x Introduction The American experiment in government by the consent of the governed was a turning point in world history. The American and French revolutions of the 1770s and 1780s started a democratic trend that has never stopped. Before those revolutions, the divine right of kings was the basis of governmental power. Two centuries later, even the most despotic rulers feel obliged to make some pre- tense of possession a popular mandate.5 The Founders firmly believed that a democratic majority could exercise as much despotic power as any monarch.6 Drawing upon the inferences they drew from ancient texts and more contemporary theo- ries, the Founders proposed ideas that consisted of limited government, checks and balances, freedom, liberty, and notions of civic virtue. Though these ideas had been written about for centuries, they had never yet been put into practice anywhere in the world. What was unique about the American experience was the notion that these ideas could actually be written into existence and that citizens could be gov- erned by ideas that had hitherto been only abstractions. In the American case, these ideas flowered into a government unlike any other in the world up to that time. In the 18th century, the world was dominated by only a few recognized “states.” Most of these were monarchies that had dynastic characteristics that had remained unchanged for hundreds and in some cases thousands of years. These governments were of the few and not the many. They did not take account, nor were they likely to, of the average citizen found in the state. The government serviced the needs of the monarchy, the extended royal family, and the aristocracy. The desires of the people often went unmet. Yet with the creation of the American system of government, expec- tations were quickly raised to a point they had never been before. The Founding period of the mid- to late 18th century brought about the creation of a new lexicon of American politics that included ideas of “freedom,” “liberty,” “limited government,” “checks and balances,” and the like. Expectations of government, which had to this point been min- imal, were now raised. Citizens began to see the value of government, and they began to desire to defend government against tyrannical forces. It was well known to most astute political observers of the 18th century that governments inevitably decay and that average people suf- fer as a result. Yet the American system was meant to mute the forces that negatively impact government and that would eventually bring about its demise. As this promise played itself out over the years, the American citizen became a jealous advocate of the ideals of government
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