectuals in Europe. For instance, Mirabeau, one of the future leaders of the French Revolution, wrote that the society would introduce into America “an eternal race of Aristocrats, who may soon usurp those insulting titles by which the European nobility crush the simple citizens.”46 In this climate of intense preoccupation with and almost obsessive fear of aristocracy, Adams began to think more thoroughly than previously about this subject and what it meant for the development of society in America. As his remarks on the founding of the Society of the Cincinnati


AristocrAcy, constitutionAlism, And modern conservAtism demonstrate, Adams generally shared his French acquaintances’ anxieties concerning aristocracy. Thus, he deplored the founding of the society as “the first step taken to deface the beauty of our temple of liberty” and condemned it as an act “against the spirit of our governments and the genius of our people.” He regarded the society as incompatible with the new republican order because the creation of “titles and ribbons, and hereditary descents, by their own authority only” violated the essential “principle that the body of the people were the only fountain of power and of honor.”47 Adams, just as well as Mirabeau or Turgot, therefore believed that aristocrats or persons aspiring to that status constituted a real threat to the liberties of the people. But Adams disagreed with Turgot and his disciples about the remedy to the menace posed by aristocracy, as became apparent in his reaction to Turgot’s discussion of the American state constitutions. Turgot in March 1778 complained in a letter to the English dissenting minister Dr. Richard Price that most of the American state constitutions resembled too closely the mixed form of government of England. In particular, Turgot disliked the fact that most states had established a constitutional balance between their agencies of government. “Instead of bringing all the authorities into one, that of the nation,” he noticed, “they have established different bodies, a house of representatives, a council, a governor, because England has a house of commons, a house of lords, and a king.”48 The only state constitution excluded from this censure was that of Pennsylvania, which provided for a unicameral legislation, and which many in France supposed to have been authored by Turgot’s friend Benjamin Franklin. In Turgot’s opinion, only the Pennsylvania constitution made possible the realization of the unitary ideal of the nation, while the separate “bodies” created by other state constitutions contained the seedbeds of a new aristocracy. In 1785, four years after Turgot’s death, Dr. Price published the letter. Adams was dismayed and even years later still grouched: “Mr. Turgot, the Duke de La Rochefoucauld and Mr. Condorcet and others admired Mr. Franklin’s Constitution and reprobated mine [Massachusetts’s state constitution of 1780 of which Adams was the principal drafter].”49 More important, however, in 1785 the publication of Turgot’s letter incited Adams to write his Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America.50 Defence constituted Adams’s great attempt to settle, as scientifically as possible, the central and vexing question of the nature of elites and their place in society.51 Proceeding from the same universalist assumptions


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland about men and society shared by other late Enlightenment intellectuals, Adams was convinced that he could achieve this goal by two means. First, he needed to “comprehend all the principles in nature which belong to the subject.” Since “the principles in nature which relate to government cannot all be known, without a knowledge of the history of mankind,” Adams meticulously compiled all the data he could find on any and every type of regime that had ever been instituted.52 Second, since he regarded the laws operating in those societies as immutable and universally applicable, he used this data as empirical evidence to sort out the form of government most conducive to the greatest degree of liberty for the greatest number of people over the longest period of time. Unsurprisingly, Adams’s ultimate conclusion confirmed what he always had thought: only a balanced constitution according to the ideal, meaning uncorrupted, British standard could guarantee liberty. In fact, in regard to the British constitution, Adams stated that it is “the only one which has considered and provided for all cases that are known to have generally, indeed to have always, happened in the progress of every nation; it is, therefore, the only scientific government.”53 The most important of the cases that had shaped the “progress of every nation” and which the British constitution provided a solution for was the problem of aristocracy. In example after example—ranging from ancient Greek democratic, aristocratic, and monarchical city states, to medieval Italian republics and the Swiss cantons, to modern states like Poland— Adams in great length and detail recapitulated basically the same story over and over again: the rise of a few eminent families to power, resulting ultimately in either civil war or the establishment of a tyranny by the strongest. Concerning the identification of “aristocracy” as a principal danger to liberty and the ensuing realization for the need to check this threat, therefore, Adams was as antiaristocratic as Turgot or any of the French reformers. Yet the idea, supported by a majority of French intellectuals, of solving the problem by placing all authority into one national assembly, Adams thought foolish. The French intellectuals’ error in reasoning, Adams thought, started with their notion of human nature. French reformers “had discovered a new social leveler—man’s innate reasoning capacity.”54 Since every individual possessed this capacity, human beings in this essential regard were equals. If not suppressed by force or superstition, men, through the use of this reasoning capacity, would realize that this sort of basic equality constituted the natural condition of human beings in relation to


AristocrAcy, constitutionAlism, And modern conservAtism each other.55 In short, the reformers in the end substantiated their demand for an undifferentiated national representation with the ideal of individual equality, and believed that through the power of reason human nature, or rather human self-conception, could be ameliorated to reflect that ideal. For Adams, this line of argument was nonsense. Adams did not doubt that human beings were equal in their moral worth as human beings. Because of this fact, they also all deserved the same liberty. But Adams regarded the sort of individual equality that buttressed some French reformers’ political philosophy as chimerical. “Was there, or will there ever be,” he demanded to know, “a nation whose individuals were all equal, in natural and acquired qualities, in virtues, talents, and riches?” Adams’s own answer was no, and the very reasoning capacity that for the French reformers formed the basis of human equality in Adams’s view—because of its uneven distribution among human beings—constituted a prime marker of distinction and thus inequality. To hope to remove such inequalities was also futile since “God and nature have planted” them there, and, as a result, “no human legislator can ever eradicate” them.56 Because they are natural, inequalities between men can thus be found in every society and at all times. From this fact, Adams concluded that there always existed a “natural aristocracy among mankind.” The existence of this natural aristocracy did not depend on legal and hereditary titles. Rather, its existence was rooted in the natural inequality among human beings and was therefore inevitable. In addition to basing their political philosophy on the ideal of equality, Adams asserted that French intellectuals had made a second miscalculation by trusting in the corrective power of reason. Human behavior was not based on reason alone. On the contrary, Adams thought that all human beings were also driven by passions and especially a “desire of distinction.”57 In Adams’s opinion, these innate qualities further exacerbated the problem of natural inequalities and made the “natural aristocracy” the “most dangerous” threat to a stable system in every society because they possessed the means to satisfy their ambitions. Since the existence of the natural aristocracy was inevitable and could not be eradicated, Adams thought that “it is a fact essential to be considered in the institution of a government.”58 A unicameral legislature, as proposed by Turgot, in this context constituted a perilous folly because “the rich, the wellborn, and the able acquire an influence among the people that will soon be too much for simple honesty and plain sense, in a house of representatives.”59


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland To prevent the natural aristocrats from overpowering their fellow citizens and setting the polity on a course toward a pure, hereditary aristocracy and ultimately into despotism, Adams saw only one choice: “making the distinctions themselves legal, and assigning to each its share.”60 In other words, Adams counseled that the only responsible course of action was to acknowledge the existence of the three orders of the one, the few, and the many and to balance them by giving each order an equal share of power in the government. In regard to the natural aristocracy, this meant that “the most illustrious of them must, therefore, be separated from the mass, and placed by themselves in a senate; that is, to all honest and useful intents, an ostracism.”61 Adams’s primary intention in advocating a mixed constitution, therefore, was to tame the natural aristocracy, to prevent it as long as possible from becoming a hereditary one, and thus to preserve the liberty of the common people. Due to his insistence on social stability and a balanced constitution, historians sometimes describe Adams as a “conservative” revolutionary or a “conservative reformer.”62 This makes sense when interpreting Adams’s thought in the light of the later reinterpretation of his positions in the wake of the French Revolution.63 In the framework of political and social thought prevalent at the time of the American Revolution and in France before 1789, however, Adams’s proposals were not conservative at all but rather progressive, even revolutionary. At least most contemporaries thought so. To be sure, Thomas Paine proposed more radical measures and supported the adoption of a unicameral system in Pennsylvania, as did Benjamin Franklin. But many others regarded Adams’s positions as exemplary for America’s republican revolutionary agenda—as demonstrated by the significant influence Adams’s Thoughts on Government exerted on the framers of many early state constitutions. For example, Patrick Henry praised Adams’s Thoughts on Government as expressing “sentiments” that “are precisely the same I have long since taken up,” exhorted Adams to continue to employ “those talents and that firmness, which have achieved so much for America,” and to “assail the strongholds of tyranny.” In particular, Henry hoped that Adams’s pamphlet would “produce good” in the debates about a new constitution for Virginia by combating the “strong bias to aristocracy” that prevailed among “most of our opulent families.”64 In short, during the 1770s Patrick Henry regarded Adams’s writings as anything but “aristocratic.” A comparison of Adams’s Thoughts on Government with other pro-


AristocrAcy, constitutionAlism, And modern conservAtism posals for new state constitutions confirms Henry’s perception of Adams as a rather radical republican revolutionary. For instance, Patrick Henry specifically referred to Carter Braxton, a delegate to the Continental Congress from Virginia, as one harboring a “bias to aristocracy.” Braxton had published a pamphlet entitled An Address to the Convention of . . . Virginia with the express intention of refuting Adams’s propositions in Thoughts on Government, which he deemed too radical, by arguing that only a governor and council with life tenure could serve as a counterweight to the elected assembly and thus assure stability.65 Not only the grandson of “King” Carter (who was Braxton’s grandfather) but also such dedicated revolutionaries as Thomas Jefferson proposed constitutions that featured elements clearly less radical than Adams’s suggestion. In contrast to Adams’s annual election of council members, for example, Jefferson called for a nonrenewable term of nine years, and professed that he even would prefer “an appointment for life” for senators rather than their “dependence on the people.”66 It is therefore somewhat misleading to label Adams in the context of the American Revolution as “conservative.” The same holds true for Adams’s involvement in the French prerevolutionary debates. Despite all the differences between Adams and some of the French intellectuals as well as the heated discussions about the best constitutions, it is important to keep in mind that both sides in the 1780s shared the same goal: greater liberty for the people. In addition, they all approached this object from a very similar set of assumptions based on Enlightenment ideals. Thus, they shared the categorical rejection of absolutist monarchy and especially the conviction of the dangers of aristocracy. Both sides also based their reasoning on the latest rational scientific methods instead of on protoromantic ideas about an organic society or on religious foundations. In short, both sides represented variants of enlightened liberal reform, and their debates therefore were debates within the progressive camp of the prerevolutionary political structure and not between antagonistic “reformers” and “conservatives.”67 The close friendship in the 1780s between Adams and Jefferson, both soon to be leaders of the American factions falling out over the French Revolution, further illustrates the relative proximity of the reform positions. The prerevolutionary debates, however, did force Adams to define precisely his rationale for a balanced constitution. In the ancien régime environment of pre-1789 France, Adams came to the conclusion that the ultimate reason for the need for a balanced constitution was the fundamental


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland individual inequality of human beings, the imperfectability of human nature, and the ensuing inevitability of an “aristocracy” in any society. In the wake of the outbreak of the French Revolution, these convictions turned out to be decisive for the denunciation of Adams as a “monarchist” and “aristocrat.”

The French Revolution: John Adams as “Aristocrat” When the French Revolution finally started in the late 1780s, initially it did so not as a radical social movement but rather in the form of an “aristocratic resurgence.”68 The parlements rigorously defended their privileges in the face of royal attempts to secure additional revenue, and in their defense of their privileges posed as the protectors of the rights of the people in general. In this stage, the French constituted bodies acted quite similarly to the American colonial assemblies in the run-up to the American Revolution. But during the debates about the convocation of the Estates-General and their mode of assembling in late 1788 and early 1789, it quickly became clear that the French privileged orders, in contrast to the American elites, did not think about extending their claim to liberty to the entire population but instead were focused on defending their privileges against both monarchy and common people. As a result, the French Revolution became increasingly radicalized from mid-1789 on, and the focus shifted from the problem of absolutism to the issue of “aristocracy.” The latter thus became the synonym for the counterrevolutionary side in the emerging dichotomy of revolution and counterrevolution. The meaning of “aristocracy,” however, did not remain confined to the nobility.69 Rather, not only actual nobles but anyone who advocated a political and social system that took the inequality of human beings as its starting point came to be seen as an “aristocrat.” It is on the basis of this shift in political terminology that contemporaries in both Europe and America reinterpreted Adams’s positions as “aristocratic.”70 The escalating criticism of Adams’s works, especially of his Defence and Discourses on Davila, by many Americans from 1787 to 1791 demonstrates the transatlantic significance and impact of the French Revolution. When the first volume of Defence appeared in 1787, Adams sent a copy to Thomas Jefferson, who professed that he had read Adams’s work “with infinite satisfaction” and hoped that “it’s learning and it’s good sense will make it an institute for our politicians.”71 Somewhat annoyed by the length and


AristocrAcy, constitutionAlism, And modern conservAtism disorganization of Defence, James Madison thought that “men of learning find nothing new in it, Men of taste many things to criticize.” Madison further noted that the book included some remarks “which are unfriendly to republicanism.” Yet he still thought that “it will nevertheless be read, and praised, and become a powerful engine in forming the public opinion.” Thus, Madison concluded that despite its shortcomings, “the book also has merit.”72 Jefferson’s and Madison’s comments reflect the general attitude toward Adams’s Defence in 1787 quite well and illustrate that, at least in the mind of these two future leaders of the Republican Party, it did not arouse enough suspicions to cast into doubt Adams’s general devotion to republican principles. Adams’s publication of Discourses on Davila in the Gazette of the United States from April 1790 to April 1791 elicited a much stronger response in America. The purpose of Discourses was to express Adams’s uneasiness about the course that the French Revolution had taken, and to warn Americans from following the French example. Adams was particularly concerned about two developments. First, he expressed his dismay that the French National Assembly had voted in favor of a unicameral legislature, and he warned his audience of the dangers inherent in this rejection of the mixed constitution model that he had proven the best in Defence. The increasing radicalization of the French Revolution in regard to attacks on political and social inequalities alarmed Adams even more. He contended that the French had understood correctly the notion of equality in the American Declaration of Independence insofar as every individual possessed “equal rights and equal duties.” But he worried that the French revolutionaries had radicalized this notion by interpreting equality to mean “equal ranks” as well, that they extended the meaning of equality from the political to the social sphere.73 The two points taken together demonstrated for Adams that in political as well as social respects, the French Revolution had moved too far in a democratic direction and for this reason had to be restrained. In Discourses Adams thus placed more emphasis on the dangers to liberty from the side of common people. But basically he said nothing he had not already written in Defence. Although his focus in his earlier work had been on the aristocracy, Adams had left no doubt that he regarded all unmixed forms of government as inimical to liberty. Since the same passions and desires for distinction exist in all human beings, he had asserted in the last volume of Defence that “to presume that an unmixed democratical


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland government will preserve the laws, is as mad as to presume that a king or a senate will do it.”74 In short, Adams complained in Discourses that the French were about to implement Turgot’s demands to concentrate all authority in a single institution, and by doing so were about to ignore all the facts, examples, and histories he had compiled in Defence to refute Turgot. In 1790–91, despite the unchanged nature of Adams’s arguments in Discourses, Jefferson no longer read Adams’s opinions on the proper construction of constitutions “with infinite satisfaction” as he had done in 1787. Rather, after already having conspired in suppressing a French translation of Defence, he condemned Adams’s Discourses as the dangerous propaganda of a closet monarchist.75 In April 1791, Jefferson endorsed the publication of Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man. Jefferson’s note of endorsement, printed without his permission as the preface to the American edition of Paine’s work, expressed his hope that Paine’s opinions would serve to counter the “political heresies” raised by some Americans.76 Embarrassed by the unauthorized publication and what appeared to be a scarcely disguised attack on his friend John Adams, Jefferson tried to explain his action but on the matter itself did not retract. On the contrary, in a letter to Washington he confirmed that, by alluding to “heretics,” he was referring specifically to Adams and that he regarded the vice president as an advocate of “hereditary monarchy and nobility.”77 Madison, too, reacted much more negatively in 1791 and now called Defence a “mock defence of the Republican Constitutions” of the United States, under whose disguise, he charged, Adams had “attacked them with all the force he possessed.”78 The mounting criticism of Defence and Discourses displays the decisive impact of the French Revolution on Americans’ perception of their current predicament. As demonstrated by Madison’s comment on the “remarks . . . unfriendly to republicanism,” suspicions of an antirepublican threat were already present in the United States in the 1780s, but they did not yet shape the public discourse. After the French Revolution had commenced, however, the same thoughts came to be interpreted in light of the events in France and received a much greater weight. Differences in political opinion between Americans became radicalized and linked to the revolutionary contest overseas. Thus, Jefferson, commenting on the early successes of the revolution in France, could come to the conclusion “that the form our own government was to take depended much more on events in France than any body had before imagined.”79 Due to the radicalization


AristocrAcy, constitutionAlism, And modern conservAtism of events in France and the subsequent transformation of the revolution into a struggle between revolution and counterrevolution, domestic American struggles, because of their perceived connection to the developments in France, also came to be interpreted in a binary framework.80 The so-called Publicola controversy confirms the emergence of this antagonism. In June 1791, John Quincy Adams anonymously published a series of articles under the pseudonym of “Publicola” to defend his father against the accusations levied against him following Jefferson’s endorsement of Paine’s Rights of Man.81 In one of the articles, John Quincy challenged Jefferson by asking whether he really thought of “this pamphlet of Mr. Paine’s as the canonical book of political scripture? As containing the true doctrine of popular infallibility, from which it would be heretical to depart on one single point?”82 Many Americans at first believed that John Adams himself had written the “Publicola” articles, and the attacks on him in the press increased dramatically.83 The intense newspaper war that broke out in reaction to the “Publicola” articles, however, above all shows that John Quincy Adams’s pointed questions had hit the mark. By mid-1791, the question of endorsing Paine’s work—and thus the French Revolution—had indeed become the defining issue for one’s position in the increasingly ideologically polarized American political landscape. As early as 1791, then, approval or rejection of the radicalizing French Revolution and its fundamental principles such as equality had become the “ideological litmus test” as to whether one stood on the revolutionary or the “aristocratic” counterrevolutionary side.84 Considering John Adams’s belief in the fundamental inequalities of human beings and the consequences of this belief for his ideal constitution, it is no wonder that many contemporaries placed him squarely in the aristocratic counterrevolutionary camp. Nor were they totally mistaken given the new framework supplied by the French Revolution. The issue of equality had become decisive, and on this specific subject Adams’s opinions—albeit on little else—indeed were in accord with those of the great European counterrevolutionary Edmund Burke. Due to the shift in basic political theory and the redefinition of basic political terms such as “aristocracy” that had been triggered by the French Revolution, the progressive and even revolutionary constitutional philosophy of John Adams had by 1791 been relegated to the same “aristocratic” counterrevolutionary category as Edmund Burke’s writings, and together with the latter’s would become an important element in the formation of a modern conservatism.


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland

John Quincy Adams and Friedrich von Gentz: Saving the American from the French Revolution As the “Publicola” controversy had shown, the American political landscape under the impact of the French Revolution had been divided into two great sides. The one supported the cause and course of the French Revolution while the other denounced, if not all its principles, then certainly the overall course that the revolution in France had taken. This is not to say that the two camps formed exclusively due to developments in France itself. Rather, Americans interpreted and evaluated the French Revolution in the light of their own specific, local situations. For many Americans, the radicalized French Revolution provided a lens through which they could examine their own society. Indeed, when they considered the radicalized notions of equality emerging from the French Revolution, quite a few Americans concluded that the promise of equality inherent in the American Revolution had not yet been fulfilled.85 These Americans, represented by the nascent Republican Party and viewing the American and French Revolutions as closely linked, put forth a vision of a future American society premised on these radicalized revolutionary principles. Others, forming the Federalist Party, rejected the radical egalitarian message of the French revolutionaries and vehemently denied any link between the principles of the American and French Revolutions. At stake in the contest between Republicans and Federalists, therefore, was nothing less than the meaning of the American Revolution itself. In the United States, this contest culminated in the presidential election of 1800 in which Thomas Jefferson competed against the incumbent president, John Adams. John Quincy Adams, as he had already done in 1791 during the “Publicola” affair, again ventured to aid his father’s cause in public. Serving in Berlin as minister of state to Prussia, John Quincy in early 1800 had come across an essay published by Friedrich Gentz in which Gentz compared the origins and principles of the American and French Revolutions.86 This essay, John Quincy thought, ought to be “for two reasons highly interesting to Americans.” On the one hand, he ascertained that “it contains the clearest account of the rise and progress” of the American Revolution “that has ever appeared.” Even more important, Gentz’s analysis “rescues that revolution from the disgraceful imputation of having proceeded from the same principles as that of France.”87 As John Quincy argued, that tendency “has no where been . . . of more pernicious


AristocrAcy, constitutionAlism, And modern conservAtism tendency than in America itself ” because in America, unlike in Europe, this link had not just been “a commonplace argument.” Rather, “this error . . . has been sanctioned by the authority of men,” such as Jefferson and Madison, “revered for their talents, and who at least ought to have known better.”88 John Quincy Adams thus planned to use Gentz’s essay in the struggle over the meaning of the American Revolution in order to combat the perceived link between the principles and agendas of the American and French Revolutions. In itself, this episode is interesting as it nicely illustrates the transatlantic context of the American party struggles during the 1790s. But more important, Gentz’s essay and John Quincy’s use of it corroborate the development of a modern conservatism as outlined in the example of the constitutional thought of John Adams. The efforts of Gentz and John Quincy, the latter as a representative for the Federalists, to distinguish between the two revolutions reveals how the dialectic that developed in the wake of the French Revolution divided former fellow American revolutionaries and shaped both a progressive and a modern conservative position. Friedrich von Gentz and his writings provide a particularly good example for this development. Although John Quincy Adams insisted that Gentz’s conclusions had “a greater intrinsic value” than any American’s because he was “an impartial foreigner,” he knew well that Gentz was anything but an impartial observer. On the contrary, since his 1793 translation of Burke’s Reflections into German and his own extensive annotation of that work, Gentz was renowned as a critic of the French Revolution. After Burke’s death in 1797, Gentz increasingly became regarded as one of the leading antirevolutionary intellectuals in Europe. Consequently, European governments in Berlin, Vienna, Moscow, and London, wary of the influence of French ideas, realized his potential and funded his various endeavors such as the Historisches Journal, which he had founded in 1799 to counter the intellectual influence of French revolutionary ideology.89 By the time Gentz wrote his essay on the two revolutions in 1800, therefore, he was a staunch opponent of the French Revolution and its principles. Interestingly, however, this had not always been the case. On March 5, 1790, for example, Gentz wrote of the events in France that “the spirit of the age stirs strongly and vigorously in me . . . and the universal striving after freedom, which breaks forth on all sides, inspires in me sympathy and warmth.”90 Even as late as December 5, 1790, Gentz professed that


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland he “should consider the collapse” of the French Revolution “one of the greatest misfortunes that the human race ever met with” because “it is the first triumph of philosophy, the first example of a constitution based on definite principles and embodying a consistent system of ideas.”91 Although Gentz’s early opposition to the French Revolution coincides with his translation of Burke’s Reflections from 1791 to 1793, it would be wrong to attribute his changed view of the French Revolution solely to Burke’s influence. Gentz certainly admired Burke’s forceful critique of the revolutionaries’ intention to create a tabula rasa in France, but concerning the Reflections in general, Gentz declared himself “opposed to its fundamental principles and conclusions.”92 Gentz, as a former student and protégé of the famous philosopher Immanuel Kant, was too deeply steeped in the rational mode of thinking typical of the late Enlightenment to find much value in Burke’s semimystical religious sanctification of the state, his rejection of all abstract reasoning, and his emotional style of writing. Instead, Gentz arrived at a critique of the French Revolution through his comparison of the latter with the American Revolution while using the rational, enlightened methods that conditioned his relative dislike of Burke’s work. In other words, because of his background in Enlightenment philosophy, Gentz came to reject the French Revolution on grounds more akin to those offered by Adams than to those put forth by Burke. On the relation between the two great revolutions in general, Gentz observed that “the great majority of the public” in Europe had taken “the similarity of the two revolutions” for granted because “the revolution of North America, had, in the course of events been the nearest neighbor to that of France” and because “the founders of the French revolution” had endeavored to “imitate the course, the plans, the measures, the forms, and, in part, the language” of the American Revolution. But this assumption, he believed, was a “fundamentally false point of view.” A careful analysis of “the two revolutions in their essential features, in their originating causes, and in their first principles,” he thought, would dispel this false notion.93

Friedrich von Gentz and the American Revolution: Defending the Balanced Constitution Concerning the origin and principles of the American Revolution, Gentz averred that it “was grounded partly upon principles, of which the right was evident, partly upon such, as it was at least very questionable, whether


AristocrAcy, constitutionAlism, And modern conservAtism they were not right, and from beginning to end upon no one that was clearly and decidedly wrong.”94 Gentz arrived at this conviction through a constitutional argumentation that closely resembled John Adams’s justification of colonial resistance. First, Gentz argued that all the colonies, with the possible exception of Georgia, “originated at a time, when the British constitution itself had not yet attained its last perfection and consistence,” that is, “before the revolution of 1688.” Since before “the revolution of 1688, the influence of parliament upon all the affairs of government” had been much smaller, the colonies’ charters “all proceeded from the crown” alone, and “parliament had never taken any part in their settlement.” Only in regard to trade had “parliament always exercised the legislative power over the colonies,” and this prerogative of the strongest “legislative power in the empire . . . was never called into question” by the colonists. In all other respects, especially concerning “the right of enacting laws for the internal police of the province” and “of levying taxes,” no “constitutional and legal authority” had ever been “vested in the British parliament.” These prerogatives, Gentz argued, belonged exclusively to the “provincial assemblies.”95 In matters pertaining to internal affairs, therefore, the provincial assemblies constituted the equal legislative counterparts to Parliament. In this capacity, the colonial assemblies were also entirely independent of Parliament. All colonies, Gentz observed, possessed the essential parts of the British constitutional system. In “almost every one of them, there was a representative assembly, which supplied the place of a lower house, and a senate, which answered to the house of peers.” Together “with the king and his governors” these bodies formed “a complete government . . . and needed no co-operation of the British parliament.” Just like Adams, Gentz thus interpreted the colonial assemblies as equal and independent corporate entities that, together with the king, formed distinct and separate mixed constitutions, and whose only commonality with the mother country was that they shared the same person as king and, voluntarily, followed the same trade regulations. Logically then, “parliament was, in regard to the colonies, to be a considered a foreign power,” and the “pretention to bind America by act of parliament, in all cases whatsoever,” represented an act of aggression that the “provincial representative bodies” had every right to repel.96 While Gentz considered colonial resistance against Parliament as rightful beyond doubt, he thought it more “doubtful” whether “the colonies could likewise resist the king,” because George III “at any rate, was


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland their legal and acknowledged sovereign.” But even in this case he believed that “a closer examination” of the question “will lead us to a result . . . favorable to the justification” of the colonists’ conduct. Gentz then distinguished between an insurrection in a simple government and in a mixed form of government. He argued that “in a simple government” such as a pure monarchy, aristocracy, or democracy, “every resistance against the supreme power,” that is, the seat of sovereignty, “is absolutely illegal” and hence “requires no further examination to be condemned.” But “in a mixed government,” Gentz thought, “cases may be imagined, in which the matter is very intricate” and thus far from clear. “In a mixed government,” he explained, sovereignty is always vested in “several component parts,” and “each of these parts has its constitutional rights and prerogatives,” which, “unless the constitution be an empty name,” they must have the right to defend. Since the king’s power, as a result of the provisions of Crownissued colonial charters—charters that functioned as social contracts, in Gentz’s view—“was in all the colonies, more or less limited,” all colonies by definition possessed a mixed constitution, and its constituent parts therefore also possessed the right to maintain the constitutional balance.97 The king, Gentz proceeded, by siding with Parliament, had supported the latter’s act of aggression against the colonial assemblies. By doing so, he had breached the social contract that bound him to the various colonial assemblies and thus had started a “dissolution of the constitution.” This process, in turn, endangered not only the colonial assemblies’ constitutional rights—what alone would have sufficed to justify resistance—but also jeopardized the very purpose of society, the guarantee of basic liberty for all through the rule of law. As a result, Gentz came to the conclusion that, in the end, the colonists’ decision to resist the king had actually not been doubtful at all, but rather “perfectly lawful, . . . even though it should end in civil war and the ruin of the constitution.”98 In general, Gentz condemned any revolution that resulted in the negation of the constitution and necessitated a rebuilding of the societal framework from scratch.99 Such a revolution, by definition, at least temporarily reduced all members of society to a state of nature in which the rule of law was abrogated and no one could securely enjoy the basic right that every human being possessed, personal liberty. In this regard the American Revolution, too, was one of Gentz’s dreaded “Total-Revolution,” and he had no illusions about the dangers this posed to the “morals and character of the people.”100 But the American situation had been peculiar in


AristocrAcy, constitutionAlism, And modern conservAtism that Parliament and king had threatened liberty, which Gentz, just like Adams, believed had been defended and guaranteed by the provincial assemblies within the framework of their various mixed constitutions. The disturbance of the balance on the corporate level by the British king-inparliament thus virtually forced the Americans into what Gentz called “a revolution of necessity” or “a defensive revolution” and thereby fulfilled the only criterion that could make even a “Total-Revolution” a justified one.101 Gentz’s focus on balance—and thus equality of rights or power—on the corporate level during the American Revolution led him to conclude, again like Adams, that the issue of individual liberty and equality did not play much of a role. The colonial assemblies had ultimately guaranteed both the rule of law and, by extension, basic personal liberty. By protecting their own privileges, Gentz argued, these assemblies had also automatically protected individual liberty. Hence, Gentz could argue that “the American revolution, at every stage of its duration, had a fixed and definite object.” At first, this object had been the defense of existing constitutional rights. After that had become impossible due to British intransigence, Americans had been forced toward independence. But “it never occurred to them, to reform” their own domestic constitutions. Even after independence they only strove to protect the already existing rule of law, and due to this defensiveness, the Americans were able to avert the most dangerous tendency of revolutions: “the deadly passion for making political experiments with abstract theories, and untried systems.” In short, for Gentz, the American Revolution never displayed a social component. On the contrary, in the new American republics “the great and immediate exigencies of social life, the local administration, the police, and the course of judicial proceeding were continued as before.”102 The American Revolution, therefore, never forced Gentz to consider what the rights and liberties that the colonial constituted bodies defended exactly meant for the individual.

Friedrich von Gentz and the French Revolution: The Chimera of Equality In contrast, the French Revolution, because its social component quickly became paramount, compelled Gentz to address the nature and relation of individual and corporate liberty and equality in detail. Gentz did not in general deny the French a right to reorganize their constitution. As shown


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland above, he initially even applauded the first steps of the French Revolution, and as late as in 1800 maintained that “when the deputies of the states assembled together in the year 1789, they had beyond all doubt the right” not only to “undertake great reforms in the government” but also “even in the constitution of the French monarchy.” But this right, Gentz contended, “they could exercise only under conditions.” As the most important of these conditions Gentz postulated “that they should observe the general forms of an assembly of the states in France.”103 According to Gentz, the French could thus justly reform their constitution only if all the elements of society that would compose a potential balanced constitution in France (the monarchy, the clergy, the nobility, and the commons) participated in the deliberations and consented to the changes. A breach of this condition by one of France’s estates would “suspend the constitution” and would thus put the liberty of all at risk. To Gentz’s dismay, it took “less than six weeks” for “the deputies of the third state, without the least authority, and with a shameful violation of the rights of the other states,” to declare “that themselves alone constituted the national assembly.” Because of this act of the third estate of June 17, 1789, Gentz argued that the French Revolution no longer was a justifiable “defensive revolution” to protect and enhance the liberty of all by the reform of the existing rule of law, but was “in the highest sense of the word, an offensive revolution,” undertaken by only a part, and for the advantage of only a part, of French society.104 In Gentz’s view, the basic problem of people who, like the French revolutionaries, “fancied themselves as rendering homage to liberty when toppling states” was that in reality they had no adequate understanding of liberty. The threat that the actions of the third estate posed to the liberty of all in France thus stimulated Gentz to define liberty more precisely. Liberty, for Gentz just as for Adams and most enlightened thinkers of the eighteenth century, constituted the great desideratum of his political thought. “A citizen had been a human being before he became a citizen,” and since citizens can only exist in an ordered community with other human beings—that is, in a state—Gentz argued that “liberty existed before states did.” He regarded liberty as central to any political philosophy because it preceded society and consequently belonged to, and always had determined, human nature. For this reason, Gentz regarded human beings’ striving for liberty as natural and thought it pointless to attempt to eradicate those feelings. But he also thought that the “enthusiasm for liberty” represented one of the “most dreadful diseases that afflicted humanity”


AristocrAcy, constitutionAlism, And modern conservAtism and often resulted in war, anarchy, and tyranny. The cause for such calamities Gentz identified with a “fanaticism” in the desire for liberty that prevented the afflicted from defining rigorously what liberty as one of the “fundamental concepts of political thought” really meant.105 Gentz identified the basic flaw in the outlook of the French revolutionaries, as well as of other “fanatics,” as their perception of liberty as one unchangeable “political arch-principle” that retained the same qualities and characteristics in all circumstances. Gentz believed that this opinion could not stand up to a close scrutiny. If analyzed carefully, it would become obvious that liberty actually existed in three variations. The first condition he described as the “absolute liberty” that characterized the state of nature. Yet even in a state of nature “absolute liberty” was a rather theoretical concept because everybody’s unlimited freedom was at all times endangered by “the force of a stronger” individual.106 Due to this perpetual insecurity, individuals formed a contract and constituted society for their mutual security. By doing so, they created a second state of liberty, “civil liberty,” which by its very nature as a reciprocal and thus mutually limiting concept rendered the idea of “absolute liberty” in society obsolete. Thus far Gentz’s ideas operated within the standard interpretation of John Locke’s notion of the social contract.107 But Gentz did not stop at the eighteenth-century commonplace distinction between natural (absolute) and civil liberty. In response to the French revolutionaries’ attacks on the rights, or “liberties,” of the French privileged orders, he introduced a third category and henceforth sharply distinguished between “civil liberty,” on the one hand, and “political liberty,” on the other.108 By “civil liberty,” Gentz meant only the security to live under the rule of law as created by the social contract and as guaranteed by the state. Since the creation of civil liberty was the primary purpose of the founding of society, Gentz asserted that every citizen had an inalienable and equal right to civil liberty. The same, however, was not true for political participation, or “political liberty” in Gentz’s terminology.109 Two reasons spoke against an equality of political liberty. First, political equality was not indispensable for securing civil liberty. At least theoretically, an impartial and just administration of the law could be ensured by an absolute monarchy in which only one person held political power just as well as by a democracy in which all citizens had a share in political liberty, although Gentz did not believe that either of these extremes could guarantee civil liberty in practice. More important, however,


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland Gentz thought that the French revolutionaries’ maxim of equal individual liberty was refuted by the fundamental inequality of human nature. Concerning the crucial question of human equality, Gentz left no doubt about his personal attitude in the Origin and Principles as well as in his other writings, most notably the Abhandlungen. He asserted that “equality is the most vulgar of all chimeras.” In a disquisition on the first article of the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, Gentz contended that “the dictum: ‘people are born with equal rights’ is, in every respect and without any qualifications, wrong.” For him, such a statement was utter nonsense because from the moment of one’s birth inequality was the reigning principle. According to Gentz, there were two kinds of inequalities. First, people were distinguished by artificial inequalities like inherited wealth or social rank. But even if this kind of inequality could be abolished, there would still remain inequalities of personal capacities like intelligence and similar “characteristics, through which nature despite all vulgar pretensions of equality manifests the veritable inequality of people.” Because these inequalities are natural it would be in vain to try to eradicate them. Society, therefore, should acknowledge this principle of nature. Accordingly, Gentz proposed to substitute the first article of the Declaration of Rights with the passage: the entire “purpose of the whole is founded upon the inequality of the individual.”110 The status of human inequality as a natural principle contained political implications for Gentz. Because they were inherent and inevitable, distinctions should not only be acknowledged in society but should constitute the fundamental principle of the political and social constitution of the state. In fact, because people had unequal qualifications and properties when they entered into a social contract with each other to form society, Gentz considered it also just as natural that the resulting constitution ought to reflect and enshrine these inequalities. Gentz supposed that in practice the degree of political participation prescribed by a constitution would vary according to the circumstances in which the people who formed a social contract had found each other upon their initial agreement. Political liberty for Gentz was thus “a relative property” that depended on specific circumstances and accordingly “could not be the same in every constitution.”111 Gentz regarded the various constitutions created by social contracts as almost sacrosanct. Time and again he maintained that due to its relativity, the idea of “liberty” in general or even the way political liberty in


AristocrAcy, constitutionAlism, And modern conservAtism particular had been instituted in one society could not be used to assail the constitution, and thus the way in which political liberty was ordered, of another society.112 Each social contract or constitution represented for Gentz the unique and conscious response of all the people in a territory to concrete circumstances in their common search for civil liberty. In contrast to Burke, who rejected the Lockean social contract theory as not applicable to human society, Gentz placed great emphasis on the idea that a social contract established a constitution. He insisted that because the social contract constituted the response of all to a common problem, a constitution issuing from such a contract could also only be dissolved by all. It is for this reason that he asserted that the attempt to change a constitution by only “a part of the contracting society,” as it had happened in France in June 1789, represented an “arch-crime.”113 From his interpretation of the social contract, Gentz drew the conclusion that it became increasingly difficult to achieve a just revolution in a more complex society. He believed that one of the major factors responsible for the successful completion of the American Revolution had been the colonies’ relative social simplicity. “In America,” he declared, “no privileged orders, no excessive difference between poor and rich . . . and no hereditary offices and titles” with constitutionally sanctified rights needed to be taken into account. Antedating Tocqueville on this point, Gentz reasoned that the American constitution-makers built on a preexisting relative equality, which, unlike the French, they did not have to try to invent or fabricate. Yet even despite their advantageous enjoyment of relative equality, Gentz continued, Americans installed some sort of balanced constitution by observing the “fundamental rule to divide the legislative into two chambers.”114 Since French society “had been removed from the simplicity” of American colonial societies “as far as . . . imaginable,” Gentz condemned the French revolutionaries’ creation of a unicameral national assembly not only as illegal but also as foolish. Even when one disregarded the powerful constitutional objection to it for the sake of argument, the abolition of the elements of a balanced constitution in a developed and complex society such as France, in his opinion, doomed the French Revolution to failure because “a representative state with one legislative body is a political monstrosity,” and the “inalterable laws of balance” could never be trespassed with impunity.115 The need to uphold the balance in a mixed constitution determined Gentz’s position on the issue of “aristocracy.” Going beyond Adams’s


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland argumentation, Gentz considered a real, titled nobility established in a separate house of the legislature as mandatory, at least in a highly developed society. Even if a bicameral legislature existed, he argued, without a privileged estate the members of the upper house would be drawn from the same constituency as the members of the first chamber. He feared that this would nullify the intended purpose of a mixed constitution since “two legislative bodies consisting of the same elements, would never be able to maintain a real balance.” History and experience thus taught Gentz that any constitution without an aristocracy would be doomed because “only if an aristocracy existed was the machinery perfect.”116 According to Gentz, an aristocracy was necessary to form a stable constitutional system and thus necessary to make any government work at all. The rationale behind this argument is again Gentz’s view on the inequality of human nature. Although personal talent and merit should constitute the criteria for political leadership, Gentz argued that these characteristics would never be able to compete with the deference ordinary people reserved for noble descent and rank. “The big lot of people is ruled by nothing than titles,” he wrote. Due to the “nature of the human mind, ordinary and ill-bred” people would never accept the authority of someone out of their midst who had been elevated to a public position by election in the same way as they would the authority of a person “whom they have always seen above themselves.”117 At the most fundamental level, Gentz’s view on human inequality thus conditioned the stance he took up in the binary of revolution and counterrevolution emerging in the wake of the French Revolution. He had welcomed and supported the movement for independence in America and, initially, the attempts to reform the French constitution to make it more like that of Great Britain, which he regarded as the best mixed constitution “that ever were, or probably ever will be devised.”118 Thus, at least in the period up to 1800, Gentz was no reactionary in the traditional sense. On the contrary, in the political discourse up to the radicalization of the French Revolution, he represented, like John Adams, a reform-oriented, liberal position. Because of his deep conviction that every society is based upon the principle of human inequality, however, he could not see any good in a revolution that raised as its banner the notion of the equality of mankind. By applying this notion indiscriminately to the ideal of liberty, to politics, and to the construction of society itself, the French Revolution in Gentz’s view violated natural principles and embarked upon constitutional experiments outside the theory of the mixed constitution— experiments


AristocrAcy, constitutionAlism, And modern conservAtism that, as history had proven time and again, could only fail. Gentz’s belief in the inequality of mankind thus led him to become a prominent spokesman for the counterrevolutionary, “aristocratic” side during the struggles of the 1790s and early 1800s.


hile the French Revolution led to an ideological polarization of the social and political landscape on both sides of the Atlantic, this polarization in the United States, France, and other European countries was not uniform. Rather, it occurred within the framework of preexisting local situations and therefore manifested itself in varying forms. For instance, in contrast to Europe, tensions in America never erupted in widespread violence during the 1790s and early 1800s. One reason for this is that Americans already had fought their revolution, over whose course the most “aristocratic” elements of American society, the Loyalists, had been driven into exile. As a result, the differences between the supporters and opponents of French revolutionary principles were not as great as in Europe. Accordingly, the positions of perceived “aristocrats” in America in general were more moderate than those of their counterparts in Europe. The differences in the constitutional thought of John Adams and Friedrich Gentz exemplify this. On the subject of the sovereignty of the people, Gentz had a more restricted view than Adams. For Adams, popular sovereignty constituted the basis for the creation of any political system. Gentz, in contrast, called “the sovereignty of the people” in the end a “chimerical principle” because in his opinion “the people” themselves did not predate the social contract but were created through it. Consequently, sovereignty rested wherever the social contract put it. This could be the people, but it did not need to be.119 On the related issue of interpreting the idea of the social contract, Gentz, while, or rather because, assigning more importance to the social contract, also viewed the constitutions emanating from such a contract as more restrictively binding on their constituents. Concerning the issue of “aristocracy,” Adams feared that an inevitably existing natural aristocracy would ultimately result in a hereditary nobility while Gentz, at least concerning a mature, developed society, considered a titled nobility as indispensable to form a stable government. Even after 1790, then, the actual positions of men such as Adams and Gentz could differ considerably on many points in their respective political philosophies. In addition to these differences, however, Adams’s and Gentz’s thought


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland also possessed affinities. Most significant, they shared the belief that in order to ensure liberty in a polity, the inequality of human beings and its implications for the organization of society needed to be taken into account and institutionalized in some form of a mixed constitution. This shared conviction of human inequality and its societal consequences had come to be decisive for their categorization by contemporaries within the political spectrum in the wake of the French Revolution. In the context of the American Revolution, their concentration on balance and equality on the corporate level due to the specific social environment in the American colonies had made it unnecessary to go into details about what the notions of liberty and equality meant precisely on the individual level. As a result, in the framework of political thought prior to the outbreak and radicalization of the French Revolution, both Adams and Gentz represented progressive and even revolutionary positions. The French Revolution, however, created a tension between corporate and individual conceptions of liberty and equality because in the French social environment of 1789, any proposal to install a balanced constitution unavoidably entailed the perpetuation of privileges and thus of individual inequalities. For this reason, the issue of individual equality became the primary demarcation between revolution and counterrevolution; any man who based his constitutional thought on the premise of individual inequality saw himself classified as a proponent of the “aristocratic” counterrevolutionary side. In the minds of many contemporaries who had been influenced by this dichotomous reordering of the political landscape in the wake of the French Revolution, Adams and Gentz became associated with the positions of Edmund Burke and, subsequently, with an emerging conservatism.120 The rationale behind this classification seems obvious: like Burke, Adams and Gentz based their preferred social system on the belief in human inequality. Yet aside from this commonality—which in the interpretive framework supplied by the French Revolution nevertheless remained crucial—Burke’s political thought contained some important differences compared to that of Adams and Gentz. For instance, despite discrepancies in details, both Adams and Gentz subscribed to the social contract theory whereas Burke denied its validity.121 Although Adams and Gentz placed great emphasis on the lessons of history, due to their use of social contract theory neither could support Burke’s concept of prescriptive rights. Moreover, neither Adams nor Gentz shared Burke’s disdain for the revolutionaries’ metaphysical, rational thinking. Their problem with Thomas


AristocrAcy, constitutionAlism, And modern conservAtism Paine and other “fanatics” was that they just did not think critically and rationally enough. In a similar vein, neither Adams nor Gentz had much sympathy for Burke’s ideas about religion and its relation to the state. In short, Adams and Gentz arrived at their rejection of the principles of the French Revolution not in opposition to the rational thinking favored by the philosophes of the Enlightenment, but based on it. The association by contemporaries of Adams and Gentz with the same counterrevolutionary side as Burke has several implications in regard to the emergence of modern conservatism. First, the fact that all three thinkers based their rejection of the principles of the radical French Revolution on the same fundamental premise—the inherent inequality of individuals— coupled with the fact that all three were classified by their opponents as occupying the same location along a newly polarized political spectrum demonstrates that modern conservatism, in both its American and European forms, originated as a result of a broadly shared transnational phenomenon. Due to the differing environments in the Atlantic world, modern conservatism nevertheless emerged in varying specific forms.122 The examples of Adams and Gentz also illustrate how the French Revolution throughout the transatlantic world fractured the enlightened, liberal reform movements. By raising the issue of individual equality, the French Revolution forced into opposition those who thought that the preservation of liberty required taking into account the inequality of individuals. This tension between equality and liberty that was visible in Adams and Gentz as well as in Burke foreshadows one of the central aspects of both conservative and liberal thought during the nineteenth century—one exemplified in the work of Alexis de Tocqueville.123 Second, studying Adams and Gentz alongside Burke provides a more complex picture of modern conservatism’s composition. Since Burke, the “great philosopher of intuition in an age of reason,” traditionally is seen as the “fountainhead” of modern conservatism, many scholars agree with the sociologist Karl Mannheim that conservatism arose in opposition to the rationalism of the Enlightenment.124 Taking Adams’s and Gentz’s positions into account, however, points to the need to reconsider such an assessment. In the aftermath of the French Revolution, not only did antirational philosophies such as Burke’s—or to an even greater degree, Joseph de Maistre’s— contribute along with prerevolutionary Counter-Enlightenment thought to the emerging conservatism, but so did some more “rational” ones such as those of Adams and, especially, Gentz.125


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland An examination of the philosophy of Adams, Burke, and Gentz, finally, can also shed new light on the specific process by which conservative positions developed. The fact that their political philosophies were placed in the same counterrevolutionary category only after the French Revolution highlights the central role of this event in the emergence of a broadly conceived “aristocratic” camp. Only with the perceived fusion of such diverging viewpoints after 1789 in opposition to a radical, progressive ideology could the wide-ranging position that we call modern conservatism develop. Yet an investigation into how Adams’s ideas in particular developed in the European context of the 1780s—a context that had been stimulated by events in revolutionary America—qualifies to some degree the straightforward maxim that modern conservatism is a “force called into activity by the French Revolution, and operating against the tendencies that the Revolution set up.”126 Developments caused by, or at least pertaining to, the American Revolution were already prompting men like John Adams to produce a system of political and social ideas that after the French Revolution would be deemed as “aristocratic” and, ultimately, conservative. The irony in Adams’s case is that the impetus to the development of such a system had been the fear during the 1780s of “aristocracy” as it was traditionally understood—as the hereditary privileged orders of the ancien régime—that was prevalent on both sides of the Atlantic. Opposition to traditional “aristocracy” in the 1780s thus provided a focal point against which reformers, including John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, could develop their ideas.127 In the aftermath of the French Revolution, however, the political spectrum shifted again, and those sympathetic to the French Revolution began to consign thinkers who based their constitutional thought on the premise of inequality to the category of “aristocracy” as well. Since Jefferson’s Republicans succeeded in their “revolution of 1800,” they were ultimately successful in delegitimizing Adams’s, and the Federalists’ more generally, vision of society as “aristocratic.” “Aristocracy” acquired thus a new and broader meaning against which revolutionaries on both sides of the Atlantic were able to begin to develop, in dialectic opposition to this changing meaning of “aristocracy,” an equally new and broad conception of “democracy.” In America, this “democracy” did not result in some form of direct or unrestrained democracy. Although Jeffersonian Republicans rejected Adams’s insistence on inequality as the socio-constitutional premise for a mixed constitution, most Republicans nevertheless agreed with the struc-


AristocrAcy, constitutionAlism, And modern conservAtism tural elements of Adams’s constitutional thought, such as the separation of powers, representation, the rule of law, or bicameralism. As the most astute observer of American democracy in the nineteenth century, Alexis de Tocqueville, noted, what was needed was to democratize hitherto monarchical and aristocratic institutions such as governors and upper houses of legislatures by making them “elected in the same way by the same citizens” instead of creating “one branch” as “an aristocratic body and the other a representative of democracy.” By thus “eliminating the aristocratic character” of these institutions, they were not only made safe for democracy, but could in turn provide safeguards against excesses of another of democracy’s central dogmas, popular sovereignty.128 Constitutional government as envisaged by John Adams, once shorn of its socio-constitutional basis, thus became one of the key components of the emerging American “democracy.”


