. 5
( 11)


discussed further in Chapter 5.) At each such critical election, (whether
1860, 1896, 1932, or 1964) the contest between the parties has involved
a choice between two competing visions of the future. The resolution of
the con¬‚ict turns on the creation of a new coalition or partisan alignment
among the various interests of land, labor, and capital. The comments
made here, on the election of 1800 and on the beliefs of Madison and
Jefferson, are offered in the hope of extending social choice theory and
political economy in order to understand the phenomenon of long-run
dynamic equilibrium.

4.3 social choice and constitutional theory
Figure 4.1 repeats Figure 2.2 from Chapter 2. The ¬rst axis describes the
degree to which a polity is democratic. As discussed earlier, a veto group
is a group of individuals, all of whom must agree to any policy choice in
some domain of political decision making. A collegium is a group that has
veto power in every political domain, while an oligarchy is a group that
not only holds veto power on every domain, but (if they all agree) can
also determine policy on any domain. An autocrat, or dictator, is a sin-
gle individual with oligarchic power. A pure democracy obviously cannot
have veto groups, collegia, oligarchies, or dictators. The U.S. constitu-
tion, as Dahl (2001) has recently argued, is not “democratic” precisely
because the balance of power among executive, legislative, and judicial
branches allows for veto. (As Chapter 6 discusses, for example, Southern
Democrats in the Senate used the ¬libuster, and the dif¬culty of creating a
countercoalition to effect cloture, in order to block civil rights legislation
from the period of Reconstruction until 1964.)
The purest form of democracy is simple majority rule”every enfran-
chised individual has equal vote, and the coalition of the largest wins. As
outlined in Chapter 2, social choice theory suggests that pure democracy
can lead to “chaos.” In its most general form, chaos means that politics is
intrinsically unpredictable. As noted above, “nearly anything can happen
in politics” (Riker, 1980: 444).

Architects of Political Change

No veto groups




Risk axis

Multiple veto groups Single veto group Oligarchy Autocracy or
“extreme risk avoidance” or collegium dictatorship:
“extreme risk-taking”

Figure 4.1. Chaos or autocracy in a polity.

Political theorists of the eighteenth century also believed that democ-
racy was fundamentally chaotic. Adam Smith and Madison, in Federalist
X, expressed the view that democracy was turbulent. Madison also con-
sidered that legislatures were chaotic, leading to an incoherence of the
law. In Federalist LXII, Madison discussed the “mischievous effects of
mutable government”:

It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their
own choice, if laws be so . . . incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they
be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant
changes that no man who knows what the law is today can guess what it will be
(Rakove, 1999: 343)

Madison, Jefferson, and Condorcet

The opposite of chaos is equilibrium, or rationality, what Madison
called “stability in government” in Federalist XXXVII:

Stability in government, is essential to national character, and to . . . that repose
and con¬dence in the minds of the people. . . . An irregular and mutable legislation
is not more an evil in itself, than it is odious to the people.
(Madison, Papers Vol 10: 361)

Twentieth century political pluralists have taken Madison™s argument
about the extended republic from Federalist X to mean that factional or
“competing interests cancel one another out” (Williams, 1998: 39). This
inference, however, is at odds with social choice theory on the operation of
democratic rule. I return, later, to Madison™s extended republic argument.
Before this, however, I comment on two theoretical methods of avoiding
chaos. The ¬rst is by restricting, in some fashion, the domain of political
choice. However, if we follow Madison in acknowledging the heterogene-
ity of interests in the extended republic, then it would seem impossible to
restrict the domain of political choice suf¬ciently to avoid chaos.
The second method is to concentrate power either in dictatorship, oli-
garchy collegium, or through some related veto principle. As Figure 4.1
suggests, concentrating power in this fashion can induce stability (Arrow,
1951), but there will be effects on the “risk posture” of the society.
The constitutional theorists of the eighteenth century were well aware
that autocracy could induce stability, but at the cost of tyranny. How-
ever, tyrants wish to extend their power, and are likely to engage in war.
Indeed, the Declaration of Independence, penned by Thomas Jefferson,
accused George III of precisely such risk-taking, tyrannical behavior. A
common understanding of British political history is that autocracy did
indeed lead to risk taking and war. Oliver Cromwell had, in large degree,
taken on dictatorial powers precisely in order to prosecute war against
France, and in Ireland. As Madison put it, in his “Vices of the Political
System of the United States,” while a great desideratum of the prince
is a suf¬cient neutrality between the different interests and factions, “In
absolute Monarchies, the prince is suf¬ciently, neutral towards his sub-
jects, but frequently sacri¬ces their happiness to his ambition” (Rakove,
1999: 79).
Weaker veto power can also induce stability, as in oligarchy or col-
legium. If we identify collegium with aristocracy, then as Adair observed,
there will be an “inveterate and incorrigible” tendency to use the appa-
ratus of government to serve the special interests of the aristocratic few

Architects of Political Change

(Adair, 1974: 173). If the rule in the “aristocratic” Senate permits many
veto groups, then the outcome may be the opposite of risk preferring au-
tocracy or monarchy. With many such groups, it will be impossible to
make decisions. Such a situation may be termed risk avoiding.
Figure 4.1 may be interpreted in terms of Montesquieu™s constitutional
theory of balance between democracy, aristocracy, and monarchy (Adair,
1974). It was evident in 1787 that Madison and Hamilton differed in how
the balance was to be obtained. To judge from Hamilton™s essays in the
Federalist, he clearly had in mind the creation of a commercial empire. As
he wrote in Federalist XI,

The superiority [Europe] has long maintained, has tempted her to plume herself as
the Mistress of the World. . . . It belongs to us . . . to teach that assuming brother
moderation. . . . Let the thirteen States, bound together in a strict and indissoluble
Union, concur in erecting one great American system, superior to the contoul
[sic] of all trans-atlantic force or in¬‚uence, and able to dictate the terms of the
connection between the old and the new world!
(Freeman, 2001: 208)

As Adair observed, the constitutional theory of Montesquieu suggested
that only monarchy possessed the necessary energy, secrecy, and dispatch
to order an empire.
While the Federal Convention would not, of course, accept a monar-
chy, Hamilton pressed for almost autocratic power for the executive: ¬rst,
on June 4, 1787, for an absolute veto, and second, on June 18, for ap-
pointment for life.
On June 4, Madison had responded that “[t]o give such a prerogative
would certainly be obnoxious to the temper of the Country; its present
temper at least” (Madison, Papers Vol. 10: 24). Later, in developing his
balance theory in Federalist LI, Madison noted that “[A]n absolute nega-
tive, on the legislative appears at ¬rst view to be the natural defence with
which the executive magistrate should be armed. But perhaps it would be
neither altogether safe, nor alone suf¬cient” (Rakove, 1999: 296).
Although Madison and Hamilton seem from their written and spoken
remarks to agree on the political logic inherent in Figure 4.1, they dis-
agreed about how to create the constitutional apparatus of the Republic
so as to avoid the costs both of democratic chaos and of risk-accepting
autocracy. As I have intimated in the introduction, Britain™s experience in
the eighteenth century was relevant to this disagreement.
I suggest that the party system that came into being in the 1790s
was based on stable factor coalitions of land and agrarian labor against

Madison, Jefferson, and Condorcet

capital and industrial labor. To emphasize the parallel with the Walpole
Equilibrium in Britain, based on a coalition of land and capital, I use the
aforementioned term Madison“Jefferson Equilibrium for the basis of the
Republican coalition of land and agrarian labor.
To better understand the nature of this equilibrium, it is useful
to elaborate on the background to the con¬‚ict between Britain and
the colonies, starting in 1756, and on the creation of a land“capital
coalition in the United States in the 1770s, during rati¬cation of the

