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Representative Democracy

Constitution Sunday: “Brutus” IV

“Brutus” IV

New York Journal, November 29, 1787

At the heart of a healthy democracy is the power for people or their representatives to create, modify, or repeal the laws for those laws inevitably govern nearly all aspects of life. The New York Journal published an article that dissected fair representation in the proposed Constitution:

“The object of every free government is the public good, and all lesser interests yield to it. That of every tyrannical government, is the happiness and aggrandisement of one, or a few, and to this the public felicity, and every other interest must submit. Continue reading “Constitution Sunday: “Brutus” IV”


Constitution Sunday: “Cato” V

“Cato” V

New York Journal, November 22, 1787

Following are excerpts from an anonymous article published in the New York Journal:

To the Citizens of the State of New-York.

In my last number I endeavored to prove that the language of the article relative to the establishment of the executive of this new government was vague and inexplicit, that the great powers of the President Continue reading “Constitution Sunday: “Cato” V”

Constitution Sunday: Reply to Elbridge Gerry: “A Landholder” [Oliver Ellsworth] IV

Reply to Elbridge Gerry: “A Landholder” [Oliver Ellsworth] IV

Connecticut Courant (Hartford), November 26, 1787

Following are excerpts from Oliver Ellsworth’s article:

“Such a body of men might be an army to defend the country in case of foreign invasion, but not a legislature, and the expence to support them would equal the whole national revenue. Continue reading “Constitution Sunday: Reply to Elbridge Gerry: “A Landholder” [Oliver Ellsworth] IV”

Constitution Sunday: “Americanus” [John Stevens, Jr.] I

“Americanus” [John Stevens, Jr.] I

Daily Advertiser (New York), November 2, 1787

Following are excerpts from John Stevens, Jr.’s article in the Daily Advertiser:

“But, so prone is the spirit of man to party and faction, that even this admirable system will not prevent their mischievous efforts, in a state possessing a ‘small territory.’ Continue reading “Constitution Sunday: “Americanus” [John Stevens, Jr.] I”

The Heir to the Founders

John Quincy Adams.

On July 4, 1826, during America’s Golden Jubilee, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died. Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: Transformation of America, 1815-1848, 243. The two political rivals were two of the last three surviving signers of the Declaration of Independence, leaving only Charles Carroll of Maryland alive. Id. President John Quincy Adams, learning of his father’s death and Jefferson’s death, remarked that it was a “‘visible and palpable mark of Divine favor,’ to the nation, and most of his countrymen agreed.” Id. quoting James Morton Smith, The Republic of Letters (New York, 1995), II, 1973-74.

Continue reading “The Heir to the Founders”

The Pivot of American Government

James Sullivan. By: Gilbert Stuart.

In the earliest years of the American Republic, individuals like James Madison, Samuel Williams, Charles Pinckney, and Samuel Langdon concluded that no country had created a better model for representative government than America’s. See Gordon Wood, The Creation of the American Republic: 1776-1787, 596.

Continue reading “The Pivot of American Government”

The Evil of Popular Despotism

James Madison. By: H.B. Grigsby.

James Madison had extensive beliefs about the structure of American government and the sustainability of the system.

Continue reading “The Evil of Popular Despotism”

A Tradition of Extra-Legislative Action

Samuel Adams. By: John Singleton Copley.

As touched on in Unalterable Constitutions, Americans began resorting to conventions for amending their state constitutions, and this was only one example of Americans looking to advance their causes outside of the bounds of government. See Gordon Wood, The Creation of the American Republic: 1776-1787, 310. This was not a novel approach, however, and it was not the only approach that Americans were increasingly taking to advance their interests.

Continue reading “A Tradition of Extra-Legislative Action”

The Essence of Representation

View of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., circa 1800.

While revolution was necessary to reinvent the American system of government to best meet the needs of Americans, another key element was necessary. The early Americans realized that “[p]eace is seldom made, and never kept, unless the subject retain such a power in his hands as may oblige the prince to stand to what is agreed.” Gordon Wood, The Creation of the American Republic: 1776-1787, 24 quoting Foster, Short Essay on Civil Government, 29-30.

Continue reading “The Essence of Representation”

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