Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Ideological Origins of OWS

The Wall Street investment banking crisis of 2008 has spawned two populist movements devoted to changing the way business is done in Washington D.C. and on Wall Street.

The most recent is the Occupy Wall Street movement that began in Zucotti Park in Lower Manhattan's financial district and has spread to dozens of other cities around the United States. Although essentially a populist movement energized  through email and social media, Occupy Wall Street  began as an initiative of an established left-wing organization called Adbusters Media Foundation.  Their website describes itself as:

"as global network of artists, activists, writers, pranksters, students, educators, and entrepreneurs  who want to advance the new social activist movement of the information age. Our aim is to topple existing power structures and forge a major shift in the way we will live in the 21st century."

The organization characterizes our current way of living as a debilitating "consumerism" that is not only bad for people, but also bad for the natural environment that sustains it.

In their traditional Marxist view, the organization sees establishment power structures  such as governments, corporations, and the media as the source of an ideology behind consumerism. This ideology blinds citizens to the truth about  reality and substitutes a false consciousness. Marxist theorist Antonio Gramsci described this as "cultural hegemony."

Adbusters does not use traditional political techniques for effecting change. Instead, they try to make people conscious of the ideology behind consumerism and free them from it in order to see social reality the way they say it really is, that is, the Marxist way.  Consequently, they have promoted such social marketing campaigns as  Buy Nothing Day and Digital Detox Week to create a new consumer consciousness following the model of Marx's desire to create a new "working class consciousness" to free themselves for the ideology established by capitalists.

During the summer of 2011, Adbusters came up with the idea of rallying on Wall Stret to protest corporate influence in government and politics and the growing disparity in wealth. They suggested September 17, Constitution Day, as the day to begin the protests. And savvy media foundation that they are, they acquired domain rights to domain names OccupyWallstreet.Org and OccupyWS.Org.

A thousand protesters gathered in New York that first day. Over the next several days the crowd swelled. In addition, several occupation movements gathered in other American cities. Uncertainty remains about just what specific goals it seeks and how long it will last.

In general, the public has been divided over the movement just as they were divided over the Tea Party Movement. In fact, one of the most frequent generalizations made about the OWS movement is that it is a leftwing or Democratic Party version of the Tea Party.

The next post will examine that generalization.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Can Obama Prorogue the Congress?

A short intermission from our search for the republic for look at current events.

One episode captured at the Daily Caller ties in nicely to some recent posts at Right Detour.

Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. offers some interesting policy advice to President Obama:

The most obvious flaws in the plan are economic—a $100 billion bailout of the states, a $100 billion dollar bailout of the cities, and a $600 billion bailout of the unemployed. This latter program would hired 15 million unemployed Americans at an annual salary of $40,000. Of course, no consideration is given to any education or skills that might warrant such a salary. In addition, he said it could be a five year program. Let's see—now we are talking about a $3 trillion program.

The less obvious, but more dangerous aspect of his policy advice, is that the President should rule cast aside the Congress and rule as a wartime President. He likened our current circumstances to those faced by Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. Just like the states were in rebellion then, the Congress is in rebellion now. It is difficult to imagine a more ignorant and clumsy historical analogy.

Of course, the Congress cannot be in rebellion against the government. It IS the government. In a republic, the lawmaking branch is the essence of the government.

If one is seeking an historical analogy, maybe it should be found in the attempts of King Charles I to rule England without Parliament. He issued new taxation without the consent of Parliament. He arrested wealthy Parliamentarians to extract forced loans from them. And he dissolved Parliament when it tried to investigate government misconduct.

And he lost his head.

King Charles I

President Barack Obama

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Restoration

In Search of the Republic--16

After Oliver Cromwell's death, his son Richard assumed the position of Lord Protector. Unlike his father the soldier and country gentleman, Richard could not hold together the uneasy alliance of the army and the republican gentry that established the republic.

When his first Parliament met in1659, the majority desire to continued the Protectorate. They attempted, however, to assume control over the army. When it enacted legislation forbidding any general meetings of the army during sessions of Parliament, Cromwell's brother-in-law and military commander Charles Fleetwood demanded the dissolution of Parliament. Cromwell complied, effectively ending the Protectorate.