Chapter 3 Democracy and the Pursuit of Peace The Domestic and International Sovereignty of the Nation in James Madison’s and Immanuel Kant’s Essays on Perpetual Peace


y early 1792, James Madison was concerned. Although he had done as much as anyone to give the United States of America a new constitution in 1787–88, the course that the new federal administration subsequently pursued under the guidance of the secretary of the treasury, Alexander Hamilton, troubled him deeply. The policies enacted and suggested by Hamilton, he observed, were “more partial to the opulent than to other classes of society” and were tuned “less to the interest of the many than of a few.” If this course of the federal government remained unchecked, in the end “the government itself may by degrees be narrowed into fewer hands, and approximated to an hereditary form.” In short, Madison feared that Hamilton’s policy of consolidation was antirepublican and a “high road to monarchy.” Seeing the republican experiment in America endangered, as a member of Congress he accordingly resisted Hamilton’s policy as best as he could.1 At the same time, Hamilton, too, complained about the political opinions and conduct of Madison. For instance, in a letter to a friend from May 26, 1792, he charged “that Mr. Madison cooperating with Mr. Jefferson is at the head of a faction decidedly hostile to me and my administration.” Consequently, Hamilton announced he would “consider & treat” Madison “as a political enemy.”2 Madison and Hamilton, however, had not always been political enemies. On the contrary, from the time of the American Revolution to the ratification of the Federal Constitution in 1788 the two had collaborated on several occasions. For example, as members of the Continental Congress both men had often worked together to strengthen the national government. Both also had pursued the same goal, unsuccessfully, in the


democrAcy And the Pursuit of PeAce Annapolis Convention of 1786 and, more successfully, in the Federal Convention of 1787. Most famously, Madison and Hamilton had both contributed to the Federalist Papers in order to secure the ratification of the Federal Constitution. It is therefore understandable that Hamilton regarded Madison’s strong resistance to his policy and vehement attacks on his political positions as a “matter of surprize.” In the same letter quoted above, he even confided to his friend that would he have known of Madison’s resistance to his policy, “I do not believe I should have accepted” the office of secretary of the treasury.3 Madison and Hamilton thus provide yet another example of a friendship—or at least collaboration—that rather abruptly ended in the early 1790s. And just like in the cases of Edmund Burke and John Adams, charges of inconsistency were raised against the protagonists. Madison in particular was accused by both contemporaries and historians with having changed his political principles. Hamilton, for example, wondered about what exactly had “wrought a change in the sentiments of Mr. Madison,” but he averred “certain it is, that a very material change took place.”4 For a long time, most historians concurred with Hamilton’s assessment and, although differing concerning Madison’s motives, concluded that “Madison had completely reversed his former position.”5 Madison himself, however, throughout the rest of his career as well as in retirement denied sharply that he had changed his principles whenever he was confronted with charges of inconsistency, and recent scholarship supports his claim. For one, as Lance Banning has shown, when concentrating on Madison and Hamilton’s collaboration during the 1780s, it is easy to exaggerate the degree of their conformity and to overlook differences in their positions that existed already at that time.6 For example, when writing as “Publius,” Madison warned on more than one occasion that the three authors of the Federalist Papers were not mutually answerable to each other for their opinions. Following Banning’s argument, Colleen Sheehan has concluded that the divergence between Madison and Hamilton was not simply a political maneuver out of personal rivalry or to gain power. Rather, their emerging opposition in the 1790s was “propelled by a fundamental philosophic disagreement” over the nature of government and society.7 The question that remains then is why the differences between Madison and Hamilton became a deep and insurmountable antagonism over fundamental political principles only in the years from 1790 to 1792 and not earlier or later. Following to a smaller or greater degree the underlying


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland thesis of Frederick Jackson Turner’s work, namely “that American society can best be understood as a response to the circumstances of the New World,” most American historians, concentrating on domestic events, have emphasized the effects of putting the theoretical Federal Constitution into practice as the primary reason for the fracture between Madison and Hamilton in particular, and Republicans and Federalists in general.8 This focus on domestic events and developments, however, neglects the international context. This is not to say that the actual problems raised by setting on track a new system of government did not play an important role, or that Madison and Hamilton did not respond to the specific American situation. They did. Yet while the launching of the new government raised issues that most likely would have resulted in political differences in any case, it was the impact of the revolutionary events in Europe that transformed political differences into a sharp ideological controversy. The French Revolution that had broken out in full strength in 1789 provided the cataclysmic dynamism of the developments in Europe. In its wake the traditional social order in France broke down, prompting the European monarchs, urged and aided by French defenders of the old order, to threaten intervention to restore the ancien régime. During the ensuing Revolutionary Wars, the victorious French armies spread the revolution over large parts of Europe, thus fostering revolutionary tendencies in other countries as well as upsetting the balance of power.9 Although domestic policy and international relations are nowadays often analyzed independently, as this very general example shows, in the eighteenth century this was not the case. Rather, as one historian observed, “the domestic structure of a society and the society’s place within a world of nations were but two sides of the same coin.”10 This assumption of an interdependence between a nation’s domestic system and its place in the world conditioned the political thinking of Europeans as well as Americans, including Madison and Hamilton. Accordingly, the question which side in the Revolutionary Wars the United States should favor almost automatically became linked to the question of favoring one of the social and political systems practiced by either revolutionary France or the alliance of European monarchies led by Great Britain. The result was an intense competition between the Francophile Republicans, campaigning for a more egalitarian society, and the Anglophile and elitist Federalists—or, in the language of the time, between the “democrats” and the “aristocrats,” as the opponents often derisively called each other.


democrAcy And the Pursuit of PeAce Considering the interdependence between domestic and foreign affairs and the perceived link between European and American developments then, it comes as no surprise that Madison in the early 1790s interpreted Hamilton’s policy as a “high road to monarchy” in the light of the latter’s support for Great Britain in the European revolutionary arena. Hamilton, in turn, also saw a clear connection between Madison’s and Jefferson’s support for France and their being “too much in earnest” about “democracy.”11 To neglect this aspect of the domestic-international interconnectedness of the emerging party struggle in the 1790s risks missing an essential element of the transformation of the American political landscape from Federalists versus Anti-Federalists to Federalists versus Republicans. To be sure, neither Madison nor Hamilton was a “democrat” or an “aristocrat” in the European sense of the words. Nevertheless, both men, as well as many of their Republican and Federalist followers, from the early 1790s on felt themselves to be part of a struggle related to the great revolutionary contest in Europe about the fundamental nature of society and the relation between government and the governed. A central issue of this contest in the United States was the question of what the concept of popular sovereignty exactly meant in practice. Virtually all American revolutionaries during the 1770s and 1780s agreed that a republic would be the only possible form of government for the new nation, and they also concurred that in a republic all authority emanated from the people.12 Within this general consensus, however, Americans exhibited a variety of ideas about the role of citizens and the powers of government. Differing convictions regarding this issue already played an important role in the debates on the creation of the Federal Constitution. In the wake of the French Revolution, however, the meaning of popular sovereignty got hotly contested, radicalized further, and ideologically charged, thus gaining the potential to cause a rupture between Americans who just a few years earlier had been in agreement regarding the strengthening of the federal government, such as James Madison and Alexander Hamilton. To counter what he perceived as Hamilton’s attempts at establishing a too powerful, “monarchical” national government, Madison from November 1791 to December 1792 published eighteen articles in Philip Freneau’s National Gazette. In these articles, he criticized Hamilton’s political program and detailed his own convictions about the proper role of government and the need for an educated and vigilant citizenry to watch over the government in order to secure the people’s (or “nation’s”) sovereignty.


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland Interestingly, Madison in his National Gazette essays not only dealt with internal problems but also addressed questions of foreign policy and the international order. Thinking intensely about the question of the sovereignty of the nation thus prompted him to think about both sovereignty in the internal and external spheres. Due to this characteristic, Madison’s National Gazette articles constitute an advancement to his contributions to the Federalist Papers, and hence represent an important element in the development of an American “democracy.” To illustrate Madison’s interconnected thinking about domestic and foreign affairs in regard to the issue of the sovereignty of the nation, this chapter focuses in particular on one of the National Gazette essays entitled “Universal Peace.” 13 The European counterpart to Madison’s article is the German philosopher Immanuel Kant’s famous essay Perpetual Peace (1795).14 As a comparison of the two works shows, both Madison and Kant came to similar conclusions and proposed similar measures concerning the achievement of an enduring peace. Most important—and in contrast to earlier writings on the subject of perpetual peace—both authors reached their conclusions about a peaceful international order based on a similar set of ideas about the structure and characteristics of society and domestic policy.15 It becomes apparent that Madison’s political principles—his commitment to a republican form of government, equality of all citizens, and rejection of all forms of arbitrary government and hereditary social classes—were also the essential principles of Kant’s political philosophy. Reading these two texts side by side with a focus on how Madison’s and Kant’s thought on the interconnection between domestic government and the international order developed during the age of revolutions can thus help us to understand better Madison’s resistance to Hamilton’s program in the early 1790s as well as the development of the idea of the sovereign democratic nation-state more generally. Last but not least, as there is no evidence that Kant would have known of Madison’s newspaper article, the relative simultaneity and similarity of the two texts serves to emphasize the transatlantic nature of the intellectual transformations under analysis in this book.

A Comparison of Universal Peace and Perpetual Peace Concerning form and style there are great differences between the essays of Immanuel Kant and James Madison. Madison wrote his essay as a short


democrAcy And the Pursuit of PeAce newspaper article, while Kant constructed his much longer essay in the form of a model treaty. But as a short summary of the two works shows, in regard to content there are conspicuous similarities. James Madison’s “Universal Peace” begins with the rejection of a plan, which he identified with Rousseau, for a confederation of monarchies for the double purpose of securing international peace and guaranteeing the constitutions of the respective nations.16 Madison objected to this plan for two reasons. First, he declared that such a project would be impossible, because monarchs feel too many incitements to war. Second, Madison regarded the clause guaranteeing the internal constitution of a state as threatening the perpetuation of exactly that arbitrary power that was the reason for most wars, and in addition would extinguish the possibility of a people defending themselves against a despotic regime. Next, Madison analyzed two classes of wars: wars flowing from the will of the government and wars flowing from the will of society. As a cure for the first he proposed to subjugate the will of the government to the will of the people and make declarations of war dependent on the people’s authority. This would already prevent most wars, as the people who would have to fight and pay for a war would be less inclined to start one. For the second class of wars, although more difficult to prevent than the first, Madison saw the remedy in subjecting the will of the community to the will of reason, and the use of reason for the installation of proper constitutional institutions to counterbalance occasional passions of the people. He explicitly mentioned two laws. First, the prohibition of accumulating a national debt exceeding the resources of the generation fighting a war. Second, a due proportion of the payment for a war must be made in direct taxes to keep the expenditures for war always on the mind of the people. To the objection that the subsequent generations who profit from war should also share its burdens, Madison replied with two arguments. On the one hand, it would be difficult to determine which wars exactly benefit later generations, and to sacrifice those exceptions where it was the case to general laws would be a lesser evil than to accredit exceptions and thereby risk debasing the law. On the other hand, he thought that necessary, defensive wars would never exceed the resources of an entire generation in any case.17 Immanuel Kant constructed his essay in the form of an international treaty with six preliminary articles, three definitive articles, two supplements, and two appendixes in order to indicate what he regarded as central for a perpetual peace: the foundation of a rule of law in international


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland relations. In the preliminary articles, Kant addressed six preconditions to end the state of war between nations. The preliminary articles thus do not themselves eliminate war, but instead establish the foundation for peace in the future. The six preliminary articles read: 1. No treaty of peace that tacitly reserves issues for a future war shall be held valid 2. No independent nation, be it large or small, may be acquired by another nation by inheritance, exchange, purchase, or gift 3. Standing armies (miles perpetuus) shall be gradually abolished 4. No national debt shall be contracted in connection with the foreign affairs of the nation 5. No nation shall forcibly interfere with the constitution and government of another 6. No nation at war with another shall permit such acts of war as shall make mutual trust impossible during some future time of peace: Such acts include the use of Assassins (percussors), Poisoners (venefici), breach of surrender, instigation of treason (perduello) in the opposing nation, etc.18 The three definitive articles form the central part of Kant’s essay, showing how a perpetual peace could be established once the state of war has ended. Essential for Kant’s articles is the assumption that nations, like individuals, are originally in a state of nature, and, following Hobbes, Kant saw this state of nature as a state of war. Thus, as individual persons have to conclude a contract to form a nation and establish the rule of law, so nations have to establish some sort of constitution to escape the natural state of war. The three definitive articles in this regard ascertained the need to establish a “bürgerliche Verfassung” (civil constitution) on three levels of law: constitutional law (regulating relations between individuals in a nation), international law (regulating relations between nations), and concerning cosmopolitan rights (determining the rights of individuals in a foreign nation). To this end Kant proposed: 1. The civil constitution of every nation shall be republican; 2. The law of nations shall be based on a federation of free states; 3. Cosmopolitan right shall be limited to conditions of universal hospitality.19


democrAcy And the Pursuit of PeAce On the first level of law, Kant was concerned with the constitution within individual nations. Kant distinguished two forms of government, despotic and republican. As only the latter conforms to the rule of law, he postulated a republican constitution as a necessity. He assumed furthermore that a republican form of government, due to the participation of its citizens in the political decision-making process, would provide a check on the government’s decisions concerning war and peace, and therefore would be more prone to peace than a despotic form. On the second level, Kant dealt with the same problem as in the first, but now not concerning individuals, but nations. Yet although nations, like individuals, have to found a rule of law to escape the state of war, they cannot do so in the same way, because a society of men as a nation forms a singular moral person that already possesses an internal constitutional state of law, and thus has no need to merge into an overarching nation. For Kant, therefore, “it was no more logical to hope to solve the international problem by the supersession of the nations than it would have been logical to try to end the state of nature by the abolition of individuals.”20 The solution for Kant lay in a federal union of sovereign nations. Federal union, for Kant, however, did not mean a political structure but a voluntary association of nations—which retain their complete independence— based on a treaty and the subsequent rule of law between them. On the third level, Kant’s proposal for a cosmopolitan law completed his conception of an all-encompassing civil constitution. This cosmopolitan law, according to Kant, should be restricted to the right of universal hospitality, the right not to be treated with hostility when arriving in a foreign country. The aim of this cosmopolitan law was to enable peaceful relations, particularly commerce, between individuals of different nations. A preliminary comparison thus already reveals remarkable similarities between Madison’s and Kant’s essays. Both authors saw the unchecked power of a ruler or a ruling body as the reason for most wars. Both also proposed the same remedy: subjugating the will of the government to the will of the people in a republican system. Not only regarding the general interpretation but also in details the two advanced very similar suggestions. For example, Madison’s proposed cure for wars started not by rulers but by the people (prohibiting debts to finance a war) resembled exactly the fourth preliminary article of Kant’s essay. These fundamental similarities are particularly noteworthy when compared to the essential features of earlier peace plans.21 Theological


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland arguments as in Dante’s Monarchia (ca. 1310) or Erasmus’s Querela Pacis (1517) play no role in Madison’s or Kant’s argumentation. Economic interest or utility, the essential feature for Jeremy Bentham just a few years earlier (Plan for an Universal and Perpetual Peace, 1786 / 1789), is mentioned, particularly by Kant, but does not constitute a decisive factor either. Instead, Madison and Kant concentrate on the form of government. This already had been a major factor for French theorists such as Crucé, SaintPierre, and especially Jean-Jacque Rousseau (writing in 1623–24, 1712, and 1756, respectively) as well. But the crucial difference is that these three theorists’ earlier proposals had desired peace as a means to secure a certain type of government. Madison and Kant, however, turned the argument upside down and started by addressing the question of domestic government as the major means to secure international peace. Despite this essential congruence, scholars of history as well as of political science and international relations theory—as far as they have taken notice of Madison’s “Universal Peace” in addition to Kant’s Per­ petual Peace—have placed the two thinkers in opposing “republican” and “liberal” camps.22 This is the more surprising, as the opposition of Kant and Madison is most often based on the premise that Kant was an adherent, if not the founder, of the Democratic Peace Theory—basically, the theory that peace could be achieved by democratizing the world.23 On the other hand, James Madison, as one of the authors of the Federalist Papers, is supposed to have rejected such a theory as utopian. Nowhere in Perpetual Peace, however, did Kant make the statement that peace would automatically ensue if only all nations had republican constitutions. Kant asked if the republican form of government is “the only one that can give rise to perpetual peace,” and answered this in the following way: In addition to the purity of its origin, a purity whose source is the pure concept of law, the republican constitution has also the prospect to the desired outcome, namely, perpetual peace, and the reason for this is as follows: if (as must inevitably be the case, given this form of constitution) the consent of the citizens is required in order to determine whether there should be war or not, nothing is more natural than that those who would have to decide to undergo all the deprivations of war will very much hesitate to start such a wicked game.24


democrAcy And the Pursuit of PeAce Kant argued only that it is more likely that the material interest of citizens in a republic would prevent them from going to war, because “by contrast, under a non-republican constitution, where subjects are not citizens, the easiest thing in the world to do is to declare war, as the ruler is not a fellow citizen, but the state’s owner, . . . suffering not the least losses through war.”25 Due to these characteristics, Kant argued that republics would be more prone to peace than despotic regimes and thus declared a republican constitution a condition for perpetual peace, yet he neither claimed that this would necessarily lead to perpetual peace nor guarantee it.26 In “Universal Peace” Madison, too, analyzed the proclivity of governments to war. He came to the conclusion that whilst war is to depend on those whose ambition, whose revenge, whose avidity, or whose caprice may contradict the sentiment of the community, and yet be uncontrouled by it; whilst war is to be declared by those who are to spend the public money, not by those who are to pay it; by those who are to direct the public forces, not by those who are to support them; by those whose power is to be raised, not by those whose chains may be riveted the disease must continue to be hereditary like the government of which it is the offspring.27 To prevent wars due to “a will in the government independent of the will of the people,” Madison argued that the government “must be made subordinate to, or rather the same with, the will of the community.”28 As models for such a subjection of the government to the people Madison referred to the constitutions of the United States and the French Republic. Madison, however, was well aware that even in a state with a republican constitution that guarantees the people the right to participate in political decision making, peace would not follow automatically because the people themselves would sometimes call for war. In this regard, Madison again was in accord with Kant, whose belief in the fundamental viciousness of human nature was incompatible with the stereotypical image of bellicose princes and peace-loving citizens.29 Yet should all nations adopt the measures he proposed in his article, Madison hoped that a lasting peace could be secured “and the temple of Janus might be shut, never to be opened more.”30 To sum up, neither Kant nor Madison believed that republics,


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland even democratic republics, would never go to war. They assumed only that states with a republican form of government would be less inclined to do so than those ruled by an absolute and arbitrary regime. Thus, regardless how one answers the much discussed question of whether Immanuel Kant was an adherent or “founder” of the Democratic Peace Theory—at least he was so no more or less than James Madison.31 A closer look reveals more interesting analogies. Due to their argument that republics provided an increased, yet not sufficient, prospect for peace, Kant’s and Madison’s attitude toward the possibility of ultimately achieving a perpetual peace displayed a mixture of hope and realistic skepticism. “A universal and perpetual peace, it is to be feared, is in the catalogue of events, which will never exist but in the imagination of visionary philosophers, or in the breasts of benevolent enthusiasts,” wrote Madison; Kant in his Metaphysics called perpetual peace an ultimately “infeasible idea.”32 Yet, for Kant, this did not absolve men from the moral and legal duty to approach that ideal as far as possible: “If it is a duty to make the state of public law actual, though only through an unending process of approximation to it, . . . then perpetual peace is no empty idea, but a task that, gradually completed, steadily approaches its goal.” 33 Madison expressed the same sentiment in a similar manner: “It is still however true, that war contains so much folly, as well as wickedness, that much is to be hoped from the progress of reason; and if anything is to be hoped, every thing ought to be tried.”34 Madison’s reference to hope in the progress of reason as a main factor for the possibility of perpetual peace highlights an important element in Kant’s and Madison’s thought. Kant insisted that morality was not necessary for people to realize that they should leave the state of nature to form a society, but that “the problem of organizing a nation is solvable even for a people comprised of devils (if only they possess reason).”35 The emphasis on reason played an even greater role for both in their ideas how peaceful relations among men could be achieved. Several passages in Perpetual Peace reveal a deeply pessimistic anthropology. Kant writes of an inclination to wage war that “seems to be innate in human nature,” of a “depravity of human nature,” or “an evil principle” within man “which he cannot deny.”36 This pessimistic anthropology made it impossible for Kant to divide people into categories of good and bad. This is why Kant did not believe that only rulers were prone to war or that a republican form of government would automatically lead to peace in internal and external


democrAcy And the Pursuit of PeAce relations.37 Madison entertained a similarly pessimistic view of humanity. In Federalist 51 he observed that “if men were angels, no government would be necessary.”38 Of course, men are not angels, and thus governments are necessary. Both men favored a republican form of government, but they also regarded a republic as the most fragile of all forms of government, “so much so that many contend that a republic must be a nation of angels.”39 If men are not angels, how then is it possible to stabilize a republic? In his first supplement to Perpetual Peace, Kant argued that mechanisms of nature discernible by reason would support a republican government because the same self-seeking inclinations that threaten a republic can—if the constitution and the political system of the state are well constructed—also stabilize it. “It is merely by organizing the nation well (which is certainly within man’s capacities) that they are able to direct their power against one another, and the one inclination is able to check or cancel the destructive tendencies of the other.”40 Madison could not have said it better in Feder­ alist 10 and 51, only more succinctly: “Ambition must be made to counteract ambition.”41 The closeness of their positions demonstrates that both Kant and Madison held a very similar view concerning human nature and of how this nature expresses itself in the conduct of men in society. It demonstrates as well the conviction of both that reason, even apart from morality, enables humans to discern mechanisms in nature so that proper constitutional devices can be established that will result in men acting as good citizens in a republic, despite the depravity innate in human nature and without relying on the utopian assumption that all citizens have to behave like angels and sacrifice their personal interests. Of all the appropriate constitutional devices that Madison and Kant had in mind, they regarded a system of representation as the most significant. In both Madison’s and Kant’s conception, representation would serve two purposes. On the one side, it would assure the participation of citizens in political decision making on an equal basis. Representation could thus provide a check on rulers in case they should want to go to war arbitrarily. But representation, they thought, would also serve as a barrier against the passion of the people. They assumed that the election of representatives would ensure that they were among the most responsible and rational citizens and hence somewhat removed from the emotions of their constituents.42 The principle of representation thus helps explain why Madison and Kant—in contrast to Rousseau, whose concept of the general


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland will lacked the safeguard of a representational system—did not totally despair when it came to the prospect of accomplishing perpetual peace. This safeguard within a republican form of government enabled Madison and Kant to reverse the way in which earlier writers, including Rousseau, had approached the issue of peace. Instead of a means for a domestic end, peace in Madison’s and Kant’s writings for the first time became an end in itself, thus yet again demonstrating the closeness of their positions and setting them apart from previous peace projects. There certainly are differences between Madison’s and Kant’s works. As a politician, Madison was much more concerned with concrete circumstances, whereas Kant, as a philosopher, dealt primarily with general theories. Yet all the similarities in the thought, works, and proposals of Madison and Kant make it difficult to place them in opposing “republican” and “liberal” theoretical camps. If, however, one takes Madison’s and Kant’s writings out of the discourse of a republican, liberal, or other tradition and instead focuses on the questions of how and why these two men arrived independently at similar conclusions on the same topic at almost the same time, two considerations stand out: first, the common historical context defined by the French Revolution in which they wrote; and, second, the intimate connection between peace and a domestic form of government based on the principle of the sovereignty of the nation that both Madison and Kant highlighted.

James Madison and the Sovereignty of the American Nation At first glance, James Madison’s essay “Universal Peace” seems a bit odd. In his previous writings, such as his contributions to the Federalist Pa­ pers, Madison had not paid much attention to general questions of peace and international policy.43 Among the eighteen essays Madison wrote for the National Gazette from November 1791 to December 1792, “Universal Peace,” too, is the only article dealing specifically with the international system. Keeping in mind the two points on the French revolutionary context and the link between domestic and international society mentioned above, however, can provide an answer to the question why Madison in February 1792 suddenly felt compelled to address matters of peace and international relations. For one, rising tensions in Europe that would erupt in the French Revolutionary Wars only two months later afforded some reason to ponder the issue of war and peace in general. Second, and more


democrAcy And the Pursuit of PeAce important, many Americans by 1792 increasingly disagreed in their interpretation and assessment of the French Revolution, leading to heated debates about its nature, worth, and relation to the American Revolution and the American republican experiment in general. This in turn prompted some Americans to think through and articulate anew their republican theory in response to the specific challenges posed by the French Revolution, not the least of which was the place and role of republics in general— and the American republic in particular—within the international order. This development is represented by Madison’s essay series in the Na­ tional Gazette in general as well as by the progressively partisan and ideologically charged character of the individual articles.44 The purpose of the articles as a whole was to articulate the dissenting views of a group of politicians around Madison and his friend Thomas Jefferson concerning the administrative programs of Alexander Hamilton. In many of the early articles in the National Gazette, Madison strove to present his ideas on how a republican government ought to operate in a detached and scholarly fashion. In contrast, in the later articles, particularly in the last three, Madison in an increasingly partisan and polemical tone attacked his opponents directly and accused them of undermining the revolutionary, republican experiment in America by violating its central principle of popular sovereignty, and by favoring the inegalitarian, “monarchical,” and “aristocratic” ideas of the European counterrevolutionary monarchies instead. For Madison, what was at stake in the evolving contest between him and the Republican Party, on the one side, and Hamilton and the Federalists, on the other, was ultimately nothing less than what “sovereignty” meant for a nation in a republic. Thinking about popular sovereignty in all its meanings, in turn, prompted Madison to analyze in his National Ga­ zette articles not only its domestic but also its international implications— hence his discussion of peace in relation to nations whose governments were based on the popular will in “Universal Peace.” The National Gazette essays can thus be read as a Madisonian theory of popular sovereignty, and as such constitute an important element in the conceptualization of a modern form of “democracy” in America. Since it was the growing antagonism between Madison and Hamilton in the early 1790s that led Madison to advance his political theory, it is worthwhile to take a closer look at the development of their enmity before proceeding with an analysis of Madison’s conception of the sovereignty of the nation in the National Gazette essays.


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland Madison and Hamilton had collaborated at various times during the 1780s, during the Constitutional Convention, and as coauthors of the Fed­ eralist Papers. Hamilton and most political observers at the time therefore assumed that this collaboration rested on a fundamental correspondence of their political principles, and expected that Madison would continue to support Hamilton’s policies as secretary of the treasury in Washington’s first cabinet. Yet when Hamilton introduced his First Report on the Public Credit in January 1790 and advocated the funding of the entire public debt under the administration of the national government, Madison objected. In this instance, Madison and Hamilton found a way to settle their differences through a famous compromise, by the terms of which Madison approved Hamilton’s plan for the assumption of state debts and Hamilton lent his support for a national capital on the Potomac. In December 1790, Hamilton presented his plan for a national bank, and in fall 1791 he delivered his “Report on Manufactures.” Madison, as well as Jefferson, again vehemently opposed these central parts of Hamilton’s program, and this time no compromise could be found.45 By late 1791, it had thus become obvious that a friction existed between the leading men in the nation’s government. Hamilton accepted that Jefferson opposed him, but in the light of their earlier collaboration he felt betrayed by Madison. He could not understand why Madison, “whose politics had formerly so much the same point of departure,” now obstructed his efforts to create a viable national government.46 Historians since then have been equally puzzled by what appeared to them as a sudden change in Madison’s principles and consequently constructed a “James Madison Problem”: how to reconcile the Madison of the 1780s, the advocate of a strong national government and coauthor of the Federalist Papers, with the Madison of the 1790s, the leader of the opposition party and author of the Virginia Resolutions of 1798.47 Some historians followed Hamilton’s conclusion that Madison had changed his position and charged him with inconsistency in regard to his political principles.48 This interpretation, however, rests on the assumption that Madison and Hamilton did indeed have “the same point of departure.” In reality, they did not. While both men’s thinking during the 1780s centered on the relationship between domestic and foreign policy, their respective emphases differed. Hamilton’s ideas were determined by a primacy of foreign policy.49 For him, the greatest threat to the young United States came from stronger and more powerful European countries, which


democrAcy And the Pursuit of PeAce he expected would sooner or later turn on the United States. The only remedy for this threat in his eyes was to make the United States strong enough in regard to its economic, political, financial, and military capabilities to impress European powers and gain for the young nation an equal footing with them. This he regarded as the only way to save the Union because, as he argued in the Constitutional Convention: “No Governmt. could give us tranquility & happiness at home, which did not possess sufficient stability and strength to make us respectable abroad.”50 The ultimate goal for Hamilton since the 1780s, therefore, was to emulate the kind of state-building that had taken place in Europe since the seventeenth century, and to create in the United States a fiscal-military state capable of competing with its European archetypes.51 This, however, was never Madison’s goal. In a statement that he made in the Virginia Ratifying Convention, Madison illustrated the subtle yet decisive difference between his and Hamilton’s approaches: “if we be free and happy at home we shall be respectable abroad.”52 In contrast to Hamilton, Madison’s thinking about foreign relations proceeded from his focus on the domestic sphere. This does not mean that Madison was not concerned about foreign relations. Indeed, during the 1780s he focused on the need to equip the national government with the necessary powers to cope with external as well as internal threats to the Union.53 Yet Madison intended those powers only for an actual emergency and not as the basis to build up a fiscal-military state whose government would be capable of pursuing an active and energetic policy akin to those of the European powers. The prime goal for Madison was to create a national government capable of producing that “free and happy” situation at home that would render the United States “respectable abroad.” Madison sought to construct a government that would be able to guarantee “private rights . . . and at the same time to preserve the spirit and the form of popular government,” because this for him was the “great desideratum” of republican government.54 This statement contains the quintessential challenge for Madison: to make compatible what he regarded as the fundamental achievements of the American Revolution: private rights and the right of the majority to rule. In 1787, therefore, Madison did not want to curb “democracy,” but saw that the basic achievements of the Revolution were endangered by external and internal threats. To solve the problem, he sought to establish a national government capable of saving the Union while at the same time preserving the rule of the majority in the single states and acting as a


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland “disinterested & dispassionate umpire” when majorities in the states violated private rights.55 In short, Madison and Hamilton had different goals in mind even during their collaboration in the 1780s. Hamilton’s belief that they had “the same point of departure” rests therefore on a false premise. Thus, when Madison in 1790–91 opposed Hamilton’s proposals, he by no means had changed his mind or acted inconsistently with his principles. The development of the relationship between Madison and Hamilton from the late 1780s into the 1790s—the apparent accord during the 1780s and the disclosure of their differing positions in the early 1790s—is of prime importance because it epitomizes the crucial change in the American political landscape from Federalists and Anti-Federalists to “aristocratic” Federalists and “democratic” Republicans in the perception of contemporary Americans. This change did not occur until political issues in America became polarized and ideologically loaded under the impression of the revolutionary events in France. The fundamental differences in Madison’s and Hamilton’s political philosophies, which resulted in the affiliation of the former with the “democrats” and the latter with the “aristocrats” during the struggles of the 1790s, nevertheless already existed in the late 1780s. The differing meanings that the two men attached to terms such as “democracy” and “republic” exemplify this difference. Federalist No. 10 provides the best example for Madison’s use of these terms. There he defines “a pure democracy, by which I mean a Society, consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the Government in person.” In contrast to democracy, he describes “a Republic, by which I mean a Government in which the scheme of representation takes place.”56 If one takes into account Madison’s insistence on popular sovereignty, on private rights, and on majority rule in addition to these definitions, then it becomes obvious that Madison in the 1780s used “republic” to describe what we nowadays define as a representative democracy. When Madison wrote of “democracy,” on the other hand, he still employed its literal meaning. For Madison in the 1780s, “democracy” thus had not yet acquired the connotation it would during the following decades as a comprehensive social and political concept. That the same was true not only for Madison but also for other contemporaries is indicated by the way many AntiFederalists criticized the proposed constitution. Often they attacked the document as aristocratic in nature, yet “the last thing in the world they wanted was a national democracy,” because they too still used “democracy” in the classical, literal sense—direct governance by the people—


democrAcy And the Pursuit of PeAce without any broader connotation.57 Therefore, Madison and many of his followers, as well as a large part of the Anti-Federalists opposing him, did not perceive the struggle over the Constitution in 1787–88 as a struggle between aristocracy and democracy.58 Hamilton developed a different understanding of the nature of the conflict and accordingly used the terms “democracy” and “republic” in a decisively different way. In his speech of June 18, 1787, in the secrecy of the Constitutional Convention, Hamilton presented his idea of a wellconstructed republic: an assembly elected triennially, a senate of members elected for life, and a supreme executive also elected for life.59 Concerning the terms “democracy,” “aristocracy,” and “monarchy,” Hamilton in his notes for a speech in the New York Ratifying Convention elaborated the following definition: Democracy in my sense, where the whole power of the government in the people 1. Whether exercised by themselves, or 2. By their representatives chosen by them either mediately or immediately and legally accountable to them. Aristocracy where whole sovereignty is permanently in the hands of a few for life or hereditary Monarchy where the whole sovereignty is in the hands of one man for life or hereditary. Mixed government when these three principles unite.60 Hamilton’s proposal from the Constitutional Convention for the construction of a republic compared with his definitions demonstrates that he, at least in his private opinion, advocated a mixed form of government: the triennially elected assembly representing the democratic, the senate elected for life the aristocratic, and the president with life tenure the monarchical part. The Constitution of 1787 did not fulfill Hamilton’s criteria for a mixed government. Concerning the Federal Constitution, he reached the conclusion that the proposed government is “a representative democracy.”61 Hamilton, however, scorned the kind of democratic republic that the Constitution of 1787 had established, because he thought it could not provide for a vigorous government capable of creating a fiscalmilitary state.62 Thus, when Hamilton and Madison were talking about their ideal


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland “republic,” they meant different things. By “republic,” Madison understood what Hamilton already in the 1770s and 1780s had recognized as a representative democracy. Conversely, when Hamilton talked about a “republic,” he meant what Madison regarded as a mixed government with dangerously strong aristocratic and monarchical elements. In analyzing the system of representative democracy in distinction to the more aristocratic and monarchical mixed government he termed “republican” as early as the late 1770s, Hamilton anticipated by fifteen to twenty years the general shift in terminology in the conceptual fluidity following the revolutionary upheavals of the 1790s.63 Due to their use of the same terms for differing systems in the 1780s, the depth of their differences was not yet apparent either to Madison or to Hamilton. Moreover, in 1787 the strengthening of the national government appeared on the surface to be the solution to both men’s objects, making understandable the close cooperation in 1787–88. However, both men in the Constitutional Convention did not get exactly what they wanted. Madison did not succeed with his proposal of a national veto to enable the national government to serve as an umpire among the states, nor did Hamilton achieve a strong mixed government. Hamilton was well aware of this fact, arguing that the federal government consisted of a “dem­ ocratic executive, a democratic legislature, and a democratic judiciary.”64 Both, therefore, were disappointed with the results of Philadelphia, but both also thought that the Constitution was the best they could get at the moment. Moreover, they hoped to be able to set the new government on a course compatible with their respective goals. As a result, Madison in 1790–91 objected to Hamilton’s measures to further consolidate the national government, because he realized that the latter’s policy aimed at the creation of a strong federal government modeled after European fiscal-military states, which would lead to a strong military and tax burdens for the people and therefore contradicted his own vision of a national government that would secure a “free and happy” situation at home. In sum, neither of the two men changed the goal of his policy after 1788. It was only then that their different goals became apparent. The bewilderment about the divergence of their politics, therefore, can be attributed to the mutual misinterpretation of Madison and Hamilton of the other’s real concerns. As the example of the compromise of 1790 demonstrates, these differences might still be overcome as long as both regarded their differences pragmatically as minor differences within a common paradigm and not


democrAcy And the Pursuit of PeAce ideologically as expressions of mutually exclusive, antagonistic social and political systems. Yet by the time Madison published “Universal Peace” in early 1792, exactly this situation had occurred. The catalyst for this development had been the French Revolution. The French Revolution caused a rupture between Madison and Hamilton because it brought to the fore the different social and political conceptions they attached to the term “republic.” From the outset Madison and Jefferson greeted the French Revolution with enthusiasm, and Madison in particular regarded it as an extension of the American Revolution.65 Hamilton, on the contrary, loathed the French Revolution, favored a close connection with Britain to foster his vision of a fiscal-military state, and accused Madison and Jefferson of a “womanish attachment to France and a womanish resentment against Great Britain.”66 The ideological differences characterizing the revolutionary events in France thus became linked to internal American matters. When Great Britain became closely associated with the aristocratic counterrevolutionary forces, beginning in 1791–92, Hamilton’s earlier statements in favor of Great Britain, and the role of aristocratic and monarchical elements in a mixed government, attained a new significance. It was during this time that Madison realized the full dimension of the difference between his and Hamilton’s definition of “republic.” Madison then reinterpreted this difference in the context of the ideological polarization of positions between revolution and counterrevolution. As a result, at the latest from early 1792 on, Madison regarded Hamilton’s policy as a “high road to monarchy” and accordingly considered Hamilton as a dangerous “aristocratic” counterrevolutionary within the framework supplied by the revolutionary movement.67 Hamilton, on the other hand, likewise reinterpreted Madison’s positions in light of events in Europe and regarded them as a revolutionary democratic threat. It was in this way that Madison’s political and social ideals became interpreted as “democratic” by contemporaries. The French Revolution, therefore, highlighted already existing differences in the United States, linked them to the revolutionary struggle in Europe, and transformed them in the perception of contemporaries into a part of a more general, international contest between revolution and counterrevolution. Essentially, the struggle centered on the respective roles of elites and common people in society and politics. In Europe, revolutionary forces usually focused their criticism on hereditary government. In the United States, hereditary elements did not exist in the political system,


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland and virtually everybody agreed that the people were the real sovereign in the young republic. Critics of the emerging Federalist persuasion nevertheless charged that Hamilton and his followers, just like the “aristocrats” in Europe, endorsed the idea of society as a hierarchical order in which an elite—whether hereditary or “natural”—dominated and directed society and politics. In contrast, Madison and similar-minded Americans developed in the 1790s a more egalitarian conception of society in which the “people” (or “nation”) expressed their sovereignty not only on Election Day. Thus, as in Europe, participants in America also increasingly perceived this struggle ideologically as a contest between two comprehensive and mutually exclusive visions of society, and the bone of contention was the meaning of popular sovereignty. Madison’s National Gazette articles were some of the emerging Republican opposition’s major theoretical pieces in this contest. Unsurprisingly, “popular sovereignty” constituted the leitmotiv of these essays.68 In one of the articles entitled “Charters,” from January 18, 1792, Madison concisely expressed his convictions concerning the basis of all authority in the United States. “In Europe,” he asserted, “charters of liberty have been granted by power.” In America, in contrast, “charters of power” were “granted by liberty.” Sovereignty therefore rested in the whole body of free citizens who, as the “only earthly source of authority,” delegated specific governmental powers to various agents as specified in explicit “charters” (in the meaning of “constitutions”). All powers not expressly granted to government remained in the depository of the nation. Popularly sanctified constitutions, in Madison’s view, were thus the most important and codified embodiment of popular sovereignty.69 To many Americans, Madison continued, this doctrine may appear as a matter of course, but it actually constituted a very recent “revolution in the practice of the world,” and the United States and revolutionary France were still the only nations organized on that premise. Madison hoped and even expected that in time other countries would follow America’s example, eventually ushering in the world’s “most triumphant epoch of its history.” Yet the upheavals accompanying the French Revolution made clear that the implementation of self-government in France was all but assured. The repercussions of that revolution in America, moreover, reminded Madison that even in America, republican government was still an “experiment,” and the Americans’ “merit” would “be estimated by its success.”70


democrAcy And the Pursuit of PeAce To ensure the survival of the republican experiment in the United States, Madison enjoined his fellow citizens to carefully guard the efficacy of their constitutional charters as the expression of the sovereignty of the nation. Since all authority not specifically attributed to a branch of government by the Constitution was held in reserve by the nation, Madison thought it particularly urgent to keep “every portion of power within its proper limits” in order to preserve the constitutionally imposed separation of powers, and to prevent the encroachment of either the executive, the legislative, or the judiciary upon each other’s rights. Respect for and attention to the sovereignty of the nation thus mandated for Madison a strict interpretation of the Federal Constitution.71 Observance of constitutional mandates gained an almost religious importance for him, and he accordingly exhorted his readers to watch over the sanctity of their “constitutional charters . . . with a holy zeal” and to prevent “partizans . . . from every attempt to add or diminish from them,” so to thwart any “antirepublican contrivances.”72 As in all of the National Gazette articles, Madison in “Charters” did not mention Hamilton and his associates by name as those “partizans” who wanted to “add or diminish” the nation’s Constitution. Yet Hamilton’s various proposals were very much on Madison’s mind when he wrote his articles. A central piece of Hamilton’s economic program was the founding of a national bank. Madison was well aware that the institution of a national bank was vital for the implementation of Hamilton’s funding scheme, and he did not have serious objections against such a bank on economic grounds.73 The problem, in his opinion, was that the Federal Constitution had not endowed the government with the explicit authority to charter such a bank. Hamilton justified his proposal by pointing to the Necessary and Proper Clause of the Constitution and argued that as funding the national debt was necessary, so the central government had the proper authority to establish a bank as an indispensable means to do so. Madison, in contrast, vehemently objected to such a loose interpretation of the Constitution because it threatened the usurpation of powers by the central government that the nation had reserved for itself. If permitted to happen, Madison argued in “Consolidation,” such an incident could serve as a precedent for further enlargement of government’s powers and would ultimately enable the central government to pursue a “self directed course” independent from the will of the people, thus jeopardizing the principle of popular sovereignty.74


