The Readings for Democracy in America unit
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Unit 13 Readings, Elections: The Maintenance of Democracy
- IntroductionElections: The Maintenance of Democracy
- Tocqueville, Democracy in America: How the Principle
of Equality Naturally Divides Americans Into a Multitude of Small
- Machiavelli, The Prince
- Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia
- Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American
Slave (see Reading in Unit 5)
- What did Tocqueville suggest happened to the sphere
of private intercourse as the circle of public life was expanded?
- Machiavelli compared fortune to several different things, what
were they? Why does fortune play such an important role in his
discussion of the maintenance of the state? How did he suggest
that she can be mastered?
- In Query 18, what did Jefferson see as the danger presented
- Why did Jefferson believe that those who labor the earth are
the chosen people of god?
IntroductionElections: The Maintenance of Democracy
Democracy requires the participation of citizens, virtually everyone
agrees. The disagreements arise in debating over the capacities and
avenues of participation. How much and in what ways should citizens
participate in government? Furthermore, what are the meanings of government?
Does it include work, neighborhood, and home?
While his name has become synonymous with a cruel self-interest, Niccolo
Machiavellis work only really allowed cruelty, at least the
ultimate cruelty of death, when it was necessary for the protection
and promotion of the nation state. Machiavelli and Thomas Jefferson
examined the role of the state in the maintenance of citizens. Machiavellis
account in The Prince focused on the ways that the prince should treat
people in order to turn them into citizens, while Jefferson explored
the maintenance of a particular kind of citizenship. In Notes on the
State of Virginia, Jefferson explains the importance of controlling
yourself during work to maintain a properly independent citizenry.
While we may build monuments to Jefferson, we obedient wage-earners
can only barely understand his disdain for wage labor. In many ways,
Machiavelli as much as Jefferson (if not more) shares many of our
assumptions about political power and freedom.
Certainly more than those of Machiavelli or Jefferson, we share the
assumptions of Frederick Douglass. Douglasss account of his
escape to freedom from slavery, excerpted as a Reading in Unit 5,
nicely displays the importance of earning wages as a way to determine
freedom in the United States, when the alternative to freedom was
literal slavery. Distinct from Jeffersons conception of wages
as teaching citizens to obey by subjecting them to the will of the
wage-giver, Douglass believed wages to be the true marker of freedom.