4.4 land and capital in north america, 1756“1800
Historians have emphasized many points of con¬‚ict between the
metropole and the colonies, including religion, hatred of tyranny, tax-
ation, and so forth. My view is that land was the fundamental source of
this con¬‚ict. Although Chapter 3 discussed this view of the cause of the
War of Independence, it is worth adding a few further remarks.
In the 1750s, the American colonies were hemmed in by the French
domains of Louisiana and Quebec. Although the Colonies claimed land
to the Mississippi, they had no resources to wrest it from the French.
Whether by accident or intent, George Washington™s expedition into the
Ohio Valley and the killing of a young French ensign, Joseph Coulon de
Villiers de Jumonville, and some of his troops, set in motion the mili-
tary machines of Britain and France (Anderson, 2000: 52). During the
Seven Years War of 1756 to 1763, Britain took Havana (Cuba), Manilla,
Quebec, and Guadalupe in the Caribbean. After France™s defeat, Britain
kept Cape Breton, Canada, and Louisiana, east of the Mississippi, but
returned Guadalupe to France. Possibly to prevent Louisiana, west of the
Mississippi falling to Britain, France ceded this domain to Spain, its ally
against Britain.
For the landed interest in the Colonies, the close of the Seven Years
War gave them hope that the vast region of the Ohio Valley would be
available for land speculation and settlement. However, the peace had
also brought war with the Native American tribes under Pontiac, a chief
of the Ottawa, opposed to colonial settlement. To appease Pontiac, the
British government issued a Proclamation closing the Ohio Valley to set-
tlement, but was forced to maintain a series of forts on the line, at a cost
of nearly 400,000 pounds sterling. In an attempt to cover some of the
costs, the British government passed the Stamp Act and Sugar Act. These,
together with the Proclamation, infuriated the agrarian elite. Benjamin

Architects of Political Change

Franklin, in London, in 1764, argued that the Acts were without justi¬ca-
tion because the con¬‚ict with the French and Indians was of no concern
to the Colonies. The Quebec Act of 1774 tried to close the Ohio Valley
to settlement by including it in the jurisdiction of the Quebec authori-
ties. It was this threat by the British to the expansion of the Colonies
that exasperated the agrarian elite. The costs of taxation may have an-
gered the people, but the burden of taxation could not be considered
suf¬cient to induce war. Chown (1994: 218), for example, estimates that
the taxes were intended to raise about 16,000 pounds sterling, exclud-
ing collection costs. The risk of losing the war against the formidable
British naval and military power meant that the Continental Congress
delayed declaring independence until there was reasonable cause to be-
lieve that France would aid them. Chapter 3 suggested that the Com-
mittee of Secret Correspondence, chaired by Franklin, heard news of the
promise of aid from Louis XVI in late June 1776. With this aid, combined
with the French military and naval assistance, the Colonies were success-
ful, and in the ¬nal peace treaty, obtained the entire territory east of the
Spain, however, never recognized the United States, and during the
War of Independence laid claim to the northern territory of what is now
Michigan, as well as the region bordering the Floridas. It was this threat
that John Jay, Secretary of Foreign Affairs, tried to allay by a treaty with
Spain™s agent, Diego de Gardoquin. Seven of the thirteen states agreed in
principle to the proposed treaty, and it was this fact that caused Madison
to fear that the weak confederation of states would fragment.25 Support-
ers of the Jay“Gardoquin treaty believed that the increased trade offered
by Spain would bene¬t their particular commercial interests. Those op-
posed tended to be states dominated by the members of the agrarian in-
terest who saw the opportunity of expansion into the Louisiana territory.
This threat by Spain, and the resulting disagreement between the states,
made it clear that there was a con¬‚ict of interest between what Hume
called the “landed and trading” parts of the nation (Hume, 1985 [1777]).
Although con¬‚ict between these interests may indeed have been muted
in Britain, this was because of the nature of the Walpole Equilibrium.
In the United States, the potential con¬‚ict between land and capital was

Letters, J. Madison to T. Jefferson, August 20, 1784, in Smith, 1995: 337“42; J.

Madison to G. Washington December 7, 1786 in Rakove, 1999: 60; J. Madison to
T. Jefferson, March 19, 1787 in Smith, 1995: 472).

Madison, Jefferson, and Condorcet

temporarily overcome in the period of rati¬cation of the constitution,
1787 to 1788.
In his classic statement, Beard (1913: 17) argued that the support-
ers of Union in 1787 were adherents of a hard money principle, namely
“merchants, money lenders, security holders, manufacturers, shippers,
capitalists and ¬nanciers.” Opponents of Union were those who fa-
vored soft money”“non “ slave-holding farmers . . . and debtors” (Beard
1913: 17).
The threat from Spain, however, was real, and as the essays by Jay
and Hamilton in the Federalist made clear, Union was the obvious way to
overcome this threat (Riker, 1964: 13). For agrarian interests, the choice
between Union and the Confederation was determined by whether the
subjective costs associated with hard money or the Spanish threat were
Although the decision was close in many of the states, the new Constitu-
tion was eventually rati¬ed. Obviously enough, the constitution involved
a complex balance among a number of political objectives. However, it
would seem from the above observations that Beard™s argument concern-
ing the Federalist coalition of 1787 was not entirely valid. The pro-Union
coalition consisted not just of the commercial interest, but of landed in-
terests as well. In general, the landed interest will tend to be opposed
to capital, because, as Beard implied, the former tend to be indebted,
and therefore, in favor of soft money. The threat from Spain, and the re-
sponse in creating a federal apparatus, temporarily overcame these con-
¬‚icts. However, with the threat diminished and the Union completed, the
Federalist coalition of commercial and agrarian interests became unstable.
Although it was necessary to devise a ¬scal apparatus to deal with debt,
it became obvious by 1790 that Hamilton™s scheme would set the coun-
try on a course of commercial, rather than agrarian, expansion. Hamil-
ton™s writings suggest that he believed that his scheme would resemble the
Walpole Equilibrium of Britain in the earlier part of the century, and be
compatible with the interests of both land and capital. As I suggest later,
economic theory suggests he was incorrect in this inference. His protag-
onists, Madison and Jefferson, were well aware of the consequences and
costs of Hamilton™s scheme. Moreover, they had a shared vision of the
future of the United States, which, I argue, derived in large part from the
constitutional writings of Condorcet. The con¬‚ict of the 1790s, and thus
the creation of the two-party system, arose out of the incompatibility of
these two contrasting theories associated with Hamilton on the one hand,
and Madison and Jefferson on the other.

Architects of Political Change

4.5 the influence of condorcet on madison
and jefferson
The intellectual in¬‚uence of the English and Scottish constitutional theo-
rists on the Founders, and particularly on Madison and Jefferson, has long
been studied. Adair (1943: 2000), for example, in his argument against
Beard (1913), relied on Hume™s assertion that there was no con¬‚ict in
principle, between the landed and trading parts of the nation. In accept-
ing Hume™s logic, Adair asserted that Hamilton™s belief about the dise-
quilibrium between democracy and aristocracy was also invalid. How-
ever, Hume also contended that the election of the chief magistrate would
necessarily be attended by tumult. As Hume says,
The ¬lling of the [position of elective magistrate] is a point of too great and too
general interest, not to divide the whole people into factions. Whence a civil war,
the greatest of ills, may be apprehended almost with certainty, upon every vacancy.
(Hume, 1985 [1777]: 18)

A similar theme is apparent in the work of Bolingbroke (Kramnick,
1992), and even in Gibbon™s History of the Decline and Fall of the
Roman Empire (Gibbon, 1994 [1781]; see Womersley, 2002). In a later
essay, Hume goes on to refer to “the common opinion that no large state,
such as FRANCE or GREAT BRITAIN could ever be modelled into a
commonwealth, but that such a form of government can only take place
in a city or small territory” (Hume, 1985 [1777]: 527).
Hume attempts his refutation of this small republic argument of Mon-
tesquieu by proposing that in
a large government, which is modelled with masterly skill, there is compass and
room enough to re¬ne the democracy, from the lower people . . . to the higher
magistrates . . . the parts are so distant that it is very dif¬cult . . . to hurry them
into any measures against the public interest.
(Hume, 1985 [1777]: 528)