Without any government in place, The Council of Officers called for the convening of the  the so-called Rump Parliament that functioned under the original republic. It, too, sought to reassert Parliamentary control over the army. It revoked the commission of Lambert and several other officers. Instead, forces under the command of John Lambert surrounded Westminster and dispersed the Parliament.

By then, however, the army found itself divided. General George Monk in Scotland cross the border with his army to confront Lambert, whose forces dispersed. The rump Parliament reassembled and named Monk commander. Monk called upon the rump Parliament to readmit the excluded Presbyterians and royalists and called for elections of a new free Parliament. The new Long Parliament subsequently called for free election of a new Parliament and dissolved itself.

A new  Parliament met in April 1660. In the election, many of the republicans and army officers had been swept from power. Advocates of  the restoration of monarchy dominated the Parliament.

Meanwhile Charles II, in exile since the execution of his father, issued the Declaration of Breda stating his terms for restoration. The document had been drafted with the help of George Monk and the king's closest advisers. The Declaration was submitted to Parliament and on May 1, 1660, both houses unanimously voted for the restoration of England's monarchy.

George Monk

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Protectorate

In Search of the Republic--15

After Cromwell dismissed the Nominated Assembly, the government reorganized under England's first written constitution, drafted by an army commission led by John Lambert, the Instrument of Government.

The document established  a parliament of 400 members from England, 30 from Scotland, and 30 from Ireland. It retained the form of a one house legislature that had been established.  It met in its first session in 1654 only to be dissolved by Cromwell  the following year.

Cromwell continued to rule through the army the next couple of years.

In 1657,  the English attempted another revision of the legislature of the republic. Under a second written constitution called the Humble Petition and Advice, England abandoned the one house legislature in favor of the traditional English two house legislature, but one in which the House of Lords would be elected rather than hereditary. The Petition called for a lower house elected by the voters. A separate upper house would be elected by the lower house. This would re-introduce an aristocratic element at the expense of the Council of State and perhaps stunt the opposition of disaffected royalists and aristocrats. Despite his loyalties to his republican and Puritan supporters, he accepted the terms of the Humble Petition.

The new parliament, however, only institutionalized the conflict between royalists and republicans. Cromwell soon dissolved this parliament as well.

He died the following year. Parliament began serious entertaining the idea of the restoration of monarchy.

John Lambert

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Collapse of the English Republic

In Search of the Republic--14

The English experiment with republic government turned out to be a short and unhappy affair.

In addition to the politcal and religious settlements, one of few major accomplishments of the republic was an anchievement sought but never accomplished by the Stuarts: the unification of England, Scotland, and Ireland. The civil war did not end until their conquest by the New Model Army.

Despite Cromwell's hope for good laws from Parliament, it's members seemed divided among themselves. Moreover, they sensed the continuing threats from royalists on the one hand, and the radical Levelers, Diggers,  and Ranters on the other. And throughout the commonwealth period, the threat of intervention from the army loomed over the Parliament.

In 1653 it finally happened. Cromwell and the Army expelled the Parliament. In its place Cromwell establised a new Nominated Assembly of  "saints."  This, too, proved short lived. Cromwell dismissed it after five months.

The republic was replaced by the "Protectorate."

Oliver Cromwell

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The English Republic

In Search of the Republic--13

An English civil war finally brought in a republic.

After Charles I raised the royal standard declaring war, the Parliament organized the New Model Army. It dispensed with the tradition of creating an army organized around local militias. It created a truly national army. Also, officers were appointed based upon merit rather than status. They appointed Thomas Fairfax to lead it. Parliament also forged an alliance with the Scots, who had organized already in anticipation of invasion by Charles to force religious union with England.

With the help of the Scottish army, the New Model Army defeated the King and his loyalist forces. He was captured and imprisoned by the Scots. During his imprisonment, Parliament initiated several attempts at compromise and reconciliation. Because they included among other things assumption of control of the army by Parliament, the King rejected it. He also continued secret negotiations with the Scots and the French to effect his escape and restoration to power.