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland Hamilton’s other proposals on funding the national debt and his Re­ port on Manufactures confirmed Madison’s fear that the republican experiment in America was in danger.75 Madison criticized Hamilton’s funding scheme as an invitation to the wealthy, and even members of Congress, to participate in speculation in government bonds with the goal of binding them to the interest of the central government. Government encouragement of manufacturing would have the same result, with the additional problem that government would unconstitutionally support one branch of the economy at the expense of others, such as agriculture. The result of Hamilton’s policy of favoring the wealthy, Madison expected, would be an increasing economic dependency of common people. Economic dependence, however, was intimately linked to political dependence, as Madison illustrated in his essays titled “Fashion” and “Republican Distribution of Citizens.”76 In the end, Madison suspected, Hamilton’s policy aimed at the imitation of the British economic and political system. In his article “Spirit of Governments,” from February 18, 1792, Madison attacked such a system in words that mirrored his criticism of Hamilton’s program. For example, he asserted that this form of government operated by “corrupt influence,” substituted “the motive of private interest in place of public duty,” and accommodated “its measures to the avidity of a part of the nation instead of the benefit of the whole.” Through these and similar means such as “bounties to favorites, or bribes to opponents,” government strove to enlist “an army of interested partizans” who served to “support a real domination of the few” over the many.77 In other words, Madison feared that Hamilton intended to strengthen the powers of government by creating—and tying to the central government—a British-style “aristocratic” elite that held common people in economic and political dependence, thus re-creating the inegalitarian class structure of Europe in America and undermining the republican principle of equality. Besides Hamilton’s administration, Madison also took aim at those Americans who seemed to admire Britain’s structure of socio-constitutional orders. As the most significant of these advocates of the British system Madison identified none other than the vice president, John Adams. Adams from 1787 to 1791 had published his Defence of the Constitutions of Gov­ ernment of the United States of America and Discourses on Davila in which he discussed the role of elites in a polity.78 Although Madison in 1787 observed that Adams’s work contained some elements “which are unfriendly


democrAcy And the Pursuit of PeAce to republicanism,” his initial response was a mixed one, and he conceded that “the book also has merit.”79 After the impact of the French Revolution had endowed the questions of the nature and role of “aristocracy” with a new urgency and significance, however, Madison criticized Adams’s work more harshly, calling the Defence a “mock defence” with the secret purpose of attacking the republican constitutions of the United States “with all the force he possessed.”80 In a similar vein, Madison in several of the National Gazette essays criticized those Americans who sought to create a constitutional equilibrium by “establishing kings, and nobles, and plebeians.”81 Neither Hamilton nor Adams had any concrete designs to actually implement a British system with king, lords, and commons in America. Yet under the impression of the radicalizing situation in Europe where both revolutionary and counterrevolutionary forces were preparing for war, even a cautious and reserved politician such as Madison gained the impression that in the United States, too, a counterrevolutionary party was forming that threatened to undo the achievements of the American Revolution. As on the American political scene in general, so in Madison’s particular case, this tendency was exacerbated by the outbreak of the French Revolutionary Wars in April 1792. Accordingly, the character of Madison’s last three essays of the National Gazette series, published from late March to December 1792, changed as well. Instead of dealing with a specific policy issue or element of republican government, Madison used these three essays for a general polemical assault on those Americans who “contrary to the will and subversive of the authority of the people” attempted to “pervert the limited government of the Union, into a government of unlimited discretion.”82 Especially with his last three National Gazette essays, Madison thus both represented and contributed to the formation of two irreconcilable factions in America, one side of which, just like the revolutionaries in Europe, believed that they were locked in a transnational struggle against the champions of hierarchy and an inegalitarian social order. In “A Candid State of Parties” and “Who Are the Best Keepers of the People’s Liberties?” Madison got to the heart of the matter and ascertained that the country at present was divided into two great “divisions.” What ultimately divided these two sides was not differences about specific policies but the fundamental question of what popular sovereignty meant in a republic. On the one side, Madison argued, was the “antirepublican party.” The unifying belief of its adherents was the “persuasion that mankind are incapable of governing themselves.” Since they regarded the people as


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland “stupid, suspicious,” and “licentious,” they favored the strengthening of government “by the pageantry of rank, the influence of money, . . . and the terror of military force.” According to Madison, then, popular sovereignty for the “antirepublican party” meant simply that the people should elect their government and otherwise “think of nothing but obedience,” leaving the affairs of state passively and submissively to their “wiser rulers.”83 In opposition to this “antirepublican party,” Madison averred, stood the “Republican party.” Its followers were united by “believing in the doctrine that mankind are capable of governing themselves.” In contrast to their opponents, the Republicans’ answer to the question “Who Are the Best Keepers of the People’s Liberties?” was not government, but “the people themselves.” In order for the people to be able to guard their liberties, Republicans demanded that the people should not just elect their officials and then defer to the judgment of their superiors, but “should watch over it, as well as obey it.” Only through an active citizenry that watched over the actions of government and participated in the political decision making process by contributing to the formation of public opinion, Madison thought, could the republican principle of popular sovereignty live up to its name.84 The emerging opposition between Republicans and Federalists thus prompted Madison to rethink and refine his ideas about popular sovereignty. In this renewed effort to expound the basis of a republican regime, however, Madison did not stop with exploring the implications and consequences of popular sovereignty for the domestic sphere of the United States. In fact, unlike in the Federalist Papers, the questions of the domestic sovereignty of the American nation and its sovereignty on the international level were intimately linked in his mind when writing the Na­ tional Gazette articles. For example, concerning the crucial issue of foreign relations—the question of war and peace—Madison in “Universal Peace” insisted that the will of the government “must be made subordinate to . . . the will of the community.”85 He thus argued that even in a republican country, government is not free to pursue a self-directed course in foreign policy over the heads of a passive people, but must heed the will of its sovereign, a nation of watchful, educated, and politically active citizens. A second major concern for Madison that applied to the external as well as to the internal sphere was the problem of economic imbalances. When deploring the economic dependence of workers in his article “Fashion” (March 20, 1792), Madison was quick to point out that the problems


democrAcy And the Pursuit of PeAce that such an economic dependence posed were “a lesson to nations as well as to individuals.”86 Just as the political independence of individuals and common people in general was imperiled by an economic dependence on a wealthy few, so Madison warned that the independence of the nation as a whole was threatened if the United States could not achieve economic independence. Madison in particular feared that the result of Hamilton’s commercial policy of favoring Great Britain would mirror the consequences of Hamilton’s domestic policy: a quasi-colonial dependence of American commerce and industry on the former mother country would similarly compromise the sovereignty of the American nation on the international stage as a British-style class system would undermine the sovereignty of the people at home. In the National Gazette articles Madison articulated these threats to the sovereignty of the American nation hypothetically, as likely or at least potential future outcomes or implications of Hamilton’s and the Federalists’ program. The subsequent events during the 1790s, especially Washington’s Neutrality Proclamation of 1793 and the Jay Treaty of 1795, proved to Madison that his predictions had been correct. Writing as “Helvidius,” Madison in five articles written in August and September 1793 criticized Hamilton’s—writing under the pseudonym “Pacificus”—interpretation of the Neutrality Proclamation as an attack on the constitutionally prescribed separation of powers. He argued that Hamilton out “of his animosity to France” and its revolutionary government sought to support its counterrevolutionary opponent Great Britain, and that Hamilton intended to use this crisis to enlarge the powers of the executive regarding the authority to declare war and make treaties at the expense of the legislature. In this way, Madison charged, Hamilton intended to make the executive independent of the will of the people—in opposition to what Madison had demanded in “Universal Peace”—and thus draw the nature of the U.S. government closer to his preferred British system. The Jay Treaty, in turn, left no doubt for Madison that to achieve his goals Hamilton was indeed prepared to sacrifice the economic equality of the United States and accept a subservient position that called into question the independence and sovereignty of the young nation.87 Events such as the Neutrality Proclamation of 1793, the Jay Treaty, and the Quasi War of 1798–1800, all of which were closely linked to developments in revolutionary Europe, not only confirmed Madison’s suspicions about Hamilton’s program but also solidified the division of the American


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland public in general into “democratic” Francophile Republicans and “aristocratic” Anglophile Federalists that Madison had described in its infancy in “A Candid State of Parties.” The fact that the social and political gap between “democrats” and “aristocrats” in the United States was far smaller than in Europe does not mean that it was a mere “shadow-boxing; it was, as in Europe, a contest between different views on right and justice, . . . and on the direction in which the world in general, and the new United States in particular, ought to move.”88 Madison, Jefferson, and their Republican followers, as well as their Federalist counterparts, believed sincerely that the fate of their country would depend on the outcome of this seminal struggle.89 In the United States, this contest culminated in the election of Jefferson to the presidency in 1800. That his victory quickly became called the “Revolution of 1800” indicates that the Republicans around Madison and Jefferson did not conceive this election as one among many, but as the determinative victory over the aristocratic pretensions of Federalists associated with the European counterrevolutionary forces. This lay still in the future in 1792 when Madison wrote “Universal Peace.” But the realignment in the United States from Federalists and Anti-Federalists into “aristocrats” and “democrats,” as the factions themselves often called their respective opponents, was already well under way. It was the conceptual link by Americans between their internal struggles and the revolutionary developments in Europe that led to this realignment. Through this realignment, in turn, Americans also consciously participated in a “democratic revolution.” Finally, this emerging opposition between revolution and counterrevolution led James Madison to rethink and articulate more precisely his ideas about the sovereignty of the nation in a domestic as well as an international context, thus contributing to the development of a democratic concept for the American nation.

Immanuel Kant and the Sovereign Nation as the Cornerstone of Perpetual Peace On a more general, philosophical level, the events and developments relating to the French Revolution also caused Immanuel Kant to rethink what sovereignty meant for a nation both in regard to its internal constitution and its international relations, and, as a result, to develop further his thoughts on “democracy” and perpetual peace. Kant wrote his essay Perpetual Peace in 1795—thus only three years after Madison’s “Universal


democrAcy And the Pursuit of PeAce Peace”—amid the turmoil of the Revolutionary Wars in Europe. Some scholars argue that the separate peace treaty of Basel of April 1795 between the French Republic and Prussia constituted the catalyst for Kant to write the essay.90 But although it is difficult to identify a specific cause for Kant’s decision to write Perpetual Peace, the revolutionary contests of the late eighteenth century clearly represent its historical background. Kant’s reaction to the French Revolution itself was ambiguous. On the one hand, he enthusiastically celebrated its outbreak and over the course of the following years defended its principles publicly even in the face of mounting pressure and censorship from the Prussian government. After the start of the Revolutionary Wars in 1792 and the Reign of Terror in France in 1794, however, Kant also condemned both the ideological justification for wars of aggression by the Girondists and the radicalism of the Jacobins.91 Kant’s attitude of embracing the democratic principles of the revolutionary period as well as expressing concerns about radical tendencies conflicting with his ideas of law and peace reflects this historical context throughout Perpetual Peace. For example, in the fifth preliminary article Kant demanded that no nation shall interfere with force in the internal matters of another nation.92 According to this article, the claim of a right of intervention as the monarchical sovereigns of Europe expressed it in the Declaration of Pillnitz of August 1791, in which Austria and Prussia demanded the restitution of prerevolutionary conditions and threatened France with an armed intervention, had no legal substance.93 Kant, therefore, defended the right of the French people to give themselves a republican constitution and repudiated the notion of antirevolutionary rulers that the treatment of the French king gave other monarchs the right to intervene in internal French affairs. Such an argument was elaborated at the time by Friedrich von Gentz, a former student of Kant’s who later became a counterrevolutionary critic of the French Revolution and also wrote an essay on perpetual peace in which he attacked Kant’s theories.94 But although Kant endorsed the principles of the French Revolution, he did not concede French revolutionaries the rights that he refused the European monarchs. With the fifth preliminary article, Kant also rejected the pretensions of the Girondists that they were entitled to forcefully spread the revolution and its principles to other nations. Thereby, in the historical context of the French Revolutionary Wars, Kant disclaimed the possibility of a just war, emphasized again the exclusive validity of the law, and condemned ideological motives and justifications for war.95


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland Kant’s positions on universal human rights and the rights of peoples to form nations in the second and third preliminary articles demonstrate his rejection of arbitrary and absolutist rule, and have to be seen in the context of the repeated wars of succession during the eighteenth century and the Polish Partitions, of which the second and third occurred in 1792 and 1795, respectively.96 By prohibiting the acquisition of another nation by inheritance, exchange, or purchase, or as a gift, Kant acknowledged the status of the people of each state as the constitutive power of the community, or “nation.” A nation, in turn, then constituted a moral person on the second level of law with all the rights an individual possessed on the first level.97 Kant regarded this right of each people to form a nation by contract—in the tradition of Hobbes and Rousseau—as essential, concluding that “a hereditary empire is not a nation that can be inherited by another nation; only the right to rule it can be inherited by another physical person. Consequently, the nation acquires a ruler, but the ruler as such does not acquire the nation.”98 Kant’s argument concerning the priority of the rights of the people constituting a nation and the rights of rulers inheriting a state indicates the radical nature of his ideas, because this constituted a complete reversal of the eighteenth-century theory of sovereignty, which regarded the ruler as the center of the relationship between the sovereign and the population of his different dominions. The second article thus leaves no doubt that Kant disapproved of the Polish Partitions on legal and moral grounds, and reveals his hostility toward absolutist power politics in both the domestic and international spheres. The second article furthermore contains a prohibition against hiring out troops to another state. Kant justified this with the same logic he applied to state succession. By hiring out troops against their will, rulers treated these soldiers as mere objects and denied their existence as moral persons. In condemning standing armies, Kant argued in his third article that an arms race greatly enhances the danger of an outbreak of war. Equally important, he objected to the use of men as tools in the hand of another by paying them to kill or be killed, a use that Kant regarded as “inconsistent with the rights of humanity.”99 Instead of standing armies he advocated a volunteer militia for purely defensive purposes, which indicates his firm commitment to the right of self-determination of the individual and his rejection of the treatment of soldiers as second-class human beings. Kant’s prohibitions in the preliminary articles of features symptomatic


democrAcy And the Pursuit of PeAce of arbitrary and absolutist rule hint at his “democratic” convictions in an indirect, negative way. In the first definitive article, in contrast, Kant took up the question of a good constitution directly, and this article thus illustrates his adherence to democratic principles in a more direct and positive way. Kant established three criteria for a truly republican constitution: first, the freedom of the members of a society; second, the dependence of everyone on a single, common source of legislation; and third, the law of equality of all as citizens.100 The first principle Kant described as rights that are “innate, necessarily belonging to humanity and inalienable.” 101 This constituted an unequivocal affirmation of the validity of certain inalienable human rights and thus denied the power of rulers to grant or revoke such rights at their pleasure; in short, Kant refuted every pretense for arbitrary rule. The conclusion of the second principle is that everybody in a nation—including the ruler—must be subject to the same legislation. All rulers, even hereditary kings, are therefore fellow citizens of a nation, not proprietors of their states. The third principle, finally, established the legal equality of citizens and was the most radical of the three principles because it called for the abolition of all special rights for social orders and thus for the termination of the traditional concept of a hierarchically structured society comprised of corporate bodies. Kant explicitly called for the abolition of all hereditary privileges of the nobility and demanded the separation of social rank and functional role, thus rejecting the perpetual rule of exclusive, aristocratic elites. Instead, he demanded that all authority should be attached solely to the office, which should be assigned according to merit, and not to a person, because “a nobleman is not, by virtue of the fact alone, a noble man.”102 Implicit in the first definitive article of Perpetual Peace are three additional principles for a republican government: the separation of powers, the principle of representation, and the right of citizens to political participation.103 Taken together, the six principles enumerated by Kant reveal his political philosophy. His ideal society consisted of free and equal citizens whose basic human rights were guaranteed and who as a whole constituted the sovereign. The political system of this ideal republic featured a distinct executive, the head and members of which were chosen by merit and subject to the same laws as all other citizens, and a common legislative branch in which all citizens through their representatives participated. In other words, Kant proposed a representative democratic republic very similar in nature to Madison’s ideal constitution.


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland Following the definition of the principles of republican government in the first definitive article, Kant assigned great importance to the distinction between a “republic” and a “democracy.” He proposed a dualistic system to classify forms of government, arguing that governments can be examined according to the number of persons involved in the government (the rule of one, some, or all; meaning monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy) and the legal quality of government (republican or despotic). Kant went on to explain that the republican quality is not bound to any particular form of government, so a monarchy can have a republican quality. Explicitly, however, he asserted that a “democracy . . . is necessarily a despotism,” because under a rule of all there can be no separation of powers and therefore one of Kant’s indispensable principles of a republican government would be violated, making a republican quality of government and democracy incompatible.104 This seems to directly contradict the argument of this chapter that Kant advocated essentially democratic positions and regarded a democratic republic as the ideal political system. Yet the crucial point is that Kant objected only to a “democracy in the actual meaning of the word,” that is, a direct democracy where all citizens together constitute and exert directly the highest authority.105 Therefore, he did not object to a representative democracy. Why then did Kant not explicitly argue on behalf of a representative democratic republic and instead stress the compatibility of republicanism with autocratic and aristocratic regimes? The Prussian government tightened its censorship after the outbreak of the French Revolutionary Wars, and Kant, as an open sympathizer with the principles of the French Revolution, increasingly came under pressure from Prussian officials. Already in 1794 Kant received a reprimand from the royal cabinet, threatening him with “unpleasant consequences in the case of continuing refractoriness.”106 To avoid those unpleasant consequences, Kant obfuscated his real opinion in Perpetual Peace by advocating a representative democratic republic only indirectly. Comparing the relevant passages of Perpetual Peace with surviving earlier drafts of that essay demonstrates this. In one draft Kant revealed his real conviction by stating that “republican . . . is a democratic constitution in a representative system.” 107 In a draft of another essay he confirmed this contention: “The representative system of democracy is that of the equality of society or the republic, the system of aristocracy is that of inequality, because only a few represent the sovereign.”108


democrAcy And the Pursuit of PeAce The different use of “democracy” in Perpetual Peace and the drafts reveals more than just Kant’s essentially democratic convictions. It exemplifies the emergence of “democracy” as a comprehensive concept in contradistinction to “aristocracy” during the revolutionary upheavals of the 1790s.109 Hitherto, “democracy” had been used predominantly by political thinkers and philosophers in the way Kant used it in the official version of Perpetual Peace—and as Madison had used the term in the Federalist Papers: as a technical term to describe its literal meaning, the rule of all in a polity. The way Kant used “democracy” in his drafts, however, demonstrates that this term was about to acquire a new connotation. In this respect, “democracy” had broader meaning. For Kant, “democracy” had evolved to a concept that comprised a representative form of government, a guarantee of basic human rights, a notion of popular sovereignty, the rule of law, and above all the idea of the equality of citizens. It is in this sense that Kant can argue that governments that are technically monarchies or aristocracies can be republican—that is, democratic— as long as they fulfill the basic principles of this new meaning of “democracy.” As the quotation above shows, “aristocracy” in its equally new meaning as a broadly defined social concept embodies the antonym to “democracy”: arbitrary rule, absolutist power of a ruler or a ruling body, hereditary privileges perpetuated in corporate bodies based on the premise of inequality and hierarchy. Therefore, within the paradigm of these new meanings of the two terms, what we would now call a constitutional monarchy would be “democratic,” while an absolutist monarchy would be “aristocratic.” The emergence of this opposition in the 1790s between “democratic” revolution and “aristocratic” counterrevolution yields a paradoxical result. Since the 1790s, “democracy” became increasingly used in its new meaning as a comprehensive concept, exemplified most eloquently by Alexis de Tocqueville in Democracy in America. Already in Tocqueville’s analysis, but particularly in more recent times, this concept of “democracy” has been assumed to promote peace.110 But “democracy” emerged in the 1790s as a revolutionary, radical “fighting creed” in opposition to the traditional ancien régime. “Democracy” in its modern meaning, which contemporary proponents of the Democratic Peace Theory regard as the source for peace, came into existence in and through revolution and war. The evolution of a new concept of democracy in Kant’s essay as the radical antonym to a hierarchical, “aristocratic” regime is closely linked to


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland the development of another historically eminent concept: the idea of the nation. In regard to Kant’s conception of the nation and its rights, the second preliminary article is of crucial importance. As mentioned earlier, by arguing that “the nation acquires a ruler, but the ruler as such . . . does not acquire the nation” Kant had turned upside down the traditional theory of sovereignty. According to the traditional view, sovereignty rested in the ruler who, because of this fact, could regard his territory and its population as his possession and treat it accordingly. Instead, Kant contended that “a nation is not (like the ground on which it is located) a possession (patrimonium).”111 A nation is more than a geographical entity, “it is a society of men whom no other than the nation itself can command or dispose of.”112 In short, instead of the traditional, apolitical notion of a nation as the population of a territory, Kant promoted the highly politicized idea of the sovereign nation as it had emerged as the rallying cry of the commencing French Revolution, particularly in the famous essay What Is the Third Es­ tate? by the Abbé Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès.113 The fact that this new idea of the sovereign nation—based on the equality of its members—emerged as the counterconcept to the ancien régime at the outset of the French Revolution indicates an intimate link in the development of this new idea of the nation with the changing meaning of “democracy,” as it is reflected in Kant’s Perpetual Peace. In fact, the revolutionary concept of the sovereign nation as Kant took it over from the French revolutionaries served as “the form in which democracy appeared in the world, contained in the idea of the nation as a butterfly in a cocoon.”114 Kant justified the sovereignty of the nation with the “concept of the original contract, without which no rule over a people is conceivable.”115 A “nation” for Kant is therefore a people that have given themselves a constitution. But as Kant states in the first definitive article: “the only constitution which emanates from the concept of the original contract . . . is the republican” (in the meaning of a democratic, representative republic as analyzed above). The reason is that only this constitution is based on “the freedom of the members of a society, the principles of the dependence of everyone on a single, common legislation,” and on “the law of equality.”116 Pursuing Kant’s logic to its conclusion, a “nation”—in order to be a nation in the new sovereign sense—must be one organized on the principles of the emerging “democracy.” The same, however, holds true in reverse. Only a society that is based on the original contract—which according to Kant’s definition is necessarily the sovereign nation—can


democrAcy And the Pursuit of PeAce have a democratic constitution. The way in which Kant in Perpetual Peace linked the revolutionary notion of the sovereign nation to his conception of a democratic society shows that the modern forms of the two concepts emerged in tandem—or rather, synonymously—as the antithesis to the traditional order of society. Kant’s acceptance of the revolutionary idea of the sovereignty of the democratically constituted nation had far-reaching consequences for his thinking about the question of perpetual peace. If the nation is conceived as sovereign, all interventions of foreign powers would violate this principle. Accordingly, Kant made it one of his preliminary articles (No. 5) that “no nation shall forcibly interfere with the constitution and government of another,” because any such act “would be an obvious offense and would render the autonomy of every nation insecure.” Kant regarded this autonomy and sovereignty of the various nations as so important that he decreed this article, in contrast to some of the other preliminary articles, a leges strictae, meaning a law requiring “immediate implementation” to establish a basis for peace.117 But by making the nation sovereign, Kant not only precluded foreign intervention or a foreign ruler from “inheriting” a nation. He had also rendered conceptually impossible the creation of a higher authority—for example, in the form of a world republic equipped with the power to enforce its laws. This constitutes a remarkable development in his thought since in all his earlier writings on the issue of the organization of international relations, Kant had argued that in order to resolve the anarchic situation in the international sphere, states needed to join together in a federation that could guarantee and enforce peace between them. For example, in his Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Perspective, published in 1784, Kant demanded that states “abandon the lawless state of savagery and enter into a federation of peoples,” thus creating “a united power” that could “lend force” to its decisions and guarantee a “cosmopolitan state of public security.”118 In his essay On the Common Saying: This May Be True in Theory, but It Does Not Hold in Practice (1793), Kant likewise asserted that “a general state of peoples” had to be founded whose laws “are backed with power and to which every state must subject itself (in accordance with the analogy with civil or constitutional right among individual persons).”119 In Perpetual Peace, however, although still contending that according to common sense states in a state of nature should act like individuals in that same situation and “by accommodating themselves to the constraints of


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland common law, establish a nation of peoples” with enforceable punitive laws, Kant came to the conclusion that this solution was actually unfeasible for nation-states.120 For the first time fully accepting the logic inherent in the idea of the sovereign nation, Kant in Perpetual Peace acknowledged that nations are not quite like individuals because through the act of joining together of a people through an original contract, a nation had already acquired a constitution. The nation had “therefore outgrown the compulsion to subject themselves to another legal constitution.”121 But nations, because of their very nature as moral persons with inner constitutions, had not only outgrown the need to subject themselves to a worldwide “nation of peoples.” Rather, Kant contended that it was utterly impossible for them. He reasoned that “since, like a tree, each nation has its own roots, to incorporate it into another nation . . . denies its existence as a moral person.”122 To deny a nation’s existence as an independent moral person would infringe on its sovereignty, reduce a nation to an object, and deprive the people who form the nation of their fundamental right to unite through an “original contract” (or “social contract” in Locke’s or Rousseau’s phrasing), and was thus anathema to Kant. Moreover, if nations would join together in a “nation of peoples,” Kant argued, the “many nations . . . would constitute only a single nation.” A merging of nations, however, would contradict the assumption of a perpetual peace between nations “since we are here weighing the law of nations in relation to one another, rather than fusing them into a single nation.”123 Kant feared that because nations are defined mainly by their constitutions, bringing them under one overarching constitution would result in the supersession of the various constitutions and thus in the merging of nations into one nation. This passage demonstrates that Kant regarded the nation primarily as a community of will, expressed and embodied in its constitution and based on his concept of the democratic self-legislation of the people as it had developed in his thought in consequence of the French Revolution. Kant saw the will of the people reinforced by nature itself, which also rejected the merging of nations. Kant asserted that nature “uses two means to prevent peoples from intermingling and to separate them, differences in language and religion.” 124 Kant’s thinking about the “nation” displays thus an interesting mixture of civic and ethnic elements, which in historiography are often regarded as the essential features of differing forms of nationalisms.125 For Kant, however, these elements were not in opposition,


democrAcy And the Pursuit of PeAce and in regard to the question of perpetual peace, the will of the people combined with the dictates of nature determined that the world should consist of separate nation-states. Kant’s only remaining option then was to make the sovereign, “democratic” nation-state itself the basic structural unit of his plan for perpetual peace. Once Kant had accepted the indispensable reality of the nation-state, he stringently applied this insight to the question of perpetual peace on all three levels of law governing human interaction (domestic, international, and cosmopolitan). As demonstrated above in detail, by his “democratic” conception of society, Kant on the first level of law asserted the rights of the nation in opposition to absolutist government. Regarding cosmopolitan rights (the third level of law), Kant proceeded again from the vantage point of the nation-state. Kant’s postulation of a cosmopolitan right is often interpreted as a sign of universalism in Kant’s thought.126 Yet Kant in the third definitive article stipulated specifically that “cosmopolitan right shall be limited to conditions of universal hospitality.” What he meant with this was merely “the right of an alien not to be treated as an enemy upon his arrival in another’s country.” In the very next sentence Kant limited this right further by adding that “if it can be done without destroying him, he can be turned away.”127 In other words, a visitor has a right to present himself or herself, but it is the host nation’s choice either to accept or decline his or her (or a group’s) advances. This minimal universal right Kant regarded as necessary for people to be able to engage in peaceful— and peace-promoting—commercial activities. Kant rejected emphatically all aspirations going beyond this very limited right of hospitality. For example, he severely criticized the occupation of oversea territories by the major European powers and applauded the efforts of eighteenth-century Japan and China to isolate themselves from Western influences and encroachments.128 Kant thus again confirmed the sovereignty of nations and denounced all forms of colonialism and paternalism over allegedly backward nations. Finally, concerning the relations between nations (the second level of law), Kant, in order to conform to what he regarded as the wills of both nations and nature, could base his plan for peace only on a voluntary “league of peace” in the form of a comprehensive treaty instead of a strong world republic. The nations joining this league would retain their complete independence because “this league does not seek any power of the sort possessed by nations, but only the maintenance and security of


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland each nation’s own freedom, . . . without their having thereby to subject themselves to civil laws and their constraints (as men in the state of nature must do).”129 Interestingly, Kant out of “national” considerations had thus rejected the only possibility Rousseau, and himself in his earlier writings, had seen for achieving perpetual peace: the abolition of the international system through a “Leviathan,” a strong world state. Kant clearly perceived the shortcomings of his proposed “free federation,” which he hoped might “curb the tendency of that hostile inclination to defy the law” that existed in nations as well as in individuals. He realized that “there will always be the constant danger of their breaking loose,” and he conceded that ultimately his plan for a free federation was a “negative surrogate . . . in place of the positive idea of a world republic.”130 Unlike Rousseau, however, Kant in Perpetual Peace had come to see a chance that a world consisting of nation-states might nevertheless be able to approach the goal of a lasting peace. The reason for his guarded optimism was the democratic nature of his new conception of the nation. At first glance, Rousseau’s and Kant’s understandings of states in a state of nature are almost identical. Both considered the state of nature to be a state of war. Both also came to the conclusion that states are different than individuals and cannot join together in the same way as individuals can. But Rousseau based his conclusion on the assumption of the states’ limitless capabilities for expansion because of which states perpetually menaced each other by their very existence. Kant, on the other hand, contended that states cannot join together because this would violate the sovereignty of the various peoples who, through their constitutions, had formed nations. The crucial point in Kant’s conception is that by voluntarily and freely joining together and forming nations, the respective peoples had also voluntarily set a certain limit to their own political communities. In other words, the nature of Kant’s states was not limitless as long as they were democratic nation-states. They were limited by their self-imposed definition— in the form of their democratic constitution—of the nation. Because of this voluntarily limited condition of the democratic nation-state, Kant believed that such communities would not automatically threaten each other by their sheer existence. This characteristic, he hoped, would enable them to coexist peacefully even if only in his “surrogate of the world republic,” which “eventually should include all nations and thus lead to perpetual peace.”131 The democratic nature of the new idea of the nation therefore


democrAcy And the Pursuit of PeAce enabled Kant to find a solution for the problem of perpetual peace where previous theorists such as Rousseau could find none. But the very fact that Kant could do so only in 1795 when he wrote Perpetual Peace shows once more the interrelated emergence of new conceptions of democracy and the nation in the wake of the French Revolution.


n 1800, the same year that Jefferson’s “Revolution of 1800” brought the ideologically charged conflict between “democratic” Republicans and “aristocratic” Federalists in the United States to a conclusion, Napoleon Bonaparte, who had come to power as first consul in the French Republic one year earlier, achieved a decisive victory over an Austrian army at Marengo. This victory ultimately tore asunder the Second Coalition and determined the outcome of the French Revolutionary Wars. Thus, the aristocratic counterrevolution in Europe had for the time being failed. Unlike in America, however, democratic principles as voiced by James Madison and Immanuel Kant had not succeeded either. Only four years later Napoleon would crown himself emperor of France and terminate the first French Republic. Around 1800, the revolutionary dialectic between aristocracy and democracy had thus come to a conclusion—or to describe the development in a Hegelian way, to a synthesis—in both the United States and France. The common feature of this synthesis was the rise of the modern nation-state. Yet the characteristics of the nation-state took different forms in these two countries. In the United States, where the revolutionary impulse was directed against a centralizing authority— first Parliament and later Hamilton’s scheme for a strong fiscal-military state—the federal system of 1787 developed in a liberal-democratic direction. In France, in contrast, where revolutionaries had sought to centralize authority to overcome the traditional hierarchical and corporate order, an authoritarian regime prevailed. In addition to the differing outcomes of the revolutionary period in regard to the political and social system on the two sides of the Atlantic, the wars in Europe did not end with Napoleon’s victory at Marengo. As a result, the Napoleonic order in particular and the European system in general became for Madison and Jefferson a kind of antithesis to their ideal for the United States and led to efforts to insulate the New World from influences of the Old.132 This emphasis on differences between the Old and the New World by contemporaries themselves in the early nineteenth


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland century has made it difficult for historians to sense the various struggles in the 1790s as a greater, transnational movement and has fostered exceptionalist interpretations. Yet this contest, perceived by people all over the Atlantic world as one great revolutionary movement, provides the proper framework to understand both Kant and Madison in the light of their own historical background. The similarities of “Universal Peace” and Perpetual Peace demonstrate the closeness of their positions, making it difficult to argue that “it is as if Publius and Kant live in different worlds, or at least radically different historical periods.”133 On the contrary, they lived in exactly the same world and were acutely aware of the interconnectedness of events in their historical period. Or, to use Tocqueville’s phrasing: “The French Revolution did not have a territory of its own; further, to some extent its effect has been to erase all the old frontiers from the map. It has united or divided people despite their laws, traditions, characters, and languages, turning compatriots into enemies, and strangers into brothers; or rather it established, above all particular nationalities, a common intellectual homeland where men of all nations could become citizens.”134 The two documents examined in this chapter show Madison and Kant as members of this “common intellectual homeland” created by the French Revolution. The revolutionary framework conditioned their thinking in regard to the ideal political system, the proper organization of society, and its connection with international relations. From their common vantage point of the sovereignty of the nation, Kant and Madison proceeded to consider the possibility of an enduring peace. In the end, both men remained cautious regarding achieving this goal. Yet they both also came to the conclusion that the best hope for at least approaching perpetual peace was an international order composed of states in which the principle of popular sovereignty prevailed. A nation conscious of and vigilant in the protection of its own freedom, they hoped, would be most inclined to respect its neighbor’s sovereignty as well. Building their works on this premise, they thus contributed to the development of the idea of the sovereign, “democratic” nation-state in the age of revolutions.


Chapter 4 “The Strongest Government on Earth” Thomas Jefferson, Destutt de Tracy, and the Formation of the Modern Idea of the Nation


n June 1809, three months after his second term as president of the United States had expired, Thomas Jefferson received a package from the French ideologue Antoine Louis Claude Destutt de Tracy. The package contained a manuscript copy of the latter’s essay A Commentary and Re­ view of Montesquieu’s Spirit of Laws, which Tracy had completed two years earlier.1 In the enclosed letter Tracy explained that his corrections of Montesquieu’s theories in this Commentary contained some useful knowledge “on the objects which are most important for men’s happiness” and that he therefore asked “the man whom I respect most in the world and whose approval I most desire” to translate and publish this work in America.2 After reading the manuscript, Jefferson happily complied with Tracy’s request. In fact, he was so impressed by the essay that he assured Tracy that “I cannot express to you the satisfaction which I received from its perusal. . . . I declare to you, Sir, in the spirit of truth and sincerity, that I consider it the most precious gift the present age has received,” and he hoped that it would become “the political rudiment of the young, and manual of our old citizens.”3 The major reason for Jefferson’s high esteem for Tracy’s critique of Montesquieu lay in Tracy’s sophisticated exposition of two concepts that were central to Jefferson’s own political thought: democracy and the idea of the nation. Essentially, Tracy in the Commentary rejected the traditional division of forms of government into monarchical, aristocratic, or republican forms as well as Montesquieu’s celebration of the British constitution as a mixture of these forms. Instead, he insisted that there really existed only two classes of governments, the one “national” and the other


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland “special.” The defining difference between these two forms, according to Tracy, was the source of sovereignty. In the first case, sovereignty resided in the nation—that is, in the body of the people comprised of legally equal citizens. In the second case, sovereignty rested either in a monarch or was divided between distinct and separate orders of people. Because the distinctions between orders or corporate bodies in the latter case were necessarily based on inequality, such a “special” regime was by definition aristocratic in nature. In contrast, a “national” government, because based on equality, would most naturally assume the form of a representative democracy. It is no accident that Tracy in his attempt to come to terms with the conceptual changes brought about by the age of revolutions linked his “national” form with democracy and the “special”—and thus nonnational— form with aristocracy.4 Rather, Tracy’s redefinition of terms and introduction of a new political language demonstrates the common revolutionary roots of both modern democracy and the modern idea of the nation. In fact, although “democracy” and the “nation” are nowadays two quite distinct concepts, originally they were closely interrelated. The “nation,” as understood by Tracy and other contemporaries sympathetic to the general principles of the French Revolution, meant the people as a body of legally equal citizens in contrast to the traditional organization of society as a system of hierarchically linked individuals and corporate entities. The irreconcilable issue separating these two concepts was—as in the case of the emergence of the new meaning of democracy—the question of whether the relationship between members of society should be based on the principle of equality or inequality. Hence, the evolution of modern forms of the two concepts was interconnected.5 Jefferson could relate to Tracy’s analysis of the idea of the nation and its relation to democracy particularly well because his own thinking on the two subjects since the time of the American Revolution had led him to very similar conclusions. To be sure, concerning the details of a national form of government, Jefferson and Tracy disagreed on some points. For example, Tracy advocated an executive consisting of several persons, whereas Jefferson defended the American presidential system. More significant, Tracy argued that the political body of the nation should be centralized. Jefferson, on the other hand, was convinced that the federal structure of the United States constituted the best guarantee for liberty and equality. But these differences were clearly outweighed by Jefferson’s


“the strongest government on eArth” and Tracy’s common vision for nations in general: both hoped that nations in the end would transcend specific nationalities and unite in a union of equal nations. The United States and republican France for these two men were thus not only nations among others of their kind, but the models and nuclei for a new republican and egalitarian world order. Both Jefferson and Tracy, however, also exemplify how ideological imperatives and geopolitical realities worked to limit their essentially inclusive and transcendent visions of the nation. Some of these limits even were consequences of the very democratic conception of the nation that Jefferson and Tracy had developed during the revolutionary period. For instance, their rejection of the traditional structure of society led both men to brand critics of the new social order as “aristocrats” and “monocrats” and to exclude them from the nation, at least imaginatively. In the international sphere, finally, national security considerations stemming from an insecure geopolitical situation caused both men to emphasize distinct interests of their own nations— interests that inhibited France and the United States from realizing Jefferson’s and Tracy’s cosmopolitan, transcendent vision of the nation.

Thomas Jefferson and the American Nation in the American Revolution One of the boldest acts of the American Revolution was the request for a “separate and equal Station . . . among the Powers of the Earth” for the newly founded United States of America.6 These “Powers of the Earth” were mostly powerful European monarchies whose ambitions were barely kept in check by a precarious balance of power. Although Thomas Jefferson, as much as any American revolutionary, hoped that the American Revolution would be the signal for other people to “burst the chains” of tyranny and so to transform the transatlantic world itself, he was well aware that this would not happen immediately. Accordingly, Jefferson was preoccupied in 1776 with the place that the new union would hold in a world perpetually at the brink of war. To survive in this world, the union of the American states would have to be carefully crafted to avoid foreign threats and influences. Jefferson’s concept of how to achieve this security while preserving republican and federal principles at home was a result of the imperial crisis of the 1760s and 1770s. His ideas about the structure of the union and its place within the transatlantic state system of


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland the late eighteenth century—as well as his visions of a transformed state system—were crucially shaped by the need to justify his resistance against Great Britain and to elaborate an alternative theory of the fundamental structure of the British Empire. Therefore, to fully understand the origins of Jefferson’s conception of the union as represented in the Declaration of Independence, which became the framework for the development of his ideas about nation and nationhood, one has to turn to his prerevolutionary writings.7 Jefferson’s understanding of the constitutional basis of the British Empire is expressed best in his essay A Summary View of the Rights of British America from 1774.8 One of the central parts of this essay is a historical narrative in which Jefferson outlined his view of the founding and the development of Virginia and the other American colonies. In this narrative Jefferson placed special importance on the mode of settlement of the colonies in North America. He argued that before their emigration, settlers possessed all the rights and privileges of Englishmen and that by emigrating they neither lost nor relinquished any of these rights. On the contrary, by virtue of the fact that they emigrated on their own account and at their own expense, they gained the freedom to form their own society: “America was conquered, and her settlements made, and firmly established, at the expense of individuals, and not of the British public. Their own blood was spilt in acquiring lands for their settlement, their own fortunes expended in making that settlement effectual; for themselves they fought, for themselves they conquered, and for themselves alone they have a right to hold.”9 Jefferson used this argument to deny the British king, as well as the British public, any right to or over American land, either to tax it or to sell it in the first place. Through a combination of their liberties as Englishmen at the time of their emigration and their right of conquest, he contended that “from the nature and purpose of civil institutions, all the lands within the limits which any particular society has circumscribed around itself, are assumed by that society, and subject to their allotment only.” The traditional notion that “all lands belong originally to the king” was therefore a “fictitious principle,” and accordingly Jefferson declared that the king “has no right to grant lands of himself.”10 This historical interpretation of the settlement of the British North American colonies is crucial for the origin of Jefferson’s conception of the nation. Jefferson’s claim that the first settlers acting under the aegis of a royal charter and subsequent emigration had formed a society, and that this


“the strongest government on eArth” society had the sole right to assume all lands they “circumscribed around themselves,” meant nothing else than that these emigrants now constituted a distinct “people.”11 In this capacity as a people forming a society in a country of their own, they also constituted a “nation” in the meaning of this term as it emerged in the era of the American Revolution. Hitherto the terms “people” and “nation” were not yet clearly distinguished. In fact, a “nation” could be simply defined as a “distinct race or people.” Yet Jefferson’s description of the status of colonies in the Summary View exemplified the general development of the concept of the nation during the revolutionary era. It increasingly came to denote a people “usually organized as a separate political state and occupying a definite territory.”12 This definition of “nation” based on Jefferson’s interpretation of the nature of the origins of the settlements of colonies in North America constituted the foundation on which Jefferson devised his understanding of the ideal structure of the British Empire. For Jefferson, the self-evident fact that the American colonies were founded as, and therefore still constituted, distinct peoples separate from the British public meant for him that the British Empire was composed of a variety of mutually independent corporate entities. The logical conclusion Jefferson drew from this structure of the empire was that because they were mutually independent, they were also equal. As a result, the legislature of one part of the empire had neither the right nor the authority to legislate for another. Jefferson repeatedly stressed this point in the Summary View. At the very outset of that essay he set forth that he wrote this piece to protest the “unwarrantable encroachments and usurpations, attempted to be made by the legislature of one part of the empire, upon those rights which God and the laws have given equally and independently to all.”13 For instance, the suspension of the New York legislature by the British Parliament was outrageous: “one free and independent legislature hereby takes upon itself to suspend the powers of another, free and independent as itself.”14 Those encroachments of “one legislature upon another” had to be resisted because otherwise, “instead of being a free people, as we have hitherto supposed, and mean to continue ourselves, we should suddenly be found the slaves, not of one, but of 160,000 tyrants”—that is, slaves of the British electorate of the House of Commons. Such a tyranny, however, was unbearable for Jefferson because every American was “equal to every individual of them, in virtue, in understanding, and in bodily strength.”15 Ultimately at stake in the imperial crisis, therefore, was the individual


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland liberty and equality of all inhabitants of the colonies in North America. To defend this individual equality, Jefferson advocated and stressed the importance for Americans of rallying to the defense of the equality of the colonies as separate and independent corporate entities composing together the British Empire.16 The corporate entities were thus the crucial defenders of individual equality and liberty. Accordingly, and not surprisingly, during the struggle with Great Britain, Jefferson concentrated primarily on the corporate level. In this struggle with the British Parliament during the imperial crisis of the 1760s and 1770s, therefore, originated Jefferson’s credo of the interdependence of “republican and federal principles,” the necessity of equality as the basic principle structuring the relationships between individuals as well as corporate entities. Although in Jefferson’s conception the colonies were entirely “separate political states,” their independence was at the same time conditioned by their belonging to an “empire.” Crucial for the relationship between colonies and empire in Jefferson’s thought was the office of the king. The king, in Jefferson’s opinion, was not the absolute ruler over his empire because “Kings are the servants, not the proprietors of the people.”17 Ultimate sovereignty thus lay with the people of the various independent components of the empire. As parts of this empire, however, the colonies had determined at the beginning of their settlement that they wished to remain in union with Great Britain because it was to their advantage. They chose therefore to “continue their union with her by submitting themselves to the same common sovereign, who was thereby made the central link connecting the several parts of the empire thus newly multiplied.” The American colonies thus chose the king as their sovereign. From this free act of choosing Jefferson deduced a right for the colonies to limit the king’s powers. Hence, the king in no way could use his veto power over legislative acts to the detriment of the colonies, as Jefferson deplored especially in the case of George III’s royal veto on provincial duties on the slave trade.18 The king’s power in Jefferson’s interpretation of the British Empire was greatly limited. Yet it was still crucial for his understanding of empire. The king, in his conception, was not only the “central link connecting the several parts of the empire,” but he was also the “only mediatory power between the several states of the British empire.” Jefferson argued that it was for this purpose—to serve as an umpire between the independent parts of the empire—that the king was vested with his veto power, not to interfere in internal matters of any of the parts of his empire. Accordingly,


“the strongest government on eArth” Jefferson admonished George III that “it is now, therefore, the great office of his majesty, to resume the exercise of his negative power, and to prevent the passage of laws by any one legislature of the empire, which might bear injuriously on the rights and interests of another.”19 To contemporary English observers, Jefferson’s appeal to the king to act against the expressed will of Parliament probably sounded like an appeal to overthrow the settlement of the Glorious Revolution of 1688.20 Yet it encapsulates Jefferson’s conception of the British Empire—one consisting of independent peoples, or “nations,” in their distinct territories, each with their own constitution and government, bound together by their voluntary choosing of the British king as their common sovereign. In other words, Jefferson envisioned the British Empire as a federal “union,” and he asked for precisely that in the conclusion of the Summary View.21 Jefferson’s conception of a union between the American coloniesturning-into-states grew directly out of this idealized view on the British Empire. But for this new union to work, it had to avoid the flaws inherent in the British Empire. For Jefferson, this meant first and foremost that it had to be republican. The king, in his view, did not live up to the task of acting as a fair umpire between the parts of his empire. The British Empire therefore had failed “because George III had proved incapable of rising above a partial, self-interested identification with one of his peoples at the expense of the others.”22 To abolish the monarchy, however, was not enough for Jefferson. With it, the principle governing political and social relations within a monarchy—inequality—had to be banished as well, and the use of force needed to uphold the inequalities within a monarchy had to be replaced by the consent of equals both in the relationship between individuals forming a society and between states forming a union. Concerning the idea of the nation, this application of Jefferson’s principle of equality on two levels has created some confusion because in the context of the American founding both the states and the union might in the end be regarded as “nations.”23 This seeming paradox is clearly visible in the Declaration of Independence, both in Jefferson’s original draft and in the final text. On one hand, Jefferson wrote in the preamble to that document, “When in the Course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another . . .” On the other hand, he stated in the conclusion, “We . . . by the Authority of the good People of these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be, free


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland And indePendent stAtes.”24 From a modern perspective it seems contradictory that several “free and independent states” should be constituted by “one people.” To Jefferson, however, these phrases made perfect sense. The rationale behind Jefferson’s logic lies in his idealized vision of the federal future of the United States. Jefferson explained his ideal political structure for the United States most fully in a letter to Samuel Kercheval.25 In this letter he envisioned the United States as a system of several levels of republican authorities that started with the family as the basic building block and ascended from the “ward” level to an all-encompassing union of republics.26 The great principle of this structure in Jefferson’s view was equality between the members on each level. “All Men are created equal”; on this basis individuals could freely and voluntarily join together to form a republican society. Several of those republican societies, in turn, would come together as independent states—that is, again, as equals— and through their voluntary consent form a union to mutually ensure each other their “Lives, Fortunes, and sacred Honor.”27 In a union predicated on his “federal and republican principles,” then, individuals without any contradiction could be members of “peoples,” or “nations,” on several levels. Jefferson’s idea of what constituted a “nation” was thus not exclusively tied to a single governmental structure, such as a state or nation-state. Jefferson’s one book-length essay, his Notes on the State of Virginia, demonstrates his flexible conception of the nation.28 His portrayal of Virginia as a “nation” is most visible in his description of its boundaries. He noted that Virginia “reckoned at 88357 square miles. . . . This state is therefore one third larger than the islands of Great Britain and Ireland,” and thus one-third larger than the most powerful nation of the time.29 Virginia, furthermore, possessed all the other attributes of a potentially great nation. It could boast of a favorable climate for an expanding agricultural base as well as a variety of minerals to exploit for the wealth of the country. Virginia’s natural environment, too, could rival that of any other nation and by itself would be “worth a voyage across the Atlantic.”30 In the same Query (No. 1) in which Jefferson described the great extent of the territory of Virginia in comparison to Great Britain, he also addressed how Virginia had achieved its present extent. Jefferson observed that this extent resulted from successive limitations of Virginia’s territory, originally granted to it in its charter, beginning with the “grant of Maryland to Lord Baltimore” in 1632 up to “the cession made by Virginia to Congress of all the lands to which they had title on the North side of the Ohio” in 1784.