Adair is clearly correct to see in Hume™s argument the essence of Madi-
son™s extended republic thesis. I concur with Adair that Hume™s logic was
absorbed into Madison™s essay, “Vices of the Political System of the United
States,” written in April 1787 (Rakove, 1999: 69“80). However, there are
precise differences between Madison™s essay of April 1787, and the clearer
thesis of Federalist X of November 22, 1787.
As indicated above, I contend that Madison™s later logic suggests the
in¬‚uence of the work of the Condorcet (1743“94). Indeed, I argue further
that Condorcet™s work in constitutional theory, ¬scal theory, trade theory,
and economic growth were utilized by Madison and Jefferson to provide
Madison, Jefferson, and Condorcet

a coherent logic to what I have called the Madison“Jefferson equilibrium.
In this argument, I enlarge on the points made by McLean (2005).
As is well known, Jefferson arrived in Paris as Minister Plenipotentiary
in August 1784, to relieve Franklin. As Jefferson™s biographer Randall
notes, Condorcet, Chastellux, and Lafayette joined Jefferson™s intimate
circle of friends (Randall, 1993: 431). Condorcet had been appointed the
permanent secretary of the Academy of Science, in August 1776 and had
close contact with Franklin in that context (Darnton, 1997). His work on
social choice theory (surveyed in McLean and Hewitt, 1994) is still rele-
vant today. Condorcet™s fame, in social choice theory, rests on his Essai sur
l™application de l™analyse a la probabiliti´ des voix (Condorcet, 1785).26
He is more widely known for his Esquisse d™un tableau historique (Con-
dorcet, 1795). This latter work stimulated Malthus to write his famous
essay (Malthus, 1970 [1798]).
Condorcet™s Jury theorem proposed that each voter, i, say, could be
characterized by some probability, probi , of voting for the truth. The
theorem showed that in a binary choice (yea or nay), majority rule
maximized the probability probn , say, that the jury (or committee) se-
lected the truth. Moreover, as the jury size, n, increased without bound,
then this probability probn approached 1. When Condorcet attempted to
extend this result to one with multiple choices, he found an incoherence
theorem, similar in kind to what I have termed chaos. Condorcet™s results
were presented in the French Academy of Science in 1785. Franklin and
Condorcet were dinner companions at the Salon of Madame Helvetius,
and there they discussed matters of political economy with Turgot, previ-
ously Finance Minister to Louis XVI. Brands (2000: 559) mentions that
Diderot, d™Alembert, and even Hume, came to call. Claude Anne Lopez
(1966, 2000) has described how Franklin entered into the intellectual life
of Paris in the 1780s. This has obviously been clearly recognized by his-
torians (Baker, 1975) but what has seemingly not been recognized is that
Condorcet™s work on Social Mathematics would have been discussed. As
a member of the French Academy, Franklin must have heard the talks by
Condorcet and his protagonist, Borda, in the Academy. Franklin may not
have been a mathematician, but he was certainly a scientist, and, in any
case, would understand the signi¬cance of the result.

Condorcet™s work in his Essai can be seen as an extension of Hume™s idea of “proba-

ble belief,” set out in Hume™s Treatise (Hume, 1985 [1752]). Indeed, Condorcet™s bi-
ographer, Baker (1975: 13), notes the line of thought from Hume through Condorcet
to the twentieth century (Keynes, 1921; Popper, 1959). In modern terminology, this
theory is called “decision-making under risk.”Again, see Chapter 8.
Architects of Political Change

When Franklin returned to the United States in July 1785, he cre-
ated a Society for Political Enquiries in Philadelphia, which Washington
certainly attended. Madison visited Philadelphia in early 1787, and pre-
sumably discussed the issue of the constitution with Franklin. It is possi-
ble that Madison heard more about Condorcet™s theorem from Franklin.
Moreover, Franklin was interested in the problem of decision making
under risk, and discussion in the Society for Political Enquiries focused
on the various constitutional issues of the times (van Doren, 1938: 771;
Campbell, 1999: 209). It is possible that Madison, after sketching the
Humean extended Republic argument in his “Vices” paper of April, 1787,
discussed the more re¬ned Condorcetian logic with Franklin in Philadel-
phia and, after reading the Recherches Historiques sur les Etats-Unis (by
the Italian, Philip Mazzei, in the summer of 1787), adapted it to his pur-
pose in writing Federalist X in November 1787.
It has been suggested by McGrath (1983) that Madison was aware of
Condorcet™s “incoherence” theorem and had it in mind when arguing for
the separation of powers implicit in Federalist LI. The analyses by Urken
(1991) and McLean and Urken (1991, 1992) suggest otherwise. Their
arguments turn on Madison™s rejection of unicameralism.
It is known that Madison did receive the sketch of Condorcet™s work,
Lettres d™une bourgeois de New Haven, which was included in the book
by Mazzei (see McLean and Hewitt, 1994: 64). This was mailed by Jef-
ferson on July 22, 1787. Madison mentions that he had received the
package in a letter to Jefferson, dated September 6, 1787 (Smith, 1995:
492). In his contribution, Condorcet asserts that it can be proven rig-
orously “that increasing the number of legislative bodies could never
increase the probability of obtaining true decisions” (McLean and He-
witt, 1994: 325). Obviously, this can be taken as an argument for
unicameralism. Because Madison seemingly rejected this principle, in
Federalist LI, that would seem to be the end of it.
Although Condorcet believed his Jury theorem applied to legislative
decision making, Madison evidently did not believe that the theorem was
relevant to choice in a House of Representatives. As Madison™s remarks
on “mutability” imply, a legislative body makes laws, and these may be
incoherent. In contrast, when an electorate chooses a representative, or a
chief magistrate, it picks a person. A person may not be “true” in Con-
dorcet™s sense, but can be “pre-eminent for ability and virtue,” to use
Hamilton™s phrase in Federalist LXVIII (Freeman, 2001: 364).
Thus, if we interpret Madison™s term “a ¬t choice” to mean a virtuous
representative or chief magistrate, then there is a clear similarity between

Madison, Jefferson, and Condorcet

the extended republic argument of Federalist X and Condorcet™s Jury the-
orem. As in Condorcet™s result, the larger, or more heterogeneous and
populous the republic, the greater will be “the probability of a ¬t choice”
(Rakove, 1999: 165). Madison™s term “the probability of a ¬t choice”
does not appear in the April 1787 essay, “Vices,” but does occur in the
Federalist X essay of November. Notice that the logic of the theorem only
applies formally to binary choice, in situations where there are two candi-
dates, Federalist or Republican, say. Moreover, Condorcet™s theorem, and
its apparent application by Madison in Federalist X, is only valid when
the electorate is knowledgeable.
The evidence suggests that Madison, after writing the “Vices” paper
in early 1787, discussed the idea with Franklin in Philadelphia and then,
(after reading the Recherches in the summer of 1787), developed the idea
further while writing Federalist X in November 1787. This suggestion
forms the basis for my argument that this fundamental proposition is
important in understanding the actions of Madison and Jefferson in the
constitutional disagreement with the Federalists in the 1790s. There also
appear to be further in¬‚uences of Condorcet, both on Madison and Jef-
Before Jefferson left France in October 1789, he had witnessed the
opening ceremony of the Estates General in Versailles in May, and collab-
orated with Lafayette and Condorcet on a draft of what was eventually to
be the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen in August, 1789
(McLean and Hewitt, 1994: 55). Implicit in Jefferson™s thought at this time
was, what Randall calls, the “explosive doctrine of perpetual revolution”
(Randall, 1993: 486). In Jefferson™s letter to Madison of September 6,
1789, he asks, “Whether one generation of men has a right to bind an-
other?” Jefferson answers himself: “no man can by natural right oblige
the lands he occupied . . . or the persons who succeed him, to the paiment
[sic] of debts contracted by him.” Thus, “the earth belongs in usufruct to
the living”(Peterson, 1984: 959).27
As Sloan (2001 [1995]: 242) observes, on the same day, Condorcet™s
letter to Comte de Montmorency mathematically computes the length of
time of a generation”about twenty years (in fact, this term is the half-
life of a population). Jefferson, using an identical calculation, estimates
the half-life at eighteen years, eight months. Then, Jefferson makes the
following point: the French debt of ten thousand milliard of livres had

Mayer (1994: Ch. 10) discusses the further correspondence between Madison and

Jefferson in 1790 over the issue of debt and the possibility of constitutional change.