Meanwhile, the Army  purged the Parliament of those members, mostly Presbyterian, whom it considered sympathetic to the royalist cause and unsympathetic to Army grievances. The remaining members, mostly religious independents and republicans,  became known as the Rump Parliament.

When all negotiations failed to yield an agreement, the Scots turned Charles I  over to Parliament. King Charles was tried and executed.

Parliament then began the piecemeal creation of a republic.
The Parliament abolished the monarchy. It replaced the monarchy with a Council of State to act as executive authority.  It also abolished the traditional aristocratic institutional  base of support for monarchy, the House of Lords. A couple of months later it declared England to be a commonwealth or republic. It also passed laws requiring oath of allegiance to the Commonwealth and acknowledgment of the Parliament as the supreme sovereign power in England.

Parliament also enacted a new religious settlement.

The republican Parliament adopted the Westminster standards, the product of a conference of English and Scottish divines. It created a  Presbyterian state church structure that still permitted independents to form their own congregations.

An act of toleration was passed. It also enacted a Blasphemy Act against more radical Christian sects.It  repealed laws that required attendance to parish churches every Sunday. But it also enacted law requiring strict observance of the Sunday sabbath, ending the tradition of devoting the day to sports.

The English republic, however, proved short lived.

The next post will look at its collapse.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Power and The Parliament

In Search of the Republic--12

The English Parliament made its greatest assertions of authority in the 17th century against the Stuart dynasty. It resulted ultimately in the overthrow and execution of the king.

The conditions that gave rise to the English Civil War and the establishment of a republic can be traced to the earlier Tudor dynasty. During the last decades of the Tudor dynasty an unprecedented turnover in noble families occurred. Large numbers of noble families declined in their fortunes while new families ascended. The decline of many of these aristocratic families severed their social connection with the lesser gentry in their counties.  In addition, wealth gravitated to the middle class lesser gentry at the expense of both the aristocrats and the poor. The decline in financial status of the aristocracy was accompanied by a decline in their social status. They could not maintain the same influence that they once had enjoyed. Part of this influence included their role as a link between the Court, where some of the aristocratic political activities occurred, and the "country," where the lesser gentry leadership gained their political experience.

In addition, the Tudors unintentionally weakened the ecclesiastical support for the English monarchy. When Henry VIII assumed control over the state church and rechristened it the Church of England,  he seized and sold the lands of the Catholic Church and established in its place an impoverished state church, the Church of England,  with not enough ministers to service the parishes. The action left many aristocrats secretly loyal to the Catholic Church and disaffected with the Tudor monarchy. Many of the lesser gentry, too, found little appeal in the new Church of England. Increasing numbers of these lesser gentry affiliated with more reformed or Puritan  bodies, such as the Presbyterian Church or independent Congregationalists. Although traditionally influential only in their local counties or shires, increasing numbers of these gentry began representing their shires in the House of Commons. And many no longer enjoyed a positive connection with the Royal Court. When the Stuarts assumed the throne and began to vigorously push for a strengthened monarchy and Anglican establishment, these members of the lesser gentry coalesced into a "country party" that opposed the Court.

James I, Elizabeth's relative and sitting king of Scotland,  ascended the thrown upon her death and began the Stuart dynasty. Because of the real achievements of Elizabeth and the personality cult that formed around her, James could never attract the level of affection from the English people that Elizabeth commanded. Among courtiers, he had a reputation as unattractive man with bad manners who surrounded himself with boys.

Although he had written a treatise asserting the divine right of kings, James promised in his coronation to rule according to "the laws and customs of the realm." He also failed to accomplish his most ambitious plan: a formal union of the kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland accompanied with a reunion of the Church of England with the Presbyterian Church of Scotland.

