Force, Government, and Early Post-Colonial America

In working up a chapter for my American Government book, I’m stressing that contra popular American belief, the United States as a country was not founded in 1776, that under the Articles of Confederation, the United States was a “they” not an “it,” a confederation of sovereign and independent states (as the Articles themselves say). And in reading James Madison’s “Vices of the Political System of the United States”–his critique of the Articles of Confederation–I came across the following quote, which not only makes my argument from a respected contemporary author, but does so in a way that riffs perfectly off my use of Weber’s focus on force as a defining feature of government (as I discussed here previously).

A sanction is essential to the idea of law, as coercion is to that of Government. The federal system being destitute of both, wants the great vital principles of a Political Constitution. Under the form of such a Constitution [i.e., the Articles], it is in fact nothing more than a treaty of amity of commerce and alliance, between so many independent and Sovereign States.


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[Note: I thought I’d throw in an egregiously academical post title this time. All it’s lacking is a colon and a another phrase. Perhaps I should have written, “Force, Government, and Early Post-Colonial America: James Madison, Max Weber, and the Articles of Confederation.” That’s pretty much what you’ll see if you peruse the titles in any political science journal. Now aren’t you glad you studied something else?]

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About J@m3z Aitch

J@m3z Aitch is a two-bit college professor who'd rather be canoeing.
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8 Responses to Force, Government, and Early Post-Colonial America

  1. Perhaps I should have written, “Force, Government, and Early Post-Colonial America: James Madison, Max Weber, and the Articles of Confederation.” That’s pretty much what you’ll see if you peruse the titles in any political science journal. Now aren’t you glad you studied something else?

    Alas, history has the same problem. If I ever finish my dissertation, its title is gonna be doozy!

  2. D.A. Ridgely says:

    Hard to believe, given how boring the actual articles are, but there’s a bit of a tradition in law review article writing to (try to) give the article a humorous title. A few examples are here.

  3. Matty says:

    There’s a serious scholarly article titled ‘Fuck’, how is this not compulsary reading for everyone?

  4. James Hanley says:

    Good question, Matty. I know also of one titled, “Explanation as Orgasm,” which tries to provide an evolutionary basis for creativity.

  5. ppnl says:

    So when will the book be finished?

    I don’t know about much about the confederacy years but my impression was that the confederacy was a hastily contrived mess instituted to fight a gorilla war. After the war it had little value.

  6. James Hanley says:

    ppnl,

    I’m not sure when it will be finished. Hopefully a draft will be done by the end of the year.

    Your thumbnail description of the confederacy is accurate. The colonies had never seen themselves a cohesive political unit of any kind until they started reacting against England, and each was fighting primarily for its own independence–they weren’t fighting to create a single country. And so the political system they designed to create some, but not too much, unity, didn’t really manage to create any serious unity at all.

    I’m not sure about fighting gorillas, though.

  7. Matty says:

    You clearly don’t know your own history. The fighting gorillas went on to be frontline troops in the great robot uprising of 1805. It’s all true I saw it on the internet.

  8. Re: fighting gorillas:

    As an undergrad, I once wrote a paper in which I mentioned John Calvin’s belief in “the Trilogy.” No mean feat for him, given that he antedated the release of Star Wars by about 400 years.

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