Architects of Political Change

impoverished the nation. Limiting debt to whatever can be paid within
the half-life of a generation would have avoided this unjust imposition on
later generations.
This parallel between the calculations of Condorcet and Jefferson
merely re¬‚ects their mutual engagement and friendship (Sloan records
that Condorcet was present at a farewell dinner for Jefferson on Septem-
ber 17, 1789). There are deeper connections. Debt was the prime concern
of Anne Robert Turgot, chosen by Louis XVI as Controller General of
Finances in 1774 to reorganize France™s debt. Turgot™s refusal to agree to
Vergenne™s scheme to aid the American colonies in 1776 led to his dis-
missal. Indeed, the increase of debt as a result of this decision forced Louis
XVI to call the estates general in 1789. Condorcet was Turgot™s prot´ g´ ee
and wrote Turgot™s biography in 1787, as well as editing his work.
Appleby (1992) also indicates that Jefferson accepted the argu-
ments of Turgot and Condorcet on the utility of free trade. Moreover,
“Jefferson was an early advocate of the commercial exploitation of Amer-
ican agriculture”(Appleby, 1992).
In a letter to Jefferson on June 19, 1786, Madison assumed that the
agricultural surplus of the new lands would increase without bound, and
that from the “equal partition of property must result a greater simplicity
of manners, consequently, a less consumption of manufactured super-
¬‚uities, and a less proportion of idle proprietors and domestics” (Smith,
1995: 4224).
McCoy has further argued that Jefferson kept to his “vision of a
predominantly agricultural America that would continue to export its
bountiful surpluses of food abroad” (McCoy, 1980a: 268).
Indeed, Jefferson later consistently rejected the Malthusian thesis (1970
[1798]) that population would outstrip food production. In 1818, he
arranged the translation of an essay, Treatise of Political Economy, by
Destutt de Tracy to this effect (McCoy, 1980b; Mayer, 1994: 352).28

Baker (1975: 393) observes that Jefferson seemed to approve of Destutt de Tracy™s

idea of social science, the notion that society can be understood in scienti¬c terms.
There is another intriguing indirect connection between Jefferson, Destutt, and Con-
dorcet. A Commentaire by Destutt de Tracy (1798) on Montesquieu™s L™Esprit des
Lois was published in Paris in 1798, and contained an essay by Condorcet on the
twenty-ninth book of L™Esprit. Since Condorcet died in prison in 1794, Condorcet™s
essay must have been available earlier to either Destutt de Tracy or, perhaps, Jeffer-
son. The essay seems to deny the relevance of Montesquieu™s notions. Mayer (1994:
136) points out that Jefferson himself (after retiring from the presidency) trans-
lated Destutt™s Commentaire and arranged for its publication. The complex intel-
lectual connections between the Scottish Enlightenment thinkers (Smith and Hume),

Madison, Jefferson, and Condorcet

Jefferson™s belief in this regard parallels Condorcet™s opinion, as set out in
the Esquisse d™un tableau historique des Progr` s de l™´ sprit humain. The
e e
Esquisse was written while Condorcet was in hiding in 1794 from the
Jacobins, and only published after his death by the efforts of his wife
Sophie de Grouchy (see the discussion in Gillispie, 2005). Clearly, Con-
dorcet™s beliefs about the development of the human spirit could not have
been read by Jefferson in the early 1790s; however, there is clear evidence
that the optimism that Jefferson and Madison expressed in the late 1790s
did owe a considerable debt to Condorcet.29

4.6 origins of the two-party system in the 1790s
The con¬‚ict between Federalists and Republicans has been described
many times (e.g., Weisberger, 2000), so I shall comment only on those
features that seem to re¬‚ect the coherent political economic philosophies
of Madison and Jefferson, on the one hand, and Hamilton on the other.
Madison was defeated in Virginia™s Senate election in November, 1788,
but elected to the House of Representatives in February 1789. Almost
immediately, he moved

that Congress establish a revenue system to enable the nation to pay its debts . . . .
He proposed high import duties on . . . luxuries (rum, liquors, wine, molasses, tea,
sugar, spices, coffee and cocoa). . . . Madison asserted that though he was a “friend
to a very free system of commerce” . . . and regarded “commercial shackles as un-
just, oppressive, and impolitic,” tariffs were nevertheless justi¬able in some cases:
to protect temporarily new industries . . . to discourage luxury spending . . . and
to retaliate against unfair commercial regulations by other countries.
(Ketcham, 1971: 280)

Madison also argued for discrimination against Britain, to use
America™s importation of manufactures and export of food as a device
to open further trade with Europe so as to oppose Britain™s dominance.
Madison would return to this theme later, particularly in a number of long
speeches in January and February 1794.30 It is pertinent to the agrarian
thesis that, on April 9, 1789, Madison argued in Congress for the encour-
agement of

Condorcet, Destutt, and their colleagues in France, and Jefferson and Madison, have
not been explored in any great depth.
As Mayer notes, Jefferson wrote in a letter in 1799, that like Condorcet, he believed

that the mind of man was “perfectible to a degree of which we cannot as yet form
any conception” (Mayer, 1994: 306).
Madison, Papers Vol. 15: 167, 180, 182, 205, 206, 247.

Architects of Political Change

the great staple of the United States; I mean agriculture, which may justly be stiled
[sic] the staple of the United States . . . . If we compare the cheapness of our land
with that of other nations, we see so decided an advantage in that cheapness, as to
have full con¬dence of being unrivaled; with respect to the object of manufacture,
other countries may and do rival us; but we may be said to have a monopoly in
agriculture . . . . If my general principle is a good one commerce ought to be free,
and labour and industry left at large to ¬nd its object.
(Madison, Papers vol. 12: 73)

This speech, together with Madison™s earlier letters to Jefferson, make
it clear that by 1789, Madison had a well-articulated theory based on
free trade and agrarian expansion for the United States. While there was
mutual advantage for Britain and the United States to exploit their com-
parative advantages, nonetheless, the United States had to defend itself
against commercial exploitation by Britain.
On January 9, 1790, Hamilton, as Secretary of the Treasury, brought
out his Report on Public Credit (Freeman, 2001: 531“74). Madison, in
Congress, argued against the assumption of debts that had been pressed
by Hamilton. The defeat of the proposal by a logroll in Congress may have
reinforced Hamilton™s belief in the inherent incoherence of the legislature.
The Report on Credit was followed by further long reports, On a
National Bank (February 23, 1791), and The Subject of Manufactures
(December 5, 1791).
Madison tried to halt the National Bank by asking, “if the power
[to establish] an incorporated bank was among the powers vested by
the constitution in the legislature of the United States?” (Rakove: 1999:
The bank scheme went ahead. “When subscriptions were opened on
July 4, 1791, they were ¬lled within one hour” (Elkins and McKitrick,
1993: 242).
These three reports were indicative of Hamilton™s earnest wish to put
in place an American analogue of Walpole™s British Equilibrium. As I have
indicated, since the United States exported land-intensive goods, the only
logically feasible path to creating a commercial economy was to sustain
manufactures either by tariff or by direct government assistance. It is
interesting that Hamilton deals immediately with what I have intimated
was an underlying component of the Madison“Jefferson vision”that the
future of the U.S. economy lay principally in the cultivation of the land.
Indeed, in the Report on Manufactures, Hamilton takes up the argument
of Adam Smith (1981 [1776]):

Madison, Jefferson, and Condorcet

[t]he labour of Arti¬cers being capable of greater subdivision and simplicity of op-
eration than that of Cultivators, it is susceptible, in a proportionably [sic] greater
degree, of improvement in its productive powers, whether to be derived from
an accession of Skill, or from the application of ingenious machinery. . . . That
with regard to an augmentation of the quantity of useful labour, must depend
essentially upon an increase of capital.
(Freeman, 2001: 651)

Hamilton™s argument clearly sets out his view of the necessary evolution
of the U.S. economy: By the creation of a National Bank to generate
capital, by protection of industry and by tariff to cover government debt,
the United States would grow rapidly.
On September 9, 1792, Jefferson wrote to George Washington:

That I have utterly disapproved of the system of the Secretary of Treasury, I
acknolege [sic] and avow: and this is not merely a speculative difference. This
system ¬‚owed from principles averse to liberty [and] was calculated to undermine
and demolish the republic, by creating an in¬‚uence of his department over the
members of the legislature.
(Peterson, 1984: 994)

By denying that his rejection was speculative, Jefferson meant that
he had good reasons (both empirical and theoretical) to believe that
the Hamiltonian system would induce corruption and undermine liberty.
From Jefferson™s own reading of Bolingbroke, he believed that the cre-
ation of a capitalist system in the United States would make it possible
for a Hamilton, in the guise of Walpole, to bribe and maneuver among
the factions of the legislature”to act as autocrat.
In addition to the allegations of corruption, I contend that Madison
and Jefferson believed that Hamilton™s commercial empire in the United
States would generate precisely the same phenomenon of immiseration as
in Britain. Were agriculture to be diminished, then agrarian labor would
experience a diminution of real income. Indeed, ascendant capital would
eventually control land, as in Britain, in the form of great estates.31 This
would necessarily require the further disenfranchisement of labor. Beard
(1915) in his analysis of Jeffersonian America quotes from the Treatise

There is one consequence of the Hamilton scheme that I have not discussed, though it

is consistent with the view presented by Madison and Jefferson. If the United States
focused on manufacturing development, then it would be dependent on British
capital, and thus become a satellite of the metropole. It is possible that the defeat of
Hamilton was necessary for the creation of what Jefferson later called the “Empire
for Liberty.”