The aggressive pursuit of these aims by his son and heir, Charles I led to civil war. The two main obstacles to his aims included an independent parliament and the puritan movement. As Charles pursued his policies,  these two obstacles came to be supported by that widespread but loosely organized "country party." This "party" manifested a division that was both geographical and cultural. Its proponents emerged from the local politics of the English shires with little connection with the "court" politics surrounding the monarchy. Moreover, they defined themselves cultural as distinctive from the court. The "court party," and all that is symbolized, became a negative reference group for this "country party." As historian Lawrence Stone summarized it,

"The Country was virtuous, the Court wicked; the Country was thrifty, the Court extravagant; the Country was honest, the Court corrupt; the Country was chaste and heterosexual, the Court was promiscuous and homosexual' the Country was sober, the Court drunken; the Country was nationalist, the Court xenophile;  the Country was healthy, the Court diseased . . .  the Country was the defender of old ways and old liberties, the Court the promoter of administrative novelties and new tyrannical practices; the Country was solidly Protestant, even Puritan, the Court was deeply tainted by Popish leanings."

The first obstacle arose because of the efforts of Charles to fund foreign wars.

When Charles called together his first two Parliaments in 1925 and 1626, he ended up dissolving them.  He needed money to fund war with Spain. Parliament provided only limited funds tried to reduce the king's prerogatives. He began collecting forced loans through arrests. Seventy six prominent men were arrested, including including 27 members of the House of Commons. He also raised so called ship money, taxes on seaport towns to upgrade coastal defenses and the navy.

Revenue problems finally forced Charles I to call a Parliament in 1628, He asked for five subsidies.

Parliament replied with its “Petition of Right.” Parliament asked him to wave his prerogatives and to accede to the normal functions of law on the issue of taxation, imprisonment, and martial law. The subsidies were provided in exchange for the king's agreement on prerogatives. Charles intended, however, to disregard the provisions contained in the provisions.

These issue arose again the following year when his third Parliament began its second session.

In March 10 1629, the King again dissolved Parliament. He ruled without Parliament for the next seven years through loans from the greater nobles. Charles received some financial relief, too,when he signed peace treaties with France and Spain. This reduced his expenses. And with the resumption of overseas trade, the treasury began to grow through customs duties.

The second main obstacle arose because of the religious policy of Charles.

Church of England Archbishop William Laud attempted to reduce the nonconformity of Puritans  and to institute a  more formal, more Catholic form of worship. Laud's efforts only served to radicalize Puritan dissenters. The pressure on Puritans drove ten of thousands to migrate to the recently established colonies in the wilderness of North America.

Moreover, Charles and Laud planned to  force a modified version of the Book of Common Prayer on Scotland and bring that nation's Presbyterian Church as close as possible to uniformity with the Church of  England.

The Scots organized for armed resistance.

In need of funds to put down the Scottish rebellion, he assembled Parliament for the first time in over ten years. Instead of discussing war, however, Parliament wanted to discuss Laud's religious reforms and Charles' continued disregard for the Petition of Right to which he agreed. Parliament began forming committees to investigate the administration's conduct during the eleven years of personal rule.

Parliament again dissolved. Meeting for only three weeks, it became known as the short parliament.

He called together Parliament after six months in 1640.

When it resumed, Parliament aggressively asserted its rights: bills passed abolishing certain courts such as the star chamber, requiring Parliamentary meetings every three years, prohibiting the king from dissolving the Parliament without its own consent,  eliminating virtually all of the king's prerogative courts, and declaring any taxes illegal that were levied without the approval of Parliament

Parliament issued what is known as The Grand Remonstrance in 1641. It listed grievances of Parliament and called for the King to relinquish many of his prerogatives, especially those regarding military appointments.  Parliament was attempting to bring control of the military under Parliament.

This provoked a reaction from the King. Charles attempted to arrest some leading members of Parliament, but they escaped. Charles then gathered loyalists in the town of York, where he planned to raise an army to assert his rights.

In June 1641, Parliament sent the Nineteen Propositions which in fact was an ultimatum demanding that the kind surrender his remaining prerogatives. It demanded that privy councilors, ministers, and military officers all be placed under the authority of Parliament.