“the strongest government on eArth” Jefferson stressed in particular that all these limitations had been either reached “by consent of both parties” or that Virginia had voluntarily confirmed earlier grants “at the time of constituting their commonwealth” during the American Revolution.31 If Jefferson would have seen Virginia as a nation in the traditional sense of the competitive eighteenth-century European state system, this voluntary limitation would have made no sense. But on the grounds of his federal vision of the United States, the reduction of Virginia in size—as long as it was based on consent—did not matter because the principle of equality governing relations among individuals and states within the union would guarantee Virginia and Virginians as a “nation” in exchange ever-increasing opportunities in the larger—and further expanding— “national” sphere of the union. As long as his “federal and republican principles” prevailed, therefore, Virginia’s and America’s “national” futures were inextricably linked in Jefferson’s thought.32 His vision of Virginia as a “nation” was thus to transcend a narrow and limited nationhood and to form a union with the other, like-minded “nations” on the American continent. The same transcendent quality, moreover, Jefferson also—at least ideally—applied to the United States as a whole. He hoped that the Declaration of Independence would serve as an example for other countries to emulate. Until his death in 1826, Jefferson never lost his faith. Even in his last public letter he expressed the hope that the Declaration of Independence “may be to the world, what I believe it will be, (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all,) the signal of arousing men to burst the chains, under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of selfgovernment.”33 In Jefferson’s opinion, the American Revolution was a pivotal moment in world history, an “instrument pregnant with our own, and the fate of the world.”34 As a result, Jefferson did not regard the creation of the American union as an end in itself. He viewed the formation of the United States rather as one step, albeit the decisive one, toward a world of free peoples bound together by an ascending republican system, thus initiating a “republican millennium.”35 Although realizing realistically that it would take quite some time until this hope would be realized, the United States nevertheless constituted for Jefferson the nucleus for a new world order and an element half-way to the fulfillment of the republican millennium. Jefferson’s ultimate goal for the nation thus was to transcend itself.


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland The transcending nature of Jefferson’s idea of the nation, however, does not mean that it did not possess clear limits regarding who belonged to the body of the “nation.”36 For instance, since they had supported monarchical Great Britain, unrepentant Loyalists by definition had no place in the new republican nation. In regard to Indians, Jefferson’s position was more ambiguous. On the one hand, his construction of the Virginian “people,” or “nation,” in the Summary View through the dual process of expatriation from England and appropriation of land in Virginia pointed to the exclusion of Indians. But Jefferson was also very aware that Indians as an indigenous population possessed an older, and thus perhaps even more legitimate, claim to American land. The ideal solution that Jefferson imagined consisted of a merging of the two races, so that Indians would “form one people with us.”37 For this to happen, however, Indians would have to give up their seminomadic lifestyle, turn to agriculture instead, and adopt American legal, social, and political norms. Should they fail to do so, he predicted, they would “disappear from the earth.”38 In short, the only way for Indians to join the American nation was through complete assimilation. While Jefferson at least thought assimilation into the American nation possible in the case of Indians, he saw no such possibility for black slaves. Jefferson had no doubt that slavery was a moral evil that needed to be abolished. But he also thought it impossible to simply end slavery because as the imperial crisis had caused Jefferson to develop a conception of an American nation, so he conceived during this time the idea that black slaves constituted their own African nation.39 Jefferson in a famous section of his draft of the Declaration of Independence blamed George III personally for first “captivating & carrying” Africans “into slavery in another hemisphere” and then exciting them during the War of Independence to rise against their masters, “thus paying off former crimes committed against the liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another.”40 As self-serving as Jefferson’s blaming of George III for American slavery may be, it illustrates how he thought about the relation between whites and blacks in America in national, instead of individual, terms and that he regarded the two nations—because of the one holding the other in slavery—as being in a state of war. Considerations of national self-preservation thus made swift emancipation impossible. Jefferson, however, nevertheless acknowledged the


“the strongest government on eArth” right of the African “nation” to a free and independent existence. The only solution he could imagine to solve the dilemma was gradual emancipation and colonization. Removing the black nation, once freed, from America would resolve the—from a national point of view—impossible situation of two nations inhabiting the same territory and would thus also end the state of war between them. Jefferson, of course, was aware of the resistance among his fellow slaveholders against any emancipation scheme, as well as the immense costs that the transplantation of hundreds of thousands of former slaves would cause. But during the 1770s and 1780s, he nonetheless regarded and presented liberation of the enslaved African nation as a moral imperative, not least to ultimately enable the African nation to become a part of the worldwide union of nations and thus as a necessary precondition for his desired republican millennium. His position on Indians and black slaves thus completes the picture of Jefferson’s conception of the “nation” as it emerged during the era of the American Revolution: he envisioned a culturally—and in the case of blacks even racially— homogenous American nation, which itself, however, should be the nucleus of a “world union” of independent and equal nations built on the dual premises of national self-determination and republican selfgovernment—a union that ultimately would enable the nation to transcend itself.

The (French) Idea of the Nation Thomas Jefferson’s initial conceptions of nation and nationhood were results of his experiences during the imperial crisis and the American Revolution. The further development of these conceptions in Jefferson’s thought, however, was intimately connected to his experience of the French Revolution. Most important, the differing interpretations of the French Revolution by Americans led Jefferson to articulate more precisely his latent assumptions about American nationhood and its basic principles such as equality, a process that resulted in both a greater concentration on the specifics of an exclusively American nation and a significant further contraction of his imagined boundaries of American nationhood.41 While Jefferson’s boundaries hitherto mostly excluded groups easily identifiable as outside an American nation (Indians, slaves, “British” Loyalists), the French Revolution caused him to exclude other white Americans due to ideological reasons from the nation. In other words, the French Revolution


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland led to a struggle among former fellow American revolutionaries about the fundamental nature of an American nation and nationhood. In order to understand better Jefferson’s developing thinking on the “nation,” it helps to interpret the American Revolution not as an isolated event, but within the context of a broader revolutionary movement that encompassed the entire Atlantic world in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and whose major impetus was “democratic.”42 This, however, does not mean that every revolutionary action in this era was “democratic.” On the contrary, one characteristic of the revolutionary movement was that throughout the Atlantic world, “aristocratic” corporate entities like colonies, states, or estates sought to defend or expand their corporate privileges against both pressures from superior central authorities as well as from below.43 The American Revolution can be interpreted as the most momentous event of this “aristocratic” part of the revolutionary movement. By resisting the policies of the British Parliament—ironically, a corporate body itself—the North American colonies defended their own rights as corporate entities. From this point of view, therefore, the American Revolution of 1776 can be seen as a part of an “aristocratic resurgence” against centralizing power, which characterized especially the early phase of what the historian Robert Palmer called the “age of the democratic revolution.” To preserve their liberties, the colonial assemblies therefore assumed—at least functionally—the part of the aristocratic orders of European societies within the mixed constitution theory. They did so, however, in a peculiar way, which had an important effect on the idea of an American nation. Instead of stressing specific aristocratic prerogatives—which, due to the lack of a formal nobility, would have been difficult in any case—the corporate bodies extended their claims to liberty to the population as a whole, thus enabling a broad cross-class mobilization against British tyranny while at the same time avoiding social conflict at home.44 Because this peculiar mode of resistance preempted or at least obscured class conflict, Americans could think of themselves as one people and ultimately a nation. This nation, therefore, had been defined against a foreign enemy, not against another class—that is, an internal enemy, as it would soon be in the French Revolution. Interpreted in this way, the American Revolution itself was not yet a democratic revolution. The “democratic” part of the revolutionary movement “came into play when persons systematically excluded” from aristo-


“the strongest government on eArth” cratic bodies “attempted to open up their membership, change the basis of authority and representation, reconstitute the constituted bodies, or obtain a wholly new constitution of the state itself.”45 In short, it basically “came into play” through demands and assertions from below—that is, through class conflict. The climax of this democratic part of the transatlantic revolutionary movement came with the French Revolution. The opening phase of the French Revolution saw an “aristocratic resurgence” as well. In contrast to the American Revolution, however, the French Revolution quickly took a much more radical turn both in social terms and in regard to the definition of the nation as a result of pressures from segments formerly excluded from the corporate bodies wielding power. One effect of this radicalism was a redefinition of the idea of a French nation. The term “nation” itself, of course, is much older than the eighteenth century. During the Middle Ages, initially the term was used according to its literal Latin meaning: people of a common origin, sharing a language and often, but not necessarily, living in the same country.46 Thus, it was possible to speak of a French nation but also of a Jewish nation. Likewise, the student body at some medieval universities was divided into “nations” according to the country of origin of the respective students. The medieval definition of the term, however, was not fixed to a common origin of people. As a result, “nation” could also describe the population of a state or territory. An example for this usage of the term is in the first edition of the Dictionnaire de l’Académie Française of 1694, which stated that a nation is “constituted by all the inhabitants of a single country, who live under the same laws and employ the same language.”47 What these two definitions of the term “nation” have in common is that they are apolitical. In both cases the term “nation” basically could be used synonymously with “people.” Up to the middle of the eighteenth century, this apolitical usage of the term “nation” remained fairly constant. During the Middle Ages, however, there emerged also a third meaning of the term “nation” that was in fact political. In this definition the “nation” consisted only of those persons—or in the structure of the ancien régime rather those corporate bodies—that had political rights and shared in the exercise of sovereignty.48 According to this usage of the word, in the ancien régime structure of France the nation was constituted by the nobility and the clergy. In this case, the term “nation” described something different than the “people”—which in this case denoted that part of the population that did not have political rights. It would, however, be a mistake to regard


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland this political definition as being in contradiction with the apolitical meaning of the “nation” as the entire population. The solution to this seeming paradox lays in the prerevolutionary understanding of representation. When the parlements of France claimed to represent the nation, they did not mean that they were the chosen representatives of the people. Instead, they thought that they were, or rather, that they embodied the nation.49 Thus, even into the eighteenth century it was possible for intellectuals to have in mind exclusively the privileged orders when writing about the nation. For example, the comte de Boulainvilliers included in his book L’état de la France, published in 1727, a section on the “state of the French nation.”50 In this section, however, Boulainvilliers made the argument that the French nobility of the eighteenth century could trace its origins directly to the original Germanic tribe of the Franks, who—at least in Boulainvilliers’s account—were distinguished for their collective decision making. From this alleged fact, he deduced that the “nation” had certain rights vis-à-vis the king. The “nation” in this account is obviously not the entire population of France, but the corporate group of the nobility presenting itself as the nation. The example of Boulainvilliers demonstrates not only that in the early eighteenth century the “nation” was often still associated exclusively with the nobility in a political context but also that the nobility used this concept to justify and claim rights in opposition to the monarchy. This usage of the term “nation” by the nobility was closely tied to another important concept of the early modern period: “patriotism.”51 From the sixteenth century onward, the nobility increasingly invoked patriotism in the meaning of love of one’s country as a means to legitimize their resistance against the centralizing tendencies of the monarchy in the course of modern statebuilding. The privileged classes in this case used the concept of patriotism to defend what they regarded as the rights of the nation, or “national liberties,” and thus the preservation of their traditional privileges within the hierarchical structure of the ancien régime. This usage of “patriotism,” therefore, was decidedly conservative.52 Around the middle of the eighteenth century, however, the concept of patriotism began to change. Based on the writings of the philosophes of the French Enlightenment, the educated middle classes of France joined in the resistance against the absolute monarchy. At first, spokesmen of these educated but nonnoble groups did not yet attack the prevailing po-


“the strongest government on eArth” litical system directly. Instead, they tended to concentrate their criticism on the worst excrescences of the ancien régime in the social and judicial spheres. A famous example would be the Calas Affair, which Voltaire used in 1762 to denounce the religious prejudices of the French judiciary.53 Accordingly, the philosophes and their followers developed a concept of patriotism that demanded actual changes and which was thus no longer conservative, but was bent on reforming the existing system. Middle-class criticism soon extended to constitutional matters as well. Consequential in this regard was the so-called coup of 1771 when Louis XV and Lord Chancellor Maupeou attempted to break the power of the noble parlements by arresting and exiling their members.54 This coup by the monarchical government stirred up fears of absolute despotism not only among the nobility but also among the middle classes. As a result, the privileged classes and the philosophes and their followers joined together in an informal and uneasy coalition that invoked the concept of patriotism as a source of legitimacy for resistance to despotic tendencies of the monarchy. Subsequently, this coalition called itself the parti patriote and, in accord with the more radical notion of philosophe patriotism, increasingly moved from demanding a return to the status quo ante to considerations for a general reform and restructuring of the French political system. In regard to the concept of the nation, this development of patriotic movements had two significant consequences. First, the inclusion of middle-class reformers into the patriotic, antiabsolutist coalition fostered demands by the educated middle class to enlarge the political definition of the “nation” to include this group as well. This, in addition, implied that once included, the middle class as a part of the political nation also was entitled to political rights. Second, the change in the meaning of patriotism from a conservative to a reform-oriented movement paved the way for more radical political and social demands on behalf of the enlarged concept of the nation. The patriotic coalition reached its zenith in May 1788 when Louis XVI and his prime minister, Brienne, yet again dissolved the parlements. At this stage, even conservative nobles realized that the parlements alone could no longer hold their ground against the monarchy. Thus, they demanded the convocation of the Estates-General, which had not been convened since 1614. In practice, the call for the convocation of the Estates-General meant the acknowledgment of the third estate—with the educated middle class


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland as its most outspoken group—as a part of the political nation. Thus, right at the eve of the French Revolution the apolitical and the political medieval notions of the “nation” began to merge.55 Although certainly a great step toward a general reform of the French constitutional system, this merging in itself was not yet revolutionary. The Estates-General was a traditional constitutional device, and the question in mid-1788 was still only about what kind of political rights the third estate should get in relation to the king and the privileged orders. Yet the situation turned revolutionary once it became obvious that the privileged orders would not grant the third estate an equal representation. On September 25, 1788, the first two estates demanded that the three orders each should have an equal vote, which would have preserved the preponderance of the nobility and clergy. As a result, the patriotic alliance between the privileged orders and the third estate broke down, and the nature of the conflict itself changed decisively. Hitherto, the struggle had largely been one within the traditional scope of the aristocratic resistance against monarchical centralization of power, albeit with an added aspect of the question of the place of the third estate within this traditional framework of political discourse. But from September 1788 on, the conflict became a struggle between the privileged orders and the third estate themselves. This new struggle was of a different quality because it centered on the fundamental question of whether the French polity should be based on hierarchy and inequality or—at least civic—equality. In other words, in the view of reformers the apolitical and political meanings of the nation now not only had merged but were regarded as synonymous—that is, no legal and hereditary distinctions of orders within the nation were to be recognized anymore. For the development of the concept of the nation, this shift from a power struggle between monarchy and privileged orders to a struggle between privileged orders and the third estate had momentous consequences. In the wake of the shattering of the patriotic alliance, some intellectuals advocating the cause of the third estate began to drop the label of “patriots” altogether because it now was too closely associated with the aristocratic parlements, and they began to replace “patriot” with “nation,” which they used to apply exclusively to the third estate.56 Building on Rousseau’s notion of a society of equal citizens, these intellectuals began to argue that sovereignty in fact lay neither with the king nor the privileged


“the strongest government on eArth” orders nor even in the Estates-General composed of the various orders of French society. Instead, they contended that the third estate alone was the source of all political authority and thus the sovereign. In other words, advocates of the third estate somewhat ironically started to invert the traditional pattern in which the “people” were excluded from the political nation and instead excluded the privileged orders from the nation, which they now identified with the “people” at large. The most important of the advocates of such a redefinition of the nation as the third estate during the months preceding the convocation of the Estates-General in May 1789 was the Abbé Emmanuel Sieyès with his hugely influential essay What Is The Third Estate? 57 In this essay Sieyès set out to radically redefine the nation within the new and revolutionary framework of the struggle of the third estate with the privileged orders. This framework immediately becomes obvious in What Is the Third Es­ tate?, the object of the first chapter being to demonstrate that the nobility had no place in the French nation. Sieyès in this context attacked the nobility from three perspectives: social, economic, and political.58 In regard to the first aspect, Sieyès offered a division of society into various useful occupations and public services, which in effect radically undercut the traditional assumption of society as a hierarchy of orders. The principle of categorization for Sieyès, therefore, was social function and no longer birth and status. Immediately following this new categorization of society, Sieyès proceeded to demonstrate that the third estate actually performed all of the functions he had just listed, and that the nobility was thus economically as well as socially useless and no more than a burden on the third estate. Turning to the political aspect, finally, Sieyès argued that the nobility was not only a burden but actually “not part of our society at all.”59 To prove his assertion he answered his own rhetorical question “What is a nation?” with “a body of associates living under common laws and represented by the same legislative assembly, etc.” Addressing the political aspect, Sieyès thus raised the crucial issue of equality. Only those who lived equally under common laws belonged to the same nation. The nobility, however, claimed to possess special rights apart from common laws and were therefore “foreign to the nation.” Only now, at the very end of the first chapter, after he had proven that the nobility could not be a part of the nation in social, economic, and political regard, did Sieyès draw the conclusion


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland that “the Third Estate then contains everything that pertains to the nation while nobody outside the Third Estate can be considered as part of the nation.”60 Sieyès’s redefinition of the concept of the nation within the revolutionary framework claimed a second victim besides the nobility: the monarch as the bearer of sovereignty.61 According to Jean Bodin’s doctrine, the monarch had been regarded as the sovereign of the state who, ideally, gave law but himself stood above the law and was bound only by the laws of God and nature.62 Sieyès, while using virtually the same language as Bodin, turned the latter’s theory upside down and declared the nation to be the bearer of sovereignty by proclaiming that “the nation is prior to everything. It is the source of everything. Its will is always legal; indeed it is the law itself. Prior and above the nation, there is only natural law.”63 By stripping the monarch of his sovereignty and instead assigning sovereignty to the nation, Sieyès also contributed to the development of a new understanding of representation. If the sovereign nation as a whole was the source of all authority, then no representative elected by this nation— let alone any corporate entity or a monarch—could claim to embody the nation. The concept of representation, therefore, began to change from meaning something akin to incarnation to a concept of political representation regulated by a rational election process, based on a nation of equal citizens.64 In conclusion, over the course of the eighteenth century the apolitical meaning of the “nation,” encompassing the entire population of France regardless of social classes, and the political meaning, hitherto confined to the privileged orders, merged. But during the French Revolution, this all-encompassing meaning of the nation again became more exclusive and attributed to only a certain segment of the population. This segment was basically the third estate, but nobles and members of the clergy could join the nation if they renounced their privileges and accepted the basic premise of a society without legally acknowledged orders. Hence, the revolutionary idea of the nation as it emerged in 1788 and 1789 could include liberal-minded nobles and clerics such as the marquis de Lafayette and Sieyès as long as they advocated a social system based on the principle of civic equality (although at that time not necessarily social or even full political equality). As this precondition of subscribing to equality demonstrates, it was now that side of the population that Thomas Paine at the same time was about to reconceptualize as “democratic” that constituted


“the strongest government on eArth” the nation. This change in the meaning of the nation, however, was not simply the logical consequence of a new understanding of “democracy.” Instead, the two emerged in tandem. As the French Revolution radicalized and assumed a more democratic character, so the concept of the nation simultaneously changed its meaning.65 Both concepts in their modern meaning, therefore, have their common origins in their revolutionary antithesis to the traditional, “aristocratic” order of society.

The Evolution of the “Nation” in Thomas Jefferson’s Thought during the French Revolution During the years of the commencement of the French Revolution, Thomas Jefferson resided in Paris as the American minister to France. But while living in Paris he did not simply observe this development “as an uninterested spectator, with no other bias than a love for mankind,” as he claimed.66 Rather, his own thinking about the “nation” changed as the idea evolved in France. In fact, the development of Jefferson’s concept of the nation in conjunction with the emerging “democracy” can be traced in his letters from 1787 to 1789. Jefferson had left the United States in mid-1784 to join John Adams and Benjamin Franklin in Europe as minister plenipotentiary to negotiate commercial treaties with the European powers.67 In March 1785, he had been appointed the successor of the latter as minister to France. During these early years in France, Jefferson still used the term “nation” as it had developed in his thought during the time of the American Revolution. For example, when in 1786 he collaborated with Jean Nicholas Démeunier on the article on the United States for the Encyclopédie Methodique, he wrote about possible “broils” among the “nations” that had formed the United States.68 “Nations,” in this context, for Jefferson still had the rather apolitical meaning of a society encompassing the entire (white) population of a territory, either of one of the states or the union as a whole. In the same manner, the French “nation” comprised the entire population of France. With the onset of the French Revolution, this slowly began to change. Initially, Jefferson advocated a gradual reform and advised his friends in France like the marquis de Lafayette to “keep the good model” England before their eyes, and they “may get on, step by step, towards a good constitution.”69 The obstacle for the attainment of a “good constitution” for France during this time was, in Jefferson’s eyes, the absolutist monarchy;


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland anybody who had “a very jealous eye” on “a court whose principles are the most absolute despotism” had his favor.70 Accordingly, Jefferson at this stage supported the demands of the parlements and their patriotic movement for greater participation in the affairs of France, and proposed as the goal a government modeled after the mixed constitution of Great Britain. His hope was that the “establishment of the Provincial assemblies . . . bid fair to be the instrument for circumscribing the power of the crown and raising the people into consideration.”71 Jefferson was optimistic this would actually happen, and so in August 1787 he thought “that in the course of three months the royal authority has lost, and the rights of the nation gained, as much ground . . . as England gained in all her civil wars under the Stuarts.”72 In August 1787, therefore, Jefferson defined the “nation” as the population of France comprising of nobles and commoners in contrast to an absolutist and despotic monarchy. One year later, despotism was still the foremost obstacle to a real reform of France. Yet by August 1788, Jefferson’s perception of what constituted despotism had changed. Unlike in 1787 and early 1788, he no longer regarded the parlements as champions for the liberty of the nation in general.73 On the contrary, on August 9, 1788, he interpreted the struggle in France as “a contest between the monarchical and aristocratical parts of government, for a monopoly of despotism over the people.”74 Jefferson, however, still hoped that events would go in a favorable direction, because he realized that the aristocracy was “divided partly between the parliamentary and the despotic party, and partly united with the real patriots, who are endeavoring to gain for the nation what they can, both from the parliamentary and the single despotism.”75 This analysis of a rift in the aristocracy between a despotic and a “patriotic” part is crucial because it signals the shattering of the broad patriotic movement and the emergence of the revolutionary dichotomy between an “aristocratic” and a “democratic” side in its stead. As this statement of Jefferson’s thus marks the transformation of the aristocratic opposition to the court to a struggle between privileged orders and the third estate, so his phrasing suggests that by that time not only the king but also those parts of the aristocracy who supported the continuation of the traditional division of French society in corporate estates had moved outside the nation. The revolutionary situation, however, was still embryonic in mid-1788, and accordingly Jefferson in late 1788 and early 1789 did not yet advocate a clear divide between the “aristocratic” and “democratic / national” sides.


“the strongest government on eArth” One reason was that he was not sure whether the large mass of the French people after centuries of living under a “despotic” monarchy would be ready for a thorough reform of the political system. It was a “misfortune that they are not yet ripe for the blessings to which they are entitled,” Jefferson thought.76 He also feared that demands for too radical of a reform would induce the Crown to use force. He therefore advised his friends to be prudent, “lest they should shock the disposition of the court.”77 To avoid the estrangement of the king, Jefferson proposed that the “real patriots” around his friend Lafayette seek an alliance with him to gain the right of equal representation and the vote by heads in the Estates-General, which had been scheduled to convene in May 1789. In early 1789, then, Jefferson still thought that securing rights for the third estate within a mixed constitution would be all that could be realistically hoped for. As the revolution proceeded in early 1789, positions on all sides hardened, and in the wake of the opening session of the Estates-General on May 4, the contours of the revolutionary dichotomy became much clearer. In a letter to John Jay on May 9, 1789, Jefferson expressed this development and foreshadowed the further course of the revolution: “The Tiers Etat, as constituting the nation, may propose to do the business of the nation, either with or without the minorities in the House of Clergy and Nobles, which side with them.”78 By now, the boundary of who belonged to the nation and who did not began to be clearly drawn in Jefferson’s thought. The third estate together with the reform-minded part of the nobility and clergy alone constituted the nation. The absolute monarchy, traditionally minded nobles, and members of the clergy were outside the nation. The irreconcilable opposition was thus outlined, and, in Jefferson’s opinion, the balance between the two forces was held by the king. Personally, Jefferson thought that Louis XVI was “honest, and wishes the good of his people,” but he feared that “the expediency of an hereditary aristocracy is too difficult a question for him” and that the king therefore might support the latter.79 This was indeed what happened when, on June 17, 1789, the third estate declared itself the National Assembly and announced it would assume “the business of the nation.” The king declared the actions of the National Assembly void and instead advanced his own program, which was similar to Jefferson’s earlier proposals for a mixed constitution. But by mid-June 1789, the opposition between “aristocracy” and “democracy” had been fully formed, and the struggle was no longer about a right of representation for the third estate in the context


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland of a mixed constitution. At that point, the struggle had come to be about the civic equality of individuals and, as a result, “instead of being dismayed with what had passed,” the revolutionaries “seem to rise in their demands, and some of them to consider the erasing every vestige of a difference of order.”80 In other words, the revolution had become a contest between two irreconcilable visions of how society should be structured—visions based on either estates or a nation of legally undifferentiated citizens.81 Simultaneously, as the development of Jefferson’s thought demonstrates, the egalitarian, “democratic” part of this contest had become equated with the “nation.” When on June 27, 1789, the king finally gave in and ordered the other estates to join the National Assembly, Jefferson thought that “this great crisis” was “now over.”82 As the subsequent history of the French Revolution shows, he could not have been more wrong. Yet the following radicalization of the revolution out of fear that “the despots around the throne” would have “recourse to violent measures” and attempt a counterrevolutionary strike also completed the equation of the “democratic” side of the revolution with the nation. By August 1789, Jefferson reported that the aristocrats “have been completely overthrown & the nation has made a total resumption of rights, which they had certainly never before ventured to think of.”83 This resumption found its most conspicuous expression in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, issued in August 1789. As a result, the most intransigent nobles began to flee the country, and Jefferson rejoiced that “seven princes of the house of Bourbon, and seven Ministers, fled into foreign countries, is a wonderful event indeed.”84 Over the following months and years, many more aristocrats would follow, but in Jefferson’s mind these first emigrations marked the complete exclusion of aristocrats from the nation: they were now not only figuratively but literally outside the nation and thus foreigners.

Thomas Jefferson’s Application of the Revolutionary Idea of the Nation to the American Situation The transformation of the idea of the nation in conjunction with the emerging new conception of democracy was not confined to France or even Europe. In the young United States, too, people began to reinterpret their political situation in the light of the events in France, and those sympathetic to the French Revolution also began to identify their oppo-


“the strongest government on eArth” nents as “aristocrats” and “monocrats” and so exclude them from their conception of the nation. One of the principal actors in this process was Thomas Jefferson. When Jefferson returned to the United States in late 1789 and assumed his new position as secretary of state, his thinking was deeply steeped in the framework of revolution and counterrevolution, of “democracy” versus “aristocracy.” As a result, Jefferson was one of the first to apply this binary, with all its consequences for the idea of the nation, to the American situation. What aroused Jefferson’s suspicion about “aristocratic” tendencies within the United States first was the elegant social life that he witnessed once he arrived in New York, then the seat of the federal government.85 At a time when he just had witnessed the French people “erasing every vestige of a difference of order,” the dinner parties of President Washington’s cabinet members appeared to him as a deliberate attempt to re-create such “differences of order” in America. While attending those dinner parties he learned to his dismay that this appearance accurately described the attitude of many members of Washington’s cabinet, among whom—as he later observed—“a preference of kingly over republican government was evidently the favorite sentiment,” so that he felt himself to be almost “the only advocate on the republican side” among the nation’s elite.86 Jefferson quickly identified the secretary of the treasury, Alexander Hamilton, as the mastermind pulling the strings behind the scene and setting the tone for the aristocratic faction. His suspicion of “aristocratical and monarchical” tendencies among many leading politicians in New York—and from late 1790 on in Philadelphia—became a certainty for Jefferson when Hamilton introduced his Report on the Public Credit in 1790 and his Report on Manufactures in 1791. Jefferson thought the “artificial creation . . . of a public debt” to be an especially pernicious measure.87 He regarded this policy of virtually inviting members of the legislature to participate in speculation in government bonds as a deliberate tool “to corrupt & manage the legislature.”88 For Jefferson, “the object of these plans taken together” was obvious: Hamilton wanted to “subvert step by step the principles of the constitution” with the ultimate goal “to prepare the way for a change, from the present republican form of government, to that of a monarchy, of which the English constitution is to be the model.”89 Hamilton’s preference for the English constitution, which he had revealed clearly in his speech of June 18, 1787, at the Constitutional Convention, and the creation of the public debt “for the avowed purpose of inviting its


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland transfer to foreign countries,” namely, Great Britain, indicated to Jefferson the dual threat of changing the government toward the English model and bringing the United States back into dependency on Great Britain. These would be fateful steps toward reversing the two main achievements of the American Revolution, independence and self-government.90 The conclusion for Jefferson was that Hamilton and his supporters must be counterrevolutionary tools of a foreign country, bent on destroying the United States. Thus, in his analysis of the situation in America, Jefferson applied the same revolutionary categories he had observed emerging in France during the commencement of the revolution in that country; as the aristocrats in France became excluded from the “nation,” so Jefferson began to imaginatively exclude the “monarchical Federalists” from the American nation by declaring them tools of a foreign country.91 This tendency was greatly increased after the outbreak of the French Revolutionary Wars when Federalists advocated the support of Great Britain, which became the leader of the counterrevolutionary coalition of monarchies. Jefferson’s great hope throughout the 1790s was that this “sect” of monocrats and aristocrats would prove to be “preachers without followers, and that our people” would be “firm & constant in their republican purity.”92 The problem for Jefferson and his followers was that apparently a great part of the people did not see the threat the Federalists posed and kept voting them into office.93 Jefferson’s crucial task, therefore, was to open the people’s eyes to the threat to the legacy of the American Revolution and to enjoin the people to fight to preserve it. To do so, he had to expose the Federalists as what he was convinced they were: “foreign & false citizens” trying to subvert the republican independence of the United States.94 But if he wanted to show that the Federalists’ principles were “foreign” and Federalist politicians “foreign & false citizens,” he first had to define clearly what real “American” principles were and what it meant to be “American.” In other words, Jefferson had to make clear the line separating him (and thus the “democratic” side) and the Federalists (the “aristocrats”). Since the democratic side of the revolutionary binary constituted the nation in Jefferson’s thought, this line simultaneously became the ideological boundary of American nationhood. The means to achieve his goals was the Republican Party. Because of the severity of the Federalist threat, Jefferson decided to take his opposition to Hamilton’s policy out of the cabinet and into the public, thus


“the strongest government on eArth” creating a “republican party” that “wishes to preserve the government in its present form.”95 Any reason other than the preservation of what he regarded as the legacy of the American Revolution probably could not have brought Jefferson, who remained inimical to political parties throughout his life, to resort to partisan politics. Yet “when the principle of difference is as substantial, and as strongly pronounced as between the republicans and monocrats of our country, I hold it as honorable to take a firm and decided part, and as immoral to pursue a middle line, as between the parties of honest men and rogues, into which every country is divided.”96 The difference between Federalists and Republicans was thus no ordinary political difference. Rather, for Jefferson the contest was—as it had been in France—between “us” and “them,” between “democratic” Americans and “aristocratic foreigners.” In this way, adherence to the principles espoused by the Republican Party—Jefferson’s credo of “republican and federal principles” based on equality—became the litmus test of true American nationhood. In Jefferson’s conception, the boundary of American nationhood became thus drawn around the Republican Party, and anyone who did not subscribe to the principles of that party was at least imaginatively excluded from the nation. Jefferson himself clearly drew and propagated this conclusion by proclaiming that “the republicans are the nation.”97 In the ideologically charged atmosphere of the 1790s, Republicans did not have a monopoly on regarding the opposition as tools of a foreign country and thus un-American. On the contrary, just as Republicans viewed Federalists as “aristocrats,” so the latter treated Republicans as “Jacobins” and a “faction . . . disposed to overturn the government” in order to aid the cause of “the French Republic.”98 Moreover, just as Republicans sought to exclude those “foreigners” from the nation, so did the Federalists.99 The reality of the political situation in the late 1790s, however, resulted in diverging strategies to cope with the threat of those foreign tools. The Federalists, as the party in power, looked to the federal government as the focal point of the nation. Consequently, they regarded it as the duty of the federal government to protect the nation from “foreign” enemies within. The results of this conception were the Alien and Sedition Acts enacted by the Federalist administration in 1798 during the frenzy of the so-called Quasi War with the French Republic from 1798 to 1800. Jefferson regarded the attempt to muzzle the Republican press through the Alien and Sedition Acts as such a grave threat that he and his


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland closest political collaborator, James Madison, set out to invoke the “spirit of 1776” and—as in 1776—to appeal to the corporate entities (states) to secure their own and the individuals’ liberty.100 But unlike in 1776, in 1798 most of the other corporate entities failed to respond to the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions. As a consequence, Jefferson shifted his attention from the corporate to the individual level. The last hope for the defense of the principles of 1776, therefore, was now the “American nation” at large, and concerning the American people, Jefferson remained optimistic. He was convinced that the “aristocratic” Federalist rule of the country was “not a natural one,” because “the body of our countrymen is substantially republican through every part of the Union.” Therefore, he argued that “time alone would bring round an order of things more correspondent to the sentiments of our constitution” and advised that all that was necessary would be “a little patience, and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, . . . and the people, . . . restore their government to its true principles.”101 Jefferson’s prophesy proved correct. With the war hysteria subsiding, the Federalists’ policies of repression of opposition newspapers, raising taxes, and a standing army backfired. Already in early 1799 Jefferson observed that “time & truth have dissipated the delusion & opened” the people’s eyes. With their eyes thus opened, the American people realized the motives behind the Federalists’ plans and that “they have been dupes of artful manoeuvres, & made for a moment to be willing instruments in forging chains for themselves.”102 Once awakened from their slumber, however, Americans would not willingly submit to be chained and would instead rally to the defense of the “principles of 1776,” the union founded on the basis of equality on both the individual and corporate levels. The decisive event in this contest over the character of the nation was the election of 1800. In Jefferson’s view, with the rejection of the aristocratic pretensions of the Federalists, the American people had vindicated the legacy of the American Revolution by “restoring the government to its true principles.”103 But by doing so, the American people had done more than just that. They had also vindicated Jefferson’s conception of an American nation. As Jefferson saw it, by upholding the “principles of 1776,” the people had legitimated his equation of the Republicans with the “nation.” The election of 1800, therefore, became a virtual plebiscite for him, and in March 1801 he could argue in his first inaugural address that the contest of the 1790s had been “decided by the voice of the nation.”104


“the strongest government on eArth” Jefferson’s reference to the “nation” united by the principles of the Republican Party indicates that the struggles of the 1790s and their culmination in the election of 1800 had also resulted in the maturation of an idea of one, united American nation in his thought. The failure of the states to rally to the defense of the “federal and republican principles” in the wake of the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions in 1798 had proved to him that to uphold the union on the basis of these principles, it was necessary that all Americans possess a common awareness of their ideological foundation. In other words, Jefferson regarded it as imperative that Americans be self-conscious about what made them “American” and thus one single nation, “united with one heart and one mind.”105 In this context again, the influence of the idea of the nation as Jefferson got to know it during the early phase of the French Revolution is apparent. Jefferson did not subscribe to the French revolutionary ideal of la nation, une et indivisible in regard to the political structure of the union, but concerning the sentiment of its citizens and questions touching on fundamental principles, Jefferson came to the conclusion that to preserve the union, Americans must indeed constitute a nation une et indivisible. This nation included the rank-and-file Federalists, whom he thought had either already come over to the Republican nation or would certainly soon do so now that the “reign of witches” had passed and their “spells dissolved.”106 He could include common Federalists because he was convinced that the majority of them—as the election of 1800 had indeed proved to him—would always come around and choose the right path if presented with the choice of either supporting or rejecting the fundamental principles of 1776; in the end, they were “brethren of the same principle.”107 This definition of who belonged to the nation, however, did not extend to leading Federalists, those “false & foreign citizens” who knowingly and purposefully had conspired to subvert both the “federal and republican principles” of the Union. Under the influence of the transatlantic revolutionary developments, therefore, Jefferson’s conception of the nation had been transformed—and limited even further—from a relatively nonpolitical, broad definition of a (white) population in a territory, to a highly politicized, more exclusive meaning of that part of the American (or French) population that supported the revolutionary, “democratic” principles. For the already excluded Indians and blacks, this contraction of Jefferson’s boundaries of an American nation did not bode well. If anything,


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland in the decades following the French Revolution his attitude toward these two groups hardened further.108 For Indians, Jefferson continued to hold out the choice of either assimilation or removal from American territory, which initially meant to drive them beyond the Mississippi. Jefferson’s thinking on Indians thus provided an early basis for Andrew Jackson’s justification of his removal policy. When American expansion, not the least due to Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase of 1803, made the prospect of an American “empire of liberty” from sea to sea ever more likely, however, the prospect for Indians unwilling to give up their culture became ever more ominous, and Jefferson at times expected their complete disappearance in the face of the advance of “civilization.”109 Jefferson’s thinking about the situation and future of blacks in America followed a similar trajectory.110 Jefferson essentially remained committed to emancipation and colonization. But during the 1770s and 1780s, he had presented these actions as morally imperative—as a necessary step to end the state of war between the white American and the African nations, and to enable the latter to assume its own place within a world of free nations. With the international disorder that followed the French Revolution in mind, however, national security concerns began to trump his moral qualms. An African nation of freed slaves, after all, might still harbor resentments against the nation of their former masters and thus become a potential ally of European powers in any future conflict. Even if freed and deported, a nation of former slaves could therefore not be permitted to an “equal station among the powers of the earth,” but would need to be kept under control and in an inferior status—which basically is the way he dealt with the free black republic of Haiti during his presidency. Paired with his speculations about black inferiority in the Notes, his geopolitical considerations foreshadowed the failure of Jefferson’s dreams: blacks in America would be an inferior race instead of an equal nation. The events of the 1790s caused Jefferson not only to rethink the desirability of a black nation of freed slaves but the international, “transcendent” component of his idea of the nation in general. Jefferson’s hopes for a new republican world order, inspired by the American Revolution, had reached a zenith with the promising start of the French Revolution. Jefferson optimistically predicted that if a revolution could succeed in France, “it will spread sooner or later all over Europe,” making possible his cosmopolitan vision for a republican millennium that would transcend individual nations.111 Events from the mid-1790s on, however, forced Jefferson to


“the strongest government on eArth” reevaluate his position. The protracted course of the French Revolutionary Wars made clear for Jefferson that if the republican millennium would come at all, it would be later rather than sooner. Although he personally never lost his sympathy for the French revolutionaries, the Terror and later the conduct of the French Republic in the years from 1798 to 1800 (with the Quasi War) nevertheless required him to reevaluate his and his party’s connection with that country. The rise of Napoleon in 1799, finally, meant for Jefferson that the United States would have to stand alone as “the world’s best hope.”112 This naturally led to a heightened awareness for the special mission of the United States and thus a strengthened sense of its distinctiveness—or exceptionalism. Although until his dying day he never lost the hope for the eventual coming of the republican millennium, Jefferson realized that, for the time being, the primary goal would have to be the survival of the republican experiment in the New World. To achieve this end, the New World had to be insulated as far as possible from “contamination” from the Old World’s “bad principles.”113 The logical conclusion of this realization was the need to “abjure all political connection with every foreign power.”114 As he made clear in his first inaugural address, he wished “honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none.”115 Although Jefferson “cordially wished well to the progress of liberty in all nations,” this disentanglement would have to include countries fighting for the same principles. For geopolitical reasons, Jefferson thus had to adjust his initially cosmopolitan and transcendent idea of the nation and limit his vision of an “empire of liberty” to the United States. In the larger international arena, the United States, in turn, would have to act like any modern nation-state in an unstable world of nations and would have to put its own, specific interests first.116

The Interrelated Development of “Democracy” and the “Nation” in Destutt de Tracy’s Commentary Sieyès’s usage of the term “nation” at the outset of the French Revolution already contained all the most important elements of the modern idea of the nation. In short, the “nation” consisted of the great body of citizens, who enjoyed at least a basic civic equality. These citizens together constituted the sovereign from which all authority emanated and who designated their public officials through a representative system. It is this


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland new definition of the nation, expressed so eloquently by Sieyès, on which Tracy also based his analysis. But because Sieyès wrote his essay at the very beginning of the French Revolution, some elements of the changes brought about by the revolutionary era were implied but not yet fully developed and analyzed explicitly on their new conceptual foundations. One example would be the new understanding of the concept of “democracy,” which was included in Sieyès’s description of the nation, but not yet identified as such in What Is the Third Estate? Written in 1807 with the advantage of hindsight, Tracy’s Commentary displayed an acute awareness of the conceptual changes generated by the age of revolutions. As a result, Tracy’s analysis illustrates superbly the revolutionary dichotomy of “aristocracy” and “democracy,” the conceptual changes brought about by the revolutionary era, and the interconnected rise of the modern conceptions of democracy and the nation. The salience of the opposition between two irreconcilable visions of society becomes apparent in Book II of the Commentary, where Tracy started to tackle Montesquieu’s classification of forms of government. Tracy began this chapter by claiming that “the ordinary division of governments into republican, monarchical, and despotic, appears to me essentially erroneous.”117 He criticized Montesquieu’s definition of a republic for being too vague and flatly rejected Montesquieu’s treatment of despotism on the grounds that such a government could not exist. And Montesquieu’s description of monarchy, Tracy maintained, hardly presented an accurate portrait of monarchical government. Already this disagreement over the basic definition of forms of government shows that in the time between the composition of the two works—Montesquieu’s L’Esprit de Lois in 1748 and Tracy’s Commentary in 1807—events must have taken place that demanded almost a total reinterpretation of fundamental concepts of political theory. After having set forth his view that Montesquieu’s “division of governments . . . is in every way defective,” Tracy argued that to get to the root of the problem one initially had to “disregard the difference of forms” altogether and instead needed to “confine oneself wholly to the fundamental principles of political society.” These fundamental principles for Tracy were individual equality and inequality. Consequently, building his political philosophy on the basis of these diametrically opposed principles, he proceeded to “divide all governments into two classes, one of these I denominate national, in which social rights are common to all; the other


“the strongest government on eArth” special, establishing or recognizing particular or unequal rights.”118 By choosing to make the issue of equality the basis on which to build his political philosophy, Tracy acknowledged and confirmed that the opposition of “aristocracy” and “democracy” was the predominant framework for interpreting current events and reinterpreting traditional theories of government. When Tracy returned to the subject of forms of government in Book VI of his Commentary, he addressed the reinterpretation of the concept of “democracy.” After a cursory dismissal of Montesquieu’s division of governments in Book II—something he needed to do to set up his own classification—Tracy dedicated this book to a systematic and thorough deconstruction of Montesquieu’s taxonomy. Tracy began with Montesquieu’s notion of a “republic,” asserting that the latter had included aristocratically and democratically governed states within this single category. But in light of his dualistic classification of “national” and “special” classes, Montesquieu’s position was contradictory. Thus, Tracy concluded that Montesquieu’s notion of a republic was logically indefensible because “democracy and aristocracy are so essentially different, that they should not be confounded under a common denomination.” Next, Tracy refuted Montesquieu’s concept of “despotism.” Despotism itself, Tracy remarked, “is only an abuse” of power but “not a kind of government.” Looking closely at what Montesquieu was describing as despotism, he concluded that “despotism is the government of a single person” and therefore is nothing else than “the true pure monarchy.” Monarchy, in turn, as Montesquieu defined it most famously with reference to the example of the English constitution, was for Tracy no “pure” monarchy because “it is always limited by a small part of the nation, or by some powerful bodies” with interests “distinct from the general interests of the people; now this is precisely what constitutes an aristocracy.” Tracy, therefore, argued that what Montesquieu’s terms really were describing were “simple democracy . . . aristocracy with one or several chiefs . . . and pure monarchy.”119 Yet Tracy claimed that simple democracy and pure monarchy were “two defective orders of things.”120 They could only exist in the very beginning of a society, and “neither can possibly endure for any considerable time.” In practice, this meant that all societies that were even moderately advanced were bound to be “under a government more or less aristocratical.” This, Tracy maintained, had indeed been the case until the revolutions of