Architects of Political Change

of John Taylor, of Caroline County (published in 1814): “The policy
of protecting duties to force manufacturing . . . will produce the same
consequences as that of enriching . . . a paper interest . . . and the wealth
of the majority will continually be diminished” (Beard, 1915: 341).
Indeed, this view of the con¬‚ict of land and capital, of the agrarian
against the commercial interest, is one that pervades debate in the United
States until the Civil War. While Taylor™s essay postdates the election of
1800, it is clear that the views expressed by Taylor in 1814 re¬‚ected the
opinions of Madison and Jefferson in the 1790s.

4.7 concluding remarks
I shall conclude with some brief remarks about the consequences of
this con¬‚ict. Although I have posed the con¬‚ict in terms of an agrar-
ian interest against a commercial interest, I have also suggested that
Madison and Jefferson viewed it in terms of how best to organize the
economic development of the United States. Consistent with my inter-
pretation of Condorcet™s optimism, the two Republicans believed that
agricultural expansion could lead to increased economic power for the
United States. However, Hamilton appeared correct in his view that only
manufacturing was capable of rapid productivity increase. Thus, for the
growth of the agrarian empire, it was necessary for the United States to
expand its boundaries. This makes Jefferson™s appetite for the western
territory of Louisiana perfectly intelligible. If this expanded agrarian em-
pire was made available to free labor, then the immiseration of labor
would not occur. However, this would depend on maintaining the pro-
ductivity of free agrarian labor against that of slave labor in the plantation
Second, it is clear from Madison™s polemics in Congress in 1794 that he
understood that Britain™s commercial empire could dominate an agrarian
economy, such as the United States, through Britain™s control of both cap-
ital and trade. The basis for his argument for a trade war against Britain
was that Britain™s fundamental need for food exceeded America™s need for
manufactures. In Madison™s view, manufactures were super¬‚uities. In ac-
tual fact (if I understand nineteenth century British“U.S. trade correctly),
Britain maintained a persistent trade de¬cit with the United States which
it covered by a large trade surplus with the rest of the world. Madison
appears to have been correct in his long-term view.
For Madison and Jefferson, the issue of reconstructing the political
economic con¬guration in the period leading up to the 1800 election

Madison, Jefferson, and Condorcet

was of paramount importance. From the Condorcetian perspective, such
an election involves collective decision making under risk. The more
debate and information about possible futures, the more likely would the
election lead to the attainment of a superior alternative. I have suggested
that Madison considered that a heterogeneous electorate may choose rep-
resentatives “pre-eminent for ability and virtue.” This suggests that the
election of Jefferson, and later Madison, justi¬ed their particular perspec-
tives on the future.
There is one ¬nal point relevant to current political theory. The par-
ticular restructuring of political support that occurred between 1787 and
1800 has elements of what is called partisan realignment. Current theo-
ries suggest that these occur at the onset of critical elections (as in 1896,
1932, 1964). Chapter 6 argues that these critical elections are associated
with relatively rapid transformations in the coalition structure among the
interests associated with the three factors discussed here”namely, land,
labor, and capital. Between such elections there are relatively stable equi-
libria, based on the competition between two parties. In the presidential
election of 1800, while there may have nominally been two parties, there
were four candidates: Adams, Pinckney, Burr and Jefferson. We may draw
some inferences about how the factional competition of 1798 to 1800 co-
hered into the relatively stable two-party system that persisted until about
In September 1798, Jefferson drafted the Kentucky Resolutions. These
seemingly denied that the Constitution was a compact among the people:
“Whensoever the General government assumes undelegated powers, it™s
[sic] acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force: that to this compact
each state acceded as a state . . . each party has an equal right to judge for
itself” (Smith, 1995: 1080).
The Virginia Resolutions, drafted by Madison, went further: “[I]n case
of a deliberate, palpable and dangerous exercise of other powers not
granted by the said compact, the states who are parties thereto have the
right, and are in duty bound, to interpose for arresting the progress of the
evil” (Rakove, 1999: 589).
The resolutions were passed in their state legislatures on November 16
and December 24, 1798 (McDonald, 2000: 41).
It is obvious enough that, with many factions, derived from very many
differing kinds of interests, the creation of a stable, possibly tyrannical,
majority would be almost impossible. Indeed the more heterogeneous or
the more extensive the society, the less likely is it that such a perma-
nent majority can form. Many readings of Federalist X focus on this

Architects of Political Change

interpretation. However, this interpretation would hold for a
Democracy”the system of direct popular choice. Madison takes pains
to argue that Democracy (whether large or small) cannot deal with the
problems of faction. It therefore cannot be the tyranny of a majority fac-
tion that he fears, but something quite different”namely turbulence.
Federalist X sets out a “ratio” theorem about republics”systems, or
schemes, of representation. If the proportion of “¬t” characters in the
extended republic be at least as large as in the small republic, then the
probability of a ¬t choice in the extended republic will be greater than in
the small. The de¬nitions of a “¬t character,”and of a “¬t choice,”are not
clearly set out, however.
Clues about the notion of “¬t” are given in the earlier mentioned April
1787 essay, “Vices of the Political System of the U.S.”(April 1787). There
Madison observes that a great desideratum is a “suf¬cient neutrality be-
tween the different interests and factions”:

In absolute Monarchies, the prince is suf¬ciently neutral, . . . but frequently sac-
ri¬ces their happiness to his ambition or avarice. . . . An auxiliary desideratum is
a process of elections as will most certainly extract from the mass of Society the
purest and noblest characters.
(Rakove, 1999: 79)

Adair is surely correct in pointing to the in¬‚uence that Hume™s “Idea
of a Perfect Commonwealth” (Hume 1985 [1777]: 512“29) had on
Madison. But Adair does not point out the essential feature of the Republic
on which Madison concentrates: Republican elections are for repre-
sentatives, not outcomes. The term “¬t” refers to a person, not to an
To see the importance of this distinction, consider political behavior in
a House of Representatives. Some of these representatives may well be ¬t,
of pure and noble character. However, as Hume observed, “love, vanity,
ambition, resentment” all beget public decision. Factions must dominate,
and therefore so must “turbulence.” What exactly is this turbulence that
follows from faction? I regard it as precisely the same as the social choice
notion of “chaos.” The chaos theorem shows that if diversity (or di-
mensionality) is suf¬ciently high, then sequences of outcomes (associated
with particular winning coalitions) can lead anywhere in the set of possi-
ble policies. Clearly a permanent, tyrannical majority cannot be expected,
unless some cohesive principle”a “party””is at work. But Madison, in
Federalist X does not assert that party is a solution to factional turbu-
lence. It follows, therefore, that if the electorate is “numerous extended

Madison, Jefferson, and Condorcet

and diverse in interests” and this diversity is re¬‚ected in Congress,
“then the development of a majority faction can be limited” (Dahl,
1956: 16). However, this heterogeneity does not imply that “competing
interests cancel one another out.” In fact, Madison was greatly concerned
that factionalism would lead to instability.
The pluralist reading of Madison appears to be only half correct. To
limit the effects of turbulence in the House of Representatives requires a
different institutional device”that of the presidential veto.
If I am correct in my interpretation of Federalist X, then the extended
republic argument was irrelevant to the prevention of turbulent instability
in the House. In Federalist LXVIII, Madison discusses the Senate as an
“institution that will blend stability with liberty” (Rakove, 1999: 348).
When he uses the argument that “[A]mbition must be made to counteract
ambition” in Federalist LI, he does not say that ambition will counteract
ambition (Rakove, 1999: 295). Instead he goes on to comment that, “[a]n
absolute negative, on the legislature, appears at ¬rst view to be the natural
defense with which the executive magistrate should be armed”(Rakove,
1999: 296).
Jefferson, writing from Paris on December 20, 1787, also seemed to
be of two minds about the House. He approved that it be chosen by the
people directly, principally because of its legislative power to raise taxes,
but he also commented that it “will be illy [sic] quali¬ed to legislate for
the Union” (Smith, 1995: 512).
On the veto by the president he says, “I like the negative given to
the Executive with a third of either house, though I should have liked it
better had the Judiciary been associated for that purpose, or invested with
a similar and separate power” (Smith, 1995: 512).
Rutland and Hobson (1977) comment:

In the debate in the Constitutional Convention on June 4, 1787, Madison had
argued against the absolute veto by the executive against Congress, observing that
even the King of Great Britain had no such veto power. On September 12, 1787,
Madison argued that the relative veto power should be determined by requiring
a two-thirds majority of each house to overrule the executive veto. As Madison
says, the object of the revisionary power is (1) to defend the Executive Rights, and
(2) to prevent popular or factious injustice. (166)

Pulling together these inferences about Madison™s thoughts on the rela-
tionship between the executive and legislative, we see a common thread. In
general, the president will tend to be a “¬t,” or neutral, choice. When fac-
tional interests predominate in the legislature, then the executive veto will

Architects of Political Change

overrule the resultant mutability. However, it is possible that the exercise
of such power can lead to presidential tyranny. If this occurs, however,
it will be obvious to the legislature, and a two-thirds majority should
be possible in Congress so as to block such ambition. If this can not be
implemented, then the states themselves may threaten veto, or secession.
Madison also saw a need for the exercise of veto, by the Federal gov-
ernment against the states. In a letter to Jefferson (October 24, 1787),
Madison observed that the exercise by Congress of a veto against the
laws of the states had been rejected by a bare majority: “Without such a
check in the whole over the parts, my system involves the evil of imperia
in imperio” (Smith, 1995: 498). Indeed he saw such a check as necessary
to prevent instability and injustice.
He later comments that “in the extended Republic of the United States,
the General Government would hold a pretty even balance between the
parties of the particular states” (Smith, 1995: 502).
This observation is consistent with my interpretation. Each State House
and Senate, though perhaps not as diverse as the Federal Congress, will
nonetheless be turbulent, and this turbulence may induce encroachments
on the rights of citizens in the particular state. A veto by the neutral
president (or by the Judiciary) is a likely method of prevention of this
On the other hand, if the president veers towards autocracy, then the
perception of this failure of a “¬t choice” will involve judgment in the
context of a binary choice, and it can be hoped that the House and Senate
would be well equipped to render such a judgment.

4.8 appendix

4.8.1 Speech by Benjamin Franklin to the Constitutional
Convention on September 17, 1787
Mr. President
I confess that there are several parts of this constitution which I do
not at present approve, but I am not sure I shall never approve them: For
having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged by
better information, or fuller consideration, to change opinions even on
important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise.
It is therefore that the older I grow, the more apt I am to doubt my own
judgment, and to pay more respect to the judgment of others. Most men
indeed as well as most sects in Religion, think themselves in possession

Madison, Jefferson, and Condorcet

of all truth, and that wherever others differ from them it is so far error.
Steele a Protestant in a Dedication tells the Pope, that the only difference
between our Churches in their opinions of the certainty of their doctrines
is, the Church of Rome is infallible and the Church of England is never
in the wrong. But though many private persons think almost as highly of
their own infallibility as of that of their sect, few express it so naturally as
a certain French lady, who in a dispute with her sister, said “I don™t know
how it happens, Sister but I meet with no body but myself, that™s always
in the right-Il n™y a que moi qui a toujours raison.”
In these sentiments, Sir, I agree to this Constitution with all its faults,
if they are such; because I think a general Government necessary for us,
and there is no form of Government but what may be a blessing to the
people if well administered, and believe farther that this is likely to be
well administered for a course of years, and can only end in Despotism,
as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so cor-
rupted as to need despotic Government, being incapable of any other. I
doubt too whether any other Convention we can obtain, may be able to
make a better Constitution. For when you assemble a number of men to
have the advantage of their joint wisdom, you inevitably assemble with
those men, all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion,
their local interests, and their sel¬sh views. From such an assembly can
a perfect production be expected? It therefore astonishes me, Sir, to ¬nd
this system approaching so near to perfection as it does; and I think it
will astonish our enemies, who are waiting with con¬dence to hear that
our councils are confounded like those of the Builders of Babel; and that
our States are on the point of separation, only to meet hereafter for the
purpose of cutting one another™s throats. Thus I consent, Sir, to this Con-
stitution because I expect no better, and because I am not sure, that it
is not the best. The opinions I have had of its errors, I sacri¬ce to the
public good. I have never whispered a syllable of them abroad. Within
these walls they were born, and here they shall die. If every one of us in
returning to our Constituents were to report the objections he has had to
it, and endeavor to gain partizans in support of them, we might prevent
its being generally received, and thereby lose all the salutary effects &
great advantages resulting naturally in our favor among foreign Nations
as well as among ourselves, from our real or apparent unanimity. Much
of the strength & ef¬ciency of any Government in procuring and securing
happiness to the people, depends, on opinion, on the general opinion of
the goodness of the Government, as well as of the wisdom and integrity
of its Governors. I hope therefore that for our own sakes as a part of

Architects of Political Change

the people, and for the sake of posterity, we shall act heartily and unan-
imously in recommending this Constitution (if approved by Congress &
con¬rmed by the Conventions) wherever our in¬‚uence may extend, and
turn our future thoughts & endeavors to the means of having it well
On the whole, Sir, I can not help expressing a wish that every member
of the Convention who may still have objections to it, would with me, on
this occasion doubt a little of his own infallibility, and to make manifest
our unanimity, put his name to this instrument.

Lincoln and the Civil War

5.1 introduction —
This chapter pursues the key theoretical idea of this book: An institutional
equilibrium can be destroyed or transformed by rapid belief changes in
the population. The changes in electoral beliefs in the period prior to the
election of Lincoln in 1860 and the commencement of the Civil War are
examined in an attempt to understand the political transformation that
occurred at that time, as well as its rami¬cations to the present day.
As observed in Chapter 2, Riker (1980) in his book, Liberalism against
Populism, argued that Lincoln™s success in the 1860 election was the cul-
mination of a long progression of strategic attempts by the Whig coalition
of commercial interests to defeat the “Jeffersonian“Jacksonian” Demo-
cratic coalition of agrarian populism. Riker adduced Lincoln™s success to
his “heresthetic” maneuver to force his competitor, Douglas, in the 1858
Illinois Senate race, to appear anti-slavery, thus splitting the Democratic
Party in 1860. Riker also suggested that electoral preferences in 1860
exhibited an underlying “chaotic” preference cycle.
However, these accounts do not explain why the slavery question be-
came paramount from 1858 to 1860. I suggest in this chapter that U.S.

Chapter 5 uses material from “Quandaries of War and Union: 1763“1861,” Politics
and Society 30 (2002): 5“49, and from “Constitutional Quandaries and Critical
Elections,” Politics, Philosophy and Economics 2 (2003): 5“36, both by Norman
Scho¬eld. This material is reprinted by permission of Sage Publications Ltd. The
discussion of the Dred Scott decision is based on Kim Dixon and Norman Scho¬eld,
“The Election of Lincoln in 1860,” Homo Oeconomicus 17 (2001): 391“425 and
Norman Scho¬eld, “The Amistad and Dred Scott Affairs: Heresthetics and Beliefs
in Antebellum America, 1837“1860,” Homo Oeconomicus 16 (1999): 49“67, and
“Quandaries of Slavery and Civil War in the US,”Homo Oeconomicus 21 (2004):

Architects of Political Change

politics, from 1800 to the 1840s, can be interpreted in terms of a single
land”capital axis that sustained the preeminence of an agrarian coalition,
¬rst created by Jefferson, of both slave interests and free labor. Lincoln™s
strategy from 1858 to 1860 was to persuade free labor in the northern
and western states that they were threatened by the consequences of the
Dred Scott decision by the Supreme Court in 1857. Lincoln argued that
although the decision applied to the Territories, it was indicative of the in-
tention of the South to extend slavery to the free states. Lincoln™s speeches
from 1858 to 1860 made this threat credible to the North, and initiated a
belief cascade among the electorate. For southern voters, the North con-
sequently appeared to be a “tyrannical” majority, whose creation violated
the constitutional logic of Union, and legitimated secession. I argue that
this second “civil rights” dimension, created in the election of 1860, is nec-
essary for understanding critical elections that have occurred at irregular
intervals in U.S. political history.
I argue that the electoral choice of Lincoln in 1860 was an illustration
of the design of the U.S. Constitution and facilitated the election of a
risk-taking president at a time of social quandary.