Charles replied:

We call God to witnesse, that as for Our Subjects sake these rights are vested in Us, so for their sakes, as well as for Our own, We are resolved not to quit them, nor to subvert (though in a Parliamentary way) the ancient, equall, happy, well-poised and never-enough commended Constitution of the Government of this Kingdom ... There being three kindesinconveniencies. The experience and wisdom of your Ancestors hath so moulded this out of a mixture of these, a s to give to this Kingdom (as far as humane Prudence can provide) the conveniencies of all three, without the inconveniencies of any one, as long as the Balance hangs even between the three Estates, and they run jointly on in their proper Chanell... The ill of absolute Monarchy is Tyranny, the ill of Aristocracy is Faction and Division, the ills of Democracy are Tumults, Violence and Licentiousnesse. The good of Monarchy is the uniting of a Nation under one Head to resist Invasion from abroad, and Insurrection at home: The good of Aristocracy is the Conjunction of Counsell in the ablest Persons of a State for the publike benefit: The good of Democracy is Liberty, and the Courage and Industry which Liberty begetts.

In these disputes, both Parliament and the King appealed to its rights from England's "ancient constitution" in support of their respective positions. And ultimately, in the king"s answer to the Nineteen Proposition,  Charles appealed to the idea of the balanced constitution between Crown, Lords, and Commons derived from Aristotle's philosophy on correct constitutions.

In order to preserve such a balance, Charles rejected the Nineteen Propositions. Parliament began to plans for an army to support its view. The King raised his standard and the war was on. The war would determine who had the supremacy in the English constitution and what kind of Protestant politics would the government support.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Rise of Constituent Assemblies

In Search of the Republic--11

Europe in the Middle Ages witnessed the rise of heredity monarchs. These monarchs emerged when some greater landholding lords increased their military power vis-a-vis other lords. In some cases, the lesser lords acquiesced to the shifting imbalance of power by electing a greater lord to kingship and subordinating themselves to him as his vassals.

The new monarchs used the vassals as  instruments to propagate his laws and execute his will throughout the realm. The lesser lords also established themselves as advisers to the king and attempted to set limits to his authority. Eventually all across Europe, nobles developed permanent constituent bodies representing the nobles. These bodies bore different names in different places. They were called estates in France, diets in the German provinces, cortes in Spain, and parliaments in England. The monarchs and aristocratic bodies often conflicted, however, over the limits of authority. In some countries such as France and Russia, the kings overawed the nobles to establish themselves as absolute monarchs. In England, however, the struggle resulted in a different outcome.

In England, landed nobles successfully asserted themselves against King John to limited his power. He was politically weak because he had lost most of the continental provinces that had been part of the realm. Now the English coast became directly exposed to attacks from Normandy. A costly navy had to be built. And his treasury was depleted. Much of the nation's treasury had been spent on continental wars.

John issued new taxes on property, rents, fines to raise money. Moreover, after a quarrel with the church over who possessed the power to appoint the archbishop of Canterbury, John seized the revenues of the see of Canterbury. The pope responded by ending all ordinary services and ceremonies in England and excommunicating the king. He responded by seizing more church property. He finally reconciled with the pope, acceptin  Stephen Langton as the archbishop.

The military situation improved when the English defeated a French navy near Bruges.  But as he prepared for a new counteroffensive against France, he learned that many of the Barons opposed him. He invaded France anyway and suffered defeat, confirming the loss of Normandy and other English provinces in France. He went home more weakened than ever before.

In 1215, the great Barons forced King John to accept the Magna Carta, or Great Charter of Liberties.( It  dealt for the most part with the liberties of the nobles. He later repudiated it).  Its immediate import was that the barons forced John to at least acknowledge the traditional customary relations between a monarch and the nobility. And it called for a Great Council to be summoned to decide taxation. The barons did not know that they had formed the basis for a limited constitutional monarchy. John died the following year.

John's successor, Henry III also faced a revolt from the nobles. Again, he needed money for war. When he appealed to the greater nobles for aid in1258, they instead presented him with the Provisions of Oxford. It demanded the creation of a council of 15 to advise the King and required the meeting of the Great Council--or parliament-to take place three times each year.