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland the late eighteenth century in which “entire nations, renouncing inequality as established, have united themselves by the means of representatives freely elected from among their equals, and constituted the authority of the general will,” thus establishing “a representative government.”121 With this analysis Tracy had established the binary of the age of revolutions par excellence. According to Tracy, politics in theory and practice no longer revolved around the Polybian cycle of the one (monarchy), the few (aristocracy), the many (“simple” democracy), and their degenerated forms (tyranny, oligarchy, and anarchy), which had formed the basis of Western political thought from Aristotle to Montesquieu. Instead, the cycle was replaced by a dichotomy because “we really have only two forms of government to compare with each other . . . aristocracy and represen­ tation,” and representation in Tracy’s view was nothing other than “democracy of enlightened reason.”122 By the time Tracy composed the Com­ mentary, then, democracy had acquired its common nineteenth-century meaning: a broad concept that encompassed a system of representation, was based on a nation of equal citizens, and was opposed to any notions of “aristocratic” inequalities. Moreover, Tracy’s reduction of possible forms of governments to only two opposing classes automatically left the aristocratic form as the only “special” and the “representative democracy” as the only “national” form of government.123 “Nation” and “democracy,” therefore, were mutually constitutive. In Tracy’s opinion, a special and thus aristocratic regime could not be a nation; thus the nation as it emerged during the French Revolution necessarily required a representative, democratic political and social system. Conversely, because democracy as a concept based on equality was incompatible with a special, aristocratic regime, it could only exist in a nation of equals. Tracy’s logic, therefore, demonstrates the common revolutionary roots of the modern ideas of democracy and the nation as antitheses to an aristocratic, hierarchical order. Tracy believed this system of a representative democracy came into being only through the revolutions of the late eighteenth century. This very recent discovery, however, did not only make Montesquieu’s classification of forms of governments obsolete. It also undermined the traditional assumption—expressed most authoritatively by Montesquieu himself—that forms of government existed in relation to the size of the territory of a state. Montesquieu had argued that a republic was possible only in a small state. Monarchies corresponded best with midsized states


“the strongest government on eArth” like France, and very large territories, finally, required the firm rule of a despot. Tracy, in contrast, contended that Montesquieu’s connection between extent of territory and form of government “is subject to many objections,” the strongest of which followed from the new concept of a representative democracy.124 In regard to a “simple democracy,” Tracy agreed that it “can only exist in territories of small extent.” Yet a “representative democracy . . . is democracy rendered practicable for a long time and over a great extent of territory.”125 Because Montesquieu’s despotism—the “true pure monarchy” in Tracy’s definition—as well as simple democracy could only exist for a short period in an infant society anyway, Tracy had again arrived at the dualistic competition between aristocratic regimes and representative democracy for dominance in the modern world. Both of these, Tracy maintained, “have the property of being applicable to all political societies from the smallest to the greatest,” and the representative democracy “even has the advantage” in this context “because it is less expensive to the governed.”126 Thus, a modern nation based on a representative democracy could exist in a state of any size. This refutation of Montesquieu’s limitation of the applicability of forms of government through the size of territory was one of the main reasons for Jefferson’s enthusiastic reception of Tracy’s Commentary. It vindicated his own contention that the development of political science, namely representative democracy, had disproven his Federalist critics who had asserted that “we were never to expect to go beyond” the ancients in political theory.127 Tracy’s analysis strengthened Jefferson’s conviction that a nation constituted on the basis of his “republican and federal principles” could indeed expand to become an “empire of liberty.” In fact, in his exultant letter to Joseph Priestley from March 1801, the first example Jefferson cited to support his contention that “we can no longer say that there is nothing new under the sun” was the novelty of “the great extent of our republic,” made possible by the new system of representative democracy.128 Consequently, Jefferson claimed that the introduction of representative democracy “has rendered useless almost everything written before on the structure of government.”129 For Jefferson, the discovery of representative democracy as the form of the modern nation amounted to nothing less than a new paradigm in the “history of man.”130 Tracy likewise perceived the discovery of representative democracy in the wake of the transatlantic revolutions of the late eighteenth century as an epochal break in human history. In regard to his rejection of


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland Montesquieu’s theory of a connection between size of territory and form of government, Tracy argued that “representative government may be considered as a new invention, unknown in Montesquieu’s time,” and even imagined that “if Montesquieu had known it, I dare say he would agree with me.” 131 Interestingly then, Tracy exonerated Montesquieu to some extent by implying that the latter committed many of his errors because he did not—and in fact could not have—thought about his subject within the conceptual framework supplied only later by the age of the democratic revolution. Tracy regarded this new conceptual framework as so revolutionary that he felt the need to develop a new theory of civilization. At first, Tracy suggested, humanity was in a state of nature in which “men acquire laws to regulate their conduct with one another.” But at this early stage, political science was so primitive that human beings “can at first imagine no other means than submitting to the will of all, or to the will of one.” Simple democracy and pure monarchy were therefore the “mark of the first degree of civilization.”132 But as Tracy had already noticed, simple democracy and pure monarchy are so “barbaric” that they can merely be transitory systems. Inevitably, Tracy asserted, “there arises a disparity of talents, wealth, riches, power, among the social body; and those who possess this superiority” would always unite and contrive “means that are employed in directing the multitude or restraining the despot.”133 In this way there arose the “aristocracy under one or more chiefs,” which “constitutes the second degree of civilization.”134 This stage, according to Tracy, had existed for a long time and still dominated the world at the start of the nineteenth century. Yet in recent times some nations “excited by some particular incident”—the transatlantic revolutions of the late eighteenth century—have begun to “renounce inequality” and instead to “give themselves a manner of being more conformable to nature, truth, and reason.”135 This enlightened “manner of being” was based on certain principles. First, the “laws are declared to be formed for the governed, not the governed for them; consequently they only exist in virtue of the will of the majority.” Second, equality had to be the guideline, and “no hereditary power can be established therein, nor can any class be constituted with exclusive privileges or honors.” And third, Tracy identified the principle that it “is always to have in view the conservation of the independence of the nation” as well as “the liberty of its members” from “fear internal and external.” Such a “manner of being”—or, in short, representative


“the strongest government on eArth” democracy—was so radically new and qualitatively different from everything attempted previously that it constituted “the third degree of civilization.”136 A fundamental aspect of the accord between Jefferson and Tracy, therefore, was a shared vision of the progress of civilization and the role that democracy and the nation played in this history.137 In embracing the revolutionary concepts of democracy and the nation, however, neither Jefferson nor Tracy concluded his analysis with the nation itself, but rather proceeded to consider the role of the nation in the progress of international relations. Jefferson’s vision of a system of equal republics that would form a world society and thus ultimately transcend the nation has been described in detail earlier in this chapter. Tracy himself approached the international issue through the same three-stage theory of history he had applied to the government of individual nations. Accordingly, he assigned each degree of civilization a corresponding degree of international relations. The first stage of international relations followed logically from the first degree of civilization: nations were in a state of nature in which “the right of nations, and of one nation in relation to another, is an absolute nullity.” The second degree of civilization, characterized by its aristocratic nature, led to the rise of certain conventions among nations, such as the employment of negotiators and ambassadors as well as the conclusion of treaties between nations. All those conventions became “comprised in the received usages of every people, and form a kind of law recognized as such among civilized nations; . . . what is called the law of nations . . . jus gentium.” Tracy noted, however, that the law of nations was often a mere cipher because no “coercive authority to prevent their infraction” existed, and so, in practice, the law of nations did not really “merit the honor of the denomination.”138 But Tracy was optimistic that the third stage of civilization—that of representative democracy—might be able to rectify this situation. The guiding principle of a representative, democratic nation after all was equality. It would only be natural, then, that those nations would meet each other in the international sphere as equals as well and—like equal individuals who form a democratic society—form a union “by ties of confederation.” Nations, therefore, while maintaining their independence, “should always approach as much as practicable to a state of confederation,” so that “what was called the laws of nations, first comes to merit the appellation of law.”139 For such a confederation to endure, however, Tracy realized that some authority needed to be established. He consequently


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland advised that for nations forming a confederation, “it is requisite further to establish among themselves, a common tribunal, and a power sufficient to enforce its decisions; such as takes place in a society, among the members who compose it.” In other words, nations as equals should come together on the next higher level of association and form again a representative, democratic world society. In this way, the third degree of civilization on the international level—namely, perpetual peace—which “always has appeared impossible and chimerical” might finally be achieved.140 Concerning the possibility for perpetual peace, Tracy was more optimistic than either Kant or Madison in their writings on that subject. But Tracy’s theory of the progress of civilization clearly illustrates his ultimate goal for the nation. As in Jefferson’s vision of a multilevel republican system, the nation should not be the end point in itself, but become a part of a democratic world society that, through the means of a “common tribunal”—that is, representation—would in turn guarantee the security and equality of its members. Tracy’s transcendent vision was not predicated on political philosophy alone; it also had a significant economic basis.141 In the second part of the Commentary, Tracy offered an extensive discussion of Montesquieu’s theories regarding the laws of commerce, currency, taxes, and the nature and origins of wealth. Montesquieu’s defense of the mercantilist system, which stressed the importance of a favorable balance of trade and consequently gave priority to external over internal trade, was the aspect of his theory that Tracy believed most in need of correction. Whoever defended such a theory, he remarked, had “not the least idea of the manner in which the riches of nations are formed,” for “internal commerce” was “the most prof­ itable and useful of all.”142 As evidence for this claim, Tracy pointed to the experience of France during the years of the Revolutionary Wars. France, he wrote, “was torn to pieces by wars, alternatively civil and foreign; . . . its external commerce was annihilated; its fleets wholly destroyed,” and “its specie had disappeared with the emigrants.”143 Yet despite “all these calamities combined,” revolutionary France had emerged as the supreme power of continental Europe on the strength of its internal revenue, “and were it not for the British navy, France might subdue the universe.”144 Tracy had an explanation for this phenomenon. Building on the work of Adam Smith, he argued that internal trade, if uninhibited by restrictions so often found in the ancien régime, would result in a greater “di­ vision of labor.” This in turn would greatly increase the amount of com-


“the strongest government on eArth” mercial activity in the entire country and thus “animate industry” because “industry is excited only by the possibility which commerce holds forth for the disposal of the products of labor.”145 Internal trade was therefore of the utmost importance to “unfold the resources of a nation in a great crisis.”146 Although giving priority to internal trade, Tracy did not condemn external trade. Rather, he asserted that “it would be very foolish to deprive ourselves of foreign commerce” because “it enlarges the extent of the market” and thus “augments industry and production” even further.147 But at least as important as the economic consequences themselves were the moral effects of commercial exchange. Tracy was convinced that “the more the spirit of commerce” between nations increased, “the more that of devastation” and war diminished.148 External commerce, therefore, played an important role in the attainment of perpetual peace and thus in Tracy’s third degree of civilization. Tracy’s assumption that commercial exchanges would have moral consequences reveals something approaching economic determinism. For Tracy, commerce could have those effects because commercial exchanges properly understood were “not only the foundation and basis of society,” but in effect the fabric of society itself, “for society is nothing more than a continual exchange” and thus “commerce is society itself.”149 But if society is a union of human beings, then for Tracy it logically followed that “commerce, that is exchange, . . . is the only bond among men.”150 This conviction that commerce in the meaning of exchanges between human beings was the “only bond among men” lay at the heart of Tracy’s theory of historical progress. He declared that “we owe to it all that we are possessed of, good or amiable; it commences by uniting all the men of the same tribe,” that is, in the first degree of civilization. “Afterwards,” in the second degree of civilization, “it unites those societies with each other” and in the third degree, finally, “finishes by connecting all parts of the universe.”151 Tracy’s economic rationale behind his theory of progress also explains why he thought that perpetual peace would be possible only in the third degree of civilization. For commerce as the “single bond among men” to become effective, the contractual partners needed to enter into the exchange “by free agreement.”152 But a truly “free agreement” can be made only between equals. The perfection of the relation between men and nations, therefore, only became possible with the advent of the representative, democratic nation, which presupposed equality as its guiding principle. The idea of commercial exchanges as the “single bond among men” also


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland explains why Tracy believed that the nation would ultimately transcend itself. As long as humans and nations would meet as equals and would not be “continually misdirected . . . by those who govern societies”—that is, as long as no artificial inequalities were introduced—the force of their natural social inclinations as well as their material self-interest would inevitably draw individuals as well as nations into ever closer union until a universal confederation and a global free market would be achieved.153

Destutt de Tracy and the Boundaries of the Nation As for Jefferson, the new idea of the nation possessed certain limits for Tracy, too. The process of defining these limits created new boundaries and led in the end to the idea of the nation becoming more exclusive and self-centered. The mainsprings for this development were geopolitical circumstances and the very idea of equality itself. Because of their incompatibility with the principle of equality, privileges for any individual or group within the nation became the first victim of equality. Hereditary principles, in Tracy’s opinion, were the most pernicious of these privileges because they would create a society apart from the general will of the nation that would defend their “particular personages . . . against the general interest.” What Montesquieu had praised as a balance guaranteeing internal stability, Tracy thus condemned as “declaring war” between different segments of society, which would destroy the nation. Accordingly, a “privileged hereditary body in the nation,” such as the English House of Lords or the French nobility, was a contradiction in terms; by definition, aristocrats could not belong to the nation.154 The next privilege Tracy refuted was the claim that property should confer special political rights to its holders. “Wealth in itself,” he wrote, “is a very great power; it has nearly the same advantages as birth, and others peculiarly its own.”155 Tracy certainly was no socialist advocating the redistribution of property. On the contrary, he believed that personal wealth “is guaranteed by the laws that relate to property and the protection of personal rights.”156 But precisely because of the safety that personal property enjoyed and the advantages it bestowed, “it is not necessary to add any power or privilege to wealth.”157 The wealthy already possessed enough power in a society of equals, and any further “pretension to a power independent of the people at large” would jeopardize the nation because those pretensions constituted “the cause of that constant warfare which is every


“the strongest government on eArth” where seen between the rich and the poor.” A political or social recognition of class differences could thus have no place in a nation because “each person’s existence is all his own, and the idea of all is not changed by the idea” of possessing more or less.158 Equality, therefore, resided in the individual, not property. Privileges under the ancien régime, however, were not limited to individuals or social groups. They could also belong to cities, regions, or other corporate entities. In fact, many regions of France before the revolution possessed their own rights and were connected to “France” only through the person of the king. The regions of France, therefore, were bastions of special, or “aristocratic,” privileges at the eve of the revolution. To overcome these obstacles and achieve equality and unity in France, the abolition of those privileges was essential. Moreover, France would also have to take into consideration its particular geopolitical situation. “It is doubtful,” Tracy argued, “whether it could have resisted all Europe, if France had adopted” the federal form of the United States.159 Thus, because of the geopolitical circumstances and the geographical situation of France, Tracy rejected federalism as a viable way to build a democratic nation. Not surprisingly, Jefferson disagreed with Tracy on this point. Proceeding from his own revolutionary experiences against a centralizing power, Jefferson argued that the geographic distribution of power could best guarantee the persistence of democratic government. “The republican government of France was lost,” he claimed, precisely “because the party of ‘un et indivisible’ had prevailed,” and “no provincial organizations existed” to which people might have rallied to resist Napoleon’s coup d’état.160 Nevertheless, in Tracy’s opinion, for the French to became a nation it was crucial to do away with regional privileges, thus justifying the exclusion of provincial separatists and even federalists like the Girondists from the nation in the name of la nation, une et indivisible. Connected with the issue of federalism and provincialism was the question of language.161 Tracy stressed that “the worst of inequalities in a representative democracy” is the “inequality of information.”162 To eradicate this inequality, he proposed that in addition to the education a person received automatically through his or her parents and society in general, “public institutions for education” should be established. By extirpating the inequality of knowledge, all three kinds of education would make an important contribution “towards the maintenance of the principles of the government” of a representative, democratic nation.163 But to grant every


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland child the same chances, at least the public education had to be uniform throughout the nation and thus preferably in one language. Furthermore, because a representative democracy “requires the general diffusion of the most correct and useful knowledge,” a single common language would again be indispensable to reach all citizens equally.164 For the nation to really be une et indivisible, therefore, uniformity in language was a great desideratum. As a result, to ensure the unity of the nation not only in political and social but also in cultural respects, Tracy counseled that “it is important, that the extent of a state be such as not to contain within itself, people differing too much in manners, character, and particularly language.”165 In short, too great a regional diversity in manners and dialects had no place in the revolutionary idea of the nation. These cultural and linguistic concerns also constituted the appropriate outer limits of a nation. These were, however, also the only limits Tracy acknowledged for a representative, democratic nation. Because of the increase in printing and other technological advances that made communications over a long distance and among a great mass of people much easier, he argued that “distance appears to me a very small obstacle, to the proper exercise of a necessary power or authority.” On the contrary, he maintained that a “great extent of territory, is an incalculable advantage, for neither internal troubles nor external aggression” could affect all parts of the country simultaneously.166 Consequently, Tracy thought that a nation, at least theoretically, should have only “natural limits,” preferably the sea or a high mountain range. For the United States, this meant that Tracy saw no reason why it, being the only modern nation on its continent, should not be able to expand from sea to sea, as long as it managed to assimilate newcomers to their manners and language—a notion that Jefferson supported wholeheartedly.167 Those natural borders, once reached by the nation, should never be transgressed. For this reason Tracy rejected colonialism. He conceded that it might be advantageous for a nation to “form colonies, to afford room for superfluous population.” But “as soon as they are found competent to exist by themselves,” they should be granted self-government and be made a part of the universal confederation “upon common terms with the rest of the society.” “Possessions beyond the sea,” and thus beyond the natural borders of the nation, should become independent and equal nations with their own natural boundaries and their own historical destiny.168 In contrast to the United States, France did not possess such a for-


“the strongest government on eArth” tuitous geopolitical situation. Nevertheless, Tracy still maintained that France “should neglect nothing to procure the best possible boundaries.” Tracy was fully aware that the establishment of natural borders through conquest would incorporate people of other nations within the French nation and would therefore constitute “an infraction of the natural rights of man to choose the society of which he may please to become a member.” 169 Despite this awareness, however, Tracy insisted on the primacy of easily defensible borders for France. In other words, his own nation came first, and considerations for the rights of individuals of other nations—or other nations per se—second. Thus, Tracy’s disquisition on the geopolitical situation of France and the actions this situation necessitated pointed in the direction of a more self-centered idea of the nation that put one’s own interests before the right of national self-determination of other nations.


oth France and the United States were already “nations” before 1789. Yet in both cases the idea of what constitutes the nation changed significantly under the impact of the French Revolution. In the case of France, this change is more obvious. The overthrow, first, of an absolutist monarchy and, later, the replacement of the monarchy itself with a republican regime—one characterized by the transfer of sovereignty from an individual to the people at large as well as the abolition of aristocratic and regional privileges under the revolutionary banners of equality and unity—reveal the change in the meaning of what constitutes the French nation rather clearly. In America, the events of the 1790s and Jefferson’s election to the presidency in 1800 may not have resulted in dramatic institutional changes on par with those of France. But it was in this period nevertheless that the development of the United States into a modern nation—begun in 1776—gained a new momentum.170 It was in this period that Jefferson and his republican followers defined exactly what it meant to be “American,” thus endowing the young United States with “a strong moral and ideological foundation” in addition to political independence.171 It was also during these years that Jefferson developed his conviction of the need for a self-consciously united American people. Together with the failure of other “republican experiments” in Europe, this idea of a single-minded, united American people resulted in a growing sense of the peculiarity of the American nation in an international system made up of other—and


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland different—nations. This was another sign of the advent of the modern world of nations. These features of a modern nation did not, and maybe could not, develop before 1789. The cross-class mobilization that occurred during the American Revolution enabled American revolutionaries to imagine their new nation in contrast to a foreign instead of an internal enemy. Social conflict could thus be avoided to some extent in a common struggle against a potentially tyrannical, and increasingly alien, monarchy. As a result, the American Revolution did not yet generate an ideological polarization among American revolutionaries strong enough to compel men like Jefferson to reconceptualize his idea of the nation in such a way as to exclude those of his fellow revolutionaries whose vision for the future American society was not quite as egalitarian as his own. This happened only in the wake of the French Revolution when Americans such as Jefferson read their internal differences in the light of the clash in France between two irreconcilable visions of how society should be structured. The ensuing dichotomy significantly contributed to the reconceptualization of the concepts of “democracy” and the “nation.” In an essential way, therefore, both concepts in their modern meaning have their common origins in their revolutionary opposition to the traditional order of society, regardless of whether this traditional society constituted itself as a legal nobility as in France or as an aspiring natural aristocracy as in America. It is in this sense that the modern concepts of democracy and the nation emerged and developed in conjunction on both sides of the Atlantic during the age of revolutions. Because these two concepts emerged and evolved in tandem, however, the darker history of how these concepts could function to exclude some people is also entangled. The more his conception of an American nationhood developed, the less possibility Jefferson saw for Native Americans to become a part of the nation. African American slaves never had a place in his imagined national community, either. After the French Revolution, finally, the more his democratic convictions developed during the 1790s, the more exclusive his idea of the nation became. Even those former fellow revolutionaries who turned out to be Federalist “aristocrats” no longer had a place in his une et indivisible nation. Regarding the international sphere, Tracy’s remarks on the ideal form that the French nation should take point toward developments that came to fruition in the nineteenth century. As Tracy argued, the nation ideally


“the strongest government on eArth” should possess an ethnically and linguistically homogenous population in a territory defined by natural borders. Attempts to realize these goals, however, often led to clashes with other nations. The process Tracy outlined for France also produced a widespread national consciousness in other nations such as Italy and Germany. To nevertheless achieve its ideal form, the nation needed a powerful instrument: the state. In a similar vein, for the United States to pursue its special destiny—to keep the republican experiment alive—it required an energetic foreign policy, which in turn required a strong state.172 Thus, Jefferson’s and Tracy’s cosmopolitan concept of a transcendent nation, which they conceived of as depending on the people and not on a governmental structure like the state, became associated with exactly that institution relatively quickly. As a result, no cordial confederation or union of nations developed that resembled the ones Jefferson and Tracy had predicted. What emerged instead were two phenomena that dominated the world in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries: the modern nation-state and exclusive forms of nationalism. The irony is that, in addition to geopolitical realities, it was the revolutionary, “democratic” concept of the nation itself that had contributed significantly to this outcome.173




cholars of history and political science often describe the French intellectual Alexis de Tocqueville as the first great theorist of modern democracy and maintain that his famous Democracy in America (published 1835 / 1840) “represents the moment when democracy first came into focus as the central subject of a political theory.” 1 This is a reasonable assessment. No one offered a more elaborate and mature theory of “democracy” after the age of revolutions than did Tocqueville in his masterpiece. The English liberal thinker John Stuart Mill thus was not excessive in his praise when he told Tocqueville that “you have carried on the discussions” on democracy “into a region both of height & of depth which no one before you had entered, & all previous argumentation & speculation in such matters appears but child’s play now.”2 The result of this impressive and immensely popular intellectual achievement was that the modern concept of “democracy” entered public consciousness largely in the way Tocqueville analyzed it. The very success of Democracy in America, however, also tended to obscure the degree to which Tocqueville’s interpretation of “democracy” built on previous changes in the concept’s meaning and concealed the history of its origins and development. Although Tocqueville provided the first full-blown theory of democracy, this study shows that Tocqueville’s work constitutes an important milestone rather than a beginning (or a conclusive end, for that matter) in the development of a modern concept of democracy. The circumstances within which Tocqueville composed his classic differed from those of the revolutionary age of Paine and Burke in three significant ways. First, the opposition between an “aristocratic” and a


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland “democratic” conception of society in which intellectuals in the wake of the French Revolution operated—although still prevalent in Democracy in America—was beginning to soften and was on the verge of being replaced by a new tension within “democracy”: namely, that between “democratic liberty” and “democratic despotism.” Second, and closely related to the first, while the theme of “equality” that conditioned the respective categorization of an intellectual as an “aristocrat” or a “democrat” was still absolutely central to his analysis, Tocqueville himself no longer focused on the two poles of equality and inequality. Instead, he was more interested in the effects, both potentially beneficial and potentially destructive, of equality alone. Finally, although Tocqueville in various instances showed an acute awareness of the conceptual changes occurring at the time, unlike Paine he never hesitated to call the system he described a “democracy.” In other words, in contrast to the 1790s, by 1835 the reconceptualization of “democracy” had already been largely completed. In short, Tocqueville was writing at a time when the revolutionary interpretive framework was starting to change, and it is precisely for this reason that his essay constitutes a fitting end point for this book.


he opposition between “democracy” and “aristocracy” is all but ubiquitous in Democracy in America. Whether Tocqueville was describing the social state of Americans, analyzing political associations, or examining family life in the United States, he always contrasted the democratic features he found in America with an (often imaginary) aristocratic opposite.3 To give just one example, in the very short chapter 18 of volume 2, part II (under two pages) on “why all respectable occupations are reputed honorable among Americans,” expressions such as “in aristocratic countries” and “in democratic societies, by contrast” appear no less than eight times.4 In Tocqueville’s writing, the concept of democracy emerged in contrast to aristocracy, and its meaning became clarified through its juxtaposition with its aristocratic opposite.5 The function that “aristocracy” played in Tocqueville’s work highlights yet again the dialectic nature of the emergence of a modern concept of democracy. Tocqueville’s juxtaposition of democratic and aristocratic conceptions of society—conceptions that to him were so incommensurable that he thought of them as “two distinct humanities”—also illustrates the pervasiveness of the revolutionary binary described in earlier chapters.6


ePilogue This opposition still constituted the critical framework for analyzing the political and social situation throughout the transatlantic world in the mid-nineteenth century. Surveying the scene in the 1830s, however, Tocqueville believed that the struggle between aristocracy and democracy had long since been resolved. To be sure, Tocqueville thought that democracy “has only just come into being” and that “the great social revolution that created it is still under way.” But although he observed that “the world that is on the rise remains half buried beneath the debris of the old,” he nevertheless had no doubt that this old world of aristocracy, deference, and hierarchy “is in collapse” and that “the democratic revolution to which we are witness,” and the corresponding rise of a democratic social order, was “an irresistible fact.”7 For Tocqueville, therefore, the winner of the struggle between aristocracy and democracy had been determined; “aristocracy” did not pose a serious threat anymore. With the prospect of “aristocracy” in any of its forms on the wane, Tocqueville turned his attention more closely to democracy and its consequences. Since in his opinion “God has decreed that we must live” in a “democratic society,” Tocqueville argued that “to wish to arrest democracy would then seem tantamount to a struggle against God himself,” a struggle that would be doomed from the outset.8 Because the progress of democracy in general “cannot be stopped,” he asserted that all that remained for concerned politicians and intellectuals was the “hope of altering its direction,” if necessary. Tocqueville instructed his readers that “the primary duty imposed on the leaders of society today” was not to attempt to prevent the spread of democracy or to re-create an aristocratic regime, but to engage democracy and to learn about its potential benefits and dangers: this was his personal, primary purpose in writing Democracy in America.9 His own analysis of democratic society based on his travels in the United States in 1831–32 led him to a deeply ambiguous conclusion. Tocqueville predicted that due to one essential principle on which “democracy” itself rested, the future development in democratic societies would result in either “democratic liberty” or “democratic despotism.”10 Tocqueville identified this basic principle as “equality of conditions.” For Tocqueville, this principle did not mean economic equality as the word “condition” nowadays might imply, but rather a notion that signified that human relationships in society were based on each individual regarding the other fundamentally as equal, despite existing differences in wealth, occupations, or personal abilities.11 It is this principle that, according to


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland Tocqueville, defined “democracy.” “It is clear to anyone who pays attention that in every century there is one singular, dominant fact to which all other facts relate,” wrote Tocqueville. In “democratic centuries” this “particular and dominant fact . . . is the equality of conditions.”12 Because he based “democracy” on this principle of equality of conditions with its essentially social rather than political characteristics, “democracy” for Tocqueville constituted—in contrast to classical political theory—not necessarily, and not even primarily, a narrowly defined political concept (the literal rule of all) but rather a comprehensive social concept. To be sure, he thought that “it is impossible to imagine that equality will not ultimately enter into the world of politics as it enters into everything else” and that a society founded upon equality of conditions would thus sooner or later very likely also assume a democratic political form. At its foundation, however, Tocqueville believed that “democracy” was not a political but a “social state,” one that was not necessarily tied to a single political form.13 The idea that the fundamental equality of human beings was the basis for democracy enabled him to disassociate democracy from its traditional narrow meaning—further confirmation that the principle of equality played a crucial role in the emergence of a new, broader, and essentially modern meaning of “democracy.”14 The definition of “democracy” as a social state with equality of conditions as its leading principle led Tocqueville to identify different ways in which “the reign of equality in the world of politics” might ultimately be achieved. His analysis led him to a troubling conclusion. On the one hand, he believed that “democratic peoples have a natural taste for liberty.” This natural taste, he hoped, would inspire “a manly and legitimate passion for equality,” which would “tend to elevate the lesser to the rank of the greater” and would result in freedom for all in what we would call a liberal democratic republic.15 But Tocqueville thought that “the human heart” unfortunately harbored not only a “manly and legitimate passion for equality” but also “a depraved taste for equality.” If some men should realize that they cannot elevate themselves to the level of others, they would strive “to bring the strong down to their level” by any means necessary.16 In other words, Tocqueville suspected that members of a democratic society would not hesitate to sacrifice the liberty of some—or even all—to realize the ideal of equality of conditions. A democratic people’s natural taste for liberty, he feared, would not stop them from such a course of action because “liberty is not the principle and constant object of their


ePilogue desire.” Instead, their great desideratum was “equality,” for which “they feel an ardent, insatiable, eternal, invincible passion.” A democratic people would certainly attempt first to achieve “equality in liberty.” But should they fail, he had no doubt that they would “prefer equality in servitude to inequality in freedom.”17 Hence, Tocqueville thought it likely that democracy might end in despotism where the equality of all was assured by the repression of liberty rather than in a free constitution. The phenomenon that Tocqueville called “democratic despotism” could take various forms. The political theorist Melvin Richter has identified no fewer than five different types of “democratic despotisms” in Tocqueville’s works: legislative despotism, cultural / intellectual despotism of the majority, “tyranny of the Caesars,” administrative despotism, and military despotism.18 But regardless of the specific details of these types, Tocqueville averred that they all had in common that their “kind of oppression” would be “unlike any the world has seen before.” In earlier times, despots and tyrants had to rule through force in order to suppress their subjects’ inclinations for liberty and rights. According to Tocqueville, “democratic despotism” would not have to resort to force. On the contrary, all that it had to do was to foster the natural tendency toward greater equality in democracies until all members of society were as alike as possible. In such a situation “men will be perfectly free, because they will be entirely equal.”19 Their desires for both equality and liberty would thus be satisfied, at least superficially. But at the same time all members of society would also be completely detached and isolated from each other, and, as a result, “each of them, withdrawn into himself, is virtually a stranger to the fate of all the others.” In this completely democratic condition, Tocqueville argued, it would be relatively easy for any government to set itself up over these isolated individuals as “an immense tutelary power, which assumes sole responsibility for securing their pleasure and watching over their fate.” Such a “democratic despotism” could afford to be “mild” because it was in accord with the people’s passion for equality. For the same reason, however, it would also be “absolute,” and the people might not even realize that “they have surrendered liberty to the national government.”20 Although Tocqueville analyzed the threat of equality to liberty in greater detail than most earlier writers, the realization that the struggle for individual equality could pose a threat to liberty in itself was nothing new. Tocqueville shared this concern with all the “aristocratic” intellectuals dealt with in the preceding chapters. Unlike Burke, Adams, and Gentz, however,


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland Tocqueville did not think that the erection of a mixed constitution—and thus the recognition and enshrinement of individual inequality within a system of corporate balance—could be the solution. “What is called mixed government,” he asserted, “has always seemed to me a chimera . . . because in the end one discovers that in every society there is one principle of action that dominates all the others,” and whether one liked it or not, that principle in all societies during a democratic age was individual equality.21 Tocqueville’s rejection of the mixed constitution theory demonstrates the dissolution of the revolutionary interpretive framework by the 1830s. Just as he no longer regarded “aristocracy” as a viable alternative to “democracy,” so inequality as the animating principle of aristocracy could no longer offer a solution to the problems posed by equality. Just as he was convinced that the future belonged to democracy, so he assumed that the solution must be found in equality itself. Tocqueville thus believed that as the march toward equality of conditions could paradoxically result in either liberty or despotism, so—equally paradoxically—the remedy to the problems arising from equality needed to be based on equality. Conceptually, “aristocracy” continued to be of tremendous importance to Tocqueville. In his opinion, aristocracy naturally possessed one great advantage: it made despotism in any form nearly impossible. Although the inequality reigning in an aristocratic society meant that “the prosperity of the many” was often sacrificed “to the grandeur of the few,” it also guaranteed that the power of these few “raised insurmountable barriers against the tyranny of the prince.”22 Great aristocrats were so strong that a monarch, or any central government, “could not create and destroy them at will,” and as a result “he was obliged to leave portions . . . of governing and administering the citizens . . . to members of the aristocracy.” Moreover, these aristocrats formed “independent corporate bodies” that acted as an “intermediate power” between the central government and the subjects, thus “further guaranteeing the independence of private individuals.” Since “the idea of subsidiary powers placed between sovereign and subjects occurred naturally to aristocratic peoples,” accustomed to a hierarchical social order, “aristocracy” possessed an intrinsic and valuable barrier against despotism.23 Tocqueville regarded the existence of such “independent corporate bodies” as critically important for the preservation of liberty in any form of government. He argued that they alone in the long run could “halt abuses of power” and “oblige the government to maintain general habits


ePilogue of moderation and restraint.” This maxim applied especially to “countries whose social state is democratic” because of the dangers presented by an atomization of society into equal but unconnected individuals striving for equality of conditions.24 Tocqueville realized that the principle of equality made it impossible for a democratic people to re-create the exclusive, hierarchical corporate bodies of the ancien régime. To resolve the dilemma, he argued that “new secondary powers” needed to be created—powers resting “on a more democratic basis,” the principle of equality.25 “In this way,” he assured his readers, “one could obtain several of the most important political advantages of aristocracy without its injustices or dangers.” “Aristocracy” thus provided Tocqueville not only with a foil against which the contours of his “democracy” became visible but also with a model of how to enable democracy to resist the despotic tendencies inherent in its defining principle of equality.26 The necessity of these democratized but functionally “aristocratic intermediate bodies” capable of restraining democracy, Tocqueville thought, was the most important lesson the American example offered to the rest of the Western world. He argued that “the greatest merit of the men who gave America its laws is that they clearly recognized . . . that there must be authorities outside the people, not completely independent of them yet endowed with a fairly substantial degree of liberty” that would enable them to counter a majority’s or government’s caprices.27 Tocqueville identified the judiciary as one “secondary body” fulfilling such a function. On the one hand, courts acted as “intermediaries” between government and its use of physical force on the population, thus substituting the rule of law for arbitrary rule. On the other hand, the courts also offered some protection for minorities against what James Madison famously called a “factious majority.” In this capacity, “the legal profession” may well have been “the most powerful . . . counterweight to democracy.” In order to successfully complete its task, however, the judiciary needed to be as independent as possible. Tocqueville feared that the tendency in some state constitutions to make judges subject to “frequent reelections” might prove to be fatal not only for “the judicial power but the democratic republic itself.”28 Tocqueville therefore advocated that judges be appointed either by the legislature or, if they needed a measure of democratic legitimacy, elected by the people at first but remain independent of both the government and the people thereafter so as to be able to serve effectively as an independent “intermediate body.”


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland American federalism offered another example of how to create a set of “independent corporate bodies” within a larger structure. Tocqueville was not oblivious to the potential “flaws inherent in any federal system.” The fact that a “federal system necessarily brings two sovereign powers together” was a source of potential conflict. But he also realized that the division of sovereignty made the development of despotism in any of them more unlikely, and he therefore maintained that a federal system “is one of the most potent arrangements there is for making men prosperous and free.” The advantages of federalism were reinforced by the strength and independence of local institutions such as towns and counties, which “in everything that pertains to themselves . . . remain independent bodies” that would never “grant the state government the right to intervene in matters of exclusively local interest.”29 Such a bottom-up construction of government as Tocqueville observed in America would still be democratic because in each sphere citizens met as equals, but it would greatly reduce the chance of a central government amassing all political power in its hands. Tocqueville analyzed many other examples of intermediary bodies or powers (including bicameral legislatures, the Electoral College, a system of representation, the press, and religion) that could restrain the despotic tendencies of democracy. Yet the most important of all were civil associations. “Americans of all ages, all conditions, and all minds,” Tocqueville observed, “are constantly joining together in groups” for all sorts of purposes, ranging from common commercial or industrial endeavors to concerns about moral and religious issues such as intemperance. All these associations, Tocqueville assured his readers, were the essential “impediment to any form of tyranny” in a democratic state because they counteracted the most dangerous characteristic of the principle of equality, the drive toward extreme individualization that threatened to dissolve the bonds of society.30 By bringing people together, associations assured that individuals escape their isolation and “see another” and “learn about another,” thus strengthening the interpersonal bonds that equality in its most extreme form endangered. By doing so, Tocqueville contended, “private individuals . . . artificially and temporarily create something that” existed naturally in aristocracies. In an aristocracy, “each wealthy and powerful citizen is like the head of a permanent, compulsory association comprising all who are dependent on him.”31 Associations in a democracy “play the role of aristocrats,” with the crucial difference that instead of being permanent, compulsory, and comprised of unequals, they were voluntary, temporary,


ePilogue and consisted of equals. By enabling and encouraging individuals to come together as equals in associations, Tocqueville hoped to counter one tendency of equality with another and make “democracy guard against the dangers of democracy.”32 Equality of conditions for Tocqueville constituted the central element of democracy. But because of its inherent tendency to drive citizens into isolation and ultimately into the hands of despotism, the very principle of equality also endangered liberty. Tocqueville’s great contribution to democratic theory was to resist the reflex of prescribing “aristocracy” and its leading principle, inequality, as the cure for the dangers of democracy. Instead, although still thinking within the binary of democracy versus aristocracy and looking to the latter for inspiration on how to resist despotism, he ultimately transcended the dichotomy and discovered remedies for democracy’s ills that were based on equality rather than inequality. By analyzing those remedies in the American example, Tocqueville provided the classic description of the modern concept of democracy. This concept encompassed the separation of powers, a federal structure, the constitutional rule of law, a free press, and guaranteed individual rights (especially those to associate and freedom of religion), and was based above all on the political and social equality of the individual. This concept of “democracy,” as Tocqueville described it, no longer had much in common with its traditional meaning—the literal rule of all in a polity—as it had been understood through the example of classical Athens and as it was still being used in the late eighteenth century.33 In Tocqueville’s work, however, no sign can be found of the fundamental reconceptualization that transformed the meaning of basic terms of political theory such as “democracy” and that characterized, for example, Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man. Instead, it seemed obvious to Tocqueville to denominate the American system he described a “democracy.” Although invaluable as the first mature description of modern democracy, Tocqueville’s Democracy in America therefore is less helpful in understanding its origins. One explanation for this is that by the 1830s, in contrast to the 1790s, the redefinition of democracy in general was already complete, and it thus simply came naturally to Tocqueville to apply the term in its new and modern meaning. That none of his reviewers in either Europe or America objected to his application of the term “democracy” to the American system indicates as much.34 Another reason Tocqueville was relatively insensitive toward the


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland origins of modern democracy, however, lies with his idea of the principle of “equality of conditions.” Because most emigrants to America, particularly in New England, came from “the middle classes” and because land ownership was widespread in all colonies, Tocqueville concluded that Americans possessed an equality of conditions from the outset. Consequently, all colonies exhibited “at least the germ, if not the mature form, of a complete democracy.” In New England especially, “democracy” had “leapt full-grown and fully armed from the middle of the old feudal society.” All that was left to do in order to bring democracy to the fore everywhere in America, Tocqueville argued, was for the American Revolution to awaken “democratic instincts . . . south of the Hudson” and wait until “the law of inheritance . . . drove equality to take the last step.”35 In other words, Tocqueville assumed that democracy had always existed in America to a certain degree and that its full realization was only a matter of time. The problem with his analysis is that the extraordinary social and economic equality in America led Tocqueville to treat “equality of conditions” as an immutable and transhistorical—even “providential”—phenomenon that over the centuries must inevitably be fulfilled. If a hierarchical, aristocratic social system stood in the way of democracy’s emergence in any given country, Tocqueville thought it likely that a “great social revolution” would occur that would pave the way for it. Such had been the case in France in 1789. But since equality of conditions already existed in America, Tocqueville maintained that America “witnessed the effects of the democratic revolution . . . without having had the revolution itself.”36 Due to the transhistorical characteristic that he attributed to “equality of conditions” and the special social situation in America, it was therefore inconceivable for Tocqueville that Americans could have participated in a democratic revolution in which democracy in its modern form originated. In fact, “equality” was no immutable concept that everybody applied in the same way at all times. As the examples of Edmund Burke, John Adams, and Friedrich Gentz show, equality could be applied on a constitutional and corporate level as well as on the individual level. Toward the end of Democracy in America, Tocqueville asserted that Americans could combine “the idea of individual rights and the taste for local liberties . . . because they had no aristocracy to fight.”37 This statement nicely encapsulates the situation of the American colonists during the American Revolution when the individual and corporate notions of equality worked in complementary ways due to the specific social circumstances in the


ePilogue colonies. But this does not mean that Americans did not participate in a democratic revolution at all. As illustrated in the preceding chapters, the French Revolution brought the different notions of equality into conflict and resulted in the radicalization of the notion of individual equality, which in turn led to the branding of anyone who regarded inequality as the reigning principle in society as an “aristocrat”—whether in Europe or America, as John Adams learned the hard way in the 1790s. Committed to his idea of “equality of conditions” as a singular and immutable principle, Tocqueville did not analyze this development in depth. Consequently, he could not realize the full significance of the struggle between Federalists and Republicans in America during the 1790s in his— otherwise excellent—chapter “Parties in the United States.” 38 In this chapter, Tocqueville argued that there existed two classes of parties. In “periods of calm,” minor parties existed whose ambitions did not go beyond the ordinary goals of day-to-day politics. But “there are times when . . . the social state itself is compromised” and when “nations feel . . . that a total change of political constitution” is necessary. Only “in such times,” he continued, did “great parties arise.” Tocqueville told his readers that in the 1830s no such great parties existed in the United States, but that “America has had great parties in the past.” Before the election of 1800, “the nation found itself divided into two camps,” the Federalists, who “wished to restrain the power of the people,” and the Republicans, who wanted “to extend it without limit.” In other words, Americans had found themselves divided into “aristocratic” and “democratic” camps, and the struggle between these two sides affected principles “of the utmost importance, such as love of equality.” Tocqueville thus situated the American party struggles of the 1790s within the framework of aristocracy and democracy. Because of his conviction that America had been basically democratic already, however, he did not realize that the intense struggles between the two “great parties” in the 1790s constituted Americans’ participation in the “great social revolution” that the French Revolution had set in motion. Yet as Tocqueville argued in his The Old Regime and the Revolution, the “French Revolution did not have a territory of its own” but rather “united or divided people despite their laws, traditions, characters, and languages,” creating “above all particular nationalities, a common intellectual homeland where men of all nations could become citizens.” Many Americans sympathetic to the radicalized principles of the French Revolution chose to join this “common


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland intellectual homeland,” and to participate in the “great democratic revolution” in which the development of modern democracy in general, and also modern American democracy, received its decisive impetus.39


ocqueville’s Democracy in America, due to its detailed analysis of “democracy” and the time of its composition, is particularly well suited to recapitulate the emergence of a new and modern concept of democracy in the United States described in this book. This development, however, was by no means completed at the end of the age of revolutions or with the publication of Tocqueville’s work. The concept of democracy that emerged in the age of revolutions was modern in the sense that it differed greatly from its classical meaning and that it provided the basis for our understanding of what democracy is in America today. A federal, representative system on the basis of popular sovereignty combined with the rule of law in a constitutional framework is still the fundament of America’s democracy. Equality, too, is still an essential principle of democracy. In many respects, however, “democracy” has evolved decisively since Tocqueville’s days. For example, what equality means has changed considerably, and it also applies to more social groups than was the case in the early nineteenth century. After all, very few today would describe as genuinely “democratic” a regime as the one described by Tocqueville in which African Americans, Native Americans, and women were excluded from many or all of democracy’s benefits. Interestingly, at the very time when Tocqueville in the early 1830s traveled through the United States and compiled his material on and formed his opinions about the nature of American democracy, a new generation of radical writers appeared, challenging the status quo of American democracy and pushing the inclusive and egalitarian implications of equality farther than ever before. Writers such as Thomas Skidmore (The Rights of Man to Property, 1829), William Apess (A Son of the Forest, 1829), David Walker (Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World, 1829), and William Lloyd Garrison (Thoughts on African Colonization, 1832) provoked a new debate about why certain groups were not considered to be equal, constituent members of the democratic American nation. They thus raised new questions about the relationship between democracy, on the one side, and issues of class, gender, and race, on the other, which subsequently drove the further evolution of the concept of democracy.


ePilogue By bringing Democracy in America in dialogue with the works of these writers, Tocqueville’s essay can serve not only to reflect on the emergence of modern democracy in the age of revolutions but also to provide a brief outlook on how hitherto excluded groups used the language and logic of equality to demand their inclusion into American democracy. In essence, writers such as Skidmore, Apess, Walker, and Garrison contended that despite all the achievements of American democracy so far, there were still covert (and not so covert) forms of corporate, hereditary inequality that structured American society and operated similarly to the way aristocracy worked in the Old World. What makes a juxtaposition of their works and Tocqueville’s Democracy in America so interesting is the fact that Tocqueville, although he addressed all the topics discussed by the aforementioned writers, was reluctant to characterize the issues of slavery, Indian removal, and women’s and workers’ rights as “aristocratic,” and thus as problematic for “democracy.” His treatment of the relation between workers and employers presents a prime example. Tocqueville was by no means oblivious of the general economic developments going on around him and their potential consequences for the political sphere. He recognized that the rise of industry during the preceding decades had been nothing less than an industrial revolution, which, he expected, would not slow down anytime soon and would have its greatest effects in democratic countries. Accordingly, he devoted a particular chapter in his book to the question of “How Industry could Give Rise to an Aristocracy.”40 Tocqueville argued that “two new axioms of industrial science” (division of labor and mass production) would drive a further industrialization of the economy. As a consequence of this new mode of production, Tocqueville assumed that workers would more and more concentrate on a single activity, while industrialists had to survey an increasing range of issues. Regarding intellectual capacity, he feared that in the long run “industrial science” might “debase the class of workers” as “it raises the class of masters.” The latter would then “more and more resemble the administrator of a vast empire,” while the former would “resemble a brute,” the one seemingly “born to command” and the other “born to obey.” Hence, he concluded that if “aristocracy” would “ever appear in the world anew,” it would be as a result of industrialization. This potential rise of a “manufacturing aristocracy,” however, did not really perturb Tocqueville. “To tell the truth,” he confided to his readers, such a “manufacturing aristocracy” would be “one of the most limited and