5.2 the intersectional party balance
Although standard models of elections based on the work of Downs
(1957) assume a single dimension of economic policy making, more re-
cent empirical electoral analyses in various postwar polities have demon-
strated the relevance of a second social dimension. The claim made here
is that a second dimension involving civil rights has been a fundamental
feature of U.S. politics since 1860. How this social/civil rights dimension
is construed may well change over time, just as the economic dimension
will involve varying speci¬c issues at different times. However, it remains
qualitatively the same in affecting the beliefs of voters.
Chapter 4 has already made the argument, originally due to Beard
(1913) that, from the inception of the United States at the Founding in
1787, the principal dimension relevant to political choice could be identi-
¬ed with the capital/land axis. Indeed the con¬‚ict between the Federalists,
most notably Alexander Hamilton, and the Republicans, led by Thomas
Jefferson, was interpreted as the result of a successful coalition move to
combine the agrarian interests of the country, whether slave-holding or
free, against the commercial interests of the northeast. It is worth men-
tioning that Jefferson™s success in 1800 was due to the constitutional rule

Lincoln and the Civil War

that a slave was counted as three“¬fths of a person in calculating each
state™s electoral college strength (Wills, 2003a,b).
Obviously, though, for this coalition to survive, any con¬‚ict of interest
between slave-owners and free labor had to be suppressed, or dealt with
through a stable compromise. In essence, this compromise was ¬rst es-
tablished by the Northwest Ordinance of July 1787, which speci¬ed that
slavery could not exist in the Territory northwest of the River Ohio (North
and Rutten, 1984). On the other hand, when the remnant of Louisiana
was renamed the Missouri Territory in 1812, no mention was made of the
Northwest Ordinance or its anti-slavery article.
Given the stability of the compromise from 1800 on, the Jeffersonian
Republican Party was pre-eminent over the Federalists, or Whigs, until
1824. In that election, John Quincy Adams of Massachusetts was able to
win that with a plurality of just 32 percent of the electoral college vote
against Jackson, Crawford, and Clay, but lost to the Democrat, Andrew
Jackson in 1828. Jackson re-established the dominance of the agrarian
party, the Democracy, and he was followed by his vice president, the
New York Democrat, Martin Van Buren after the election of 1836. The
issue of slavery did become important, brie¬‚y, in 1840 over the Amistad
affair. Probably as a consequence of this affair, Van Buren was denied the
Democratic nomination in 1844 through the imposition of the two-thirds
rule by the South in the Democratic convention. Polk, for the Democrats,
beat Henry Clay in the presidential election, only because he won New
York (by 5000 votes). After that election, the efforts by John Quincy
Adams to break the gag-rule against discussion of slavery in the House
was successful because the intersectional Democratic Party almost split
up, as Northern Democrats and Northern Whigs in the House voted (with
John Quincy Adams) to rescind the rule (Miller, 1995).
Prior to 1840, the two intersectional parties, Whig and Democrat, were
roughly comparable, with neither party clearly associated with either the
North or the South. Political con¬‚icts between Whigs and Democrats until
this time had concentrated on economic concerns (Riker, 1982; Weingast,
1998). The Whig industrial and commercial interests of the East focused
on protection and trade regulation, whereas Democrats, concentrated in
the South and West, were concerned with issues of land and agriculture.
Rogowski™s model of factor endowments can be used to sketch the ba-
sis for these differing preferences (Rogowski, 1989). Because the United
States could be assumed to be relatively poor in capital (in contrast to
Britain) and poor also in the supply of labor (in contrast to Europe gen-
erally), a natural protectionist coalition of capital and labor could form.

Architects of Political Change

Such an electoral coalition formed the basis for the Federalist Party, later
called the Whigs. However, land was relatively abundant, so agricultural
interests (whether based on slave or free labor) would favor increased
trade and decreased tariffs. This common interest was the basis of the
Jeffersonian Republican Party, or Democratic Party. Moreover, landed
interests are generally capital poor, and so favor a soft-money principle,
and, in particular, low interest rates. The Whig and Democratic Parties
cohered around quite different policy positions on a single axis, putting
capital and land in opposition. Both northern and southern regions de-
pended on agriculture, so the two electoral coalitions would necessarily be
“intersectional.” Table 5.1 gives the distribution of electoral college votes
in the elections from 1836 to 1860, and clearly indicates this intersectional
By 1852, however, the Whig popular presidential vote had fallen to 44
percent. The plurality mechanism of the electoral college meant the Whig
candidate, Scott, took only 42 seats (out of 296, or 14 percent). It was
obvious that the great expansion of available western land resulting from
the war with Mexico and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848) essen-
tially guaranteed that the Democratic coalition, if it held together, would
become dominant. However, this coalition depended on a compromise
between western farmers and landed slave interests. As long as slavery
did not threaten free labor, this coalition was stable.
From an economic point of view, the rapid development of a new
northern trade route through the Erie Canal had led to a dramatic fall in
transport costs. This created the potential for an export-oriented coalition
of eastern capital and labor-intensive western farmers (Fogel, 1994).
Riker (1982: Ch. 9) has suggested that the Whigs were unwilling or
unable to exploit the issue of slavery, whereas Fr´ mont, the ¬rst Repub-
lican presidential candidate in 1856, tried to construct this new coalition
against the Democratic Party. To do so, however, required using the slav-
ery dimension to split the agrarian coalition into “pro-slave” and “free”
components. His moderate success (33 percent of the popular vote) sug-
gested it was possible. Nonetheless, Fillmore, essentially a Whig candi-
date, took 22 percent, while the Democrat, Buchanan, won 45 percent of
the popular vote, and 174 seats (or 59 percent) of the electoral college.
Stephen Douglas, a Democrat, was well-positioned, in 1856, to maintain
the Democrat agrarian coalition and gain the presidency in 1860. For
Douglas to win in 1860, however, he had to preserve a coincidence of in-
terests, based essentially on an ideology of expansion, by overcoming an

Lincoln and the Civil War

Table 5.1. U.S. Presidential Elections: 1836“1860

Electoral College Votes
Year Candidate Party Vote % North West Border South Total
1836 Van Buren Democrat 51 101 8 4 57 170
Harrison Whig 37 15 30 28 0 73
White Whig 10 0 0 0 26 26
Webster Whig 2 14 0 0 0 14
Total 294

1840 Harrison Whig 53 123 33 28 50 234
Van Buren Democrat 47 7 5 4 44 60
Birney Liberty .3 “ “ “ “ “
Total 294

1844 Polk Democrat 49.5 77 36 7 60 170
Clay Whig 48 35 23 23 24 105
Birney Liberty 2.5 “ “ “ “ “
Total 275

1848 Taylor Whig 47 97 0 23 43 163
Cass Democrat 43 15 57 7 48 127
Van Buren Free Soil 10 “ “ “ “ “
Total 290

1852 Pierce Democrat 51 92 66 20 76 254
Scott Whig 44 18 0 12 12 42
Hale Free Soil 5 0 0 0 0 0
Total 296

1856 Buchanan Democrat 45 34 28 24 88 174
Fremont Republican 33 76 38 0 0 114
Fillmore “Whig” 22 0 0 8 0 8
Total 296

1860 Lincoln Republican 40 107 73 0 0 180
Douglas N. Democrat 29 3 0 9 0 12
Bell “Whig” 13 0 0 12 27 39
Breckinridge S. Democrat 18 0 0 11 61 72
Total 303
Source: Ransom (1989: 103, 156), with permission of Cambridge University Press.

Architects of Political Change

implicit potential con¬‚ict of interest between free labor and slave owners
over whether the west was to be free or slave.
For those southern interests that depended on slave labor, the mainte-
nance of this particular institution was paramount. For free labor, whether
in the south or north, the institution would only impinge on their factor
reward if the products of the two kinds of labor were competitive. How-
ever, as long as labor was relatively scarce, there was little economic effect
on free labor. The westward expansion of slave labor could change this
“equilibrium.” Moreover, any dramatic change in the economic and con-
stitutional equilibrium on the labor axis, particularly over the use of slave
labor in the North, would clearly affect free labor.
For Douglas, it was critical to separate the issue of land and labor, and it
was for this reason that he proposed the notion of “popular sovereignty.”
By leaving the decision over slavery to the electorate of each territory (once
it became populous enough for statehood), he hoped to placate southern
However, on March 6, 1857, the Supreme Court, under Chief Justice
Taney, made its decision on Dred Scott v. Sanford, effectively asserting
that blacks had no rights as citizens. In essence, the decision declared that
the federal authority had no right to deny slavery in the Territories. This
destroyed what had been a long-standing compromise over slavery on the
labor axis, and seemingly legitimized the expansion of slave interests into
all western territories. While the factor of land was relevant, it was so
only because of the implicit con¬‚ict between free and slave labor in the
Riker (1986) argued that Lincoln™s victory in the presidential election
of 1860 stemmed from an “heresthetic” move by Lincoln in 1858 against
Stephen Douglas, at Freeport, Illinois, during their contest for the Illi-
nois Senate seat. By posing a question that forced Douglas to appear
anti-slavery to the Illinois voters, Lincoln effectively gave the election to
Douglas. According to Riker, Douglas™s reply to Lincoln™s question in-
duced southern pro-slavery voters, in the later presidential race of 1860,
to reject Douglas. Riker contended that the resulting split in the Demo-
cratic Party, between Breckinridge and Douglas, gave Lincoln the presi-
dency. I argue for a different interpretation of these events. First of all,
the South was deeply hostile to Douglas even prior to the Freeport de-
bate. For example, an editorial in The Mobile Register (August 20, 1858)
argued that to reject the Douglas compromise would mean permanent
destruction of the Democratic Party. To accept the compromise would
mean “demoralization as well as disaster.”

