|Figure: Boston Tea Party
While the French might have understood and theorized what constitutes ‘democracy’59 one should emphasize that ‘democracy’ as a modern concept and practice is a true child of the ‘Land Beyond the Pillars of Hercules.”60
Political mythology has it that The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, adopted by the citizens of Hartford and neighboring towns on January 14, 1638, were the "first written constitution of a modern democracy."61 However, the commonwealths of the Puritans of yore were amalgams of theocracy, fierce individualism, and democracy. When the settlements at Portsmouth and Newport were united in 1641 they were declared to be
a democracy or popular government; i.e. it is in the power of the body of freemen orderly assembled, or the major part of them, to make or constitute just laws… and to depute from among
themselves such ministers as shall see them faithfully executed.62
Democracy did not extend to the natives, and attitudes towards French ways were not all favorable.
“Racial pride or prejudice had prevented any fraternization between the English settlers and the savages… The English were fundamentally farmers and home-builders… [T]he native for the English was neither business partner nor a military ally. He was, for the most part, a dangerous animal, like the panthers, wolves and wild-cats, or a nuisance like the stones and tree stumps, to be cleared away before advancing settlements. The French on the other hand, had no racial antipathy. They became brothers of the savages, lived with them and took Indian mistresses or wives. They were traders, adventurers, explorers, not settlers… The war begun in Europe in 1689 between two civilized nation was almost immediately echoed back from the American forests by the warwhoop of the savages. With much cruelty, parties of French and Indians fell on our settlements…” 63
Democracy rose in the pre-modern world as a reaction to ‘aristocracy’ and monarchial tyranny. Democracy was theoretical among the French who accepted the notion of the tyranny of the revolution. Among the Americans, Hamilton detested the French revolution and its ‘egalitarian’ creed.
“The French Revolution had broken out in 1789, and at first we all followed its course with enthusiasm. It was easy to get drunk on abstract liberty in the eighteenth century, and the French people seemed to be following in our footsteps. Washington had been in office but a few weeks in his second term when news arrived that caused a revulsion of sentiment among a large part of the Americans. The increasing bloodshed and the brutal violence of the French movement had culminated in cutting off the head of the King after the Declaration of a Republic, and France had declared war on England and Spain… These events killed the sympathy of many Americans…”64
Of American democracy, we find the critical note of John Stuart Mill,65
“The natural tendency of representative government, as of modern civilization, is towards collective mediocrity… In the false democracy which, instead of giving representation to all, gives it only to the local majorities, the voice of the instructed minority may have no organs at all in the representative body. It is an admitted fact that in the American democracy, which is constructed on this faulty model, the highly-cultivated members of the community, except such of them as are willing to sacrifice their own opinions and modes of judgement [sic], and become the servile mouthpieces of their inferiors in knowledge, seldom even offer themselves for Congress or the State Legislature, so little likelihood have they of being returned. Had a plan like Mr. Hare’s by good fortune suggested itself to the enlightened and patriotic founders of the American Republic, the Federal and State Assemblies would have contained many of these distinguished men, and democracy would have been spared its greatest reproach and one of its most formidable evils.”
Balinski and Young insist—not without merit—that all the methods of apportionment devised in Europe have some roots in the political history of the United States. The democratic ideal is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. According to Article 1, Section 2,
“Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other persons. …
The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty thousand, but each State shall have at least one Representative;”
The history of PR in Germany offers a vivid example of how democracy can give birth to its antithesis. It also offers a commentary on the limits of what constitutes “mathematical justice”. It was during the “Weimar Republic”66 and through the ballot-boxes that Hitler and his Social Nationalists came to power in the mid-1930s. Japan’s “Taisho democracy” of the mid-1920s gave rise to an era of mass politics which was used by the Japanese army to sell an imperial ideology with wide appeal. There is a strong correlation between democratization and the rise of belligerent nationalism and war.67