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland least dangerous” of any sort of aristocracies. For one, industrialists were concerned with industry only and not with all aspects of life as was the old landed nobility in Europe. For the same reason, the masters of industry were unable to create and maintain a “permanent” and “genuine bond between the poor man and the rich man.” In other words, industrialists could not “establish the principle of inequality” and “extend it to all of society” as any real aristocracy had to do in order to legitimize, secure, and perpetuate their position. As a consequence, industrialists could not form an aristocratic body in the traditional sense and thus could not seriously aspire “to govern” the people. All they could do was “to use it” for their profit. Tocqueville even argued that because the inequality that characterized the industrial workplace was confined to the economic sphere, wealth, since it was suspect to ordinary citizens, actually posed “an obstacle to attaining power” in a democratic society, and the rich— manufacturers or otherwise—therefore were “almost entirely out of politics” in the United States. For these reasons, Tocqueville just could not agree with those “who expect to see an aristocracy arise” in a democratic and industrializing country such as America.41 Thomas Skidmore, an exponent of the early labor movement from New York, had a very different view on the relation between workers and employers, on economic inequality and its consequences for democracy. Unlike Tocqueville, he did not expect a “debasement” of workers as a result of new industrial methods of production. Rather, in Rights of Man to Property (1829) he argued that due to the increased availability and significantly reduced cost of newspapers and journals, common people had never been better educated than in the industrializing society of early nineteenth-century America. He nevertheless predicted that this improvement of the personal as well as collective capacity of workers would not lead to a gradual reduction of the disadvantage that workers had in relation to masters. On the contrary, as “labor saving machinery” would continue to displace more and more workers, they would be compelled to compete for ever fewer jobs. As a result of the rise of industry, he therefore assumed that the gap between workers and employers would in fact grow wider and reinforce the basic division of society into two distinct classes, “those who own the world, and those who own no part of it,” or in short, into “proprietors, and non-proprietors.”42 In contrast to Tocqueville, Skidmore did not consider this sort of economic inequality and class structure as compatible with a democracy. In


ePilogue his essay, he time and again decried the existence of “a certain description of men among us,” who like “drones . . . live without labor of their own.” As long as such a “class of Aristocrats” monopolized the means of production and concentrated the greatest share of property in a few hands, the large majority of the population would always live in misery.43 Nor was this “aristocracy” of the rich politically powerless, as Tocqueville had maintained. Skidmore averred that as in earlier centuries, so in the New York of the early nineteenth century the entire political and legal system was geared to the advantage of the rich. On the one hand, especially the upper houses in the legislatures often promoted the interests of the rich, and an independent judiciary shielded their possessions from popular influence. In addition, the prevailing legal code permitted the rich to perpetuate their preponderance through wills and chartered corporations. Far from being powerless then, Skidmore beheld the rich as a “curse,” which had the country in a choke hold, and “which it is proper to exterminate.” Although he cited the example of a tax official being lynched by a mob during the French Revolution, Skidmore with this phrase meant less the physical extermination of affluent persons than “to entirely re-model the political structure of our State” with the goal of ensuring a full equality of citizens.44 According to Skidmore, the major problem with the political, economic, and legal order of New York—and the United States in general— was that the founders had not fully adhered to the principle of equality. He admired Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine as men who had done as much for common people as anyone. But even these two, he argued, interpreted equality and the rights of man “in terms, which when they come to be investigated closely, appear to be very defective and equivocal.” Most important, Skidmore criticized Jefferson’s use of the phrase “pursuit of happiness” in the Declaration of Independence, and demanded that it be substituted with “property” because “man’s natural right to life and liberty, is not more sacred or unalienable, than his right to property”; as the right to life and liberty was equal, so the right to property needed to be equal as well.45 Consequently, the radical proposition to expropriate all the property in the state and to redistribute it equally to all citizens, including women, blacks, and Indians, constituted the core of Skidmore’s plan to create a truly egalitarian society in his home state of New York and, as he hoped, eventually around the world. To prevent economic inequality from returning, he furthermore demanded that wills be prohibited, and that the


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland property of individuals fall back to the state at their death, to be distributed among all persons arriving at the age of maturity in that year. Only by thus extending the principle of equality to property as well, Skidmore believed, could a government be instituted that rested on and respected “all the rights of man.”46 To ensure the survival of his envisioned radically egalitarian economic order, Skidmore contended that the existing political system had to be thoroughly democratized. To this end, he proposed that the people of New York call a state convention in order to devise a new constitution. This new constitution should enshrine universal suffrage (again including women, blacks, and Indians). In addition to wills, all debts needed to be canceled and corporate charters, especially bank charters, severely curtailed and brought under the control of the state. Taking the central element of a democracy, “that a majority is to govern,” literally, Skidmore also called for the abolition of the state senate and for the frequent election of judges. He even contemplated the supersession of counties to concentrate the “public will” in a single “Legislature in perpetual session.” In regard to the other states in the Union, Skidmore hoped that they would follow suit once New York had established such a radical democracy. But he left no doubt that “if our connection with the Union interfered with our own internal arrangements . . . it would be fully competent to us, to break off all such connection.”47 In other words, if forced to make a choice, Skidmore preferred to implement his democratic vision to preserving the American union. If Tocqueville knew Skidmore’s vision of a democracy, he most likely looked upon it as a nightmare. The abolition of “intermediate bodies” such as divided legislatures and counties, which Tocqueville regarded as essential safeguards in a democracy, as well as the popular election of judges and above all the expropriation of private fortunes, constituted a recipe for what Tocqueville regarded as democratic tyranny par excellence. It is important to note that Skidmore’s plan represented the radical fringe of the political spectrum in the United States and that Tocqueville’s ideas were much more in tune with the political and economic preferences of a majority of Americans. But nevertheless, Skidmore’s work illustrates that what is often called the “social question”—the issue of workers’ rights, the demand to include property in the principle of equality during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as well as its implications for “democracy”—was already being raised when Tocqueville visited the United States. In addition to the question of workers’ rights, the role and rights of


ePilogue women in a democratic society was another contested topic that in the long run effected a further development of the meaning of “democracy.” By today’s standards, Tocqueville’s perspective on gender equality and democracy seems not very “democratic.”48 To be sure, he had no doubt that democracy’s central principle of equality also had its impact on the relation of the sexes in America, and that the democratization of American society would result in “raising woman” and making her “more and more the equal of man.” He continued to explain that this equality of the sexes meant that Americans held “both in the same esteem and regard them as beings of equal value.” Although seeing men and women as beings of equal value, however, Tocqueville hastened to add that Americans nevertheless regarded them as beings with “different destinies” because “nature had made man and woman so different in physical and moral constitution.”49 Describing what historians have termed the ideology of republican motherhood, he stressed that “no country in the world” had separated more clearly the “lines of action of the two sexes”: men’s sphere of action lay outside the home in the world of business and politics, while it was women’s duty to take care of the “quiet circle of domestic occupations” such as housework and child-rearing. Furthermore, this American version of a “democratic equality . . . between woman and man” did not aspire to “topple the husband from power and confuse lines of authority within the family.” Americans understood the family to be a kind of association. Like any association, the family needed a leader as well, and “the natural leader of the conjugal association was the man.” The husband therefore represented the family to the outside world, had control over the family fortune, and through the ballot participated in politics.50 While Tocqueville sympathetically described American wives’ “sacrifice of independence,” he made unmistakably clear that in his opinion, too, this was the way gender roles in a democracy needed to be. He deplored that in Europe some people intended to make men and women “not only equal but alike” by ascribing “the same functions to both, assign them the same duties, and grant them the same rights.” But the result of such a “crude mixture of nature’s work,” he thought, could only be “weak men and disreputable women.” Fortunately, Tocqueville concluded, in contrast to some Europeans, in America not only men but also women understood this fact. Accordingly, American women did not “regard conjugal authority as a felicitous usurpation of their rights.” On the contrary, he observed that “they prided themselves” on their voluntary acceptance of


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland their female duties. At least this “was the sentiment expressed by the most virtuous among them,” and if there were women in America who did not agree with this point of view, these “others remain silent.”51 As in the case of workers’ rights and equality of property, so in regard to gender equality Tocqueville adequately expressed the prevailing view in America during the early nineteenth century. Yet his assertion that there were no dissenting voices was wrong. For instance, already at the beginning of the American Revolution Abigail Adams urged her husband, John, that he and his fellow delegates to the Continental Congress should “Remember the Ladies” when devising a new code of laws, and in 1790 Judith Sargent Murray published her essay On the Equality of the Sexes.52 During the same years that Tocqueville visited the United States and wrote his two volumes of Democracy in America, moreover, new writers took up the subject and called for greater gender equality and an expansion of women’s rights. As mentioned above, Thomas Skidmore in Rights of Man to Prop­ erty advocated equal property rights for women as well as female suffrage. In 1837, Sarah Grimké’s Letters on the Equality of the Sexes and the Condition of Women appeared, which in turn influenced some of the drafters of the Declaration of Sentiments written in 1848 at the Seneca Falls Convention, one of the most significant events in the early women’s rights movement.53 All these writers assailed the predominant “equal worth” but “different destinies” gender norms described by Tocqueville, and demanded women’s full participation in American democracy. Yet Tocqueville either missed or chose to neglect these contemporary challenges to his understanding of democracy. Tocqueville could be relatively unconcerned regarding the economic and political position of workers and the status of women because he did not consider their peculiar situations as a consequence of “aristocracy,” and thus inimical to “democracy.” The institution of racial slavery in the United States, on the other hand, posed a greater challenge to Tocqueville and his interpretation of American democracy. One part of the population of a country keeping another part in a perpetual state of legal inferiority by definition constituted an aristocracy. In order to use the American system as a template to describe and analyze modern “democracy” in general nonetheless, Tocqueville circumvented the problem by concentrating on white America in most of his book. He was, however, fully aware that slavery, as well as the precarious situation of Indians, and the racism buttressing both, formed an integral part of the specific character of American


ePilogue democracy. To account for this aspect of America’s regime, he devoted the last—and by far the longest—chapter of volume 1 of Democracy in America to a discussion of “topics” that “are American but not democratic,” and most important, “the present state and probable future of the three races that inhabit the territory of the United States.”54 Tocqueville’s prognosis for the future of race relations in America was bleak. Not only featured the United States “three naturally distinct” but “hostile races.” Chiefly responsible for this condition was the fact that both blacks and Indians suffered “the effects of tyranny” at the hand of whites. Concerning slavery, Tocqueville left no doubt that he considered its existence as an “evil” from a moral and ethical position. From a political point of view, too, he viewed slavery in America as an anomaly because, in essence, it was an “aristocracy.” Hence, he averred that “slavery is not an institution that can endure” indefinitely “in an age of democratic liberty and enlightenment.” Political economy, finally, also showed that slavery did not even pay off. As Tocqueville illustrated at the example of the states of Ohio and Kentucky, which were separated only by the Ohio River and were settled at approximately the same time: “in provinces where people owned virtually no slaves, population, wealth, and prosperity were increasing more rapidly than in provinces where people did own slaves.”55 Aside from a very few apologists of slavery, Tocqueville argued, Americans in both the North and the South were aware of and agreed upon all these points and accordingly rejected slavery. Yet Tocqueville almost despaired regarding slavery and race relations in America. The reason for Tocqueville’s pessimism was that slavery in America constituted not just any aristocracy, but “an aristocracy founded on visible and imperishable signs” such as skin color. In short, it was an aristocracy of race. This special feature of slavery in the United States, Tocqueville thought, made its abolition much more difficult. In antiquity, slaves generally were of the same race as their masters and were often well educated. Accordingly, once emancipated, former slaves could relatively easily blend in with their former masters. In America, Tocqueville contended, this was impossible since “the immaterial and transitory fact of slavery combines in the most disastrous way with the material and permanent fact of racial difference.” Legally, American slaves could be set free. But he feared that “racial prejudice” would mean that blacks in America could still never be “anything other than an alien vis-à-vis the European.”56 Tocqueville saw his assumption confirmed by the fate of free blacks in


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland the North. Although slavery had been abolished in most northern states, racism had not decreased. On the contrary, he observed that in the United States, “the prejudice against Negroes seems to increase in proportion to their emancipation, and inequality is enshrined in mores” even though slavery disappeared. Even in the slave-free North, Tocqueville thus regarded the hope “that the Negroes will one day blend in with the Europeans” as a “chimera,” and reckoned that blacks had merely passed from slavery to a “tyranny of laws” and, ultimately, degradation through informal racism.57 Regarding the American South, Tocqueville’s predictions were gloomier yet. Despite the racial discrimination against free blacks, which Tocqueville regarded as problematic in a democracy, the North at least could abolish the morally, politically, and economically baneful institution of slavery. Although free blacks certainly would protest against the “tyranny of laws” imposed on them, the small number of blacks living in the northern states assured that they could not seriously challenge white supremacy. The situation in the South was different. There the large number of black inhabitants left only two choices for whites: “either free the Negroes and fuse with them; or remain isolated from them and keep them in slavery as long as possible.” The logic of the principle of equality, Tocqueville argued, made any other solution impossible. If freed but kept in an inferior position in a system marked by racial discrimination, the large number of freed blacks would rebel. This, in turn, would lead to “the most horrible civil war and perhaps to the destruction of one of the two races.”58 Unfortunately, Tocqueville remarked, whites in the South were as “unwilling to fuse with” blacks as were whites in the North. Hence, white Southerners had opted to follow his second recommendation, perpetuating slavery. By keeping up the system of racial slavery, however, whites could only “put off the misfortunes they dread,” but not solve the problem. Since the black population in the South increased “much faster than that of Whites,” Tocqueville thought it very likely that blacks would someday achieve such a preponderance in numbers that they could no longer be held in check, and that therefore the “Blacks and Whites in the southern states will sooner or later end up in conflict.” Given that whites were unwilling to mix with blacks, Tocqueville thus ultimately expected a race war to break out in the American South; considering that whites possessed the advantages of weapons, organization, and financial resources, he could not “see how the Negroes can escape the threat of destruction” in such a war.59 In the case of blacks, Tocqueville feared their annihilation in a poten-


ePilogue tial race war. In regard to Indians, he suspected that this process was not only well under way, but already half completed. On the East Coast, he contended, “all the Indian tribes that once” had lived there “live now only in memory,” and by the time of his journey through the United States, one had “to travel more than a hundred leagues inland to find an Indian.” With the steady advance of white settlers, Indians had to retreat farther and farther, so that Tocqueville believed “that the Indian race in North America is doomed,” and “that by the time Europeans have settled the Pacific coast, it will have ceased to exist.” Responsible for this deplorable fate were, for the most part, white settlers, whose greed for land pushed the Indian tribes ever farther west, as well as the conduct of the federal and state governments, whose policies toward the Indians showed a complete “absence of good faith.”60 Yet Tocqueville also argued that Indians failed to pursue the only avenue open to them to escape their extinction. He thought that in contrast to blacks, Indians had the chance to join Anglo-American society. Being accustomed to a nomadic lifestyle and the personal independence coming with it, however, Tocqueville maintained that Indians resisted “becoming civilized farmers” for as long as possible. If necessity finally forced some of them to adopt a lifestyle similar to that of white settlers, as in the case of the Cherokee, white pressure and the allurements of a traditional life in the woods both pushed and seduced many of the Indians, so that “he abandons the plow, takes up his arms once more, and returns to the wilderness for good.” Due to the combination of the greed of white settlers and a “lack of flexibility unparalleled in history” on the Indians’ side, then, Tocqueville worried that the native tribes’ extinction was “inevitable.”61 Both regarding the situation of blacks and Indians, Tocqueville described sentiments that were widely shared among Americans during the first decades of the nineteenth century, regardless of their ethnic background. Although many white Americans avoided the subject of slavery in public as far as possible, in private even slaveholders often came to similar conclusions. For example, James Madison, in one of the preparatory notes for his articles in the National Gazette, already in 1791–92 concluded that the existence of slavery by definition made the southern states “aristocracies,” and Thomas Jefferson at various points throughout his career expressed his sorrow, at least in the abstract, at seeing Indians disappear.62 Like Tocqueville, however, Madison, Jefferson, and many other Americans shared an almost fatalistic attitude about how to change the situation.


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland In contrast to such resigned sentiments, several writers emerged around 1830 who more forcefully than ever demanded that America tackle its racial problems. Among these writers were blacks such as David Walker, Indians like William Apess, as well as whites such as William Lloyd Garrison. The picture of the present situation that these writers drew was no less bleak than Tocqueville’s. What was different and new, however, was the conviction and sense of urgency that America needed to address the grievances of blacks and Indians now, that it was essential for America to enlarge the boundaries of its democracy, and that it could do so. For example, William Apess, a Native American of Pequot ancestry living in New England, in his essay A Son of the Forest (1829) in great length excoriated the whites’ behavior in cheating and displacing the native tribes from their homelands since the time of the first white settlements in America. In A Son of the Forest as well as in his other writings, he also bitterly condemned the racial discrimination that kept Indians in an inferior condition. In particular, Apess, who worked as a Methodist preacher, castigated the hypocrisy of white Americans who prided themselves on their Christianity but still treated some of their fellow human beings as inferiors just because of the color of their skin. Defiantly, he asserted that “black or red skins” were equally made in the “image of God” and assured his readers that “I am satisfied with the manner of my creation, fully— whether others are or not.”63 Having thus stated his conviction of the equality of all Americans regardless of skin color, Apess categorically demanded that white Americans apply this principle in practice. Apess, however, not only asked for the immediate granting of full and equal rights of citizenship to Indians and, implicitly, blacks. He also insisted that whites had to shed “the mantle of prejudice,” end informal as well as formal racism, and accept people with a different skin color as their full equals. For instance, he explicitly attacked white Americans’ obsession with miscegenation, and, after having reminded his (white) readers that whites over the last two centuries had chosen “hundreds and thousands” of Indians “as partners in life,” he ascertained that “the Indians have as much right to choose their partners among the whites if they wish.” Only if these conditions of a full legal and social equality would be met, Apess concluded, “shall peace pervade the Union.”64 As Apess’s demands for the extension of full citizenship to Indians shows, despite his often harsh indictment of white racism, his ultimate


ePilogue goal was not the rejection of the American system and the return to old— or the creation of new—Indian ways of life. On the contrary, Apess wholeheartedly aimed at the inclusion of Indians into American democracy. To this end, he also pointed out the prospect of reconciliation in many of his writings. For instance, although Apess in his Eulogy on King Philip declared that at the moment he could only “look upon white people as being enemies and not friends,” he indicated in the next paragraph that this enmity would cease once Indians were granted full equality. Neither Indians nor whites had “to answer for our fathers’ crimes,” nor would it be “right to charge them one to another.” Apess thus made clear that his hopes and aspirations were directed to a common, amicable future, and not to the quarrels and prejudices of the past.65 In 1829, the same year that Apess published A Son of the Forest, David Walker also published his Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World. Walker, born in Wilmington, North Carolina, as a free African American, had moved to Boston in 1825, where he became a prominent voice in that city’s black community. He thus shared with Apess the experience of the racial discrimination in the slave-free North, and their works also display some similar characteristics beyond the same date of publication. For instance, like Apess, Walker condemned the historical trajectory of white racism, argued that on the basis of Christianity all human beings were equal, and reserved his special scorn for white Christian preachers who “in open violation of the Bible” defended slavery and white supremacy.66 More so than Apess, Walker reinforced his religious arguments with strong appeals to white Americans’ political convictions. In the Appeal, he quoted at length from the Declaration of Independence, with a particular emphasis on the phrase “that All men are created equAl,” and prompted his white readers to compare the language of the Declaration of Independence “with your cruelties and murders inflicted . . . on us.” If white Americans took the principles espoused in the Declaration of Independence seriously, he contended, they could not continue to “tell us that we [blacks] are an inferior race of beings,” and had no other choice than to set their slaves free and accept blacks as equals. Much more so than Tocqueville, Walker thus argued that the existence of slavery in America contradicted basic democratic principles, and called into question “if the United States of America” could be called “a Republican Government” at all.67 Walker’s Appeal gained considerable attention at the time of its publication. In the words of one historian, for a moment it even “was the most


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland notorious publication in America,” and legislatures in several southern states banned its distribution.68 This notoriety was mostly due to Walker’s repeated predictions of a race war and allusions to slave rebellions. Despite his often fierce rhetoric, however, Walker did not aspire to set up blacks as a separate people hostile to white Americans. Rather, and again similarly to Apess, all he envisioned was for blacks to become equal members of a more inclusive American democratic nation. Accordingly, he assured white Americans that their fears that blacks, if set free, “would involve the country in a civil war” were unfounded. “Set us free, and treat us like men,” Walker continued, “and there is no danger” because blacks were not “hard hearted, unmerciful, and unforgiving.” If whites were ready to accept “coloured citizens” as their equals, instead of viewing the very idea of “coloured citizens” as a contradiction in terms, Walker had no doubt that the injustices “of the past will be sunk into oblivion” and all Americans “will become a united and happy people.”69 William Lloyd Garrison, finally, although not belonging to one of the discriminated groups, was another activist who began to challenge the structural inequalities of American democracy just around the time Tocqueville drafted his essay. Garrison, one of the most prominent American abolitionists, began the publication of the antislavery newspaper the Liberator in 1831, and in 1832 published his Thoughts on African Coloniza­ tion. In these works, Garrison made unmistakably clear that slavery must be abolished immediately. In a similar vein as Walker, whose Appeal he had read, Garrison argued that the institution of slavery could not be upheld since it was both anti-Christian and antidemocratic. Using the language of the Declaration of Independence, too, Garrison scathingly criticized Americans who professed “their abhorrence of aristocratical distinctions” while not seeing—or not wanting to see—that slavery was nothing other than a form of aristocracy. To this “hypocrisy and tergiversation,” Garrison promised that he would “fearlessly give battle . . . with the Declaration of Independence in one hand, and the Bible in the other.” Much like Apess and Walker, Garrison thus contended that America could scarcely be regarded as a democracy as long as white Americans were unwilling “to treat their colored brethren as countrymen and citizens.”70 Garrison elaborated his vision of an inclusive American nation in his rejection of the American Colonization Society. The American Colonization Society, founded in 1816, propagated as its goal the transportation of free blacks to Africa (Liberia). The underlying assumptions were, on the


ePilogue one side, that blacks in Africa could achieve a freer life than in the United States, but also that the removal of the free black population would help to prevent future slave rebellions.71 Garrison condemned the society and its plans as a “conspiracy against human rights.” America, he averred, was the “only legitimate home” of blacks just as well as of whites, and instead of shipping free blacks to Africa, white Americans needed to renounce their racism. Then they would see that blacks were not a foreign nation, but “bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh”; that is, they formed an integral part of the American nation. As such, Garrison continued, blacks had not only “an inalienable right to freedom” but also to “every political and social right.” Only by extending full political and social equality to blacks could America fulfill its democratic promise and save its “boasted republicanism” from becoming “a by-word and a hissing among all nations.”72 The demands for the further extension of “equality” in economic, political, and social regard to workers, women, Indians, and blacks as voiced by the writers mentioned above show the eventual direction in which American democracy would develop. Of course, at the time Tocqueville toured the United States, these voices still represented an often small minority, and in none of the cases discussed was it either foreseeable or inevitable that their struggle would ultimately be successful. Yet it was exactly around the time of Tocqueville’s visit that a small but increasingly vocal segment of Americans came to the conclusion that there existed a glaring contradiction between the American ideal of inclusion and equality and the reality of exclusion and inequality. There were a number of reasons why these activists appeared around 1830 in greater number and in more radical form than ever before. Earlier, as Apess himself stated, the “natives had no means of gaining the public ear” because they “had no press.”73 The various removal plans discussed in the late 1820s, and put into effect by President Andrew Jackson in 1830, brought the issue of Native Americans’ rights to the fore, too. While artisans had constituted a politically important element of American cities for a long time, industrialization on a big scale began only after the War of 1812, so that a working class and its specific demands emerged not until the 1820s. Criticism of slavery had also existed earlier. Yet as, for example, Jefferson’s invidious section on the nature of blacks in the Notes on the State of Virginia (1787) illustrates, the state of American racial thinking was still inchoate during the age of revolutions.74 The generally prevailing assumption until the 1810s or 1820s that slavery was a dying institution further


Citizens of a Common intelleCtual Homeland contributed to keeping the issue of slavery buried beneath the surface of American political discourse. The continually expanding slave system, however, at the latest by the 1820s, had proven that assumption wrong. Finally, as Tocqueville in Democracy in America demonstrated so forcefully, the great struggle of the age of revolutions between essentially egalitarian and hierarchical conceptions of society, between “democracy” and “aristocracy,” had been decided in favor of the former. For instance, in America, the Federalists as the “aristocratic” party had ceased to be a nationally powerful political force with the end of the War of 1812. Consequently, as one of the emerging democracy’s essential principles, “equality”—in the radicalized, individual meaning that it had acquired in the wake of the French Revolution—increasingly became both a yardstick for the democratic character of a political system and a potent political weapon. Being confronted around 1830 with the inequalities just described, reformers such as Skidmore, Apess, Walker, Garrison, and others then were able to seize this radicalized notion of individual equality as a means to win the moral high ground. In comparison to how most Jeffersonian Republicans in the 1790s had understood equality, however, reformers in the 1830s radicalized its meaning yet again. Their repeated references to the language of the Declaration of Independence illustrate this, as they argued that equality as used in the Declaration of Independence applied to blacks, Indians, women, and workers just as well as to ordinary white citizens, a notion that would have troubled Jefferson and many of his fellow Republicans. But as during the 1790s, so from the 1830s onward, equality was the battle cry of the reformers, and as during the 1790s, the struggle to gain recognition for their radical, expansive notion of individual equality as the fundament of a more inclusive American democratic nation was arduous and strongly resented by the defenders of the status quo. Yet within an increasingly selfconsciously democratic framework, these activists’ struggles in the name of equality ultimately succeeded in initiating a further evolution and broadening of the nature and meaning of American democracy—and that process is not at an end yet.



Introduction 1. For Begriffsgeschichte and its theoretical foundations, see, in particular, Brunner, Conze, and Koselleck, Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe; Koselleck, Practice of Con­ ceptual History; Richter, Political and Social Concepts; for—somewhat differing— approaches to conceptual history, see also Ball and Pocock, Conceptual Change and the Constitution; Ball, Farr, and Hanson, Political Innovation and Conceptual Change; Pocock, Politics, Language and Time; Skinner, Vision of Politics. 2. For a succinct critique of Begriffsgeschichte, see Bevir, “Begriffsgeschichte,” 273–84; the two reference works are Brunner, Conze, and Koselleck, Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe, and Reichardt and Schmitt, Handbuch politisch­sozialer Grundbegriffe. 3. Wood, Idea of America, 15–16. 4. For studies of the processes described in this book from a grassroots perspective, see, for example, Cotlar, Tom Paine’s America; Hale, French Revolution and American Democracy.

Prologue 1. Tocqueville, Democracy in America. For the history of the publication and reception of volume 2, see Brogan, Tocqueville, 343–44, 367–72; Mélonio, Tocqueville and the French. 2. The second volume of Democracy in America had appeared simultaneously in Paris and in an English translation in London, and within the same year an American edition had been published in New York; see Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 895. For reviews of Tocqueville’s essay in America, see Zunz, “Tocqueville and the Americans,” 359–96. 3. For Americans’ conception of democracy during the colonial era, see Lokken, “Concept of Democracy,” 568–80. 4. For the influence of classical authors on the understanding of eighteenthcentury thinkers about democracy, see Dunn, Democracy, 24–50. 5. Francis Rawle, A Just Rebuke (Philadelphia, 1726), 24–25, cited in Lokken, “Concept of Democracy,” 571–72. 6. On the strong attachment to the British constitution in the years leading up to the American Revolution, see Bailyn, Ideological Origins, 273–80.


notes to PAges 9–14 7. On the virtually automatic connection between independence and democracy / republicanism, see Adams, Republikanische Verfassung; for a differing assessment of this relation, see Kenyon, “Republicanism and Radicalism,” 153–82. 8. All quotes in the preceding two paragraphs can be found in Adams, Repub­ likanische Verfassung, 99–101. On the idea that conceptual change necessarily accompanies political or social transformations, see the editors’ introduction to Ball, Farr, and Hanson, Political Innovation and Conceptual Change, 1–5, and the introduction to Ball and Pocock, Conceptual Change and the Constitution, 1–11. 9. Madison, Federalist 10 and 14, in Hamilton, Madison, and Jay, Federalist Pa­ pers, 50–58, 74–80, quotes on 55. 10. On the centrality of “republic” as the most hotly contested concept during the ratification debate, see Ball, “ ‘A Republic—If You Can Keep It,’ ” in Ball and Pocock, Conceptual Change and the Constitution, 137–64, quote on 144–45. For a differing argument about the ratification of the Constitution as a struggle between “aristocracy” and “democracy,” see Wood, Creation, 483–99. 11. Dunn, Democracy, 19. 12. This interpretation is characteristic for the so-called consensus historians of the mid-twentieth century; see, for example, Brown, Middle­Class Democracy. For a recent interpretation of this kind, see Maloy, Colonial American Origins. 13. This line of interpretation is the hallmark of the “Progressive” and “NeoProgressive” historians; see, for example, Beard, Economic Interpretation of the Con­ stitution. The argument that “American democracy” had been started by ordinary people during the American Revolution has recently been reinforced by Nash, Un­ known American Revolution, and Smith, Freedoms We Lost. 14. Two of the most influential works of the republican revisionist tradition, in addition to Bailyn’s Ideological Origins and Wood’s Creation, are the latter’s Radical­ ism and Pocock, Machiavellian Moment; quotation in Bailyn, Ideological Origins, 301. 15. Dunn, Democracy, 14. 16. Although long neglected in historiography, there have been several excellent recent studies that put the development of American ideas about democracy, nationhood, union, and so forth into a revolutionary, transatlantic context. See, for example, Bradburn, Citizenship Revolution; Cotlar, Tom Paine’s America; Hale, French Revolution; Ziesche, Cosmopolitan Patriots. 17. Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 3. On Tocqueville’s use of “equality of conditions” to describe what we would now call equality of status or social equality, see Brogan, Tocqueville, 275n. 18. “Equality,” as the French revolutionary slogan of liberté, égalité, fraternité illustrates, was of course only one of the principles important to revolutionaries. In contemporaries’ complete political and social thought, moreover, these principles were closely interrelated, so that a thorough, separate treatment of any one of them also requires the portrayal of others—what in fact will be done whenever necessary in the following chapters. 19. Otis, “Rights of the British Colonies”; Paine, “Common Sense,” Collected Writings, 12.


notes to PAges 15–22 20. Pennsylvania Packet, March 18, 1776. 21. On demands for “liberty” in the meaning of inclusion into privileges—and in this sense a greater “equality”—in the context of a still hierarchically conceptualized society, see especially Rozbicki, Culture and Liberty; for an interpretation of Shay’s rebellion along this line, see 172–76. For a differing argument stressing the significance of “natural rights” such as equality already in the American Revolution, see Bradburn, Citizenship Revolution, 22–42. 22. On differences between the revolutionary experiences, the differing applications of natural rights ideas, and the varying roles of communitarian ideals in America and France, see Higonnet, Sister Republics. The importance of the corporate, “aristocratic” impulse for the revolutionary developments in the late eighteenth century in both America and France is emphasized in Palmer, Age of the Democratic Revolution. 23. On “equality” and its role and meaning in the French Revolution, see, for example, Ozouf, “Equality,” in Furet and Ozouf, Critical Dictionary, 669–83; on equality in a less theoretical and more practical interpretation, see Gross, Fair Shares for All. The role of the nobility in triggering the French Revolution is well covered in Smith, Nobility Reimagined, and the older work by Godechot, Counter­ Revolution. On the emergence of “democracy” in the French context, see especially Livesey, Making Democracy in the French Revolution. 24. On Americans’ reinterpretation of their own situation in the wake—and under the impact of—the French Revolution, see, for example, Appleby, “Radicalizing the War for Independence,” 7–16; Cotlar, Tom Paine’s America, 5–7. 25. The Federalists’ “aristocratic” attitude in this regard is well portrayed in Taylor, “From Fathers to Friends,” 465–91; for the cultural consciousness of a naturally hierarchically ordered society in colonial America, see also Wood, Radicalism, 11–42; for the concept of deference, see Pocock, “Classical Theory of Deference,” 516–20. 26. For the notion of popular sovereignty in general and its development in America in particular, see Morgan, Inventing the People, 239–306. 27. Taylor, “From Fathers to Friends,” 465–91.

1. The Tangled Issue of Equality 1. On the breakdown of the friendship between Paine and Burke in the wake of the French Revolution, as well as on Paine’s letter to Burke, see, for example, Keane, Tom Paine, 286–96; Dishman, Burke and Paine, 59–67. 2. Copeland, Our Eminent Friend, 148. 3. See, for example, Dishman, Burke and Paine; Fennessy, Burke, Paine and the Rights of Man; Blakemore, Intertextual War. 4. For a recent study that does take into account the conceptual change and Paine’s contribution to it, see Dunn, Democracy. On the conceptual development of “democracy” during the age of revolutions in general, see Brunner, Conze, and Koselleck, Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe, 1:821–99; Furet and Ozouf, Critical Dictio­ nary, 649–58.


notes to PAges 22–28 5. For general interpretations of Paine, see his two most recent biographies: Fruchtman, Thomas Paine, and Keane, Tom Paine; quotation in Aldridge, Man of Reason, 7. For a description of Paine’s writings as “democratic,” see, for example, Claeys, Thomas Paine, 1. 6. See, for example, Foner, Tom Paine; Penniman, “Thomas Paine,” 244–62. 7. For example, in Common Sense as well as in his American Crisis papers and Forester’s Letters, the term “democracy” does not appear. 8. For example, Paine’s impolitic letter to George Washington after his release from captivity in France shows Paine’s combativeness; see Paine, Complete Writings, 2:689–723; quote in Kaye, Thomas Paine, 43. 9. Kates, “From Liberalism to Radicalism,” 569–87. Kates contends that Paine changed his position to such a degree that the first and second parts of Rights of Man contain “contradictory ideologies” (see 571); quote in Paine, Complete Writings, 2:910. 10. For a general overview of the notion of “equality,” its radical implications as well as its relation to hierarchy (“inequality”), see Israel, Enlightenment Contested, 545–71. This chapter concentrates on political and social equality. Although the question of economic equality did play a role in the controversy as well, it is neglected here because the former two notions are more central to the emergence of a new meaning of democracy in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. 11. For a concise overview of Burke’s ideas and writings on the imperial crisis, see Dishman, Burke and Paine, 22–43. 12. On Burke as one of the “inventors” of party politics, see Cone, Burke and Politics: American Revolution, xiv–xv; on Burke and the Economic Reform Bills, see O’Gorman, Edmund Burke, 57–60. 13. Burke, “An Appeal from the New to the Old Whigs,” Works, 3:350. 14. Burke, “Present State of the Nation,” Selected Writings and Speeches, 41–47. 15. Ibid., 47. 16. For Burke and the Declaratory Act, see Dishman, Burke and Paine, 25. 17. Burke, “Present State of the Nation,” Selected Writings and Speeches, 21. 18. Burke, “Speech on American Taxation,” Selected Writings and Speeches, 112. 19. Ibid., 113, 110. 20. Burke, “Conciliation with America,” Works, 2:43–44. 21. Ibid., 2:44–45. 22. Ibid., 2:55. 23. Burke, “Address to the British Colonists in North America,” Works, 5:144. Both addresses, however, were never sent out; see Dishman, Burke and Paine, 38. 24. For Burke’s plan of a federal union, see especially his Second Speech on Con­ ciliation and his speech in the House of Commons from December 2, 1777, in Par­ liamentary History: The Parliamentary History of England from the Earliest Period to the Year 1803 (London, 1806–20), 19:517; on Burke’s move toward federalism in general, see Stanlis, “Edmund Burke,” 30–38. 25. Burke, “Address to the King,” Works, 5:125; Burke, “Address to the Colonists,” Works, 5:142, 150. 26. Burke, “Address to the Colonists,” Works, 5:146.


notes to PAges 29–36 27. Ibid., 5:146–47. 28. Paine, “Serious Address to the People of Pennsylvania,” Complete Writings, 2:287. 29. Paine, “Common Sense,” Collected Writings, 18. 30. Ibid., 17. 31. Thomas Paine, “Letter to the Abbé Raynal,” Complete Writings, 2:237–48. 32. Ibid., 2:244. 33. Thomas Paine, “Public Good,” Collected Writings, 259–72. 34. Ibid., 278–80. 35. Ibid., 271. 36. Ibid., 285. 37. Ibid., 286. 38. Ibid. 39. Paine, “Common Sense,” Collected Writings, 16. 40. Ibid. 41. Paine, “Letter to the Abbé Raynal,” Complete Writings, 2:240. 42. Ibid. 43. Paine, “Public Good,” Collected Writings, 285. 44. Paine, “Common Sense,” Collected Writings, 18, 12. 45. Ibid., 32. 46. Ibid., 12. 47. Paine, “A Serious Address,” Complete Writings, 2:286. 48. For arguments, in addition to the difference about “equality” detailed above, why Burke might have had reasons to write such a work in 1777, see Clark, “Edmund Burke’s Reflections,” 71–75. 49. Ibid., 76. 50. Quoted in Fennessy, Burke, Paine and the Rights of Man, 45. 51. Quoted in ibid. 52. Paine, “Rights of Man, Part One,” Collected Writings, 433. 53. For the inveteracy of Paine, see, for example, Foner, Tom Paine, 87. Almost all the more recent works on Burke make this case. For the same notion in the older historiography, see, for example, Mazlish, “Conservative Revolution of Edmund Burke,” 28. 54. For the American colonists’ view of their governments as facsimiles of the English constitution, see Lokken, “Concept of Democracy,” 574–79. 55. On the expansion of the powers of colonial assemblies, see especially Greene, Quest for Power. 56. Lokken, “Concept of Democracy,” 578–79. 57. Quoted in O’Gorman, Edmund Burke, 55. 58. Burke to the Duke of Portland, September 3, 1780, Correspondence, 4:274. 59. David Lloyd, “A Further Vindication of the rights and privileges of the People of the Province of Pensilvania . . . March 1725,” Penn Manuscripts, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, quoted in Lokken, “Concept of Democracy,” 578.


notes to PAges 37–44 60. Onuf, “Democrazia, rivoluzione e storiografia,” 153–55; Rozbicki, Culture and Liberty, 64–69. 61. Burke, “Speech on Conciliation,” Works, 5:39–41. 62. Burke, “Address to the King,” Works, 5:127. 63. For Burke’s conception of political power as a “trust,” see O’Gorman, Ed­ mund Burke, 53–55. 64. Burke, “Address to the King,” Works, 5:127; Burke, “Address to the Colonists,” Works, 5:142. 65. See, for example, Burke, “Address to the King,” Works, 5:125; Burke, “Address to the Colonists,” Works, 5:145. 66. Burke, “Address to the Colonists,” Works, 5:144; Paine, “Common Sense,” Collected Writings, 6. 67. Paine, “Common Sense,” Collected Writings, 5. 68. Ibid., 43. 69. Ibid., 52. 70. The Alarm, Broadside, May 1776, quoted in Foner, Tom Paine, 125. 71. Paine, “A Serious Address,” Complete Writings, 2:282. 72. Ibid., 2:282–83. 73. Ibid., 2:285, 282. 74. Ibid., 2:272; Paine, “To the People,” Complete Writings, 2:278. 75. Paine, “A Serious Address,” Complete Writings, 2:270; Paine, “To the People,” Complete Writings, 2:278. 76. Paine, “A Serious Address,” Complete Writings, 2:278. 77. Paine, “To the People,” Complete Writings, 2:271–72. 78. Ibid., 2:271; Paine, “A Serious Address,” Complete Writings, 2:279, 281. 79. Paine, “To the People,” Complete Writings, 2:271. 80. Paine, “Dissertations on Government,” Complete Writings, 2:368–69. 81. Ibid., 2:369. 82. For the triggering of the French Revolution by the French aristocracy, see Palmer, Age of the Democratic Revolution, 1:439–65. 83. For succinct summaries of the political positions of various strands of the French aristocracy at the eve of the French Revolution, see Godechot, Counter­ Revolution, 17–31; on the political positions of the French nobility more generally, see Smith, Nobility Reimagined. 84. For Burke’s indifference to the early phase of the French Revolution, see, for example, Cone, Burke and Politics: French Revolution, 292–300. 85. Burke to Charlemont, August 9, 1789, quoted in Hardy, Memoirs, 322. 86. Ibid. 87. For a short account of Burke’s reaction to the events of the French Revolution, see Dishman, Burke and Paine, 58–62. 88. Depont to Burke, November 4, 1789, Correspondence, 6:31–32. 89. Burke to Depont, after November 4, 1789, Correspondence, 6:41–42. 90. Ibid., 6:42. 91. Ibid., 6:46.


notes to PAges 44–54 92. Ibid., 6:42–43, 46. 93. Ibid., 6:45. 94. Burke to Windham, September 27, 1789, quoted in Fennessy, Burke, Paine and the Rights of Man, 95. 95. An Abstract of the History and Proceedings of the Revolution Society in London (1789), 51. 96. Boulton, “An Unpublished Letter,” 49–55. 97. Ibid., 51–53. 98. Ibid. 99. Burke, “Substance of Mr. Burke’s Speech in the Debate on the Army Estimates,” Works, 5:15. 100. Ibid., 15–16. 101. Ibid., 12. 102. Ibid. 103. After having dealt with Dr. Price and the Revolution Society on the first pages; see Burke, Reflections, 31. 104. Ibid., 35–38. 105. Ibid., 43. 106. Ibid. 107. Ibid., 36. 108. Ibid., 45, 44. 109. Ibid., 44. 110. For Burke’s apprehensions of intellectuals outside the traditional system of patronage of church and aristocracy, see the introduction of Pocock to Burke, Reflections, xxxvii–xxxix. 111. Burke, Reflections, 45. 112. Ibid., 45, 39, 38. 113. Ibid., 39. 114. Ibid., 36, 31, 36–39. 115. Ibid., 31–33. 116. Ibid., 32–33. 117. Ibid., 42. 118. Ibid., 42, 70. 119. Ibid., 66–68. 120. Ibid., 33. 121. On Paine’s and Burke’s theological roots of their views on “equality,” see Vickers, Thomas Paine, 105–26; Fruchtman, Political Philosophy of Paine, 27–47; for Burke, see Fennessy, Burke, Paine and the Rights of Man, 52–60. 122. Paine, “Rights of Man, Part One,” Collected Writings, 461–62. 123. Ibid., 462–63. 124. Ibid., 463–65. 125. Ibid., 464–65. 126. On Paine’s effort to discredit the British Crown, see also Jordan, “Familial Politics,” 294–308.


notes to PAges 55–65 127. Paine, “Rights of Man, Part One,” Collected Writings, 443, 485–86. 128. Ibid., 478. 129. Ibid., 478–80. Paine’s opinion that aristocracy would stand or fall with the law of primogeniture was in close accord with that of his friend Thomas Jefferson; see, for example, Brewer, “Entailing Aristocracy,” 307–46. 130. Paine, “Rights of Man, Part One,” Collected Writings, 471. 131. Ibid., 476–78. 132. Ibid., 536. 133. Ibid., 534–35. 134. Ibid., 533. 135. Paine, “Rights of Man, Part Two,” Collected Writings, 558–72. 136. Ibid., 559, 565–66. 137. Ibid., 564. 138. Ibid., 567. 139. Ibid. 140. On Paine’s exclusion from mainstream American democracy, see Cotlar, Tom Paine’s America. 141. Other early examples are Maximilien Robespierre and Cardinal Chiaramonti, the later Pope Pius VII; see Dunn, Democracy, 112. 142. Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 3.