Lincoln and the Civil War

The South clearly understood that accepting Douglas could give them a
victory, but one which would leave their particular institution undefended.
This intransigence became quite apparent at the Democratic convention
in Charleston in April 1860.
Before nominating their presidential candidate, the convention decided
to adopt the platform for the party. The Southern platform, supported by
the delegates of ¬fteen slave states (together with Oregon and California)
asserted that Congress had no power to abolish slavery in the Territories,
and that the national government had the duty to defend the right of
property in slaves everywhere. The opposing Douglas platform included
as its second plank the declaration that decisions over slavery should be
left to the Supreme Court. Realizing that passing this plank would force
the dissolution of the convention, many of Douglas™s supporters voted
against it. At the same time, southern delegates saw that their “slave-code”
platform would not pass and the delegates of eight slave states retired from
the convention. It was then decided that no man be nominated without
a two-thirds vote of the original 304 delegates. Douglas took 145.5 in
the ¬rst ballot (the 0.5 being a split vote), against ¬ve other contenders,
and eventually reached 152.5 (more than a simple majority). However, it
was impossible, even after sixty-¬ve ballots, to obtain the required supra-
majority, of 203, of the delegate votes. By 148 to 100 the convention
agreed to adjourn (Nevins, 1950). As The New York Times (May 3, 1860)
editorial remarked, “[T]he South believes sincerely that the North seeks
power in order to ˜crush slavery™ but it must instead make up its mind to
lose the sway it has exercised so long.”
In essence, the South forced the split between the two wings of the
Democratic Party, because it believed, correctly, that Douglas would not
give it what it wanted, namely the spread of slavery throughout the Re-
public. Jefferson Davis, soon to be President of the Confederacy, expressed
a typical Southern attitude to Douglas™s party when he called it “the spu-
rious and decayed offshoot of democracy” (Cooper, 2000).
Had the split between Douglas and the Southern Democrat candidate,
Breckinridge, not occurred, a combined Douglas“Breckinridge platform
in 1860, even with 59.2 percent of the popular vote, could only have in-
creased the total Democratic electoral college vote from 84 to 91. (Table
5.2 gives the popular and electoral college votes by state in 1860, and
makes it clear that only in Oregon and California did the combination
of Douglas and Breckinridge give them a majority against Lincoln.) Lin-
coln would still have had a majority of 173 of the electoral college out
of 303.

Architects of Political Change

Table 5.2. The Election of 1860

Percentage of Vote Electoral College Votes

Vermont 78.99 0.51 4.60 15.90 5 “ “ “
Maine 63.97 6.49 2.08 27.46 8 “ “ “
Minnesota 63.42 2.15 0.18 34.25 4 “ “ “
Mass. 62.97 3.51 13.20 20.32 13 “ “ “
Rhode Island 61.37 0.00 0.00 38.63 4 “ “ “
Michigan 57.18 0.52 0.26 42.04 6 “ “ “
New Hamp. 56.89 3.20 0.67 39.24 5 “ “ “
Connecticut 56.69 18.9 4.26 20.09 6 “ “ “
Wisconsin 56.58 0.58 0.11 42.73 5 “ “ “
Pennsylvania 56.26 37.5 2.68 3.52 27 “ “ “
Iowa 54.87 0.82 1.37 42.94 4 “ “ “
New York 53.71 0.00 0.00 46.29 35 “ “ “
Ohio 52.35 2.58 2.76 42.32 23 “ “ “
Indiana 51.09 4.52 1.95 42.44 13 “ “ “
Illinois 50.68 0.71 1.45 47.16 11 “ “ “
New Jersey 48.15 0.00 0.00 51.85 4 “ “ 3
Oregon 36.57 34.7 1.27 27.42 3 “ “ “
California 32.96 28.8 5.74 32.41 4 “ “ “
Delaware 23.75 45.7 24.09 6.38 “ 3 “ “
Missouri 10.29 18.9 35.27 35.53 “ “ “ 9
Maryland 2.48 45.9 45.14 6.45 “ 8 “ “
Virginia 1.15 44.4 44.66 9.74 “ “ 15 “
Kentucky 0.93 36.3 45.18 17.54 “ “ 12 “
Tennessee 0.00 44.5 47.67 7.81 “ “ 12 “
N. Carolina 0.00 50.4 46.75 2.81 “ 10 “ “
Georgia 0.00 48.7 40.32 10.90 “ 10 “ “
Louisiana 0.00 44.0 40.00 15.10 “ 6 “ “
Florida 0.00 59.5 37.9 2.56 “ 3 “ “
Arkansas 0.00 53.1 37.17 9.67 “ 4 “ “
Mississippi 0.00 59.0 36.23 4.75 “ 7 “ “
Alabama 0.00 54.0 30.85 15.11 “ 9 “ “
Texas 0.00 75.4 24.51 0.00 “ 4 “ “
S. Carolinaa 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 “ 8 “ “
Totals 39.8 18.2 12.6 29.4 180 72 39 12
Source: a Electoral College vote allocated by the state legislature.
BR= Breckinridge; BL = Bell; DG = Douglas; LN = Lincoln.

Lincoln and the Civil War

Rather than engage in “heresthetic” maneuvers, Lincoln™s strategy,
from as early as June 26, 1857, was to examine the logic and possible
consequences of the Dred Scott decision in order to assess the future in-
tentions of the South over slavery. At the Freeport debate in 1858, the
most important question Lincoln asked Douglas was whether Douglas
would acquiesce to a Supreme Court decision, if it were made, that de-
creed “that states cannot exclude slavery from their limits” (Fehrenbacher,
1989a: 542).
In later speeches in 1860, Lincoln implied that the eventual conse-
quence of the Dred Scott decision could be the legal use of slave labor in
Northern free states.
Just as in the analysis of the Rati¬cation choice, examined in Chapter
4, we can put Lincoln™s logic in terms of an expected utility calculation.
The status quo, A2 , will be associated with a high probability, p, that
the South did intend to implement such a threat against the North. The
cost, T, of this threat to free labor would clearly be very high indeed. The
machinations of southern delegates at the April Democratic Convention,
and their refusal to accept Douglas as a compromise candidate, must have
had the effect of increasing the subjective estimate of p. A vote for Lincoln
would, in all likelihood lead to a change from A2 to a new constitutional
equilibrium, A1 , possibly necessitating war. We may let F denote the cost
of factionalism resulting from some kind of compromise with the South,
and q be the probability of this outcome under a Lincoln presidency.
However, there would be some real probability, r , of “chaos” or war,
under Lincoln, at cost C. A reason for a voter to choose Lincoln would be
the credible belief that the eventual cost of the status quo, pT, exceeded
the outcome qF + rC. (Needless to say, I am not attempting a very formal
analysis of what was necessarily a complicated subjective estimation.)
Approximately 1.3 million voters had chosen Fr´ mont, the Republican
candidate in 1856. At that point, any expectation of a real threat, or of
war, would have been low. After 1856, however, many Republicans were
uncompromising in their rejection of slavery. William Seward, who was
to be one of the contenders for the Republican presidential nomination
in 1860, asserted that slavery was a “blight,” a “pestilence,” an “element
of national debility and decline”(Foner, 1970: 44). A “prophet of chaos”
like Seward only increased the depth of the quandary facing the northern
electorate. In his speeches between 1857 and 1860, Lincoln focused on the
threat facing the North, making it real and credible. At the same time, he
asserted that his intention was to contain Southern slavery, not destroy it.
This held out the promise of a constitutional compromise between North

Architects of Political Change



Western Democrats


DOUGLAS, 29% Whigs

Liberal capital
BELL, 13%

Southern Democrats



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