Henry faced a greater revolt in 1263. His brother in law, Simon de Montfort demanded strict observance of the Provisions of Oxford. He wanted a government dominated by the aristocracy rather that the king and his ministers.  A short civil war erupted in which Simon de Montfort defeated royal forces and captured the king. Simon de Montfort ruled for a year in the king's name. During that time he called a parliament that included representation of two knights elected from each shire (county) court and two citizens, or burgesses, from each of the larger towns.

A second civil war broke out in which Simon de Montfort was killed.

The Great Council continued to meet, however, and eventually included regular representation from the knights and burgesses. Later, the Great Council separated into two bodies--the House of Lords that included the great nobles, and  the House of Commons, that included the lesser gentry from the shires and the burgesses from the cities.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Rise of Monarchy

In Search of the Republic--10

An earlier post described the disintegration of the Roman empire in the West and its replacement by Germanic kingdoms that failed to preserve the urban and transportation infrastructure developed by Rome. Germanic warrior class assumed responsibility for governing authority in their locality. They developed into a landed nobility of feudal lords and eventually formed the basis for the European aristocratic orders.

The local control enjoyed by various princes and feudal lords eventually began to give way to hereditary monarchies. Some stronger Lords began expanding their political and legal jurisdiction, backed by military force. They hoped to establish their regimes into organized, hereditary monarchies that would last beyond their lifetimes.

The lesser nobles resisted these efforts. Sometimes compromises came through the creation of an elective monarchy. The local princes chose the king and agreed to become his vassals. The great lords in France, for example, elected Hugh Capet as their king. The idea of an elective kingship continued in the later Holy Roman Empire. Such elective monarchs initially exercised little power. Only later they grew into strong hereditary monarchies.

These early kings, however, often met "in court" with his vassals. These assemblies of kings and their vassals became known as estates general in France, diets in the German principalities, cortes in Spain, and Parliaments in England. In some countries, representatives from the emerging commercial towns attended. These assemblies claimed to represent the king's realm as a whole. They enabled the king to strengthen his rule by utilizing the nobility not only as a source of revenue, but also as an instrument for carrying out policy decisions. On the other hand, they also permitted the nobility to limit the scope of the king's authority. By means of conflict between monarchs and these assemblies, the limited or constitutional monarchies emerged.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Return of the Republic

In Search of the Republic--9

After the brief excursion into recent developments in the Republican campaign, we return to the brief history of the idea of a republic.

Some previous posts at Right Detour surveyed the origins of the concept of republican government.

Aristotle described a regime he called a polity that later authors called a republic. After classifying legitimate constitutions into rule by the one (monarchy), rule by the few (aristocracy), and rule by the many (polity), Aristotle described a variety of polity that embodies both the poor and the wealth in the constitution. He suggested a mixture in which the poor assemble to make the laws, but thet elect magistrates to carry out those laws. According to Aristotle, the election of magistrates introduces an aristocratic element into an otherwise democratic government. In theory, with both poor and rich embodied in the constitution, the society would experience less of the class conflict between poor and rich that plagued many of the ancient Greek city-states.

A different sort of mixed regime developed centuries later on the Italian peninsula. Cicero described a government in which the poor met in assembly to make laws. They usually followed the lead, however, of a heredity aristocracy embodied in the Roman Senate. Cicero titled his book about this regime, which embodied both poor and rich in the constitution, de re publica, or On The Republic.

With the overthrow of the Roman republic, republicanism disappeared from the face of the earth.

In western Europe, the Roman empire collapsed under the pressure of invasion by Germanic tribes from across the Rhine River. The invaders established a series of  Germanic kingdoms across Western Europe. Without sophisticated governing institutions or administrative skills, the rulers failed to maintain the physical infrastructure and economic activity of the Roman empire. Roads lay unmaintained, cities deteriorated, and fields were abandoned to return to wilderness. Authority gradually passed to local landed warrior-nobles. Several hundred years passed in the Middle Ages before Europe experienced the rise of organized hereditary monarchies, such as under the Carolingians in France.