2. Aristocracy, Constitutionalism, and the Evolution of Modern Conservatism 1. Adams, “Defence,” 4:271–588, 5:1–496, 6:3–220; Adams, “Discourses,” Works, 6:223–403; Jefferson to Washington, May 8, 1791, Papers of Jefferson, 20:291–92. 2. Adams to Jefferson, July 29, 1791, Papers of Jefferson, 20:305–7. 3. Adams and Jefferson renewed their friendship and resumed their correspondence only in 1812 when the issues that agitated Americans in the 1790s had been largely settled; see Baron and Wright, Libraries of Adams and Jefferson, xiii. 4. A facsimile of the election circular is included in Cunningham, Jeffersonian Republicans, 112. 5. For statements to this effect, see Aughey, “Moderate Right,” 112–13; Lora, Conservative Minds, 6–9; Rossiter, Conservatism in America, vii, 15–17. For the distinction between traditionalism and conscious conservatism, see, for example, Mannheim, Conservatism. For general theoretical studies of conservatism, see, for example, Scruton, Meaning of Conservatism; Schmitz, Konservativismus; Huntington, “Conservatism as an Ideology,” 454–73; quote in Honderich, Conservatism, 1–3. 6. Similar ideas are expressed in Lora, Conservative Minds, 7–8; Rossiter, Con­ servatism in America, 15–16. In addition, one might argue that by introducing ideas and principles with which modern societies still grapple today, the French Revolution laid much of the basis for our modern world. The reaction against this phenomenon is therefore also still of relevance to us today. 7. George F. Will, foreword to Rossiter, Conservatism in America, vii.


notes to PAges 66–67 8. See, for example, McMahon, Enemies of the Enlightenment; Epstein, Ur­ sprünge des Konservativismus. 9. Hampsher-Monk, Political Philosophy of Edmund Burke, 10–19; O’Gorman, Edmund Burke, 45–66. 10. In fact, some historians argue that the defense of aristocratic, corporate liberties against centralizing tendencies of European monarchs constitutes the real beginnings of modern conservatism; see, for example, Weiss, Conservatism in Eu­ rope, 9. 11. Quotation in Viereck, Conservatism, 25. With “Burkean” in this context, I mean the critique of the French Revolution as a defense of the titled, hereditary, corporate, and religiously sanctioned social structure of the ancien régimes of Europe. 12. On the advantages of a transatlantic perspective for the study of developments during the age of revolutions in general, see Albertone and De Francesco, Rethinking the Atlantic World; Klooster, Revolutions in the Atlantic World, 1–5. Older but still relevant works in this tradition are Godechot, France and the Atlantic Rev­ olution, and Palmer, Age of the Democratic Revolution. For a recent call to study the history of conservatism in a transatlantic context, see, for example, the respective references by the contributors to the roundtable on American conservatism in the Journal of American History 98 (2011): 742–43, 759, 768. 13. For the assumption of antirationalism as the basis of any modern conservatism, see Epstein, Ursprünge des Konservativismus, 25–36; Lora, Conservative Minds, 8; Elm, Konservatives Denken, 10–12. Adams’s and Gentz’s rational modes of reasoning also present an example for an emerging conservatism’s “modernity”; for a larger argument that the reaction to Enlightenment and revolution was itself modern, and why, see McMahon, Enemies of the Enlightenment, 14. 14. For an intriguing study of liberty’s relation to inequality in the late eighteenth century, see Rozbicki, Culture and Liberty. 15. On constitutionalism, particularly in the American context, see Greene, Constitutional Origins of the American Revolution; Hulsebosch, Constituting Empire; Reid, Constitutional History. 16. This does not mean that Burke, Adams, and Gentz understood “equality” to mean exactly the same thing. In the American situation in general, for example, “equality” contained a stronger social component than in the English or French context, where the legal aspect predominated. For the significance of “equality” in the American and French Revolutions, see, for example, the sections on these two events in Hannah Arendt’s classic work on revolutions, Arendt, On Revolution; for recent accounts of the meaning and role of “equality” in the French Revolution, see Gross, Fair Shares for All, and Livesey, Making Democracy in the French Revolution; for a recent analysis of the importance of “equality” in the period leading up to the American and French Revolutions, see Israel, Revolution of the Mind. 17. My thinking on the perception of Adams, Gentz, and Burke has been inspired by Hans-Georg Gadamer’s idea of interpretative horizons and how they influence our judgments of persons, texts, ideas, and events. See Gadamer, Wahrheit


notes to PAges 67–74 und Methode, 284–90, 352–55; see also Reinhart Koselleck’s and Gadamer’s exchange on the latter’s thesis in “Historik und Hermeneutik” and “Historik und Sprache. Eine Antwort von Hans-Georg Gadamer,” in Koselleck, Zeitschichten, 97–127. Some methodological aspects of this work are also influenced by “Begriffsgeschichte”; for this approach, see Koselleck, Practice of Conceptual History; Bevir, “Begriffsgeschichte,” 273–84. 18. For an interpretation of the defense of an aristocratic, corporate world view as a singular, and thus historically concluded, form of conservatism, see Kondylis, Konservativismus. 19. For Adams’s conception of liberty, see especially Thompson, John Adams, 50–55. 20. Adams, “Novanglus,” Papers, 2:271; see also Thompson, John Adams, 66. 21. Adams, “A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Laws,” Papers, 1:112. 22. Adams, “Novanglus,” Papers, 2:315. 23. For the “Massachusettensis” essays, see Leonard, “Massachusettensis.” 24. Adams, “Novanglus,” Papers, 2:373–74. 25. Ibid., 347–48; see also Thompson, John Adams, 69–71. 26. Adams, “Reply of the House to Hutchinson’s First Message, 26 January 1773,” Papers, 1:319; Adams, “Novanglus,” Papers, 2:329, 321. 27. This position was shared by many colonists around 1774–75; see, for example, Thomas Jefferson’s very similar thoughts in his 1774 essay “Summary View,” Jeffer­ son’s Writings, 115–16. 28. For such an argument, see, for example, Leonard, “Massachusettensis,” 33–34, 39. 29. Adams, “Novanglus,” Papers, 2:313; see also Greene, Peripheries and Center, 88. 30. Adams, “Novanglus,” Papers, 2:307. 31. On corporate bodies as bastions of aristocracy, see Palmer, Age of the Dem­ ocratic Revolution, 1:27–54. 32. On elites in the colonial assemblies and their oligarchic tendencies— checked by the need to mobilize large-scale resistance to Great Britain—see Lokken, “Concept of Democracy,” 568–80. 33. For the “invention” of an American people, see especially Morgan, Invent­ ing the People, 239–87. 34. For the effect of American cross-class mobilization in regard to the issue of “equality,” see also Rozbicki, Culture and Liberty, 64–69; Onuf, “Federalism, Democracy and Liberty,” 132–59. 35. Adams, Familiar Letters, 149–50. 36. Adams to Richard Henry Lee, November 15, 1775, Works, 4:186. 37. Adams, “Thoughts on Government,” Works, 4:196. 38. Ibid., 4:193. 39. For the debate about who or what might be represented in an upper house, see Bailyn, Ideological Origins, 273–301. 40. For the “American model” for French reformers and revolutionaries, see Appleby, Liberalism and Republicanism, 232–52.


notes to PAges 75–81 41. See, for example, Dunn, Sister Revolutions, 73. 42. Palmer, Age of the Democratic Revolution, 1:268. 43. When writing “Turgot and his followers,” I basically refer to the loose group of intellectuals that included the two dukes de la Rochefoucauld, the Duchess d’Enville, Mme. D’Houdetout, the Abbé Morellet, Pierre Samuel Du Pont, and the marquis de Condorcet. 44. For Adams and the natural law thinking, see Thompson, John Adams, 12, 18–19; for the importance of universals in Enlightenment thinking in general, see, for example, Gay, Enlightenment, 323–43; for an analysis of epistemological differences between Adams and many of the French reformers, see Thompson, “John Adams,” 361–87. 45. Palmer, Age of the Democratic Revolution, 1:270. 46. H. G. R. Mirabeau, Considérations sur l’ordre de Cincinnatus, ou imitation d’un pamphlet Anglo­Américain (London, 1784), quoted in ibid., 1:271. 47. Adams, “Defence,” Works, 5:488; first quote can be found in Haraszti, John Adams, 330. 48. The letter is printed in Adams, Works, 4:278–81, quote on 279. 49. Ibid., 9:623. 50. Some historians contend that Shays’s rebellion propelled Adams to write Defence; see, for example, Haraszti, John Adams, 25; Smith, John Adams, 2:688. Several letters written by Adams during the time of the composition of Defence, however, do not support this theory; see Appleby, Liberalism and Republicanism, 294n8. 51. For Adams’s notion of Defence as a contribution to political science “applicable to all peoples and at all times,” see Wood, Revolutionary Characters, 178. 52. Adams, “Defence,” Works, 6:118–19. 53. Ibid. 54. Appleby, Liberalism and Republicanism, 204. 55. For the connection between reason and the idea of equality, see also Israel, Enlightenment Contested, 551–52. 56. Adams, “Defence,” Works, 4:392. 57. Ibid., 5:488. 58. Ibid., 4:397. 59. Ibid., 4:290. 60. Ibid., 5:261. 61. Ibid., 4:290. 62. See, for example, Foner, Tom Paine, xviii; Appleby, Liberalism and Republi­ canism, 190, 202. 63. For the occurrence of such a reinterpretation, see Appleby, “Radicalizing the War for Independence,” 7–16. 64. Patrick Henry to John Adams, May 20, 1776, Works, 4:201. 65. For this episode, see Bailyn, Ideological Origins, 291–92. 66. Quoted in ibid., 293; see also Palmer, Age of the Democratic Revolution, 1:276. 67. For a good example of the nature of the pre- and early revolutionary debates in France, see Baker, Inventing the French Revolution, 203–305.


notes to PAges 82–87 68. For the role of the privileged orders concerning the start of the French Revolution, see, for example, Palmer, Age of the Democratic Revolution, 1:439–68; Smith, Nobility Reimagined; for an overview of the historiography on the subject, see Andress, “Shifting Landscape,” 648–50. 69. On the conceptual development of “aristocracy” during the era of the French Revolution, see Conze and Meier, “Adel, Aristokratie,” Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe, 1:1–49; Bien, “Aristocracy,” Critical Dictionary, 616–28. On conceptual change in general and its role in the American context, see also Ball, Farr, and Hanson, Political Innovation and Conceptual Change, 1–49; Ball and Pocock, Con­ ceptual Change and the Constitution, 1–34. 70. Subsequently, many historians have taken up the charge by contemporaries that Adams had abandoned republicanism and have argued that he had changed his political principles between the 1770s and the 1790s; see, for example, Howe, Changing Political Thought of John Adams; Wood, Creation, 562–92; Appleby, Liber­ alism and Republicanism, 190. 71. Jefferson to Adams, February 23, 1787, Papers of Jefferson, 11:177. 72. Madison to Jefferson, June 6, 1787, Papers of Jefferson, 11:401–2. 73. Quoted in Thompson, John Adams, 269. 74. Adams, “Defence,” Works, 6:141. 75. Parsons, John Quincy Adams, 42; on the suppression of the French translation of Adams’s Defence, see Appleby, “Jefferson-Adams Rupture,” 1084–91. 76. For this episode in general, see, for example, Thompson, John Adams, 270. 77. Jefferson to Washington, May 8, 1791, Papers of Jefferson, 20:291–92. 78. Madison to Thomas Jefferson, May 12, 1791, Papers of Jefferson, 20:294. 79. Jefferson to William Short, January 3, 1793, Writings of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Ford, 6:153–56. 80. For the impact of the French Revolution on the political and social thought of Americans beyond Adams, Jefferson, and other elite politicians, see, for example, Cotlar, Tom Paine’s America; Cotlar, “Federalists’ Transatlantic Cultural Offensive,” 274–77. 81. For the “Publicola” controversy, see Parsons, John Quincy Adams, 42–44. 82. “Publicola,” June 1791, Adams, Selected Writings of John and John Quincy Adams, 227. 83. For the reaction to the “Publicola” articles, see Banning, Jeffersonian Per­ suasion, 93–100, 155–60. 84. Thompson, John Adams, 273. 85. On the impact of the French Revolution on the perception of domestic issues, see, for example, Cotlar, Tom Paine’s America, 5–7; Bradburn, Citizenship Revolution; Hale, “On Their Tiptoes,” 191–218. 86. Gentz, Origin and Principles. 87. Ibid., 3. 88. Ibid. 89. Sweet, Gentz, 42–45. 90. Wittichen and Salzer, Briefe von und an Gentz, 1:158–59.


notes to PAges 88–98 91. Ibid., 1:178–79. 92. Quoted in Sweet, Gentz, 20. 93. Gentz, Origin and Principles, 6–7. Gentz thus provided a crucial impetus for the development of the interpretive tradition that regarded the American Revolution as “conservative,” which would remain influential well into the second half of the twentieth century; see, for example, the work of Russell Kirk or Peter Viereck, who calls the events of 1776 not a revolution but a “restoration” (Viereck, Conser­ vatism, 87). 94. Gentz, Origin and Principles, 28. 95. Ibid., 30–32. 96. Ibid., 32, 33. 97. Ibid., 34, 36. 98. Ibid., 35–38. 99. Gentz, “Abhandlungen zur Französischen Revolution,” Über die Franzö­ sische Revolution, 435–43; translations from the German original into English— except for John Quincy Adams’s translation of the Origins and Principles—are my own. 100. Ibid., 443; Gentz, Origins and Principles, 73. 101. Gentz, Origins and Principles, 41, 49. 102. Ibid., 52, 54. 103. Ibid., 39. 104. Ibid., 39, 41, 49. 105. Gentz, “Abhandlungen,” 403, 404–5. 106. Ibid., 408, 406. 107. On Locke’s idea of the social contract and its subsequent influence, see, for example, Porter, Creation of the Modern World, 184–204. 108. Gentz, “Abhandlungen,” 407. 109. On the relation of civil and political liberty in Gentz’s political thought, see Kronenbitter, Wort und Macht, 60–61. 110. Gentz, “Abhandlungen,” 535, 484, 486. 111. Ibid., 409, 414. 112. Kronenbitter, Wort und Macht, 61–62. 113. Gentz, “Abhandlungen,” 443. 114. Ibid., 450–51, 533n; for Gentz’s predilection for a balanced constitution—as well as his change on this issue in later years (after 1805)—see also Kronenbitter, Wort und Macht, 77. 115. Gentz, “Abhandlungen,” 531. 116. Ibid., 532. 117. Ibid., 533. 118. Gentz, Origin and Principles, 35n. 119. Quotation in ibid., 39. For a discussion of Adams’s position on popular sovereignty, see Appleby, Liberalism and Republicanism, 205–6; on Gentz and popular sovereignty, see Kronenbitter, Wort und Macht, 54–56. 120. For example, in a letter to George Washington from May 8, 1791, Thomas


notes to PAges 98–103 Jefferson described Publicola (defending John Adams) and others as “Burkites,” whereas he described their opponents as “Painites”; see Thomas Jefferson to George Washington, May 8, 1791, Papers of Jefferson, 20:291. 121. For a more detailed description of Burke’s ideas and the historiography on Burke, see chapter 1. 122. For widely differing interpretations of the relation between early American and European conservatism, see, for example, Viereck, Conservatism, who basically sees them as one and the same; Lora’s Conservative Minds is an example of emphasizing differences. Michael Zuckerman, finally, has recently argued that no conservatism in the European meaning ever existed in America; see Zuckerman, “American Conservatism,” 464–80. 123. Most notably in Tocqueville, Democracy in America. For a study that is very sensitive to the tension between liberty and equality in Tocqueville’s work, see Wolin, Tocqueville between Two Worlds. 124. Mannheim, Conservatism, quoted in Lora, Conservative Minds, 9; Rossiter, Conservatism in America, vii. 125. Interesting in this regard is Garber’s article “Drei Theoriemodelle frühkonservativer Revolutionsabwehr,” 67, where he identifies a “rational conservatism” in addition to the two categories of conservatism (a Burkean “evolutionary” and a “reactionary” in the tradition of de Maistre) traditionally distinguished in historiography. The idea of a “rational conservative” category, however, is older. See, for example, Henry Kissinger’s distinction between the “historical conservatism” of Burke and a “rational conservatism” of Metternich in Kissinger, “Conservative Dilemma,” 1017–30. For mostly religiously inspired Counter-Enlightenment thought that especially in continental Europe contributed to later conservative positions and that preceded the French Revolution as well, see McMahon, Enemies of the Enlightenment, 13–14; Epstein, Ursprünge des Konservativismus, 14–35. 126. Cecil, Conservatism, quoted in Lora, Conservative Minds, 8. 127. For Jefferson’s development of reform ideas in opposition to “aristocracy” during the 1780s, see, for example, his struggle against entail and primogeniture, in Brewer, “Entailing Aristocracy,” 307–46. 128. Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 84, 95.

3. Democracy and the Pursuit of Peace 1. Madison, “Consolidation,” “A Candid State of Parties,” Papers of Madison, 14:217–18, 370–71. 2. Hamilton to Edward Carrington, May 26, 1792, Papers of Hamilton, 11:426–45. 3. Ibid. 4. Ibid. 5. The quote is from Ferguson, Power of the Purse, 297–99; other notable historians recognizing a change in Madison’s positions include Meyers, Mind of the Founders, xlv; Rakove, James Madison, 108–9; McDonald, Alexander Hamilton. 6. Banning, Sacred Fire of Liberty.


notes to PAges 103–111 7. Sheehan, James Madison, 54. 8. Wood, Purpose of the Past, 76. 9. For the Revolutionary Wars, see Bell, First Total War; Blanning, Origins of the French Revolutionary Wars. For the destruction of the balance of power and the subsequent transformation of the international system, see Onuf and Onuf, Federal Union, Modern World, 4–9. 10. Stourzh, Alexander Hamilton and Republican Government, 5–6. 11. Alexander Hamilton to James A. Bayard, January 16, 1801, Papers of Ham­ ilton, 25:319. 12. For the notion of “the people” and popular sovereignty in the time of the American Revolution, see Morgan, Inventing the People. 13. Madison, “Universal Peace,” Papers of Madison, 14:206–9. 14. Unless otherwise noted, citations to Kant are to Gesammelte Schriften, by volume and page number. Translations from the German original are my own. 15. On earlier (and later) peace projects, see Hinsley, Power and the Pursuit of Peace; Thompson, Fathers of International Thought; Aksu, Early Notions. 16. Madison, “Universal Peace,” Papers of Madison, 14:206–7. Most likely Madison refers to Rousseau’s “Abstract,” a kind of summary of Saint-Pierre’s peace project; see Aksu, Early Notions, 95–121. 17. Madison, “Universal Peace,” Papers of Madison, 14:206–9. 18. For the preliminary articles, see Kant, Perpetual Peace, 8:343–47. 19. For the definitive articles, see ibid., 348–60. 20. Hinsley, Power and the Pursuit of Peace, 62. 21. For earlier peace plans, see Raumer, Ewiger Friede; Kende, “History of Peace,” 233–47. 22. For such a division, see Deudney, “Publius before Kant,” 315–56. A similar categorization is used by Hendrickson, Peace Pact, 268–271, 278; see also Wight, International Theory, 15. 23. For theories on the liberal tradition and the Democratic Peace Theory, see Doyle, Ways of War and Peace; Doyle, “Kant, Liberal Legacies, and Foreign Affairs,” 205–35, 323–53; Ray, Democracy and International Conflict; Owen, Liberal Peace, Lib­ eral War. Concerning the “founder” of the Democratic Peace Theory: if it is possible at all to name one, then Thomas Paine would be better suited than Kant; see Walker, “Forgotten Prophet,” 51–72. 24. Kant, Perpetual Peace, 8:351. 25. Ibid. 26. For this interpretation, see also Cavallar, Pax Kantiana, 167; Hinsley, Power and the Pursuit of Peace, 72. 27. Madison, “Universal Peace,” Papers of Madison, 14:207. 28. Ibid., 14:207–8. 29. Kant, Perpetual Peace, 8:375n; for Kant’s conception of the viciousness innate in human nature, see also Kant, Religion innerhalb der Grenzen der bloßen Vernunft, 6:17–53. 30. Madison, “Universal Peace,” Papers of Madison, 14:208.


notes to PAges 112–118 31. On the dispute among international relations theorists on the issue of Kant and the Democratic Peace Theory, see Walker, “Two Faces of Liberalism,” 451–52. 32. Madison, “Universal Peace,” Papers of Madison, 14:206; Kant, Metaphysik der Sitten, 6:350. 33. Kant, Perpetual Peace, 8:386. 34. Madison, “Universal Peace,” Papers of Madison, 14:207. 35. Kant, Perpetual Peace, 8:366. 36. Ibid., 8:345, 355. 37. Cavallar, Pax Kantiana, 308–12. 38. Madison, Federalist 51, in Hamilton, Madison, and Jay, Federalist Papers, 316. 39. Kant, Perpetual Peace, 8:366. Madison and Kant may have borrowed this phrase from Rousseau’s Social Contract. 40. Ibid. 41. Madison, Federalist 10 and 51, in Hamilton, Madison, and Jay, Federalist Papers, 50–58, 316. 42. For Madison’s theory of representation, see especially his idea of the “filtration of talents” in his “Vices of the Political System of the United States,” Papers of Madison 9:345–57. For Kant on representation, see Perpetual Peace, 8:351–53. 43. With the possible exception of No. 41. If Madison addressed foreign policy issues, he usually did so in specific cases as, for example, concerning commercial discrimination against Great Britain. For Madison’s position on commercial policy during the 1780s, see Schwarz, “Great Divergence Reconsidered,” 407–36. 44. Papers of Madison, 14:56, 110–12, editorial notes. 45. For Madison’s resistance to Hamilton’s proposals as well as the Compromise of 1790, see Banning, Sacred Fire of Liberty, 293–300; Rakove, James Madison, 102–25. 46. Hamilton to Carrington, May 26, 1792, Papers of Hamilton, 11:426–45. 47. To borrow the phrase from Wood, Revolutionary Characters, 141. 48. For example: Ferguson, Power of the Purse, 297–99; Meyers, Mind of the Founders, xlv; Rakove, James Madison, 108–9. A notable exception is Lance Banning, who has argued strongly for Madison’s consistency; see Banning, Sacred Fire of Liberty, 368–74. 49. Stourzh, Hamilton and Republican Government, 127–28, 148–53. 50. Farrand, Records, 1:466–67. 51. For Hamilton’s and many other Federalists’ intent of creating a fiscal-military state, see Edling, Revolution in Favor of Government, 8–10; on the early modern fiscal-military state building in the European context, see especially Brewer, Sinews of Power. 52. Elliot, Debates in the Several State Conventions, 3:135. 53. Madison, Federalist 41, in Hamilton, Madison, and Jay, Federalist Papers, 243–52; see also Schwarz, “Great Divergence Reconsidered,” 407–36. 54. Madison, Federalist 10, in Hamilton, Madison, and Jay, Federalist Papers, 54. 55. Quotation in James Madison to George Washington, Papers of Madison 9:384; for an argument of Madison against too much democracy, see, for example,


notes to PAges 118–125 Wood, Revolutionary Characters, 149, 151, 158–59; for the opinion that Madison did not want to curb democracy, see Morgan, James Madison on the Constitution, xii, xvi. 56. Madison, Federalist 10, in Hamilton, Madison, and Jay, Federalist Papers, 54–55. 57. Kenyon, “Men of Little Faith,” 42–43. 58. See, for example, Ball, “A Republic—If You Can Keep It,” 137–64. For a differing argument about the ratification of the Constitution as a struggle between aristocracy and democracy, see Wood, Creation, 483–99. 59. Farrand, Records, 1:290. 60. Quoted in Stourzh, Hamilton and Republican Government, 49. 61. Ibid. 62. Ibid., 39. 63. For Hamilton as one of the first, if not the first, to use the concept of representative democracy as early as the late 1770s, see Stourzh, Hamilton and Republican Government, 49–52. 64. Wills, introduction to Federalist Papers, xx. 65. Smith, Republic of Letters, 2:685. 66. Hamilton to Carrington, May 26, 1792, Papers of Hamilton, 11:426–45. 67. Madison, “Government of the United States,” Papers of Madison, 14:218. 68. Madison’s National Gazette articles have recently been discussed in detail in Sheehan, James Madison. My own interpretation on the following pages owes a lot to her insightful analysis. 69. Madison, “Charters,” Papers of Madison, 14:191. 70. Ibid., 14:191–92. 71. This is also the reason why Madison initially thought a Bill of Rights unnecessary for the Federal Constitution. Since only those powers specifically enumerated in the Constitution were granted to government, all others automatically were retained by the nation. To list certain points in a Bill of Rights might, on the contrary, give the impression that only these rights were protected and all others left to the discretion of government. On Madison and the Bill of Rights, see in particular James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, October, 17, 1788, Papers of Madison 11:297–300. 72. Madison, “Charters,” Papers of Madison, 14:191–92. 73. On the controversy surrounding Hamilton’s proposal for a national bank and Madison’s objection, see, for example, Gutzman, James Madison, 256–62. 74. Madison, “Consolidation,” Papers of Madison, 14:138. 75. For Madison’s reaction to Hamilton’s program, see Sheehan, James Madison, 19–26. 76. Madison, “Fashion,” Papers of Madison, 14:257–58; Madison makes the same point in “Republican Distribution of Citizens,” Papers of Madison, 14:244–46. 77. Madison, “Spirit of Governments,” Papers of Madison, 14:233–34. 78. Adams’s works and the debates surrounding their publication are discussed in detail in chapter 2. 79. Madison to Thomas Jefferson, June 6, 1787, Papers of Jefferson, 11:401–2. 80. Madison to Thomas Jefferson, May 12, 1791, Papers of Jefferson, 20:294.


notes to PAges 125–132 81. Madison, “Parties,” Papers of Madison, 14:197–98. 82. Madison, “The Union. Who Are Its Real Friends?,” Papers of Madison, 14:274–75. 83. Madison, “A Candid State of Parties,” Papers of Madison, 14:370–72; Madison, “Who Are the Best Keepers of the People’s Liberties?,” Papers of Madison, 14:426–27. 84. Madison, “A Candid State of Parties,” Papers of Madison, 14:370–72; Madison, “Who Are the Best Keepers of the People’s Liberties?,” Papers of Madison, 14:426–27. For Madison and public opinion in general, see also Madison, “Public Opinion,” Papers of Madison, 14:170; Sheehan, “Politics of Public Opinion,” 609–27; Sheehan, “Madison and the French Enlightenment,” 925–56. 85. Madison, “Universal Peace,” Papers of Madison, 14:207. 86. Madison, “Fashion,” Papers of Madison, 14:258. 87. On Madison’s “Helvidius” essays and the debates surrounding the Neutrality Proclamation of 1793, see Frisch, Pacificus­Helvidius Debates. For the Jay Treaty and the controversy it sparked, see Este, Jay Treaty Debate. 88. Palmer, Age of the Democratic Revolution, 2:525. 89. For the honestly felt perception of a threat to the republic, see Onuf, Jeffer­ son’s Empire, 80–109; Freeman, Affairs of Honor, 229–30. 90. For the history of the origins of Perpetual Peace, see Malter, Immanuel Kants Zum ewigen Frieden, 70–72. 91. Cavallar, Pax Kantiana, 3–4, 76. 92. Kant, Perpetual Peace, 8:346. 93. For the Revolutionary Wars, see Bell, First Total War; Blanning, Origins of the French Revolutionary Wars. 94. Gentz, Ueber den Ursprung und Charakter des Krieges gegen die Französische Revolutzion (1801); Gentz, Über den ewigen Frieden (1800), both in Raumer, Ewiger Friede, 461–98. 95. Cavallar, Pax Kantiana, 32. 96. Kant, Perpetual Peace, 8:343–44. 97. For Kant’s conception of three levels of civil law, see Kant, Perpetual Peace, 8:349n. 98. Ibid., 8:344. 99. Ibid., 8:345. 100. Ibid., 8:349–50. 101. Ibid., 8:350n. 102. Ibid., 8:351. 103. Ibid., 8:351–52. 104. Ibid., 8:351–53. 105. Ibid., 8:352. 106. Quoted in Cavallar, Pax Kantiana, 14. 107. Kant, Entwurf für “Zum Ewigen Frieden,” 23:166. 108. Kant, Metaphysik der Sitten, 23:342; this is a draft for the first part of the Metaphysik der Sitten.


notes to PAges 133–141 109. For other examples of the beginning reconceptualization of “democracy” in the works of intellectuals (Thomas Paine, Robespierre, and Cardinal Chiarramonti) during this time, see Dunn, Democracy, 111–18. 110. Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 779–84. 111. Kant, Perpetual Peace, 8:344. 112. Ibid. 113. For Sieyès’s essay and a detailed account of the development of the idea of the nation in connection with democracy in general, see the following chapter on Thomas Jefferson and Destutt de Tracy. 114. Greenfeld, Nationalism, 10. I am appropriating here Greenfeld’s apt phrase, although in her account the “nation” and “democracy” did not emerge in the wake of the French Revolution but in England in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. 115. Kant, Perpetual Peace, 8:344. 116. Ibid., 349–50. Kant’s formulation here is akin to Sieyès’s, who defined a nation as “a body of associates living under common laws and represented by the same legislative assembly, etc.” See Sieyès, What Is the Third Estate?, 58. 117. Kant, Perpetual Peace, 8:346–47. 118. Kant, “Idea for a Universal History,” Immanuel Kant, 10, 12. 119. Kant, “On the Common Saying,” Immanuel Kant, 65. 120. Kant, Perpetual Peace, 8:357. 121. Ibid., 8:355–56. 122. Ibid., 8:344. 123. Ibid., 8:354. 124. Ibid., 8:367. 125. On the distinction between “civic” and “ethnic” or organic forms of nationalism, see Smith, Nationalism, 39–42. 126. See, for example, the introduction and essays in Bohman and LutzBachmann, Perpetual Peace. 127. Kant, Perpetual Peace, 8:357–58. 128. Ibid., 8:359. 129. Ibid., 8:356. 130. Ibid., 8:357. 131. Ibid., 8:356. 132. For the aims of the Jefferson-Madison administrations in this context, see Onuf and Onuf, Federal Union, Modern World, 177. 133. Deudney, “Publius before Kant,” 337. 134. Tocqueville, Old Regime and the Revolution, 99.

4. “The Strongest Government on Earth” 1. Destutt de Tracy, Commentary. For the correspondence and collaboration of Jefferson and Tracy concerning the Commentary, see also Kennedy, Philosophe in the Age of Revolution, 208–13. 2. Tracy to Jefferson, June 12, 1806, Chinard, Jefferson et les idéologues, 43–44.


notes to PAges 141–147 3. Jefferson to Tracy, January 26, 1811, Jefferson’s Writings, 1242–43. The first English edition of Tracy’s essay from 1811 is thus the one edited by Jefferson. 4. For accounts of the conceptual changes regarding concepts such as “nation” or “democracy” during the age of revolutions in Europe and America, see the respective entries in Brunner, Conze, and Koselleck, Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe; Furet and Ozouf, Critical Dictionary; Ball and Pocock, Conceptual Change and the Constitution. On conceptual history in general, see Koselleck, Practice of Conceptual History; Richter, History of Political and Social Concepts; Bevir, “Begriffsgeschichte,” 273–84. 5. The nature of the relationship between democracy and the nation has generated a significant amount of scholarship and widely diverging interpretations. See, for example, Greenfeld, Nationalism, 10–14, who describes the connection between democracy and nationalism, but traces the origins of their modern forms to sixteenth-century England. Eric Hobsbawm acknowledges the connection as well, although he emphasizes more the period from 1830 onward and does not address their relationship in detail; see Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism, 18–23. Hans Kohn, in his major work The Idea of Nationalism, argues that the two concepts are related in the way that democracy gave common people a stake in society; for this point, see also Potter, “Historian’s Use of Nationalism,” 936. I have traced the theme of the interconnected rise of the two modern concepts in more detail in my “Modern Ideas of Democracy and the Nation.” For a succinct survey on the idea of the nation, see Smith, Nationalism; for a concise overview on democracy, see Dunn, Democracy. 6. For the text of the Declaration of Independence, see, for example, Armitage, Declaration of Independence, 165–71. 7. For a recent and elaborate interpretation of Jefferson’s conception of American nationhood, see Steele, Jefferson and American Nationhood. 8. Jefferson, “Summary View,” Jefferson’s Writings, 103–22. 9. Ibid., 106. 10. Ibid., 119. 11. Onuf, Jefferson’s Empire, 22–23. 12. For these definitions, see the Oxford English Dictionary. 13. Jefferson, “Summary View,” Jefferson’s Writings, 105. 14. Ibid., 111. 15. Ibid., 112. 16. Onuf, Jefferson’s Empire, 138. 17. Jefferson, “Summary View,” Jefferson’s Writings, 121. 18. Ibid., 107, 115–16. 19. Ibid., 115; see also Onuf, Jefferson’s Empire, 61–65. 20. Conrad, “Putting Rights Talk in Its Place,” 267. 21. Jefferson, “Summary View,” Jefferson’s Writings, 121–22. 22. Onuf, Jefferson’s Empire, 63. 23. See, for example, the historiographical debate about whether the founding of the United States was a national or international event. For the “national”


notes to PAges 148–152 interpretation, see Morris, Forging of the Union, 55–63; Beer, To Make a Nation, 200–202; Rakove, Beginnings of National Politics. For a critique of such paradigmatic interpretations, see Greene, “Problematic Character of the American Union,” 128–63. For the international argument, see Hendrickson, “First Union,” 35–53; for Hendrickson’s extension of this argument to the creation of the Constitution of 1787, see Hendrickson, Peace Pact. 24. For the texts of Jefferson’s draft and the final document of the Declaration of Independence, see Armitage, Declaration of Independence, 165, 170. For Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence in general, see also Wills, Inventing America; Maier, American Scripture; Becker, Declaration of Independence. 25. Jefferson to Kercheval, July 12, 1816, Writings of Jefferson, ed. Lipscomb and Bergh, 15:32–44. 26. For Jefferson’s vision of an ascending republican hierarchy, see Onuf, Repub­ lican Legacy in International Thought; Zuckert, Natural Rights Republic. 27. Armitage, Declaration of Independence, 165, 171. 28. Jefferson, “Notes on the State of Virginia,” Jefferson’s Writings, 123–325. 29. Ibid., 127. 30. Ibid., 143. 31. Ibid., 127–28. 32. For this argument, see also Onuf, Jefferson’s Empire, 66–68. 33. Jefferson to Roger C. Weightman, June 24, 1826, Jefferson’s Writings, 1517. 34. Ibid., 1516. 35. On Jefferson’s expectation of a republican millennium, see Onuf and Onuf, Nations, Markets, and War, 221–39. 36. On Jefferson’s attitude toward Indians and blacks and their ultimate exclusion from his conception of an American nation, see Onuf, Jefferson’s Empire, 18–52, 147–88; Steele, Jefferson and American Nationhood, 169–86. 37. Jefferson to Captain Hendrick, the Delawares, Mohicans, and Munries, December 21, 1808, Writings of Jefferson, ed. Lipscomb and Bergh, 16:450–54. 38. Jefferson to the Chiefs of the Ottawas, Chippewas, Powtowatamies, Wyandots, and Senecas of Sandusky, April 22, 1808, Writings of Jefferson, ed. Lipscomb and Bergh, 16:428–32. 39. For Jefferson’s thought about black slaves as a captive nation, see especially Onuf, Jefferson’s Empire, 147–58. 40. For Jefferson’s original draft of the Declaration of Independence, see Maier, American Scripture, 235–41, quote on 239. 41. The French Revolution as a catalyst for Jefferson to articulate his “latent assumptions” more clearly is described in a similar way in Steele, Jefferson and Amer­ ican Nationhood, 83. 42. For the interpretative framework of a democratic revolution in the Atlantic world, see Palmer, Age of the Democratic Revolution. 43. Ibid., 1:23. 44. Rozbicki, Culture and Liberty, 64–69; Onuf, “Democrazia, rivoluzione e storiografia,” 153–55.


notes to PAges 153–160 45. Palmer, Age of the Democratic Revolution, 1:23. 46. The following description of the development of the term “nation” up to the time of the French Revolution is much indebted to Dann, introduction to Na­ tionalism in the Age of the French Revolution, 4–9; and Bell, Cult of the Nation in France, 54–72. 47. Dictionnaire de l’Académie Française (Paris, 1694), s.v. “nation.” 48. Dann, Nationalism, 4. 49. Friedland, “Representation and Revolution,” 105; Bell, Cult of the Nation, 60. 50. Boulainvilliers, Etat de la France, 1:15–49; Bell, Cult of the Nation, 57. 51. On Boulainvilliers and the concept of patriotism in eighteenth-century France, see especially Smith, Nobility Reimagined, 37–41. 52. Elliott, “Revolution and Continuity,” 47. 53. See, for example, Maza, Private Lives and Public Affairs. 54. For the coup of 1771, see Bell, Cult of the Nation, 56, 68–69. 55. Dann, Nationalism, 3, 8. 56. Bell, Cult of the Nation, 72. 57. Sieyès, What Is the Third Estate? On Sieyès, see Sewell, Rhetoric of Bourgeois Revolution, and the older but still useful work by Van Deusen, Sieyes. 58. For this analysis, see also Hafen, Staat, Gesellschaft und Bürger, 72–74. 59. Sieyès, What Is the Third Estate?, 57. 60. Ibid., 58. 61. Hafen, Staat, Gesellschaft und Bürger, 75–76. 62. On Bodin’s doctrine on sovereignty, see Book I, Chapter 8 of Bodin, Six Livres de la Republique. 63. Sieyès, What Is the Third Estate?, 124. 64. For this argument, see also Bell, Cult of the Nation, 76; Hafen, Staat, Gesell­ schaft, Bürger, 60. 65. This, of course, also means that positions generally deemed revolutionary in 1788 or 1789 could become seen as “aristocratic” and counterrevolutionary by 1792 or 1793. The best French example for this process—analogues to John Adams’s changing reputation described in chapter 2—is probably Lafayette himself, who in August 1792 attempted to flee the country to avoid being arrested as a counterrevolutionary. 66. Jefferson to Richard Price, January 8, 1789, Jefferson’s Writings, 936. 67. For a chronological narrative of Jefferson’s actions during this time, see Malone, Jefferson and His Time. 68. Jefferson, “Answers and Observations for Démeunier’s Article on the United States in the Encyclopédie Methodique,” January 24, 1786, Jefferson’s Writ­ ings, 578. 69. Jefferson to Lafayette, February 28, 1787, Writings of Jefferson, ed. Lipscomb and Bergh, 6:101. 70. Jefferson to Edward Carrington, January 16, 1787, Jefferson’s Writings, 879. 71. Jefferson to John Adams, August 30, 1787, Jefferson’s Writings, 906. 72. Ibid., 908.


notes to PAges 160–165 73. For Jefferson’s changing perception of the aristocratic resurgence, see also Peterson, Jefferson, 371–72. 74. Jefferson to St. John de Crèvecoeur, August 9, 1788, Jefferson’s Writings, 927. 75. Ibid., 928. 76. Jefferson to John Jay, February 5, 1788, U.S. Department of State, Diplomatic Correspondence, 2:133. 77. Jefferson to George Washington, December 4, 1788, Jefferson’s Writings, 932. 78. Jefferson to Jay, May 5, 1789, Jefferson’s Writings, 952. 79. Jefferson to John Jay, June 17, 1789, U.S. Department of State, Diplomatic Correspondence, 2:294–96. 80. Jefferson to John Jay, June 24, 1789, U.S. Department of State, Diplomatic Correspondence, 2:297–301. 81. Merrill D. Peterson nicely describes Jefferson’s recognition of the democratic nature of the revolution, but does not make the connection to the concept of the nation; see Peterson, Jefferson, 380. 82. Jefferson to John Jay, June 29, 1789, U.S. Department of State, Diplomatic Correspondence, 2:302. 83. Jefferson to Diodati, August 3, 1789, Jefferson’s Writings, 957. 84. Jefferson to William Carmichael, August 9, 1789, U.S. Department of State, Diplomatic Correspondence, 2:317. 85. On Jefferson’s reaction to the social life in New York after his return from France, see Appleby, Jefferson, 18. 86. Jefferson, “Anas,” Political Writings, 441–42. 87. Jefferson to George Washington, May 23, 1792, Jefferson’s Writings, 985. 88. Jefferson to George Washington, September 9, 1792, Jefferson’s Writings, 992. 89. Ibid., 995; Jefferson to George Washington, May 23, 1792, Jefferson’s Writ­ ings, 987. 90. For Hamilton’s speech in the Constitutional Convention, see Farrand, Re­ cords of the Federal Convention, 1:290; Jefferson to George Washington, May 23, 1792, Jefferson’s Writings, 986. 91. Jefferson to George Washington, May 23, 1792, Jefferson’s Writings, 988. 92. Jefferson to Lafayette, June 16, 1792, Jefferson’s Writings, 990. 93. Onuf, Jefferson’s Empire, 86. 94. Jefferson to Elbridge Gerry, May 13, 1797, Jefferson’s Writings, 1043. 95. Jefferson to George Washington, May 23, 1792, Jefferson’s Writings, 987. 96. Jefferson to William B. Giles, December 31, 1795, Writings of Jefferson, ed. Lipscomb and Bergh, 9:317. 97. Jefferson to Col. William Duane, March 28, 1811, Writings of Jefferson, ed. Lipscomb and Bergh, 13:28–29. 98. John Page, Address to the Freeholders of Gloucester County, at Their Election of a Member of Congress . . . , April 24, 1799 (Richmond, 1799). 99. On the Federalists’ endeavors to create an American nation according to their vision, see Cotlar, “Federalists’ Transatlantic Cultural Offensive,” 274–77; Bradburn, Citizenship Revolution, 139–67.


notes to PAges 166–175 100. See Jefferson to Thomas Lomax, March 12, 1799, Jefferson’s Writings, 1062. 101. Jefferson to John Taylor, June 4, 1798, Jefferson’s Writings, 1049–50. 102. Jefferson to Thomas Lomax, March 12, 1799, Jefferson’s Writings, 1062–63. 103. Thomas Jefferson to John Taylor, June 4, 1798, Jefferson’s Writings, 1049–50. 104. Jefferson, “First Inaugural Address,” Jefferson’s Writings, 492. 105. Ibid., 493. For Jefferson’s emphasis on the need for an ideologically united American nation, see also Steele, Jefferson and American Nationhood, 239. 106. Jefferson to John Taylor, June 4, 1798, Jefferson’s Writings, 1050. 107. Jefferson, “First Inaugural Address,” Jefferson’s Writings, 493. 108. Steele, Jefferson and American Nationhood, 169–86. 109. For Jefferson’s Indian policy, see especially Sheehan, Seeds of Extinction, 119–25. 110. For the following argument, see Onuf, Jefferson’s Empire, 147–88. 111. Jefferson to George Mason, February 4, 1791, Jefferson’s Writings, 971; on optimism as an Enlightenment concept and its limits particularly in Jefferson’s case, see also Valsania, Limits of Optimism. 112. Jefferson, “First Inaugural Address,” March 4, 1801, Jefferson’s Writings, 493. 113. Jefferson to Thomas Lomax, March 12, 1799, Jefferson’s Writings, 1063. 114. Ibid. 115. Ibid.; Jefferson, “First Inaugural Address,” Jefferson’s Writings, 494. 116. For an account of Jefferson as an actor within the traditional structure of international power politics, see Tucker and Hendrickson, Empire of Liberty; Cogliano, Emperor of Liberty. 117. Destutt de Tracy, Commentary, 9–14. 118. Ibid., 12. 119. Ibid., 46–47. 120. Ibid., 76. 121. Ibid., 49. 122. Ibid., 49, 41. 123. For Tracy referring to the representative system as “representative democracy,” see, for example, Destutt de Tracy, Commentary, 19, 33. 124. Ibid., 75. 125. Ibid., 18–19. 126. Ibid., 77. 127. Thomas Jefferson to Joseph Priestley, March 21, 1801, Jefferson’s Writings, 1085. 128. Ibid., 1086. 129. Quoted in Appleby, Jefferson, 16. 130. Jefferson to Joseph Priestley, March 21, 1801, Jefferson’s Writings, 1086. 131. Destutt de Tracy, Commentary, 19, 83. 132. Ibid., 152, 149. 133. Ibid., 48. 134. Ibid., 149. 135. Ibid., 153, 49. 136. Ibid., 154, 149.


notes to PAges 175–180 137. On Tracy’s and Jefferson’s vision of progress, see also Onuf and Onuf, Na­ tions, Markets, and War, 227, 238. 138. Destutt de Tracy, Commentary, 152, 87, 153. 139. Ibid., 154–55. 140. Ibid., 88. 141. For a succinct analysis of the economic component of Tracy’s idea of the nation, see Onuf and Onuf, Nations, Markets, and War, 228–29. 142. Destutt de Tracy, Commentary, 219. 143. Ibid., 64. 144. Ibid. 145. Ibid., 208, 218. 146. Ibid., 65. 147. Ibid., 218–19. 148. Ibid., 232. Jeremy Bentham made a similar argument in his 1789 piece on perpetual peace; see Bentham, “Plan for an Universal and Perpetual Peace,” in Aksu, Early Notions of Global Governance, 138–72. 149. Destutt de Tracy, Commentary, 205, 207. 150. Ibid., 232. 151. Ibid. 152. Ibid. 153. Ibid., 230. 154. Ibid., 103, 117. 155. Ibid., 116. 156. Ibid. 157. Ibid., 116. 158. Ibid., 118–19. 159. Ibid., 83. 160. Jefferson to Destutt de Tracy, January 26, 1811, Jefferson’s Writings, 1246. Interestingly, Jefferson in this instance sided with Montesquieu, who had argued that confederated republics were more resistant to internal as well as external dangers; see Carrithers, “Montesquieu, Jefferson and Eighteenth-Century Republican Theory,” 160–88. 161. On the issue of language in the French Revolution, see Emsley, “Nationalist Rhetoric,” 39–52. 162. Destutt de Tracy, Commentary, 33. 163. Ibid., 26. 164. Ibid., 42–43. 165. Ibid., 79. 166. Ibid. 167. On Jefferson and the need to assimilate immigrants, see Query No. 8 of his “Notes on the State of Virginia,” Jefferson’s Writings, 209–14; on Jefferson and expansion, see Onuf, Jefferson’s Empire; on the debate about natural borders for France in general, see, for example, Emsley, “Nationalist Rhetoric,” 42–44. 168. Destutt de Tracy, Commentary, 92–93.


notes to PAges 181–189 169. Ibid., 90–91. 170. For definitions of a “modern” nation, see Smith, Nationalism, 9–20. 171. Kohn, Idea of Nationalism, 295. 172. For American efforts to create a strong state whose impact on American citizens was nevertheless unobtrusive, see Edling, Revolution in Favor of Govern­ ment; Balogh, Government Out of Sight. 173. My interpretation thus emphasizes the intellectual and geopolitical contingency of often unexpectedly evolving ideas of the nation and modern forms of nationalism instead of seeing them either as virtual necessities of (an industrializing) modernity or as deliberate “inventions” of elites for the purpose of social control. For such positions, see, for example, Gellner, Nations and Nationalism; Hobsbawm and Ranger, Invention of Tradition.

