allan_ramsay_-_david_hume_1711_-_1776-_historian_and_philosopher_-_google_art_project
David Hume. By: Allan Ramsay. 1766.

Because the American Revolution was leading to a breakdown of the traditional social distinctions of the Eighteenth Century, groups of individuals were becoming increasingly empowered. Groups, based on “social, economic, and religious interests” were emerging. Gordon Wood, The Creation of the American Republic: 1776-1787, 501.

Individuals seemed more aware of their special interests. This was not just limited to the most elite in society. It included “[f]armers, merchants, mechanics, manufacturers, debtors, creditors, Baptists, Presbyterians . . . .” Id. As some Americans began to say: “Every one must take care of himself—Necessity requires that political opinions should be squared to private views,” and “the general interests of the States had been sacrificed to those of the Counties,” as there was a scramble “for private advantages and local favors.” Id. quoting Taylor, Western Massachusetts, 167; Hartford Conn. Courant, Aug. 6, 1787; Gouverneur Morris, in Farrand, ed., Records of the Federal Convention, I, 552.

James Madison chose to look at these changes in American society as two categories of Americans emerging: those who owned property and those who did not. Gordon Wood, The Creation of the American Republic: 1776-1787, 503. While Madison hoped that bicameralism would solve the issue of representing those two categories of individuals, he realized that it was not solving it. See id. at 503-04. As such, Madison and some Federalists seized on David Hume’s “radical suggestion that a republican government operated better in a large territory than in a small one . . . .” Id. at 504. They sought to create a system where the federal government would make it impossible for groups to “excite storms of sedition or oppression.” Madison, in Farrand, ed., Records of the Federal Convention, II, 204; Madison to Jefferson, Oct. 24, 1787, Boyd, ed., Jefferson Papers, XII, 277-78.

Madison hoped that this system “would be ‘more likely to centre in men who possess the most attractive merit and the most diffusive and established characters,’ men who would be able to pursue vigorously what they saw to be the true interest of the country free from the turbulence and clamors of ‘men of factious tempers, of local prejudices, or of sinister designs.'” Gordon Wood, The Creation of the American Republic: 1776-1787, 505 quoting Madison to Jefferson, Oct. 24, 1787, Boyd, ed., Jefferson Papers, XII, 275; The Federalist, No. 10, No. 27.

In short, the Founding Fathers had realized that there was a significant splintering of American society into factions. This inevitably could have affected the structure of government as well, as those newly emerging groups of individuals could have concentrated their voices to change government.

While equality was becoming more widespread, the government was having to take into consideration more interests and more diverse individuals. Ultimately, this was placing the government in a novel position. The government was having to take into consideration new, wide-ranging, but important interests in considering its actions. That should be a familiar theme for modern Americans, as America’s diversity and range of interests has only grown over the following two centuries.

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