Republicans reemerged, however, in the late Middle Ages. Several small maritime republics emerged once again on the Italian peninsula. These included Amalfi, Venice, Genoa, Florence, and Pisa. Venice became the most powerful and well-known.

They resembled the ancient Greek city states in that they were small and war-like. They fought wars with the Arabs, the Turks, with other European kingdoms, and with each other. They differed from the ancient city-states in that they operated as commercial republics. Many ancients, such as Aristotle and Cicero, remained suspicious of some kinds of trade and the use of money. The expansion of the use of money as a medium of exchange and banking helped make these Italian city-states commercial maritime republics. But it also led to a new kind of aristocracy. Instead of a traditional landed aristocracy, the merchant class dominated these latter Renaissance republics.

Venice, for example, was an extremely restrictive mixed republic. The most democratic body, the Great Council, consisted exclusively of noble merchant families. The Great Council elected from among themselves a Senate. Finally, they elected the chief magistrate, called a Doge. Over time, however,  the government grew increasingly exclusive and restricted to the same families.

The most important theoretical writings about republicanism, however, came from Florence. Franceso Guicciardino, Donato Gianotti, and Nicoli Machiavelli all wrote several works expounding their views of republican government. In general, they argued for government resting on the authority of the people rather than monarchy. They drew upon Rome as the model republic. And they affirmed the traditional republican virtues that leaders must exert in order to preserve the liberty of the people and establish the lasting honor, fame, and glory for their republic.

Machiavelli stands out, however, because of some of his controversial variations to Florentine republican thought. In his Discourses on Livy, a commentary on the ancient Roman historian, Machiavelli starts out conventionally enough. He observed that "Experience shows that cities have never increased in dominion or riches except while they have been at liberty."  He added that "as soon as tyranny is established over a free community," the cities "no longer go forward and no longer increase in power or in riches, but in most instances, in fact always, go backward." And he asserted that virtue among  leaders is essential to the preservation of a republic.

Machiavelli became notorious in Medieval Europe--and ever since--for his transmogrification of the traditional idea of the virtues. He asserted that virtue among leaders must mean more that just possession of individual virtues like wisdom, prudence, courage, etc. For Machiavelli, virtu is a quality possessed by a leader which enables him to promote the greatness of his city and the common good of the people against both the external threats of other power and internal  threats posed by private interests. Moreover, Machiavelli argues that leader must be willing to do anything, even those things outside to bounds of conventional morality to preserve the republic. He told his readers that

"there must be no consideration of just or unjust, of merciful or cruel, of praiseworthy or disgraceful; instead, setting aside every scruple one must follow to the utmost any plan that will save her life and keep her liberty."

In addition, Machiavelli claimed that the average citizen should also possess this same kind of patriotism. He argued that this kind of patriotism among the people is what kept Rome strong for so long.

So how did Rome inculcate this kind of patriotism? Machiavelli claimed that the Romans used their religion. He saw a problem, however, in replicating the Romans in this regard because of the rise of Christianity. For Machiavelli believed that Christianity, with its virtues such as humility and mercy and its focus on the next world, undermined the patriotism needed to preserve republican liberty in this world. He wrote the Christianity has "made the world weak and turned it over as prey to wicked men."

Machiavelli expressed his hope that good laws and good lawmakers could instill patriotism in the citizens. These would inhibit the growth to two kinds of corruption that bring down republics. The first emerges when the citizens become politically apathetic and grow "lazy and unfit for all virtuoso activity." The second occurs when the citizens, especially the powerful, become more "interested in what they can get from the public, rather than in its good." A corrupt republic, consequently, is one in which the citizens seek their own private interests and advantage rather than the common good and honor, fame, and glory for their country.

These two corruption seem to be afflicting our republic today.

Corruption, according to Machiavelli, led to the overthrow of the Roman republic by the generals and serves as a lesson for leaders and citizens in all future republics.

All of the Medieval  republics eventually succumbed to the surrounding non-republican powers that eventually emerged in the late Middle Ages.. Even these surrounding kingdoms, however, developed some institutions that opened the way for another revival of the idea of republicanism.

The next post will look at these institutions.