Epilogue 1. See, for example, Wolin, Tocqueville between Two Worlds, 8. 2. Mill to Tocqueville, May 11, 1840, quoted in Brogan, Tocqueville, 370. 3. In cases where Tocqueville does not use an imaginary ideal type of aristocracy as the foil, English society and customs usually serve as the aristocratic contrast to the democratic American society. 4. Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 642–43. 5. For an excellent analysis of the role of aristocracy in elucidating the meaning of democracy in Democracy in America, see Wolin, Tocqueville between Two Worlds, 159, 190, 235. 6. Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 833. 7. Ibid., 831, 479. 8. Ibid., 822, 7. 9. Ibid., 7. 10. Ibid., 363, 820. 11. For a short discussion of what Tocqueville meant with “equality of conditions,” see Brogan, Tocqueville, 275n. His use of “equality of conditions” is thus identical to what I often called “the fundamental equality of human beings” in the previous chapters. 12. Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 582. 13. Ibid., 60, 52. 14. For the use of “democracy” as a social rather than a purely political concept by Tocqueville and its significance, see Manent, Tocqueville and the Nature of De­ mocracy, 1–3; Wolin, Tocqueville between Two Worlds, 63. 15. Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 584, 60. 16. Ibid., 60. 17. Ibid., 60, 584. 18. See Richter, “Tocqueville on Threats to Liberty,” 250–62. 19. Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 818, 581. 20. Ibid., 818–19.


notes to PAges 190–204 21. Ibid., 289. 22. Ibid., 823, 8. 23. Ibid., 823, 803, 791, 789. 24. Ibid., 219, 824. 25. Ibid., 804. 26. See also Wolin, Tocqueville between Two Worlds, 190. 27. Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 155. 28. Ibid., 157, 309–10. 29. Ibid., 186, 193, 73. 30. Ibid., 595, 219. 31. Ibid., 216, 219, 596. 32. Ibid., 824, 222. 33. For a concise treatment of the traditional understanding of “democracy,” see Wolin, Tocqueville between Two Worlds, 59–61. 34. For the reception of Democracy in America in the United States, see Zunz, “Tocqueville and the Americans,” 359–96; see also the introduction to this volume. 35. Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 34, 40, 53. 36. Ibid., 6, 14. 37. Ibid., 799. 38. For the following, see Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 198–201. 39. Tocqueville, Old Regime and the Revolution, 99. 40. Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 649–52. 41. Ibid., 649–52, 460–61, 203–4. 42. Skidmore, Rights of Man to Property, 231, 125. 43. Ibid., 241, 205. 44. Ibid., 205–6, 240, 247, 8. 45. Ibid., 58–59. 46. Ibid., 78–81, 113, 390. 47. Ibid., 205, 189–190, 204–8, 331. 48. For an overview on the historiography on Tocqueville and gender / feminism (as well as race), see the annotated bibliography in Locke, Feminist Interpre­ tations of Alexis de Tocqueville, 337–51. 49. Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 705–8. 50. Ibid. 51. Ibid., 695, 705–8. 52. Abigail Adams to John Adams, March 31, 1776, Adams Papers, 1:369–71; on Judith Sargent Murray, see Skemp, First Lady of Letters. 53. On Sarah Grimké, see Lerner, Feminist Thought of Sarah Grimké. 54. Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 365. 55. Ibid., 366, 393, 365, 419. 56. Ibid., 394–95. 57. Ibid., 395–97, 405. 58. Ibid., 416. 59. Ibid., 412–16.


notes to PAges 205–209 60. Ibid., 370, 376, 388. 61. Ibid., 379, 384, 390. 62. To provide just two examples from individuals discussed in the previous chapters. For Madison, see “Notes for the National Gazette Essays,” Papers of Mad­ ison, 14:163; for Jefferson and his attitude toward Indians, see, for example, his “Second Inaugural Address,” Jefferson’s Writings, 520. 63. For Apess’s account of the history of white transgressions against Indian lands and rights, see especially the appendix to Son of the Forest, 123–216; the quotations are from his essay “An Indian’s Looking-Glass,” 97. 64. Apess, “Indian’s Looking-Glass,” 100–101. 65. Apess, “Eulogy on King Philip,” 138. 66. Walker, Appeal, 38. 67. Ibid., 74–75, 66, 72. 68. Sean Wilentz, introduction to Walker, Appeal, viii. 69. Walker, Appeal, 66, 70; on the phrase “coloured citizens” and its implications, see also Kantrowitz, More than Freedom, 5–7, 13–40. 70. Garrison, Thoughts on African Colonization, 11–13. 71. On the American Colonization Society, see, for example, Burin, Slavery and the Peculiar Solution. 72. Garrison, Thoughts on African Colonization, 8, 2, 10, 12–13. 73. Apess, Son of the Forest, 139–40. 74. Jefferson, “Notes on the State of Virginia,” Jefferson’s Writings, 264–70.



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Abhandlungen zur Französischen Revolu­ tion (Gentz), 94 abolitionists, 209 absolutism, 74, 75, 81, 82 Act of Union, 70 Adams, Abigail, 72, 202 Adams, John, 2, 15, 59, 103, 124–25, 189, 194, 202, 222n70; and aristocracy, 74–82, 97, 125; and Burke, 98–101; and conservatism, 65–68, 80–81, 85, 98– 101; constitutional thought of, 68–74; Discourses on Davila, 63, 82–84, 124–25; and equality, 69–70, 78–79, 83; and French reformers, 74–77; and French Revolution, 3, 83–84; and Gentz, 3, 64–68, 85, 89, 92, 96–101; and history, 76; and human nature, 73, 78–79; and inequality, 67, 79, 82, 85, 97; and Jefferson, 62–63, 81, 82–84, 100, 159; as liberal, 3, 67–68, 80–81, 98; on liberty, 66–67, 73–74, 78, 80, 81, 83; and mixed constitution, 3, 69–75, 78, 80, 97; Novanglus, 70; and passions, 79, 83; on reason, 79; and republican government, 3, 63; and Society of the Cincinnati, 76–77. See also Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America; Thoughts on Government Adams, John Quincy, 64, 86–87; and The Origin and Principles of the American Revolution, Compared with the Origin and Principles of the French Revolution (Gentz), 86–87; as Publicola, 85 Address to the Colonists (Burke), 27, 38

Address to the Convention of . . . Virginia (Braxton), 81 Address to the King (Burke), 27 administration, federal, 102, 105, 115, 120, 163; and Federalists, 165 Age of Reason, The (Paine), 60 age of revolutions, 1, 61, 174, 197, 209, 210; and conceptual change, 142, 170, 172, 182; and democratic nation-state, 4, 106, 140, 185, 196; equality in, 14 Agrarian Justice (Paine), 60 agriculture, 124, 148, 150 Alien and Sedition Acts, 165 American Colonization Society, 208–9 American Crisis, The (Paine), 10, 214n7 American people. See nation: American American Revolution, 102, 202; Adams and, 68–74; and American democracy, 1, 4, 12–13, 22, 194; as civil war, 38–39; and class conflict, 35, 37, 39–41, 72–73, 152, 182; as conservative, 223n93; and French Revolution, 15–17, 86–88, 115; Gentz and, 86–87, 88–91, 95; Jefferson and, 143–44, 149, 151; legacy of, contested, 86–88, 125, 164–66; and natural rights, 15; Paine and Burke on, 2, 21–23, 34–42; and popular sovereignty, 18; revolutionary character of, 39, 72–73; and use of term democracy, 9, 13, 42. See also Revolutions, American and French American revolutionaries. See Patriots, American anarchy, 52, 93


index ancien régime, 56, 104, 133, 155, 176, 191; and Adams, 68, 81; Burke as symbol of, 22; and common people, 42; and conservatism, 65, 100, 154; and inequality, 17; and nation, 153; and privileges, 179 Annapolis Convention, 103 anthropology, 112 Anti-Federalists, 10, 128; on nature of American republic, 11, 118–19 Apess, William, 196, 197, 206–7, 208, 209, 210; Eulogy on King Philip, 207; A Son of the Forest, 196, 206–7 Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World (Walker), 196, 207–8 aristocracy: Adams and, 74–82, 97, 125; Americans and, 17, 37, 74; Burke and, 47–50; and conservatism, 66–67; and democracy, 19, 61, 100, 133, 171, 185–87, 193; in France, 15, 42, 75–76, 157; Gentz and, 94–95, 97; in Glorious Revolution, 46; and liberty, 78; manufacturing, 197–98; and monarchy, 154, 156, 160; and nation, 55, 162, 178; Paine and, 39–41, 55–57; and patriotism, 154; Pennsylvania and, 39–41; racial, 202–3, 208–9; Skidmore and, 199; as socio-constitutional category, 8, 56, 58; as synonym for counterrevolution, 56, 58, 61, 82; of talent, 49; Tocqueville and, 186–87, 190–91, 197–98, 202–3 aristocratic resurgence, 82; and American Revolution, 152; and French Revolution, 153 aristocrats: Adams as, 3, 63–64, 67, 82–85, 100, 194; Federalists as, 17, 100, 104–5, 118, 165–66, 182, 210; Hamilton as, 121–22 Aristotle, 8, 57, 172 Articles of Confederation, 30, 32 assemblies, colonial: Burke on, 25–28, 35–37; and French estates, 82; Gentz on, 89–91; as oligarchies, 36; relation to Parliament, 14, 25, 27, 69–74, 145, 152 assembly, Pennsylvania, 36 assimilation, 150, 168

Atlantic world, 6, 17, 61, 68, 100, 140, 187; and American Revolution, 143, 152 balanced constitution. See mixed constitution balance of power, European, 104, 143 Baltimore, Lord, 148 Banning, Lance, 103 Bastille, 43, 44 Beaconsfield, 34 Begriffsgeschichte, 4–5 Bentham, Jeremy, 110, 235n148 Bible, 207, 208 Bill of Rights, 227n71 Bodin, Jean, 158 Boulainvilliers, Henri, comte de, 154 Braxton, Carter, 81 Brienne, Etienne-Charles de Loménie de, 155 British constitution. See mixed constitution British Empire, 8, 9, 35, 39; Burke’s conception of, 24–29; during imperial crisis, 24–29, 72–73; Jefferson and, 144–47 Brutus, 11 Burke, Edmund, 2, 64–67, 85, 87–88, 98–101, 103, 185, 189, 194; Address to the Colonists, 27, 38; Address to the King, 27; on American independence, 28– 29; and American Revolution, 35–42; and ancien régime, 22; conception of British Empire, 24–29; and conservatism, 65, 67, 85, 98–100; on equality, 2, 23, 24–29, 51–52; and French democracy, 44–45, 58; on French Revolution, 42–52; friendship with Paine, 21, 34–35; and imperial crisis, 24–29; on inequality, 47–50; Letter to the Sheriffs of Bristol, 28, 34; and liberty, 29, 38, 43–44, 49; and mixed constitution, 24–29, 44, 46–52; and Paine, 2, 21–62; on property, 45; on sovereignty, 28, 38; Speech on American Taxation, 26; Speech on Conciliation with America, 27, 37; Speech on the Army Estimates, 46, 50. See also Reflections on the Revolution in France


index Calas Affair, 155 Carter, Robert, 81 charters, colonial, 28; Burke on, 30–31, 38; Gentz on, 90 Cherokee, 205 Christianity, 206, 207 citizen, 92, 93, 106, 109, 126, 140, 193, 210; “coloured,” 208; and equality, 133, 156, 172, 199; and government, 105, 110; and nation, 141–42, 158, 161, 167, 169; and society, 198 citizenship, 206 civilization, 168; Tracy and, 174–75 civil war, 78, 204 class conflict: in American Revolution, 35, 37, 39–41, 72–73; in French Revolution, 42, 45 colonialism, 137, 181 colonists, American. See American Patriots colonization, of slaves, 151, 168 Commentary and Review of Montesquieu’s Spirit of Laws, A (Tracy), 141–43, 169–81; and Le Esprit de Lois, 170; on nation and democracy, 169–78 common law, English, 70 Common Sense (Paine), 10, 22, 55, 57, 214n7; Burke on, 34; and corporate equality, 29–30; and individual equality, 32, 34, 52–53; on monarchy, 14, 54–55; and natural rights, 38 commonwealth, 49; and democracy, 10 concepts, 4–6; as political weapons, 5 conceptual change, 6, 13, 142; of democracy, 18–19, 58–62, 170, 185–86; and political change, 10, 120, 212n8 conceptual history, 4–5 conceptual transformation. See conceptual change Condorcet, Jean-Antoine-Nicolas de Caritat, marquis de, 77, 221n43 Congress, American, 102, 124, 148; Paine on, 31–32 conservatism, 2, 98–101, 219n10; American, 3, 66, 224n122; and Enlightenment, 66; European, 66, 224n122; and French Revolution, 65–67, 85, 87 constitution: ancient, 46; French, 96;

Massachusetts, 63, 77; mixed (see mixed constitution); New York, 10; Pennsylvania (1776), 39–41, 72, 77; Virginia, 80 Constitution, Federal, 8, 102–5; and American democracy, 10–13, 118–20; interpretation of, 123; and Necessary and Proper Clause, 123 Constitutional Convention, 103, 116–17, 119–20, 163 constitutionalism, and democracy, 2, 100–101 Continental Congress, 73, 81, 102, 202 corporate bodies. See estates corporations, 36, 199 Counter-Enlightenment, 99 counterrevolution. See revolution and counterrevolution coup of 1771, 155 court. See Crown, British Cromwell, Oliver, 51 Crown, British, 35–37, 39, 50, 54; Gentz on, 90–91; and imperial crisis, 24–25, 27–28; Jefferson and, 144, 146–47; patronage power of, 25 Crucé, Emeric, 110 Dante Alighieri, 110 Declaration of Independence, 27, 74, 83, 199, 210; Garrison and, 208; Jefferson and, 144, 147, 149–50; Walker and, 207 Declaration of Pillnitz, 129 Declaration of Sentiments, 202 Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, 43, 47, 94, 162 Declaratory Act, 26, 28, 69 Defence of the Constitutions of Govern­ ment of the United States of America (Adams), 63, 82–84, 124–25; and aristocracy, 77–82 deference, 17, 52, 96, 187; Federalists and, 24, 61 Démeunier, Jean Nicholas, 159 democracy, 93, 100–101; and age of revolutions, 1–2; American, 1, 4, 17, 115, 106, 128, 195–96, 197, 202, 209–10; and American Revolution, 9, 12–13; and aristocracy, 19, 61, 133, 158, 171–72,


index democracy (continued ) 185–87, 193; boundaries of, 2; classical definition of, 8, 11; and conservatism, 2; elements of, 2, 14, 22–23, 41–42, 61, 101, 193; and equality, 2, 14, 23, 59–62, 132, 142, 187–88, 193, 196, 197, 210; evaluation of, 8; and French Revolution, 13, 139; historiography on, 1–13; history of, 8–11; and Indians, 207; and inequality, 2, 197–209; and nation, 1–6, 134–40, 141–43, 158, 159–62, 169– 78, 182–83, 230n5; and peace, 110–11, 133; in political theory, 8, 57–60; and popular sovereignty, 2; reconceptualization of, 1, 5, 9–13, 19, 22, 58–62, 133, 171–72, 185–86, 193; representative, 60, 118–20, 132, 142, 172–75, 179–80; and republic, 10–13, 58–60, 118, 132; Skidmore and, 199–200. See also French Revolution; Jefferson, Thomas; Kant, Immanuel; Madison, James; Paine, Thomas; Tocqueville, Alexis de; Tracy, Antoine Louis Claude Destutt, comte de Democracy in America (Tocqueville), 4, 133, 197, 202, 210; and democracy, 186–96; and equality, 14, 187–88; publication of, 7, 211n2; reception of, 7–8, 185–86, 193; and slavery, 202–3; Tocqueville’s purpose in writing, 187 Democratic Peace Theory, 110–11, 133 Democratic-Republican societies, 18–19 Depont, Charles-Jean-François, 43–44 despotism. See tyranny Destutt de Tracy. See Tracy, Antoine Louis Claude Destutt, comte de dialectic, 24, 87; of democracy and aristocracy, 61, 100, 139, 186–87 dictatorship, military, Burke predicting, 52 Dictionnaire de l’Académie Française, 153 Discourses on Davila (Adams), 63, 82–84, 124–25 Dissertations on Government (Paine), 41 Duke of Portland, 34 Earl of Charlemont, 43 Economic Reform Bills, 25 election of 1796, 64

election of 1800, 18, 65, 86, 128, 139, 181, 195; Jefferson and, 166–67 Electoral College, 192 elite, 6, 15, 18; Adams and, 77–82; American, 37, 124, 163; as better sort, 18; Burke on, 48–49; and common people, 121–22, 127; in Glorious Revolution, 46; in history, 76; and liberty, 72, 74; Paine and, 22; in Pennsylvania, 39; unitary, 17 emancipation, of slaves, 151, 168 empire, British. See British Empire empire of liberty, Paine and Jefferson on, 32 Encyclopédie Methodique, 159 Enlightenment, 66, 78, 81, 99; French, 154; philosophy, 88; rationalism, 66, 99 equality, 85, 212n18, 214n10; Apess and, 206; civic, 23, 42, 55, 156, 158, 161, 169; of conditions, 187–89, 190–91, 193–94; contested meaning of, 2, 14–18, 86, 209–10; corporate, 2, 14–16, 23–29, 42, 51, 69–74, 91, 146, 194, 197; and democracy, 2, 12, 14, 23, 59–62, 132, 142– 43, 186–88, 193, 210; economic, 40, 60, 199–200; fiction of, 51; and French Revolution, 15, 181; gender, 201–2; individual, 2, 4, 16, 23–24, 32–33, 38, 47, 51–52, 58, 67, 79, 98, 146, 170, 190, 194, 210; and liberty, 68, 72–74, 94, 99, 146, 188–89, 193, 213n21; moral, 51; and nation, 30, 134, 142, 157, 178, 210; of opportunity, 17; in Paine’s and Burke’s writings, 23–34, 42–60; political, 23, 40, 83, 158; as political weapon, 210; social, 83, 158. See also Adams, John; Burke, Edmund; Jefferson, Thomas; Kant, Immanuel; Madison, James; Paine, Thomas; Tocqueville, Alexis de; Tracy, Antoine Louis Claude Destutt, comte de Erasmus, Desiderius, 110 Esprit de Lois, Le (Montesquieu), 170 estate, third, 92, 155–58, 160–61 estates, 2, 23; and aristocracy, 100, 142, 153–54; British, 25, 28; in French Revolution, 42, 44–46, 50–52, 82, 93, 153, 156–57, 160–61; Gentz on, 89,


index tion in the wake of, 17, 34, 42; and popular sovereignty, 18; radicalism of, 47, 65, 83, 153; transatlantic impact of, 1, 6, 60–62, 82, 84, 86, 97, 104–5, 118, 121–22, 140, 151–53, 181–83, 195. See also Revolutions, American and French French revolutionaries: on equality, 16, 23, 47–48, 83, 94; and liberty, 93–94; and natural rights, 47; and traditional order, 51–52 Freneau, Philip, 105

92, 96; as imaginations, 57; Jefferson and, 145–46; Kant on, 131; lack of, in America, 73; and revolution, 152; Turgot on, 77 Estates-General, 15, 51; convocation of, 42–43, 155–57, 161 Etat de la France, Le (Boulainvilliers), 154 Eulogy on King Philip (Apess), 207 exceptionalism, 140, 169 executive: Adams on, 73; Jefferson and Tracy on, 142–43 exile, 97 Federal Convention. See Constitutional Convention federalism, 179, 192 Federalist Papers (Hamilton, Jay, Madison), 10, 103, 113–14, 116, 118, 126, 133 Federalist Party. See Federalists Federalists, 4, 24, 61, 127; and AntiFederalists, 105, 118, 128; and aristocracy, 17, 100; as aristocrats, 17, 100, 104–5, 118, 165–66, 182, 210; elitism of, 59; on Federal Constitution, 10; and French Revolution, 16–17, 86; Jefferson and, 164–67, 173; on popular sovereignty, 18; and Republicans, 104–5, 115, 126, 128, 139, 165, 195; on terms democracy and republic, 10–11 foreign policy. See international relations Forester’s Letters, The (Paine), 10, 214n7 Franco-American alliance, 30, 32–33 Franklin, Benjamin, 77, 80, 159 freedom. See liberty French reformers, 74–78, 81 French Revolution, 114, 199, 210; and American democracy, 1, 6, 12–13, 139; and American history, 19; and American Revolution, 15–17, 42, 47, 82, 86–88, 115; and aristocratic resurgence, 82; and class conflict, 42, 45, 82, 153; and conceptual change, 1, 13, 18, 42, 59–62, 85, 139, 142; and conservatism, 65–68, 100–101; and equality, 15, 181; as forerunner to other revolutions, 46; and Glorious Revolution, 45–47; and nation, 151–62; Paine and Burke on, 2, 21–24, 43–60; polariza-

Gallican Church, 44 Garrison, William Lloyd, 196, 197, 206, 208–9, 210. See also Liberator, The; Thoughts on African Colonization Gazette of the United States, 83 Gentz, Friedrich von, 2, 86, 129, 189, 194; Abhandlungen zur Französischen Revolution, 94; and Adams, 3, 64–68, 89, 92, 96–101; and American Revolution, 86–87, 88–91, 95, 223n93; and aristocracy, 94–95, 97; and British Crown, 90–91; and Burke, 87–88, 98–101; and conservatism, 65–68, 98–101; and estates, 89, 92; and French Revolution, 3, 64, 87–88, 91–97; Historisches Journal, 87; and inequality, 67, 91–99; as liberal, 3, 67, 96, 98; on liberty, 66–67, 90–94; and mixed constitution, 88–91, 95–98; The Origin and Principles of the American Revolution, Compared with the Origin and Principles of the French Revolu­ tion, 86–87, 94; and Parliament, 89; and Reflections on the Revolution in France (Burke), 87–88; on revolution, 90–91, 95; and rule of law, 90–92; on social contract, 93–95, 97; and sovereignty, 90, 97 George III, 70–71, 146–47, 150 Girondists, 129, 179 Glorious Revolution, 25, 45, 46, 52, 147 God, 158; Adams and, 69, 79; Apess and, 206; Jefferson and, 145; Paine and, 34, 53; Tocqueville and, 187 government, federal. See administration, federal


index governments, colonial, as imitations of English government, 35 Grimké, Sarah, 202 Haiti, 168 Hamilton, Alexander, 10, 59; as aristocrat, 121–22; and compromise of 1790, 116, 120; and executive power, 127; Fed­ eralist Papers, 10, 103, 113–14, 116, 118, 126, 133; on foreign policy, 116–17; and French Revolution, 121; and Jefferson, 102, 105, 116, 163–64; and Madison, 102–5, 115–24; and mixed constitution, 119–20; and national bank, 123; Report on Manufactures, 116, 124, 163; Report on the Public Credit, 116, 163; on terms democracy and republic, 118–20 Helvidius, 127 Henry, Patrick, 80–81 hierarchy, 187; Burke on, 48, 51; Federalists and, 61; opposition to equality, 17, 58, 122, 125, 133, 156, 214n10 Historisches Journal (Gentz), 87 Hobbes, Thomas, 108, 130 House of Commons, 24–25, 49–50, 77, 145; as oligarchy, 35–36 House of Lords, 24–25, 35, 49–50, 77, 178; Adams on, 73–74 human rights, 130–31, 133, 209 Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmo­ politan Perspective (Kant), 135 ideas. See concepts; conceptual history ideology, revolutionary, 50, 87; and conservatism, 65, 100; polarization of, 85, 104, 121; and war, 129 imperial crisis, 9, 14–15, 23; Adams and, 68–72; Burke and, 24–28, 35, 38; Jefferson and, 143–44, 146, 150 imperium in imperio, 71 independence, American, 9–10, 15, 16, 91, 96, 164; and Adams, 63, 73; Burke on, 28–29; Madison on, 126–27; and Pennsylvania elite, 39–41 Indians, 209; Apess and, 206–7; Jefferson and, 150, 151, 167–68, 182, 205; Tocqueville and, 196, 199, 200, 202, 204–5

industrial revolution, 197 inequality: Adams on, 67, 79, 82, 142; in America, 197–209; in ancien régime, 16–17, 47, 51, 156; artificial, 94; Burke on, 47–50; economic, 198–200; Federalists and, 17; Gentz on, 91–97; individual, 42, 98, 170; Jefferson and, 147; natural, 94; Paine on, 57; and privileges, 18, 133; social, 24, 41 insurrection, 90 intellectual history, 5 intellectuals, 1–2, 5–6 international relations: and domestic policy, 104–6, 110, 114, 116–17, 140; and French Revolution, 168; Kant and, 135–39; and rule of law, 107–8; and state of war, 108; Tracy on, 175–76 Jackson, Andrew, 168, 209 Jacobins, 129 James I, 70 James II, 25 Janus, 111 Jay, John, 161 Jay Treaty, 127 Jefferson, Thomas, 2, 46, 59, 87, 199, 209, 210, 235n160; and Adams, 3, 63, 81, 82–84, 100, 159; as American minister, 159; and American Revolution, 143–44, 149, 151, 164–65; and British Crown, 144, 146–47; and British Empire, 144–47; and A Commentary and Review of Montesquieu’s Spirit of Laws (Tracy), 141–42, 173; and democracy, 141–43, 173; endorsement of Rights of Man, 84–85; and equality, 142, 145–46, 148–49; and federalism, 179; and Federalists, 164–67, 173; and French Revolution, 121, 151–52, 159–62, 167; and Hamilton, 102, 105, 116, 163–64; and Indians, 150, 151, 167–68, 182, 205; and Madison, 102, 105, 115–16, 128, 165; and nation, 3–4, 141–51, 159–69, 173, 181–82; Notes on the State of Virginia, 148, 168, 209; and republican millennium, 149, 168–69; and Republican Party, 164–65; as secretary of state, 163; and slavery,


index 150–51; A Summary View of the Rights of British America, 144–47, 150; and Tracy, 3–4, 141–42, 173, 178–80, 182–83, 230n3; on union, 143–47, 149; and ward republic, 148–49. See also Declaration of Independence Jeffersonian Republicans. See Republicans Kant, Immanuel, 2, 88, 176; and cosmopolitanism, 108–9, 137; and democracy, 132; and Democratic Peace Theory, 110–11; on equality, 131–33; and French Revolution, 129, 139; Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Perspective, 135; on interventions, 108, 129, 135; as liberal, 110, 114; and Madison, 3, 106–14; Metaphysics of Morals, 112; and morality, 112; and nation, 108–9, 112, 128–39; On the Common Saying: This May Be True in Theory, but It Does Not Hold in Practice, 135; and perpetual peace, 3, 108–14, 128, 135–39; on privileges, 131; and reason, 112–13; on republican government, 108–11, 113, 131–33; and rule of law, 107–9; and social contract, 136; and sovereignty, 3, 128, 130–39; and union, federal, 109, 135–39; on war, 129. See also Perpetual Peace Kercheval, Samuel, 148 king-in-parliament. See Crown, British Kissinger, Henry, 224n125 Koselleck, Reinhardt, 4 Lafayette, Marie-Joseph Gilbert du Motier, marquis de, 23, 42, 45, 158; Jefferson and, 159, 161, 232n65 law, maritime, 71 law of nations, 175 leadership, unitary nature of, 15, 17–18 Leonard, Daniel, 70 Letters on the Equality of the Sexes and the Condition of Women (Grimké), 202 Letter to the Abbé Raynal (Paine), 30 Letter to the Sheriffs of Bristol (Burke), 28, 34 Leviathan, 138 Liberator, The (Garrison), 208

liberty: Adams on, 68–69, 72–73, 78, 98; in American and French Revolutions, 16; Burke on, in mixed constitution, 29, 38, 43–44, 49; civil, 93, 95; and equality, 68, 72, 74, 93, 99, 145–46, 188–89, 193, 213n21; Gentz on, 92–94, 98; Paine on, 40; political, 93–94; religious, 54, 193 Lloyd, David, 36 Locke, John, 93, 136 Louis XV, 155 Louis XVI, 75, 155; Jefferson on, 161 Louisiana Purchase, 168 Loyalists, 71, 97, 150, 51 Madison, James, 2, 10, 64, 87, 133, 176, 191, 205; and Adams, 83–84, 124–25; and Bill of Rights, 227n71; on changing principles, 103, 116–20; and compromise of 1790, 116, 120; and democracy, 115, 117, 121, 128; Federalist Papers, 10, 103, 113–14, 116, 118, 126, 133; on foreign policy, 114–15, 117, 126–27, 226n43; and French Revolution, 121; and Hamilton, 102–5, 115–24; and Jefferson, 102, 105, 115–16, 165; and Kant, 3, 106–14; and nation, 115, 122, 126–27; on national bank, 123; National Gazette, 105–6, 114–15, 122–28, 205; and perpetual peace, 3, 106–14; and popular sovereignty, 3, 105–6, 122–28; and reason, 111–13; as republican, 110, 114; on republican government, 113–14, 117, 125; and Rousseau, 107; on terms democracy and republic, 10–11, 118–20; on war, 107–8. See also “Universal Peace” Maistre, Joseph-Marie, comte de, 99 Mannheim, Karl, 99 Massachusettensis (Leonard), 70 Maupeou, René Nicolas Charles Augustine de, 155 Metaphysics of Morals (Kant), 112 Methodist, 206 Metternich, Klemens Wenzel von, 64, 224n125 Middle Ages, 153 militia, Kant and, 130


index Mill, John Stuart, 7, 185 Mirabeau, Honoré Gabriel Riqueti, comte de, 76–77 miscegenation, 206 mixed constitution, 2–3, 100; Adams on, 69–75, 78, 80, 98; American colonists and, 9; Burke on, 24–29, 35–38, 43–44, 46–52; and French Revolution, 42–43, 47; Gentz on, 89–91, 95–98; Hamilton and, 119; Jefferson and, 160–62; and liberty, 29, 38, 98; Paine on, 57; Tocqueville and, 190; Tracy and, 141–42 mobilization: of American revolutionaries, 35, 37–38, 72, 152, 182; in French Revolution, 42; in Pennsylvania, 39–41 Monarchia (Dante), 110 monarchy, 102; absolute, 74, 75, 81, 82, 93, 154, 159–61, 181; Americans’ disillusionment with, 9, 147; and aristocratic resistance to, 154–56, 160; Burke and, 24–25, 38, 44, 50; constitutional, 55; Madison and, 105; Paine and, 14, 30, 33, 39, 41, 54–55; and republics, 30, 33; as socio-constitutional category, 8, 58; and sovereignty, 158; and war, 33, 107 Montesquieu, Charles-Louis de Secondat, baron de La Brède et de, 141–42, 170–74, 176, 178, 235n160; Le Esprit de Lois, 170 Murray, Judith Sargent, 202 Napoleon Bonaparte, 139, 169, 179 nation, 4, 147; African, 150–51, 168; American, 1, 72, 105, 128, 150, 162–69, 181, 208–10; as antonym to ancien régime and aristocracy, 23, 55, 134, 141–42, 158, 172; and democracy, 1–6, 134–40, 141–43, 158, 159–62, 169–78, 182–83, 230n5; elements of, 169–70; and equality, 134, 142, 157, 178, 210; exclusions from, 150–52, 158, 162, 164, 167–69, 178–81, 182–83; and French Revolution, 135, 139–40, 151–59, 181; independence of, 126–27, 137; reconceptualization of, 1, 4, 5,

151–59, 181–82; and representation, 60; and sovereignty, 122–28, 140, 142, 158; and state, 183; and third estate, 157–58. See also Jefferson, Thomas; Kant, Immanuel; Madison, James; Paine, Thomas; Tracy, Antoine Louis Claude Destutt, comte de; Turgot, Anne Robert, baron de Laune National Assembly, French, 43–44, 45, 161–62; composition of, 47–50; French reformers and, 75, 78; Gentz on, 92; and unicameral legislature, 50, 78, 83 National Convention, French, 60 National Gazette, 105–6, 114–15, 122–28, 205 nationalism, 183, 236n173; civic and ethnic, 136 nationhood. See nation nation-state, 4, 106, 136–40, 148, 183; United States as, 169 Native Americans. See Indians natural law, 158; Newtonian notion of, 76, 78 natural rights, 47; Adams on, 69; in American Revolution, 15; and civil rights, 53–54; Paine and Burke on, 38, 53; and Revolution Society, 45; Skidmore on, 199–200 nature, and nations, 136–37 nature, human: Adams and, 73, 78–79; Gentz and, 92, 94, 96; Madison and Kant on, 111–13 Neutrality Proclamation, 127 New World, 139–40, 169 New York Journal, 9 New York Ratifying Convention, 119 nobility. See aristocracy Northwest Ordinance, 31 Notes on the State of Virginia ( Jefferson), 148, 168, 209 Novanglus (Adams), 70 office, political, Burke and, 48–49 Old Regime and the Revolution, The (Tocqueville), 195 Old World, 139–40, 169, 197 oligarchy, 69


index On the Common Saying: This May Be True in Theory, but It Does Not Hold in Practice (Kant), 135 On the Equality of the Sexes (Murray), 202 Origin and Principles of the American Rev­ olution, Compared with the Origin and Principles of the French Revolution, The (Gentz), 86–87, 94 ostracism, 80 Otis, James, 14 Pacificus, 127 Paine, Thomas, 2, 14, 80, 84, 98–99, 158, 185–86, 193, 199; and Abbé Raynal, 30; advocating a Continental Constitution, 32; The Age of Reason, 60; Agrarian Justice, 60; The American Crisis, 10, 214n7; and American Revolution, 35–42; on aristocracy, 55–57; and Burke, 2, 21, 34–35; Dissertations on Government, 41; on equality, 2, 23, 29–34, 40, 52–60; The Forester’s Letters, 10, 214n7; honorary French citizenship, 60; letter to Burke, 21, 45; Letter to the Abbé Raynal, 30; on monarchy, 14, 33, 54–55; on nations, 30, 33; political philosophy of, 39–42, 52–54; Public Good, 30–31; as radical, 60–61; and redefinition of democracy, 19, 52–60; on republics, 30, 33; reputation of, 22; as symbol of democracy, 22; and Washington, 214n8; and Western territory, 30–32. See also Common Sense; Rights of Man, The Palmer, Robert, 152 parlements, 75, 154, 155, 156, 160 Parliament, British, 14, 21, 46, 147; Adams and, 69–74; Burke on power of, 25–26, 36; and colonial assemblies, 25–28, 35–36, 69–74, 145–46, 152; Gentz and, 89, 91; and liberty, 49; and sovereignty, 69–70 parti patriote, 155 party, political: in America, 105; Burke and, 25; Jefferson and, 165; Paine and British opposition, 34; in Pennsylvania, 41; Rockingham, 26; Tocqueville on, 195

paternalism, 137 patriotism, French, 154–55 Patriots, American, 8–9; and equality, 14, 23; and imperial crisis, 25 peace, perpetual, 106–14; and democracy, 110, 114, 140; French Revolution and, 3; as ideal, 112; Kant on, 135–40; Tracy on, 175–76, 177 peace plans, early modern, 110, 114 peace treaty of Basel, 129 Peloponnesian War, 8 Pennsylvania Packet, 15 Pequot, 206 Perpetual Peace (Kant), 3, 140; as model treaty, 107; and nation, 108, 128–39; and union, federal, 135–39; and “Universal Peace” (Madison), 106–14, 128–29 philosophes, 99, 154–55 Plan for an Universal and Perpetual Peace (Bentham), 110 Plato, 8 Polish Partitions, 130 political theory. See theory, political Polybius, 57, 172 popular government, American Patriots on, 9–10 popular sovereignty, 9, 101; Adams and Gentz on, 97; and constitutions, 122; and democracy, 2, 12; and Federal Constitution, 10, 105; Federalists’ and Republicans’ views of, 18; Madison on, 122–28; Paine and Burke on, 38 Price, Richard, 45, 77 Priestley, Joseph, 173 primogeniture: Paine on, 55; Tocqueville and, 194 privileges, 14–15, 133; in ancien régime, 56, 75, 179; attack on, 18, 131, 178–79, 181; and colonial assemblies, 72; French estates and, 82, 158 property: Burke on, 45; as prerequisite for office, 48; Skidmore on, 199–200; Tracy on, 178–79 Providence Gazette, 10 Public Good (Paine), 30–31 Publicola controversy, 85, 86 public opinion, 83 Publius, 103, 140


index Quasi War, 127, 165, 169 Querela Pacis (Erasmus), 110 racism, 202, 204, 206–7 Rawle, Francis, 8 Raynal, Abbé Guillame Thomas, 30, 32 reason, human: Adams on, 79; Kant and, 112; Madison and, 107, 112–13 Reflections on the Revolution in France (Burke), 42, 46; and conservatism, 65; on equality, 47–52; Gentz and, 87–88; and The Rights of Man (Paine), 21–22, 52 Reign of Terror, 60, 129, 169; Burke predicting, 52 Report on Manufactures (Hamilton), 116, 124, 163 Report on the Public Credit (Hamilton), 116, 163 representation, 11, 15, 101, 192; and equality, 59–60; and French Revolution, 156, 158, 161; Madison and Kant on, 113–14, 118, 131, 133; Paine on, 59–61; traditional understanding of, 154 representative government, 11, 22, 41; relation to democracy, 58–60, 118; Tracy and, 172, 176 republic, 212n10; and democracy, 10–13, 19, 118, 132; in international sphere, 30, 33, 115, 143; meaning of, 9–10; and monarchy, 30, 33, 41–42; Montesquieu and, 171; Paine on, 39–42, 58–60; peacefulness of, 33, 111–12 Republic, American, 105, 147; Adams and, 63, 73–74; and international order, 115; Paine’s vision for, 24, 41. See also society, American Republic, French, 111, 129, 139, 143, 165 Republican Committee of Pennsylvania, 64 republican experiment, 102, 115, 122–24, 181, 183 republicanism, 64, 83, 125, 132, 209, 222n70 republican millennium, 149, 151, 168–69 republican motherhood, ideology of, 201 Republican Party. See Republicans Republicans, 4, 210; and Adams, 64, 83, 100–101; as American nation, 165–67;

as democrats, 118; and Federalists, 104–5, 115, 126, 128, 139, 165, 195; and French Revolution, 16–17, 86; Jefferson and, 164–65; on popular sovereignty, 18, 126; press, 64, 85, 165 revolution. See American Revolution; French Revolution revolution and counterrevolution: dialectic of, 24, 61, 87; opposition of, 16–17, 42–43, 55, 67, 82, 84–85, 96, 121, 133, 160–63, 170, 172–73, 182, 186–87; Paine and Burke symbolizing, 21, 43, 58, 62 Revolutionary Wars, French, 104, 114, 125, 129, 132, 139, 164, 169, 176 revolution of 1800. See election of 1800 Revolutions, American and French, 1, 3, 13, 21, 115; and Adams, 68; compared, 15–17, 82, 86–88, 152–53; and Paine’s and Burke’s writings, 23 Revolution Society, British, 45, 46 Richter, Melvin, 189 Rights of Man, The (Paine), 22, 63; on aristocracy, 55–57; endorsed by Jefferson, 84–85; on equality, 54; and forms of government, 57–59; on monarchy, 54–55, 57; and redefinition of democracy, 19, 24, 58–62, 193; and Reflections on the Revolution in France, 21–22, 52 rights of man. See natural rights Rights of Man to Property, The (Skidmore), 196, 198–200, 202 Robespierre, Maximilien, 23 Rochefoucauld, François Alexandre Frédéric, duc de la, 77, 221n43 Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, 107, 110, 130, 136, 156; and general will, 113–14; on states, 138 rule of law, 22, 68, 101; Gentz and, 90–93; Kant and, 107–8, 133; Tocqueville and, 191, 193 Saint-Pierre, Charles-Irénée Castel, abbé de, 110 salutary neglect, 26 Second Coalition, 139 self-government, 16, 76, 122, 181; Adams on, 68–69; Jefferson and, 149, 151, 164


index Seneca Falls Convention, 202 separation of powers, 11, 22, 41, 73, 101, 193; Kant and, 131–32; Madison and, 123, 127 Shay’s rebellion, 15, 221n50 Sheehan, Colleen, 103 Sieyés, Emmanuel Joseph, 134; and nation, 157–58, 169–70. See also What Is the Third Estate? Skidmore, Thomas, 196, 197, 202, 210; and American union, 200; on inequality, economic, 198–200; The Rights of Man to Property, 196, 198–200, 202 slavery, 209–10; emancipation and colonization, 151, 168; Garrison and, 208–9; Jefferson and, 150–51; Tocqueville and, 202–5 Smith, Adam, 176 social contract, 54; Adams on, 69, 97; colonial charters as, 90; Gentz on, 93–95, 97; Kant and, 136; Locke and, 69, 93, 95 society: atomization of, 191, 192; egalitarian, 199; elites and, 75–82; in French Revolution, 42, 51–52, 161; and inequality, 94; liberty and, 68, 93–94; Madison and Hamilton on, 103; Paine’s and Burke’s visions for, 23–24, 35, 48–49; and peace, 106–7; and property, 48–49; and rights, 53–54; and socio-constitutional forces, 8; Tocqueville and, 189; and trade, 176–77; traditional, 50–52 society, American: democratization of, 201; Federalist and Republican visions for, 16–18, 125–26, 128; founding of, 144–45; and French Revolution, 86; nature of, 15 Society of the Cincinnati, 76–77 Socrates, 8 Son of the Forest, A (Apess), 196, 206–7 sovereignty, 181; in ancien régime, 153–54; in British Empire, 146; Burke on, 28; and federalism, 192; Gentz on, 90; and monarchy, 158; and nation, 105–6, 122–28, 114, 134–39, 142; Paine on, 41; Parliament and, 69, 71; and third estate, 156–58

sovereignty, popular. See popular sovereignty Spartanus, 9 Speech on American Taxation (Burke), 26 Speech on Conciliation with America (Burke), 27, 37 Speech on the Army Estimates (Burke), 46, 50 Stamp Act, 14, 26–27, 68 state building, 12, 117, 154 state constitutions, American, 9–10, 13, 15, 63, 80, 191; French reformers and, 76–77; in Western territories, 31 state of nature, 53, 90, 112, 174–75; and liberty, 93; as state of war, 108, 138 suffrage: in America, 36; female, 202; universal, 200 Sugar Act, 68 Summary View of the Rights of British America, A ( Jefferson), 144–47, 150 taxation, right of, 25–27, 69, 89 Tea Act, 26–27 Terror, Reign of, 60, 129, 169; Burke predicting, 52 theory, political, 7, 8, 172; eighteenthcentury, 57–60, 71; and government, 141–42; shift in, 85; Tocqueville and, 185, 188 third estate, and National Assembly, 49–50 Thoughts on African Colonization (Garrison), 196 Thoughts on Government (Adams), 63, 73; Henry on, 80–81 Thucydides, 8 titles of nobility: Adams and, 79; Gentz and, 95–96; Paine on, 56 Tocqueville, Alexis de, 4, 11–14, 19, 61, 99, 101, 133, 207; and aristocracy, 186–87, 190–91, 197–98, 203; and civil associations, 192–93, 201; and corporate bodies, 190–92, 198; and democracy, 1, 17, 61, 185–96, 202; on despotism, 187–90, 192, 193, 200, 203–4; and equality, 14, 186–88, 190–91, 193–95; and federalism, 192; and French Revolution, 140, 194, 195–96; on gender, 201–2; and


index Tocqueville, Alexis de (continued ) Indians, 205; and industrialization, 197; on judiciary, 191; and liberty, 188–90; on mixed constitution, 190; The Old Regime and the Revolution, 195; and slavery, 202–5. See also Democracy in America Total-Revolution, 90–91 Townshend Acts, 68 Tracy, Antoine Louis Claude Destutt, comte de, 2; and aristocracy, 171; and civilization, theory of, 174–76, 177; and colonialism, 181; and democracy, 142–43, 169–78; and equality, 170–72, 174, 177–79; and international relations, 175–76; and Jefferson, 3, 141–43, 173, 178–80, 182–83, 230n3; and linguistic uniformity, 179–80, 183; and Montesquieu, 170–74, 176, 178; and nation, 3–4, 141–43, 169–81; and perpetual peace, 175–76, 177; on privileges, 178–79; and representation, 172; on trade, 176–78; and union, 143. See also Commentary and Review of Montesquieu’s Spirit of Laws, A traditionalism, 65, 218n5 transatlantic link, 62, 65, 127, 212n16; Adams and, 71–72; and conservatism, 99; and ideology, 46, 97, 104; perceived by Americans, 16, 84–87, 105, 118, 128, 151–52; and revolutionary agitation, 46 Turgot, Anne Robert, baron de Laune, 75, 84; and nation, 77–79 tyranny, 80; Adams and, 73, 78–79; British, 152; Burke and, 50; and democracy, 132; in France, 155; Gentz and, 93; Jefferson and, 143, 160; Madison and, 107; Tocqueville and, 187–90, 192, 193, 200, 203; Tracy and, 171 unification, of English and Scottish crowns, 70 union: American, 11; Skidmore and, 200; and Western states, 31

union, federal: Adams on, 72; Burke on, 25–28, 214n24; Hamilton on, 117; Jefferson on, 143–47, 159, 166–67; Kant on, 109; Madison on, 117, 125; Paine on, 32 United States, 4, 12, 17, 84, 196; egalitarian character of, 14, 39–40, 121–22, 198; as empire of liberty, 169; and expansion, 180; and France, 180–81; in international order, 143–44, 164; Jefferson’s vision for, 148; and nation, 159, 162– 63, 181–83; and popular sovereignty, 105, 122; and race relations, 202–9; as republic, 11, 33, 41, 111, 143, 207; and Revolutionary Wars, French, 104, 125; and state-building, 116–17; Tocqueville visiting, 7, 187, 196, 200, 202, 205, 209; and Western territory, 31 universalism: in Enlightenment, 75–78; Kant and, 137 “Universal Peace” (Madison), 3, 114–15, 121, 126–28, 140; and Perpetual Peace (Kant), 106–14 universities, as corporations, 36 Virginia, western land claims of, 30–31 Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions ( Jefferson and Madison), 116, 166, 167 Virginia Ratifying Convention, 117 virtue, 51, 76 Voltaire (François-Marie Arouet), 155 Walker, David, 196, 197, 206, 207–8, 210; Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World, 196, 207–8 War of 1812, 18, 209, 210 War of Independence, 27, 29, 38, 74, 76, 150 Washington, George, 60, 63, 84, 127, 163; and Paine, 214n8 What Is the Third Estate? (Sieyés), 134, 170; and nation, 157–58 Wilson, James, 11 Windham, William, 44 Wood, Gordon, 5