Table of Contents 

PC.GIF     PC.GIF    

Alfred de Grazia:

PUBLIC & REPUBLIC : Political Representation in America

Public and Republic

Political Representation in America




Copyright 1951 by Alfred de Grazia. Originally published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc, New York.



Captain, USMC

who exchanged the promise of a great life

for a heroic death at Iwo Jima


No political problem is more fascinating than that of arranging the representation of the many local and general interests that compose modern society, and none is more frustrating to the scientist and the man of good will. In the village of North Saint Paul, where this preface is written, the active citizens have been continually debating the alternative merits of an elected or of an appointive professional administration of their affairs. The villagers want economy and efficiency in government, but they do not want to lose any of their sense of being represented.

Local problems of representation merge into a welter of similar problems in and among all large groups and all political jurisdictions. Important sections of America's domestic economy have been disrupted anew this year by costly coal and automobile strikes. The terms of settlement of the strikes promise not a permanent peace, but only a truce. No reliable means have been found to reconcile for more than a brief interval the divergent views of human and material needs that are found within industry, nor have the differences between industry and the public interest achieved a stable compromise.

In every state with prominent urban centers, metropolitan and rural interests clash bitterly over the apportionment of representation. The City of New York has abandoned recently its system of proportional representation, alleging that the system had given aid and comfort to the Communist party. Every action of the national Congress on an important measure is accompanied by cries throughout the land that the action was forced by lobbies representing special interests.

In the world capitals, politicians who once were thought to be impervious to the terrors of international anarchy plead for world government. The imminence of the Hydrogen Bomb is a threat no one can ignore. But who will say how to reconcile international and national interests? As Benjamin Franklin declared, when the American colonies were clamoring for mutual cooperation: "Everybody cries, a Union is absolutely necessary; but when they come to the Manner and Form of the Union, their weak Noddles are perfectly distracted."

The authors of the American Constitution discovered that a scheme of representation was the basic requirement for the effective resolution of group conflicts. The success of the men of 1787 in conquering what to many practical persons seemed insuperable obstacles gives hope that, no matter how diverse contemporary groups may be, no matter how contrary the values modern men hold, a structure for encompassing them is always a possibility. In any case, one must confess that, as difficult as it may be to achieve a means of representation, the eradication of human differences would prove infinitely more difficult, indeed impossible.

The period covered by this book, consisting roughly of the last three centuries, has witnessed tremendous conflicts of interests. Landed property, commercial interests, sectional groupings, class interests, and religious interests -- all of these have imposed grave strains on institutions of government. These strains have pressed hardest on systems of representation. For, as will be shown, the structure of representation is responsible for the primary task of government -- that of making citizens conscious of the values they hold in common, while selecting for special representation certain other values which are not common to all. Each of the major currents of belief that have moved men during these times has exhibited its own interpretation of the nature of man and society, and its own beliefs in respect to specific devices for representing the values it held most important to the progress of man and society. The description and analysis of these currents and their accompanying schemes of representation form the proper subject of this study.

It is in this context too that the title of this book, Public and Republic, gains significance. Two of the most vital themes in the history of American thought and action revolve about the relationship between the Public and the Republic. The influential words of Thomas Jefferson and of James Madison on this relationship stand in sharp contrast. Ask Jefferson what he means by "republic" and he replies:

Were I to assign to this term a precise and definite idea, I would say, purely and simply, it means a government by its citizens in mass, acting directly and personally, according to rules established by the majority.

Ask Madison and he would answer:

A republic, by which I mean a government in which the scheme of representation takes place ... [differs from a democracy by its ability to] refine and enlarge the public views, by passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country.

These statements, emerging from the mass of thought and action on representation historically considered, highlight the key question of representative government: How much of the representative system shall be employed in the re-enforcement of the public itself and how much shall be employed in resisting the public and in admitting special values of property, locality and intellect? Shall the American nation be a public incarnate or a public redirected to public things -- a republic?

Pressed with the necessity for realizing their values, men have had to advocate at different times particular schemes of representation. The majority principle, universal suffrage, a real-property qualification for holding office, the instruction of representatives by constituents, proportional representation - these and other procedures have been proposed as means of obtaining a government that would fulfill men's desires. Such specific proposals for political change can be related to very broad views of man and society. Thus, by studying the devices of representation advocated by the commercial middle classes, we can appreciate better the rise of those classes to power. By studying the weakness of those devices we can examine the failure of the commercial middle classes to obtain a government dominated by property-owners. Finally, reversing our method, we can see how the view of man and society held by commercial interests solicited certain devices of representation rather than others.

My intensive interest in problems of representation began with researches during the period 1939-41. The results of these researches are contained in Harold F Gosnell, Democracy: Threshold of Freedom (1948), Chapters II, VIII, IX, XI, and XII. The conception of the present book occurred to me as I observed that every scheme of representation, however insignificant its immediate social context, seemed to be connected with basic views of government and human nature. I thought then to inquire whether and how history would confirm and enrich my theory. My original task, therefore, took the form of an investigation into what we have come to call ideologies. Unfortunately, no one previously had written a definitive history of representation. Despite the general esteem and concern for representative government here and in many lands of Europe, systematic research into its most important ingredient, representation, had been neglected. Consequently, my interpretative sketch has had to rest on a historical base which I have had to fashion from widely scattered references to thought and action on the subject of representation.

The advice and criticism of several friends proved encouraging and valuable as the work went along. The direct contributions of Charles E Merriam to this book represent only a part of the benefits that have accrued to me from his inspiring virtuosity and indulgent friendship in the past. Benjamin Nelson gave unsparingly of his scholarship and time to the correction of faults in the manuscript. Jerome G Kerwin, Edward Morgan, and Herman Finer were most kind and helpful in reading and criticizing the work. Final research was completed with the aid of a grant from the Graduate School of the University of Minnesota. The constructive suggestions on the materials herein that were made by Earl Johnson are only the latest in a long series of kindnesses that his friendship has brought me over many years.


PC.GIF     PC.GIF    

 Table of Contents